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´╗┐Title: The Eclipse of Faith - Or, A Visit To A Religious Sceptic
Author: Rogers, Henry, 1806-1877
Language: English
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THE ECLIPSE OF FAITH;

OR

A VISIT TO A RELIGIOUS SCEPTIC.

FIFTH EDITION.

BOSTON: CROSBY, NICHOLS AND COMPANY,
111 WASHINGTON STREET.

1854.

AMERICAN PREFACE.

The effect of the perusal of this book, and the estimate put
upon it by a reader, will depend upon his taking with him a
right view of its design. That design seems in the mind of
the writer to have been very definite and very restricted. If
he should be thought to have intended an answer to all the
elaborate objections from criticism and philosophy recently or
renewedly urged against faith in the Christian revelation,
and, still more, if the reader should suppose that the author
had aimed to remove all the difficulties in the way of
such a faith, he would equally insure his own disappointment,
and wrong the writer. The book comes forth anonymously, but it
is ascribed to Mr. Henry Rogers, some of whose very able
papers in the Edinburgh Review have been republished in two
octavo volumes in England, and one of whose articles, that on
"Reason and Faith," dealt with some of the topics which form
the subject-matter of this volume.

The author seems to have viewed with a keenly attentive and
anxious mind the generally unsettled state of opinion, equally
among the literary and some of the humbler classes in England,
concerning the terms and the sanction of a religious faith,
especially as the issue bears upon the contents and the
authority of the Bible. That he understands the state of things
in which he proposes himself as one who has a word to utter,
will be allowed by all candid judges, whatever criticism they
may pass upon the effectiveness of his own argument. There is
abundant evidence in this book of his large intimacy with
the freshest forms of speculation, as developed by the free
thought of our age. While he identifies these speculations with
the recent writers who have adopted them, he is not to be
understood as allowing that these writers have originated
any novel speculations, or excelled the sceptics of former
times in acuteness, or plausibility, or success in urging their
cause. He adopts the method of the Platonic dialogue, and
exhibits a dialectic skill in confounding by objections when
objections can be made to do service as arguments. His frank
admission that he leaves insurmountable objections and
unfathomable mysteries still involved in the theme, a portion
of whose range alone he traverses, should secure him from the
imputation of having attempted too much, or of boastfulness for
what he considers that he has accomplished.

The truculent notice of this book in the Westminster Review
for July is wholly unworthy of the reputation and the claims
of that journal. Probably a careful perusal of the book is an
essential condition for enlightening the mind of the writer,
and for rectifying his judgment, so far as information has
power to promote candor.

The Prospective Review for August, in an article on the work,
for the most part commendatory, though certainly without any
warmth of praise, makes the prominent stricture upon it to be,
a charge against the author of having evaded "the gravest, and
in one sense the only serious difficulty, with which the
evidences he supports have to contend." This difficulty is
defined to be in the question as to whether our four Gospels
are essentially and substantially documents from the pens of
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, actual companions and
contemporaries of Him whose life and lessons are therein recorded.
The Reviewer professes to have satisfied his own mind
by an affirmative conclusion on this point. But regarding the
question as the very turning-point, the paramount and vital element
of the existing issue between faith and unbelief, and not finding
it to be dealt with in this volume, the Reviewer considers that
it is evaded. It might be urged in reply, that this question is not
to other minds of such paramount importance, and that its
affirmative answer would not be conclusive, as it would still
leave open other questions; such, for instance, as those which
enter into the theories of Paulus and other Rationalists, and
such as are not even excluded from the incidental adjuncts
of Strauss's mythical theory. It might also be urged, that,
allowing the question to be paramount in its relation to the
whole issue, it is one which is not so judiciously dealt with
in the discursiveness of dialogues after dinner, as in the
solitary study, with piles of huge tomes, lexicons, and
manuscripts that require a most deliberate examination.
But to leave the merits and the relative importance of this
question undebated, it might have been more generous in the
Reviewer to have confined his criticisms to a decision upon
what the author has endeavored to accomplish, instead of
impugning his judgment in the selection of the points on which
to employ his pen. How ever desirable it may be that we
should have in another form what Mr. Norton has presented
so thoroughly in his work on the Genuineness of the Gospels,
it is enough to answer to the Reviewer in the Prospective,
that the writer of this volume addressed himself to a different
course of argument, starting from other divergences of
opinion, philosophical rather than critical in their relations.
He certainly was free to select the method and the direction of
his argument, if he candidly represented the answering point
of view of those to whom he opposed himself.

Amid many episodes and interludes of fancy and narrative, it
will be found that the volume arrays its force of argument
against two of the assumptions alike of modern and of ancient
scepticism; namely, that a revelation from God to men through
the agency of a book is an unreasonable tenet of belief; and
that it is impossible that a miracle should occur, and
impossible that its occurrence should be authenticated. There
is a vigorous and logical power displayed in the discussion
of these two points. The discomfiture of those who urge these
assumptions does not of course convince all scepticism, or
substitute faith for it, but it is something to discomfit
such pleas, and to expose the fallacies which confuse the
minds of their advocates. The matters of debate are lofty,
and there is no levity in their treatment.


ADVERTISEMENT.

He who reads this book only superficially will
at once see that it is not all fiction; and he who
reads it more than superficially will as easily see
that it is not all fact. In what proportions it is
composed of either would probably require a very
acute critic accurately to determine. As the Editor
makes no pretensions to such acumen,--as
he can lay claim to only an imperfect knowledge
of the principal personage in the volume, and
never had any personal acquaintance with the singular
youth, some traits of whose character and
some glimpses of whose history are here given,
--he leaves the above question to the decision of
the reader. At the same time, it is of no consequence
in the world. The character and purport
of the volume are sufficiently disclosed in the
parting words of the Journalist. "It aspires,"
as is justly said, "to none of the appropriate
interest either of a novel or a biography." It might
have been very properly entitled "Theological Fragments."

March 31, 1852.


INTRODUCTION

A GENUINE SCEPTIC

A VERSATILE BELIEVER

PURITAN INFIDELITY

LORD HERBERT AND MODERN DEISM

SOME CURIOUS PARADOXES

PROBLEMS

A DIALOGUE SHOWING THAT "THAT MAY BE POSSIBLE WITH
MAN WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD"

SCEPTIC'S FAVORITE TOPICS

UNSTABLE EQUILIBRIUM

A SCEPTICS FIRST CATECHISM
SOME LIGHT ON THE MYSTERY

BELIEF AND FAITH

THE "VIA MEDIA" OF DEISM

A SCEPTIC'S SELECT PARTY

HOW IT WAS THAT INFIDELITY PREVENTED MY BECOMING AN
INFIDEL

SKIRMISHES

CHRISTIAN ETHICS

THE BLANK BIBLE

A DIALOGUE IN WHICH IT IS CONTENDED "THAT MIRACLES ARE
IMPOSSIBLE, BUT THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PROVE IT"

THE ANALOGIES OF AN EXTERNAL REVELATION WITH THE LAWS
AND CONDITIONS OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

ON A PREVAILING FALLACY

HISTORIC CREDIBILITY

A KNOTTY POINT

MEDICAL ANALOGIES

HISTORIC CRITICISM

THE "PAPAL AGGRESSION" PROVED TO BE IMPOSSIBLE

THE PARADISE OF FOOLS

A FUTURE LIFE

A VARIABLE QUANTITY

DISCUSSION OF THREE POINTS

THE LAST EVENING


THE ECLIPSE OF FAITH.

To E. B*****, Missionary in ------, South Pacific.

Wednesday, June 18, 1851.

My Dear Edward:--

You have more than once asked me to send you,
in your distant solitude, my impressions respecting the religious
distractions in which your native country has been of late years
involved. I have refused, partly, because it would take a volume
to give you any just notions on the subject; and partly, because
I am not quite sure that you would not be happier in ignorance.
Think, if you can, of your native land as in this respect what
it was when you left it, on your exile of Christian love,
some fifteen years ago.

I little thought I should ever have so mournful a motive to
depart in some degree from my resolution. I intended to leave
you to glean what you could of our religious condition from such
publications as might reach you. But I am now constrained to write
something about it. My dear brother, you will hear it with
a sad heart;--your nephew and mine, our only sister's
only child, has, in relation to religion at least, become
an absolute sceptic!

I well recollect the tenderness you felt for him, doubly endeared
by his own amiable dispositions and the remembrance of her whom
in so many points he resembled. What must be mine, who so long
stood to the orphan in the relations which his mother's love and
my own affection imposed upon me! It is hardly a figure to say I
felt for him as for a son. "Ah!" you will say as you glance at your
own children, "my bachelor brother cannot understand that even such
an affection is still a faint resemblance of parental love."

It may be so. I know that that love is sui generis; and as I have
often heard from those who are fathers, its depth and purity were
never realized till they became such. But neither, perhaps, can you
know how nearly such a love as I have felt for Harrington, committed
to me in death by one I loved so well,--beloved alike for her sake
and for his own,--the object of so much solicitude during his
childhood and youth,--I say you can hardly, perhaps, conceive how
near such an affection may approach that of a parent; how closely
such a graft upon a childless stock may resemble the incorporate
life of father and son.

You remember what hopes we both formed of his youth, from the
promise alike of his heart and of his intellect, How fondly we
predicted a career of future usefulness to others, and honor and
happiness to himself! You know how often I used to compare him,
for the silent ease with which he mastered difficult subjects,
and the versatility with which he turned his mind to the most
opposite pursuits, to the youthful Theaetetus, as described in
Plato's dialogue the movements of whose mind Theodorus compares
to the "noiseless flow of oil" from the flask.

He was just fourteen and a half when you left England; he is
now, therefore, nearly twenty-nine. He left me four years ago,
when he was just twenty-five,--about a year after the termination
of his college course, which you know was honorable to him, and
gratifying to me. He then went to spend a year, or a year and a
half, as he supposed, in Germany. His stay (he was not all the
time in Germany, however) was prolonged for more than three years.
In the letters which I received from him, and which gradually
became more rare and more brief, there was (without one symptom
of decay of personal affection) a certain air of gradually
increasing constraint, in relation to the subject which I knew
and felt to be all-important. Alas! my prophetic soul took it
aright; this constraint was the faint penumbra of a disastrous
eclipse indeed! He was not, as so many profess to be, convinced
by any particular book (as that of Strauss, for example) that
the history of Christianity is false; nay, he declares that he
is not convinced of that even now; he is a genuine sceptic, and
is the subject, he says, of invincible doubts. Those doubts have
extended at length to the whole field of theology, and are due
principally, as he himself has owned, to the spectacle of the
interminable controversies which (turn where he would) occupied
the mind of Germany. Even when he returned home he does not appear
to have finally abandoned the notion of the possibility of
constructing some religious system in the place of Christianity;--
this, as he affirms, is a later conviction formed upon him by
examining the systems of such men as have attempted the solution
of the problem. He declares the result wholly unsatisfactory; that,
sceptical as he was and is with regard to the truth of Christianity,
he is not even sceptical with regard to these theories; and he
declares that if 'the undoubtedly powerful minds which have
framed them have so signally failed in removing his doubts, and
affording him a rock to stand upon, he cannot prevail upon himself
to struggle further.

And so, instead of stopping at any of those miserable road-side
inns between Christianity and scepticism, through whose ragged
windows all the winds of heaven are blowing, and whose gaudy "signs"
assure us there is "good entertainment within for man and beast,"--
whereas it is only for the latter,--Harrington still travelled on in
hopes of finding some better shelter, and now, in the dark night,
and a night of tempest too, finds himself on the open heath. To
employ his own words, "he could not rest contented with one-sided
theories or inconsequential reasonings, and has pursued the
argument to its logical termination." He is ill at ease in mind,
I hear, and not in robust health; and I am just going to visit him.

I shall have some melancholy scenes with him; I feel that. Do you
remember, when we were in Switzerland together, how, as we wound
down the Susten and the Grimsel passes, with the perpendicular
cliffs some thousand feet above us, and a torrent as many feet
below, we used to shudder at the thought of two men, wrestling upon
that dizzy verge, and striving to throw each other over! I almost
imagine that I am about to engage in such a strife now, with the
additional horror that the contest is (as one may say) between
father and son. Nay, it is yet more terrible; for in such a contest
there, I almost feel as if I could be contented to employ only a
passive resistance. But I must here learn to school my heart and
mind to an active and desperate conflict. I fear lest I should do
more harm than good; and I am sure I shall if I suffer impatience
and irascibility to prevail. I shall, perhaps, also hear from those
lips which once addressed me only in the accents of respect and
kindness, language indicative of that alienation which is the
inevitable result of marked dissimilarity of sentiment and
character, and which, according to Aristotle's most just
description, will often dissolve the truest friendship, at all
events, extinguish (just as prolonged absence will) all its
vividness. So impossible is it for the full sympathies of the heart
to coexist with absolute antipathy of the intellect! Nay, I shall,
perhaps, have to listen to the language which I cannot but consider
as "impiety" and "blasphemy," and yet keep my temper.
I half feel, however, that I am doing him injustice in much of this;
and I will not "judge before the time." It cannot be that he will
ever cease to regard me with affection, though, perhaps, no longer
with reverence; and I am confident that not even scepticism can
chill the natural kindness of his disposition. I am persuaded
that, even as a sceptic, he is very different from most sceptics.
They cherish doubts; he will be impatient of them. Scepticism is,
with them, a welcome guest, and has entered their hearts by an open
door; I am sure that it must have stormed his, and entered it by a
breach.

"No," my heart whispers, "I shall still find you sincere, Harrington;
scorning to take any unfair advantage in argument, and impatient of
all sophistry, as I have ever found you. You will be fully aware of
the moral significance of the conclusion at which you have arrived,
--even that there is no conclusion to be arrived at; and you will be
miserable,--as all must be who have your power to comprehend it."

Accept this, my dear brother, as a truer delineation of my wanderer
than my first thoughts prompted. But then all this will only make it
the more sad to see him. Still it is a duty, and it must be done.

I have not the heart at present to give more than the briefest
answers to the queries which you so earnestly put to me. No doubt
you were startled to find, from the French papers that reached you
from Tahiti, and on no less authority than that of the "Apostolic
Letter of the Pope," and Cardinal Wiseman's "Pastoral," that this
enlightened country was once more, or was on the eve of becoming, a
"satellite" of Rome. Subsequent information, touching the course of
the almost unprecedented agitation which England has just passed
through, will serve to convince you, either that Pio Nono's
supplications to the Virgin and all the English saints, from
St. Dunstan downwards, have not been so successful as he flattered
himself that they would have been, or that the nation, if it be
about to embrace Romanism, has the oddest way of showing it. It
has acquired most completely the Jesuitical art of disguising
its real feelings; or, as the Anglicans would say, of practising
the doctrine of "reserve." To all appearance the country is more
indomitably Protestant than before.

Nor need you alarm yourself--as in truth you seem too much inclined
to do--about the machinations and triumphs of the Tractarian party.
Their insidious attempts are no doubt a graver evil than the
preposterous pretensions of Rome, to which indeed they gave their
only chance of success. The evil has been much abated, however by
those very assumptions; for it is no longer disguised. Tractarianism
is seen to be what many had proclaimed it,--the strict ally of Rome.
The hopes it inspired were the causes of the Pope's presumption and
of Wiseman's folly; and, by misleading them, it has, to a large
extent, undone the projects both of Rome and itself. But even before
the recent attempts, its successes were very partial.

The degree to which the infection tainted the clergy was no
criterion at all of the sympathy of the people. Too many of the
former were easily converted to a system which confirmed all their
ecclesiastical prejudices, and favored their sacerdotal pretensions;
which endowed every youngster upon whom the bishop laid hands
with "preternatural graces," and with the power of working
"spiritual miracles." But the people generally were in little
danger of being misled by these absurdities; and facts, even before
the recent outbreak, ought to have convinced the clergy, that, if
they thought proper to go to Rome, their flocks were by no means
prepared to follow them. Except among some fashionable folks here
and there,--young ladies to whom ennui, susceptible nerves, and a
sentimental imagination made any sort of excitement acceptable;
who turned their arks of embroidery and painting, and their love
of music, to "spiritual" uses, and displayed their piety and their
accomplishments at the same time,--except among these, I say, and
those amongst the more ignorant of our rural population whom such
people influenced, the Anglican movement could not boast of any
signal success. In the more densely peopled districts, and amongst
the middle classes especially, the failure of the thing was often
most ignominious. No sooner were the candles placed upon the
"altar" than the congregation began to thin; and by the time the
"obsolete" rubrics were all admirably observed, the priest
faultlessly arrayed, the service properly intoned, and the entire
"spiritual" machine set in motion, the people were apt to desert
the sacred edifice altogether. It was a pity, doubtless, that,
when such admirable completeness in the ecclesiastical, equipments
had been attained, it should be found that the machine would not
work; that just when the Church became perfect, it should fail for
so insignificant an accident as the want of a congregation. Yet so
it often was. The ecclesiastical play was an admirable rehearsal,
and nothing more. Not but what there are many priests who would
prefer a "full service," and an ample ceremonial in an empty
church, to the simple Gospel in a crowded one; like Handel, who
consoled himself with the vacant benches at one of his oratorios
by saying that "dey made de music sound de ner." And, in truth,
if we adopt to the full the "High Church" theory, perhaps it
cannot much matter whether the people be present or not; the opus
operatum of magic rites and spiritual conjuration may be equally
effectual. The Oxford tracts said ten years ago, "Before the
Reformation, the Church recognized the seven hours of prayer;
however these may have been practically neglected, or hidden
in an unknown tongue, there is no estimating what influence this
may have had on common people's minds secretly." Surely you must
agree that there is no estimating the efficacy of nobody's
hearing services which, if heard by any body, would have been
in an unknown tongue.

I repeat, that the people of England will never yield to Romanism,
--unless, indeed, it shall hereafter be as a reaction from
infidelity; just as infidelity is now spreading as a reaction from
the attempted restoration of Romanism. That England is not prepared
at present is sufficiently shown by the result of the recent
agitation. Could it terminate otherwise? Was it possible that
England, in the nineteenth century, could be brought to adopt the
superstitions of the Middle Age? If she could, she would have
deserved to be left to the consequences of her besotted folly. We
may say, as Milton said, in his day, to the attempted restoration
of superstitions which the Reformers had already cast off; "O, if
we freeze at noon, after their easy thaw, let us fear lest the sun
for ever hide himself, and turn his orient steps from our
ungrateful horizon justly condemned to be eternally benighted."
No, it is not from this quarter that England must look for the
chief dangers which menace religion, except, indeed, as these
dangers are the inevitable, the uniform result of every attempt
to revive the obsolete past. The principal peril is from a subtle
unbelief, which, in various forms, is sapping the religion of our
people, and which, if not checked, will by and by give the Romish
bishops a better title to be called bishops in partibus infidelium
than has always been the case. The attempt to make men believe
too much naturally provokes them to believe too little; and such
has been and will be the recoil from the movement towards Rome.
It is only one, however, of the causes of that widely diffused
infidelity which is perhaps the most remarkable phenomenon of our
day. Other and more potent causes are to be sought in the
philosophic tendencies of the age, and especially a sympathy, in
very many minds, with the worst features of Continental speculation.
"Infidelity!" you will say. "Do you mean such infidelity as
that of Collins and Bolingbroke, Chubb and Tindal?" Why, we have
plenty of those sorts too, and--worse; but the most charming
infidelity of the day, a bastard deism in fact, often assumes a
different form,--a form, you will be surprised to hear it, which
embodies (as many say) the essence of genuine Christianity! Yes;
be it known to you, that when you have ceased to believe all that
is specially characteristic of the New Testament,--its history,
its miracles, its peculiar doctrine--you may still be a genuine
Christian. Christianity is sublimed into an exquisite thing
called modern "spiritualism." The amount and quality of "faith"
are, indeed, pleasingly diversified when come to examine individual
professors thereof; but it always based upon the principle that
man is a light to himself; that his oracle is within; so clear
either to supersede the necessity--some say even possibility--of
all external revelation in any sense of that term; or, when such
revelation is in some sense allowed, to constitute man the absolute
arbiter how much or how little of it is worthy to be received.

This theory we all perceive, of course, cannot fail to recommend itself
by the well-known uniformity and distinctness of man's religious
notions and the reasonableness of his religious practices! We all
know there has never been any want of a revelation;--of which have
doubtless had full proof among the idolatrous barbarians you
foolishly went to enlighten and reclaim. I wish, however, you had
known it fifteen years ago; I might have had my brother with me
still. It is a pity that this internal revelation--the "absolute
religion," hidden, as Mr. Theodore Parker felicitously phrases it,
in all religions of all ages and nations, so strikingly avouched
by the entire history of world--should render itself suspicions
by little discrepancies in its own utterances among those who
believe in it. Yet so it is. Compared with the rest of the world,
few at the best can be got to believe in the sufficiency of the internal
light and the superfluity all external revelation; and yet hardly
two of the flock agree. It is the rarest little oracle! Apollo
himself might envy its adroitness in the utterance ambiguities.
One man says that the doctrine of "future life" is undoubtedly a
dictate of the "religious sentiment,"--one of the few universal
characteristics of all religion; another declares his "insight"
tells him nothing of the matter; one affirms that the supposed
chief "intuitions" of the "religious faculty"--belief in the
efficacy of prayer, the free will of man, and the immortality of
the soul--are at hopeless variance with intellect and logic; others
exclaim, and surely not without reason, that this casts upon our
faculties the opprobrium of irretrievable contradictions! As for those
"spiritualists"--and they are, perhaps, at present the greater
part--who profess, in some sense, to pay homage to the New Testament,
they are at infinite variance as to how much--whether 7 1/2, 30, or
50 per cent of its records--is to be received. Very few get so far
as the last. One man is resolved to be a Christian,--none more
so,--only he will reject all the peculiar doctrines and all the
supernatural narratives of the New Testament; another declares that
miracles are impossible and "incredible, per se"; a third thinks
they are neither the one nor the other, though it is
true that probably a comparatively small portion of those narrated in
the "book" are established by such evidence as to be worthy of credit.
Pray use your pleasure in the selection; and the more freely, as a
fourth is of opinion that, however true, they are really of little
consequence. While many extol in vague terms of admiration the deep
"spiritual insight" of the founders of Christianity, they do not trouble
themselves to explain how it is that this exquisite illumination left
them to concoct that huge mass of legendary follies and mystical
doctrines which constitute, according to the modern "spiritualism,"
the bulk of the records of the New Testament, and by which its authors
have managed to mislead the world; nor how we are to avoid regarding
them either as superstitious and fanatical fools or artful and
designing knaves, if nine tenths, or seven tenths, of what they record
is all to be rejected; nor, if it be affirmed that they never did
record it, but that somebody else has put these matters into their
mouths, how we can be sure that any thing whatever of the small
remainder ever came out of their mouths. All this, ever, is of the
less consequence, as these gentlemen descend to tell us how we are
to separate the "spiritual" gold which faintly streaks the huge mass
of impure ore of fable, legend, and mysticism. Each man, it seems
has his own particular spade and mattock in his "spiritual faculty";
so off with you to the diggings in these spiritual mines of Ophir. You
will say, Why not stay at home, and be content at once, with the
advocates of the absolute sufficiency of the internal oracle, listen to
its responses exclusively? Ask these men--for I am sure I do not know;
I only know that the results are very different--whether the
possessor of "insight" listens to its own rare voice, or puts on
spectacles and reads aloud from the New Testament. Generally, as I
say, these good folks are resolved that all that is supernatural
and specially inspired in sacred volume is to be rejected; and as
to the rest, which by the way might be conveniently published as
the "Spiritualists' Bible" (in two or three sheets, 48mo, say),
that would still require a careful winnowing; for, while one man
tells us that the Apostle Paul, in his intense appreciation of
the "spiritual element," made light even of the "resurrection of
Christ," and everywhere shows his superiority to the beggarly elements
of history, dogma, and ritual, another declares that he was so
enslaved by his Jewish prejudices and the trumpery he had picked up
at the feet of Gamaliel, that he knew but little or next to nothing
of the real mystery of the very Gospel he preached; that while he
proclaims that it is "revealed, after having been hidden from ages
generations," he himself manages to hide it afresh. This you will be
told is a perpetual process, going on even now; that as all the
"earlier prophets" were unconscious instruments of a purpose beyond
their immediate range of thought, so the Apostles themselves
similarly illustrated the shallowness of their range of thought;
that, in fact, the true significance of the Gospel lay beyond them,
and doubtless also, for the very same reasons, lies beyond us. In
other words, this class of spiritualists tell us that Christianity
is a "development," as the Papists also assert, and the New Testament
its first imperfect and rudimentary product; only, unhappily, as the
development, it seems, may be things so very different as Popery and
Infidelity, we are as far as ever from any criterion as to which, out
of the ten thousand possible developments, is the true; but it is a
matter of the less consequence, since it will, on such reasoning, be
always something future.

"Unhappy Paul!" you will say. Yes, it is no better with him than it
was in our youth some five-and-twenty years ago. Do you not remember
the astute old German Professor in his lecture-room introducing the
Apostle as examining with ever-increasing wonder the various
contradictory systems which the perverseness of exegesis had
extracted from his Epistles, and at length, as he saw one from which
every feature of Christianity had been erased, exclaiming in a
fright, "Was ist das?" But I will not detain you on the vagaries of
the new school of spiritualists. I shall hear enough of them, I have
no doubt, from Harrington; he will riot in their extravagances and
contradictions as a justification of his own scepticism. In very
truth their authors are fit for nothing else than to be recruiting
officers for undisguised infidelity; and this has been the consistent
termination with very many of their converts. Yet, many of them tell
us, after putting men on this inclined plane of smooth ice, that it
is the only place where they can be secure against tumbling into
infidelity, Atheism, Pantheism, Scepticism. Some of Oxford Tractarians
informed us, a little before Crossing the border, that their system
was the surest bulwark against Romanism; and in the same way is this
site "spiritualism", a safeguard against infidelity.

Between many of our modern "spiritualists" and Romanists there is a
parallelism of movement absolutely ludicrous. You may chance to hear
both claiming, with equal fervor, against "intellect" and "logic"
as totally incompetent to decide on "religion" or "spiritual" truth,
and in favor of a "faith" which disclaims all alliance with them. You
may chance hear them both insisting on an absolute submission to
an "infallible authority" other than the Bible; the one external,--that
is, the Pope; the other internal,--that is, "Spiritual Insight"; both
exacting absolute submission, the one to the outward oracle, the
Church, the other to the inward oracle, himself; both insisting that
the Bible is but the first imperfect product of genuine Christianity,
which is perfected by a "development," though as to the direction of
that development they certainly do not agree. Both, if I may judge by
some recent speculations, recoil from the Bible even more than they
do from one another; and both would get rid of it,--one by locking
it up, and the other tearing it to tatters. Thus receding in opposite
directions round the circle, they are found placed side by side at
the same extremity of a diameter, at the other extremity of which
is the--Bible. The resemblances, in some instances, are so striking,
that one is reminded of that little animal, the fresh-water polype,
whose external structure is so absolutely a mere prolongation of
the internal, that you may turn him inside out, and all the
functions of life go on just as well as before.

It is impossible to convey to you an adequate idea of the
bouleversement which has taken place in our religious relations,
--even in each man's little sphere. It is as if the religious
world were a masquerade, where you cease to feel surprise at
finding some familiar acquaintance disguised in the most
fantastical costume. There is our old friend W----, rigorously,
as you know, educated in his old father's Evangelical notions,
ready to be a confessor for the two wax candies, even though
unlighted, and to be a martyr for them if but lighted. His
cousin in the opposite direction has found even the most meagre
naturalism too much for him, and avows himself a Pantheist.
L----, the son, you remember, of an independent minister, is
ready to go nobly to death in defence of the prerogatives of
his "apostolic succession"; and has not the slightest doubts that
he can make out his spiritual genealogy, without a broken link,
from the first Bishop of Rome, downwards!--though, poor fellow,
it would puzzle him to say who was his great-grandfather.
E----, you are aware, has long since joined the Church of Rome,
and has disclosed such a bottomless abyss of "faith," that whole
cart-loads of mediaeval fables, abandoned even by Romanists (who,
by the way, stand fairly aghast at his insatiable appetite), have
not been able to fill it. All the saints in the Roman Hagiography
cannot work miracles as fast as he can credit them. On the other
hand, his brother has signalized himself by an equal facility of
stripping himself, fragment by fragment, of his early creed, till
at last he walks through this bleak world in such a gossamer gauze
of transparent "spiritualism," that it makes you both shiver and
blush to look at him. Your old acquaintance P----, true to his
youthful qualities (which now have most abundant exercise), who
has the "charity which believeth all, things," though certainly
not that which "bareth all things," goes about apologizing for all
religious systems, and finding truth in every thing;--our beloved
Harrington, on the other hand, bewildered by all this confusion,
finds truth--in nothing.

Yet you must not imagine that our religious maladies are at present
more than sporadic; or that the great bulk of our population are at
present affected by them: they still believe the Bible to be the
revealed Word God. Should these diseases ever become epidemic, they
will soon degenerate into a still worse type. Many apostles of
Atheism and Pantheism amongst our classes say (and perhaps truly),
that this modern "spiritualism" is but a transition state. In that
case, you will have to recall, with a deeper meaning, the song of
Byron, which you told me gave you such anguish, as you paced the deck
on the evening in which lost sight of Old England,--"My native land,
night!"

I have sometimes mournfully asked myself, whether the world may not
yet want a few experiments as to whether it cannot get on better
without Christianity and the Bible; but I hope England is not
destined be the laboratory.

I almost envy your happier lot I picture to myself your
unsophisticated folks, just reclaimed from the grossest barbarism
and idolatry, receiving the simple Gospel (as it ought to be
received) with grateful wonder, as Heaven's own method of making man
wise and happy; reverencing the Bible as what it is,--an infallible
guide through this world to a better; "a light shining in a dark
place." They listen with unquestioning simplicity to its disclosures,
which find an echo in their own hearts, and with a reverence which
is due to a volume which has transformed them from savages into men,
and from idolaters into Christians. They are not troubled with doubts
of its authenticity or its divinity; with talk of various readings and
discordant manuscripts; with subtle theories for proving that its
miracles are legends, or its history myths, or with any other of
the infinite vagaries of perverted learning. Neither are they
perplexed with the assurances of those who tell them that, though
divine, the Bible is, in fact, a most dangerous book, and who would
request them, in their new-born enlightenment, to be pleased to shut
their eyes, and to return to a religion of ceremony quite as absurd
and almost as cruel as the polytheism they have renounced. I imagine
you and your little flock in the Sabbath stillness of those mountains
and green valleys, of which you give me such pleasant descriptions,
exhibiting a specimen of a truly primitive Christianity; I imagine
that the peace within is as deep as the tranquillity without.

Yet I know it cannot be; for you and your flock are men,--and that
one word alone suffices to dissolve the charm. You and they have
cares, and worse than cares, which make you like all the rest of
the world; for guilt and sorrow are of no clime, and the "happy
valley" never existed except in the pages of Rasselas. You are,
doubtless, plagued by every now and then finding that some
half-reclaimed cannibal confesses that he has not quite got over
his gloating recollections of the delicacies of his diabolical
cuisine; or that fashionable converts turn with a yearning heart,
not to theatres and balls, but to the "dear remembrance" of the
splendors 'of tattoo and amocos; or that some unlucky wretch who
has not mastered the hideous passions of his old paganism has almost
battered out the brains of a fellow disciple in a sudden paroxysm
of anger; or that some timid soul is haunted with half-subdued
suspicions that some great goggle-eyed idol, with whose worship his
whole existence has been associated, is not, what St Paul declares
it is, absolutely "nothing in world." And then you vex your soul
about these things, and worry yourself with apprehensions lest "you
should have labored in vain and spent your strength for naught"; and
lastly, trouble yourself still more lest you should lose your temper
and your patience into the bargain.

Yes, your scenery is doubtless beautiful, as the sketches you have
sent me sufficiently show; especially that scene at the foot of the
mountain Moraii or Mauroi, for I cannot quite make out the pencil-marks.
But, beautiful as they are, they are not more so than those which greet
my eye even now from my study window. No, there is no fault to be
found with external nature; it is man only who spoils it all. I see
nothing in sun, moon, or stars, in mountain, forest, or stream, that
needs to be altered; we are the blot on this fair world, "O man,"
I am sometimes ready to exclaim, "what a--"; but I check myself,
for as Correggio whispered to himself exultingly, "I also am a painter,"
so I, though with very different feelings, say, "I also am a man."
Johnson said, that every man probably worse of himself than he certainly
knows of most other men; and so I am determined that misanthropy, if
is to be indulged at all, shall, like its opposite charity, "begin
at home."

Yet, now I think better of it, it shall not begin at all; for I
recollect that HE also was a "man," who was infinitely more; who has
penetrated even this cloudy shrine of clay with the effulgence of His
glory and so let me resolve that our common humanity shall be held
sacred for His sake, and pitied for its own. Thus ends my little,
transient fit of spleen, and may it ever end.

May we feel more and more, my dearest brother, the interior presence
of that "guest of guests," that Divine Impersonation of Truth,
Rectitude, and Love, whose image has had more power to soothe and
tranquillize, stimulate and fortify, the human heart, than all the
philosophies ever devised by man; who has not merely left us rules of
conduct, expressed with incomparable force and comprehensiveness,
and illustrated by images of unequalled pathos and beauty; who was
not merely (and yet, herein alone, how superior to all other masters)
the living type of His own glorious doctrine, and affects us as we gaze
upon Him with that transforming influence which the studious
contemplation of all excellence exerts by a necessary law of our
nature; but whose Life and Death include all motives which can enforce
His lessons on humanity;--motives all intensely animated by the
conviction that He is a Living Personality, in communion with our own
spirits, and attracted towards us by all the sympathies of a friendship
truly Divine; "who can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities,
though Himself without sin." May He become so familiar to our souls,
that no suggestions of evil from within, no incursion of evil from
without, shall be so swift and sudden that the thought of Him shall
not be at least as near to our spirits, intercept the treachery of
our infirm nature, and guard that throne which He alone deserves to
fill; till, at every turn and every posture of our earthly life, we
may realize a mental image of that countenance of divine compassion
bent upon us, and that voice of gentle instruction murmuring in our
ears its words of heavenly wisdom; till, whenever tempted to deviate
from the "narrow path," we may hear Him whispering, "Will ye also go
away?" when hated by the world,--"Ye know that it hated me before
it hated you"; when called to perform some difficult duty,--"If ye
love me, keep my commandments"; when disposed to make an idol of any
thing on earth,--"He that loveth father or mother more than me is not
worthy of me"; when in suffering and trial,--"Whom I love I rebuke
and chasten"; when our way is dark,--"What I do thou knowest not now,
but thou shalt know hereafter"; till, a word, as we hear His faintest
footsteps approaching our hearts, and His gentle signal there according
to His own beautiful image, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock,"
our souls may hasten to welcome the heavenly guest.

So may it ever be with you and me! And now I find the very thought
of these things has cured all my dark and turbulent feelings, as
indeed it ever does; and I can say before I go to rest, "O man, my
brother, I am at peace with thee!"

Ah! what an empire is His! How, even at the antipodes, will these
lines touch in your heart a chord responsive to that which vibrates
in mine! .... I go to Harrington in a few days, and as our
conversation (perhaps, alas! our controversies) will turn upon some
of the most momentous religious topics of the day, I shall keep
an exact journal--Boswellize, in fact--for you, as well as I can; and
how well some of my earlier days have practised my memory for this
humble office you know. I shall have a pleasure in this, not only
because you will be glad to hear all I can communicate respecting one
you love so well, but also because in this way, perhaps, I shall in
part fulfil your earnest request to let you know the state of
religion amongst us. You will expect, of course, to find only that
portion of our conversations reported which relates to these
subjects; but I anticipate, in discussing others, some compensation
for the misery which will, I fear, attend the discussion of these.

Thank your convert Outai for his present of his grim idol. It is
certainly "brass for gold," considering what I sent him; but do
not tell him so. If a man gives us his gods, what more can he do?
And yet, it seems, he may be the richer for the loss. Never was
a question more senseless than that of the idolatrous fool,--"Ye
have taken away my gods, and what else have I left?" His godship was
a little injured in his transit; but he was very perfect in
deformity before, and his ugliness could not, by any accident, be
improved. I have put him into a glass case with some stuffed birds, at
which he ogles, with his great eyes, in a manner not altogether divine.
His condition, therefore, is pretty nearly that to which prophecy has
doomed all his tribe; if not cast to the "moles and the bats," it is
to the owls and parrots. I cannot help looking at him sometimes with
a sort of respect as contrasted with his worshippers; for though they
have been fools enough to worship him, he has, at least, not been fool
enough to worship them. Yet even they are better than the Pantheist,
who must regard it and every thing else, himself included, as a
fragment of divinity. I fear that, if I could regard either the Pantheist
or myself as divine, nothing in the world could keep me from blasphemy
every day and all day long.

"Again!" you will say, "my brother; is not that old vein of bitterness
yet exhausted?" But be it known to you that that last sarcasm was
especially for my own behoof. She is a sly jade,--conscience; like
many other folks, she has a trick of expressing her rebukes in
general language; as thus: "What a contemptible set of creatures the
race of men are!"--hoping that some folks will practically take it to
heart. Sometimes I do; and sometimes, I suppose, like my fellows, I look
very grave, and approvingly say, "It is but too true," with the air of
one who philosophically assents to a proposition in which he is totally
uninterested; whereupon conscience becomes outrageous and--personal.

I can easily imagine what you tell me, that you hardly know the
difference between the missionaries of different denominations, and
are very much troubled to remember, at times, which is which. It
is a natural consequence of the relations in which you stand to
heathenism. I fancy the sight of men worshipping an idol with four
heads and twice as many hands must considerably abate impressions of
the importance some of the controversies nearer home. Do you remember
the passage in "Woodstock," in which our old favorite represents the
Episcopalian Rochecliffe and the Presbyterian Holdenough meeting
unexpectedly in prison, after many years of separation, during which
one had thought the other dead? How sincerely glad they were, and
how pleasantly they talked; when lo! an unhappy reference to the
"bishopric of Titus" gradually abated the fervor of their charity,
and inflamed that of their zeal, even till they at last separated in
mutual dudgeon, and sat glowering at each other in their distant
corners with looks in which the "Episcopalian" and "Presbyterian"
were much more evident than the "Christian";--and so they persevered
till the sudden summons to them and their fellow-prisoners, to
prepare for instant execution, dissolved as with a charm the anger
they had felt, and "Forgive me, O my brother," and "I have sinned
against thee, my brother," broke from their lips as they took what
they thought would be a last farewell.

I imagine that a feeling a little resembling this, though from a
different cause, makes it impossible for you to remember, in the
presence of such spiritual horrors as heathenism presents, the immense
importance of many of the controversies so hotly waged at home, I
can conceive (as some of our zealots would say) that you are tempted
to a certain degree of insensibility and defection of heart; that
you no longer discern the momentous superiority of "sprinkling" over
"immersion," or of "immersion" over "sprinkling"; that the "wax
candles," "lighted" and "unlighted," appear to you alike insignificant;
that even the jus divinum of any system of ecclesiastical government
is sometimes not discerned with absolute precision; and, in short, that
you look with contemptuous wonder on half our "great controversies."
If I mistake not, things are coming to that pass amongst us, that we
shall soon think of them almost with contemptuous wonder too.

Vale,--et ora pro me,--as old Luther used to say at the end of his
letters. I will write again soon.

Your affectionate Brother,
F.B.

----


Grange, July 7, 1851.

My Dear Brother:--

I have been with Harrington a week: I am glad to say that I was
under some erroneous impressions when I wrote my letter. He is not
a universal sceptic,--he is only a sceptic in relation to
theological and ethical truth. "Alas!" you will say, "it is an
exception which embraces more than the general rule; it little
matters what else he believes."

True; and yet there is consolation in it; for otherwise it would
have been impossible to hold intercourse with him at all. If he had
reasoned in order to prove to me that human reason cannot be
trusted, or I to convince one who affirmed its universal falsity,
it were hard to say whether he or I had been the greater fool.
Your universal sceptic--if he choose to affect that character,--no
man is it--is impregnable; his true emblem is the hedgehog ensphered
in his prickles; that is, as long as you are observing him. For if
you do not thus irritate his amour propre, and put him on the
defensive, he will unroll himself. Speaking, reasoning, acting,
like the rest of the world, on the implied truthfulness of the
faculties whose falsity he affirms, he will save you the trouble of
confuting him, by confuting himself.

And I am glad, for another reason, that Harrington does not affect
this universal scepticism: for whereas, by the confession of its
greatest masters, it is at best but the play of a subtle intellect, so
it does not afford a very flattering picture of an intellect that
affects it. I should have been mortified, I confess, had Harrington
been chargeable with such a foible.

It is true that, in another aspect, all this makes the case more
desperate; for his scepticism, so far as it extends, is deep and
genuine; it is no play of an ingenious subtilty, nor the affectation
of singularity with him;--and my prognostications of the misery
which such a mind must feel from driving over the tempestuous ocean
of life under bare poles, without chart or compass, are, I can see,
verified. One fact, I confess, gives me hopes, and often affords me
pleasure in listening to him. He is an impartial doubter; he doubts
whether Christianity be true; but he also doubts whether it be false;
and, either from his impatience of the theories which infidelity
proposes in its place, as inspiring yet stronger doubts, or in revenge
for the peace of which he has been robbed, he never seems more at home
than in ridiculing the confidence and conceit of that internal oracle,
which professes to solve the problems which, it seems, Christianity
leaves in darkness; and in pushing the principles on which infidelity
rejects the New Testament to their legitimate conclusion.

I told you, in general, the origin and the progress of his scepticism.
I suspect there are causes (perhaps not distinctly felt by him) which
have contributed to the result These, it may be, I shall never know;
but it is hardly possible not to suppose that some bitter experience has
contributed to cloud, thus portentously, the brightness of his youth.
Something, I am confident, in connection with his long residence abroad,
has tended to warp his young intellect from its straight growth. The
heart, as usual, has had to do with the logic; and "has been whispering
reasons which the reason cannot comprehend." I suspect that passionate
hopes have been buried,--whether in the grave, I know not. I must add,
that an indirect and most potential cause, not indeed of the origination,
yet of the continuance, of his state of mind, must be sought in what
the world would call his good fortune. His maiden aunt by the father's
side left her favorite nephew her pleasant, old-fashioned, somewhat
gloomy, but picturesque and comfortable house in ---shire, about fifty
or sixty acres in land, and three or four hundred a year into the
bargain. Poor old lady! I heartily wish she had kept him out of
possession by living to a hundred; or, dying, had left every farthing
to "endow a college or a--cat." To Harrington she has left a very
equivocal heritage. For with this and his little patrimony he is
entirely placed above the necessity of professional life and fully
qualified to live (Heaven help him!) as a gentleman;--but, unhappily,
as a gentleman whose nature is deeply speculative,--whose life has been
one of study,--and who has no active tastes or habits to correct the
morbid portions of his character, and the dangers of his position.
With his views already unsettled, he retired a few months ago to this
comparative solitude; (for such it is, though the place is not many
miles from the learned city of-----;) and partly from the tendencies
of his own mind, partly from want of some powerful stimulus from
without, he soon acquired the pernicious habit of almost constant
seclusion in his library, where he revolves, as if fascinated, the
philosophy of doubt, or some equally distressing themes; all which
has now issued as you see. The contemplative and the active life are
both necessary to man, no doubt; but in how different proportions!

To live as Harrington has lived of late, is to breathe little but
azote. I believe that all these ill effects would have been, though
not obviated, at least early cured, had he been compelled to mingle
in active life,--to make his livelihood by a profession. The bracing
air of the world would have dissipated these vapors which have
gathered over his soul. In very truth, I half wish that he could
now be stripped of his all, and compelled to become hedger and ditcher.
It would almost be a kindness to ruin him by engaging him in some
of the worst railway speculations!

I found him all that I had promised to find him; unchanged towards
myself; sometimes cheerful, though oftener melancholy, or, at least,
to all appearances ennuye; with more causticity and sarcasm in his humor,
but without misanthropy; and I must add, with the same logical fairness,
the same abhorrence of sophistry, which, were his early characteristics.

But the journal of my visit, which I am most diligently keeping, will
more fully inform you of his state of mind.

F.B.

JOURNAL OF A VISIT, ETC.

July 1, 1851.

I arrived at ----Grange this day. In the evening, as Harrington and
myself were conversing in the library, I availed myself of a pause
in the conversation to break the ice in relation to the topic which
lay nearest my heart, by saying:--

"And so you have become, they tell me, a universal sceptic?"

"Not quite," he replied, throwing one of his feet over the edge of
the sofa on which he was reclining  and speaking rather dogmatically
(I thought) for a sceptic. "Not quite: but in relation to religion I
certainly become convinced that certainty, like pride, was not made for
man, and that it is in vain for man to seek it."

I was amused at the contradiction of a certainty of universal
uncertainty, as well as at the discovery there was nothing to be
discovered.

He noticed my smile, and divined its cause.

"Forgive me," he said, "that, like you Christians and believers
of all sorts, I sometimes find theory discordant with practice. The
generality of people are, you know, a little inconsistent with their
creed; suffer me to be so with mine."

"I have no objection, Harrington, in the world; the more inconsistent
you are, the better I shall like you; you have my free leave to be, in
relation to scepticism, just what the Antinomian is in relation to
Christianity or as true a sceptic as he was a true Churchman who showed
his good principles, according to Dr. Johnston, by never passing a
church without taking off his hat, though he never went into it; or
even as Falstaff, who had forgotten 'what the inside of a church was
made of.' I shall be contented indeed to see you as little attached
to your no-truth, as the generality of Christians are to their truth."

"I thank you," said he, a little sarcastically, "I doubt if I shall
ever be able to reach so perfect a pitch of inconsistency. But are
you wise, my dear uncle, in this taunt? What an argument have you
suggested to me, if I thought it worth while to make use of it!
How have you surrendered, without once thinking of the consequences,
the practical power of Christianity!"

I began to fear that there would be a good deal of sharp-shooting
between us.

"I have surrendered nothing," I replied. "If every thing is to be
abandoned, which, though professedly the subject of man's conviction,
he fails to reduce to practice, his creed will be short enough.
Christianity, however, will be in no worse condition than morals,
the theory of which has ever been in lamentable advance of the
practice. And least of all can scepticism stand such it test, of
which you have just given a passing illustration. Of this system,
or rather no-system, there has never been a consistent votary, if we
except Pyrrho himself; and whether he were not an insincere sceptic,
the world will always be most sincerely sceptical. But forgive me my
passing gibe. In wishing you to be as inconsistent as nine tenths
of Christians are, I did not mean to prejudice your arguments, such
as they are. I know it is not in your power to be otherwise than
inconsistent; and I shall always have that argument against you, so
far as it is one."

"And so far as it is one," he replied, "I shall always have the same
argument against you."

"Be it so," I replied, "for the present: I am unwilling to engage in
polemical strife with you, the very first evening on which I have
seen you for so long a time. I would much rather hear a chapter of
your past travels and adventures, which you know your few and brief
letters--but I will not reproach you--left me in such ignorance of."

He complied with my request; and in the course of conversation
informed me of many circumstances which had formed steps in that slow
gradation by which he had reached his present state of mind; a state
which he did not affect to conceal. But still I felt sure there were
other causes which he did not mention.

At length I said, "You must give me the title of an old friend,
--a father, Harrington, I might almost say,"--and the tears came
into my eyes,--"to talk hereafter fully with you of your so certain
uncertainty about the only topics which supremely affect the
happiness of man."

I told him, and I spoke it in no idle compliment, that I was
convinced he was far enough from being one of those shallow fools
who are inclined to scepticism because they shrink from the trouble
of investigating the evidence; who find so much to be said for this,
and much for that, that they conclude that there is no truth,
simply because they are too indolent to seek it. "This," said I,
"is the plea of intellectual Sybarites with whom you have nothing
in common. And as little do you sympathize with those dishonest,
though not always shallow thinkers, who take refuge in alleged
uncertainty of evidence, because they are afraid of pursuing it
to unwelcome conclusions; who are sceptics on the most singular and
inconsistent of all grounds, presumption. I know you are none
of these."

"I am, I think, none of these," said he quietly.

"You are not: and your manner and countenance proclaim it yet more
strongly than your words. The only genuine effect of a sincere
scepticism is and must be, not the complacent and frivolous humor
which too often attaches to it, but a mournful confession of the
melancholy condition to which, if true, the theory reduces the
sceptic himself and all mankind."

Of all the paradoxes humanity exhibits, surely there are none more
wonderful than the complacency with which scepticism often utters
its doubts, and the tranquillity which it boasts as the perfection
of its system! Such a state of mind is utterly inconsistent with
the genuine realization and true-hearted reception of the theory.
On such subjects such a creature as man cannot be in doubt, and
really feel his doubts, without being anxious and miserable. When I
hear some youth telling me, with a simpering face, that he does
not know, or pretend to say, whether there be a God, or not, or
whether, if there be, He takes any interest in human affairs; or
whether, if He does, it much imports us to know; or whether, if He
has revealed that knowledge, it is possible or impossible for us
to ascertain it; when I hear him further saying, that meantime he
is disposed to make himself very easy in the midst of these
uncertainties, and to await the great revelation of the future
with philosophical, that is, being interpreted, with idiotic
tranquillity, I see that, in point of fact, he has never entered
into the question at all; that he has failed to realize the terrible
moment of the questions (however they may be decided) of which he
speaks with such amazing flippancy.

It is too often the result of thoughtlessness; of a wish to get
rid of truths unwelcome to the heart; of a vain love of paradox,
or perhaps, in many cases, (as a friend of mine said,) of an
amiable wish to frighten "mammas and maiden aunts." But let us be
assured that a frivolous sceptic,--a sceptic indeed,--after duly
pondering and feeling the doubts he professes to embrace, is an
impossibility. What may be expected in the genuine sceptic is a
modest hope that he may be mistaken, a desire to be confuted; a
retention of his convictions as if they were a guilty secret; or
the promulgation of them only as the utterance of an agonized heart,
unable to suppress the language of its misery; a dread of making
proselytes,--even as men refrain from exposing their sores or
plague-infected garments in the eyes of the world. The least we can
expect from him is that mood of mind which Pascal so sublimely says
becomes the Atheist ... "Is this, then, a thing to be said with
gayety? Is it not rather a thing to be said with tears as the saddest
thing in the world?"

The current of conversation after a while, somehow swept us round
again to the point I had resolved to quit for this evening. "But
since we are there," said I, "I wish you would in brief tell me why,
when you doubted of Christianity, you did not stop at any of those
harbours of refuge which, in our time especially, have been so
plentifully provided for those who reject the New Testament?
You are not ignorant, I know, of the writings of Mr. Theodore
Parker, and other modern Deists. How is it that none of them
even transiently satisfied you? An ingenious eclecticism founded
on them has satisfied, you see, your old college friend, George
Fellowes, of whom I hear rare things. He is far enough from
being a sceptic,"

"Why," said he, laughing, "it is quite true that George is not a
sceptic, He has believed more and disbelieved more, and both one
and the other for less reason, than any other man I know. He
used to send me the strangest letters when I was abroad, and almost
every one presented him under some new phase. No, he is no sceptic.
If he has rejected almost every thing, he has also embraced almost
every thing; at each point in his career, his versatile faith has
found him some system to replace that he had abandoned; and he is
now a dogmatist par excellence, for he has adopted a theory of
religion which formally abjures intellect and logic, and is as
sincerely abjured by them. If the difficulties he has successively
encountered had been seen all at once, I fancy he would have been
much where I am. Poor George! 'Sufficient unto the day,' with him,
is the theology 'thereof'! I picture him to myself going out of a
morning, with his new theological dress upon him, and, chancing to
meet with some friend, who protests there is some thing or other
not quite 'comme il faut,' he proceeds with infinite complacency
to alter that portion of his attire; the new costume is found
equally obnoxious to the criticism of somebody else, and off it
goes like the rest."

This was a ludicrous, but not untrue, representation of George
Fellows's mind; only the "friend" in the image must be supposed to
mean his own wayward fancy; for he is not particularly amenable
(though very amiable) to external influences. So dominant, however,
is present feeling and impulse, or so deficient is he in
comprehensiveness, that he often takes up with the most trumpery
arguments; that is, for a few days at a time. Yet he does not want
acuteness. I have known him shine strongly (as has been said of
some one else) upon an angle of a subject; but he never sheds over
its whole surface equable illumination. Where evidence is complicated
and various, and consists of many opposing or modifying elements,
he never troubles himself to compute the sum total, and strike a fair
balance. He stands aghast in the presence of an objection which he
cannot solve, and loses all presence of mind in its contemplation.
He seldom considers whether there are not still greater objections
on the other side, nor how much farther, if a principle be just,
it ought to carry him. The mode in which he looks at a subject often
reminds me of the way in which the eye, according to metaphysicians,
surveys an extensive landscape. It sees, they say, only a point at
a time, punctum visibile, which is perpetually shifting; and the
impression of the whole is in fact a rapid combination, by means
of memory, of perceptions all but coexistent; if the attention be
strongly fixed upon some one object, the rest of the landscape
comparatively fades from the view. Now George Fellowes seemed to me,
in a survey of a large subject, to have an incomparable faculty of
seeing the minimum visibile, and that so ardently, that all the
rest of the landscape vanished at the moment from his perceptions.

"Well," said I, smiling, "you must not blame him for his not
reaching at once and per saltum your position. He has been more
deliberate in stripping himself. Yet he has come on pretty well.
You ought not to despair of him. I wonder at what point he is now."

"You may ask him to-morrow," said he, "for I am expecting him here
to spend a few weeks with me. At whatever point he may be in these
days of 'progress,' as they are called, he does not know that I am
already arrived at the ne plus ultra; for my letters to him were
yet briefer and rarer than to you: and I never touched on these
topics. Where would have been the use of asking counsel of such an
oracle?"

I said I should be glad to see him. "But I shall be still better
pleased to hear from you, why you are dissatisfied with any such
system as his; and especially why you say he ought in consistency to
go much farther."

"I am far from saying that my reasons will be satisfactory, but I
will endeavor, if you wish it, to justify my opinion."

"I shall certainly expect no less," replied I. "You are strangely
altered, if you are willing to assert without attempting to prove;
and if you were altered, I am not. When will you let me hear you?"

"O, in a day or two, when I have had time to put my thoughts on
paper; but, if I mistake not, some of the most important points will
be discussed before that, for Fellowes, I hear, is a very
knight-errant of 'spiritualism,' and it is a thousand to one but he
attempts to convert me. I intend to let him have full opportunity."

"I hardly know," said I. "Harrington, whether I wish him success or
not. But one thing, surely, all must admire in him: I mean his
candor. What less than this can prompt him, after abandoning with
such extraordinary facility so many creeds and fragments of creeds,
after travelling round the whole circle of theology, to confess with
such charming simplicity the whole history of his mental revolutions,
and expose himself to the charge of unimaginable caprice,--of
theological coquetry? I protest to you that, a priori, I should have
thought it impossible that any man could have made so many and such
violent turns in so short a time without a dislocation of all the
joints of his soul.--without incurring the danger of a 'universal
anchylosis.'"

"One would imagine," said Harrington, with a laugh, "that, in your
estimate, his mind resembles that ingenious toy by which the union
of the various colored rays of light is illustrated: the red, the
yellow, the blue, the green, and so forth, are distinctly painted on
the compartments of a card: but no sooner are they put into a state
of rapid revolution than the whole appears white. Such, it seems,
is the appearance of George Fellowes in that rapid gyration to
which he been subjected: the part-colored rays of his various creeds
are lost sight of and the pure white of his 'candor' is alone
visible!"

"For myself," said I, "I feel in some measure incompetent to
pronounce on his present system. When I saw him for a short time a
few months ago, he told that, though his versatility of faith had
certainly been great, he must remind me (as Mr. Newman had said) that
he had seen both sides; that persons like myself, for example, have
had but one experience; whereas he has had two."

"If he were to urge me with such an argument," replied Harrington, "I
should say we are even then. But I think even you could reply: 'You
yourself injustice, Mr. Fellowes, in saying you have had two
experiences. You have had two dozen, at least; but whether that can
qualify you for speaking with any authority on these subjects I much
doubt; to give any weight to the opinions of any man some stability
at least is necessary.'"

This I could not gainsay. Slow revolutions on momentous subjects,
when there has been much sobriety as well as diligence of investigation,
are, perhaps, not despised as authority. Some superior weight may even
be attached to the later and maturer views. But man changes them
every other day; if they rise and fall with the barometer; if his
whole life has been one rapid pirouette, it is impossible with gravity
to discuss the question, whether at some point he may not have been
right. Whoever be in the right, he cannot well be who has never long
been any thing; and to take such a man for a guide would be almost as
absurd as to mistake a weathercock for a signpost.

"In seeking religious counsel of George Fellows," said Harrington.
"I should feel much as Jeannie Deans, when she went to the
Interpreter's House.' as Madge Wildfire calls it, in company with
that fantastical personage. But he is a kind-hearted, amiable fellow,
and, in short, I cannot help liking him."
____

July 2. Mr. Fellowes arrived this day about noon. He is about a year
younger than Harrington. The afternoon was spent very pleasantly in
general conversation. In the evening, after tea, we went into the
library. I told the two friends that, as they had doubtless much to
talk of, and as I had plenty of occupation for my pen, I would sit
down at an adjoining table with my desk, and they might go on with
their chat. They did so, and for some time talked of old college
days and on indifferent subjects; but my attention was soon
irresistibly attracted by finding them getting into conversation in
which, on Harrington's account, I felt a deeper interest. I found my
employment impossible, and yet, desiring to hear them discuss their
theological differences without constraint, I did not venture to
interrupt them. At last the distraction became intolerable; and,
looking up, I said, "Gentlemen, I believe you might talk on the most
private matters without my attending to one syllable you said; but
if you get upon these theological subjects, such is my present
interest in them," glancing at Harrington, "that I shall be
perpetually making blunders in my manuscript. Let me beg of you to
avoid them when I am with you, or let me go into another room."
Harrington would not hear of the last; and as to the first he said,
and said truly, that it would impede the free current of conversation,
"which," said he, "to be pleasurable at all, must wind hither and
thither as the fit takes us. It is like a many-stringed lyre, and
to break any one of the chords is to mar the music. And so, my good
uncle, if you find us getting upon these topics, join us; we shall
seldom be long at a time upon them. I will answer for it; or if you
will not do that, and yet, though disturbed by our chatter, are too
polite to show it, why, amuse yourself (I know your old tachygraphic
skill, which used to move my wonder in childhood), I say, amuse
yourself, or rather avenge yourself, by jotting down some fragments
of our absurdities, and afterwards showing us what a couple of fools
we have been." I was secretly delighted with the suggestion; and, when
the subjects of dispute were very interesting, threw aside my work,
whatever it was, and reported them pretty copiously. Hence the
completeness and accuracy of this admirable journal. I cannot of
course always, or even often, vouch for the ipsissima verba; and some
few explanatory sentences I have been obliged to add. But the substance
of the dialogues is faithfully given. I need not say, that they refer
only to subjects of a theological and polemical nature.

I hardly know how the conversation took the turn it did on the present
occasion; but I think it was from Mr. Fellowes's noticing Harrington's
pale looks, and conjecturing all sorts of reasons for his occasional
lapses into melancholy.

His friend hoped this and hoped that, as usual.

Harrington at last, seeing his curiosity awakened, and that he would
go on conjecturing all sorts of things, said, "To terminate your
suspense, be it known to that I am a bankrupt!"

"A bankrupt!" said the other, with evident alarm; "you surely have
not been so unwise as to risk recently acquired property, or to
speculate in----"

"You have hit it," said Harrington; "I have speculated far more
deeply than you suppose."

The countenance of his friend lengthened visibly.

"Be not alarmed." resumed Harrington, with a smile; "I mean that
I have speculated a good deal in--philosophy, and when I
said I was a bankrupt, I meant only that I was a bankrupt--in faith;
having become in fact, since I saw you last, thoroughly sceptical."

The countenance of Fellowes contracted to its proper dimensions. He
looked even cheerful to find that his friend had merely lost his
faith, and not his fortune.

"Is that all?" said he, "I am heartily glad to hear it. Sceptic! No,
no; you must not be a sceptic either, except for a time," continued
he, musing very sagely. "It is no bad thing for a while: for it at
least leaves the house 'empty, swept and garnished.'"

"Rather an unhappy application of your remnant of Biblical knowledge,"
said Harrington; "I hope you do not intend to go on with the text."

"No, no, my dear friend; I warrant you we shall find you worthier
guests than any such fragments of supposed revelation. If you are in
'search of a religion,' how happy should I be to aid you!"

"I shall be infinitely obliged to you," said Harrington, gravely;
"for at present I do not know that I possess a farthing's worth of
solid gold in the world. Ah! that it were but in your power to lend
me some: but I fear" (he added half sarcastically) "that you have
not got more than enough for yourself. I assure you that I am far
from happy."

He spoke with so much gravity, that I hardly knew whether to
attribute it to some intention of dissembling a little with his
friend, or to an involuntary expression of the experience of a mind
that felt the sorrows of a genuine scepticism. It might be both.

However, it brought things to a crisis at once. His college friend
looked equally surprised and pleased at his appeal.

"I trust," said he, with becoming solemnity, "that all this is
merely a temporary reaction from having believed too much; the
languor and dejection which attend the morrow after a night's
debauch. I assure you that I rejoice rather than grieve to hear
that you have curtailed your orthodoxy. It has been just my
own case, as you know: only I flatter myself, that, perhaps having
less subtilty than you, I have not passed the 'golden mean' between
superstition and scepticism,--between believing too much and
believing too little."

I looked up for a moment. I saw a laugh in Harrington's eyes, but
not a feature moved. It passed away immediately.

"I tell you," said he, "that I believe absolutely no one religious
dogma whatever; while yet I would give worlds, if I had them, to set
my foot upon a rock. I should even be grateful to any one, who, if he
did not give me truth, gave me a phantom of it, which I could mistake
for reality." He again spoke with an earnestness of tone and manner,
which convinced me that, if there were any dissimulation, it cost him
little trouble.

"If you merely meant," said Fellowes, "that you do not retain any
vestige of your early 'historical' and 'dogmatical' Christianity, why,
I retain just as little of it. Indeed, I doubt," he continued, with
perhaps superfluous candor, "whether I ever was a Christian"; and he
seemed rather anxious to show that his creed had been nominal.

"If it will save you the trouble of proving it." said Harrington,
"I will liberally grant you both your premises and your conclusion,
without asking you to state the one or prove the other."

"Well, then, Christian or no Christian. there was a time, at all
events, when I was orthodox, you will grant that; when I should hate
been willing to sign the Thirty-nine Articles: or three hundred and
thirty-nine; or the Confession of Faith: or any other compilation, or
all others; though perhaps, if strictly examined, I might have been
found in the condition of the infidel Scotch professor, who, being
asked on his appointment to his Chair, whether the 'Confession of
Faith' contained all that he believed, replied, 'Yes, Gentlemen, and
a great deal more.' I have rejected all 'creeds'; and I have now
found what the Scripture calls that 'peace which passeth all
understanding.'"

"I am sure it passes mine," said Harrington, "if you really have found
it, and I should be much obliged to you if you would let me participate
in the discovery."

"Yes," said Fellowes, "I have been delivered from the intolerable
burden of all discussions as to dogma, and all examinations of evidence.
I have escaped from the 'bondage of the letter,' and have been
Introduced into the 'liberty of the spirit.'"

"Your language, at all events, is richly Scriptural," said Harrington;
"it is as though you were determined not to leave the 'letter' of the
Scripture, even if you renounce the 'spirit' of it."

"Renounce the spirit of it! say rather, that in fact I have only now
discovered it. Though no Christian in the ordinary sense, I am, I hope,
something better; and a truer Christian in the spirit than thousands of
those in the letter."

"Letter and spirit! my friend," said Harrington, "you puzzle me
exceedingly; you tell me one moment that you do not believe in
historical Christianity at all, either its miracles or dogmas,--these
are fables; but in the next, why, no old Puritan could garnish
such discourse with a more edifying use of the language of Scripture.
I suppose you will next tell me that you understand the 'spirit' of
Christianity better even than Paul."

"So I do," said our visitor complacently, "'Paulo majora canamus';
for after all he was but half delivered from his Jewish prejudices;
and when he quitted nonsense of the Old Testament,--though in fact he
never did thoroughly,--he evidently believed the fables of the New
just as much as the pure truths which lie at the basis of 'spiritual'
Christianity. We separate the dross of Christianity from its fine gold.
'The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,'--'the fruit of the
spirit is joy, peace,' not---"

"Upon my word," said Harrington, laughing, "I shall begin to fancy
presently that Douce Davie Deans has turned infidel, and shall expect
to hear of 'right-hand failings off and left-hand defections.' But
tell me, if you would have me think you rational, is not your meaning
this:--that the New Testament contains, amidst an infinity of rubbish,
the statement of certain 'spiritual' truths which, and which alone,
you recognize."

"Certainly."

"But you do not acknowledge that these are derived from the New
Testament."

"Heaven forbid; they are indigenous to the heart of man, and are
anterior to all Testaments, old or new."

"Very well; then speak of them as your heart dictates, and do not,
unless you would have the world think you a hypocrite, willing to
cajole it with the idea that you are a believer in the New
Testament, while you in fact reject it, or one of the most barren
uninventive of all human beings, or fanatically fond of mystical
language,--do not, I say, affect this very unctuous way of talking.
And, for another reason, do not. I beseech you, adopt the phraseology
of men who, according to your view, must surely have been either the
most miserable fanatics or the most abominable impostors; for if they
believed all that system of miracle and doctrine they professed, and
this were not true, they were certainly the first; and if they did
not believe it. They were as certainly the second."

"Pardon me; I believe them to have been eminently holy men,--full of
spiritual wisdom and of a truly sublime faith, though conjoined with
much ignorance and credulity, which it is unworthy of us to tolerate."

"Whether it could be ignorance and credulity on your theory," retorted
Harrington, "is to my mind very doubtful. Whether any men can untruly
affirm that they saw and did the things the Apostles say they saw and
did, and yet be sincere fanatics, I know not; but even were it so,
since it shows (as do also the mystical doctrines you reject as false)
that they could be little less than out of their senses; and as you
further say that the spiritual sentiments you retain in common with
them were no gift of theirs, but are yours and all mankind's, by
original inheritance, uttered by the oracle of the human heart before
any Testaments were written,--why, speak your thoughts in your
own language."

"Ay, but how do we know that these original Christians said that
they had seen and done the things you refer to? which of course they
never did see and do, because they were miraculous. How do we know
what additions and corruptions as to fact, and what disguises of
mystical doctrine, 'the idealizing biographers and historians' (as
Strauss truly calls them) may have accumulated upon their
simple utterances?"

"And how do you know, then, whether they ever uttered these simple
'utterances'? or whether they are not part of the corruptions? or
how can you separate the one from the other? or how can you ascertain
these men meant what you mean, when you thus vilely copy their
language?"

"Because I know these truths independently of Bible, to be sure."

"Then speak of them independently of the Bible. If you profess to
have broken the stereotype-plates of the 'old revelation' and
delivered mankind from their bondage, do not proceed to express
yourself only in fragments from them; if you profess freedom of
soul, and the possession of the pure truth, do not appear to be so
poverty-stricken as to array your thoughts in the tatters of
the cast-off Bible."

"Ay, but the 'saints' of the Bible," replied Fellows, "are, even
by Mr. Frank Newman's own confession, those who have entered, after
all, most profoundly the truths of spiritual religion, and stand
almost alone in the history of the world in that respect."

"If it be so, it is certainly very odd, considering the mountain-loads
of folly, error, fable, fiction, from which their spiritual religion
did not in your esteem defend them, and which you say you are
obliged to reject. It is a phenomenon of which, I think, you are
bound to give some account."

"But what is there so wonderful in supposing them in possession of
superior 'spiritual' advantages, with mistaken history and fallacious
logic, and so forth?"

"Why" answered Harrington, "one wonder is, that they alone, and
amidst such gross errors, should possess these spiritual advantages.
But it also appears to me that your notions of the 'spiritual' are
not the same theirs, for you reject the New Testament dogmas as well
as its history; if so, it is another reason for not misleading us by
using language in deceptive senses. But, at all events, I cannot help
pitying your poverty of thought, or poverty of expression,--one or
both; and I beg you, for my sake, if not for your own, to express your
thoughts as much as possible in your own terms, and avail yourself
less liberally of those of David and Paul, whose language ordinary
Christians will always associate with another meaning, and can never
believe you sincere in supposing that it rightfully expresses the
doctrines of your most; spiritual' infidelity. They will certainly
hear your Scriptural and devout language with the same feelings
with which they would nauseate that most oppressive of all odors,
--the faint scent of lavender in the chamber of death. My good uncle
here, who cannot be prevailed upon to reject the Bible will not, I
am sure, hear you, without supposing that you resemble those
Rationalists of whom Menzel says, 'These gentlemen smilingly taught
their theological pupils that unbelief was the true apostolic,
primitive Christian belief; they put all their insipidities into
Christ's month, and made him, by means of their exegetical jugglery,
sometimes a Kantian, sometimes a Hegelian, sometimes one ian and
sometimes another, 'wie es dem Herrn Professor beliebt': neither
will he be able to imagine that you are not resorting to this
artifice for the same purpose. 'The Bible,' says Menzel, 'and
their Reason being incompatible, why do they not let them remain
separate? Why insist on harmonizing things which do not, and
never can harmonize? It is because they are aware that the Bible
has authority with the people; otherwise they would never trouble
themselves about so troublesome a book.' I cannot suspect you of
such hypocrisy; but I must confess I regard your language as cant.
As I listen to you I seem to see a hybrid between Prynne and
Voltaire. So far from its being true that you have renounced
the 'letter' of the Bible and retained its 'spirit,' I think it
would be much more correct to say, comparing your infidel
hypothesis with your most spiritual dialect, that you have renounced
the 'spirit' of the Bible and retained its 'letter.'"

"But are you in a condition to give an opinion?" said Fellowes, with
a serious air. "Mr. Newman says in a like case, 'The natural man
discerneth not things of the spirit of God, because they are
foolishness unto him'; it is the 'spiritual man only who search
the deep things of God.' At the same time I freely acknowledge that
I never could see my way clear to employ an argument which looks
so arrogant; and the less, as I believe, with Mr. Parker, that
the only revelation is in all men alike. Yet, on the other hand,
I cannot doubt my own consciousness."

"Why, no man doubts his own consciousness," said Harrington, laughing.
"The question is, What is its value? What is the criterion of universal
'spiritual truth,' if there be any? Those words in Paul's mouth were
well, and had a meaning. In yours, I suspect they would have none,
or a very different one. He dreamt that he was giving to mankind
(vainly, as seems) a system of doctrines and truths which were,
many of them, transcendental to the human intellect and conscience,
and which when revealed were very distasteful (and not least to
you); but the assertion of a spiritual monopoly would assuredly
sound rather odd in one who professes, if I understand you, that
has given to man (for it is no discovery of any individual) an
internal and universal revelation! But of your possible limitations
of your universal spiritual revelation,--which all men 'naturally'
possess, but which the 'natural man' receiveth not,--we will talk
after. Sceptic as I am, I am not a sceptic who is reconciled to
scepticism. Meantime, you reject the Bible in toto, as an external
revelation of God, if I understand you."

"In toto; and I believe that it has received in this age its
death-blow."

"Ay, that is what the infidel has been always promising us; meantime,
they somehow perish, and it laughs at them. You remember, perhaps,
the words of old Woolston, so many fragments of whose criticism,
as those of many others, have been incorporated by Strauss. He had,
as he elegantly expresses it, 'cut out such a piece of work for the
Boylean lectures as should hold them tug as long as the ministry of
the letter should last'; for he too, you see, masked his infidelity
by a distinction between the 'letter' and the 'spirit,' though he
applied the convenient terms in a totally different sense. Poor soul!
The fundamental principles of his infidelity are surrendered by
Strauss himself. Similarly, a score of assailants of the Bible have
appeared and vanished since his day; each proclaiming, just as he
himself went to the bottom, that he had given the Bible its death-blow!
Somehow, however, that singular book continues to flourish, to
Propagate itself, to speak all languages, to intermingle more and
more with the literature of all civilized nations; while mankind
will not accept, slaves as they are, the intellectual freedom you
offer them. It is really very provoking; of what use is it to destroy
the Bible so often, when it lives the next minute? I have little doubt
your new attempts will end just like the labors of the Rationalists
of the Paulus school, so graphically described by the German writer
whom I have already referred to. 'It is sad, no doubt,' says he, or
something to the same effect, 'that, after fifty years' exegetical
grubbing, weeding, and pruning at 'the mighty primitive forest of
the Bible, the next generation should persist in saying that the
Rationalist had destroyed the forest only in his own addled
imagination, and that it is just as it was.'"

"Yes; but the new weapons will not be so easily evaded as those
of a past age."

"Will they not? We shall see. You must not prophesy; in that,
you know, you do not believe."

"No; but nevertheless we shall see so-called sacred dogma and
history exploded, for Mr. Newman--"

"Thinks so, of course; and he must be right, because he has never
been known to be wrong in any of his judgments, or even to vary
in them. But we have had enough, I think, of these subjects this
evening, and it is too bad to give you only a controversial welcome.
I want to have some conversation with you about very different
things, and more pleasant just now. We shall have plenty of
opportunity to discuss theological points."

To this Fellowes assented: they resumed general conversation, and
I finished my letters.

----

July 3. We were all sitting, as on the previous day, in the library.

"Book-faith!" I heard Harrington say, laughing; "why, as to that I must
needs acknowledge that the whole school of Deism, 'rational' or
'spiritual,' have the least reason in the world to indulge in
sneers at book-faith; for, upon my word, their faith has consisted
in little else. Their systems are parchment religions, my friend,
all of them;--books, books, for ever, from Lord Herbert's time
downwards, are all they have yet given to the world. They have ever
been boastful and loud-tongued, but have done nothing; there are no
great social efforts, no organizations, no practical projects,
whether successful or futile, to which they can point. The old
'book-faiths' which you venture to ridicule have been something at
all events; and, in truth, I can find no other 'faith' than what is
somehow or other attached to a 'book,' which has been any thing
influential. The Vedas, the Koran, the Old Testament Scriptures,--
those of the New,--over how many millions have these all reigned!
Whether their supremacy be right or wrong, their doctrine true
or false, is another question; but your faith, which has been
book-faith and lip-service par excellence, has done nothing that I
can discover. One after another of your infidel Reformers passes
away, and leaves no trace behind, except a quantity of crumbling
'book-faith.' You have always been just on the eve of extinguishing
supernatural fables, dogmas, and superstitions,--and then
regenerating the world! Alas! the meanest superstition that crawls
laughs at you; and, false as it may be, is still stronger than you."

"And your sect," retorted Fellowes, rather warmly, "if you come to
that, is it not the smallest of all? Is that likely to find favor
in the eyes of mankind?"

"Why, no," said Harrington, with provoking coolness; "but then it
makes no pretensions to any thing of the kind. It were strange if it
did; for as the sceptic doubts if any truth can be certainly attained
by man on those subjects on which the 'rational' or the 'spiritual'
deist dogmatizes, it of course professes to be incapable of
constructing any thing."

"And does construct nothing," retorted Fellowes.

"Very true," said Harrington, "and therein keeps its word; which is
more, I fear, than can be said with your more ambitious spiritualists,
who profess to construct, and do not."

"But you must give the school of spiritualism time: it is only just
born. You seem to me to be confounding the school of the old, dry,
logical deism with the young, fresh, vigorous, earnest school' which
appeals to 'insight' and 'intuition.'"

"No," said Harrington, "I think I do not confound. The first and
the best of our English deists derived his system as immediately
from intuitions as Mr. Parker or you. You know how it sped--or, if
you do not, you may easily discover--with his successors: they
continually disputed about it, curtailed it, added to it, altered
it, agreed in nothing but the author's rejection of Christianity,
and forgot more and more the decency of his style. So will it be with
your Mr. Newman and his successors. They will acquiesce in his
rejection Christianity; depend upon it, in nothing more. He may get
his admirers to abandon the Bible, but they will have naught to do
with the 'loves, and joys, and sorrows, and raptures, which he
describes in the 'Soul'; they would just as soon read the
'Canticles.'"

"I really cannot admit," said Fellowes, "that we modern spiritualists
are to be confounded with Lord Herbert."

"Not confounded with him, certainly," replied Harrington, "but
identified with him you may be; except to be sure, that he was convinced
of the immortality of man as one of the few articles of all religion;
while many of you deny, or doubt it. The doctrines--"

"Call them sentiments, rather; I like that term better."

"O, certainly, if you prefer it; only be pleased to observe that a
sentiment felt is a fact, and a fact is a truth, and a truth may
surely be expressed in a proposition. That is all I am anxious about
at present. If so far, at least, we may not patch up the divorce
which Mr. Newman has pronounced between the 'intellect and the 'soul,'
it is of no use for us to talk about the matter. I say that Lord
Herbert's articles--"

"There again, 'articles,'" said Fellowes; "I hate the word; I could
almost imagine that you were going to recite the formidable Thirty-nine."

"Rather, from your outcry, one would suppose I was about to inflict
the forty save one: but do not be alarmed. The articles neither of
Lord Herbert's creed nor of your own, I suspect, are thirty-nine, or
any thing like it. The catalogue will be soon exhausted."

"Here again, 'creed': I detest the word. We have no creed. Your very
language chills me. It reminds me of the dry orthodoxy of the 'letter,'
'logical processes,' 'intellectual propositions,' and so forth. Speak
of 'spiritual truths' and 'sentiments,' which are the product of
immediate 'insight,' of 'an insight into God,' a 'spontaneous impression
on the gazing soul,' to adopt Mr. Newman's beautiful expressions, and I
shall understand you."

"I am afraid I shall hardly understand myself then," cried Harrington.
"But let us not be scared by mere words, nor go into hysterics at the
sound of 'logic' and 'creed,' lest 'sentimental spirituality' be found,
like some other 'sentimental' things, a bundle of senseless affectations."

"But you forget that there is all the difference in the world between
Herbert and his deistical successors. They connected religion with the
'intellectual and sensational,' and we with the 'instinctive and
emotional' sides of human nature."

"If you think," said the other, "(the substance of your religious
system being, as I believe, precisely the same as that of Lord Herbert
and the better deists,) that you can make it more effective than it
has been in the past, by conjuring with the words 'sensational and
intellectual,' 'instinctive and emotional,' or that the mixture of
chalk and water will be more potent with one label than with the other,
I fancy you will find yourself deceived. The distinctions you refer
to have to do with the theory of the subject, and will make din enough,
no doubt, among such as Mr. Newman and yourself; but mankind at large
will be unable even to enter into the meaning of your refinements.
They will say briefly and bluntly, 'What are the truths, whether, as
Lord Herbert says, they are "innate," or, as you say, "spiritual
intuitions," (we care nothing for the phraseology of either or both
of you,) which are to be admitted by universal humanity, and to be
influential over the heart and conscience?' Now, I suspect that, when
you come to the enumeration of these truths, your system and that
of Lord Herbert will be found the same; only as regards the
immortality of the soul his tone is firmer than perhaps I shall find
yours. But I admit the policy of a change of name: 'Rationalist' and
'Deist' have a bad sound; 'Spiritualist' is a better nom de guerre
for the present."

"We shall never understand one another," said Fellowes: "the
spiritual man--"

"Pshaw!" said Harrington; "you can immediately bring the matter to
the test by telling me what you maintain, and then I shall know
whether your system is or is not identical with Lord Herbert's;
or rather tell me what you do not believe, and let us come to it that
way. Do you believe a single shred of any of the supernatural
narratives of the Old and New Testament?"

"No," said Fellowes; "a thousand times no."

"Very well, that gets rid of at least four sevenths of the Bible. Do
you believe in the Trinity, the Atonement, the Resurrection of Christ,
in a general Resurrection, in the Day of Judgment?"

"No, not in one of them," said Fellowes; "not in a particle of one
of them."

"Pretty well again. You reject, then, the characteristic doctrines
of Christianity?"

"Not one of them," was the answer.

"We are indeed in danger of misunderstanding one another," said
Harrington. "But tell me, is it not your boast, as of Mr. Parker,
that the truths which are essential to religion are not peculiar to
Christianity, but are involved in all religions?"

"Assuredly."

"If I were to ask you what were the essential attributes of a man,
would you assign those which he had in common with a pig?"

"Certainly not."

"But if I asked you what were those of an animal, I presume you would
give those which both species possessed, and none that either
possessed exclusively."

"I should."

"Need I add, then, that you are deceiving yourself when you say that
you believe all the characteristic doctrines of Christianity, since you
say that you believe only those which it has in common with every
religion? If I were to ask you what doctrines are essential to
constitute any religion, then you would do well to enumerate those
which belong to Christianity and every other. But when we talk of the
doctrines peculiar to Christianity, we mean those which discriminate it
from every other, and not those which are common to it with them."

"But however," said Fellowes, "none of the doctrines you have enumerated
are a part of Christianity, but are mere additions of imposture or
fanaticism."

"Then what are the doctrines which, though common to every other
religion, are characteristic of it? What is left that is essential or
peculiar to Christianity, when you have denuded it of all that you
reject? Is it not then assimilated, by your own confession, to every
other religion? How shall we discriminate them?"

"By this, perhaps," said Fellowes, "(for I acknowledge some difficulty
here,) that Christianity contains these truths of absolute religion
alone and pure. As Mr. Parker says, This is the glory of genuine
Christianity."

"Do you not see that this is the very question,--you yourself being
obliged to reject nine tenths of the statements in the only records in
which we know anything about it? Might not an ancient priest of Jupiter
say the same of his religion, by first divesting it of all but that
which you say it had in common with every other? However, let us now
look at the positive side. What is the residuum which you condescend
to leave to your genuine Christianity?"

"Christianity," said Fellowes, rather pompously, "is not so much a
system as a discipline,--not a creed, but a life: in short, a divine
philosophy."

"All which I have heard from all sorts of Christianity a thousand
times," cried Harrington; "and it is delightfully vague; it may mean
any thing or nothing. But the truths, the truths, what are they, my
friend? I see I must get them from you by fragments. Your faith includes,
I presume, a belief in one Supreme God, who is a Divine Personality;
in the duty of reverencing, loving, and obeying him,--whether you know
how that is to be done or not; that we must repent of our sins,--if
indeed we duly know what things are sins in his sight; that he will
certainly forgive to any extent on such repentance, without any
mediation; that perhaps there is a heaven hereafter; but that it is
very doubtful if there are any punishments."

"I do believe," said Fellowes, "these are the cardinal doctrines of
the 'Absolute Religion,' as Mr. Parker calls it. Nor can I conceive
that any others are necessary."

"Well," said Harrington, "with the exception of the immortality of the
soul, on which Lord Herbert has the advantage of speaking a little more
firmly, the Deists and such 'spiritualists' as you are assuredly
identical. I have simply abridged his articles. The same project as
yours spiritualism' or 'naturalism,' in all its essential features,
has been often tried before, and found wanting; that is, of guaranteeing
to man a sufficient and infallible internal oracle, independent of all
aid from external revelation, and of proving that he has, in effect,
possessed and enjoyed it always; only that, by a slight inadvertence
(I suppose), he did not know it. The theory, indeed, is rather
suspiciously confined to those who have previously had the Bible. No
such plenary confidence is found in the ancient heathen philosophers,
who, in many not obscure places, acknowledge that the path of mortal
man, by his internal light, is a little dim. Many, therefore, say,
that the  'Naturalists' and 'Spiritualists' are but plagiarists from
the Bible, and of course, like other plagiarists, depreciate the
sources from which they have stolen their treasures. I think unjustly;
for, whatever their obligations to that mutilated volume, I acknowledge
they have transformed Christianity quite sufficiently to entitle
themselves to the praise of originality; and if the Battle of the
Books were to be fought over again, I doubt whether Moses or Paul
would think it worth while to make any other answer than that of Plato
in that witty piece, to the Grub Street author, who boasted that he had
not been in the slighest deuce indebted to the classics: Plato declared
that, upon his honor, he believed him! Whether the successors of the
Herberts and Tindals of a former day are not plagiarists from them,
is another question, and depends entirely upon whether the writings
of their predecessors are sufficiently known to them. Probably, the
hopeless oblivion which, for the most part, covers them (for the
perverse world has been again and again assured of its infallible
internal light, and has persisted in denying that it has it) will
protect our modern authors from the imputation of plagiarism; but
that the systems in question are essentially identical can hardly
admit of doubt. The principal difference is as to the organon by which
the revelation affirmed to be internal and universal is apprehended;
it affects the metaphysics of the question, and, like all metaphysics,
is characteristically dark. But about this you will not get the mass
of mankind to, any more than you can get yourselves to agree; no,
nor will you agree even about the system itself. Nay, you modern
spiritualists, just as the elder deists, are already quarrelling about
it. In short, the universal light in man's soul flickers and wavers
most abominably."

"I see," said Fellowes, "you are profoundly prejudiced against the
spiritualists."

"I believe not," said Harrington; "the worst I wish them is that they
may be honest men, and appear what they really are."

"I suppose next," exclaimed the other, "you will attribute to the modern
spiritualists the scurrility of the elder deists,--of Woolston, Tindal,
and Collins?"

"No," said Harrington, "I answer no; nor do I (remember) compare Lord
Herbert in these respects with his successors. He was an amiable
enthusiast; in many respects resembling Mr. Newman himself. Do you
remember, by the way, how that most reasonable rejecter of all 'external'
revelation prayed that he might be directed by Heaven whether he should
publish or not publish his 'book'? about which, if Heaven was very
solicitous, this world has since been very indifferent. Having distinctly
heard 'a sound as of thunder,' on a very 'calm and serene day,' he
immediately received it as a preternatural answer to prayer, and an
indubitable sign of Heaven's concurrence'."

"No such taint of superstition, however, will be found clinging to
Mr. Newman. He has most thoroughly abjured all notion of an external
revelation; nay, he denies the possibility of a 'book-revelation of
spiritual and moral truth'; and I am confident that his dilemma on that
point is unassailable."

"Be it so," answered Harrington; "you will readily suppose I am not
inclined to contest that point very vigorously; yet I confess that, as
usual, my inveterate scepticism leaves me in some doubts. Will you assist
me in resolving them?--but not to-night; let us have a little more talk
about old college days,--or what say you to a game at chess?"
____

July 4. I thought this day would have passed off entirely without
polemics; but I was mistaken. In the evening Harrington, after a very
cheerful morning, relapsed into one of his pensive moods. Conversation
flagged; at last I heard Fellowes say, "I have this advantage of you,
my friend, that my sentiments have, at all events, produced that peace
of which you are in quest, and which your countenance at times too
plainly declares you not to possess. If you had it, you would not take
so gloomy a view of things. Like him from whom I have derived some of
my sentiments, I have found that they tend to make me a happier man.
The Christian, like yourself, looks upon every thing with a jaundiced or
distorted eye, and is apt to underrate the claims and pleasures of
this present scene of our existence. I can truly say that I now enter
into them much more keenly than I could when I was an orthodox
Christian. I can say with Mr. Newman, I now, with deliberate approval,
'love the world and the things of the world.' The New Testament, as
Mr. Newman says, bids us watch perpetually, not knowing whether the
Lord will return at cock-crowing or midday; 'that the only thing
worth spending one's energies on, is the forwarding of men's salvation.'
Now I must say with him, that, while I believed this, I acted an
eccentric and unprofitable part."

"Only then?" said Harrington. "You were fortunate."

"He says, that to teach the certain speedy destruction of earthly things,
as the New Testament does, is to cut the sinews of all earthly progress;
to declare against intellect and imagination, against industrial and
social advancement."

My gravity was hardly equal to the task of listening to the first
part of Mr. Fellowes's speech. To hear that the common and just
reproach against all mankind, but especially against all Christians,
of taking too keen an interest in the present, was in a large measure
at least founded upon a mistake; to find, in fact, that there was some
danger of an excessive exaggeration of the claims of the future,
which required a corrective; that the Christian world, owing to the
above pernicious doctrine, might possibly evince too faint a relish
for the pleasures or too diminished an estimate for the advantages of
the present life; that, their "treasure being in heaven," it was not
impossible but "their heart" might be too much there also,--there,
perhaps, when it was imperatively demanded in the counting-house, on
the hustings, at the mart or the theatre; all this, being, as I say,
so notoriously contrary to ordinary opinion and experience, seemed to
me so exquisitely ludicrous that I could hardly help bursting into
laughter, especially as I imagined one of our new "spiritual" doctors
ascending the pulpit under the new dispensation, to indulge in
exhortations to a keener chase, of this world, and "the things of
this world." I found afterwards similar thoughts were passing through
Harrington's mind, rendered more whimsical by the recollection that,
during college life, his friend (though very far from vicious)
had certainly never seemed to take any deficient interest in the
affairs of this world, nor to exhibit any predilection for an
ascetic life. Indeed, he acknowledged that, after all, he could not
sympathize with Mr. Newman's extreme sensitiveness in relation to
this matter. (See Phases, p. 205.)

Harrington answered, with proper gravity, "I am glad to find that
any undue austerity of character--of which, however, I assure you,
upon my honor, I never suspected you--has received so invaluable a
corrective. Still, it is obvious to remark, that, if the chief effect
of this new style of religion is to abate any excessive antipathy
which the New Testament has fostered, or was likely to foster, to
the attractions of this life, it has, I conceive, an easy task. I
never remarked in Christians any superfluous contempt of the present
world or its pleasures; any indication of an extravagant admiration
of any sublimer objects of pursuit. In truth, the tendencies of
human nature, as it appears to me, are so strong the other way, that
the strongest language of a hundred New Testaments would be little
heeded. Your corrective is something like that of a moralist who
should seriously prove that man was to take care that his appetites
and passions are duly indulged, of which ethical writers have, alas!
condescended to say but little, supposing that every body would feel
that there was no need of solemn counsels on such a subject. It
reminds one of the Christmas sermon mentioned in the 'Sketch Book,'
preached by the good little antiquarian who elaborately proved, and
pathetically enforced on reluctant auditors, the duty of a proper
devotion to the festivities of the season. However, every one must
like the complexion of your theology, though its counsels on this
subject do not seem to me of urgent necessity."

"Perhaps," said Fellowes, "I ought rather to have said that
Christians inculcate, theoretically, a contempt of the present life,
while, practically, they enter as keenly into its pleasures as the
'worldling,'"--uttering the last word with an approach to a sneer.

"You may be sure," said Harrington, "I shall leave the Christian to
defend himself; but if the case be as you now represent it, your new
religious system seems to be superfluous as a corrective of any
tendencies to Christian asceticism, and can do nothing for us. It
appears that your Reformation was begun and ended before your
'spiritual' Luthers appeared."

"Not so," said Fellowes, "for the eagerness with which the Christian
pursues the world, while he condemns it, is, as Mr. Greg has
recently insisted, gigantic hypocrisy': it is founded on a lie. They
say this world is not to be the great object for which we are to
live and in which we are to find our happiness; we say it is: they
say it is not our 'country' or our 'home'; we say it is: they say
that we are to live supremely for the future, and in it; we say,
for and in the present; that if there be a future world (of which
many doubt, and I, for one, have not been able to make up my mind),
we are to hope to be happy there, but that the main business is to
secure our happiness here,--to embellish, adorn, and enjoy this our
only certain dwelling-place,--and, in fact, to live supremely for
the present. Such is the constitution of human nature."

"I shall not be at the trouble," replied Harrington, "to defend the
inconsistencies of the Christian; but your system, I fear, is
essentially a brutal theology, and, I am certain, a false philosophy.
All the analogies of our nature cry out against it. All, even with
regard to the 'present,' as you call this life, man is perpetually
living for and in the future. This 'present' (minute as it is) is
itself broken up into many futures, and it is these which man truly
lives for, when he is not a beast; and not for the passing hour. It
is not to-day, it is always to-morrow, on which his eye is fixed; and
his ever-repining nature perpetually confesses its impatient want of
something (it knows not what) to come. The child lives for his youth,
and the youth is discontented till he is a man; every attainment and
every possession pails as soon as it is reached, and we still sigh for
something that we have not. It is simply in analogy with all this that
the Christian and every other religion says (absurdly, if you will,
but certainly with a deeper knowledge of human nature than you), that,
as every little present has its little future for which we live, so
the whole present of this life has its great future, which must, all
the way through, be made the supreme object of forethought and
solicitude; just as we should despise any man who, for a moment's
gratification to-day, perilled the happiness of the whole of to-morrow.
If Christians are inconsistent in this respect, that is their affair;
but I am sure their theory is more in accordance with the constitution
of human nature than yours." He might have added, that there is nothing
in the New Testament which forbids to Christians any of the innocent
pleasures of this life: the Christian may lawfully appropriate them.
His system does not constrain him to hermit-like austerity or Puritanic
grimace. He may enjoy them, just as a wise man, who will not sacrifice
any of the interests of next year for a transient gratification of
the passing hour, does not deny himself any legitimate pleasure which
is not inconsistent with the more momentous interest. The pilgrim drinks
and rests at the fountain though he does not dream of setting up his
tent there.

"Nay," said Fellowes, "but think again of the 'gigantic lie' of making
the future world the supreme object, and yet living wholly for this."

"If that be the case," said I, joining in their talk, "there is no
doubt a 'gigantic lie' somewhere; but the question is, Who tells it?
It does not follow that it is Christianity. You may see every day men
nay, losing, some important advantages by loitering away the very
hour which is to secure them,--in reading a novel, enjoying a social
hour, lying in bed, and what not. You do not conclude that the man's
estimate of the future--his philosophy of that--is any the more
questionable for this folly? The ruthless future comes and makes
his heart ache; and so may it be with Christianity for aught any
such considerations imply. Your argument only proves that, if
Christianity be true, man is an inconsistent fool; and, in my
judgment, that was proved long before Christianity was born or
thought of."

"Your theology," cried Harrington, "fairly carried out, would lead
most men to the 'Epicurean sty' which, sceptic as I am, I loathe
the thought of; it deserves the rebuke which Johnson gave the man
who pleaded for a 'natural and savage condition,' as he called it.
'Sir,' said the Doctor, 'it is a brutal doctrine; a bull might as
well say, I have this grass and this cow,--and what can a creature
want more?' No, I am sure that the Christian or any other
religionist--inconsistent though he is--appeals in this point
deeper analogies of our nature than you."

"But the fact is," said Fellowes, "that the Christian depreciates
the innocent pleasures of this life."

And my uncle would say it is his own fault then."

"Nay, but hear me. I conceive that nothing could be more natural,
as several of our writers have remarked, than the injunctions of
the Apostles to the primitive Christians to despise the world, and
so forth, under the impression of that great mistake they had
fallen into, that the world was about to tumble to pieces, and----"

"I am not sure," said Harrington, who seemed resolved to evince a
scepticism provoking enough, "that they did make the mistake, on
your principles. For I know not, nor you either, whether the
expressions on which you found the supposition be not amongst
the voluminous additions with which you are pleased to suppose
their simple and genuine 'utterances' have been corrupted. But,
leaving you to discuss that point, if you like, with my uncle here,
I must deny that the mistake, supposing it one, makes any thing
in relation to our present discussion. You say that the Apostles
did well and naturally to inculcate a light grasp on the world,
on the supposition that it was about to pass away; and therefore,
I suppose, you (under a similar impression) would do the same; if
so, ought you not still to do it? for can it make any conceivable
difference to the wisdom or the folly of such exhortations, whether
the world passes away from us, or we pass away from the world?--
whether it 'tumbles to pieces,' as you express it, or (which is too
certain) we tumble to pieces? I think, therefore, your same
comfortable theology cannot be justified, if you justify the conduct
of the Apostles under their impression, let it be ever so erroneous.
You ought to feel the same sentiments; you being, to all practical
purposes, under a precisely similar impression."

Fellowes looked as if he were a little vexed at having thus
hypothetically justified the conduct of the Apostles.

But he was not without his answer, adopted from Mr. Newman.
"Yes," said he, "practically, no doubt, death is the end of the
world to us; but to urge this,--what is it, as Mr. Newman says,
but abominable selfishness preached as religion'? If we are to
labor for posterity, will not our work remain, though we die?
But if the world is to perish in fifty years, or a century,
what then?"

"Far be it from me," said Harrington, "to compete with your
spiritual philanthropy, which, doubtless, will not be content
to work unless under a lease of a million of years. I suppose
even if you thought the would come to an end in a hundred years,
(and really I have no proof that the Apostles thought it would
end sooner,--they spoke of their death as coming first,) you
would not think it worth while to do any thing; the welfare of
your children and grandchildren would appear far too paltry for
so ambitious a benevolence as yours! Most people--Christians,
sceptics, or otherwise--are contented to aim at the welfare of
his generation and the next, and think as little of their
great-great-grandchildren as of their great-great-grandfathers.
That little vista terminates the projects of their philanthropy,
just as their own death is to them the end of the world. Meantime,
it appears, you would be tempted to neglect the practical little
you could do, because you could not do more than for a century or
so! Pray, which is really the more benevolent? Moreover, as not
one man in a million can or does think of benefiting any but his
immediate generation, you ought, upon your principles, still to
sit down inactive; for they for whom alone you can work will soon
pass away too. But the whole argument is too refined. No mortal--
except you or Mr. Newman--would be wrought upon by it."

"Well, but," said Fellowes, "as to the mistake of the Apostles,
there can be no doubt of that; it really appears to me grossly
disingenuous"--looking towards me--"to deny it. What do you say,
Mr. B.?" repeating his assertion that the Apostles clearly thought
that the end of the world was close at hand,--in fact, that it
would happen in their generation.

I told him I was afraid I must run the risk of appearing in his
eyes "grossly disingenuous"; not that I deemed it necessary to
maintain that the Apostles had any idea of the period of time which
was to intervene between the first promulgation of the Gospel and
the consummation of all things; for when I found our Lord himself
acknowledging, "Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, not even
the angels, nor even the Son, but the Father only," I could not
wonder that the Apostles were left to mere conjectures on a subject
which was then veiled even from his humanity. I said I even thought
it probable that their vivid feeling anticipated the day,--that the
interval between, so to speak, was "foreshortened" to them; but that
I could not see how the question of their inspiration, or the
truth of Christianity, was at all involved in their ignorance on
that point; unless, indeed, it could be proved that they had
positively stated that the predicted event would take place in their
own time. This, I acknowledged, I could not find,--but much to the
contrary; that the charge, indeed, had been so often repeated by
the infidel school, that they had persuaded themselves of it, and
spoke of it as if it were a decided point; but that as long as the
second Epistle of St. Paul to the Thessalonians remained, in which
the Apostle expressly corrected misapprehensions similar to those
which infidelity still professes to found on the first Epistle, I
should continue to doubt whether Paul did not know his own mind
better than his modern commentators. I told him that we do not
hear that the Thessalonians persisted in believing that they had
rightly interpreted Paul's words after he had himself disowned the
meaning they had put upon them; that this was a degree of assurance
only possible to modern critics; and that I was surprised that
Mr. Newman should have quietly assumed the alleged "mistake" in
his "Phases of Faith," without thinking it worth while even to state
the opposing argument from the Second Epistle. I added, that the
repeated references which both Paul and Peter make to their own
deaths, as certain to take place before the dissolution of all
things, sufficiently prove that, however their view of the future
might be contracted, they did not expect the world to end in their
day, and ought to have silenced the perverse criticism on the
popular expression, "Then we which are alive and remain," &c.

Having briefly stated my opinion, Fellowes said he saw that he and
I were as little likely to agree as Harrington and he. "However," he
continued, turning to his friend, "to go back to the point from which
we digressed. My new faith, at all events, makes me happy, which it
is plain--too plain--that your want of all faith does not make you."

"Whether it is your new faith," said the other, "makes you happy,
--whether you were not as happy in your old faith--whether there are
not thousands of Christians who are as happy with their faith (they
would say much happier, and I should say so too, if they not only
say they believe it, but believe it and practise it.), I will not
inquire; that my want of faith does not make me happy is a sad truth,
which I do not think it worth while to deny; though I must confess
that there have been many who have shared in my scepticism who have
not shared in my misery. It is just because they have not realized
what they did not believe; even as there are thousands of soi-disant
Christians who do not realize what they say they do believe; neither
the one nor the other are the happier or the more sorrowful for their
pretended tenets. This is simply because they stand in no need of
the admirable correctives supplied by your new theology; the present
engrosses their solicitudes and affections; and the mere talk of the
belief or the no-belief suffices to hush and tranquillize the heart
in relation to those most momentous subjects, on which if man has
not thought at all, he is a fool indeed. In either case the 'future'
and the 'eternal' seem so far removed that they seem to be an 'eternal
futurity.' Such parties look at that distant future much as children
at the stars; it is a point, an invisible speck, in the firmament.
A sixpence held near the eye appears larger; and brought sufficiently
close shuts out the universe altogether. But let us also forget the
future, and have a little talk of the past."

They resumed their conversation on subjects indifferent as far as this
journal is concerned, and I bade them good night.

---

July 5. We were sitting in the library after breakfast. The two
college friends soon fell into chat, while I sat writing at my
separate table, but ready to resume my capacity of reporter, should
any polemical discussion take place. I soon had plenty of employment.
After about an hour I heard Harrington say:--

"But I shall be happy, I assure you, to fill the void whenever you
will give me something solid wherewith to fill it."

It was impossible that even a believer in the doctrine that no
"creed" can be taught, and that an "external revelation" is an
impossibility, could be insensible to the charm of making a
proselyte.

"What is it," said Fellowes, "that you want?"

"What do I want? I want certainty, or quasi-certainty, on those
points on which if a man is content to remain uncertain, he is a
fool or a brute; points respecting which it is no more possible
for a genuine sceptic--for I speak not of the thoughtless lover
paradox, or the queer dogmatist who resolves that nothing is
true--to still the soul, than nakedness can render us insensible
to cold; or hunger cure its own pangs by saying, 'Go to, now; I have
nothing to eat.' The generality of mankind are insensible to these
questions only because they imagine, even though it may be falsely,
that they possess certainty. They are problems which, whenever there
is elevation of mind enough to appreciate their importance, engage
the real doubter in a life-long conflict; and to attempt to appease
restlessness of such a mind by the old prescriptions,--the old
quackish Epicurean nostrum of 'Carpe diem,'--'Let us eat, drink,
and be merry, for to-morrow die,'--'We do not know what the morrow may
bring--is like attempting to call back the soul from a moral syncope
by applying to the nostrils a drop of eau de Cologne. 'Enjoy to-day,
we do not know what the morrow will bring!' Why, that is the very
thought which poisons to-day. No, a soul of any worth cannot but
feel an intense wish for the solution of its doubts, even while it
doubts whether they can be solved."

"'Carpe diem' certainly would not be my sole prescription," said
Fellowes; "you have not told me yet what you want."

"No, but I will. The questions on which I want certainty are indeed
questions about which philosophers will often argue just to display
their vanity, as human vanity will argue about any thing; but they
are no sooner felt in their true grandeur, than they absorb the soul."

"Still, what is it you want?"

"I want to know---whence I came; whither I am going. Whether there be,
in truth, as so many say there is, a God,--a tremendous personality,
to whose infinite faculties the 'great' and the 'little' (as we call
them) equally vanish,--whose universal presence fills all space,
in any point of which he exists entire in the amplitude of all his
infinite attributes,--whose universal government extends even to me,
and my fellow-atoms, called men,--within whose sheltering embrace
even I am not too mean for protection;--whether, if there be such
a being, he is truly infinite; or whether this vast machine of the
universe may not have developed tendencies or involved consequences
which eluded his forethought, and are now beyond even his control;
--whether, for this reason, or for some other necessity, such infinite
sorrows have been permitted to invade it;--whether, above all, He be
propitious or offended with a world in which I feel too surely, in
the profound and various misery of man, that his aspects are not all
benignant;--how, if he be offended, he is to be reconciled;--whether
he is at all accessible, or one to whom the pleasures and the
sufferings of the poor child of dust are equally subjects of horrible
indifference;--whether, if such Omnipotent Being created the world, he
has now abandoned it to be the sport of chance, and I am thus an orphan
in the universe;--whether this 'universal frame' be indeed without a
mind, and we are, in fact, the only forms of conscious existence;
--whether, as the Pantheist declares, the universe itself be God,--
ever making, never made,--the product of an evolution of an infinite
series of 'antecedents' and 'consequents'; a God of which--for I
cannot say of whom--you and I are bits; perishable fragments of a
Divinity, itself imperishable only because there will always be bits
of it to perish;--whether, even upon some such supposition, this
conscious existence of ours is to be renewed; and, if under what
conditions; or whether, when we have finished our little day, no
other dawn is to break upon our night;--whether the vale, vale in
eternum vale, is really the proper utterance of a breaking heart as it
closes the sepulchre on the object of its love."

His voice faltered; and I was confirmed in my suspicions, that some
deep, secret sorrow had had to do with his morbid state of mind. In
a moment, he resumed:--

"These are the questions, and others like the them, which I have
vainly toiled to solve. I, like you, have been rudely driven out
of my old beliefs; my early Christian faith has given way to doubt;
the little hut on the mountain-side, in which I thought to dwell in
pastoral simplicity, has been scattered to the tempest, and I am
turned out to the blast without a shelter. I have wandered long and
far, but have not found that rest which you tell me is to be obtained.
As I examine all other theories, they seem, to me, pressed by at
least equal difficulties with that I have abandoned. I cannot make
myself contented, as others do, with believing nothing, and yet I
have nothing to believe; I have wrestled long and hard with my
Titan foes,--but not successfully. I have turned to every quarter
of the universe in vain; I have interrogated my own soul, but it
answers not; I have gazed upon nature, but its many voices speak no
articulate language to me; and, more especially, when I gaze upon
the bright page of the midnight heavens, those orbs gleam upon
me with so cold a light, and amidst so portentous a silence, that
I am, with Pascal, terrified at the spectacle of the infinite
solitudes,--'de ces espaces infinis.' I declare to you that I know
nothing in nature so beautiful or so terrible as those mute oracles."

"They are indeed mute," said Fellowes; "but not so that still voice
which whispers its oracles within. You have but to look inwards, and
you may see, by the direct gaze of 'the spiritual faculty,' bright
and clear, those great 'intuitions' of spiritual truth which the
gauds and splendors of the external universe can no more illustrate
than can the illuminated characters of an old missal;--just as little
can any book teach these truths. You have truly said, the stars will
shed no light upon them; they, on the contrary, must illumine the
stars; I mean, they must themselves be seen before the outward
universe can assume intelligible meaning; must utter their voices
before any of the phenomena of the external world can have any real
significance!"

"How different," said Harrington, "are the experiences of mankind!
You well described those internal oracles, if there are indeed such,
as whispering their responses; if they utter them at all, it is to
me in a whisper so low that I cannot distinctly catch them. Strange
paradoxes! the soul speaks, and the soul listens, and the soul cannot
tell what the soul says. That is, the soul speaks to itself, and says,
'What have I said?' I assure you that the ear of my soul (if I may so
speak) has often ached with intense effort to listen to what the tongue
of the soul mutters, and yet I cannot catch it. You tell me I have
only to look down into the depths within. Well, I have. I assure you
that I have endeavoured to do so, as far as I know, honestly; and,
so far from seeing clear and bright those splendors which you speak
of, I can only see as in the depths of a cavern occasional gleams of
a tremulous flickering light, which distinctly shows me nothing, and
which, I half suspect, comes from without into these recesses: or I
feel as if gazing down an abyss, the bottom of which is filled with
water; the light--and that, too, for aught I know, reflected from
without--only throws a transient glimpse of my own image on the
surface of the dark water; that image itself broken and renewed as
the water boils up from its hidden fountain. Or, if I may recur to
your own metaphor, instead of hearing in those deep caverns the
clear oracles of which you boast, I can distinguish nothing but
a scarcely audible murmur; I know not whether it be any thing more
than the lingering echoes of what I heard in my childhood: or,
rather, my soul speaks to me on all these momentous subjects much
as one in sleep often does; the lips move, but no sound issues
from them. I retire from these attempts, as those of old from the
cave of Trophonius, pale, terrified, and dejected. In short," he
continued, "I feel much as Descartes says he did when he had denuded
himself of all his traditional opinions,--a condition so graphically
described in the beginning of the second of his Meditations. There is
this difference, however, and in his favor: that he imposed upon
himself only a self-inflicted doubt, which he could terminate at any
time. His opinions had been but temporarily laid aside. They were on
the shelf, close at hand, ready to be taken down again when wanted. But
enough of this. You will, I know, aid me, if you can. And, now I think
of it, do so on one point, by justifying your assertion, made the
other evening, as to Mr. Newman's dilemma of the 'impossibility of
a book-revelation.'"

"I said, I think, that Mr. Newman has satisfactorily proved to me
that a book-revelation of moral and spiritual truth is impossible;
that God reveals himself to us within, and not from without."

"As to what is impossible," said the other, "I fancy it would be
difficult to get one thoroughly convinced of his ignorance and
feebleness to be other than very cautious how he used the word.
Perhaps, however, Mr. Newman may be more readily excused than most
men for the strength with which he pronounces his opinions; for,
as he has passed through an infinity of experiences, it may have
given him 'insight' into many absurdities which, to the generality
of mankind, do not appear such. I think if I had believed half so
many things, I should have lost all confidence in myself. What a
strong mind, or what buoyant faith, he must have!"

"Both,--both," said Fellowes.

"Well, be it so. But let us, as you promised yesterday, examine this
very point." This led on to a dialogue in which it was distinctly
proved that

THAT MAY BE POSSIBLE WITH MAN, WHICH IS
IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD.

"Mr. Newman affirms, you say," said Harrington, "that in his judgment
every book-'revelation' is an absurdity and a contradiction; or, in
the words quoted by you, 'impossible.'"

"Yes,--of 'moral and spiritual truth.'"

"And of any other truth--as of historical truth--you say such
revelation is unnecessary?"

"Yes."

"Moreover, as you and Mr. Newman affirm, the bulk of mankind are
not competent to investigate the claims of such an historic
revelation?"

"Certainly."

"And, therefore, it is impossible in fact, if not per se, unless
God is to be supposed doing something both unnecessary and futile."

"I think so, of course," said Fellowes.

"So that all book-revelation is impossible."

"I affirm it."

"Very well,--I do not dispute it. There still remain one or two
difficulties on which I should like to have your judgment towards
forming an opinion: and they are on the very threshold of the subject.
And, first, I suppose you do not mean to restrict your term of a
'book-revelation' to that only which is literally consigned to a
book in our modern sense. You mean an external revelation?"

"Certainly."

"If, for example, you could recover a genuine manuscript of Isaiah
or Paul, you would not think it entitled to any more respect, as
authority, than a modern translation in a printed book,--though it
might be free from some errors?"

"I should not."

"You would not allow that parchment, however ancient, has any
advantage in this respect over paper, however modern?"

"Certainly not."

"Nor Hebrew or Greek over English or German?

"No."

"All such matters are in very deed but 'leather and prunella'?"

"Nothing more."

"And for a similar reason, surely, you would reject at once the oral
teaching of any such man as Paul or Matthew, or any body else, if
he professed that what he said was dictated by divine inspiration,
concurrently or not with the use of his own faculties? You would
repudiate at once his claims, however authenticated, to be your
infallible guide; to tell you what you are to believe, and how you
are to act? For surely you will not pretend that there is any
difference between statements which are merely expressed by the
living voice, and those same statements as consigned to a book;
except that, if any difference be supposed at all, one would, for
some reasons, rather have their in the last shape than in the first."

"Of course there is no difference: to object to a book-revelation
and grant a 'lip-revelation' from God, or to deny that lip-revelation
(when it is made permanent and diffusible) the authority it had when
first given, would be a childish hatred of a book indeed," answered
Fellowes.

"I perfectly agree with you," replied Harrington.

"I understand you, then, to deny that any revelation professedly
given to you or to me does, or ever can, come to us through any
external channel, printed or on parchment, ancient or modern, by the
living voice or in a written character; and that this is a proper
translation, in a generalized form, of the phrase 'a book-revelation'?"

"I admit it. For surely, as already said, it would be truly ridiculous
to allow that Paul, if we could but hear his living voice, was to be
listened to with implicit reverence as an authorized teacher of divine
truth; but that his deliberate utterances, recorded in a permanent
form, were to be regarded not merely as less authoritative, but of
no authority at all."

"So that if you saw Peter or Paul to-morrow, you would tell him the
same story?"

"Of course I should," replied Mr. Fellowes.

"And you would of course also reject any such revelation, coming
from any external source, even though the party proclaiming it
confirmed it by miracles? For I cannot see how, if it be true that
an external revelation is impossible, and that God always reveals
himself 'within us' and never 'out of us,' (which is the principle
affirmed,)--I say I cannot see how miracles can make any difference
in the case."

"No, certainly not. But surely you forget that miracles are impossible
on my notion: for, as Mr. Newman says---"

"Whatever he says, I suppose you will not deny that they are
conceivable; and that is all I am thinking of at present. Their
impossibility or possibility I will not dispute with you just now.
I am disposed to with you; only, as usual, I have some doubts, which
I wish you would endeavor to solve; but of that another time. Meantime,
my good friend, be so obliging as to give me an answer to my
question,--whether you would deem it to be your duty to reject any
such claims to authoritative teaching, even if backed by the
performance of miracles? for, admitting miracles never to have
occurred, and even that they never will, you, I think, would hesitate
to affirm that you clearly perceive that the very notion involves a
contradiction. They are, at least, imaginable, and that is sufficient
to supply you with an answer to my question. I once more ask you,
therefore, whether, if such a teacher of a book-revelation, in the
comprehensive sense of these words already defined, were to authenticate
(as he affirmed) his claims to reverence by any number, variety, or
splendor of miracles,--undoubted miracles,--you would any the more feel
bound to believe him?"

"What! upon the supposition that there was any thing morally
objectionable in his doctrine?"

"I will release you on that score too." said Harrington, in a most
accommodating manner. "Morally, I will assume there is nothing in his
doctrine but what you approve; and as for the rest,--to confirm which
I will suppose the revelation given,--I will assume nothing in it
which you could demonstrate to be false or contradictory; in fact,
nothing more difficult to be believed than many undeniable phenomena of
the external universe,--matters, for example, which you acknowledge you
do not comprehend, but which may possibly be true for aught you can
tell to the contrary."

"But if the supposed revelation contain nothing but what, appealing
thus to my judgment, I can approve, where is the necessity of a
revelation at all?"

"Did I say, my friend, that it was to contain nothing but what is
referred to your judgment? nothing but what you would know and approve
just as well without it? or even did I concede that you could have
known and approved without it that which, when it is proposed, you do
approve? I simply wish an answer to the question, whether, if a teacher
of an ethical system such as you entirely approved, with some doctrines
attached, incomprehensible it may be, but not demonstratively false or
immoral, were to substantiate (as he affirmed) his claims to your
belief by the performance of miracles, you would or would not feel
constrained any the more to believe him?"

"But I do not see the use of discussing a question under circumstances
which it is admitted never did nor ever can occur?"

"You 'fight hard,' as Socrates says to one of his antagonists on a
similar occasion; but I really must request an answer to the question.
The case is an imaginable one; and you may surely say how, upon the
principles you have laid down, you think those principles would compel
you to act in the hypothetical case."

"Well, then, if I must give all answer, I should say that upon the
principles on which Mr. Newman has argued the question,--that all
revelation, except which is internal, is impossible,--I should not
believe the supposed envoy's claims."

"Whatever the number or the splendor of his miracles?"

"Certainly," said Fellowes, with some hesitation however, and
speaking slowly.

"For that does not affect the principles we are agreed upon?"

"No,"--not seeming, however, perfectly satisfied.

"Very well," resumed Harrington, "that is what I call a plain answer
to a plain question. I fancy (waverer that I am!) that I should
believe the man's claims. I should be even greatly tempted to think
that those things which I could not entirely see ought to be
contained in the said revelation, were to be believed. But all that
is doubtless only because I am much weaker in mind and will than
either Mr. Newman or yourself. You must pardon me; it will in no degree
practically affect the question, except on the supposition that the
same infirmity is also a characteristic of man in general; that not
I, from my weakness, am an exception to rule; but you, in your strength.
But to dismiss that. You have agreed that a book-revelation is
impossible, and not to be believed, even if avouched by miracles.
Have men in general been disposed to believe a book-revelation
impossible? for if not, I am afraid they would be very liable to run
into error, if they share in my weaknesses."

"Liable to run into error!" said Fellowes. "Man has been perpetually
running into this very error, always and everywhere."

"If it be true, as you say, that man has always and everywhere manifested
a remarkable facility of falling into this error, many will be tempted
to think that the thing is not so plainly impossible. It seems so
strange that men in general should believe things to be possible when
they are impossible. However, you admit it as a too certain fact."

"I do, for I can not honestly deny it; but it has been because they
have confounded what is historical or intellectual with moral and
spiritual truth."

"I am afraid that will not excuse their absurdity, because, as you
admit, all book-revelation is impossible.--But further, supposing
men to have made this strange blunder, it only shows that the 'moral
and spiritual' could not be very clearly revealed within; and no
wonder men began to think that perhaps it might come to them
from without! When men begin to mistake blue for red, and square for
round, and chaff for wheat, I think it is high time that they repair
to a doctor outside them to tell them what is the matter with their
poor brains. Meantime an external revelation is impossible?"

"Certainly."

"But men, however, have somehow perversely believed it very possible,
and that, in some shape or other, it has been given?"

"They have, I must admit."

"Unhappy race! thus led on by some fatality, though not by the
constitution of their nature (rather by some inevitable perversion
of it), to believe as possible that which is so plainly impossible.
O that it did not involve a contradiction to wish that God would
relieve them from such universal and pernicious delusions, by giving
them a book-revelation to show them that all book-revelations are
impossible!"

"That," said Fellowes, laughing, "would indeed be a novelty. Miracles
would hardly prove that."

"I think not," said Harrington. "But, as the poet says, 'some god or
friendly man' may show the way. Pray, permit me to ask, did you
always believe that a book-revelation was impossible?"

"How can you ask the question?--you know that I was brought up, like
yourself, in the reception of the Bible as the only and infallible
revelation of God to mankind."

"To what do you owe your emancipation from this grievous and universal
error, which still infects, in this or some other shape, the myriads
of the human race?"

"I think principally to the work of Mr. Newman on the 'Soul,' and his
'Phases of Faith.'"

"These have been to you, then, at least, a book-revelation that a
'divine book-revelation is impossible'; a truth which I acknowledge
you could not have received by divine book-revelation, without a
contradiction. You ought, indeed, to think very highly of Mr. Newman.
It is well, when God cannot do a this that man can; though I confess,
considering the wide prevalence of this pernicious error, it would
have been better, had it been possible, that man should have had a
divine book-revelation to tell him that a divine book-revelation
was impossible. Great as is my admiration of Mr. Newman, I should,
myself, have preferred having God's word for it. However, let us lay
it down as an axiom that a human book-revelation, showing you that
'a divine book-revelation is impossible,' is not impossible; and
really, considering the almost universal error of man on this
subject,--now happily exploded,--the book-revelation which convinces
man of this great truth ought to be reverenced as of the highest value;
it is such that it might not appear unworthy of celestial origin, if
it did not imply a contradiction that God should reveal to us in a
book that a revelation in a book is impossible."

Fellowes looked very grave, but said nothing.

"But yet," continued Harrington, very seriously, "I know not whether
I ought not, upon your principles, to consider this book-revelation
with which you have been favored, about the impossibility of such
a thing, as itself a divine revelation; in which case I am afraid
we shall be constrained to admit, in form, that contradiction which
we have been so anxious to avoid, by making 'possible with man what
is impossible with God.'"

"I know not what you mean," said Fellowes, rather offended.

"Why," said Harrington, quite unmoved, "I have heard you say you do
not deny, in some sense, inspiration, but only that inspiration is
preternatural; that every 'holy thought,' every 'lofty and sublime
conception,' all 'truth and excellence,' in any man, come from the
'Father of lights,' and are to be ascribed to him; that, as Mr. Parker
and Mr. Foxton affirm on this point, the inspiration of Paul or Milton,
or even of Christ and of Benjamin Franklin, is of the same nature,
and in an intelligible sense from the same source,--differing only
in degree. Can you deem less, then, of that great conception by which
Mr. Newman has released you, and possibly many more, from that
bondage to a 'book-revelation' in which you were brought up, and
in which, by your own confession, you might have been still enthralled?
Can you think less of this than that it is an 'inspired' voice which
has proclaimed 'liberty to the captive,' and made known to you
'spiritual freedom'? If any thing be divine about Mr. Newman's
system, surely it must be this. Ought you not to thank God that he
has been thus pleased to 'open your eyes,' and to turn you from
'darkness to light,'--to raise up in these last days such an apostle
of the truth which had lain so long 'hidden from ages and generations'?
Can you do less than admire the divine artifice by when it was
impossible for God directly to tell man that he could directly tell
him nothing, He raised up his servant Newman to perform the office?"

"For my part," said Fellowes, "I am not ashamed to say, that I think
I ought to thank God for such a boon as Mr. Newman has, in this
instance at least, been the instrument of conveying to me: I
acknowledge it most momentous truth, without which I should still
have been in thraldom to the 'letter.'"

"Very well; then the book-revelation of Mr. Newman is, as I say, in
some sort to you, perhaps to a divine 'book-revelation.'"

"Well, in some sense, it is so."

"So that now we have, in some sense, a divine book-revelation to
prove that a divine book-revelation is impossible."

"You are pleased to jest on the subject," said Fellowes.

"I never was more serious in my life. However, I will not press
this point any further. You shall be permitted to say (what I
will not contradict) that, though Mr. Newman may be inspired, for
aught I know, in that modified sense in which you believe in any
phenomenon,--inspired as much (say) as the inventor of Lucifer
matches,--yet that his book is not divine,--that it is purely human;
and even, if you please, that God has had nothing to do with it. But
even then I must be allowed to repeat, that at least you have
derived from a 'book-revelation' what it would not have been a
unworthy of a divine book-revelation to impart, if it could have
been imparted without contradiction. Such book-revelation, in this
case, must be of inestimable value to man, because, without it, he
must have persisted in that ancient and all but inveterate and
universal delusion of which we have so often spoken. There is only
one little inconvenience, I apprehend, from it in relation to
the argument of such a book; and that is, that I am afraid that
men, so far from being convinced thereby that a divine revelation
is impossible, will rather argue the contrary way, and say, 'If Mr.
Newman can do so much, what might not God do by the very same
method?' If he can thus break the spiritual yoke of his fellow-men
by only teaching them negative truth, surely it may be possible for
God to be as useful in teaching positive truth. I almost tremble,
I assure you, lest, by his most conspicuous success in imparting
to you such important truth, and reclaiming you from such a
fundamental error, which lay at the very threshold of your
'spiritual' progress, he may, so far from convincing mankind of the
truth of his principle, lead them rather to believe that a
'book-revelation' may have been very possible, and of singular
advantage. But, to speak the truth, I am by no means sure that
Mr. Newman has not done something more than what we have attributed
to him, and whether his book-revelation be not a true divine
revelation to you also."

Fellowes looked rather curious, and I thought a little angry.

"My good friend," said Harrington, "I am sure you will not refuse
me every satisfaction you can, in my present state of doubt and
perplexity; that you will render me (as indeed you have promised)
all the assistance in your power, by kindly telling me what you
know of your own religious development and history. I cannot
sufficiently admire your candor and frankness hitherto."

"You may depend upon it," said Fellowes, "I will not hesitate to
answer any questions you choose to put. I am not ashamed of the system
I have adopted,--or rather selected, for I do not agree with any one
writer--although I confess I wish I were a better advocate of it."

"O, rest assured that 'spiritualism' can lose nothing by your
advocacy. As to your independence of mind, you act, I am sure, upon
the maxim in verba nullius jurare. Your system seems to me quite a
spices of eclecticism. There is no fear of my confounding you with
the good old lady who, after having heard the sermon of some
favorite divine, was asked if she understood him. 'Understand him!'
said she; 'do you think I would presume?--blessed man! Nor with
the Scotchwoman who required, as a condition of her admiration, that
a sermon should contain some things at least which transcended her
comprehension. 'Eh. it is a' vara weel,' said she, on hearing one
which did not fulfil this reasonable condition; 'but do ye call that
fine preaching?--there was na ae word that I could na explain mysel.'"

Fellowes smiled good-naturedly, and then said, "I was going to
observe, in relation to the present subject, that it is 'moral and
spiritual' truth which Mr. Newman says it is impossible should be the
subject of a book-revelation."

Harrington, apparently without listening to him, suddenly said, "By
the by, you agree with Mr. Newman, I am sure, that God is to be
approached by the individual soul without any of the nonsense of
mediation, which has found so general--all but universal--sanction
in the religious systems of the world?"

"Certainly," said Fellowes, "nor is there probably any 'spiritualist'
(in whatever we may be divided) who would deny that."

"Supposing it true, does it not seem to you the must delightful and
stupendous of all spiritual truths?"

"It does, indeed," said Fellowes.

"Could you always realize it, my friend?" said Harrington.

"Nay, I was once a firm believer in the current orthodoxy, as you
well know."

"Now you see with very different eyes. You can say, with the man in
the Gospel, 'This I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see."

"I can."

"And you attribute this happy change of sentiment to the perusal of
those writings of Mr. Newman from which you think that I also might
derive similar benefits?"

"I do."

"It appears, then, that to you, at least, my friend, it is possible
that there may be a book-revelation of 'moral and spiritual truth'
of the highest possible significance and value, although you do not
consider the book to be divine; now, if so, I fancy many will be
again inclined to say, that what Mr. Newman has done in your case,
God might easily do, if he pleased, for mankind in general; and with
this advantage, that He would not include in the same book which
revealed truth to the mind, and rectified its errors, an assurance
that any such book-revelation was impossible."

"But, my ingenious friend." cried Fellowes, with some warmth, "you are
inferring a little too fast for the premises. I do not admit that
Mr. Newman or any other spiritualist has revealed to me any truth,
but only that he has been the instrument of giving shape and distinct
consciousness to what was, in fact, uttered in the secret oracles of
my own bosom before; and, as I believe, is uttered also in the hearts
of all other men."

"I fear your distinction is practically without a difference. It will
certainly not avail us. You say you were once in no distinct conscious
possession of that system of spiritual truth which you now hold; on
the contrary, that you believed a very different system; that the
change by which you were brought into your present condition of mind
--out of darkness into light--out of error into truth--has been produced
chiefly by Mr. Newman's deeply instructive volumes. If so, one will be
apt to argue that a book-revelation may be of the very utmost use and
benefit to mankind in general,--if only by making that which would else
be inarticulate mutter of the internal oracle distinct and clear; and
that if God would but give such a book, the same value at least might
attach to it as to a book of Mr. Newman's. It little matters to this
argument, the question of the possibility, value, or utility of an
external revelation,--whether the truths it is to communicate be
absolutely unknown till it reveals them only not known, which you
confess was your own case. If your natural taper of illumination is
stuck into a dark lantern, and its light only can flash upon the
soul when some Mr. Newman kindly lifts up the slide for you; or if
your internal oracle, like a ghost, will not speak till it is spoken
to; or, like a dumb demon, awaits to find a voice, and confess
itself to be what it is at the summons of an exorcist;--the same
argument precisely will apply for the possibility and utility of a
revelation from God to men in general. What has been done for you by
man, even though no more were done, might, one would imagine, be done
for the rest of mankind, and in a much better manner, by God. If that
internal and native revelation which both you and Mr. Newman say has
its seat in the human soul, be clear without his aid, why did he
write a syllable about it? If, as you say, its utterances were not
recognized, and that his statements have first made them familiar to
you, the same argument (the Christian will say) will do for the Bible.
It is of little use that nature teaches you, if Mr. Newman is to
teach nature."

Fellowes was silent; and, after a pause, Harrington resumed; he could
not resist the temptation of saying, with playful malice,--

"Perhaps you are in doubt whether to say that the internal
revelation which you possess does teach you dearly or darkly. It
is a pity that nature so teaches as to leave you in doubt till
some one else teaches you what she does teach you. She must be like
some ladies, who keep school indeed, but have accomplished
masters to teach every thing. Shall we call Mr. Newman the
Professor of 'Spiritual Insight'? Would it not be advisable, if
you are in any uncertainty, to write to him to ask whether the
internal truths which no external revelation can impart be
articulate or not; or whether, though a book from God could not
make them plainer, you are at liberty to say that a book of Mr.
Newman's will? It is undoubtedly a subtile question for him to
decide for you; namely, what is the condition of your own
consciousness? But I really see no help for it, after what you have
granted; nor, without his aid, do I see whether you can truly affirm
that you have an internal revelation, independently of him or not.
And whichever way he decides, I am afraid lest he should prove both
himself and you very much in the wrong. If he decides for you, that
your internal revelation must and did anticipate any thing he might
write, and that it was perfectly articulate, as well as inarticulately
present to your 'insight' before, it will be difficult to determine
why he should have written at all; he would also prove, not only how
superfluous is your gratitude, but that he understands your own
consciousness better than you do. If he decides it the other way, and
says you had a 'revelation' before he revealed it, yet that he made
it utter articulate language, and interpreted its hieroglyphics,--
then it more seems very strange that either you or he should contend
that a 'book-revelation' is impossible, since Mr. Newman has produced
it. If, however, he should in the first of these two ways, I fear,
my good friend, that we shall fall into another paradox worse than
all for it will prove that the 'internal revelation' which you
possess is better known to Mr. Newman than to yourself, which will
be a perfectly worthy conclusion of all this embarrass. It would be
surely droll for you to affirm that you possess an internal revelation
which renders all 'external revelation' impossible, but yet that its
distinctness is unperceived by yourself, and awaits the assurance
of an external authority, which at same time declares all 'external
revelation' impossible!"

"There is still another word," said Fellowes, "which you forget
that Mr. Newman employs; he says that an authoritative book-revelation
of moral and spiritual truth is impossible."

"Why" said Harrington, laughing, "while you were without the truth,
as you say you were, it was not likely to be authoritative: if,
when you have it, it is recognized as authoritative, which you say
is the case with the truth you have got from Mr. Newman,--if
you acknowledge that it ought to have authority as soon as known,
--that is all (so far as I know) that is contended for in the case
of the Bible. If you mean by 'authoritative' a revelation which not
only ought to be, but which is so, I think mankind make it pretty
plain that neither the 'external' nor the 'internal' revelation is
particularly authoritative. In short," he concluded "I do not see
how we can doubt, on the principles on which Mr. Newman acts and yet
denies, that a book-revelation of moral and spiritual truth is very
possible; and if given, would be signally useful to mankind in general.
If Mr. Newman, as you admit, has written a book which has put you in
possession of moral and spiritual truth, surely it may be modestly
contended that God might dictate a better. Either you were in
possession of the truths in question before he announced them, or you
were not; if not, Mr. Newman is your infinite benefactor, and God may
be at least as great a one; if you were, then Mr. Newman, like Job's
comforters, 'has plentifully declared the thing as it is.' If you say,
that you were in possession of them, but only by implication; that
you did not see them dearly or vividly till they were propounded,
--that is, that you saw them, only practically you were blind, and
knew them, only you were virtually ignorant; still, whatever Mr.
Newman does (and it amounts, in fact, to revelation), that may the
Bible also do. If even that be not possible, and man naturally
possesses these truths explicitly, as well as implicitly, then,
indeed, the Bible is an impertinence,--and so is Mr. Newman."

After a pause, Harrington suddenly asked,--

"Do you not think there is some difference between yourself and
a Hottentot?"

"I should hope so," said Fellowes, with a laugh.

"But still the Hottentot has all the 'spiritual faculties' of which
you speak so much?"

"Certainly."

"What makes this prodigious difference?--for of that, as a fact,
we cannot dispute."

"Different culture and education, I suppose."

"This culture and education is a thing external?"

"It is."

"This culture and education, however, must be of immense importance
indeed, since it makes all the difference between the having or the
not having, practically, any just religious notions, or sentiments,
or practices, (even in your estimation,) whatever our eternal
revelation."

"But still I hold, with Mr. Parker, that the 'absolute religion' is the
same in all men. The difference is in circumstantials only, as
Mr. Parker says."

"Then it serves his turn," said Harrington; "and he says the contrary,
when it serves his turn; then the depraved forms of religion are
hideous enough: when he wishes to commend his 'absolute religion,'
they differ in circumstantials. Circumstantials! I have hardly
patience to hear these degrading apologies for all that is most
degrading in humanity. If the 'absolute religion,' as he vaguely
calls it, be present in these of gross ignorance and unspeakable
pollution, it is so incrusted and buried that it is indiscernible
and worthless. Rightly, therefore, have you expressed a hope that
there is a 'prodigious difference' between you a Hottentot. You adhere
to that, I presume."

"Of course I shall," said Fellowes.

"Well, let us see. Would you think, if you were turned into a Hottentot
to-morrow, you had a religion worthy of the name, or not?"

"I am afraid I should not."

"You hope it, you mean. Well, then, it appears that culture and
education do somehow make all difference between a man's having a
religion worthy of the name, and the contrary?"

"I must admit it, for I cannot deny it in point of fact."

"And you also admit that, in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out
of a thousand, or in a much larger proportion, taking all the nations
of the world since time began, the said culture and education have
been wanting, or ineffably bad?"

"Yes."

"So that there have been very few, in point of fact, who have attained
that 'spiritual' religion for which you and our spiritualists contend;
and those few chiefly, as Mr. Newman admits, amongst Jews and
Christians, though they too have had their most grievous errors, which
have deplorably obscured it?"

"Yes"

"It appears, then, I think, that if we allow that the internal
revelation without a most happy external culture and development
will not form any religion at all worthy of the name, and that that
happy culture and development (from whatsoever cause) are not the
condition of our race,--it appears, I say, rather odd to affirm that
any divine aid in this absolutely necessary external education of
humanity is not only superfluous, but impossible."

Another pause ensued, when Harrington again said,  "You will think
me very pertinacious, perhaps, but I must say that, in my judgment,
Mr. Newman's theory of progressive religion (for he also admits a
doctrine of progress) favors the same sceptical doubts as to the
impossibility of a book-revelation. You do not deny, I suppose, that
he does think the world needs enlightening?"

"Had he not believed that, he would not have written.'

"I suppose not. However, how the world should need it, if your
principles be true, and every man brings into the world his own
particular lantern,--'Enter Moonshine,'--I do not quite understand;
or, if it is in need of such illumination not withstanding, why it
should not be possible for an external revelation to supply it
still better than your illuminati, I am equally unable to understand.
But let that pass. Mr. Newman concludes that the world does stand
in need of this illumination, and that it has had it at various
times. In is his opinion, is it not, that men began by being
polytheists and idolaters?"

"It is so; and surely all history bears out the theory."

"Many doubt it. I will not venture to give any opinion, except that
there are inexplicable difficulties, as usual, on both sides. Just now
I am quite willing to take his statement for granted, and suppose
that man in the infancy of his race was, in spite of the aid of his
very peculiar illumination,--which seems to have 'rayed out darkness,'
--as very a Troglodyte in civilization and religion as you (for the
special glory of his Creator, I suppose, and the honor of your
species) can wish him to have been. Well, man began by being a
polytheist, and very gradually emerged out of that pleasant condition
--or rather an infinitesimal portion of the race has emerged out of
it, into the better forms of idolatry--(poor wretch!), and from
thence to monotheism; that, in short, his polytheism is not the
corruption of his monotheism, but his monotheism an elevation of his
polytheism. Yet it is, after all, a cheerless 'progress,' which often
'advances backward.' Mr. Newman says that 'the law of God's moral
universe, as known to us, is that of progress; that we trace it from
old barbarism to the methodized Egyptian idolatry, to the more flexible
polytheism of Syria and Greece,' and so forth; and so in Palestine,
from the 'image-worship in Jacob's family to the rise of spiritual
sentiment under David, and Hezekiah's prophets.' (Phases, p. 223)

Yet he also tells us, 'Ceremonialism more and more incrusted the
restored nation, and Jesus was needed to spur and stab the consciences
of his contemporaries, and recall them to more spiritual perceptions.'
Well, thus came Christ to 'stab and spur'; and faith, I think 'stab
and spur' were again needed by the end of the third century. Successive
reformers are needed to 'stab and spur' the thick hide of humanity,
without which it will not, it seems, go forward, but perversely go
backward; and even with this perpetual application of the goad of some
spiritual mohoul, man crawls on at an intolerably slow pace. However,
'stab' and 'spur' are needed which is all I am now intent upon."

"Yes; but each of those great souls who have stimulated the dull mind
of ordinary humanity derived from its own internal illumination that
spiritual light which they have communicated to the rest of mankind!"

"For themselves, perhaps, my friend," said Harrington, "and if they
had kept it to themselves in many instances, probably the world would
have been no loser. That they had it from within, is true,--if your
theory is true. But to others, to the bulk of mankind, they have
imparted this light; it has been to mankind an 'external revelation';
it is from without, not from within, that this light has been received,
and that the boasted 'progress' of the race has been secured. It
remains, therefore, only for your Christian opponent to ask, how it
should be impossible that mankind should be indebted to an external
revelation by God, when it is plain that they are indebted for the
like from man! And whether it is not conceivable that, if Moses and
Socrates and Paul could do so much for them, God could do a trifle
more? You will say, perhaps, on the old plea, that these profounder
spirits only made articulate that which already existed inarticulately
in the hearts of those whom they addressed; that they only chafed into
life the marble statue of Pygmalion,--the dormant principles and
sentiments which had a home in the human heart before, only they were
unluckily treated as strangers. Well; the same thing may the apologist
for the Bible say,--merely adding, that it does more effectually the
business of thus awakening 'dormant' powers, and giving a substantive
form to the shadowy conceptions of mankind. But it is still, in either
case, to the bulk of the world an external revelation, an outward aid
which gives them the actual conscious possession of spiritual light, and
secures the vaunted progress of humanity. Such are some of my
difficulties respecting your theory of the impossibility and inutility
of any and all external revelations. I must, in candor, say that our
discussion has left them where they were."

"There is one thing," he added, "about your system which I acknowledge
would be consolatory to me if it were but true. If man be really in
possession of an internal and universal revelation of moral and spiritual
truth, you neither can nor need take any trouble to enlighten and
convert him. It relieves one of all superfluous anxiety on that score."

"Pardon me," said Fellowes, "it is Mr. Newman's spiritual theory alone
which does allow the prospect of success to any such efforts. As he
truly says, when the spiritual champion has thrown off the burden of an
historical Christianity, he advances, as lightly equipped as Priestley
himself. I should say much more lightly. 'What,' says he, 'may we now
expect from the true theologian when he attacks sin, and vice, and
gross spirituality?'  'The weapon he uses,' to employ Mr. Newman's own
language, 'is as lightning from God, kindled from the spirit within
him, and piercing through the unbeliever's soul, convincing his
conscience of sin, and striking him to the ground before God; until
those who believe receive it not as the word of man but as what it
is, in truth, the word of God. Its action is directly upon the conscience
and upon the soul, and hence its wonderful results; not on the critical
faculties, upon which the spirit is powerless.'(Soul, p. 244)  Again,
he says that such a preacher 'will have plenty to say, alike to the
vulgar and to the philosophers, appreciable by the soul.' Hear him
again: 'Then he may speak with confidence of what he knows and feels;
and call on his hearers of themselves to try and prove his words.
Then the conversion of men to the love of God may take place by hundreds
and thousands, as in some former instances. Then, at length, some hope
may dawn that Mohammedans and Hindoos may be joined in one fold with
us, under one Shepherd, who will only have regained his older name of
the Lord God.'" (Soul, p. 258)

"By all the gods and goddesses of all the nations," said Harrington,
"I cannot understand it. How mankind should need such teaching, if
your theory be true; how, if they need it, it is possible that you
should give it if all external revelation of moral and spiritual
truth be impossible; how, if it is impossible, it should be
impossible for a God, by a Bible, to give the like; how you can get
at the souls of people at all except through the intervention of the
senses and the intellect,--the latter of which you say has nothing to
do with the 'soul,' and surely the former can have as little; or how,
if you can get at them by this intervention, it is impossible that
a Bible should,--is all to me a mystery. But let that pass. If your
last account be true, one thing is clear; that a splendid career
is open to you and your friends. You can immediately employ this
irresistible 'weapon' for the verification of your views and the
conversion of the human race. You can renew, or rather realize, the
triumphs of early Christianity;--I say realize, for you and Mr.
Newman believe them to be, for the most part, fabulous, and that it
was the army of Constantine that conquered the Empire for
Christianity; but you can turn such fables into truths. Surely the
least you can do is to be off as a missionary to China or India. Go
to Constantinople, my dear fellow, and take the Great Turk by the
beard. Nor can Mr. Newman do less than repair to Bagdad, upon a
second and more hopeful mission. You will know when you have demolished
Mohammedanism, and got fairly into Thibet. Alexander's career will
be nothing to it. But alas! I fear it will be only another variety
of that impossible thing,--a book-revelation!"

"Nay," said Fellowes, "we must first finish our mission at home, and
try our weapons upon you and such as you. We must subdue such as
you first."

"Then you will never go," said Harrington.

"Never mind," I said, "Mr. Fellowes; Harrington is very mischievous
to-day. But, as he said he would not contest the ground of your
dictum, that a book-revelation of moral and spiritual truth is
impossible, so he has not entered into it. Will you let me, on a
future day, read to you a brief paper upon it? I have no skill--or
but little--in that erotetic method of which Harrington is so fond." He
assented, and here this long conversation ended.
____

July 7. Harrington and I spent a portion of this morning alone
(Fellowes was gone out for a day or two), conversing on various
subjects. I hardly know how it was, but I felt a strong reluctance
to enter with formality on that one which yet lay nearest my heart,
--whether from the fear lest I should do more harm than good; lest
controversy should, as so often happens, indurate rather than soften
the heart: or perhaps I had some secret distrust of my own temper or
his. Yet, if I felt any thing of the last, I am sure I did him
injustice; and (I hope) myself. Be it as it may, I thought it better
just to exchange a shot now and then,--sometimes it was a red-hot
shot too on both sides,--as we passed and repassed, in the current
of conversation, than come to a regular set-to, yard-arm to yard-arm.
From whatever cause, he gave me abundant opportunity of recurring to
the subject, for he was perpetually, and I believe unconsciously,
leading the conversation towards it; not, I think, from confidence in
his logical prowess, but from the restlessness in which (he did not
pretend to disguise it) his state of scepticism had plunged him.
It was curious, indeed, to see how every thing, sooner or later,
fell into one channel. For example, I happened to remark, that a
cottage in the valley which we saw from his library window would
make a pretty object in a picture,--it was the only sign of life in
the little valley. "I should like the view itself all the better
without it," said he. I observed that a painter would feel very
differently; and if there were no such object, he would be sure to
put one in. "O, certainly," he replied, "a painter would, and justly;
there is no doubt that the shadow of animated existence is very
admirable; a picture, I admit, is wonderfully more picturesque
with such a picture of life; especially as the painter can and
does remove every thing offensive to his fastidious art. He is
very apt to regard the objects in his landscapes much as a poet
does a cottage, according to Cowper's confession. 'By a cottage,'
says he to Lady Hesketh, 'you must always understand, my dear, that
a poet means a house with six sashes in front, comfortable parlors,
a smart staircase, and three rooms of convenient dimensions.' As I
have looked sometimes down a mountain glen, and seen the most
picturesque huts upon its sides, I have thought how little the
painter could dispense with them. But, then, how easily the
philosopher can: for, alas! I have taken wing from my station, and
looked in through the miserable easement, and seen, not only what
is disgusting to the senses,--which is a small matter,--but ignorance
and disease, and fear, and guilt, and racking pain, and doubt, and
death; and I have not been able to help saying, in pity, 'O for
absolute solitude!--how much nature would be improved if the human
race were annihilated!'"

"The human race," said I, laughing, "is very much obliged to the
pity which would thus exterminate them; but as one of them, I should
decidedly object to so sweeping a mode of improving the picturesque.
Besides, I suppose you make an exception in favor, yourself, otherwise
the picturesque would vanish just when it was brought to perfection.
I am often inclined to say with Paley, though I remember well having
sometimes felt as you do, 'It is a happy world after all.' I admit,
however, that a buoyant, cheerful, habitual conviction of this will
depend on the constitution of the mind, and even vary with the same
in its different moods. But I am sure it may be a really happy world,
whatever its sorrows, to any one who will view it as he ought."

"I wish you could teach me the art."

"It is," said I, "to exercise the faith and the hope of a Christian,
humbly to regard this life as what it is,--a scene of discipline and
schooling, a pilgrimage to a better. It is an old remedy, but it has
been often tried; and to millions of our race has made this world
more than tolerable, and death tranquil, nay, triumphant. Do you
remember Schiller's 'Walk among the Linden-Trees'?"

"Perfectly well."

"Do you not remember how the two youths differ in their estimate of
the beautiful in nature? 'Is it possible,' says Edwin, 'you can thus
turn from the cup of joy, sparkling and overflowing as it is?'--'Yes,'
said Wollmar, 'when one finds a spider in it; and why not? In your
eyes, to be sure, Nature decks herself out like a rosy-checked maiden
on her bridal day. To me she appears an old, withered beldame, with
sunken eyes, furrowed cheeks, and artificial ornaments in her
hair. How she seems to admire herself in this her Sunday finery! But
it is the same worn and ancient garment, put off and on some hundreds
of thousands of times.' But how natural is the explanation of all
given at the beautiful close of the dialogue! 'Here,' said the jocund
Edwin, 'I first met my Juliet.'--'And it was under these linden-trees,'
says Wollmar, 'that I lost my Laura' It was their mood of mind, and
not the outward world, that made all the difference. All nature,
innocent thing! must consent to take her hue from it. You have, I
fear, lost your Laura,"--simply alluding to his early faith; "or
shall I suppose, from your present mood, that you have just met with
your Juliet?" I spoke, of course, of his philosophy.

He was looking out of the window; but on my turning my gaze towards him,
I saw such a look of peculiar anguish, that I felt I had inadvertently
touched a terrible chord indeed. I turned the conversation hastily,
by remarking (almost without thinking of what I said) on the
beautiful contrast between the light blue of the sky and the green
of the lawn and trees; and proceeded to remark on the degree in
which the mere organic or sensational pleasures of vision formed an
ingredient in the pleasurable associations of the complex "beautiful."

He gradually resumed conversation; and we discussed the subject of
the "beautiful" for some time. Yet I know not how it was, nor can
I trace the steps by which we deviated,--only that Rousseau's summer
-day dreams on the Lake of Bienne was a link in the chain,--we
somehow soon found ourselves on the brink of the great controversy
respecting the "origin of Evil." "I have read many books on that
subject," said I; "but I intend to read no more; and I should think
you have had enough of them."

"Why, yes," said he, laughing; "whatever philosophers may have thought
of the origin of evil, it is a great aggravation of it to read their
speculations. The best thing I know on the subject--and it exhausts
it--is half a dozen lines in 'Robinson Crusoe.'"

"Robinson Crusoe!" said I.

"Certainly," he replied; "do you not remember that when he caught
his man Friday, the 'intuitional consciousness'--the 'insight'--the
'inward revelation' of that worthy savage not being found quite so
perfect as Mr. Parker would fancy, Robinson proceeds to indoctrinate
him in the mysteries of theology? Friday is much puzzled, as many
more learned savages have been before him, to find that the infinite
power, wisdom, and goodness of God had made every thing good, and
that good it would have continued had not been for the opposition
of the Devil. 'Why God not kill Debbil?' asks poor Friday. On which
says Robinson, 'Though I was a very old man, I found that I was but
a young doctor in divinity.' Ah! if all doctors in divinity had
been equally candid, the treatises on that dread subject would not
have been quite so voluminous; for we close them all alike with the
unavailing question, 'Why God not kill Debbil?'"

Observing this tendency to gravitate towards the abyss, I at last
said to him, 'I think, if I were you, having decided that there is
no religious truth to be found, I should dismiss the subject from
my thoughts altogether. Do as the Indian did, who struggled as
long as he could to right his canoe when he found he was in the
stream of Niagara; but, finding his efforts unavailing, sat himself
down with his arms folded, and went down the falls without stirring
a muscle. Let us talk no more on the subject. Why should you perplex
yourself, as you apparently do, about a thing so hopeless to be
found out as truth? 'What is truth?' said Pilate; and, as Bacon says,
'he would not wait for an answer.' It was a question to which, most
probably, he, like you, thought no answer could be given. If I were
you, I should do the same. Why perplex yourself to no purpose?"

"I should answer," said he, "as Solon did when asked why he grieved
for his son, seeing all grief was unavailing.' It is for that very
reason that I grieve,' was the reply. And in like manner I dwell on
the impossibility of discovering truth because it is impossible."

I acknowledged that it was a sufficient reason, and that it went to
account in some degree for a fact I had remarked in the few sceptics
I had come across,--genuine or otherwise,--that they seemed less
capable of reposing in their professed convictions than any one
else: it is of no avail, they say, to reason on such subjects; and
yet they are perpetually reasoning! They will neither rest themselves
nor let any one else rest.  He confessed it, and said, "The state of
mind is very  much as you have described it; and you have described
it so exactly, that I almost think you, my dear uncle, must know the
heart of a sceptic, and have been one yourself some time or other!"

We wound up the morning, which was beautiful, by taking a ride, in the
course of which I was amused with an instance of the sensitiveness with
which Harrington's cultivated mind recoiled from the grossness of vulgar
and ignorant infidelity. We called at the cottage of a little farmer, a
tenant of his, somewhat notorious both for profanity and sensuality.
Presuming, I suppose, on his young landlord's suspected heterodoxy, and
thinking, perhaps, to curry favor with him, he ventured (I know not what
led to it) to indulge in some stupid joke about the legion and the herd
of swine. "Sir," said he, scratching his head, "the Devil, I reckon,
must have been a more clever fellow than I thought, to make two thousand
hogs go down a steep place into the sea; it is hard enough even to make
them go where they will, and almost impossible make them go where they
won't."

"The Devil, my good friend," said Harrington, very gravely, "is a very
clever fellow; and I hope you do not for a moment intend to compare
yourself with him. As to the supposed miracle, it would, no doubt,
be hard to say which were most to be pitied, the devils in the swine,
or the swine with the devils in them; but has it never struck you that
the whole may be an allegorical representation of the miserable and
destructive effects of the union of the two vices of sensuality and
profanity? They also (if all tales be true) lead to a steep place, but
I have never heard that it ends in the water. Now," he continued, "I
dare say you would laugh at that story which the Roman Catholics
tell of St. Antony; namely, that he preached to the pigs'!
--yet it has had a very sound allegorical interpretation; we are
told that it meant merely that he preached to country farmers; which,
you see, is more than I have been doing."

It was one of the many things which made me a sceptic as to whether
he was one. "Harrington," said I, "at times I find it impossible to
believe that you doubt the truth of Christianity."

"Suppose I were to answer, that at times I doubt whether I doubt it
or not, would not that be a thorough sceptic's answer?" I admitted
that it would be indeed.

____

July 8. I was already in the library, writing, when Harrington came
in to breakfast. "You seem busy early," said he. I told him I was
merely endeavoring to manifest my love for his future children.

"You know," said I, "what Isocrates says, that it is right that
children, as they inherit the other possessions, should also inherit
the friendships of their fathers."

"My children!" said he, very gravely; "I shall never have any."

"O, yes, you will, and then these sullen vapors of doubt will roll
off before the sunlight of domestic happiness. It will allure you to
love Him who has given you so much to love. Yes," said I, gayly,
"I shall visit you one day in happier moods; when you will wonder
how you could have indulged all your present thoughts of God and
the universe. As you gaze into the face of innocent childhood, which
shows you what faith in God is by trust in you, you will say,
'Heaven shield the boy from being what his father has been?'--you
will feel that such thoughts as yours will not do, as the world
says; and we shall all go together, you with your wife on your arm,
to church there in the in the bright sun and deep quiet of a Sabbath
morning, and amidst the music of the Sabbath bells; and as the
tranquil scene steals into your very soul, you will say, 'No,
scepticism was not made for man.'"

 "It is a pleasant romance," he replied, gloomily, "and nothing more.
I shall never love, and shall therefore never wed; though, I suppose,
that does not logically follow. However, it does with me; and,
consequently, I presume the children are also only in posse. However,
what is this instance of your kindness to my possible children?"
he added, more cheerfully.

"I was endeavoring," said I, "on the bare possibility of your retaining
as a father all the feelings you seem to entertain at present, to
compile for your children (as they must be taught something, and you
would wish them, as you say, to know the truth) a short catechism. I
think the questions in Watts's First Catechism might do for the poor
little souls. The answers (as usual) might not be wholly intelligible
till they got older, but still might awaken some notion which in time
might ripen into confirmed scepticism."

"Well," said he, laughing, "let me hear what sort of 'religious'
instruction you have provided."

"I had only finished one question," I replied, "when you came in:
but I almost think it may be considered a 'Summa Theologiae' of itself.
It is this:--

"'Can you tell me, child, who made you?'

"'I cannot, certainly, tell who made me; neither can my father; but
from the continual misery, confusion, and doubt which I feel in myself
and see around me'--here the little pupil is to be cautioned not to
laugh; the mirth in the eye, perhaps, cannot be extinguished,--I am
led to doubt whether I was made by one who cares for me or takes any
interest in me.'(Good child.)"

"As I looked up, after reading this first truth of sceptical theology,
I observed in Harrington's face something of the same look of sorrow
which I had noted the day before. Suddenly be said, as if to prevent
any chance recurrence to painful topics:--

"I very gradually became a doubter. I was perhaps becoming so when, two
years ago, I became an idolater, and my idol crumbled to pieces at my
feet. That transient vision of the beautiful half reclaimed me from my
doubts; the darkness of the succeeding night taught me juster views
of the miseries of man and the incomprehensible riddle of his existence;
and I half blushed at my glimpse of selfish happiness."

So saying, he suddenly left the room. Some part of the mystery I felt
was unravelled. Alas! the logic of the head,--how fatally fortified by
the logic of the heart! And so, thought I to myself, even Harrington
too is in part the dupe of that cunning spirit of delusion which in
various forms is resolved to cast God and a Redeemer and Immortality
out of the universe, in compliment to man's wonderful elevation,
purity, unselfishness, and philanthropy! One man tells me, with
Shaftesbury, that he does not want any "immortal hopes," or any such
"bribes" of "prudence" to make him virtuous or religious,--delicate,
noble-minded creature!--that he can serve and love God equally well,
though he were sure of being annihilated to-morrow morning! Another
declares that he would not accept heaven itself if purchased by a
single pang, voluntary or involuntary, endured by any other being in
God's universe? Another swears that such is his sympathetic benevolence,
that he "would not accept that same heaven if he thought any other
being was to be shut out of it"; I wonder whether he condescends to
accept any blessing now, while a single fallow-creature remains
destitute of it? A fourth (a lady too) declares "there is no theory
God, of an author of nature, of an origin of the universe which is
not utterly repugnant to her faculties, which is not (to her feelings)
so irreverent as to make her blush, so misleading as to make her
mourn"; and now Harrington, instead of being thankful for his glimpse
of happiness, and yielding to the better instincts and convictions
it partly awakened, and learning patience, submission, and faith
under his shattered hopes, is taken captive on the same weak side;
and (all unconscious that he shares in the prophet's feeling, "I
do well to be angry") fancies that his present gloom is more truly
in unison with the condition of the universe, and that he is bound
to be most philanthropically misanthropical. O, well does the Book
say of this heart of ours, "DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS"! Such are
our mingled follies and wickedness, so ludicrous, so sorrowful, are
the features presented in this great tragi-comedy,--THE LIFE OF MAN,
--that it is impossible to play consistently either Democritus
or Heraclitus.
____

July 9. Mr. Fellowes returned this morning. We had a very pleasant
day,--theology being excluded. In the evening my companions were
again pleased to disturb my occupations; but it was only a short
skirmish. Fellowes was endeavoring to enlighten his friend
respecting the mysteries of "belief" and "faith," as expounded by
some of his favorite writers: he contended, (making that sheer
separation between "the intellectual" and "spiritual," which so
many of the spiritual school affect.) not only that there may be
correct belief without true faith, which, in an intelligible sense,
few will deny; but that there may be a true faith with a false belief',
or even with none, in the strict sense of the word. Referring to a
recent acute writer in one of our religious periodicals, he argued
that belief is properly an intellectual process, founded on a presumed
preponderance of reasons or supposed reasons, for it; and that whether
those reasons amount to demonstration, or whether the scale be
turned by a grain, matters not; the product is purely logical, and
has no more to do with "faith" than a "belief" in any proposition
of Euclid.

"But, at all events," he proceeded, "whether you choose to call some
of these acts of reason by the name of belief or not, faith is
something quite independent of it. As Mr. Newman says, in his 'Phases,'
'Belief is one thing and faith another': 'belief is purely intellectual;
faith is properly spiritual.' 'Nowhere from any body of priests,
clergy, or ministers, as an order, is religious progress to be
anticipated till intellectual creeds are destroyed.' See, too, how
tenderly he speaks even of atheism. 'I do not know,' he says, 'how to
avoid calling this a moral error; but I must carefully guard against
seeming to overlook that it may still be a merely speculative error,
which ought not to separate our hearts from any man.' Similarly he
charitably restricts 'idolatry' in any 'bad sense' to a voluntary
worshipping of what the worshipper feels not to deserve his adoration;
and as I, for one, doubt whether this is ever the case, this delightful
charity is comprehensive indeed. Mr. Parker's discourse is full of
the same beautiful and tolerant maxims. 'Each religious doctrine,' he
says, 'has some time stood for a truth ...... Each of these forms of
religion (polytheism and fetichism, to wit) did the world service
in its day.' No one form of religion is absolutely true; faith may
be compatible with them all."

"Let me understand you, if possible," said Harrington; "for at present
I fear I do not. That there may be belief without faith in a very
Intelligible sense, I can understand. You say there can be faith without
belief, and a true faith that is connected with any belief, however
erroneous, do you not?"

"Provided it contains the absolute religion."

"Well, and even the lowest fetichism does that, according to Mr. Parker,
whom you defend. Now this Protean faith is what I do not understand."

"That," said Fellowes, "I can easily conceive; and, let me add, no
sceptic can understand it."
"I see no reason why he should not," said Harrington, laughing, "if,
as you and Mr. Newman suppose, the 'spiritual' can be so perfectly
divorced from the 'intellectual.' According to your reasoning, the
and the idolater cannot be incapable of exercising this mysterious
'faith,'--when their errors are supposed purely speculative,--since
faith has nothing to do with the intellect; neither therefore ought
the sceptic to be quite beyond the pale of your charity. Nay, his
intellect being a rasa tabula in these matters, I should think he is
in more favorable circumstances than they can be. But, seriously, let
me try, if possible, to fathom this curious dogma,--I beg your
pardon,--sentiment, I mean. Belief without faith in an intelligible
sense (if by this last we mean a condition of the emotions or
affections), I can understand; though if the truth believed be of a
nature to excite to emotion and to dictate action, and fail to do so,
I doubt whether men in general would not call that belief spurious. For
example, if a man, on being told that his house was on fire, sat still
in his neighbor's chimney-corner, and took no notice of the matter,
most persons would say that his assent was no true belief; for it did
not produce its effects, did not produce faith. But whether faith can
ever exist independently of belief,--whether it is not always involved
with it,--and whether there can be a faith worth a farthing that is
not based on a true belief,--that is the point on which I want light.
If I understand you, an acceptable faith may or may not coexist
with a true belief; and men who believe in Jupiter or Jehovah, in one
God or a thousand, who worship the sun, or an idol, or a cat, or a
monkey, all may have an equally acceptable faith."

"I affirm it."

"That as there may be belief in a truth without faith, so there may
be faith, though the intellect believes in a falsehood;--that faith,
in fact, is independent of knowledge, or of any particular condition
of the intellect?"

"I do not like the terms in which you express the sentiment, but I,
for one, believe it substantially correct."

"Never mind the form; I am quite willing to employ other terms, if you
will supply them"

"Well, then," said Fellowes, "I should say, with Mr. Parker, that
the principle of true faith may be found to coexist with the grossest
and most hideous misconceptions of God, while the absence of it may
coexist with the truest and most elevated belief."

"That, I think, comes to much the same as I said. Now about the latter
we have no dispute. It is the former that I want light upon: the
latter only shows that a belief, which ought to be practical, and if
not practical is nothing, is but a species of hypocrisy; and, of
course, I have nothing to say for it. My uncle here, who is still one
of the orthodox, who believes that an 'acceptable faith' and a
belief in the divinity of a monkey or a cat are somehow quite
incompatible, would be among the first to acknowledge the latter
position. He would say, 'No doubt there has often been such a
thing as "dead orthodoxy,"--a creed of the "letter,"--a religion
exclusively dependent on logic, and nothing to do with the feeling's;
--belief that is not sublimated into faith;--a system of arteries and
veins infiltrated with some colored substance, like the specimens
in an anatomical museum, but in which none of the lifeblood of
religion circulates. But surely,' he would say, 'it does not follow,
that, because there has been belief without faith, there is or can
be any independent of some belief, or an acceptable faith without
a true belief.'"

"I affirm," said Fellowes, "that 'faith' has nothing to do with
the intellect, but is a state of the affections exclusively. I affirm,
with a recent acute writer, that there is, properly speaking, no
belief at all that is distinguishable from reason. For what is meant
by belief of a proposition, but the receiving that proposition
true upon evidence, from a supposed preponderance of reasons in
its favor? Now, whether that preponderance be a ton weight or a single
grain, down goes the balance, and reason as strictly decides that it
is to be received as if it were a mathematical demonstration. If the
arguments, whether abstract or otherwise, absolutely demonstrative or
only probable, are supposed to be exactly balanced, there is no reason
for deciding in favor of one side more than the other; and there is,
therefore, no belief, for the very reason that reason cannot
be exercised."

"Very well indeed," said Harrington, "so far as it goes; but I
forthwith see, that, so far from deriving any benefit from this
ingenious reasoning, there is no such thing as either faith or belief:
belief and faith have both vanished at the same time; the first is
resolved into reason, and the second becomes impossible."

"Belief may," said Fellowes, "but faith never. Its divine beauty is
all the brighter, when happily divorced from logic and syllogisms,
its misalliance with which can only be compared to that cruel punishment
by which the living was chained to the dead. Say what you will, it
still reigns and triumphs in the soul in spite of all."

"I am perfectly convinced," said Harrington, "that the modern
spiritualist will not bring his 'faith' into any ignominious slavery
to intellect or syllogism. But clear up my doubts if you can. I know
that the writers you are fond of quoting very generally give an
illustration of the nature of faith by pointing to the ingenuous
trust of a child in the wisdom and kindness of a parent."

"They do; and is it not a beautiful illustration? That is genuine
faith indeed!"

"I am willing to take the illustration. The child has faith, we see,
in his father's superior wisdom and experienced kindness."

"Yes."

"He believes them, therefore."

"Certainly."

"But belief is reason."

"Certainly; but faith is more than that."

"No doubt; but he does believe these things."

"Yes, certainly."

"And if he did not believe them, he would cease to have faith. If,
for instance, he be convinced that his father is mad, or cruel, or
unjust, the state of affections which you call faith will diminish,
and at last cease."

"Perhaps so," said Fellowes.

"Perhaps so, my friend! I really cannot receive your answer, because
I am convinced that it does not express your sentiments."

"Well, I believe that the state of affection which call 'faith' would
be impossible under such circumstances."

"But belief is reason."

"Yes."

"Must we not say, then, that the child's faith depends on the condition
of his belief, that is, on his reason, so that the 'faith' is possible
when he believes and so long as he believes, that his father is wise
and kind, but is impossible when he believes, and as soon as he believes,
the contrary?"

"Yes, I admit that."

"It appears, then, that faith in this,--perhaps the best illustration
that could be selected,--so far from being a state of the affections
exclusive of the intellect, is not exclusive of it, but absolutely
dependent on it, inasmuch as it is absolutely dependent on belief, and
that is dependent on reason. It exists in connection with it, and is
never independent of it. If the contrary be affirmed, I doubt whether
there can be any such thing as 'faith' in the world. Belief becomes
reason, and faith, having nothing, you say, to do with the intellect,
becomes impossible. But now let it be supposed (as, indeed, I cannot
but suppose) that some belief, that is, reason, enlightened or not
(generally the last), is involved in every act of faith; you yet affirm
most distinctly that it is a state of the affections quite unconnected
with the truth or falsehood of any intellectual propositions."

"I do."

"It ought to follow, then, that it matters not what is the object of
belief, provided there is 'faith'; and this, if you observe: is very
much what the language of Mr. Newman would imply, while it is the very
essence of Mr. Parker's teaching."

"You mean Father Newman, perhaps?"

"Why no, I did not; but, to tell you the truth. I now mean either;
there not appearing to me much difference between them in this respect.
Whether you worship an image of a 'winking virgin,' or, according to
the other Dromio, the 'ideal' of an idolater,--whether (provided
always it be with sincerity and trust!) you adore the Jehovah of
the Hebrews, or 'the image which fell down from Jupiter,' ought to
make, upon this theory, no great difference."

"Well, in whatever difficulty the controversy may involve us, can we
deny this conclusion?"

"Truly," replied Harrington, "I think it does not involve me in any
difficulty; it shows me that, if this be the 'faith' to which you
attach so much importance, it really is not worth the powder and shot
that must be expended in the controversy. For my own part, I do
not hesitate to say that I would rather be absolutely destitute of
'faith' altogether, than exercise the most absolute faith ever bestowed
upon a tawdry image of the Virgin, or some misshapen beast of an idol
of Hindoo or Hottentot workmanship."

"Ah! my friend," cried Fellowes, "do not thus blaspheme the most holy
feelings of humanity, however misapplied!"

"I do not conceive that I do, in declaring abhorrence and contempt of
such perversions of 'sentiment,' however 'holy' you may call them.
Hideous as they are, however, they are less hideous than the
half-length apologies for them on the part of cultivated and civilized
human beings, like our 'spiritual' infidels. Your tenderness is
ludicrously misplaced. I wonder whether the same apology would extend
to those exercises of simple-minded 'faith' in which it is said that
the Spanish and Portuguese pirates sometimes indulged, when they
implored the benediction of their saints on their predatory
expeditions! And yet I see not how it could be avoided; for the
exorbitancies of these pirates were not more hateful to humanity than
are the rites practices, and the duties enjoined, by many forms of
religion. What delightful, ingenuous 'faith' and genuine 'simplicity'
of mind did these pirates manifest!"

"How can you talk so, when we make it a mark of a false revelation,
that it contradicts any intuition of our moral nature?"

"Then cease to talk of your 'absolute religion,' as capable in any
way of consecrating the hateful forms of false and cruel superstition for
which you and Mr. Parker condescend to be the apologists. The
fanaticism of such pious and devout beasts as those saint-loving
pirates is not a more flagrant violation of the principle of morality,
than the acts which flow directly as the immediate and natural
expression of the infinitely varied but all-polluting forms of
idolatry with which you are pleased to identify your 'absolute
religion,' and in all of which you suppose an acceptable 'faith' to
be very possible. You see how Mr. Parker extends the apology to
the foulest sets of his Tartar and Calmuck scoundrels; acts
called murders in the codes of Christendom and civilization, but
varnished over by the beautiful 'faith' which somehow still lurks
under the most frightful practices of a simple-minded barbarian. If
this faith will shelter the abominations of a gross idolatry, I see
not what else it may not sanctify.--But, in fact, neither in the
case of idolaters, nor any other religionists, is it true that
'faith' is independent of 'belief'; in the case of your Calmuck, for
example, the 'belief' is vile, and therefore the 'faith' vile too;
faith practical enough, certainly, but one that as certainly does not
'work by love'; and which, I think, would be well exchanged for a
dead orthodoxy, or any thing else."

It is not difficult to see the source of the fallacy into which
Mr. Fellowes had fallen. It lies in the attempt to make a
distinction in fact, as well as in theory, between the
"intellectual" and "emotional" parts of our nature. It is very well
for the spiritual and mental analyst to consider separately the
several principles which constitute humanity, and which act, and
react, and interact, in endless involution. That there may be acts
of belief that terminate chiefly in the intellect, and may be wholly
worthless, who denies? The drunkard, for example, may admit that
sobriety is a duty; but yet, if he gets drunk every night of his
life, we shall, of course, think little of that act of belief,--of
his daily repetition of moral orthodoxy. In the same manner, a man
may admit that it is his duty to exercise implicit love, gratitude,
and obedience towards the great object of worship; but if his
habitual conduct shows that he has no thought of acting in accordance
with this maxim, he must be regarded, in spite of the orthodoxy of
his speculative creed, as no better than a heathen; or worse.

But though it is very possible that a true belief may not involve
true faith, does the converse follow,--that therefore true faith is
essentially different from it, and independent of it? All history
shows, that when religion is practical at all,--that is, issues in
faith,--such faith is as the truth or falsehood believed; the emotional
and active conditions of the soul are colored, as usual, by knowledge
and intellect. These, again, are not independent of the will and the
affections, as we all familiarly know. And hence the fallacy of
supposing that no man is to be thought better or worse for his
"intellectual creed." His "creed" may be his "crime"; and surely none
ought to see this more clearly than the writers who deny it; for
why their eternal invectives against "dogmas,"--and especially the
tolerably universal dogmas that men are responsible for the formation
of their opinions,--except upon the supposition that men are
responsible for framing and maintaining them? If they are not, men
should be left alone; if they are, they are to be thought of as
"worse and better" for their "intellectual creed."

Before the conclusion of the conversation, Mr. Fellowes asked me for
my opinion.

"If," said I, "faith be defined independent of an act of intellect,
then I think, with our sceptical friend here, there can be no such
thing at all. For I neither know nor can conceive of any such
unreasonable exercise of the emotions or affections. If it be meant,
on the other hand, that, though some act of the intellect be indeed
uniformly involved, yet that it matters not what it is, and that
faith does not take its complexion, as of moral value, from it, then
I also think, with Harrington, that it is impossible to deny that
such a doctrine will sanctify any sort of worship, and any sort of
deity, provided men be sincere; are you prepared to contend for much?"

Mr. Fellowes put an adroit objection here. "Why," said he, "you will
not deny, surely, that even Scripture often commends, as good, a faith
which is founded on a very imperfect conception of the spiritual
realities to which it is directed?"

"It is ingeniously put, I admit. I grant that there are here, as in
so many other cases, limits which, though it may not be very easy
to assign them, as plainly exist. But that does not answer my
question. I want to know whether the principle is to be applied
without limits at all, as your speculative theory demands? In other
words, will it or not sanctify acts of the most degrading and
pernicious idolatry, of the most debasing superstition, because
allied to that state of the affections in which you make the essence
of faith consist? If it will not, then your objection to me is
nothing; it merely asks me to assign limits within which the exercise
of the affection in question may be acceptable, or almost equally
acceptable, in cases of a partially enlightened understanding. If it
will, then it leaves you open, as I conceive, and fairly open, to all
the objections which have been so brusquely urged against you by your
friend, in whose indignant protest against the detestable apologies for
the lowest forms of religious degradation, in which so many 'spiritual'
writers indulge, I for one heartily sympathize."

I ventured to add, that the account of "faith" as a state of the
emotions exclusively, given by some of his favorite writers, is
perfectly arbitrary. "Belief," say they, "is wholly intellectual: faith
is wholly moral." Now it would be of very little consequence, if the
terms be generally so understood, whether they be so used or not; men
would, in that case, suppose that faith, thus restricted, implies a
previous process of mind which is to be called exclusively belief. I
added, however, that I did not believe that the word faith was ever
thus understood in popular use; but that, on the contrary, it was
employed to imply belief founded on knowledge, or supposed knowledge,
and, where the belief was, in its very nature, practical, or involved
emotion, a conduct and a state of the affections corresponding thereto.
"But this," said I, "merely respects the Popular use of the words, and
if is hardly worth while to prolong discussion on it. As to the
reasoning which would show that belief does not properly exist at
all, because it may be all resolved into reason, founded on the
preponderance of evidence, where it does not matter whether that
preponderance be a ton or a scruple,--surely it is over-refined. Men
will always feel that there is a marked difference between the states
of mind in which they assent to a proposition of which they have no
more doubt than they have of their own existence, or to a proposition
in the mathematics, and to one in which they feel that only a few
grains turn the scale. To this conscious difference in the condition
of mind, they have given (and I suppose will not give) very different
names; and though they will continue to say that they believe that two
and two make four, but that they know it, they will say that they
believe that they will die before the end of the century, though they
will not say that they know that. The distinction between the certain
and the probable is felt to be far too important not to be marked by
corresponding varieties of speech; and speech has made them according."

____

July 10. This morning Harrington fulfilled his promise of acquainting
me with a few of the reasons which prevented his taking refuge in the
"half-way houses" between the Bible and Religious Scepticism. Mr. Fellowes
was an attentive listener. Harrington had entitled his paper,--

REASONS FOR DECLINING THE VIA MEDIA BETWEEN REVEALED RELIGION AND
ATHEISM--OR SCEPTICISM WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE THEORIES OF
MR. THEODORE PARKER AND MR. FRANCIS NEWMAN.

I shall be brief; not being solicitous to suggest doubts to others,
but merely to justify my own.

Both Mr. Parker and Mr. Newman make themselves very merry with a
"book-revelation," as they call it; and if they had given any thing
better,--more rational or more certain than the Bible,--how gladly
could I have joined in the ridicule! As it is, I doubt the solidity
of the theories they support, and hardly doubt that, if the principles
on which they reject the Bible be sound, they ought to go much farther.
Both affirm the absurdity of a special external revelation to man;
both, that the fountain of spiritual illumination is exclusively
from within, and not from without. A few brief citations will set
this point in a clear light. "Religion itself." says Mr. Parker,
"must be the same thing in each man; not a similar thing, but just
the same; differing only in degree."*  "The Idea of God, as a fact
given in man's nature, is permanent and alike in all; while the
sentiment of God, though vague and mysterious, is always the same in
itself." (ibid. p. 21)--"Of course, then, there is no difference but
of words between revealed Religion and natural Religion; for all actual
Religion is revealed in us, or it could not be felt." (ibid. p. 33). The
Absolute Religion, which he affirms to be universally known, he defines
as "Voluntary Obedience to the Law of God,--inward and outward Obedience
to that law he has written on our nature, revealed in various ways
through Instinct, Reason, Conscience, and the Religious Sentiment."
(ibid. p. 34). Similarly, Mr. Newman says, "What God reveals to us he
reveals within, through the medium of our moral and spiritual senses."
(Soul, p. 59) "Christianity itself has practically confessed, what is
theoretically clear,"--you must take his word for both,--"that an
authoritative external revelation of moral and spiritual truth is
essentially impossible to man." (Soul, p. 59) "No book-revelation can
(without sapping its own pedestal) authoritatively dictate laws of human
virtue, or alter our a priori view of the Divine character." (Ibid. p.
58)

----
* Discourses of Matters pertaining to Religion, p. 36.
----

"Happy race of men," one is ready to exclaim, with this Idea of God,
one and the same in all; this "Absolute Religion," which is also
"universal"; this internal revelation, which supersedes, by
anticipating, all possible disclosures of an external revelation,
and renders it an "impertinence." Men in all ages and nations must
exhibit a delightful unanimity in their religious notions, sentiments,
and practices!

"They would do so," cries Mr. Parker; but unhappily, though the "idea"
of God is "one and the same, and perfect" in all "when the proper
conditions" are complied with, yet practically, if, in the majority of
these proper "conditions are not observed"; (Discourses, p. 19) "the
conception, which men universally form of God is always imperfect,
sometimes self-contradictory and impossible"; "the primitive
simplicity and beauty" of the "idea" are lost. And thus it is, he
tells us, that, owing to this awkward "conceptions" the vast majority
of the human race have been, and are, and for ages will be, sunk in
the grossest Fetichism,--Polytheism,--and every form of absurd and
misshapen Monotheism;--the horrors of all which he proceeds faithfully,
but not too faithfully, to describe, and sometimes, when he is in the
mood, to soften and extenuate; in order that he may find that the
"grim Calmuck," and even the savage, "whose hands are smeared over
with the blood of human sacrifices," are yet in possession of the
"absolute Idea" and the "absolute religion."

And what must we infer from Mr. Newman? The unanimity anticipated
would, doubtless, be obtained, only that, unfortunately, there are
various principles of man's nature which traverse the legitimate action
and impede the due development of the "spiritual faculty"; and so
man is apt to wander into a variety of those "degraded types" of
religious development, which the dark panorama of this world's
religions has ever presented to us, and presents still. "Awe,"
"wonder," "admiration," "sense of order," "sense of design," may
all mislead the unhappy "spiritual faculty" into quagmires; and, in
point of fact, have wheedled and corrupted it ten thousand times
more frequently than it has hallowed them. This all history, past and
present, shows.

It is certainly unfortunate, and as mysterious, that those unlucky
"conceptions" of God should have the best of it,--or rather, that the
"idea" of God should have the worst of it; nor less so that Awe,
Reverence, and so forth, should thus put the "spiritual faculty" so
hopelessly hors de combat.

Nevertheless, two questions naturally suggest themselves. Since the
destructive "conceptions" have almost everywhere impaired the "Idea,"
and the "degraded types" seduced the "spiritual faculty,"--1st. What
proof have we that man has an original and universal fountain of
spiritual illumination in himself? and 2dly. If he have, but under
such circumstances, is its utility so unquestionable that no space is
left for the offices of an external revelation?

First. What is the evidence of the uniform existence in man of any
such definite faculty?

When we say that any principle or faculty is common to the whole
species, do we not make the proof of this depend upon the uniformity
of the phenomena which exhibit it? When we say, for example, that
hunger and thirst are universal appetites, is it not because we find
them universal? or if we say that the senses of sight and hearing are
characteristic of the race, do we not contend that these are so,
because we find them uniform in such an immense variety of instances,
that the exceptions are not worth reckoning? If men sometimes saw
black where others saw white, some objects rectilinear which others
saw curved, objects small which others saw large,--nay, the very same
men at different times seeing the same objects differently colored,
and of varying forms and attitudes, and every second man almost
stone-blind into the bargain,--I rather think that, instead of saying
men were endowed with one and the same power of vision, we should say
that our nature exhibited only an imperfect and rudimentary tendency
towards so desirable a faculty; but that a clear, uniform, faculty of
vision there certainly was not. As I gaze upon the spectacle of the
infinite diversities of religion, which variegate, but, alas! do not
beautify the what is there to remind me of every uniformity of which
I do see the indelible traces in every faculty really characteristic
of our nature; as, for example, our senses and our appetites? Powerfully
does Hume urge this argument in his--"Natural History of Religions."
(Introduction)

I have my doubts--admire the modesty of a sceptic--whether the entire
phenomena of religion do not favor the conclusion, that man, in this
respect, only the traces of an imperfect, truncated creature; that,
he is in the predicament of the half-created lion so graphically
described by Milton:--

"Now half appeared
The tawny lion, pawings to get free
His hinder parts";

only, unfortunately, man's "hinder parts"--his lower nature--have
come up first, and appear, unhappily, prominent; while his nobler
"moral and spiritual faculties" still seem stuck in the dust!

There is, indeed, another hypothesis, which squares, perhaps, equally
well with the phenomena,--I mean that of the Bible:--that man is not
in his original state; that the religions constitution of his nature,
in some way or other, has received a shock. But either this, or the
supposition that man has been insufficiently equipped for the uniform
elimination of religious truth, is, I think, alone in harmony with
the facts; and to those facts, patent on the page of the whole world's
history, I appeal for proof that man has not on these highest subjects,
the certitude of any internal revelation, marked by the remotest
analogy to those other undoubted principles and faculties which exhibit
themselves with undeniable uniformity.

It will perhaps be said, that the spiritual phenomena are not so
uniform as those of sense,--as Mr. Parker and Mr. Newman both
abundantly admit,--but that there is an approximate uniformity. And
you must seek it, says Mr. Parker, in the "Absolute Religion"
which animates every form of religion, and is equally found in all.
I know the chatters about this incessantly; but when I attempt thus
to "hunt the one in the many," as Plato would call it.--to seek the
elusive unity in the infinite multiform,--to discover what it is
which equally embalms all forms, from the Christianity of Paul to the
religion of the "grim Calmuck," I acknowledge myself as much at
loss as Martinus in endeavoring to catch the abstraction of a
Lord Mayor; Mr. Parker, on the other hand, is like Crambe, "Who,
to show his acuteness, swore that he could form an abstraction
of a Lord Mayor, not only without his horse, gown, and gold chain,
but even without stature, feature, color, hands, head, feet, or any
body, which he supposed was the abstract of a Lord Mayor." Or if
it be vain to attempt to abstract this Absolute Religion from all
religions, as Mr. Parker indeed admits,--though it is truly in
them,--and I take his definition from his "direct consciousness,"
--which direct consciousness we can see has been directly affected
by his abjured Bible,--namely, "that it is voluntary obedience to
will of God, outward and inward,"--why, what on  earth does this
vague generality do for us? What of God? Is he or it one or many?
of infinite attributes or finite? of goodness and mercy equal to
his power, or not? What is his will? How is he to be worshipped?
Have we offended him? Is he placable or not? Is he to be approached
only through a mediator of some kind, as nearly all mankind have
believe but which Mr. Parker denies,--a queer proof, by the way,
of the clearness of the internal oracle, if he be right,--or is he
to be approached, as Mr. Parker believes, and Mr. Newman with him,
without any mediator at all? Is it true that man is immortal, and
knows it by immediate "insight," as Mr. Parker contends, or does
the said "insight," as Mr. Newman believes, tell us nothing about
the matter? Surely the "Absolute Religion," after having removed
from it all in which different religions differ, is in danger of
vanishing that imperfect susceptibility of some religion, which I
have already conceded, and which is certainly not such a thing as
to render an external revelation very obviously superfluous. It
may be summed up in one imperfect article. All men and each may say,
"I believe there is some being, superior in some respects to man,
whom it is my duty or my interest to"--caelera desunt.


To affirm that every man has this "Absolute Religion" without
external revelation is much as if a man were to say that we have
an "Absolute Philosophy" on the same terms, in virtue of man's
having faculties which prompt him to philosophize in some way. All
religions contain the Absolute Religion, says Mr. Parker: Just, I
reply, as all philosophies contain the absolute philosophy. The
philosophy of Plato, of Aristotle of Bacon, of Locke, of Leibnitz,
of Reid, are all philosophies, no doubt; but that is all that is
to be said. Even contraries must resemble one another in one point,
or they could not be contrasted. In truth, there is, I think, a
striking analogy between man's spiritual and intellectual condition;
only his intellect is a little less variable than his "spiritual
faculty"; far more so, however, than his senses. His animal nature
is more defined than his intellectual, his intellectual than his
spiritual and moral. All the phenomena point either to an imperfect
organization of his nobler faculties, or to the doctrine of
the "Fall."

But further, surely if this internal oracle exists in man, every
sincere and earnest soul, on interrogating his consciousness, would
hear the indubitable response,--would enjoy the beatific vision of
"spiritual insight." If this be asserted, I for one have to say to
this representation, that, so far as my own consciousness informs
me, I have honestly, sincerely, and with utmost diligence,
interrogated my spirit; and I solemnly protest, that, apart from
those external influences and that external instruction which the
revelation from within is supposed to anticipate and supersede, I am
not conscious that I should have any of the sentiments which either
of these writers make the sum of religion. Even as to that fundamental
position,--the existence of a Being of unlimited power and wisdom, (as
to his unlimited goodness, I believe nothing but an external revelation
can absolutely certify us,) I feel that I am much more indebted to
those influences from design, which these writers made so light of,
than to any clearness in the imperfect intuition: for if I found--and
surely this is the true test--the traces of design less conspicuous
in the external world, confusion there, as in the moral and in both
greater than is now found in either; I extremely doubt whether the
faintest surmise of such a Being would have suggested itself to me.
But be that as it may; as to their other cardinal sentiments,--the
nature of my relations to this Being,--his placability; if offended,
--the terms of forgiveness, if any,--whether, as these gentlemen
affirm, he is accessible to all, without any atonement or
mediator;--as to all this, I solemnly declare, that, apart from
external instruction; I cannot by interrogating my racked spirit,
catch even a murmur. That it must be faint, indeed, in other men,
so faint as to render the pretensions of the certitude of the
internal revelation, and its independence of all external revelation,
perfectly preposterous, I infer from this,--that they have, for the
most part, arrived at diametrically opposite conclusions from those
of these interpreters of the spiritual revelation. As to the
articles, indeed; of man's immortality and a future state, it would
be truly difficult for my "spiritual insight" to verify theirs; for,
according to Mr. Parker, his "insight" affirms that man is immortal,
and Mr. Newman's "insight" declares nothing about the matter!

Nor is my consciousness, so far as I can trace it, mine only. This
painful uncertainty has been the confession of multitudes of far
greater minds; they have been so far from contending that we have
naturally a clear utterance on these great questions, that they
have acknowledged the necessity of an external revelation; and
mankind in general, so far from thinking or feeling such light
superfluous, have been constantly gasping after it, and adopted
almost any thing that but bore the name.

What, then, am I to think of this all-sufficient revelation from
within?

There is, indeed, an amusing answer of Mr. Newman's to the difficulty:
but then it formally surrenders the whole argument. He says to those
who say they are unconscious of those facts of spiritual pathology
which he describes in his work on the "Soul," that the consciousness
of the spiritual man is not the less true, that the unspiritual man is
not privy to it; and this most devout gentleman somewhere quotes, with
much unction, the words, "For the spiritual man judgeth all things,
but himself is judged of no man."

"I shall be curious to know," said I, interrupting him, "what you will
reply to that argument?"

Reply to it, said he, eagerly; does it require any reply?--However, I
will read what I have written. Is it not plain, that while Mr. Newman
is professedly anatomizing the spiritual nature of man, as man,--the
functions and revelations of that inward oracle which supersedes and
anticipates all external revelations--he is, in fact, anatomizing his
own? What title has he, when avowedly explaining the phenomena of the
religious faculty which he asserts to be inherent in humanity,--though
how they should need explaining, if his theory be true, I know not,--what
title has he, when men deny that they are conscious of the facts he
describes, to raise refuge in his own private revelations, and that of
the few whose privilege it is to be "born again" by a mysterious law
which he says it is impossible for us to investigate? "We cannot
pretend," he says, "to sound the mystery whence comes the new birth,
in certain souls. To reply, 'The Spirit bloweth where He listeth,'
confesses the mystery, and declines to explain it. But it is evident
that individuals in Greece, in the third century before the Christian
era, were already moving towards an intelligent heart-worship or
had even begun to practise it!" (Soul, p.64)
High time, I think, that after some thousands of years some few
individuals should begin to manifest the phenomena of the universal
revelation from within, if such a thing be!

This is not to delineate the religions nature of humanity, but to
reveal--yes, and to reveal externally--the religious nature of the
elect few,--and few they are indeed,--who, by a mysterious infidel
Calvinism, are permitted to attain, by direct intuition, and
independent of all external revelation, the true sentiments and
experiences of "spiritual insight." It this be Mr. Newman's solution
of our difficulties, it is utterly nugatory. It is not to dissect
the soul, "its sorrows and aspirations"; it is merely to give us
the pathology--perhaps the morbid pathology--of Mr. Newman's soul;
its sorrows and its aspirations. If the answer merely respected the
practical value of a theory of spiritual sentiments, which all
acknowledged, then Mr. Newman's answer might have some force; for
certainly, only he who reduced that theory to practice, or attempted
to do so, would have a right to conclude against the experience of
him who did. But it is obvious that the question affects the theory
itself, and especially the consciousness of those terms of possible
communion with God, those relations of the soul to him, on the
reception of which all the said spiritual experience must depend.

How, then, stands the argument? I ask how I shall know the intimation
of the spiritual faculty, which renders all "external revelation" an
impertinence? I am told, with delicious vagueness, that I must gaze on
the phenomena of spiritual consciousness; I say I exercise earnest and
sincere self-scrutiny, and that I can discern nothing but shadowy forms,
most of which do not answer to those which these new spiritualists
describe; and then Mr. Newman turns round and says, that the unspiritual
nature cannot discern them! What is this but to give up the only
question of any importance to humanity,--which is not what are Mr.
Newman's spiritual phenomena; if they are known to himself, it is
well; he has been very long in discovering them, in spite of the
clearness of the internal revelation;--but what are those of man? In
the former be all, Mr. Newman is safe indeed; he is intrenched in his
own peculiar consciousness, of which I am quite willing to admit
that all other men (as well as I) are inadequate judges. But the
monograph of a solitary enthusiast is of the least possible consequence
to humanity. For reasons similar to those which render us
incompetent to pronounce on his experience, he is incapable of judging
of ours. There is only one other answer that I know of, and that is
the answer which Fellowes made to me the other day, when you were not
by:--"O, but you have the same spiritual consciousness as I have,
only you are not aware of it?" I contented myself with saying, that
I was just as able to comprehend a perception which is not perceived,
as a consciousness which when sought was not to be found. The question
is one of consciousness; you say you have it, I do not deny it; I have
it not. Now, if we are not disputing as to whether it be a
characteristic of humanity, it little matters: if we are, I plainly
have the best of it, because want of uniformity in the phenomenon
is destructive of the hypothesis.

But I proceed to ask my second question. Is the "absolute religion"
of Mr. Parker, or the "spiritual faculty" of Mr. Newman, of such
singular use as to supersede all external revelation, since by the
unfortunate "conceptions" of the one, and the "degraded types" of the
other, it has for ages left man, and does, in fact, now leave him,
to wallow in the lowest depths of the most debasing idolatry and
superstition; since, by the confession of these very writers, the
great bulk of mankind have been and are hideously mal-formed, in
fact, spiritual cripples, and have been left to wander in infinitely
varied paths of error, but always paths of error?--for Judaism and
Christianity, though better forms, are, as well as other forms,
--according to these writers,--full of fables and fancies, of lying
legends and fantastical doctrines. Think for a moment of a "spiritual
faculty," so bright as to anticipate all essential spiritual verities,
--the universal possession of humanity,--which yet terminates in
leaving the said humanity to grovel in every form of error, between
the extremes of Fetichism, which consecrates a bit of stone, and
Pantheism, which consecrates all the bits of stone in the universe, in
fact, a sort of comprehensive Fetichism;--which leaves man to erect
every thing into a God, provided it is none,--sun, moon, stars, a cat,
a monkey, an onion, uncouth idols, sculptured marble; nay, a shapeless
trunk,--which the devout impatience of the idolater does not stay to
fashion into the likeness of a man, but gives it its apotheosis at
once! Think of the venerable, wide-spread empire of the infinite forms
of polytheism, the ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Chinese, and Hindoo
mythologies; and then acknowledge, that, if man has this faculty, it
is either the most idle prerogative ever bestowed on a rational
creature, or that, somehow or other, as the Bible affirms, it has
been denaturalized and disabled. If, on the other hand, man has this
faculty, and yet has never fallen, it can only be because he never
stood; and then, no doubt, as John Bunyan hath it, "He that is down
need fear no fall!"

There is an answer, indeed, but it is one which, in my judgment,
covers those who resort to it with the deepest shame. It is that
which apologizes for all these abominations,--so humiliating and
odious, by representing them as less humiliating and odious than
they are. It is true that Mr. Parker, when it is his cue, is most
eloquent in his denunciations of the infinite miseries and degradation
which have followed the exorbitancies of the religious principle.
Thus he says of superstition (and there are other innumerable
passages to a similar effect), "To dismember the soul, the very
image of God,--to lop off the most sacred affections,--to call Reason
a liar, Conscience a devil's oracle, and cast Love clean out from
the heart,--this is the last triumph of superstition, but one often
witnessed in all the three forms of Religion, Fetichism, Polytheism,
Monotheism; in all ages before Christ, in all ages after Christ." Far
be it from me to deny it, or the similar horrors which he liberally
shows flow from fanaticism. But then, at other times, that quintessence
of all abstractions which all religions alike contain--the "absolute
religion"--imparts such perfume and appetizing relish to the whole
composition, that, like Dominie Sampson in Meg Merrilies's cuisine,
Mr. P. finds the Devil's cookery-book not despicable. The things he
so fearfully describes are but perversions of what is essentially
good. The "forms," the "accidentals," of different religions become
of little consequence; whether it be Jehovah or Jupiter, the infinite
Creator or a divine cat, a holy and gracious God that is loved, or
an impure demon that is feared,--all this is secondary, provided
the principles of faith, simplicity, and earnestness--that is,
blind credulity and idiotic stupidity--inspire the wretched votary;
as if the perversions he deplores and condemns were not the necessary
consequences of such religions themselves, or, rather, as if they
were aught but the religions! In virtue of the "absolute religion,"
"many a savage smeared with human sacrifice," and the Christian
martyr perishing with a prayer for his persecutors, are hastening
together to the celestial banquet. I hope the "savage" will not
go with "unwashen hands," I trust he may be Pharisee enough for
that; I also hope the two will not sit next one another; otherwise
the savage may be tempted to offer up a second sacrifice, and the
Christian martyr be a martyr a second time. Hear him:--"He that
worships truly, by whatever form,"--that is, who is sincere in his
Fetichism, his idolatry, his sacrifices, though they may be human,
--"worships the only God; he hears the prayer, whether called Brahma,
Pan, or Lord, or called by no name at all. Each people has its
prophets and its saints; and many a swarthy Indian who bowed down
to wood and stone,--many a grim-faced Calmuck, who worshipped the
great God of Storms,--many a Grecian peasant who did homage to
Phoebus Apollo when the sun rose or went down,--yes, many a savage,
his hands smeared all over with human sacrifice,--shall come from
the East and the West, and sit down in the kingdom of God, with Moses
and Zoroaster, with Socrates and Jesus." (Discourses, p. 83) The
charity which hopes that men may be forgiven the crime of "religions"
which, if there be a God at all, must be "abominations," one can
understand; but these maudlin apologies for the religions themselves,
--as if they were not themselves crimes, and involved crimes in
their very practice,--I do not understand. According to this, all
that man has to do is to be sincere in any thing, however diabolical,
and it is at once transmuted into a virtue which nothing less than
heaven can reward!

Mr. Newman sometimes follows closely in Mr. Parker's steps in the
exercise of this bastard toleration, this spurious charity; though,
in justice, I must say, he does not go his length. Yet who can read
without laughter that definition of idolatry, made apparently for
the same preposterous purpose,--to sanctify the hideous absurdities
of the "religious sentiment," and to save the credit of the "internal
oracle"? He says,--"To worship as perfect and infinite one whom we
know to be imperfect and finite, this is idolatry, and (in any bad
sense) this alone ...... A man can but adore his own highest ideal;
to forbid this is to forbid all religion to him. If, therefore,
idolatry is to mean any thing wrong and bad, the word must be reserved
for the cases in which a man degrades his ideal by worshipping
something that falls short of it." (Soul, pp. 55, 56)

So that the most degraded idolater, if he but come up to his own
ideal of the Divinity, is none at all, but a respectable worshipper!
It may be; but the idolater's ideal of God is, generally, the reality
of what others call the Devil!--Only think of the divine ideal of a
man who worships an image of his own making, with ten heads and twenty
hands! The definition reminds me of that passage in which Pascal's
Jesuit Father defines the moral sin of "idleness":--"It is," says
he, "a grief that spiritual things should be spiritual, as if
it should be regretted that the sacraments are the source of grace;
and it is a mortal sin." "O Father!" said I, "I cannot imagine that
any one can be idle in such a sense." "So Escobar says, 'I confess
it is very seldom that any person fails into the sin of idleness.'
Now, surely, you must see the necessity of a good definition!"

No, no; few but Mr. Parker will affirm that the various religions
which have overshadowed the world are essentially more one in virtue
of the "absolute religion," than they are different in virtue of
their principles, tendencies, practices, and forms; while in none
--if we except Judaism and Christianity--is there enough of the
"absolute religion" to keep them sweet.

These apologies, odious as they are, are necessary if the credit of
the "spiritual faculty" and the "absolute religion" is to be at
all preserved. But, unhappily, it is not a tone which can be
consistently preserved. Sometimes the religions of mankind are all
tolerable enough, from the presence of the all-consecrating element;
and sometimes, in spite of this great antiseptic, they are represented
as the rotten, putrid things they are! And then another answer, equally
empty with the former, is hinted to save the credit of the darling
oracle. Its due influence has been perverted, its just expansion
prevented, by the influence of national religions, by the
intervention of the "historical" and "traditional," by false and
pernicious education;--these things, it seems, have poisoned the
waters of spiritual life in their source, else they had gushed out
of the hidden fountains of the heart pure as crystal!

Yes, it is too plain; "Bibliolatry" and "Historical Religion," in
some shape,--Vedas, Koran, or Bible,--have been the world's bane.
Had it not been for these, I suppose, we should everywhere have
heard the invariable utterance of "spiritual religion" in the one
dialect of the heart.

It is too certain that the world has found its spiritual "Babel":
the one dialect of the heart is yet to be heard.

But I am not sure that the apologetic vein would not be wiser. For
what is this plea, but to acknowledge that man is so constituted
that the boasted "religious sentiment," the "spiritual faculty,"--if
it exist at all, and is any thing more than an ill-defined tendency,
--instead of being a glorious light which anticipates all external
revelation, and renders it superfluous, is, in fact, about the feeblest
in our nature; which everywhere and always is seduced and debauched
by the most trumpery pretensions of the "historical" and
"traditional"! It is not so with people's eyes; it is not so with
people's appetites; no parental influence or early instruction can
make men think that green is blue, or stones and chalk good for food.
Yet this glorious faculty uniformly yields,--goes into shivers in the
encounter! I, at least, will grant to Mr. Parker all he says of the
pernicious and detestable character of the infinite variety of "false
conceptions of God," and to Mr. Newman all he says of the "degraded
types" of religion; but then it was Man himself that framed all
those "false conceptions," and all those "degraded types." How came
he thus universally to triumph over that divinely implanted faculty
of spiritual discernment, which, if it exist, must be the most
admirable feature of humanity; which these writers tell us anticipates
all external truth, but which, it seems, greedily swallows all
external error? It almost universally submits to the most
contemptible pretensions of a revelation, and acknowledges that it
dares not to pronounce on that, even when false, of which, even
when true, it is to be the sole source! There never was an
"historical" religion, however contemptible, that did not make
its thousands of proselytes. Man has been easily led to embrace
the most absurd systems of mythology and superstition, and is
willing even to go to death for them.

So far from venturing to set up the claims of the internal oracle
in competition, man all but uniformly takes his religion from his
fathers (no matter what), just as he takes his property; only the
former, however worthless, he holds as infinitely the more precious.
Even when he surrenders it, he still surrenders it to some other
"historical" religion: it is to that he turns. Such men as Mr. Newman
and Mr. Parker--though every one can see that their system too has
been derived from without, that it is, in fact, nothing but a
distorted Christianity--may be numbered by units. The vast bulk of
mankind are unresisting victims of the "traditional" and
"historical"; nay, rather eagerly ask for it, and willingly submit
to it. What, then, can I infer, but either, 1st, that this vaunted
internal faculty which supersedes all necessity of an external
revelation is a delusion, and exists only as a vague and imperfect
tendency; or, 2dly, that, as Christians say, it lies in ruins, and
needs that external revelation, the possibility of which is denied;
or, 3dly, that God has somehow made a great mistake in mingling the
various elements of man's composition, and miscalculating the
overmastering power of the "historical" and "traditional "; or,
4thly, that man, having the original faculty still bright and strong,
and that brightness and strength sufficient for his guidance and
support, is more hopelessly, deliberately, and diabolically wicked,
in thus everywhere and always substituting error for truth, and
superstition for religion,--in thus giving the historical and
traditional the uniform ascendency over the moral and
spiritual,--than even the most desperate Calvinist ever ventured
to represent him! Surely he is the most detestable beast that ever
crawled on the face of the earth, and, in a new and more portentous
sense, "loves darkness rather than light." The fact is, that--so
far from having even a suspicion that an external revelation is
useless or impossible--he, as already said, greedily seeks for it,
and devours it.

Nay, so far from its being authenticated by the history, or vouched
by the consciousness of the race, this very proposition--that man
stands in no need of an external revelation--first comes to him,
and rather late too, by an external revelation; even the revelation
of such writers as Mr. Parker and Mr. Newman. The last has been a
student of theology for twenty years, and has only just arrived at
this conviction, that he needed no light, inasmuch as he had plenty
of light "within." Brilliant, surely, it must have been! I can only
say for myself, that I do not, even with such aid, find myself in any
superfluous illumination, and would gladly accept, with Plato, some
divine communication, of which, heathen as he was, he acknowledged the
necessity.

The mode of accounting for man's universal aberrations, from the
tyranny of "Bibliolatry" and superstitious and pernicious "education,"
--seeing that it is a tyranny of man's own imposing,--is exactly
like that by which some theologians seek to elude the argument
of man's depravity; it is owing, they say, to the influence of
a universally depraved education! But whence that universally
depraved education they forget to tell us. Meantime, the inquirer
is apt to put that universal proclivity in the matter of education
to that very depravity for which it is to account.

Similarly, one is apt to infer, from man's tendency to deviate into
any path of religious superstition and folly, that the spiritual
lantern he carries within casts but a feeble light upon hit path.
This plea, therefore, is utterly worthless; for if it were true,
that the influence of tradition and historic association, when
once set up, could thus darken and debauch the natural faculty,
whose specific office it was to convey, like the eye, specific
intelligence, it would not account for the first tendencies of man
to disown its authority in favor of an absurd and uniform submission
to the usurpations of tradition and priestcraft. The faculty is
universally feeble against this influence; it staggers; whether
from weakness or drunkenness little matters, except that the last
is the viler infirmity of the two. If we find a river turbid, it
is of no consequence whether it was so as it issued from its
fountain, or from pollutions which have been infused into its
current lower down,--it is a turbid river still.

On the whole, so far from admitting the principle of Mr. Newman,
that a "book-revelation" of moral and spiritual truth is unnecessary,
I should rather be disposed to infer the very contrary, from the
uncertainty, vacillation, and feebleness of man's spiritual nature.
I should be disposed to infer it, whether I look at the lessons
which experience and history teach, or those taught by my own anxious
and sincere scrutiny of my own consciousness. If it be, on the other
hand, as he says, "impossible," mankind are in a very hopeless
predicament, since it only proves that, the "spiritual insight" of
man having unhappily failed the great majority of our race, it cannot
be supplied by any external aid; that the malady, which is but too
apparent, is also as apparently without a remedy.

For myself, I must say that I find myself hopelessly at issue with
him in virtue of the above axiom, whether I receive or reject his
theory of religious truth; for, if that axiom be true, I must
reject his theory of religion,--since it is nothing but a
book-revelation to me,--issued by Mr. Newman, instead of the Bible
or the Koran. On the other hand, if that theory be true, and I accept
it, his maxim must be false, for the very same reason; since he
himself will have given me a double book-revelation,--a revelation
at once of the theory and of the genesis of religion, both of which
are in many respects absolute novelties to my consciousness.

But further; if we take the genesis of religion as described by
either of these writers, and consider the infinite corruptions to
which they both acknowledge a perverted, imperfect "development" of
the "religious sentiment" and the "spiritual faculty" has led, one
would imagine that an external communication from Heaven might be
both very possible and very useful; useful, if only by cautioning
men against those "false conceptions" which have so uniformly swamped
the "idea," and those "degraded types," into which all the various
principles of  our nature have wheedled the "spiritual faculty."
Only listen to a brief specimen of the "by-path meadows" which
entice the poor soul from the direct course of its development,
and judge whether a communication from Heaven, if it were only to
the extent of a sign-post by the way-side, might not be of use!
First comes "awe." "But even in this early stage," says Mr. Newman,
"numberless deviations take place, and mark especially the rudest
Paganism. We may embrace them under the general name of Fetichism,
which here claims attention ...... But even in the midst of
enlightened science, and highly literate ages, errors fundamentally
identical with those of Fetichism may and do exist, and with the
very same results." (Soul, pp. 7, 10.) Then comes wonder: "But of
this likewise we find numerous degraded types in which the rising
religion is marred ...... Of this we have eminent instances in
the gods of Greece, and in the fairies of the German and Persian
tribes ...... Under the same head will be included the grotesque
devil-stories and other legends of the Middle Ages ...... Yet the
dreadful alternative of gross superstition is this, that the graver
view tends to cruel and horrible rites, while the fanciful and
sportive sucks out the life-blood of devout feeling." (Ibid. pp. 14-16.)
Then comes the sense of beauty: "This was strikingly illustrated in
Greek sculpture. A statue of exquisite beauty, representing some hero,
or an Apollo, because of its beauty, seemed to the Greeks a fit object
of worship ...... An opposite danger is often remarked to accompany
the use of all the fine arts as handmaids to religion; namely, that
the would-be worshipper is so absorbed in mere beauty as never to
rise into devotion." (Ibid. pp. 21, 23.) Then comes the sense of
order; but, alas! Atheism and Pantheism, and other "degrading types,"
may be begotten of it!

As I look at men thus tumbling into error along this wretched
causeway to heaven, I seem to be viewing Addison's bridge of human
life, with its broken arches, at each of which thousands are falling
through. This way to the "celestial city" ought to be called the
"Northwest Passage"; it has one, and only one, trait of your
Christian path: "there will be few that find it."

If, then, by the confession of these writers, the "false conceptions"
and the "degraded types"--the result of what are as truly "principles"
of man's nature as the supposed "spiritual faculty," only that this
last always has the worst in the conflict--have universally, and
for unknown ages, involved man in the darkest abysses of superstition,
crime, and misery, surely external revelation is any thing but
superfluous; and if impossible, so much the worse.

The same truth is even formally evinced by the self-destructive
course which both writers employ; for as the conditions of the
development of our "spiritual nature," when not complied with,
lead to all the deplorable consequences which they acknowledge,
how do they propose to rectify them? Why, by "external"
culture, proper discipline and training, judicious instruction,
by enlightening mankind,--as we may suppose they are doing by these
hopeful books of theirs! If man can do so much by his books, is
it impossible that a book from God might do something more? But
on this I will say nothing, since you tell me that you have heard
attentively the conversation I had with my friend Fellowes the other
day. I will therefore omit what I had written on this point ......

But I proceed to another, maintained by these writers, on which I
confess I am equally sceptical. If they concede (as how can they
help it?) that the "religious sentiment" and the "spiritual faculty"
have somehow left humanity involved in the most deplorable
perplexities and the most humiliating errors, they yet assure us
that there is "a good time coming,"--an auspicious "progress" in
virtue and religion, very gradual indeed, but sure and illimitable
for the race collectively! Yes, "progress," that is 'the word;
and a "progress" for the world at large, of which they speak
as certainly as if they had received, at least on that point,
that external revelation, the possibility of which they deny. A
matter of spiritual "insight" I presume none will declare it to
be, and the data are certainly far too meagre and unsatisfactory
to make it calculation. Is Saul among the prophets? Yes; but, as
usual, the truth (if it be a truth) for which they contend is, as
with other parts of their system, a plagiarism from the abjured
Bible. Now, if I must believe prophecy, I prefer the magnificent
strains of Isaiah to the sentimental prose either of Mr. Parker
or of Mr. Newman.

I must modestly doubt whether, apart from the representations of
the "books" they abjure as special "revelations," there is any
thing in the history of the world which will justly a sober-minded
man in coming to any positive conclusion as to this promised
"progress" this infidel millennium, either the one way or the
other. The chief facts, apart from such special information,
would certainly point the other way. Look at the condition of the
immense majority of the race in every age,--so far as we can gather
any thing from history,--compare it with that of the immense
majority at the present moment;--what does it tell us? Why, surely,
that, if there be a destiny of indefinite "progress" in religion
and virtue for the race collectively, the hand of the great clock
moves so immeasurably slow that it is impossible to note it. The
experience of the individual, nay, of recorded history,--if we
can say there is any such thing,--fails to trace the movement of
the index on the huge dial. If there be this progress for the race
collectively, it must be accomplished in a cycle vast as those of
the geological eras;--a deposit of a millionth of an inch of
knowledge and virtue over the whole race in fifty million years
or so! Mr. Newman is pleased to say, "Some nations sink, while others
rise; but the lower and higher levels are both generally ascending."
Has this level for the whole race been raised perceptibly within the
memory of so-called history?

Observe; I am not denying that the notion may be true: I am
literally the sceptic I profess to be: I know not--apart from special
information from a superhuman source--whether it be true or false. I
am only venturing to laugh at men, who, denying any such information,
affect to speak with any confidence on the solution of this prodigious
problem, the data for solving which I contend we have not: while those
we have, apart from the direct assurance of supposed inspiration,
more plausibly point to an opposite conclusion. The conclusion
which would more naturally suggest itself from the history of the
past would be that of perpetual advance and perpetual retrogression,
contemporaneously going on in different portions of the race,--
perpetual flux and reflux of the waves of knowledge and science
an different shores; though, alas! as to "religion and virtue;" I
fear that these, like the Mediterranean, are almost without their
tides. For a "progress" in the former,--in the race collectively.--far
more plausible arguments can be adduced than for a progress in the
latter; yet how much might be said that appears to militate even
against that. Think of the frequent and signal checks to
civilization; its transference from seat to seat; the decay of races
once celebrated for knowledge and art; the inundations of barbarism
from time to time;--these things alone might make a sober mind
pause before he predicted for the entire race a certain progress
even in art and science. Experience would at most justify a
philosopher in saying. "Perhaps, yes; perhaps no." But the argument
becomes incomparably more doubtful when we come to "religion," and
especially that particular form of it which such writers as Messrs.
Parker and Newman believe will be preeminent and universal; towards
which consummation it does not appear at present that the smallest
conceivable advance has been made; since, with the exception of that
infinitesimal party, of which they are among the chief, the immense
majority of mankind persist in rejecting the sufficiency of the
"internal" oracle, and are still found as strongly convinced as ever
both of the possibility and necessity of an "external" revelation,
and that, in some shape or other, it has been given! Nay, the facts,
so far as we have any, seem all the other way; for no sooner had men
been put approximately in possession of the pure "spiritual truth,"
which both Mr. Newman and Mr. Parker suppose to be characteristic
in larger measure of Judaism and Christianity than of any other
religion, than they busily began the work, not of improvement, but
of corruption. The Jews corrupted their pure monotheistic truths
into what these writers believe the fables, legends, miracles, and
absurd dogmas of the Old Testament: and, as if that were not enough,
proceeded to bury them in the huge absurdities of the Rabbinical
traditions; the Christians, in like manner, corrupted the yet purer
truths, which these writers affirm Christianity teaches, with what
they also affirm to be the load of myth, fiction, false history,
and monstrous doctrine, which make up nine tenths of the New
Testament: and, as if that were not enough, proceeded, just as did
the Jews, to "expand" the New Testament itself into the worse than
Rabbinical traditions of the Papacy! From approximate "spiritual
truth" to the supposed legends and false dogmas of the Pentateuch,
from the supposed legends and dogmas of the Pentateuch to the
absurdities of the Talmud;--again, from the approximate "spiritual
truth" of Christianity to the supposed legends and fanciful doctrines
of the New Testament, and from the legends and doctrines of the New
Testament to the corruptions the Papacy;--surely these are queer
proofs of a tendency to progress! A tendency to retrogradation is
rather indicated. No sooner, it appears, does man proceed to obtain
"spiritual truth" tolerably pure, as tested by such writers, than
he proceeds incontinently to adulterate it! This unhappy and uniform
tendency is also a curious comment on the impotence of the internal
spiritual oracle, as against the ascendency of the "historical"
and "traditional."

Similar arguments of doubt may be derived from other facts.

Over how many countries did primitive Christianity soon degenerate
into such odious idolatry, that even the delusions of the "false
prophet" have been considered (like the doom to "labor") as a sort
of beneficent curse in comparison! What, again, for ages, was the
history of those "Shemitic races," in which, of all "races," was
found, according to Mr. Parker, the happiest "religious organization,"
by which they discovered, earlier than other "races," the great truths
of Monotheism? One incessant bulimia for idolatry was their
master-passion for ages; while for many ages past, as has been remarked
by a countryman of Mr. Parker, their "happy religious organization" has
been in deplorable ruins.

I humbly venture, then, once again, to doubt whether any sober-minded
man, apart from "special inspiration," can affirm that he has any
grounds to utter a word about a "progress" in religion or virtue for
the race collectively. But it is easy to see where these writers
obtained the notion; they have stolen it from that Bible which as a
special revelation they have abjured.

I cannot help remarking here, that it is a most suspicious
circumstance, if there be, indeed, any universal and sufficient
"internal revelation," that these writers find every memorable advance
of what they deem religious truth in unaccountable connection either
with the happy "religious organization of one race," according to
Mr. Parker, or in equally strange connection with the records of
"two books" originating among that race; according to Mr. Newman.
"The Bible," says the latter, "is pervaded by a sentiment which is
implied everywhere, namely, the intimate sympathy of the Pure and
Perfect God with the heart of each faithful worshipper. This is that
which is wanting in Greek philosophers, English Deists, German
Pantheists, and all formalists. This is that which so often edifies
me in Christian writers and speakers, when I ever so much disbelieve
the letter of their sentences." (Phases, p. 188.)

It is unaccountably odd that the universal spiritual faculty should
act thus capriciously, and equally odd that Mr. Newman does not
perceive, that, if it were not for the "Bible," his religion would
no more have assumed the peculiar task it has, than that of Aristotle
or Cicero. Sentiments due to the still active influences of his
Christian education he imputes to the direct intuitions of spiritual
vision, just as we are apt to confound the original and acquired
perceptions of our eyesight. He is in the condition of one who
mistakes a reflected image for the object itself, or a forgotten
suggestion of another for an original idea. In the camera obscura of
his mind, he flatters himself that the colored forms there traced are
the original inscriptions on the walls, forgetful of the little
aperture which has let in the light; and not even disturbed by the
untoward phenomenon, that the ideas thus contemplated are all upside
down.

But, surely, it is natural to ask,--How is it that Greek philosophers,
Hindoo sages, Egyptian priests, English Deists,--that men of all other
religions,--having always had access to the fountain of natural
illumination within, have not also had their "Baxters, Leightons,
Watts, Doddridges"? that the whole style of thought on this subject
is so totally different in them all, by his own confession? If man
possess the "spiritual faculty" attributed to him,--if it be a
characteristic of humanity,--it will be surely generally manifested;
and even if those disturbing causes, which he and Mr. Parker so
plentifully provide, by which the genesis of religion is so
unhappily marred, but which, alas! no revelation from without can
ever counteract--prevent its uniform, or nearly uniform display,
still its principal indications (partial though they may be
everywhere) ought, at least, to be everywhere indifferently
diffused throughout the race. Its manifestation may be sporadic,
but it will be in one race as in another; it will not be suspiciously
confined to one race with a peculiarly felicitous "religious
organization," or to "two books" exclusively originating with that
favored race.

For his "spiritual" illumination, it is easy to see Mr. Newman's
exclusive dependence on that Bible which he abjures as a special
revelation. If it has not been so to mankind, it has, at least, been
so to Mr. Newman. To it he perpetually runs for argument and
illustration. Among those who will accept his infidelity I apprehend
there will be few who will not recoil from his representations of
spiritual experience, so obviously nothing more than a disguised and
mutilated Christianity. They will say, that they do not wish the
"new cloth sewed on to the old garment"; scarcely a soul amongst
them will sympathize with his soul's "sorrows," or share his soul's
"aspirations"!

But, however these things may be, I now proceed to what I acknowledge
is the most weighty topic of my argument; which is to prove that, if
I acquiesce, on Mr. Newman's grounds, in the rejection of the Bible
as a special revelation of God, I am compelled on the very same
principles to go a few steps further, and to express doubts of the
absolutely divine original of the World, and the administration
thereof, just as he does of the divine original of the Bible. If I
concede to Mr. Newman, however we may differ as to the moral and
spiritual faculties of man, that these are yet the sole and ultimate
court of appeal to us; that from our "intuitions" of right and wrong,
of "moral and spiritual, truth," be they more perfect according to him,
or more rudimentary and imperfect according to me, we must form a
judgment of the moral bearings of every presumed external revelation
of God,--I cannot do otherwise than reject much of the revelation of
God in his presumed Works as unworthy of him, just as Mr. Newman
does very much in his supposed Word as equally unworthy of him. Mr.
Newman says, "Only by discerning that God has Virtues, similar in kind
to human Virtues, do we know of his truthfulness and his goodness......
The nature of the case implies, that the human mind is competent to sit
in moral and spiritual judgment on a professed revelation, and to decide
(if the case seem to require it) in the following tone:--'This doctrine
attributes to God that which we should all call harsh, cruel, or unjust
in man: it is therefore intrinsically inadmissible; for if God may be
(what we should call) cruel, he may equally well be (what we should
call) a liar; and, if so, of what use is his word to us?'" (Soul, p. 58)
Similarly Mr. Newman continually affirms that God reveals himself,
when he reveals himself at all, within, and not without; as he says
in his "Phases,"--"Of our moral and spiritual God we know nothing
without,--every thing within. It is in the spirit that we meet him
not in the communications of sense." (p. 52.) If I acquiesce in this
judgment, I must apply the reasoning of the above passage to the
"external revelation" of God in his Works, as well as to that in
his Word; and the above reasoning will be equally valid, merely
substituting one word for the other. We are to decide, if the case
seem to require it, in the following tone:--"These phenomena--this
conduct--implies what we should call in man harsh, or cruel, or
unjust; it is, therefore, intrinsically inadmissible as God's work
or God's conduct."

Acting on his principles, Mr. Newman refuses to "depress" his
conscience (as he says) to the Bible standard. He affirms, that
in many cases the Bible sanctions, and even enjoins, things which
shock his moral sense as flagrantly immoral, and he must therefore
reject them as supposed to be sanctioned by God. He in different
places gives instances;--as the supposed approbation of the
assassination of Sisera by the wife of Heber, the command to Abraham
to sacrifice his son, and the extermination of the Canaanites. Now,
whether the Bible represents God, or not, in all these cases, as
sanctioning the things in question, I shall not be at the pains to
inquire, because I am willing to take it for granted that Mr. Newman's
representation is perfectly correct. I only think that he ought,
in consistency, to have gone a little further. Let him defend, as
in perfect harmony with his "intuitions" of right and wrong, the
undeniably similar instances which occur in the administration of
the universe; or, if it be found impossible to solve those difficulties,
let him acknowledge, either that our supposed essential "intuitions" of
moral rectitude are not to be trusted, as applicable to the Supreme
Being, and that therefore the argument from them against the Bible
is inconclusive; or, that no such being exists; or, lastly, that he
has conferred upon man an intuitive conception of moral equity and
rectitude,--of the just and the unjust,--in most edifying
contradiction to his own character and proceedings!

Here Fellowes broke in:--

"If indeed there be any such instances; but I think Mr. Newman
would reply, that they will be sought for in vain in the 'world,'
however plentiful, as I admit they are, in the Bible."

"I know not whether he would deny them or not," said Harrington;
"but they are found in great abundance in the world notwithstanding,
and this is my difficulty. If Mr. Newman were the creator of the
universe, no question, none of these contradictions between
'intuitions' within, and stubborn 'facts' without, would be found.
He has created a God after his own mind; if he could but have created
a universe also after his own mind, we should doubtless have been
relieved from all our perplexities. But, unhappily, we find in it,
as I imagine, the very things which so startle Mr. Newman in the
Scriptural representations of the divine character and proceedings.
Is he not, like all other infidels, peculiarly scandalized, that God
should have enjoined the extermination of the Canaanites? and yet
does not God do still more startling things every day of our lives,
and which appear less startling only because we are familiar with
them,--at least, if we believe that the elements, pestilence, famine,
in a word, destruction in all its forms, really fulfil his bidding?
Is there any difference in the world between the cases, except that
the terrible phenomena which we find it impossible to account for
are on an infinitely larger scale, and in duration as ancient as the
world? that they have, in fact, been going on for thousands of weary
years, and for aught you or I can tell, and as Mr. Newman seems to
think probable, for millions of years? Does not a pestilence or a
famine send thousands of the guilty and the innocent alike--nay,
thousands of those who know not their right hand from their left--to
one common destruction? Does not God (if you suppose it his doing)
swallow up whole cities by earthquake, or overwhelm them with volcanic
fires? I say, is there any difference between the cases, except that
the victims are very rarely so wicked as the Canaanites are said to
have been, and that God in the one case himself does the very things
which he commissions men to do in the other? Now, if the thing be wrong,
I, for one, shall never think it less wrong to do it one's self than
to do it by proxy."

"But," said Fellowes, rather warmly, for he felt rather restive at
this part of Harrington's discourse, "it is absurd to compare such
sovereign acts of inexplicable will on the part of God with his
command to a being so constituted as man to perform them."

"Absurd be it," said Harrington, "only be so kind as to show it to be
so, instead of saying so. I maintain that the one class of facts are
just as 'inexplicable,' as you call it, as the other, and only appear
otherwise because, in the one case, we daily see them, have become
accustomed to them and, what is more than all, cannot deny them,--which
last we can so promptly do in the other case; for Moses is not here to
contradict us. But I rather think, that a being constituted morally
and intellectually like us, who had never known any but a world of
happiness, would just as promptly deny that God could ever perform
such feats as are daily performed in this world! I repeat, that, if
for some reasons ('inexplicable,' I grant you) God does not mind
doing such things, he is not likely to hesitate to enjoin them; for
reasons perhaps equally inexplicable. I say perhaps; for, as I
compare such an event as the earthquake in Lisbon, or the plague in
London, with the extermination of the Canaanites, I solemnly assure
you that I find a greater difficulty, as far as my 'intuitions' go,
in supposing the former event to have been effected by a divine
agency than the latter. If we take the Scripture history, we must at
least allow that the race thus doomed had long tried the patience
of Heaven by their flagrant impiety and unnatural vices; that they
had become a centre and a source (as we sometimes see collections of
men to be) of moral pestilence, in the vicinage of which it was unsafe
for men to dwell; that, as the Scriptures say (whether truly or falsely,
I do not inquire), they had, filled up the measure of their iniquities.'
Let this be supposed as fictitious as you please, still the whole
proceeding is represented as a solemn judicial one; and supposing the
events to have occurred just as they are narrated, it positively seems
to me much less difficult to suppose them to harmonize with the
character of a just and even beneficent being, than those wholesale
butcheries which have desolated the world, in every hour of its long
history, without any discrimination whatever of innocence or guilty;
which, if they have inflicted unspeakable miseries on the immediate
victims, have produced probably as much or more in the agony of the
myriad myriads of hearts which have bled or broken in unavailing
sorrow over the sufferings they could not relieve. Such things
(I speak now only of what man has not in any sense inflicted) are,
in your view, as undeniably the work of God as is the extermination
of the Canaanites according to the Bible. Why, if God does not mind
doing such things, are we to suppose that he minds on some occasions
ordering them to be done; unless we suppose that man--delicate
creature!--has more refined intuitions of right and wrong, and knows
better what they are, than God himself? Now, Mr. Newman and you
affirm, that to suppose God should have enjoined the destruction of
the Canaanites is a contradiction of our moral intuitions; and that
for this and similar reasons you cannot believe the Bible to be the
word of God. I answer, that the things I have mentioned are in still
more glaring contradiction to such 'intuitions'; than which none
appears to me more clear than this,--that the morally innocent
ought not to suffer; and I therefore doubt whether the above
phenomena are the work of God. I must refuse, on the very same
principle on which Mr. Newman disallows the Bible to be a true
revelation of such a Being, to allow this universe to be so.
In equally glaring inconsistency is the entire administration of
this lower world with what appears to me a first principle of moral
rectitude,--namely, that he who suffers a wrong to be inflicted on
another, when he can prevent it, is responsible for the wrong itself.
The whole world is full of such instances."

"Ay," said Fellowes, eagerly, "we ought to prevent a wrong, provided
we have the right as well as the power to interfere."

"I am supposing that we have the right as well as the power; as, for
example, to prevent a man from murdering his neighbor, or a thief from
entering his dwelling. There are, no doubt, many acts which, from our
very limited right, we should have no business to prevent; as, for
example, to prevent a man from getting tipsy at his own table with his
own wine. But no such limitation can apply to Him who is supposed to
be the Absolute Monarch of the universe; and yet He (according to your
view) notoriously does not interpose to prevent the daily commission of
the most heinous wrongs and cruelties under which the earth has groaned,
and hearts have been breaking, for thousands of years. You will say,
perhaps, that in all such instances we must believe that there are some
reasons for His conduct, though we cannot guess what they are. Ah! my
friend, if you come to believing, you may believe also that the
difficulties involved in the Scriptural representations of the Divine
character and proceedings are susceptible of a similar solution. If you
come to believing, I think the Christian can believe as well as you, and
rather more consistently. But let me proceed."  He then read on.

It is plain, that, in accordance with our primitive "moral intuitions"
(if we have any), we should hold him who had the power to prevent a
wrong, and did not use it, as a participator and accomplice in the
crime he did not prevent. Applying, therefore, the principles of
Mr. Newman, I must refuse to acknowledge such conduct on the part of
the Divine Being, and to say, that such things are not done by him.
If I may trust my whisper of him, derived from analogous moral qualities
in myself, I must believe that an administration which so ruthlessly
permits these things is not his work; but that his power, wisdom, and
goodness have been thwarted, baffled, and overmastered by some
"omnipotent devil," to use Mr. Newman's expression; if it be, then that
whisper of him cannot be trusted: the heathen was right, "Sunt superis
sua jura." In other words, I feel that I must become an Atheist, a
Pantheist, a Manichaean, or--what I am--a sceptic.

All these perplexities are increased when I trace them up to that
profound mystery in which they all originate,--I mean the permission
of physical and moral evil. Either evil could have been prevented or
not; if it could, its immense and horrible prevalence is at war with
the intuition already referred to; if it could not, who shall prove it?
I am no more able to contradict the intuitions of the intellect than
those of the conscience; and if any thing can be called a contradiction
of the former, it is to be told that a Being of infinite power, wisdom,
and beneficence could not construct a world without an immensity of evil
in it; no reason being assignable or even imaginable for such a
proposition, except the fact that such a world has not been created!
I am therefore compelled to doubt, whether such a universe be really
the fabrication of such a Being. It is impossible to express my
astonishment at the ease with which Mr. Newman disposes of the
difficulties connected with the origin and perpetuation of physical
and moral evil. His arguments are just two of the most hackneyed
commonplaces with which metaphysicians have attempted to evade these
stupendous difficulties; and it is not too much to say, that there
never was a man who was not resolved that his theory must stand, who
pretended to attach any importance to them. They are most gratuitously
assumed, and even then are most trivial alleviations; a mere
plaster of brown paper for a deep-seated cancer.

I certainly know of no other man who has stood so unabashed in front
of these awful forms. One almost envies him the truly childlike faith
with which he waves his hand to these Alps, and says, "Be ye removed,
and east into the sea"; but the feeling is exchanged for another, when
he seems to rub his eyes, and exclaim, "Presto, they are gone
sure enough!" while you still feel that you stand far within the
circumference of their awful shadows.

As to physical evil, Mr. Newman tells us, "Here may be sufficient to
remark, that the difficulty on the Epicurean assumption, that physical
case and comfort is the most valuable thing in the universe: but that
is not true even with brutes. There is a certain perfection in the
nature of each, consisting in the full development of all their powers,
to which the existing order manifestly tends ...... As for
susceptibility to pain, it is obviously essential to every part of
corporeal life, and to discuss the question of degree is absurd. On the
other hand, human capacity for sorrow is equally necessary to our
whole moral nature, and sorrow itself is a most essential process
for the perfecting of the soul." (Soul, pp. 43, 44.)

This, then, is the fine balm for all the anguish under which the
world has been groaning for these thousands of years! But, first,
how does suffering tend to the perfection of the whole lower creation?
It enfeebles, and at last destroys them, I know; but I am yet to
Learn that it is essential to the perfection of animal life.
Again, how does it minister to that of man, except he be more than
the insect of the day, of which Mr. Newman's theology leaves him in
utter doubt? And if he be immortal, how does it operate beneficially
except as an instrument of moral improvement? And how rarely
(comparatively) do we see that it has that effect! How often is it
most prolonged and torturing in those who seem least to need it, and
in those who are absolutely as yet incapable of learning from it; or,
alas! are too evidently past learning from it! How often do we
see, slowly sinking under the protracted agonies of consumption,
cancer, or stone, all these various classes of mortals, without our
being able to assign, or even conjecture, the slightest reason for
such experiments! I acknowledge freely, all, at we can give no
reasons for them; but it is to mock miserable humanity to give
such reasons as these; doubly to mock it, if men be the ephemeral
creatures which Mr. Newman's theology leaves in such doubt: since
in that case we see not only (what we see at any rate) that physical
evil does not always, nor even in many instances, produce a salutary
moral effect, but that it hardly matters whether it does or not; for
just as the poor patient may be beginning to be benefited by his
discipline, and generally in consequence of it, he is unluckily
annihilated; he dies of his medicine! Surely, if physical evil be
this grand elixir, never was such a precious balm so improvidently
expended. We may well say, only with much more reason, what the Jews
said of Mary's box of ointment,--"Why was all this waste?" To be
sure it is "given" in abundance "to the poor."

And, at the best, this exquisite reasoning gives no account whatever
of that suffering which falls upon innocent infancy and childhood. It
destroys them, however, and effectually prevents their attaining the
"perfection" which it is so admirable an instrument of developing, and
that too before they can be morally benefited by the "salutary" sorrow
it brings!

"Susceptibility to pain," says Mr. Newman, "is essential to corporeal
being."

Yes, susceptibility to pain; just as a created being must be liable to
annihilation. Must he be annihilated? Just as a hungry stomach must be
liable to starvation. Must it be starved? The primary office of
susceptibilities to pain would seem to be to forewarn us to provide
against it. They certainly have that effect. Does it necessarily
follow that they must involve anguish and death? Unless it be supposed,
indeed, that nature, having provided such an admirable apparatus of
"susceptibilities" of pain, thought it a thousand pities that they
should not be employed.

But when it comes to "moral evil," which Mr. Newman acknowledges cannot
be so lightly disposed of, what then?

Why, then he says, "Let the Gordian knot be cut."

Well, what then? Why, then Mr. Newman frankly "assumes" that it is
"transitory and finite," (Soul, p. 45.) and will one day vanish from
the universe, a supposition for which he condescends to give no reason
whatever.

Stat pro ratione voluntas.

That this "moral evil" should have existed at all, much more to so
immense an extent, under the administration of supposed infinite power,
wisdom, and benevolence, is the great difficulty; that it will ever
cease to be, is a pure assumption for the nonce; but if it will one
day entirely vanish, it is gratuitous to suppose it might not have
been prevented.

I, of course, acknowledge that we can give no answer to the questions
involved in this transcendent mystery,--that our ignorance is absolute;
but I do say, that, if I am to trust to those "intuitions" of the
Divine Goodness, on whose warranty Mr. Newman and Mr. Parker reject
the Bible, as containing what is unworthy of their conceptions of God,
I am compelled to proceed further in the same direction; and repudiate,
as unworthy of Him, not merely some of the phenomena of the Book which
men profess to be His word, but also some of the phenomena of that
universe which men profess to be His work. If I can only judge, as
these gentlemen urge, of such a Being by the analogies of my own
nature, no "intuition" of theirs can possibly seem stronger than do
mine, that beings absolutely innocent ought not to suffer; that to
inflict suffering upon them is injustice; that to permit any evils
which we can prevent is in like manner to be accomplices in the
crime. On those very principles of all moral judgment which Mr. Newman
says are innate and our only rule, I say I am compelled to these
conclusions; for if God does those things which are ordinarily
attributed to Him, He acts as much in contravention of these
intuitions as in any acts attributed to Him in the Bible. If it be
said, that there may be reasons for such apparent violations of
rectitude, which we cannot fathom, I deny it not: but that is to
acknowledge that the supposed maxims derived from the analogies of
our own being are most deceptive as applied to the Supreme; it is to
remit us to an act of absolute faith, by which, with no greater effort,
nor so great, we may be reconciled to similar mysteries of the Bible.
But above all is it to do this, to say that the origin and permission
of physical and moral evil are inexplicable; and it is to double this
demand on faith, to declare that it was all necessary, and could not
be evaded in the construction of the universe even by infinite power,
directed by infinite wisdom, and both animated by an infinite benevolence!
As far as I can trust my reason at all, nothing seems more improbable;
and if I receive it by a transcendent exercise of faith, I may, as
before, give the Bible the benefit of a like act. I am compelled,
therefore, on such principles, either to adopt a Manichaean hypothesis
of the universe, or do what I have done,--adopt none at all.

I was talking to a friend on these subjects the other day: "Ah! but,"
said he, "many of those difficulties you mention oppress every
hypothesis,--Christianity just as much as the rest."

This, I replied, is no answer to me nor to you, if you have a
particle of candor; still less is it one to the Christian, who
consistently applies the same principle of absolute faith to things
apparently a priori incredible, whether found in the works or in the
word of God. But if you think the argument of any force, apply it to
the next Christian you meet, and see what answer he will make to you;
it will not trouble him. But it is far more ridiculous addressed to me.
I ask for something in the place of that Bible of which the faithful
application of your own principles deprives me; and when I affirm that
the difficulties of the universe are no less than those of the Bible I
have surrendered, you tell me that the perplexities of my new position
are no greater than those of the old! That clearly will not do. I must
go further. If I am to yield to pretensions of any kind, I would
infinitely prefer the yoke of the Bible to that of Messrs. Parker and
Newman; for it is to nothing else than their dogmatism I must yield,
if I admit that the difficulties which compel me to doubt in the one
case are less than those which compel me to doubt in the other.

But it is not even true that the difficulties in question are left
where they were by the adoption of any such theory as that of either
Mr. Parker or Mr. Newman. I contend that they are all indefinitely
increased. The Bible does at least give me a plausible account of
some of the mysteries which baffle me: it tells me that man was created
holy and happy; that he has fallen from his "excellent estate"; and
hence the misery, ignorance, and guilt in which he is involved, and
which have rendered revelation necessary.

But--and it brings me to the last step of my argument--if I accept
the theory of the universe propounded by these writers, not only am
I left without any such approximate solutions, or, if that be thought
too strong a term, without any such alleviations, but all the
difficulties as regards the character, attributes, and administration
of God, are increased a thousand-fold. The Scripture account of the
"fall,"--however inexplicable it may be that God should have permitted
it,--yet does expressly assert that, somehow or other, it is man's
fault, not God's; that man is not in his normal condition, nor in the
condition for which he was created. Dark as are the clouds which
envelop the Divine Ruler, "their skirts are tinged with gold,"--pervaded
and penetrated throughout their dusky depths by that mercy which assures
us that, in some intelligible sense, this condition of man is contrary
to the Divine Will, which, from the first, resolved to remedy it; and
that a day is coming when what is mysterious shall be explained,--so
far, at least, that what has been "wrong" shall be "righted." But what
is the theory of the universe propounded by these writers? So hideous
(I solemnly declare it) that I feel ten times more compelled to reject
the universe as a work of an infinitely gracious, wise, and powerful
Creator, than if the difficulties had been simply left where the Bible
leaves them. According to their theory, man is now, just what he was
at first,--as he came from his Creator's hand; or rather in some parts
of the world (thanks to himself though) a little better than he was
originally; that God cast man forth, so constituted by the unhappy
mal-admixture of the elements of his nature,--with such an inevitable
subjection of the "idea" to the "conception," of the "spiritual
faculty" to "the degraded types,"--that for unnumbered ages--for
aught we know, myriads of ages--man has been slowly crawling up,
a very sloth in "progress" (poor beast!), from the lowest Fetichism
to Polytheism,--from Polytheism, in all its infinitude of degrading
forms, to imperfect forms of Monotheism; and how small a portion of
the race have even imperfectly reached this last term, let the
spectacle of the world's religions at the present moment proclaim!
From the more imperfect forms of Monotheism, the race is gradually
to make "progress" to something else,--Heaven knows what! but
certainly something still far below the horizon,--still concealed in
the illimitable future. For this gradual transformation from the
veriest religions grub into the spiritual Psyche, man was expressly
equipped by the constitution of his nature,--he was created this
grub. For all this truly geological spiritualism, and for all the
infinitude of hideous superstitions and cruel wrongs involved in the
course of this precious development, Mr. Parker tells us there was a
necessity,--nothing less! It was necessary, no doubt for his logic,
that he should say so; but, apart from his own argumentative exigencies,
it is impossible even to imagine any necessity whatever. It was an
"ordeal," it seems, through which man was obliged to pass. What is all
this, but to acknowledge the unaccountable nature of the problem?

With this "religious" theory admirably coincides the hypothesis of
man's having been originally created a savage, from which he was
gradually exalted to the lowest stages of civilization,--a theory
which I thought had (in mere shame) been abandoned to some few Deists
of the last century, or the commencement of this. It is true that these
writers do not expressly indorse it; but it is easy to see that they
favor it; and it is most certain that it alone is consistent with their
parallel theory of man's "religious development" from the vilest
Fetichism to (shall we say?) a mythical Christianity; though even
to that very few have yet arrived. According to this theory, the
Great Father--supposed a being of infinite power, wisdom, and
Goodness--threw his miserable offering on the face of the earth,
with an admirable "absolute religion," no doubt, and an "admirable
spiritual faculty," but the "idea" so inevitably subject to
thwarting "conceptions," and the "spiritual faculty" so perpetually
debauched by "awe and reverence," and the whole rabble of emotions
and affections with which it was to keep company,--in fact, with
the elements of his nature originally so ill poised and compounded,
--that everywhere and for unnumbered ages man has been doomed and
necessitated, and for unnumbered ages will be doomed and necessitated,
to wallow in the most hideous, degrading, cruel forms of superstition,
--inflicting and suffering reciprocally all the dreadful evils and
wrongs which are entailed by them. For this man was created; such a
thing he was,--through this "ordeal" he passes,--by original
destination. If this be the picture of the Father of All, he is less
kind to his off-spring than the most intimate "intuitions" teach
them to be to theirs. The voice of nature teaches them not to expose
their children; the Universal Father, according to this theory,
remorselessly exposed his! Such a God, projected by the "spiritual
faculties" of Mr. Newman and Mr. Parker, may be imagined to be a more
worthy object of worship than the "God of the Bible": he shall never
receive mine. If I am to abjure the Bible because it gives me
unworthy conceptions of the Deity, I must, with more reason, abjure,
on similar grounds, such a detestable theory of man's creation,
destination, and history.

As to that "progress" which is promised for the future, it is like
the necessity for the past, purely an invention of Mr. Parker; if I
receive it, I must receive it simply as matter of prophecy. If the
necessity has continued so long, then, for aught I know, it may
continue for ever; the evil is all too certain,--the bright futurity
is still a futurity. But if it ever became a reality, it would not
neutralize one of the dark imputations which such a theory of the
original destination and creation of man casts on the Divine
character; not to say, that, if Mr. Newman's doubts of man's
immortality be well founded, that better future will be of no
more avail to the myriads of our race who have suffered under the
long iron regime of necessity, than a reprieve to the wretch who
was executed yesterday!

I told Harrington I must have a copy of the paper he had just read.
I should like, with his leave, to publish it.

"O, and welcome," said he. "Only remember that its tendency is to show
that there is no tenable resting place between a revealed religion
and none at all; between the Bible and scepticism. If you make men
sceptics,--mind, it is not my fault."

"I will take the risk," said I. "I wish the controversy to be brought
to the issue you have mentioned. I know there will never be many
sceptics, any more than there will be many atheists; and if men are
convinced that the Via Media is as hard to find as you suppose,--or
as that between Romanism and Protestantism,--they will take refuge in
the BIBLE. And if it be the BOOK OF GOD indeed, this is the issue
to which the great controversy will and ought to come. But how is it
you were not tempted to become an atheist rather than a sceptic?"

"Why," said he, with a smile, "the great master of the Modern
Academy had fortified me against that. Hume, you know, confesses
that, if men be discovered without any impression of a Deity,--genuine
atheists,--we may assume that they will be found the most degraded
of the species, and only one remove above the brutes. Now I have no
wish to be set down in that category."

"Very different." said I, "is the account our modern atheists give
of themselves: they are contending that the banishment of God from
the universe, by one or other of the various theories of Atheism or
Pantheism (which I take to be the same thing, with different names),
is the tendency of all modern science? and that when that science
is perfect, God will be no more."

"My dear uncle," replied Harrington, "you are insufficiently informed
in the mystery of modern theology. There are no atheists, properly
speaking; they who are so called merely deny any personal, conscious,
intelligent sovereign of the universe. Even those who call themselves
so, and will have it that they are so, are told that they are none. I
myself have perused statements of some of our modern 'spiritualists,'
who know every thing, even other people's consciousness quite as
well as their own (and perhaps better), that the said atheists are
mistaken in thinking themselves such; that such genuine love of the
spirit of universal nature is something truly divine, and that they
are animated by 'a deeply religious spirit,' though they never
suspected it!"

"Well," said I. "if you had too much reason, as you flattered yourself
(adopting Hume's criterion), to become an atheist, could you not have
adopted such views as those of Mr. G. Atkinson and Miss Martineau, who
both possess surely (as they claim to possess) that 'religious reverence'
of nature of which you have just spoken?"

"Why," he replied, "I am afraid that, if I had too much reason for
the one, I have not faith enough for the other. That the miracles and
prophecies of the Bible may possibly have been true,--only the effect
of mesmerism;--that things quite as wonderful, or more so, happen
every day by this wonderful agent;--that every phenomenon that takes
place does so in virtue a perfectly wise LAW, without any wise
LAWGIVER;--that this wise law has, it seems, prearranged that man
should generally exhibit an inveterate tendency to religious systems
of some kind, though all religions are absurd, and persist in believing
in his free will, though free from a downright impossibility;--that
these contradictions and absurdities of man are the result of an
irreversible necessity, and yet that Mr. Atkinson may hope to correct
them;--that, by the same necessity, man is in no degree culpable or
responsible, and yet that Mr. Atkinson may perpetually blame him;
--that no man can do any thing 'wrong,' and yet that till he believes
that, man will never cease to do it;--that people may read without
their eyes, and distinguish colors as colors though they are born
blind;--that Bacon was an atheist, and that this may be proved by
induction from his own writings;--these and other paradoxes, which
I must believe, if I believe Mr. Atkinson, require a faith which it
would really be unreasonable to expect from such a sceptic as I am."

____


July 18. Till three days ago, nothing since my last date has
occurred having any special relation to the sole object of this
journal. I was glad to escape on the 13th to a quiet church some
miles off; and, after a plain and simple, but earnest, sermon from
a venerable clergyman (of whom I should like to know a little more),
I further refreshed my spirit by a long and solitary ramble of
some hours through the beautiful scenery in the midst of which
Harrington's dwelling is situated. In the course of it, I reviewed
my own early conflicts, and augured from them happier days for
my beloved nephew. I went carefully over all the main points of the
argument for and against the truth of Christianity, which in youth
had so often occupied me, and resolved that on some fair opportunity
I would recount my story to him and Mr. Fellowes. I little thought
then that I should have a larger and very miscellaneous audience to
listen to me. But this will account for my not being to seek (as
they say) when the occasion presented itself.

Three days ago (the 16th) a queer company assembled in Harrington's
quiet house. The conversations and incidents connected with that day
have led me to take refuge for the last two mornings in the solitude
of my own chamber, that I might, undisturbed, recall and record them
with as much accuracy and fulness as possible. Very much, indeed,
that I wished to remember has vanished; but the substance of what
too many said, as well as what I said myself made too deep an
impression to be easily obliterated.

Be it known to you, my dear brother, that I have been not a little
amused, I may even say instructed, by a trick played by your madcap
nephew, for the honor and glory, I suppose, of his scepticism, or for
some other motive, not easily divined. He promised me significantly
an entertainment, in which I should enjoy the "feast of reason and
the flow of soul," by which I little thought that he was going to
collect a rare party of "Rationalists" and "Spiritualists," in fact,
representatives of all the more prominent forms, whether of belief
or unbelief. I may as well call it the

SCEPTIC'S SELECT PARTY.

You remember, I doubt not, the humorous paper in the Spectator, in
which Addison introduces the whimsical nobleman who used to invite to
his table parties of men (strangers to one another) all characterized
by some similar personal defect or infirmity. On one occasion, twelve
wooden-legged men found stumping into his dining-room, one after
another, making, of course, a terrible clatter; on another, twelve
guests, who all had the misfortune to squint, amused their host with
their ludicrous cross lights; and on a third, the same number of
stutterers entertained him still more, not only by their uncouth
impediment, but by the anger with which they began to sputter at
one another, on the supposition that each was mocking his neighbor.
A short-hand writer, behind the scenes, was employed to take down
the conversation, which, says the witty essayist, was easily done,
inasmuch as one of the gentlemen was a quarter of an hour in saying
"that the ducks and green peas were very good," and another almost
an equal time in assenting to it. At the conclusion, however, the
derided guests became aware of the trick their entertainer had played
upon them; and from their hands, quicker than their tongues, he was
obliged to make a precipitate retreat. Our dinner-party of yesterday
did not break up in any such fracas, nor was the conversation so
unhappily restricted. Yet the company was hardly better assorted. To
bring it together, Harrington ransacked his immediate circle, and
Fellowes unconsciously recruited for him in the university town. Our
host had provided for our mutual edification an Italian gentleman,
with whom he had had some pleasant intercourse on the Continent, (by
the way he spoke English uncommonly well,) and now staying with a
Roman Catholic in the neighborhood: this gentleman himself, with
whom Harrington, by means of his former friend, has knocked up an
acquaintance (he is a liberal Catholic of the true British species);
our acquaintance, Fellowes, with his love of "insight" and
"spiritualism"! a young surgeon from ----., a rare, perhaps unique,
specimen of conversion to certain crude atheistical speculations of
Mr. Atkinson and Miss Martineau; a young Englishman (an acquaintance
of Harrington's) just fresh from Germany, after sundry semesters
at Bonn and Tubingen, five hundred fathoms deep in German philosophy,
and who hardly came once to the surface during the whole entertainment;
three Rationalists (acquaintances of Fellowes), standing at somewhat
different points in the spiritual thermometer, one a devoted advocate
of Strauss: add to these a Deist, no unworthy representative of the
old English school; one or two others further gone still; a Roman
Catholic priest, an admirer of Father Newman, who therefore believes
every thing; our sceptical friend Harrington, who believes nothing;
and myself, still fool enough to believe the Bible to be "divine,"
--and you will acknowledge that a more curious party never sat
down to edify one another with their absurdities and contradictions.

Questionable as was the entertainment for the mind, that for the body
was unexceptionable. The dinner was excellent; our host performed his
duties with admirable tact and grace; and somehow speedily put
every body at his ease. Relieved, according to the judicious modern
mode, of the care of supplying the plates of his guests, he had eye,
ear, and tongue for every one, and leisure to direct the conversation
into what channel he pleased. He took care to turn it for some time on
indifferent topics; and each man lost his reserve and his frigidity
almost before he was aware; so that, by the time dinner was fairly
over, every one was ready for animated conversation. If any one began
to have queer suspicions of his neighbors, he felt, as on board ship,
that he was in for it, and bound, by common politeness, to make the
best of it. The Deist, addressing himself to the Italian gentleman,
asked him if he had heard lately from Italy. He replied in the
negative.

"I can tell you some news, then," said he. "They say that the head
of the illustrious Guicciardini family has been just imprisoned at
Florence, having been detected reading in Diodati's Bible a chapter
in the Gospel of St. John. Supposing the fact true, for a moment,
may I ask if it would be the wish of the Roman Catholic Church, were
she to regain her power in England, to imprison every one who was
found reading a chapter in John? If so, England would have to enlarge
her prisons."

"Not much," said one of the Rationalist gentlemen, laughing; "for if
things go on as they have done, there will not, in a few years, be
many who will be found reading a chapter in John."

"Perhaps so," said Harrington, smiling, "but, if for the reason
you would assign, few will be found in church either; and the
ecclesiastical authorities might perhaps put you in prison for
that instead."

"O, I will answer for him!" said the Deist, who knew something of
his plasticity; "our friend is very accommodating, and though he
would not like to go to go to church, he would still less like to
go to prison. And to church he would go; and look very devout into
the bargain. But, however, I should like to hear what your Italian
guest has to say to my question."

The impatience of the English Catholic could not be repressed.

"If," said he, "the Roman Catholic religion were to regain its
ascendency to-morrow, it would leave our entire code of laws,
liberties, and privileges just as it found them; it is one of the
many calumnies with which our Church is continually treated, to say
that she would act otherwise: and were it not so, I would
immediately desert her."

The Catholic priest did not look well pleased with this frank avowal.

"I quite believe you," said our host. "I believe you are too much of
an Englishman to say or to act otherwise."

"So do I," said the Deist; "I moreover agree with you, that, if the
Roman Catholic religion were to regain her ascendency to-morrow, she
would leave all our privileges intact; but would she the next day,
and the day after that? In other words, is it an essential principle
with her to persecute,--as in this instance, to imprison for peeping
between the leaves of the Bible,--or is it not? Do you think, Signor,
that in such acts the principles of your Church are complied with
or violated?"

The Italian gentleman looked perplexed; he presumed that the Catholic
Church complied with the actual laws of every country; and if such
Country chose to deny religious liberty, the Church did not deem
it requisite to declare opposition.

"I fear that is no answer to my question," cried the other, a little
cavalierly. "It cannot serve you, Signor. It would not, indeed, serve
you anywhere for we know the anxiety with which Rome has expressly
secured, in her recent concordat with Spain, the recognition of the
most intolerant maxims. But least can it serve you in the Papal
States, where, unluckily for your observation, the Pope is monarch.
Your remark would imply that your Church favored the principles of
religious liberty rather than otherwise, but did not deem it right
to oppose the will of civil governments. Are we to understand by that,
that the chief of the Papal States abhors as a Pope what he does as
a sovereign? that in the one capacity he protests against what he
allows in the other? No, no," continued this brusque assailant, "It is
too late to talk in that way. If the Church of Rome really approve
of religious liberty,--of such principles as those which govern
England,--where are her protests and her efforts against intolerance
and persecution where she still retains power? It is the least that
humanity can expect of her. If not, let her plainly say that, when
she regains power in England, she will reform us to the condition
of Spain and Italy in this matter. For my part, I frankly
acknowledge, that I have more respect for a Roman Catholic who
proclaims that it is inconsistent for his Church to tolerate where
it has the power to repress, because I see that that is her uniform
practice, and therefore ought to be her avowed maxim."

The Roman Catholic priest, who is a devoted admirer of Father Newman,
said that he thought so too; and quoted some candid recent admissions
to that effect from certain English Roman Catholic periodicals.
"To employ," said he, "the very words of a recent convert to us
from the Anglican Church, 'The Church of Rome may say, I cannot
tolerate you; it is inconsistent with my principles; but you can
tolerate me, for it is not inconsistent with yours."

The Deist remarked that it was straightforward; that he admired it.
"Though as an argument," said he, "it is much as if a robber should
say to an honest man on the king's highway, 'How advantageously I
am situated! You cannot rob me, for it is inconsistent with your
principles; but I can rob you, for I have none.'"

Another of the company observed that he feared it was in vain for
the Church of Rome to contend that she was favorable to freedom of
opinion, in any degree or form, so long as the "Index Expurgatorius"
was in existence, or such stringent means adopted to repress the
circulation and perusal of the Scriptures.

The liberal English Catholic again chafed at this last indictment.
"It was," he said, "another of the calumnies with which his Church
was treated."

"Hardly a calumny, my good sir," replied the other, "in the face of
such facts as that which gave rise to the present conversation, of
the encyclical letters of Pius VII., Leo XII., Gregory XVI., and
many other Popes, and the well-known fact that it is impossible
to obtain in Rome itself a copy of the Scriptures, except at an
enormous price, and even then it must be read by special license.
Pardon me," he continued, still addressing the English Catholic,
"I mean nothing offensive to you; but neither I nor any other English
Protestant can consent to admit you sincerely liberal English Roman
Catholics to be in a condition to give us the requisite information
touching the maxims and principles of your Church. You have been too
long accustomed to enjoy and revere religious liberty, not to imagine
your Church sympathizes with it; you do not realize what she is abroad;
and if you be sincere in condemning such acts as that which led to
this conversation, as inconsistent with her genuine principles, why
the ominous silence of you and your co-religionists in all such cases?
Where are your protests and efforts? How is it you do not denounce
maxims and practices so rife throughout Papal Christendom, since you
say you would denounce them, if it were attempted to realize them here?
When you protest with one voice against these things as inconsistent
(so you say) with the principles of your Church, and as therefore
deeply dishonoring her,--whether your views on this point be right
or wrong,--we shall at least admit you to have a title to give us an
opinion on the subject."

"Even then, though," said the Deist, "we may think it safer to consult
the opinions, and, what is the practices, of the vast majority of
the Roman Catholic Church, and her conduct in the countries in which
she holds undisputed sway, and therefore I am anxious to hear whether
the Signor would justify imprisonment for reading the Bible."

Our host seemed to think that the conversation proceeded in this
direction quite far enough; and his foreign guest should be made
uncomfortable by these close inquiries, observed, sarcastically,
that he was glad to find that the querists were so anxious to
secure the inestimable privilege of freely reading Scriptures. "It
is the more admirable," said he to last speaker, "as I am aware it
is most disinterested; you having too little value for the Scriptures
to read them yourself. Sic vos non vobis: you labor for others.
You remind me of the colloquy in the 'Citizen of the World,' between
the debtor in jail and the soldier outside his prison window. They
were discussing, you recollect, the chances of a French invasion.
'For my part,' cries the prisoner, 'the greatest of my apprehensions
is for our freedom; if the French should conquer, what would become
of English liberty? 'It is not so much our liberties,' says the
soldier, with a profane oath, 'as our religion, that would suffer
by such a change; ay, our religion, my lads!'"

The company laughed, and the assailants forgot the former topics. Our
host went on further to encourage his foreign guest, though in a
left-handed way, with a gravity which, if I had not known him, would
not only have staggered, but even imposed upon me.

"For my part," said he, "my good Sir, if I were you, I should not
hesitate to acknowledge at once that it is not only the true policy,
but the solemn duty, of the Church of Rome to seclude as much as
possible the Scriptures from the people." The gentleman looked
gratified, and the guests were all attention. "In my judgment much
more can be said on behalf of the practice than at first appears; and
if I sincerely believed all you do, I should certainly advocate the
most stringent measures of repression."

The foreigner began to look quite at his ease. "For example," continued
Harrington, in a very quiet tone, "supposing I believed, as you do,
that the Holy Virgin is entitled to all the honors which you pay her,
so that, as is well known, in Italy and other countries, she even
eclipses her Son, and is more eagerly and fondly worshipped,--it
would be impossible for me to peruse the meagre accounts given in
the New Testament of this so prominent an object of Catholic
reverence and worship,--to read the brief, frigid, not to say harsh
speeches of Christ,--to contemplate the stolidity of the Apostles with
regard to her, throughout their Epistles,--never even mentioning her
name,--I say it would be impossible for me to read all this without
having the idea suggested that it was never intended that I should
pay her such homage as you demand for her, or without feeling
suspicious that the New Testament disowned it and knew nothing of it."

"Very true," said the Italian: "I must say that I have often felt that
there is such a danger to myself."

"Similarly, what a shock would it perpetually be to my deep reverence
for the spiritual head of the Church, and my conviction of his
undoubted inheritance, from the Prince of the Apostles, of his
august prerogatives, to find no trace of such a personage as the
Pope in the sacred page,--the title of 'Bishop of Rome' never
whispered,--no hint given that Peter was ever even there! I really
think it would be impossible to read the book without feeling my
flesh creep and my heart full of doubt. Similarly, take that single
mystery of 'transubstantiation'; though it seems sufficiently
asserted in one text, which therefore it well (as is, indeed, the
practice with every pious Catholic) continually to quote alone, yet,
when I look into other portions of the New Testament, I see how
perpetually Christ is employing metaphors equally strong, without
any such mystery being attached to them. I cannot but feel that I
and every other vulgar reader would be sure to be exposed to the
peril of suspecting that in that single case a metaphorical meaning
much more probable than so great a mystery."

"You reason fairly, my dear Sir," said the Italian.

"Again," continued Harrington, blandly bowing to the compliment,
"believing, as I should, in the efficacy of the intercessions of
the saints, in the worship of images, in seven sacraments, in
indulgences, and necessity of observing a ritual incomparably more
elaborate than an undeveloped Christianity admitted, how very, very
apt I should be to misinterpret many passages, both in the Old
Testament and the New! How is it possible that the vulgar reader
should be able to limit the command not to bow down 'to any graven
image' to its true meaning,--that is, 'to any image' except those
of the Virgin and all the saints; to interpret aright the passages
which speak so absolutely about the one Mediator and Intercessor,
when there are thousands! How will he be necessarily startled to
find 'seven' sacraments grown out of 'two'! How will he be shocked
at the apparent--of course only apparent--contempt with which
St. Paul speaks of ritual and ceremonial matters, of the futility of
'fasts' and distinctions of 'meats and drinks,' of observing 'days
and months and years.' and so on. His whole language, I contend,
would necessarily mislead the simple into heresies innumerable. Of
numberless texts, again, even if the meaning were not mistaken, the
true meaning would never be discovered unless the Church had
declared it. Who, for example, would have supposed that the doctrine
of the Pope's supremacy and universal jurisdiction lay hid under
expressions such as 'I say unto thee that thou art Peter,' and
'Feed my sheep'; or that the two swords of the Prince of the
Apostles meant the temporal and spiritual authority with which
he was invested? Under such circumstances, I must say, that, if I
were a devout Catholic, I should plead for the absolute suppression
of a book so infinitely likely--nay, so necessarily certain--to
mislead."

"It is precisely on that ground," said the Italian, "and on that
ground only, the welfare of the Church, that our Holy Mother does
not approve of the Bible being read generally. The true theory of
the Roman Catholic Church would never be elicited from it."

"Precisely so," said our host, gravely; "I am sure it could not."

"But then," remarked our friend, the Deist, "since the Church of
Rome holds this book to be the inspired revelation of God to mankind,
is it not singular to say that this 'revelation' requires to be
carefully concealed from mankind; that the Bible is invaluable,
indeed, but only while it is unread; and that, in fact, the Church
knows herself better than Jesus Christ himself did? for in that
book we are supposed to have the words of Him and her founders,
and yet it seems they could only mislead! 'Never man spake like this
man,' may well be said of Christ, if this were true."

"Never mind him, Signor," said our host. "He secretly cannot but
approve of your end, though he disapproves the means." The Deist
looked surprised.

"Why, have you not sometimes said that you believe the Bible to be,
in many respects, a most pernicious book? that many of the most
obstinate and dangerous prejudices of mankind are principally
due to it? and that you wish it were in your power to destroy it?"

"Well, I certainly have thought so, if not said so."

"Then you approve of the end, though you disapprove of the means.
You ought to thank our friend here, and regret that his work is not
done more effectually. But enough of this. I must not have my
respected Roman Catholic guests alone put on the defensive. The
Signor fairly tells us what his system is in relation to the Bible
and why he would place it under lock and key; he tells you also what
better thing he substitutes when he removes the Bible. I really think
it is but fair and candid in you to do as much. I know you all
believe that you are not only in quest of religious truth, but have
found it to some extent or other:--for my own part I am exempted
from speaking; for I have given over the search in despair."

This frank acknowledgment was followed by some highly curious
conversation, of which I regret my inability to recall all the
particulars. Suffice it to say, that there were not two who were
agreed either as to the grounds on which Christianity was deemed a
thing of naught, or on what was to be substituted in its place; one
even had his doubts whether any thing need be substituted, and
another thought that any thing might be. One of the Rationalists was
a little offended at being supposed willing to "abandon" the Bible
at all: he declared, on the contrary, his unfeigned reverence for
the New Testament at least, as containing, in larger mass and purer
ore than any other book in the world, the principles of ethical truth;
that he was willing even to admit--with exquisite naivete--that it
was inspired in the same sense in which Plato's Dialogues and the Koran
were inspired; he merely dispensed with all that was supernatural and
miraculous and mystical! The Deist laughed, and told him that he
believed just as much, if that constituted a Christian. "I believe,"
said he, "that the New Testament is quite as much inspired as the
Koran of Mahomet; and that it contains more of ethical truth (however
it came there) than is to be found in any other book of equal bulk.
But," he proceeded, "if you dispense with all that is miraculous in
the facts, and all that is peculiar and characteristic in the
doctrines,--that is, all which discriminates Christianity from any
other religion,--I am afraid that your Christianity is own born
brother to my Infidelity. As for your reverence for this inspired
book, since you must reject ninety per cent. of the whole, it seems
to me very gratuitous; equally so, whether you suppose the compilers
believed or disbelieved the facts and doctrines you reject; if the
former, and they were deceived, they must have been inspired
idiots; if the latter, and were deceiving others, they were surely
inspired knaves. For my part," he continued, "while I hold that the
book somehow does unaccountably contain more of the morally true
and beautiful than any book of equal extent, I also hold that
Christianity itself is a pure imposture from beginning to end."

This coarse avowal of adherence to the elder, and, after all, more
intelligible deism, brought down upon him at once two of the company.
One was the disciple of Strauss (I mean as regards his theory of the
origin of Christianity, not as regards his Pantheism); the other a
Rationalist, with about the same small tatters of Christianity
fluttering about him, but who was a little disposed, like so many
German theologians, to consider Strauss as somewhat passe. Unhappily,
got athwart each other's bows shortly after they into action. They
both enlarged--really in a edifying manner, I could have listened
to them an hour--on the absurdity of the Deist's argument! "What!"
cried one; "the purest system of ethics from the most shameless
impostors!" "And what do you make of the infinitely varied and
inimitable marks of simplicity and honesty in the writers?" cried
the other. "And who does not see the impossibility of getting up the
miracles so as to impose upon a world of bitter and prejudiced enemies
in open day?" exclaimed the Rationalist. "They were obviously mere
myths," cried the Straussian. "That I must beg to doubt," said the
other. And now, as they proceeded to give each his own solution of
the difficulty, the scene became comic in the extreme. The Rationalist
ridiculed the notion that nations and races, all of whom, in the nature
of things, must have been prejudiced against such myths as those of
Christianity, could originate or would believe them; and still more,
the notion that in so short a space of time these wildest of wild
legends (if legends at all) could induce the world to acquiesce
in them as historic realities! In his zeal he even said, that,
though not altogether satisfied with it, he would sooner believe
all the frigid glosses by which the school of Paulus had endeavored
to resolve the miracles into misunderstood "natural phenomena." As
the dispute became more animated between these three champions, they
exhibited a delicate trait of human nature, which I saw our sceptical
host most maliciously enjoyed. Each became more anxious to prove that
his mode of proving Christianity false was the true mode, than to
prove the falsehood of Christianity itself. "I tell you what," said
the Straussian, with some warmth, "sooner than believe all the
absurdities of such an hypothesis as that of Paulus, I could believe
Christianity to be what it professes to be." "I may say the same of
that of Strauss," said the other, with equal asperity; "if I had no
better escape than his, I could say to him, as Agippa to Paul, 'Almost
thou persuadest me to be a Christian.'" "For my part," exclaimed the
Deist, who was perfectly contented with his brief solution,--the
difficulties of the problem he had never had the patience to master,
--"I should rather say, as Festus to Paul, 'Much learning has made
you both mad': and sooner than believe the impossibilities of the
theory of either,--sooner than suppose men honestly and guilelessly
to have misled the world by a book which you and I admit to be a
tissue of fables, legends, and mystical non-sense,--I could almost
find it in my heart to go over to the Pope himself."

"Good," whispered our host to me, who sat at his left hand; "we shall
have them all becoming Christians, by and by, just to spite one
another." The admirer of Mr. Atkinson and Miss Martineau here
reminded the company that the miracles of the New Testament might be
true,--only the result of mesmerism. "Christ," said he, "to employ
the words of Mr. Atkinson, was constitutionally a clairvoyant .....
Prophecy and miracle and inspiration are the effects of abnormal
conditions of man ..... Prophecy, clairvoyance, healing by touch,
visions, dreams, revelations, .... are now known to be simple
matters in nature, which may be induced at will, and experimented
upon at our firesides, here in England (climate and other
circumstances permitting), as well as in the Holy Land."* But no
one seemed prepared to receive this hypothesis. At last, our host,
addressing the Deist, said, "But you forget, Mr. M., that, though
you find it insurmountably difficult to conceive a book full of
lies (as you express it) to have been, consciously or unconsciously,
the product of honest and guileless minds, you ought to find it a
little difficult to conceive a book (as you admit the New Testament
to be) of profound moral worth produced by shameless impostors. But
let that pass. Let us assume that Christianity, as a supernaturally
revealed and miraculously authenticated system, is false, though you
are dolefully at variance as to how it is to be proved so; let us
assume, I say, that this system is false, and dismiss it. I am much
more anxious to hear what is the positive system of religious truth,
which you are of course each persuaded is the true one. I have left
off to seek,' but if any one will find the truth for me without my
'seeking' it, how rejoiced shall I be!"

---
* He cited the substance of these sentiments. I have since referred
to, and here quote, the ipsissima verba. See "Letters," &c.,
pp. 175, 212.
---

Painful as were the "revelations" which ensued, I would not have
missed them on any account. "In vino veritas," says the proverb
which on this occasion lied most vilely; yet it was true in the
only sense in which "veritas" is there used; for there was unbounded
candor and frankness, under the inspiring hospitality of our host,
aided by his skilful management of the conversation. Nor was there,
I am bound to say, much of coarse ribaldry, even from the free-spoken
representative of the Tindals and Woolstons of other days. But the
varieties of judgment and opinion in that small company were almost
numberless. Fellowes, and two of the Rationalists, were firm believers
in the theory of "insight"; that the human spirit derives, by immediate
intuition from the "depths" of its consciousness, a "revelation of
religious and spiritual truth." They differed, however, as to several
articles; but especially as to the little point, whether the fact
of man's future existence was amongst the intimations of man's
religious nature; one contending that it was, another that it was
not, and Fellowes, as usual, with several more of the company,
declaring that their consciousness told them nothing about the
matter either way. But when some one further declared, amidst these
very disputes, that this internal revelation was so clear and plain
as not only to anticipate and supersede any "external" revelation,
but to render it "impossible" to be given, our host suddenly broke
out into a fit of laughter. The disputants were silent, and every
one looked to him for an explanation. He seemed to feel that it was
due, and, after apologizing for his rudeness, said, that, while
some of them were asserting man's clear internal revelation, he
could not help thinking of the whimsical contrast presented by the
diversified speculations and opinions of even this little party,
and the infinitely more whimsical contrast presented by the gross
delusions of polytheism and superstition, which in such endless
variations of form and unchanging identity of folly had misled
the nations of the earth for so many thousands of years: "And just
then," said he, "it occurred to me what a curious commentary it
would be on the asserted unity and sufficiency of 'internal
revelation,' if the 'Great Exhibition of the Industry of all
Nations' were followed up by a 'Great Exhibition of the Idolatry
of all Nations' under the same roof. Thither night be brought
specimens of the ingenious handicraft of men in the manufacture
of deities; we might have the whole process, in all its varieties,
complete; the raw material of a God in a block of stone or wood,
and the most finished specimen in the shape of a Phidian Jupiter;
the countless bits of trumpery which Fetichism has ever consecrated;
the divine monsters of ancient Egypt, and the equally divine
monsters of modern India; the infinite array of grim deformities
hallowed by American, Asiatic, and African superstition. I imagined,
notwithstanding the vastness of that Crystal Pantheon, there would
still be crowds of their godships who would be obliged to wait
outside, having come too late to exhibit their perfections to
advantage. However, as I went in fancy up the long aisles, and saw,
to the right and the left, the admiring crowds of worshippers,
grimacing, and mowing, and prostrating themselves, with a folly
which might lead one reasonably to suppose, that, miserable as
were the gods, they were gods indeed compared with such worshippers,
I imagined my worthy friend Fellowes in the corner where the Bible,
in its 120 languages, is now kept, employed in delivering a lecture
on the admirable clearness of those intuitions of spiritual truth
which constitute each man's particular oracle, and the superfluity
of all 'external' revelation. This was, I confess, a little too
much for my gravity, and I was involuntarily guilty of the
rudeness for which I now apologize." It was certainly a ridiculous
vision enough; and we made ourselves very merry by pursuing it for
a little while.

Presently the company resumed their solutions off the great problem.
The Deist remarked, "that one and only one thing was plain, and
indubitable,"--for he was a dogmatist in his way;--it was, "that
intellect and power to an indefinite extent had been at work in
the universe, but whether the Being to whom these attributes
belonged took any cognizance of man, or his actions, he had never
been able to make up his mind." "Yet surely it does make a slight
difference," said Harrington, "since if God takes no cognizance of
man, then, as Cicero long ago remarked of the idle dogs of Epicurus,
--I mean gods of Epicurus, I beg their pardon, but really it does
not matter which consonant comes first,--atheism and deism are much
the same thing." "Why," said the Deist, "there is as much difference
as in the theories of our 'intuitional' friends here, one of whom
admits, and another denies, the future existence of man; for if we
be the ephemeral insects the latter supposes, it little matters
what system of religion we espouse or abjure. However, I am clear
that, if God require any duty of us, it is that we should reverence
him as the Creator of all things,--prayer to him is an absurdity,--and
perform those offices of honest men which are so clearly the dictates
of conscience,--the reward and punishment being exclusively the
result of present laws."

"Which laws," said his next neighbor, "often secure no reward or
punishment at all,--or rather, often give the reward to the vice of
man, and the punishment to his virtue." "Very true," rejoined the
Deist, "and I must say,"--sagely shaking his head,--"that such
things make me often suspect the whole of that slippery, uncertain
thing called 'natural religion,' whether as taught by the elder
deists or modified by our modern spiritualists. Surely they may be
abundantly charged with the same faults with which they tax the
Christian; for they are full of interminable disputes about the
'truths' or 'sentiments' of their theology."

One of those who had gone further than our Deists felt disposed to
question all "immutable morality" original "dictates of conscience."
"I doubt," said he, "whether those dictates are any clearer than
those dogmas of 'natural religion' which have been so oppugned; and
I judge so for the same reason,--the endless disputes of men with
regard to the source, the rule, the obligation of what they call
duty; which are exactly similar to the disputes which we charge upon
the Natural Religionist and the Christian." And here he ran through
half a dozen of the two score theories which the history of ethics
presents, rare work with Plato and Aristotle, Hobbes, Cudworth,
Mandeville, and Bentham. "Meantime," he concluded, "we do see, in
point of fact, that the moral rule is most flexible, and to an
indeterminate degree the creature of association, custom, and
education, so that I am inclined to think that that alone is
obligatory which the positive laws and institutions of any society
render binding." "So that" cried Harrington, "a man both may and
ought to thieve in ancient Sparta, may expose his parents in
Hindostan, and commit infanticide in China!" "It is a pity," archly
whispered the Italian guest, "that this gentleman was not born
in China."

"It is a respectable, but very old speculation," said Harrington,
"of which many ancient moralists avowed themselves the advocates,
but of which it is only fair to admit that Plato and many other
heathens were heartily ashamed."

It seemed as if the bathos of theological and ethical absurdity could
not lie deeper; but I was mistaken. The admirer of Mr. Atkinson
declared with great modesty that he thought, as did his favorite
author, that the whole world had been mad on the subject of theology
and morality;--that the prime error consisted in the superficial
notion of a Personal Deity, and the foolish attribution of the notion
of "sin" and "crime" to human motives and conduct, instead of regarding
the former as a name of an absolutely unknown cause of the entire
phenomena of the universe, and the latter as part of a series of
rigidly necessary antecedents and consequents, for which man is no
more to be either blamed or praised than the sun for shining or the
avalanche for falling; he added, that only in this way could
man attain peace. "As Mr. Atkinson beautifully says, 'What a hopeful
and calming influence has such a contemplation of nature! At this moment
it is not I, but the nature within me, that dictates my speech and
guides my pen. I am what I am. I cannot alter my will, or be other
than what I am, and cannot deserve either reward or punishment.' But
I feel with him, 'We may preach these things, and men may think us
mad or something worse.'" (Pp. 190, 191.)

"And perhaps justly," said Harrington, with a laugh, "for nature has
surely, after so many thousands of years, let you know what her law
is, and you say that that law is necessary and irreversible, and yet
you strive to alter it! You had better leave men to their
necessary absurdities."

"Nay," said the other, "as Mr. Atkinson says, from the recognition of
a universal law we shall develop a universal love; the disposition and
ability to love without offence or ill-feeling towards any; or, as
Miss Martineau represents it,--When the mind has completely surmounted
every idea of a personal God, of a supreme will, 'what repose begins
to pervade the mind! What clearness of moral purpose naturally ensues!
and what healthful activity of the moral faculties!' (p. 219) .... What
a new perception we obtain of the "beauty of holiness,"--the loveliness
of a healthful moral condition,--accordant with the laws of natures,
and not with the requisitions of theology!'" (p. 219.)

I got him afterwards to show me these passages, for I could hardly
believe that he had quoted them right.

"And as for morality," continued he, "the knowledge which mesmerism
gives of the influence of body on body, and consequently of mind on
mind, will bring about a morality we have not yet dreamed of. And who
shall disguise his nature and his acts when we cannot be sure at any
moment that we are free from the clairvoyant eye of some one who is
observing our actions and most secret thoughts; and our whole
character and history may be read off at any moment!" (H. G. A. to
H. M., p. 280.)

What an admirable substitute, thought I, for the idea of an omnipresent
and omniscient Deity! Who will not abstain from lying and stealing
when he thinks, there is possibly some clairvoyant at the antipodes
in mesmeric rapport with his own spirit, and perhaps, by the way, in
very sympathizing rapport, if the clairvoyant happen to be in Australia?

It was at this point that our young friend from Germany broke in.
"I hold that you are right, Sir," he said to the last speaker, "in
saying that God is not a person; but then it is because, as Hegel
says, he is personality itself--the universal personality which
realizes itself in each human consciousness, as a separate thought of
the one eternal mind. Our idea of the absolute is the absolute itself;
apart from and out of the universe, therefore, there is no God."

"I think we may grant you that," said Harrington, laughing.

"Nor," continued the other, "is there any God apart from the
universal consciousness of man. He--"

"Ought you not to say it?" said Harrington.

"It, then," said our student, "is the entire process of thought
combining in itself the objective movement in nature with the
logical subjective, and realizing itself in the spiritual totality
of humanity. He (or it, if you will) is the eternal movement of the
universal, ever raising itself to a subject, which first of all in
the subject comes to objectivity and a real consistence, and
accordingly absorbs the subject in its abstract individuality.
God is, therefore, not a person, but personality itself."

Nobody answered, for nobody understood.

"Q. E. D.," said Harrington, with the utmost gravity.

Thus encouraged, our student was going on to show how much more
clear Hegel's views are than those of Schelling. "The only real
existence," he said, "is the relation; subject and object, which
seem contradictory, are really one,--not one in the sense of
Schelling, as opposite poles of the same absolute existence, but
one as the relation itself forms the very idea. Not but what in
the threefold rhythm of universal existence there are affinities
with the three potencies of Schelling; but----"

"Take a glass of wine." said Harrington to his young acquaintance,
"take a glass of wine, as the Antiquary said to Sir Arthur Wardour,
when he was trying to cough up the barbarous names of his Pictish
ancestors, 'and wash down that bead-roll of unbaptized jargon which
would choke a dog.'"

We laughed, for we could not help it.

Our young student looked offended, and muttered something about the
inaptitude of the English for a deep theosophy and philosophy.

"It is all very well." said he, "Mr. Harrington; but it is not in
this way that the profound questions which, under some aspects, have
divided such minds as Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel; and under others,
Gosehel, Hinrichs, Erdmann, Marheineke, Schaller, Gabler -----"

Harrington burst out laughing. "They divide a good many philosophers
of that last name in England also," said he.

"Why, what have I said?" replied the other, looking surprised and vexed.

"Nothing at all," said Harrington, still laughing. "Nothing that I
know of; I am sure I may with truth affirm it. But I beg your pardon
for laughing; only I could not help it, at finding you like so many
other young philosophers born of German theology and philosophy,
attempting to frighten me by a mere roll-call of formidable names.
Why, my friend, it is because these things have, as you say, divided
these great minds so hopelessly, that I am in difficulty; if the
philosophers had agreed about them, it would have been another
story. One would think, to hear them invoked by many a youth here,
that these powerful minds had convinced one another; instead of that,
they have simply confounded one another. It was the very spectacle
of their interminable disputes and distractions in philosophy and
theology,--ever darker and darker, deeper and deeper, as system after
system chased each other away, like the clouds they resemble through
a winter sky;--I say it was the very spectacle of their distractions
which first made me a sceptic; and I think I am hardly likely to be
reconvinced by the mere sound of their names, ushered in by vague
professions of profound admiration of their profundity! The praise
is often oddly justified by citing something or other, which,
obscure enough in the original, is absolute darkness when translated
into English; and must, like some versions I have seen of the
classics, be examined in the original, in order to gain a glimpse of
its meaning."

The student acknowledged that there was certainly much vague
admiration and pretension amongst young Englishmen in this matter; but
thought that profounder views were to be gathered from these sources
than was generally acknowledged.

"Very well," replied Harrington; "I do not deny it, perhaps it is so;
and whenever you choose to justify that opinion by expressing in
intelligible English the special views of the special author you
think thus worthy of attention, whether he be from Germany or Timbuctoo,
I humbly venture to say that I will (so far from laughing) examine them
with as much patience as yourself. But if you wish to cure me of
laughing, I beseech you to refrain from all vague appeals to
wholesale authority.

"The most ludicrous circumstance, however," he continued, "connected
with this German mania is, that in many cases our admiring countrymen
are too late in changing their metaphysical fashions; so that they
sometimes take up with rapture a man whom the Germans are just
beginning to cast aside. Our servile imitators live on the crumbs
that fall from the German table, or run off with the well-picked bone
to their kennel, as if it were a treasure, and growl and show their
teeth to any one that approaches them, in very superfluous terror of
being deprived of it. It would be well if they were to imitate the
importers of Parisian fashions, and let us know what is the philosophy
or theology a la mode, that we may not run a chance of appearing
perfect frights in the estimate even of the Germans themselves."

Coffee was here brought in: and Harrington said, "Thank you, gentlemen,
for your candor, though your unanimity does not seem very admirable.
In one sentiment, indeed, you are pretty well agreed,--that the
Bible is to be discarded; though you are infinitely at variance, as
to the grounds on which you think so; Catholic friends deeming it
too precious to be intrusted to every body's hands, and the rest of
you, as a gift not worth receiving. But as to the systems you
would substitute in its place, they are so portentously various that they
are hardly likely to cure me of my scepticism; nor even my worthy
relative here"--pointing to me--"of his old-fashioned orthodoxy.
He will say, 'Much as we theologians differ as to the interpretation
of Scripture, our differences are neither so great nor so formidable
as those of these gentlemen. I had better remain where I am.'"

Several of the guests stared at me as they would at the remains of
a megatherium.

"Is it possible," said one at last, "that you, Sir, can retain a
belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible,--excluding incidental
errors of transcription and so on?"

"It is not only possible," said I, "but certain."

"Do you mean," said the other, "that you can give satisfactory answers
to the objections which can be brought against various parts of it?"

"By no means," said I; "while I think that many may be wholly solved,
and more, partially, I admit there are some which are altogether
insoluble.'

"Then why, in the name of wonder, do you retain your belief?"

"Because I think that the evidence for retaining it is, on the whole,
stronger than the evidence for relinquishing it; that is, that the
objections to admitting the objections are stronger than the objections
themselves."

"But how do you manage in a controversy with an opponent as to those
insoluble objections?"

"I admit them."

"Then you allow his position to be more tenable and reasonable than
yours?"

"No," said I, "I take care of that."

"How so?"

"I transfer the war, My good Sir: a practice which I would recommend
to most Christians in these days. When I meet with an opponent of the
stamp you refer to, who thinks insoluble objections alone are
sufficient reasons for rejecting any thing. I say to him, 'My friend,
this Christianity, if so clearly false, is not worth talking about: let
us quit it. But as you admit, with me, that religious truth is of great
moment, and as you think you have it, pray oblige me by your system.'
To tell you the truth, I never found any difficulty in propounding
plenty of insoluble objections; but if you think differently, you or
any gentleman present can make experiment of the matter now."

"Nay, my dear uncle," said Harrington, "you are invading my province.
It is I only who can consistently challenge all comers; like the
ancient Scythians, I have every thing to gain and nothing to lose."

Whether it was out of respect for the host, or that each felt, after
the recent disclosures, that he would not only have Harrington and
myself, but every body else, down upon him, nobody accepted this
challenge.

At last one of them said he could not even yet comprehend how it
was that I could remain an old-fashioned believer in these days
of "progress." "It was infidelity itself," I replied, "that early
robbed me of the advantages of being an infidel."

Several expressed their surprise, and I told them that, after we had
taken tea in the drawing-room (to which we were then summoned), I
would, if they felt any curiosity upon the matter, and would allow
a little scope to the garrulity of an old man, tell them

HOW IT WAS THAT INFIDELITY PREVENTED MY BECOMING AN INFIDEL.

AFTER tea I gave my story, as nearly as I can recollect, in the
following way. Of course I cannot recall the precise words; but
the order of the thoughts--how often have they been pondered!--I
cannot be mistaken about.
____

It is now thirty years ago or more since I was passing through many
of the mental conflicts in which I see so many of the young in the
present day involved. I have no doubt that the majority of them will
come out, probably after an eclipse more or less partial, very
orthodox Christians,--so great are the revolutions of opinion
which an experience of human life and the necessities of the human
heart work upon us! As I look around me, I see few of my youthful
contemporaries who have not survived their infidelity.

Far be it from me--(I spoke in a tone which, I imagine, they hardly
knew whether to take as compliment or irony)--to affirm that the
infidels of this day are like those I knew in my youth. I have no
hesitation in saying of us, that a perfectly natural recoil--partly
intellectual and partly moral--from the supernatural history, the
peculiar doctrines, but, above all, the severe morality of the
New Testament, was at the bottom of our unbelief. I have long felt
that the reception of that book on the part of any human being
is not the least of its proofs that it is divine, for I am persuaded
there never was a book naturally more repulsive either to the human
head or heart. All the prejudices of man are necessarily arrayed
against it. I felt these prejudice, I am now distinctly conscious;
nor was I insensible to the palpable advantages of infidelity;--its
accommodating morality; its Large margin for the passions and appetites;
its doubts of any future world, or its certainty that, if there were
one, it would prove a universal paradise (for doubts and certainties
are equally within the compass of human wishes); the absolute
abolition of hell and every thing like in. I say I saw clearly enough
the advantages which infidelity promised, and I acknowledge I was not
insensible to them. I think no young men are likely to be.

I do not insinuate that similar advantages have any thing to do with
those many peculiar revelations of religion which different oracles
have in our day substituted for the New Testament. The arguments
against Christianity, indeed, I do not find much altered; the
substitutions for it, though distractingly various, are, I confess,
in some respects different. Nay, we see that many of our "spiritualists"
complain chiefly of the moral and spiritual deficiencies of
Christianity; they are afraid, with Mr. Newman, of the conscience
of man being DEPRESSED to the Bible standard! So that we must
suppose that the aim of some, at least, of our infidel reformers,
are prompted by a loftier ideal of  "spiritual" purity than
Christianity presents!

It certainly was not so then. I felicitate some of you, gentlemen,
on being so much holier and wiser, nor only than we were, but even
than Christ and his Apostles.

I have said I was not insensible to the advantages of infidelity;
but nature had endowed me with prudence as well as passions; and I
wanted evidence for what appeared to me its most gratuitous
philosophy of the future,--for its too uncertain doubts of all
futurity, and its too doubtful certainty of none but a happy one!
I also wanted evidence of the falsehood of Christianity itself. As
to the former, I shall not trouble you with my difficulties; there
were indeed then, as now, an admirable variety of theories; but if
I could have been convinced of the futility of the claims of
Christianity, I believe I should have been easily satisfied as to
a substitute; or rather, unable to decide between Chubb and
Bolingbroke, Voltaire and Rousseau, I should most likely have tossed
up for my religion.

It was the distractions with regard to the evidences of Christianity
that ruined me; and at last condemned me to be a Christian.

I was first troubled, like so many in our day, about the miracles. I
could hardly bring my mind to believe them. One day, talking with a
jovial fellow whom I casually met (not of very strong mind indeed, but
who made up for it by very strong passions) over the improbability of
such occurrences, he exclaimed, as he mixed his third glass of brandy
and water, "I only wonder how any one can be such a fool as to believe
in any stuff of that sort? Do you think that, if the miracles had been
really wrought, there could have been any doubters of Christianity?"
He tossed off the brandy and water with a triumphant air; and I quite
forgot his argument in compassion for his bestiality. I expostulated
with him. "You may spare your breath, Mr. Solomon," said he. "May this
be my poison (as it will be my poison)," mixing a fourth glass, "if I
need any sermons on the subject. Hark ye,--I am perfectly convinced
that the habit I am chained to will be the destruction of health,
of reputation, of my slender means,--will reduce to beggary and
starvation my wife and children,--and yet," drinking again, "I know I
shall never leave it off."

"Good heavens!" said I. "Why, you seem as plainly convinced of the
infatuation of your conduct as if miracle had been wrought to convince
you of it.

"I am." he said, unthinkingly; "ten thousand miracles could not make it
plainer; so you may 'spare your breath to cool your porridge,' and
preach to one who is not already in the condemned cell."

I was exceedingly shocked; but I thought within myself,--It appears,
then, that man may act against convictions, as strong as any that a
miracle could produce. It is clear there are no LIMITS to the
perversity with which a depraved will and passions can overrule
evidence, even where it is admitted by the reason to be invincible.
It does not follow, then, that a miracle (which cannot present
conclusions more clear) must triumph over them. If the passions can
defy the understanding, where it coolly acknowledges they cannot
pervert the evidence, how much more easily may they cajole it to
suggest doubts of the evidence itself! And what more easy than in
relation to miracles? Such a phenomenon might from novelty produce a
transient impression; but that would pass away, just as the vivid
feelings sometimes excited by a sudden escape from death pass away;
the half-roused debauchee resumes his old career, just as if he had
never looked over the brink of eternity and shuddered with horror as
he gazed. He who had seen a miracle might very soon, and probably
would, if he did not like the doctrine it was to confirm, persuade
himself that it was an illusion of his senses, for they have deceived
him; unless, indeed, he saw a new miracle every day, and then he
would be certain to get used to it. How much more easily could the
Jews do this, who both hated the doctrine of Him who taught, and,
not thinking miracles impossible, could conveniently refer them
to Beelzebub!

I felt, therefore, that the brandy and water logic had perfectly
convinced me that this was far too precarious ground on which to
conclude that the miracles of the  New Testament had been wrought.

I was further confirmed in my convictions of the illogical nature of
all a priori views on the subject, by the whimsical differences of
opinion among my infidel friends.

One told me that it was plain that miracles were "incredible," and
"impossible," per se; but he was immediately contradicted by a second,
who said that he really could not see any thing incredible or impossible
about them; that all that was wanting to make them credible was
sufficient evidence, which perhaps had in no case been given.

A third said, that it was of little consequence; that no miracle could
prove a moral truth; and; taking a view just the opposite to that of
my first acquaintance, swore that, if he saw a score of miracles, he
should not be a bit the more inclined to believe in the authority of
a religion authenticated by them.

Here was a fine beginning for an ingenuous neophyte, who was eager
to be fully initiated in infidel theology!

It set me to examine the miracles themselves, and the evidence
for them.

"They were the simple result of fraud practising upon simplicity,"
said one of the genuine descendants of Bolingbroke and Tindal.

I pondered over it a good deal. At last I said one day to another
infidel acquaintance, "You ask me to believe that the miraculous
events of the New Testament were contrivances of fraud; which, though
ventured upon in the very eyes of those who were interested in
detecting them, who must have been prejudiced against them, nay, the
majority of whom (as the events show) were determined, whether they
detected them or not, not to believe those who wrought them,
were yet successfully practised, not only on the deluded disciples
of the impostors, but on their unbelieving persecutors, who admitted
them to be miracles, only of Beelzebub's performing. I really know
not how to believe it. As I look at the general history of religion,
I see that this open-day appeal to miracles--especially such as
raising the dead--among prejudiced spectators interested in
unmasking them is, if unsupported by truth, just the thing under
which a religious enterprise inevitably fails."

I reminded him that the French prophets in England got on pretty
well till their unlucky attempt to raise the dead, when the bubble
burst instantly; that for this reason the more astute impostors have
refrained from any pretensions of the kind, from Mahomet downwards;
(How discreetly cautious, again, have the Mormonites been on this point!)
that the miracles they professed to have wrought were conveniently
wrought in secret, on the safe theatre of their mental consciousness;
or that they were reserved for times when their disciples were
predetermined to believe them, because they were cordial believers
already in the religion which appealed to them! I said nothing of the
unlikelihood of the instruments--Galilean Jews--whom the theory invests
with such superhuman powers of deception; or of the prodigious
intellect and lofty ambition with which it also so liberally endows
these obscure vagabonds, who not only conceived, in spite of their
narrow-hearted Jewish bigotry, such a system as Christianity, but
proclaimed their audacious resolve of establishing it on the ruins
of every other religion,--Jewish or Heathen. I said nothing of the
still stranger moral attributes with which it invests them, (in spite
of their being such odious tricksters, in spite of all their
grovelling notions and exclusive prejudices,) as the teachers of a
singularly elevated and catholic morality; what is still stranger
as suffering for it,--strangest of all, as apparently practising
it. I said nothing of what is still more wonderful, their acting
this inconsistent part from motives we cannot assign or even imagine;
their encountering obloquy, persecution, death, in the prosecution of
their object, whatever it was. I said nothing of the innumerable and
one would think inimitable, traits of nature and sincerity in the
narrative of those who record these miracles, and which, if simulated
by such liars, would be almost a miracle itself; a narrative, in which
majestic indifference to human criticism is everywhere exhibited;
in which are no apologies for the extraordinary stories told, no
attempt to conciliate prejudice, no embellishment, no invectives (as
Pascal says) against the persecutors of Christ himself;--they are
simple witnesses, and nothing more, and are seemingly indifferent
whether men despise them or not. I repeat, I said nothing of all
these paradoxes; I insisted that the mere fact of the successful
machination of false miracles, of such a nature, at so many points,
in open day, in defiance of every motive and prejudice which must
have prompted the world to unmask the cheat,--of a conspiracy
successfully prosecuted, not by one, but by many conspirators, whose
fortitude, obstinacy, and circumspection, both when acting together
and acting alone, never allowed them to betray themselves,--was,
per se, incredible; "and yet," said I to my friend, "you ask
me to believe it?"

"I ask you to believe it?" cried he, in surprise which equalled my
own. "I am not fool enough ask you to believe any thing of the
kind: and they are fools who do. The miracles fraudulent machinations!
no, no, it was, as you say, evidently impossible. And where shall we
look for marks of simplicity and truthfulness, if not in the records
which contain them. The fact is." said he (I should mention that it
was just about the time that the system of "naturalism" was
culminating under the auspices of Paulus of Heidelberg, from whom,
at second hand, my infidel friend borrowed as much as he wanted),--"the
fact is, that the compilers of the New Testament were pious,
simple-minded, excellent enthusiasts, who sincerely, but not the
less falsely, mistook natural phenomena for supernatural miracles.
What more easy than to suppose people dead when they were not, and
who were merely recovered from a swoon or trance? than to imagine
the blind, deaf, or dumb to be miraculously healed, when in fact
they were cured by medical skill? than to fancy the blaze of a flambeau
to be a star, and to shape thunder into articulate speech, and so on?
Christ was no miracle-worker, but he was a capital doctor."

I pondered over this "natural" explanation for a long time. At last
I ventured to express to a third infidel friend my dissatisfaction
with it. "Not only," said I, "is such a perpetual and felicitous
genius for gross blundering, such absolute craziness of credulity,
in strange contrast with the intellectual and moral elevation which
the New Testament writers everywhere evince, and especially in the
conception of that Ideal of Excellence which even those who reject
all that is supernatural in Christianity acknowledge to be so
sublime a masterpiece,--in whose discourses the most admirable ethics
are illustrated, and in whose life they are still more divinely
dramatized,--not only is such ludicrous madness of fanaticism at
variance with the tone of sobriety and simplicity everywhere
traceable; but,--what is more,--when I reflect on the number and
grossness of these supposed illusions, I find it hard to imagine how
to image how even individual could have been honestly stupid enough
to be beguiled by them, and utterly impossible to suppose that a
number of men should on many occasions have been simultaneously
thus befooled! But, what is much more, how can those who must
often have managed the phenomena which were thus misinterpreted
into miracles,--how, especially, can the great Physician himself,
who knew that he was only playing the doctor, be supposed honestly
to have allowed the simple-minded followers to persist in so strange
an error? Either he, or they, or both, must, one would think, have
been guilty of the grossest frauds. But the mere number and
simultaneity of such strange illusions, under such a variety of
circumstances, render it impossible to receive this hypothesis. I
cannot see, I said, that it is so very easy for a number of men to
have been continually mistaking 'flambeaux' for 'stars,' 'thunder'
for 'human speech,' and 'Roman soldiers' for 'angels.'"

My friend laughed outright. "I should think it is not easy, indeed!"
he exclaimed, "especially that last.  For my part, I see clearly, on
this theory, that either the Apostles or their commentators were the
most crazy, addle-headed wretches in the world. Either Paulus of Tarsus
or Paulus of Heidelberg was certainly cracked: I believe the last. No,
my friend; depend upon it that the Gospels consist of a number of
fictions,--many of them very beautiful,--invented, I am inclined to
believe, for a very pious purpose, by highly imaginative minds."

This sat me thinking again. And, in time, my doubts, as usual, assumed
a determinate shape, and I hastened to another oracle of infidelity in
hopes of a solution.

If the New Testament be supposed a series of fictions, I argued,--the
work of highly imaginative minds for a pious purposes--there is perhaps
a slight moral anomaly in the case (but I do not insist upon it): I mean
that of supposing pious men writing fictions which they evidently wish to
impose on the world as simple history, and which they must have known
would, if received at all, be actually regarded as such; as, in fact,
they have been. I do not quite understand how pious men should thus
endeavor to cheat men into virtue, nor inculcate sanctity and truth
through the medium of deliberate fraud and falsehood. But let that pass;
perhaps one could forgive it. Other anomalies, far more inexplicable,
strike me. That Galilean Jews (such as the history of the time represents
them), with all their national and inveterate prejudices,--wedded not
more to the law of Moses than to their own corruptions of it, bigoted
and exclusive beyond all the nations that ever existed, eaten up with
the most beggarly superstitions,--should rise to the moral grandeur,
the nobility of sentiment, the catholicity of spirit, which characterize
the Gospel, and, above all, to such an ideal as Jesus Christ,--this is
a moral anomaly, which is to me incomprehensible: the improbability of
Christianity having its natural origin in such a source is properly
measured by the hatred of the Jews against it, both then and through
all time. I said I could as little understand the intellectual anomalies
of such a theory. Could men, among the most ignorant of a nation sunk
in that gross and puerile superstition of which the New Testament itself
presents a true picture, and which is reflected in the Jewish literature
of that age, and ever since,--a nation whose master minds then and ever
since (think of that!) have given us only such stuff as fills the Talmud,
--could such men, I said, have created such fictions as those of the New
Testament,--reached such elevated sentiments, or conveyed them in
perfectly original forms, embodied truth so sublime in a style so simple?
Throughout those writings is a peculiar tone which belongs to no other
compositions of man. While the individuality of the writers not lost,
there are still peculiarities which pervade the whole, and have, as I
think, justly been called a Scripture style. One of their most striking
characteristics, by the way, is a severely simple taste; a uniform
freedom from the vulgarities of conception, the exaggerated sentiment,
the mawkish nonsense and twaddle, which disfigure such an infinitude of
volumes of religious biography and fiction which have been written since.
Could such men attain this uniform elevation? Could such men have
invented those extraordinary fictions,--the miracles and the parables?
Could they, in spite of their gross ignorance, have so interwoven the
fictitious and the historical as to make the fiction let into the
history seem a natural part of it? Could they, above all, have conceived
the daring, but glorious, project of embodying and dramatizing the
ideal of the system they inculcated in the person of Christ? And yet
they have succeeded, though choosing to attempt the wonderful task in
a life full of unearthly incidents, which they have somehow wrought
into an exquisite harmony! But even if one such man in such an age
and nation could have been found equal to all this, could we, I argued,
believe that several (with undeniable individual varieties of manner)
were capable of working into the picture similarly unique, but
different materials, with similar success, and of reproducing the same
portrait, in varying posture and attitude, of the great Moral Idea?
Could we believe that, in achieving this task, not one, but several,
were intellectual magicians enough to solve that great problem of
producing compositions in a form independent of language,--of laying
on colors which do not fade by time; so that while  Homer, Shakspeare,
Milton, suffer grievous wrong the moment their thoughts are transferred
into another tongue, these men should have written so that their
wonderful narrative naturally adapts itself to every dialect under
heaven?

These intellectual anomalies, I confessed,--if these had been all,--
staggered me. As Lord Bacon said that he would sooner believe "all the
fables of the Talmud, than that this universal frame was without a
mind," so I could sooner believe all those fables, than that minds
that can only produce Talmuds should have conceived such fictions as
the Gospel. I could as soon believe that some dull chronicler of the
Middle Ages composed Shakspeare's plays, or a ploughman had written
Paradise Lost; only that, to parallel the present case, we ought to
believe that four ploughmen wrote four Paradise Losts! Nay, I said,
I would as soon believe that most laughable theory of learned folly,
that the monks of the Middle Ages compiled all the classics! Nor could
it help me to say that it was Christians, not Jews, who compiled the
New Testament; for they must have been Jews before they were Christians:
and the twofold moral and intellectual problem comes back upon our
hands,--to imagine how the Jewish mind could have given birth to the
ideas of Christianity, or have embodied them in such a surpassing form.
And as to the intellectual part of the difficulty,--unhappily abundant
proof exists in Christian literature that the early Christians could as
little have manufactured such fictions as the Jews themselves! The
New Testament is not more different from the writings of Jews, or
superior to them, than it is different from the writings of the
Fathers, and superior to them. It stands alone, like the Peak of
Teneriffe. The Alps amidst the flats of Holland would not present a
greater contrast than the New Testament and the Fathers. And the further
we come down, the less capable morally, and nearly as incapable
intellectually, do the rapidly degenerating Christians appear, of
producing such a fiction as the New Testament; so that, if it be asked
whether it was not possible that some Christians of after times might
have forged these books, one must say with Paley, that they could not.

And by the by, gentlemen, said I, (interrupting my narrative, and
addressing the present company,) I may remind some of you who are
great admirers of Professor Newman, that he admits (as indeed all
must, who have had an opportunity of comparing them) the infinite
inferiority of the Fathers, though he does not attempt to account,
as surely he ought, for so singular a circumstance. He says in his
Phases: "On the whole, this reading [of the Apostolical Fathers]
greatly exalted my sense of the unapproachable greatness of the New
Testament. The moral chasm between it and the very earliest Christian
writers seemed to me so vast, as only to be accounted for by the
doctrine ..... that the New Testament was dictated by the immediate
action of the Holy Spirit." (Phases, p. 25.)

But to resume the statement of my early difficulties. I felt that
the anomalies involved in the theory of the fictitious origin of the
New Testament were almost endless; I said that, however hard to
believe that any men, much less such men as Jews of that age, were
capable of such achievements as I had already specified, I must
believe much more still; for the men, with all their wisdom, were
fools enough to make their enterprise infinitely more hazardous,--by
intrusting the execution of it to a league of many minds, thus
multiplying indefinitely their chances of contradiction; by adopting
every kind and style of composition, full of reciprocal allusions; and,
above all, by dovetailing their fabrications into true history, thus
encountering a perpetual danger of collision between the two; all as
if to accumulate upon their task every difficulty which ingenuity
could devise! Could I believe that such men as those to whom history
restricts the problem had been able, while thus giving every advantage
to the detection of imposture, to invent a narrative so infinitely
varied in form and style, composed by so many different hands,
traversing, in such diversified ways, contemporary characters and
events, involving names of places, dates, and numberless specialities
of circumstance, and yet maintain a general harmony of so peculiar a
kind, such a callida junctura of these most heterogeneous materials,
as to have imposed on the bulk of readers in all ages an impression
of their artless truth and innocence, and that they were writing
facts, and not fictions? Above all, could they be capable of
fabricating those deeply-latent coincidences, which, if fraud
employed them, overreached fraud itself; lying so deep as to be
undiscovered for nearly eighteen centuries, and only recently
attracting the attention of the world in consequence of the objections
of infidels themselves? We know familiarly enough, that to sustain
any verisimilitude in a fictitious history (even though only one
man has the manufacture of it) is almost impossible, because the
relations of fact that must be anticipated and provided against are
so infinitely various, that the writer is certain to betray himself.
The constant detection of very limited fabrications of a similar
nature, when evidence is sifted in a court of justice, shows us the
impossibility of weaving a plausible texture of this kind.
Many things are sure to have been forgotten which ought to have
been remembered. If this be the case, even where one mind has the
fabrication of the whole, how much more would it be the case if many
minds were engaged in the conspiracy? Should we not expect, at the
very least, the hesitating, suspicious, self-betraying tone usual
in all such cases? Could we expect that general air of truth which
so undeniably prevails throughout the New Testament,--the inimitable
tone of nature, earnestness, and frank sincerity, which, in the case
of such extravagant forgeries, would alone be marvellous traits? But,
at all events, could we expect those minute coincidences, which lay
too deep for the eye of all ordinary readers, and would never have
been discovered had not infidelity provoked Paley and others to
excavate those subterranean galleries in which they are found?

And here again I interrupted my narrative to remark, that Professor
Newman acknowledges the force of these coincidences, and, as usual,
gives no account of them. He says of the Horae Paulinae, in his
"Phases": "This book greatly enlarged my mind as to the resources of
historical criticism. Previously my sole idea of criticism was that
of the discreet discernment of style; but I now began to understand
what powerful argument rose out of combinations; and the very complete
establishment which this work gives to the narrative concerning Paul
in the latter half of the Acts appeared to me to reflect critical honor
on the whole New Testament." (Phases, p. 23.)

But once more to resume my statement. Upon mentioning these and such
like considerations to my infidel friend, who pleaded, that the New
Testament was fiction, he replied. "As to the harmony in these fictions,
--if they be such,--you acknowledge that it is not absolute: that are
discrepancies."

Yes, I said, there are discrepancies, I admit; and I was about to
mention that as another difficulty in the way of my reception of his
theory: I refer to the nature and the limits of those discrepancies.
If there had been an absolute harmony, even to the mildest point, I
am persuaded that, on the principle of evidence in all such cases,
many would have charged collusion on the writers, and have felt that
it was a corroboration of the theory of the fictitious origin of these
compositions. But as the case stands, the discrepancies, if the
compositions be fictitious indeed, are only a proof that these men
attained a still more wonderful skill in aping verisimilitude than
if there had been no discrepancies at all. They have left in the
historic portions of their narrative an air of general harmony, with
an exquisite congruity in points which lie deep below the
surface,--a congruity which they must be supposed to have known would
astonish the world when once discovered; and have at the same time left
certain discrepancies on the surface (which criticism would be sure to
point out), as if for the very purpose of affording guaranties and
vouchers against the suspicion of collusion. The discords increase the
harmony. Once more, I asked, could I believe Jews, Jews in the reign of
Tiberius or Nero, equal to all these wonders?

But all this, even all this, I said, was as nothing compared with
another difficulty involved in this theory. How came these fictions,
containing such monstrous romance, if romance at all, and equally
monstrous doctrines, to be believed; to be believed by multitudes of
Jews and Gentiles, both opposed and equally opposed to them by previous
inveterate superstition and prejudice? How came so many men of such
different races and nations of mankind to hasten to unclothe themselves
of all their previous beliefs in order to adopt these fantastical
fables? How came they to persist in regarding them as authoritative
truth? How came so many in so many different countries to do this at
once? Nay, I added with a laugh, I think there are distinct traces,
as far as we have any evidence, that these very peculiar fictions must
have been believed by many before they were even compiled and published.

My infidel friend mused, and at last said, "I agree with you that
these compositions could not have been fictions in the ordinary
sense, that is, deliberately composed by a conspiracy of highly
imaginative minds. That last argument alone, of their success,
is conclusive against that; but may they not have been legends
which gradually assumed this form out of floating traditions
and previous popular and national prepossessions?" In short, he
faintly sketched a notion somewhat similar to that mythic theory,
since so elaborately wrought out by Strauss.

I answered somewhat as follows:--If the first place, on this
hypothesis, all the intellectual and moral anomalies of the last
theory reappear. That such legends should have been the product of
the Jewish mind (whether designedly or undesignedly, consciously or
unconsciously, makes no difference), is one of the principal
difficulties. If it had been objected to Pere Hardouin, that Virgil's
"Aeneid" could nor have been composed by one of the monks of the
Middle Ages. I suppose that it would have been no relief from the
difficulties of his hypothesis to say that it was a gradual,
unconsciously formed deposit of the monkish mind! But besides all
this, I said, the theory was loaded with other absurdities specially
its own: for we must then believe all the indications of historic
plausibility to which I had adverted in speaking of the previous theory
to be the work of accident; a supposition, if possible, still more
inconceivable than that some superhuman genius for fiction had been
employed on their elaboration. Things moulder into rubbish, but they
do not moulder into fabrics. And then (I continued) the greatest
difficulty, as before, reappears, how came these queer legends,
the product whether of design or accident, to be believed? Jews and
Gentiles were and must have been thoroughly opposed to them.

To this he replied, "I suppose the belief, as you also do, anterior
to the books, which express that belief, but did not cause it. I
suppose the Christian system already existing as a floating vapor
and merely condensed into the written form. It was a gradual
formation, like the Greek and Indian mythologies." I thought on this
for some time, and then said something like this:--

Worse and worse: for I fear that the age of Augustus was no age in
which the world was likely to frame a mythology at all:--if it had
been such an age, the problem does not allow sufficient time for it;--if
there had been sufficient time, it would not have been such a mythology;
--and if there had been any formed, it would not have been rapidly
embraced, any more than other mythologies, by men of different races,
but would have been confined to that which gave it birth.

As to the first point, you ask me to believe that something like the
mythology of the Hindoos or Egyptians could spring up and diffuse
itself in such an age of civilization and philosophy, books and
history; whereas all experience shows us that only a time of
barbarism, before authentic history has commenced, is proper to
the birth of such monstrosities; that this congelation of tradition
and legend takes place only during the long frosts and the deep night
of ages, and is impossible in the bright sun of history;--in whose
very beams, nevertheless, these prodigious icicles are supposed to
have been formed!

As to the second point, you ask me to believe that the thing should
be done almost instantly; for in A.D. 1, we find, by all remains
of antiquity, that both Jews and Gentiles were reposing in the
shadow of their ancient superstitions; and in A. D. 60. multitudes
among different races had become the bigoted adherents of this
novel mythology!

As to the third point, you ask me to believe that such a mythology
as Christianity could have sprung up when those amongst whom it is
supposed to have originated, and those amongst whom it is supposed
to have been propagated, must have equally loathed it. National
prepossessions of the Jews. Why, the kind of Messiah on which the
national heart was set, the inveteracy with which they persecuted
to the death the one that offered himself, and the hatred with
which for eighteen hundred years they have recoiled from him,
sufficiently show how preposterous this notion is! As a nation,
they were, ever have been, and are now, more opposed to Christianity
than any other nation on earth. Prepossessions of the Gentiles! There
was not a Messiah that a Jew could frame a notion of, but would have
been an object of intense loathing and detestation to them all! Yet
you ask me to believe that a mythology originated in the prejudices
of a nation the vast bulk of whom from its commencement have most
resolutely rejected it, and was rapidly propagated among other
nations and races, who must have been prejudiced against
it; who even in its favor those venerable superstitions which were
consecrated by the most powerful associations of antiquity!

As to the fourth point, you ask me to believe that, at a juncture when
all the world was divided between deep-rooted superstition and
incredulous scepticism,--divided, as regards the into Pharisees and
Sadducees, and, as regards the Gentiles, into their Pharisees and
Sadducees, that is, into the vulgar who believed, or at least practised,
all popular religions, and the philosophers who laughed at them all,
and whose combined hostility was directed against the supposed new
mythology,--it nevertheless found favor with multitudes in almost
all lands! You ask me to believe that a mythology was rapidly received
by thousands of different races and nations, when all history
proclaims, that it is with the utmost difficulty that any such
system ever passes the limits of the race which has originated
it; and that you can hardly get another race even to look at it as
a matter of philosophic curiosity! You ask me to believe that this
system was received by multitudes among many different races, both
of Asia and Europe, without force, when a similar phenomenon has
never been witnessed in relation to any mythology whatever! Thus,
after asking me to burden myself with a thousand perplexities to
account for the origin of these fables, you afterwards burden me with
a thousand more, to account for their success! Lastly, you ask me to
believe, not only that men of different races and countries became
bigotedly attached to legends which none were likely to originate,
which all were likely to hate, and, most of all, those who are supposed
to have originated them; but that they received them as historic facts,
when the known recency of their origin must have shown the world that
they were the legendary birth of yesterday; and that they acted thus,
though those who propagated these legends had no military power no civil
authority, no philosophy, no science, no one instrument of human success
to aid them, while the opposing prejudices which everywhere
encountered them had! I really know not how to believe all this.

"There are certainly many difficulties in the matter" candidly replied
my infidel friend. But, as if wishing to effect a diversion,--"Have you
ever read Gibbon's celebrated chapter?"

Why, yes, I told him, two or three years before; but he does not say a
syllable in solution of my chief difficulties; he does not tell me any
thing as to the origin of the ideas of Christianity, nor who could
have written the wonderful books in which they are embodied; besides,
said I, in my simplicity, he yields the point, by allowing miracles to
be the most potent cause of the success of Christianity.

"Ah" he replied, "but every one can see that he is there speaking
ironically."

Why, then, said I, laughing, I fear he is telling us how the success
of Christianity cannot be accounted for, rather than how it can.

"O, but he gives you the secondary causes; which it is easy to see
he considers the principal; and also sufficient."

I will read him again, I said, and with deep attention. Some time
after, in meeting with the same friend, I began upon Gibbon's secondary
causes.

"They have given you satisfaction, I hope."

Any thing but that, I replied; they do not, as I said before, touch
my principal difficulties: and even as to the success of the system
when once elaborated,--his reasons are either a mere restatement of
the difficulty to be solved, or aggravate it indefinitely.

"You are hard to please," he replied.

I said I was, except by solid arguments. But does Gibbon offer them?
I asked.

He tells us, for example, that the virtues, energy, and zeal of the
early Church was a main instrument of the success of Christianity;
whereas it is the very origination of the early Church, with all
these efficacious endowments, that we want to account for: it is
as though he had told me that we might account for the success
of Christianity from the fact that it had succeed to such an extent
as to render its further success very probable! As for the rest
of his secondary causes, they are difficulties in its way rather
than auxiliaries. He asks me to believe that the intolerance of
Christianity--by which it refused all alliance with other
religions, and insisted in reigning alone or not at all, by which
it spat contempt on the whole rabble of the Pantheon--was likely
to facilitate its reception among nations, whose pride and whose
pleasure alike it was to encourage civilities and compliments between
their Gods, each of whom was on gracious visiting terms with its
neighbors! He asks me, in effect, to believe that the austerity of
the Christians tended to give them favor in the eves of an
accommodating and jovial Heathenism; that the severity of manners by
which they reproved it, and which to their contemporaries must have
appeared (as we know from the Apologists it did) much as Puritan
grimace to the court of Charles II., was somehow attractive! That
the scruples with which they recoiled from all usages and customs
which could be associated with the elegant pomp of Pagan worship,
and the suspicion with which, as having been linked with idolatry,
they looked on every emanation of that spirit of beauty which reigned
over the exterior life of Paganism, would operate as a charm in their
favor! That their studied absence from all scenes social hilarity,
their grave looks on festal days, their garlanded heads, their
simple attire, their utter estrangement from the Graces, which in
truth were the legitimate Gods in Greece, and the true mothers of
whole family of Olympus, would be likely to conciliate towards the
Gospel the favorable dispositions classic antiquity! I have not so
read history, nor learnt human nature. Again, he asks me to believe that
the immortality which Christianity promised Heathen--such an immortality
--was another of things which tended to give it success;--on the one
hand, a menace of retribution, not for flagrant crimes only, which
Heathenism itself punished, nor for the lax manners which the easy
spirit of Paganism had made venial but for spiritual vices, of which
it took account, some of which it had even consecrated virtues; and,
on the other hand, an other of a which promised nothing but delights
of a spiritual order; a paradise which, whatever material or
imaginative adjuncts it might have, certainly disclosed none; which
presented no one thing to gratify the prurient curiosity of man's fancy,
or the eager passions of his sensual nature; which must, in fact,
have been about as inviting to the soul of a Heathen as the promise
of an eternal Lent to an epicure! Surely these were resistless
seductions. Yet it is to such things as auxiliaries that Gibbon refers
me for the success of Christianity. Verily it is not without reason
that he is called a master of irony!

My friend fairly acknowledged the difficulties of the subject, but
said he could not believe in the truth of Christianity.

I repaired to another infidel acquaintance. "It is a perplexing, a
very perplexing controversy, no doubts," was his reply; "but every
thing tends to show that Christianity resembles in its principal
features all those other religions which you admit to be false.
All have their prodigies and miracles,--their revelations and
Inspirations,--their fragments of truth and their masses of
nonsense. They are all to be rejected together."

I again puzzled for a long time over this aspect of the case. At
last I said to him,--This seems a curious way of disposing of the
evidence for Christianity; for if there be any true religion, it is
likely, as in all other cases, that the counterfeits will have some
features in common with it. It would follow, also, that there can
be no true philosophy; since, while there are scores of philosophies,
only one can be true. But I have another difficulty: on comparing
Christianity with other systems, I find vital differences, both as
regards theory and fact. As regards theory, I find an insuperable
difficulty, not merely in imagining how Jews, Greeks, or Romans,
any or all of them, should have been the originators of Christianity,
but how human nature should have been fool enough to originate it at all!
For I am asked to believe that man, such as I know him through all
history, such as he appears in so many forms of religion which have been
his undoubted and most worthy fabrication, did, whether fraudulently or
not, whether designedly or unconsciously, frame a religion which is in
striking contrast with all his ordinary handiwork of this sort! This
religion enjoins the austerest morality; human religions generally
enjoin a very lax one:--this demands the most refined purity, even of
the thoughts and desires; other religions usually attach to external
and ceremonial observances greater weight than to morality itself;--this
is singularly simple in its rites; they for the most part consist of
little else;--this exhibits a singular silence and abstinence in relation
to the future and invisible; they amply indulge the imagination and
fancy, and are full of delineations calculated to gratify man's most
natural curiosity;--this takes under its special patronage those
virtues which man is least likely to love or cultivate, and which men
in general regard as pusillanimous infirmities, if not vices; they
patronize the must energetic passions,--the passions which made the
demigods and heroes of antiquity. I am not saying which is the belief
in these respects; I am only saying that human nature appears more
true to itself in the last. And so notorious is all this, that the
corruptions of Christianity, as years rolled on, have ever been to
assimilate it to the other religions of the earth; to abate its
spirituality; to relax its austere code of morals; to commute its proper
claims for external observances; to encumber its ritual with an
infinity of ceremonies; and, above all, to uncover the future and
invisible, on which it left a veil, and add a purgatory into the
bargain! Thus, whether contrasted with other religions or with its
corrupted self, Christianity does not seem a religion which human
nature would be pleased to invent.

Again, is it like the other religious products of human nature, in
daring to aspire to universal dominion, and that too founded on moral
power alone? Never, till Christianity appeared, had such an imagination
ever entered the mind of man! Other religions were national affairs;
their gods never dreamed of such an enterprise as that of subduing all
nations. They were naturally contented with the country that gave them
birth, and the homage of the race that worshipped them. They were, when
not themselves assailed, very tolerant, and did the civil thing by
all other gods of all other nations, and were even content to expire
with great propriety (they usually did so) with the political
extinction of the race of their votaries! Christianity alone adopts
a different tone,--"Go ye, and preach the Gospel to all nations."--and
declares, not only that it will reign, but that none other shall. It
will not endure a rival; it will not consent to have a statue with
the mob of the Pantheon. Whether this ambition--call it pride and folly,
if you will, as you well may if the thing be merely human--was likely
to suggest itself to man, considering the local and national character
of other religions, and the apparent hopelessness of any such enterprise,
I have my doubts. Arrogance it may be; but it is not such arrogance as
is very natural to man.

These, I said, were amongst a few of the things in which I must say I
thought the theory of Christianity very unlike that of any religion
human nature was likely to invent.

If, I continued, I examine the past history and present position of
Christianity, with an impartial eye, I see that it presents in several
most important respects a contrast with other religions in point office.
I shall content myself with enumerating a few. Look, then, at the
perpetual spirit of aggression which characterizes this religion;
its undeniable power (in whatever it consists, and from whatever it
springs) to prompt those who hold it to render it victorious,--a spirit
which has more or less characterized its whole history: which still
lives, even in its most corrupt forms, and which has not been least
active in our own time. I do not see any thing like it in other religions.
Till I see Mollahs from Ispahan, Brahmins from Benares, Bonzes from
China, preaching their systems of religion in London, Paris, and Berlin,
supported year after year by an enormous expenditure on the part of
their zealous compatriots, and the nations who support them taking
the liveliest interest in their success or failure, till I see this
(call it fanatical if you will, the money thus expended wasted, the
men who give it fools), I shall not be able to pronounce Christianity
simply on a par with other religions.

Till the sacred books of other religions can boast of at least a
hundredth part of the same efforts to translate and diffuse them as
have been concentrated on the Bible; till we find them in at least
half as many languages; till they can render those who possess them
at least a tenth part as willing to make costly efforts to insure to
them a circulation coextensive with the family of man; till they
occupy an equal space in the literature of the world, and are equally
bound up with the philosophy, history, poetry, of the community of
civilized nations; till they have given an equal number of human
communities a written language, and may thus boast of having imparted
to large sections of the human family the germ of all art, science,
and civilization; till they can cite an equal amount of testimonies
to their beauty and sublimity from those who reject their divine
original,--I shall scarcely think Christianity can be put simply on a
par with other religions.

Till it can be said that the sacred books of other religions are
equally unique in relation to all the literature in which they are
imbedded; similar neither to what precedes nor what comes after them,
--their enemies themselves being judges; till they can be shown
to be as superior to all that is found in contemporaneous authors
as the New Testament is to the writings of Christian Fathers or the
Jewish Rabbis,--I cannot say that Christianity is just like any other
religion.

Till we can find a religion that has stood as many different assaults
from infidelity in the midst of it,--educated infidelity, infidelity
aided by learning, genius, philosophy, freely employing all the power
of argument and all the power of ridicule to disabuse its votaries;
till we can find a religion which can point to an equal array of
educated men, philosophic in spirit, in learning, and genius, deeply
skilled in the investigation of evidence, deliberately declaring that
its claims are well sustained.--we cannot say that Christianity is just
like any other religion.

Till it can be shown that another religion to an equal extent, has
propagated itself without force amongst totally different races, and
in the most distant countries, and has survived equal revolutions of
thought and opinion, manners and laws, amongst those who have embraced
it, it cannot be said that Christianity is simply like any other religion.

Till it can be shown that the sacred books of other religions have
contained predictions as definite and as unlikely to be fulfilled as the
success of early Christianity against all the opposition of prejudice
and persecution,--its voluntary reception amongst different races,
contrary to all the analogies of religious history,--and the continued
preservation of the Jews among all nations without forming a part of
any,--I cannot think that Christianity is precisely in the condition
of any other religion.

Such, gentlemen, were some few of the differences in fact which seemed
to me, not less than its theory, to discriminate Christianity from other
religions. Had I in those days of my youth, been favored with the views
of modern "spiritualism," I should have added, that till it is shown that
some other religion has possessed an equal power of moulding those
characters whom Mr. Newman points out as the best examples of "spiritual"
religion, and can point to oracles equally pervaded by that "sentiment"
which he declares is wanting in Greek philosophers, English Deists, and
German Pantheists, but which, he admits, pervades the Bible; till I see
the devout men whom he extols produced by other religions, or rather. I
ought to say, produced without them (where Christianity however is
unknown) by the unaided "spiritual faculty,"--I cannot but think
that the position of Christianity is somewhat discriminated both from
other religions and from "Naturalism."

Such, I said, to conclude, was an imperfect outline of some of my early
conflicts, and such the cruel mode in which my unbelieving friends
laughed at each other's hypotheses, and left me destitute of any.
Finding that they conclusively confuted one another, and perceiving
at last that the idea of the superhuman origin of Christianity did,
and, as Bishop Butler says, alone can resolve all the difficulties of
the subject, I was compelled to forego all the advantages of infidelity,
and condescended to "depress" my conscience to the "Biblical standard"!
Would to Heaven that it had never been depressed below it!

I am bound to say my auditors listened with courtesy. The conversation
was now carried on in little knots: I, who was glad of a rest, was
occupied in listening to a conversation between Harrington and his
Italian friend, who was urging him to take refuge from such a Babel
of discords as his company had uttered, in the only secure asylum.
Harrington told him, with the utmost gravity, that one great objection
to the Church of Rome was the unseemly liberty she allowed to the
right of private judgment; that he found in her communion distractions
the most perplexing, especially as between English and foreign Romanists!

____

After the party had broken up, and we were left alone, Mr. Fellows,
turning to me, said, "You lay great stress on the origination of
such a character as Christ. But can we make its reality a literary
problem? May it not have been imaginary? As Mr. Newman says, Human
nature is often portrayed in superhuman dignity; Why not in
superhuman goodness?

"That the origination;" said I, "of such a Moral Ideal, in so
peculiar a form, by such men as Galilean Jews, is unaccountable
enough, I fancy all will admit; but it is, you observe, only one of
the numberless points which are unaccountable; neither do I make
this one feature, or any of the other singular characteristics of
the New Testament, merely a literary problem. The whole, you see,
is a vast literary, moral, intellectual, spiritual, and historical
problem. But it is too much the way with you objectors to say, 'This
may, perhaps, be got over,' and 'That may be got over'; the question
is, as Bishop Butler says, whether all can be got over; for if all
the arguments for it be not false, Christianity is true.

"You charge us with the very conduct," retorted Fellowes, "which Mr.
Newman objects to Christians. They, says he, affirm that this objection
is of little weight, and that is of little weight; whereas altogether
they amount to considerable weight."

"I admit it," said I; "and those are very unfair who deny it. But
still, since there are these things of weight on both sides, the
argument returns, on which side does the balance on the sum-total of
evidence lie?"

"But," said Fellowes, "how few are competent to compute that!"

"You are really pleasant, Mr. Fellowes," I replied; "I thought the
question we were arguing was as to the truth or the falsehood of
Christianity, not whether the bulk of mankind are fully competent to
form an independent and profound judgment on its evidences: very
few are competent to do so either on this or any other complex subject;
certainly not (as our differences show) on the subject of your
'spiritualism.' But the incompetency of the great bulk of mankind to
deal with complicated evidence makes a thing neither true nor false;
perhaps on this, as on so many other subjects, the few must thoroughly
sift the matter for the many. If your present objection were of force,
what would become of truth in politics, law, medicine, in all which
the great majority must trust much to the conclusions of their wiser
fellow-creatures? Your observation is no confutation of the evidences
for Christianity: it is simply a satire upon God and the condition
of the human creatures he has made!"

"Well, let that pass," said Fellowes; "I was going to say further,
that it is not so clear to every one that Christ is so very wonderful
an ideal of humanity. Do you remember that Mr. Newman says in his
'Phases,' that, when he was a boy, he read Benson's Life of
Fletcher of Madely, and thought Fletcher a more perfect man than
Jesus Christ? and he also says that he imagines, if he were to read
the book again, he would think the same. Have you nothing to say
to that?"

"NOTHING," said I, "except to point you to the infinitely different
estimates of Christ formed by other men who yet think of historical
Christianity much as you do. How differently do such writers as
Mr. Greg and Mr. Parker speak! How do they almost exhaust the
resources of language to express their sentiments of this wonderful
character! As to Mr. Newman's impression, I do not think it worth
an answer. When a man so far forgets himself as to say what he can
hardly help knowing will be unspeakably painful to multitudes of his
fellow-creatures, on the strength of boyish impressions,--not even
thinking it worth while to verify those impressions, and see whether,
after thirty or forty years, he is not something more than a boy,--I
think it is scarcely worth while to reply. Christianity is willing to
consider the arguments of men, but not the impressions of boys."

"But we must not be too hard." said Harrington, "upon Mr. Newman; it
is evident, from his Hebrew Monarchy, that, as he takes a benevolent
pleasure in defending those whom nobody else will defend,--in petting
Ahab, whom he pronounces rather weak than wicked, and palliating Jezebel,
whose character was, it seems, grievously deteriorated by contact with
the 'prophets of Jehovah,'--so he has a chivalrous habit of depressing
those who have been particularly the objects of veneration. Elisha,
Samuel, and David are all brought down a great many degrees in the moral
scale. He has simply done the same with Christ."

"Well," said Fellowes, "I cannot help agreeing with Mr. Newman in
thinking that, when one hears men made the objects of extravagant eulogy,
it almost 'tempts one, even though a stranger to their very name,
to "pick holes," as the saying is.'"

"It may be so," said I; "but it is a tendency against which we should
guard. It would lead us, like him of Athens, to ostracize Aristides: we
should be weary of hearing him continually called 'The Just.'"

"However." rejoined Fellowes, "I am weary of hearing Christ so
perpetually called our example. As Mr. Newman says, he cannot, except
in a very modified sense, be such. 'His garments will not fit us.'"

"Did you ever hear," said I. "that fathers and mothers ought to set
an example to their children?"

"Certainly."

"Yet surely not in all things can they be such. Their garments surely
will not fit their children."

"No." said Harrington; "those of the father at all events will not,
if they are girls, nor of the mother, if they are boys. Fellowes, I
think you had better say nothing on this subject. If men of fifty
can, in all essential points, be beautiful examples to girls of
ten,--in gentleness, in patience, in humility, in kindness, and
so forth,--and all the more impressively for the wide interval between
them, why, I suppose Jesus Christ may be as much to his disciples."

"But, again," urged Fellowes to me, "you, like so many men, seem to
lay such stress on the superiority of the morality of the New Testament.
I cannot see it. I confess, with Mr. Foxton and many more, that it
seems to me that it has not such a very great advantage over that
of many heathen moralists who have said the same things,--Plato,
for example."

I replied, that, of course, it would be of no avail to affirm in
general (what I was yet convinced was true), that the New Testament
inculcated a system of ethics much more just and comprehensive than
any other volume in the world. I told him, however, that I thought
he would not deny that its manner of conveying ethical truth was unique;
that it not only contained more admirable and varied summaries of duty
than any other book whatever, but that we should seek in vain in any
other for such a profusion of just maxims and weighty sentiments,
expressed with such comprehensive brevity, or illustrated with so
much beauty and pathos. I remarked that, if he would be pleased to
do as I had once done,--compile a selection of the principal precepts
and maxims from the most admirable ethical works of antiquity (those
of Aristotle, for example), and compare them with two or three of the
summaries of similar precepts in the New Testament,--he would at once
feel how much more vivid, touching, animated, and even comprehensive,
was the Scriptural expression of the same truths. But I further observed,
that, even to obtain the means of such comparison, he must reject from
Plato or the Stagyrite twenty times the bulk of questionable
speculations, and dreary subtilties, which separate by long intervals
those gems of moral truth, which everywhere sparkle on the pages of
the New Testament.

I told him I could not help laying great stress on the degree and manner
in which this element enters into the composition of the New Testament;
that ethical truths are there expressed in every variety of form which
can fix them upon the imagination and the heart, with an entire absence
of those prolix discussions and metaphysical refinements which form so
large a portion of Aristotle and Plato. If we find in these writers a
moral truth expressed with something approaching the comprehensive
beauty and simplicity of the Gospels, we are filled with surprise and
rapture, and dig out with joy the glittering fragment from the mass of
earthy matter,--oppressive disquisitions about "ideas" and "essences,"
"energies" and "entelechies," and so forth, in which it is sure to be
imbedded. I promised, if health and life were given, to exhibit some
day these gems, with a sufficient portion of the surrounding earth
still attached to them, and to contrast them with those of the New
Testament. "In this strange volume," I continued, "the most beautiful
ethical maxims exist in unexampled profusion. After reading Aristotle's
ethics, I feel, when I turn to the New Testament, as Linnaeus is said
to have felt when he first saw growing wild the masses of blooming gorse,
which he had never seen in his cold North, except as a sheltered
exotic. Whether it was likely that contemporaries of the Pharisees, who
were sunk in formalism, and who had glossed away every moral and
spiritual the Law, could reach and maintain such elevation of tone,
I leave you to judge." But though I felt this, I acknowledged that
it was difficult to express it; and said that perhaps the best way to
compare the morality of the New Testament with the ethical system of
any philosopher, or the code of any legislator, would be to imagine
them all universally adopted, and see how much would have to be
objected to,--how much "brick" was mingled with the "porphyry." "If,
for example," said I, "Plato, who, I admit, so flashes upon us the
sublimest and most comprehensive principles of morals, and whose
ethical system you say is identical with that of Christianity, had
the forming of a republic, you would have community of women property,
--women trained to war,---infanticide certain circumstances,--young
children led to battle (though at a safe distance), that 'the young might
early scent carnage, and be inured to slaughter! Both with him and
Aristotle slavery would be a regularly sanctioned and perfectly
natural institution. Not only did they entertain very lax notions
of the relation of the sexes, but the tone in which they speak of
most abominable corruptions--I do not except cannibalism--to which
humanity has ever degraded implied that they regarded such things
as comparatively venial. I know no greater single names than these,
and I presume that these points you would find so, difficulty in
digesting." He admitted it.

I told him I supposed he would take equal objections to the Gentoo, or
the Roman, or the Spartan code, as also to the Koran. He admitted all
this too.

"But now, if we take the Christian code, and suppose the New Testament
made the literal guide of in every man, tell me, Mr. Fellowes, what
would the consequence? What would you wish otherwise?"

"Why," said Harrington, smiling, "he would, perhaps, object that
there would be no more war, and that retaliation would be impossible."

"The former," said I, "we could all endure, I suppose; nor be
unwilling to give up the latter, seeing that there would, in that
case, be no wrongs to avenge. It would not matter that you would be
compelled to turn your right cheek to him who smote you on the left
(let the interpretation be as literal as you will), since no one would
strike you on the left; nor that you must surrender your cloak to him
who took away your coat, since no one would take your coat. But tell
me, is there any thing more serious that would follow from the literal
and universal adoption of the ethics of the New Testament?" Fellowes
acknowledged that he knew of nothing, unless it was a sanction
of slavery.

"I do not admit that the New Testament sanctions it," I replied; "and
I will, if you like, give my reasons in full, another time. But is
there any thing else?"

He said he did not recollect any thing.

"But you would recoil from the literal realization of the systems and
codes we have mentioned." He confessed this also.

"The superiority of the Christian code, then," said I, "is practically
acknowledged. And it is further often confessed, in a most significant
way, by the mode in which the enemies of Christianity taunt its disciples.
When they speak of the vices and corruptions of the heathen, they blame,
and justly blame, the principles of their vicious systems; and ask
how it could be otherwise? When they blame the Christian, the first
and the last thing they usually do, is to point in triumph to the
contrast between his principles and practice. 'How much better,' say
they, 'is his code than conduct!' It is as a hypocrite that they
censure him. It is sad for him that it should be so; but it is a
glorious compliment to the morality of the New Testament. Its enemies
know not how to attack its disciples, except by endeavoring to show
that they do not act as it bids them. Surely," said I, in conclusion
"this uniform excellence of the Christian ethics, as compared with
other systems, is a peculiarity worth noting, and utterly
incomprehensible upon the hypothesis that it was the unaided work of
man. That there are points on which the moral systems of men and
nations osculate, is most true; that there should have been certain
approximations on many most important subjects was to be expected from
the essential identity of human nature, in all ages and countries; but
their deviations in some point or other--usually in several--from what
we acknowledge to be both right and expedient, is equally undeniable.
That, when such men as Plato and Aristotle tried their hands upon the
problem, they should err, while the writers of the New Testament should
have succeeded,--that these last should do what all mankind besides had
in some points or other failed to do,--is sufficiently wonderful; that
Galilean Jews should have solved the problem is, whether we consider
their age, their ignorance, or their prepossessions, to me utterly
incredible."

It was now very late; and we rose to retire. Mr. Fellowes said, "I
should be glad to know what answer you would make to Mr. Newman's
observations on three points,--one of them just alluded to,--on which he
affirms that undue credit has been given to Christianity; I mean its
supposed elevating influence in relation to women, its supposed
mitigation of slavery, and its supposed triumphs before Constantine."

I said I would scribble a few remarks on the subject, and would give
them to him in a day or two. I remarked that Mr. Newman had treated
these great subjects very briefly, but that I could not be quite so
concise as he had been.

____

The discussions of the preceding day had made so deep an impression
upon me, that when I went to bed I found it very difficult to sleep; and
when I did get off at last, my thoughts shaped themselves into a singular
dream, which, though only a dream, is not, I think, without instruction.
I shall entitle it

THE BLANK BIBLE.

Etlen gegonein vuktiphoit' oneirata.
               AEschyl. Prom. Vinct. 657.

[I take courage to proclaim night-roaming dreams]

I thought I was at home, and that on taking up my Greek Testament one
morning to read (as is my wont) a chapter, I found, to my surprise,
that what seemed to be the old, familiar book was a total blank; not
a character was inscribed in it or upon it. I supposed that some book
like it had, by some accident, got into its place; and, without
stopping to hunt for it, took down a large quarto volume which contained
both the Old and New Testaments. To my surprise, however, this also
was a blank from beginning to end. With that facility of accommodation
to any absurdities which is proper to dreams, I did not think very much
of the coincidence of two blank volumes having been substituted for two
copies of the Scriptures in two different places, and therefore quietly
reached down a copy of the Hebrew Bible, in which I could just manage to
make out a chapter. To my increased surprise, and even something like
terror, I found that this also was a perfect blank. While I was musing
on this unaccountable phenomenon, my servant entered the room, and said
that thieves had been in the house during the night, for that her large
Bible, which she had left on the kitchen table, had been removed, and
another volume left by mistake in its place, of just the same size, but
made of nothing but white paper. She added, with a laugh, that it must
have been a very queer kind of thief to steal a Bible at all; and that he
should have left another book instead, made it the more odd. I asked her
if any thing else had been missed, and if there were any signs of people
having entered the house. She answered in the negative to both these
questions; and I began to be strangely perplexed.

On going out into the street, I met a friend, who, almost before we had
exchanged greetings, told me that a most unaccountable robbery had been
committed at his house during the night, for that every copy of the
Bible had been removed, and a volume of exactly the same size, but of
pure white paper, left in its stead. Upon telling him that the same
accident had happened to myself, we began to think that there was more
in it than we had at first surmised.

On proceeding further, we found every one complaining, in similar
perplexity, of the same loss; and before night it became evident that
a great and terrible "miracle" had been wrought in the world; that
in one night, silently, but effectually, that hand which had written
its terrible menace on the walls of Belshazzar's palace had reversed
the miracle; had sponged out of our Bibles every syllable they contained,
and thus reclaimed the most precious gift which Heaven had bestowed,
and ungrateful man had abused.

I was curious to watch the effects of this calamity on the varied
characters of mankind. There was universally, however, an interest in
the Bible now it was lost, such as had never attached to it while
it was possessed; and he who had been but happy enough to possess
fifty copies might have made his fortune. One keen speculator, as
soon as the first whispers of the miracle began to spread, hastened
to the depositories of the Bible Society and the great book-stocks
in Paternoster Row, and offered to buy up at a high premium any
copies of the Bible that might be on hand; but the worthy merchant
was informed that there was not a single copy remaining. Some, to whom
their Bible had been a "blank" book for twenty years, and who would
never have known whether it was full or empty had not the lamentations
of their neighbors impelled them to look into it, were not the least
loud in their expressions of sorrow at this calamity. One old gentleman,
who had never troubled the book in his life, said it was "confounded
hard to be deprived of his religion in his old age"; and another, who
seemed to have lived as though he had always been of Mandeville's
opinion, that "private vices were public benefits," was all at once
alarmed for the morals of mankind. He feared, he said, that the
loss of the Bible would have "a cursed bad effect on the public virtue
of the country."

As the fact was universal and palpable, it was impossible that, like
other miracles, it should leave the usual loopholes for scepticism.
Miracles in general, in order to be miracles at all, have been singular
or very rare violations of a general law, witnessed by a few, on
whose testimony they are received, and in the reception of whose
testimony consists the exercise of that faith to which they appeal. It
was evident, that, whatever the reason of this miracle, it was not
an exercise of docile and humble faith founded on evidence no more
than just sufficient to operate as a moral test. This was a miracle
which, it could not be denied, looked marvellously like a "judgment."
However, there were, in some cases, indications enough to show how
difficult it is to give such evidence as will satisfy the obstinacy
of mankind. One old sceptical fellow, who had been for years bedridden,
was long in being convinced (if indeed, he ever was) that any thing
extraordinary had occurred in the world; he at first attributed the
reports of what he heard to the "impudence" of his servants and
dependents, and wondered that they should dare to venture upon such a
joke. On finding these assertions backed by those of his acquaintance,
he pished and pshawed, and looked very wise, and ironically congratulated
them on this creditable conspiracy with the insolent rascals, his
servants. On being shown the old Bible, of which he recognized the
binding, though he had never seen the inside, and finding it a very
fair book of blank paper, he quietly observed that it was very easy
to substitute the one book for the other, though he did not pretend to
divine the motives which induced people to attempt such a clumsy piece
of imposition; and, on their persisting that they were not deceiving
him, swore at them as a set of knaves, who would fain persuade him
out of his senses. On their bringing him a pile of blank Bibles
backed by the asseverations of other neighbors, he was ready to burst
with indignation. "As to the volumes," he said, "it was not difficult
to procure a score or two 'of commonplace books,' and they had
doubtless done so to carry on the cheat; for himself he would sooner
believe that the whole world was leagued against him than credit any
such nonsense." They were angry, in their turn, at his incredulity,
and told him that he was very much mistaken if he thought himself
of so much importance that they would all perjure themselves to
delude him, since they saw plainly enough that he could do that very
easily for himself, without any help of theirs. They really did not
care one farthing whether he believed them or not: if he did not
choose to believe the story, he might leave it alone. "Well, well,"
said he, "it is all very fine: but unless you show me, not one of
these blank books, which could not impose upon an owl, but one of
the very blank Bibles themselves, I will not believe." At this curious
demand, one of his nephews who stood by (a lively young fellow) was
so exceedingly tickled, that, though he had some expectations from
the sceptic, he could not help bursting out into laughter; but he became
grave enough when his angry uncle told him that he would leave him in
his will nothing but the family Bible, which he might make a ledger if
he pleased. Whether this resolute old sceptic ever vanquished his
incredulity, I do not remember.

Very different from the case of this sceptic was that of a most
excellent female relative, who had been equally long a prisoner to
her chamber, and to whom the Bible had been, as to so many thousands
more, her faithful companion in solitude, and the all-sufficient
solace of her sorrows. I found her gazing intently on the blank Bible,
which had been so recently bright to her with the lustre of immortal
hopes. She burst into tears as she saw me. "And has your faith left
you too, my gentle friend?" said I. "No," she answered, "and I trust it
never will. He who has taken away the Bible has not taken away my
memory, and I now recall all that is most precious in that book which
has so long been my meditation. It is a heavy judgment upon the land;
and surely," added this true Christian, never thinking of the faults of
others, "I, at least, cannot complain, for I have not prized as I ought
that book, which yet, of late years, I think I can say, I loved more
than any other possession on earth. But I know," she continued, smiling
through her tears, "that the sun shines, though clouds may veil him for
the moment; and I am unshaken in my faith in those truths which have
transcribed on my memory, though they are blotted from my book. In these
hopes I have lived, and in these hopes I will die." "I have no consolation
to offer to you," said I, "for you need none." She quoted many of the
passages which have been, through all ages, the chief stay of sorrowing
humanity; and I thought the words of Scripture had never sounded so
solemn or so sweet before. "I shall often come to see you," I said,
"to hear a chapter in the Bible, for you know it far better than I."

No sooner had I taken my leave, than I was informed that an old lady of
my acquaintance had summoned me in haste. She said she was much impressed
by this extraordinary calamity. As, to my certain knowledge, she had
never troubled the contents of the book, I was surprised that she had so
taken to heart the loss of that which had, practically, been lost to
her all her days. "Sir" said she, the moment I entered, "the Bible, the
Bible." "Yes, madam," said I, "this is a very grievous and terrible
visitation. I hope we may learn the lessons which it is calculated to
teach us." "I am sure," answered she, "I am not likely to forget it for
a while, for it has been a grievous loss to me." "I told her I was
very glad." "Glad!" she rejoined. "Yes," I said, "I am glad to find
that you think it so great a loss, for that loss may then be a gain
indeed. There is, thanks be to God, enough left in our memories to
carry us to heaven." "Ah! but," said she, "the hundred pounds and
the villany of my maid-servant. Have you not heard?" This gave me some
glimpse as to the secret of her sorrow. She told me that she had
deposited several bank-notes in the leaves of her family Bible,
thinking that, to be sure, nobody was likely to look there for them.
"No sooner," said she, "were the Bibles made useless by this strange
event, than my servant peeped into every copy in the house, and she
now denies that she found any thing in my old family Bible, except two
or three blank leaves of thin paper, which, she says, she destroyed;
that, if any characters were ever on them, they must have been erased
when those of the Bible were obliterated. But I am sure she lies; for
who would believe that Heaven took the trouble to blot out my precious
bank-notes. They were not God's word, I trow." It was clear that she
considered the "promise to pay" better by far than any "promises" which
the book contained. "I should not have cared so much about the Bible,"
she whined, hypocritically, "because, as you truly observe, our
memories may retain enough to carry us to heaven,"--a little in that
case would certainly go a great way, I thought to myself,--"and if not,
there are those who can supply the loss. But who is to get my bank-notes
back again? Other people have only lost their Bibles." It was, indeed,
a case beyond my power of consolation.

The calamity not only strongly stirred the feelings of men, and upon
the whole, I think, beneficially, but it immediately stimulated their
ingenuity. It was wonderful to see the energy with which men discussed
the subject, and the zeal, too, with which they ultimately exerted
themselves to repair the loss. I could even hardly regret it, when I
considered what a spectacle of intense activity, intellectual and moral,
the visitation had occasioned. It was very early suggested, that the
whole Bible had again and again been quoted piecemeal in one book or
other; that it had impressed its own image on the surface of human
literature, and had been reflected on its course as the stars on a
steam. But, alas! on investigation, it was found as vain to expect
that the gleam of starlight would still remain mirrored in the water
when the clouds had veiled the stars themselves, as that the bright
characters of the Bible would remain reflected in the books of man
when had been erased from the Book of God. On inspection it was
found that every text, every phrase which had been quoted, not only
in the books of devotion and theology, but in those of poetry and
fiction, had been remorselessly expunged. Never before had I had any
adequate idea of the extent to which the Bible had moulded the
intellectual and moral life of the last eighteen centuries, nor how
intimately it had interfused itself with habits of thought and modes
of expression; nor how naturally and extensively its comprehensive
imagery and language had been introduced into human writings, and most
of all where there had been most of genius. A vast portion of
literature became instantly worthless, and was transformed into so
much waste-paper. It was almost impossible to look into any book
of any merit, and read ten pages together, without coming to some
provoking erasures and mutilations, some "hiatus valde deflendi,"
which made whole passages perfectly unintelligible. Many of the
sweetest passages of Shakspeare were converted into unmeaning nonsense,
from the absence of those words which his own all but divine genius
had appropriated from a still diviner source. As to Milton, he was
nearly ruined, as might naturally be supposed. Walter Scott's novels
were filled with perpetual lacunae. I hoped it might be otherwise
with the philosophers, and so it was; but even here it was curious
to see what strange ravages the visitation had wrought. Some of the
most beautiful and comprehensive of Bacon's Aphorisms were reduced
to enigmatical nonsense.

Those who held large stocks of books knew not what to do. Ruin stared
them in the face; their value fell seventy or eighty per cent. All
branches of theology, in particular, were a drug. One fellow said,
that he should not so much have minded if the miracle had sponged out
what was human as well as what was divine, for in that case he would
at least have had so many thousand volumes of fair blank paper, which
was as much as many of them were worth before. A wag answered, that
it was not usual, in despoiling a house, to carry away any thing
except the valuables. Meantime, millions of blank Bibles filled the
shelves of stationers, to be sold for day-books and ledgers, so that
there seemed to be no more employment for the paper-makers in that
direction for many years to come. A friend, who used to mourn over
the thought of palimpsest manuscripts,--of portions of Livy and Cicero
erased to make way for the nonsense of some old monkish chronicler,
--exclaimed, as he saw a tradesman trudging off with a handsome
morocco-bound quarto for a day-book, "Only think of the pages once
filled with the poetry of Isaiah, and the parables of Christ, sponged
clean to make way for orders for silks and satins, muslins, cheese,
and bacon!" The old authors, of course, were left to their mutilations;
there was no way in which the confusion could be remedied. But the
living began to prepare new editions of their works, in which they
endeavored to give a new turn to the thoughts which had been mutilated
by erasure, and I was nor a little amused to see that many, having
stolen from writers whose compositions were as much mutilated as
their own, could not tell the meaning of their own pages.

It seemed at first to be a not unnatural impression, that even those
who could recall the erased texts as they perused the injured books,
--who could mentally full up the imperfect clauses,--were not at
liberty to inscribe them; they seemed to fear that, if they did so,
the characters would be as if written in invisible ink, or would
surely fade away. It was with trembling that some at length made the
attempt, and to their unspeakable joy found the impression durable.
Day after day passed; still the characters remained; and the people
length came to the conclusion, that God left them at liberty, if they
could, to reconstruct the Bible for themselves out of their collective
remembrances of its divine contents. This led again to some curious
results, all of them singularly indicative of the good and ill that
is in human nature. It was with incredible joy that men came to the
conclusion that the book might be thus recovered nearly entire, and
nearly in the very words of the original, by the combined effort of
human memories. Some of the obscurest of the species, who had studied
nothing else but the Bible, but who had well studied that, came to be
objects of reverence among Christians and booksellers; and the various
texts they quoted were taken down with the utmost care. He who could
fill up a chasm by the restoration of words which were only partially
remembered, or could contribute the least text that had been forgotten,
was regarded as a sort of public benefactor. At length, a great public
movement amongst the divines of all denominations was projected, to
collate the results of these partial recoveries of the sacred text.
It was curious, again, to see in how various ways human passions and
prejudices came into play. It was found that the several parties who
had furnished from memory the same portions of the sacred texts had
fallen into a great variety of different readings; and though most
of them were of as little importance in themselves as the bulk of
those which are paraded in the critical recensions of Mill, Griesbach,
or Tischendorf, they became, from the obstinacy and folly of the men
who contended about them, important differences, merely because they
were differences. Two reverend men of the synod, I remember, had a
rather tough dispute as to whether it was twelve baskets full of
fragments of the five loaves which the five thousand left, and seven
baskets full of the seven loaves which the four thousand had left,
or vice versa: as also whether the words in John vi. 19 were "about
twenty or five and twenty," or "about thirty or five and thirty
furlongs."

To do the assembly justice, however, there was found an intense
general earnestness and sincerity befitting the occasion, and an equally
intense desire to obtain, as nearly as possible, the very words of
the lost volume; only (as was also, alas! natural) vanity in some;
in others, confidence in their strong impressions and in the accuracy
of their memory; obstinacy and pertinacity in many more (all
aggravated as usual by controversy),--caused many odd embarrassments
before the final adjustment was effected.

I was particularly struck with the varieties of reading which mere
prejudices in favor of certain systems of theology occasioned in
the several partisans of each. No doubt the worthy men were
generally unconscious of the influence of these prejudices; yet,
somehow, the memory was seldom so dear in relation to those texts
which told against them as in relation to those which told for
them. A certain Quaker had an impression that the words instituting
the Eucharist were preceded by a qualifying expression, "And Jesus
said to the twelve, Do this in remembrance of me"; while he could
not exactly recollect whether or not the formula of "baptism" was
expressed in the general terms some maintained it was. Several
Unitarians had a clear recollection, that in several places the
authority of manuscripts, as estimated in Griesbaeh's recension, was
decidedly against the common reading; while the Trinitarians
maintained that Griesbaeb's recension in those instances had left
that reading undisturbed. An Episcopalian began to bare his doubts
whether the usage in favor of the interchange of the words "bishop"
and "presbyter" was so uniform as the Presbyterian and Independent
maintained, and whether there was not a passage in which Timothy
and Titus were expressly called "bishops." The Presbyterian and
Independent had similar biases; and one gentleman, who was a
strenuous advocate of the system of the latter, enforced one
equivocal remembrance by saying, he could, as it were, distinctly
see the very spot on the page before his mind's eye. Such tricks
will imagination play with the memory, when preconception plays
tricks with the imagination! In like manner; it was seen that, while
the Calvinist was very distinct in his recollection of the ninth
chapter of Romans, his memory was very faint as respects the exact
wording of some of the verses in the Epistle of James; and though
the Arminian had a most vivacious impression of all those passages
which spoke of the claims of the law, he was in some doubt whether
the Apostle Paul's sentiments respecting human depravity, and
justification by faith alone, had not been a little exaggerated. In
short, it very dearly appeared that tradition was no safe guide;
that if, even while she was hardly a month old; she could play such
freaks with the memories of honest people, there was but a sorry
prospect of the secure transmission of truth for eighteen hundred
years. From each man's memory seemed to glide something or other
which he was not inclined to retain there, and each seemed to
substitute in its stead something that he liked better.

Though the assembly was in the main most anxious to come to a right
decision, and really advanced an immense way towards completing a
true and faithful copy of the lost original, the disputes which arose,
on almost every point of theology, promised the world an abundant
crop of new sects and schisms. Already there had sprung up several
whose names had never been heard of in the world, but for this
calamity. Amongst them were two who were called the "Long Memories"
and the "Short Memories." Their general tendencies coincided pretty
much with those of the orthodox and the rationalists.

It was curious to see by what odd associations, sometimes of contrast,
sometimes of resemblance, obscure texts were recovered, though they
were verified, when once mentioned, by the consciousness of hundreds.
One old gentleman, a miser, contributed (and it was all he did contribute)
a maxim of prudence, which he recollected, principally from having
systematically abused it. All the ethical maxims, indeed, were soon
collected; for though, as usual, no one recollected his own peculiar
duties or infirmities, every one, as usual, kindly remembered those
of his neighbors. Husbands remembered what was due from their wives,
and wives what was due from their husbands. The unpleasant sayings
about "better to dwell on the house-top" and "the perpetual dropping
on a very rainy day" were called to mind by thousands. Almost the
whole of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes were contributed, in the merest
fragments, in this way. As for Solomon's "times for every thing," few
could remember them all, but every body remembered some. Undertakers
said there was a "time to mourn," and comedians that there was a
"time to laugh"; young ladies innumerable remembered that there was
a "time to love," and people of all kinds that there was a "time
to hate"; every body knew there was a "time to speak," but a worthy
Quaker reminded them that there was also a "time to keep silence."

Some dry parts of the laws of Moses were recovered by the memory of
jurists, who seemed to have no knowledge whatever of any other parts
of the sacred volume; while in like manner one or two antiquarians
supplied some very difficult genealogical and chronological matters,
in equal ignorance of the moral and spiritual contents of the
Scriptures.

As people became accustomed to the phenomenon, the perverse humors of
mankind displayed themselves in a variety of ways. The efforts of the
pious assembly were abundantly laughed at; but I must, in justice,
add, without driving them from their purpose. Some profane wags
suggested there was now a good opportunity of realizing the scheme
taking "not" out of the Commandments and inserting it in the Creed.
But they were sarcastically told, that the old objection to the plan
would still apply; that they would not sin with equal relish if they
were expressly commanded to do so, nor take such pleasure in
infidelity if infidelity became a duty. Others said that, if the world
must wait till the synod had concluded its labors, the prophecies of
the New Testament would not be written till some time after their
fulfilment; and that, if all the conjectures of the learned divines
were inserted in the new edition of the Bible, the declaration in
John would be literally verified, and that "the world itself would
not contain all the books which would be written."

But the most amusing thing of all was to see, as time made man more
familiar with this strange event, the variety of speculations which
were entertained respecting its object and design. Many began
gravely to question whether it was the duty of the synod to attempt
the reconstruction of a book of which God himself had so manifestly
deprived the world, and whether it was not a profane, nay, an
atheistical, attempt to frustrate his will. Some, who were secretly
glad to be released from so troublesome a book, were particularly
pious on this head, and exclaimed bitterly against this rash attempt
to counteract and cancel the decrees of Heaven. The Papists, on their
part, were confident that the design was to correct the exorbitancies
of a rabid Protestantism, and show the world, by direct miracle, the
necessity of submitting to the decision of their Church and the
infallibility of the supreme Pontiff; who, as they truly alleged,
could decide all knotty points quite as well without the Word of
God as with it. On being reminded that the writings of the Fathers,
on which they laid so much stress as the vouchers of their traditions,
were mutilated by the same stroke which had demolished the Bible (all
their quotations from the sacred volume being erased), some of the
Jesuits affirmed that many of the Fathers were rather improved than
otherwise by the omission, and that they found these writings quite
as intelligible and not less edifying than before. In this, many
Protestants very cordially agreed. On the other hand, many of our
modern infidels gave an entirely new turn to the whole affair, by
saying that the visitation was evidently not in judgment, but in
mercy; that God in compassion, and not in indignation, had taken
away a book which man had regarded with an extravagant admiration
and idolatry, and which they had exalted to the place of that
clear internal oracle which He had planted in the human breast; in
a word, that, if it was a rebuke at all, it was a rebuke to a rampant
"Bibliolatry." As I heard all these different versions of so simple
a matter, and found that not a few were inclined to each, I could,
not help exclaiming, "In truth the Devil is a very clever fellow,
and man even a greater blockhead than I had taken him for." But in
spite of the surprise with which I had listened to these various
explanations of an event which seemed to me clear as if written
with a sunbeam, this last reason, which assigned as the cause of
God's resumption of his own gift, an extravagant admiration and
veneration of it on the part of mankind,--it being so notorious
that those who professed belief in its divine origin and authority
had (even the best of them) so grievously neglected both the
study and the practice of it,--struck me as so exquisitely
ludicrous, that I broke into a fit of laughter, which awoke me.
I found that it was broad daylight, and the morning sun was
streaming in at the window, and shining in quiet radiance upon
the open Bible which lay on my table. So strongly had my dream
impressed me, that I almost felt as though, on inspection, I
should find the sacred leaves a blank, and it was therefore
with joy that my eyes rested on those words, which I read through
grateful tears: "The gifts of God are without repentance."

____

July 19. This morning my friends treated me to a long dialogue in
which it was contended

THAT MIRACLES ARE IMPOSSIBLE, BUT THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PROVE IT.

"I think, Fellowes," Harrington began, "if there be any point in
which you and I are likely to agree, it is in that dogma that miracles
are impossible. And yet here, as usual, my sceptical doubts pursue
and baffle me. I wish you would try with me whether there be not an
escape from them." Fellowes assented.

"As I have to propose and explain my doubts," said Harrington, "perhaps
you will excuse my taking the 'lion's share' of the conversation. But
now, by way of beginning in some way,--what, my dear friend, is a
miracle?"

"What is a miracle? Ay, that is the question; but though it may be
difficult to find an exact definition of it, it is easily understood by
every body."

"Very likely; then you can with more ease give me your notion of it."

"If, for example," said Fellowes, "the sun which has risen so long,
every morning, were to rise no more; or if a man, whom we knew to be
dead and buried, were to come to life again; or if what we know to
be water were at once to become wine, none would hesitate to call that
a miracle."

"You remember, perhaps," said Harrington, "an amusing little play of
Socratic humor in the dialogue of Theaetetus, somewhere in the
introduction, when the ironical querist has asked that intelligent
youth what science is?

"I cannot say that I do; for though I have read that dialogue, it is
some years ago."

"Let me read you the passage then. Here it is," said Harrington,
reaching down the dialogue and turning to the place. "'Tell me frankly,'
says Socrates, 'what do you think science is?' 'It appears to me,' says
Theaetetus, 'that such things as one may learn from Theodorus here,
--namely, geometry, as well as other things which you have just
enumerated; and again, that the shoemaker's art, and those of other
artisans,--all and each of them are nothing else but science.' 'You
are munificent indeed,' said Socrates; 'for when asked for one thing, you
have given many.' I almost think," continued Harrington, "that, if
Socrates were here, he would do what I should not presume to do,--banter
you in a somewhat similar way. He would say, that, having asked what
a miracle was, Mr. Fellowes told him that half a dozen things were
miracles, but did not tell him what every miracle was; that is, never
told him what made all miracles such. Suffer me again to ask you what a
miracle is?"

"I recollect now enough of the charming dialogue from which you have
taken occasion to twit me, to answer you in the same vein. As it
turns out, Socrates, appears to be at least equally ignorant with
Theaetetus as to the definition of which he is in search. I think it
may be as well for me to do at once what certainly Theaetetus would
have done, had he known that his reprover was as much in the dark
as himself."

"What is that?" said Harrington.

"He would have cut short a good deal of banter by at once turning
the tables upon his ironical tormentor; acknowledging his impotence,
and making him give the required definition. Come, let me take that
course."

"I have no objection, my friend, if you will first, as you say,
acknowledge your impotence; only I would not advise you, for in that
case you would be obliged to confess that you have resolved with me
that a miracle is impossible, and yet that you are not quite sure that
you can tell, or rather own that you cannot, what a miracle is. Let me
entreat you to essay some definition; and if you break down, I have no
objection to take my chance of the honor of success or the ignominy of
failure."

"The fact is," answered Fellowes, "that, like many other things, it
is better understood--"

"Than described, as the novelists say, when they feel that their powers
of description fail them. But this will hardly do for us; we are
philosophers, you know (save the mark!) in search of truth.--A
thing that is well known by every body, and is capable of being
described by nobody, would be almost a miracle of itself; and I
think it imports us to give some better account of the matter. I
can see that my orthodox uncle there is already secretly amusing
himself at the anticipation of our perplexities."

I took no notice of the remark, but went on writing.

"Well, then, if I must give you some definition," said Fellowes, "I
know not if I can do better than avail myself of the usual one, that
it is a suspension or violation of a law of nature. Is not that the
account which Hume gives of the matter?"

"I think it is. I am afraid, however, that at the very outset we should
have some difficulty in determining one of the phrases used in this
very definition,--namely, how we are to understand a law of nature. I
do not ask whether law implies a lawgiver; you will assert it, and I
shall not gainsay it: it is at present immaterial. But do you not mean
by a law of nature (I am asking the question merely to ascertain whether
or not we are thinking of the same thing) just this;--the fact that
similar phenomena uniformly reappear in an observed series of antecedents
and consequents, which series is invariable so far as we know, and so
far as others know, whose experience we can test? Is not that what
you mean? You do not, I presume, suppose you know any thing of the
connection which binds together causes and effects, or the manner in
which the secret bond (if there be any) which unites antecedents and
consequents, in any natural phenomena, is maintained?"

"I certainly make no such pretensions; all that I mean by a law of
nature is just what you have mentioned. I shall be well content to
adhere to your explanation," answered Fellowes.

"So that when we observe similar phenomena reproduced in the aforesaid
series of antecedents and consequents, we call that a law of nature,
and affirm that violation of that law would be a miracle, and
impossible?"

"Certainly."

"And further, do you not agree with me that such invariable series is
sufficiently certified to us by our own uniform experience,--that of
all our neighbors and friends,--and, in a word, that of all whose
experience we can test?"

"I agree with you."

"I am content," replied Harrington; "but at the outset it seems to me
that the expression I have used requires a little expansion to meet
the sophistry of our opponents. I will either explain myself now, and
then leave you to judge; or I will say no more of the matter here, but
pursue our discussion, and let the difficulty (if there be one) disclose
itself in the course of it, and be provided for as may be in our power."

"What is it?"

"It is this;--that it cannot, with truth, be said, in relation to
many phenomena, that (so far as our experience informs us) they do
follow each other in an absolutely invariable order; which phenomena,
nevertheless, we believe to be as much under the dominion of law as
the rest; and any violation of this law, I presume, you would think
as much a miracle as any other. For example, we do not find the same
remedies or the same regimen will produce the same effects upon
different individuals at different times; again, the varieties of the
weather, in every climate, are dependent upon so many causes, that
it transcends all human skill to calculate them. Yet I dare say you
can easily imagine certain degrees and continuity of change in these
variable phenomena which you would not hesitate to call as much miracle
as if the dead were raised, or the sun stayed in mid-heaven."

"Yes, unquestionably," replied Fellowes; "if I found, for instance that
a dozen men could take an ounce of arsenic or half a pound of opium with
impunity, I should not hesitate to regard it as a miracle, although the
precise amount sufficient to kill in any particular case might not be
capable of being ascertained. In the same manner, if I found that though
the amount of heat and cold in summer and winter in our climate is
subject to marked variations, yet that suddenly for several consecutive
years we had more frost in July than in December; that gooseberries and
currants were getting ripe on Christmas day, and men were skating
on the Serpentine on the 10th of August, I should certainly argue that
a change tantamount to a miracle had been wrought in nature."

"You have just expressed my own feelings on that point," said Harrington;
"and it was this very consideration which made me say, that, in order to
render my expression perfectly clear, and to obviate misconception
and misrepresentation, we must endeavor to include this very frequent case
of a certain limited variation from the order of nature as consistent
with the absence of miracle, and a certain degree of that variation as
inconsistent with it."

"Will you just state our criterion once more, with the limitation
attached; and then I shall know better whether we are certainly agreed
in the criterion we ought to employ?"

"I say, then," resumed Harrington, "that our uniform experience, that
of our friends and neighbors, and of all whose experience we have the
opportunity of testing, as to the order of nature,--meaning by that
either an order absolutely invariable, or varying only limits which
are themselves absolutely invariable,--justifies us in pronouncing an
event contradicting such experience to be all impossibility. If the
principle is worth any thing, let us embrace it, and inflexibly
apply it."

"And I, for one," replied Fellowes, "am quite satisfied with the
principle and the limitations you have laid down; and am so confident
of its correctness, that I do not hesitate to say that all the
miraculous histories on record are to be summarily rejected."

"For example," said Harrington, "we have seen the sun rise every morning
and set every evening all our lives; and every one whose experience
we can test has seen the same. Every man who has come into the world
has come into it but one way, and has as certainly gone out of it, and
has not returned; and every one whose experience we can test affirms
the same. We therefore conclude on this uniform and invariable
experience, that the same sequences took place yesterday and the day
before, and will take place tomorrow and the day after; and we
may fearlessly apply this principle both to the past and the future.
I know of no other reason for rejecting a miracle; and if I am to
apply the principle at all to phenomena which have not fallen under
my own observation, I must apply it without restriction."

"I am quite of your mind."

"You think, with me, that our experience,--the experience of those
about us,--the experience of all whose experience we have the means
of testing,--is sufficient to settle the question as to the experience
of those whose experience we have not the means of testing; who lived,
for example, a thousand years before we were born; or in a distant
part of the world, where we have never been?"

"Certainly: why should we hesitate so to apply it?"

"I am sure I know not; and you see I am not unwilling so to apply it.
Only I asked the question, because we must not forget that many say
it is begging the question; for, as a 'miracle' has not been exerted
on us to give us a vision of the past experience of man, or his
present experience in any part of the world we never visited, our
opponents affirm, that to say that the experience we trust to has been
and is the universal experience of man, is a clear petitio principii."

"Surely," said Fellowes, "it may be said that the general experience of
mankind has been of such a character."

"Exactly so, as a postulate from our experience, as a generalized
assumption that our experience may be taken as a specimen and criterion
of all experience. We assume that,--we do not prove it. It is just as
in any other case of induction; we say, 'Because this is true in twenty
or thirty or a hundred instances (as the case may be), which we can test,
--therefore it is generally or universally true'; we do not say, because
this is true in these instances, and because it is also generally or
universally true, therefore it is so! No; our true premise is restricted
to what alone we know from our experience and the experience of all
whose experience we can test if we please. This is our real ground on
which we are to justify our rejection of all miracles, and let us adhere
to it. As to your general experience, you see, the advocate of miracles
easily gets over that. He says, 'Why, no one pretends that miracles are
as "plenty as blackberries"; otherwise they would no longer be miracles;
these are comparatively rare events, of course; and, being rare, are
necessarily at variance with general experience'; and, for my part, I
should not know how to answer the objection."

"Well, then," said Fellowes. "let us adhere to that which is our real
ground of objection, and let us consistently apply it."

"With all my heart," said Harrington; "we agree then, that our own
uniform experience,--that of all our neighbors and friends,--in fact,
of all whose experience we can test, is a sufficient criterion of a
law of nature, and justifies us in at once rejecting as possible any
alleged fact which violates it."

"Certainly."

"For example, if it were asserted that last year that the sun never
rose on a certain day, or, rather, for twenty-four hours the rotation
of the earth ceased, we should instantly reject the story, without
examination of witnesses, or any such thing."

"No doubt of that."

"And just so in other cases. This, then, is our ground. You would not
(if I may advise) lay much stress on the fact that there have been
so many stories of a supernatural kind false."

"Why, I do not know whether it would not be wise to insist upon
that argument. It seems to be not without weight," urged Fellowes.

"Perhaps so," replied Harrington; "but it has, you see, this
inconvenience, of proving more than you want. The greater part by far
of all religions have been false. But you affirm that there is one
little system absolutely true. The greater part of the theories of
science and philosophy, which men, from time to time, have framed,
have also been false; and yet you believe that there is such a thing
as true philosophy and true science. Similarly, the generality of
political governments have been founded on vicious principles, yet
you hope for a political millennium at last. In short, the argument
would go to prove, that, as there can never have been any true miracles
because there have been so many false ones, so, for similar reasons,
it is mere 'vanity and vexation of spirit' to search after truth in
religion, or science, or politics; and though a sceptic, like myself,
might not much mind it, perhaps it would trammel such a positive
philosopher as you. Nay, a pertinacious opponent might even say, that,
as you believe that in all these last cases there is a substance, else
there would not have been the shadows, so, with reference to miracles,
the very general belief of them rather argues that there have been
miracles, than that there have been none. My advice is, that we adhere
to these reasons we have assigned, for they are our real reasons."

"Be it so; I hate miracles so much, that I care not by what means the
doltish delusion is dissipated."

"Only that the weapons should be fair?"

"O, of course."

"To resume, then. I say, that, if we were told that last year an event
of such a miraculous nature occurred as that the earth did not revolve
for twenty-four hours together, we should at once reject it, without
any examination of witnesses, or troubling ourselves with any thing of
the kind."

"Unquestionably."

"And if it were said to have occurred twenty years ago we should take
the same course."

"Certainly."

"And so if any such event were said to have occurred eighteen hundred
years ago?"

"Agreed."

"And if such events were said at that day to have occurred eighteen
hundred years previously, we believe, of course, the men of that time
would have been equally entitled to reason in the same way about
them as ourselves; and, in short, that we may fearlessly apply the
same principle to the same epoch."

"Of course"

"And so for two thousand years before that; and, in fact, we must
believe that every thing has always been going on in the same manner,
--the sun always rising and setting, men dying and never rising
and so forth."

"Exactly so, even from the beginning of the creation," said Fellowes.

"The beginning of the creation! My good fellow, I do not understand
you. As we have been going back, we have seen that there is no
period at which the same principle of judgment will not apply, and,
following it fearlessly, I say that we are in all fairness bound
to believe that there never has been a period when the present order
has been different from what it is; in other words, that the
progression has been an eternal one."

"I cannot admit that argument," said Fellowes.

"Then be pleased to provide me with a good answer to it, which will
still leave us at liberty to say, that a miracle (that is, a variation
from the order of nature as determined by our uniform experience, and
by that of the whole circle of our contemporaries) is impossible,
and that we may reject at once any pretension of the kind."

"But I do not admit that the creation of any thing or of all things
is of the nature of a miracle."

Harrington smiled. "I am afraid," said he, "that to common sense,
to fair reasoning, to any philosopher worthy of the name there would
be no difference except in magnitude, between such an event as the
sudden appearance of an animal (say man) for the first time in our
world, or the first appearance of a tree (such a thing never having
been before), and the restoration to life of a dead man. Each is, to
all intents and purposes, a violation of the previous established
series of antecedents and consequents, and comes strictly within
the limits of our definition of a miracle; and a miracle, you know
is impossible. The only difference will be, that the miracle in the
one case will be greater and more astonishing than that in the other."

"But it is impossible, in the face of geologists, to contend that
there have not been many such revolutions in the history of the world
as these. Man himself is of comparatively recent introduction into
our system."

"I cannot help what the geologists affirm. If we are to abide by our
principle, we have no warrant to believe that there have been any such
violations, or infractions, or revolutions of nature's laws in the
world's history. If they contend for the interpolation of events
in the history of the universe, which, by our criterion, are of the
nature of miracles, and we are convinced that miracles are impossible,
we must reject the conclusions of geologists."

"But may we not say, that the great epochs in the history of the universe
are themselves but the manifestation of law?"

"In no other sense, I think, than the advocate of miracles is entitled
to say that the intercalation of miracles in the world's history is also
according to law,--parts, though minute parts, of a universal plan, and
permitted for reasons worthy of the Creator. To both, or neither, is
the same answer open. Your objection is, I think, a mere sophistical
evasion of the difficulty. There is no difference whatever in the
nature of the events, except that the variation from the 'established
series of sequences' is infinitely greater in those portentous revolutions
of the universe to which the geologist points your attention. The
application of our principle (as you affirm with me) will justify us in
at once pronouncing any variation from the 'established series' whether
occurring yesterday, a year ago, a thousand years ago, or a million of
years ago, incredible; it will, in the same manner, justify the men of
any age in saying the same of all previous ages; and I, therefore,
while contending for your principle with you, carry it consistently
out, and affirm that the series of antecedents and consequents (as we
now find it) must be regarded as eternal, because creation would
do what a miracle is supposed to do, and a miracle, you know, is
impossible. You are silent."

"I am not able to retract acquiescence in the principle, and I am as
little inclined to concede the conclusions you would draw from it."

"As you please; only, in the latter case, provide me with an answer.
If you saw now introduced on the earth for the first time a being as
unlike than as man is unlike the other animals,--say with seven
senses, wings on his shoulders, a pair of eyes behind his head as
well as in front of it, and the tail of a peacock, by way of finishing
him off handsomely,--would you not call such a phenomenon a miracle?"

"I think I should," said Fellowes, laughing.

"And if the creature died, leaving no issue, would you continue to
call it so?"

"Yes."

"But if you found that he was the head of a race, as man was, and a
whole nation of such monsters springing from him, then would you say
that this wonderful intrusion into the sphere of our experience was
no miracle, but that it was merely according to law?"

"I should."

"Verily, my dear friend, I am afraid the world will laugh at us for
making such fantastical distinctions. This infraction of 'established
sequences' ceases to be miraculous, if the wonder is perpetuated
and sufficiently multiplied! Meantime, what becomes of the prodigy
during the time in which it is uncertain whether any thing will come
of it or not? You will say, I suppose, (the interpolation in the
'series' of phenomena being just what I have supposed,) that it is
uncertain whether it is to be regarded as miraculous or not, till
we know whether it is to be repealed or not."

"I think I must, if I adhere to the principle I am now defending."

"Very well; only in the mean time you are in the ludicrous position
of facing a phenomenon of which you do not know whether you will call
it a miracle or not,--the contingency, meantime, on which it is to be
decided, not at all, as I contend, affecting the matter; since you
allow that it is the infraction of the previously established order
of sequences, as known to uniform experience, which constitutes a
miracle! If so, I must maintain that the creation of man was, for
the same reasons, of the essence of a miracle. You seem to think
there is no objection to the admission of miracles, provided they are
astounding and numerous enough; or provided they are a long time about,
instead of being instantaneously wrought. I must remind you, that to
the principle of our argument these things are quite immaterial. Whether
the revolution by which the established order of sequences is absolutely
infringed,--the face of the universe or of our globe transformed, or
an entirely new race (as, for example, man) originated,--I say, whether
such change be produced slowly or quickly is of no consequence in the
world to our argument. It is whether or not a series of phenomena
be produced as absolutely transcending the sphere of all experience,
as those events we admit to be impossible, called 'miracles.' That the
introduction of man upon the earth for the first time (for you will not
allow his race eternal), or the origination of a sun, is not at all
to be reckoned as transcending that experience, I cannot understand.
Nor can I understand it a bit better by your saying that it, is in
conformity with the vague something you are pleased to call a law.
It is a safe phrase, however; for as neither you nor any one else
can interpret it, no one can refute you. This law is a most convenient
thing! It repeals, it appears to me, all other laws,--even those of
logic. Perhaps would be better to say that miracles are no miracles
when they are 'lawful' miracles. No! let us keep our principle intact
from all such dangerous admissions as these. In that way only
are we safe."

"Safe do you call it? I see not how, if we carry out this principle
in the way and to the extent you propose, we can reply to the atheist
or to the pantheist, who tells us that the universe is but an
eternal evolution of phenomena in one infinite series, or in an
eternal recurrence of finite cycles."

"And what is that to you or me? How can we help our principle (if we
are to hold it at all) leading to some such conclusion? We are, I
presume, anxious to know the truth. You see that Strauss, who is the
most strenuous assertor of the impossibility of miracles, is also a
pantheist. I know not whether you may not become one yourself."

"Never," said Fellowes, vehemently; "never, I trust, shall I yield
to that 'desolating pantheism' (as worthy Mr. Newman calls it) which
is now so rife."

"I think Mr. Newman's principles ought to guide you thither. You
seem to hold fast by his skirts at present; but I very much doubt
whether you have yet reached the termination of your career. You
have, you must admit, made advances quite as extraordinary before.

"We shall see.--But I suppose you have reached the end of the
objections which your wayward scepticism suggests against a
conclusion which we both admit; or have you any more?"

"O, plenty; and amongst the rest, I am afraid we must admit--whether
we admit or not your expedient of law--a miracle, or something
indistinguishable from it, as involved in the creation and
preservation of the first man,--since you will have a first man."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, that supposing the creation of man to be no miracle, because
he entered by law; or that that first fact (which would otherwise be
miraculous) is not such, simply because it is the first of a series
of such facts,--I should like to see whether we have not even then
to deal with a miracle, or a fact as absolutely unique; and which was
not connected with any series of similar facts."

"I think you would find it very hard to prove it."

"Nous verrons. I am sure we shall not disagree as to the fact that man,
however he came into the world, sooner or later, by ordinary or
extraordinary methods, by some lawful wedlock of nature, or by some
miracle which is not 'lawful,' is endowed by nature with various
faculties and susceptibilities."

"Certainly," said Fellowes, laughing; "if you demand my assent to
nothing more than that, I shall easily admit your premises and
deny your conclusion."

"You will also admit, I think, that the process by which man comes
to the use of these faculties, and powers, and so forth, is
very gradual?"

"Assuredly."

"And will you not also admit that the development and command of
these is something very different from the, potentialities themselves,
as my uncle here would call them?--that, for example, we have the
faculty of vision; but that the art of seeing involves a slow
laborious process, acquired not without the concurrent exercise of
other senses: and that the apparatus for walking is perfect even in
an infant; but that the art of walking is, in fact, a wonderful
acquisition: further, that the command given us by these faculties,
as actually exercised, is immensely greater than would be conferred
by each alone. In one word, you will allow that man, when he comes
to the use of his faculties, is, as has been well said, a bundle of
habits, or, as Burke puts it, is a creature who, to a great extent,
has the making of himself."

"I am much at my ease," said Fellowes; "I shall not dispute any
of these premises either."

"And will you not also admit that, as man comes into the world now,
a long time is required for this development; and that during that
time he is absolutely dependent on the care of those who have already
in their turn required similar care?"

"Seeing that we have had fathers and mothers,--as I suppose our
grandfathers and grandmothers also had,--there can be as little doubt
of this as of the preceding points," said Fellowes, rather
condescendingly.

"And that many of the functions which thus task their care are
necessary for our existence, and for any chance of our being able
to develop into men."

"I think so, of course."

"So that, if an infant were exposed on a mountain-side or forest,
you would have no doubt he would perish (unless it pleased some
kind-hearted wolf to suckle him) before he could come to the use of
his faculties, and develop them by exercise."

"I think," said the other, "your premises perfectly innocent; I
shall not contest them."

"A little further." said Harrington, "we may go together; and then,
if I mistake not, you will pause before you go one step further.
This, then, is the normal condition of humanity?"

"Yes."

"Do you think the first man was like us in these respects?"

"I cannot tell."

"I dare engage you cannot,--it is a very natural answer. But he either
was, I suppose, or was not. That, I think, you will grant me." He
assented, though rather reluctantly.

"Pray please yourself," said Harrington; "for it is quite immaterial
to me which alternative you take. If man was in our condition, then,
though the 'lawful miracle' by which he was brought into the world
might have made him a baby of six feet high, he would have been no
more than a baby still. All that was to constitute him a man,--all
those habits by which alone his existence was capable of being
preserved,--and without which he must have perished immediately after
his creation, in which case you and I should have been spared the
necessity of all this discussion on the subject, would have to be
learned; and his existence during that time--and a long time it must
have been, having no teachers and aids, as we have--must have been
preserved by a--miracle. If he were taught by the Creator himself,
then we have the miracle in that direction. If he were not brought
into the world under the same conditions of development as we are,
but with habits ready made,--if, indeed, that be not a contradiction,
--then we have a miracle in that direction; if he had his faculties
preternaturally quickened and expanded, so as to acquire
instantaneously, or possess by instinct, what we acquire by a long
and slow process, and not for many years,--then we have a miracle in
that direction. If you do not like these suppositions, I see but
one other; and that is that; being a baby,--though, as I said, a
baby six feet high,--he had an angel nurse sent down expressly to
attend him, and to push or wheel him about the walls of paradise
in a celestial go-cart. But then I think that in this last
particular we shall hardly say that we have got rid of a miracle,
though it would doubtless be a miracle of a very ludicrous kind. If
you can imagine any other supposition, I shall be glad to hear it."

"I acknowledge I can form no supposition on the subject."

"Only remember that, if you could, the theory would still suppose
man's actual preservation and development effected under totally
different conditions from those which have formed the uniform experience
of all his posterity; and so far from any subterfuge of a law stepping
in, it is a single expedient provided for our first parent alone."

"I do not think we are at all in a condition to consider any such
case, about which we cannot know any thing," replied Fellowes.

"Neither do I; but pardon me,--the question I asked does not depend
upon any such knowledge; it is a question which is wholly independent
whether of our ignorance or our knowledge. Granting, as you do, that
man was created, but that it was no miracle, nor any thing analogous
to one (as you say), still either he was created subject to our
conditions of development and preservation, or he was not; if he was
not, then I fear we have in form the miracle we wish to evade; if he
was, then I fear also that there are but the three imaginable modes of
obviating the difficulty which I have so liberally provided; and
supposing there were a thousand. I fear still that they all involve a
departure from the 'uniform course of Nature.'"

"But I do not see," replied Fellowes, "that it is absolutely necessary,
supposing that the first man was thrown upon the green of paradise."

"Or in a forest, or on a moor," said Harrington, "for you know nothing
of paradise."

"Well, then, in a forest, or on a moor;--I say if man were cast out
there, the same helpless being which all his posterity are,--unfortified,
as the lower animals are, by feathers or hair, or by instincts equal to
theirs,--who can affirm that it was beyond the possibilities of
his nature, that he might survive this cruel experiment? crawl, perhaps,
for an indefinite period on all fours, live on berries, and at last--by
very slow degrees doubtless, but still at last--emerge into---"

"The dignity of a savage," cried Harrington, "as the first step towards
something better,--his Creator having beneficently created him something
infinitely worse! Surely, you must be returning to a savage yourself, even
to hint at such a pedigree. But I have done: till those cases of which
certain philosophers have said so much have been authenticated; till you
can produce an instance of a new-born babe, exposed on a mountain-side,
in all the helplessness of his natal hour, and self-preserved,--nay,
two of them,--for you must at least have a pair of these 'babes in the
wood'; and till, moreover, it can be shown that they would have survived
this experiment so as to preserve the characteristics of humanity a
little better than the 'wild boy of Germany,' and were fit to be the
heads of the human family,--I shall at times be strangely tempted
to embrace any theory as infinitely more probable. I cannot think it
was in this way that our first parents made their entree into the
world. I hope not, for the credit of the Creator, as well as for
the happiness of his offspring. Of the moral bearings of such a
brutal theory, I say nothing; but if it can be true, all I can say
is, that I am glad that you and I, my dear Fellowes, are not the
immediate children but so fortunate as to be only the great-great
--great-great-grandchildren of God! You have well called it a 'cruel
experiment'; according to this, the first Father of all thrust forth
his children into the world to be for an indefinite time worse than
the beasts, who were carefully provided against miserable man's
inconveniences! Certainly, I think you may alter the account of man's
creation given in Genesis, to great advantage. Instead of God's saying,
'Let us create man in our image, he must be supposed to have said,
'Let us create man in the image of a BEAST: and in the image of a BEAST
created he him, male and female created he them'; and very imperfect
beasts they must have been, after all. This is that old savage theory
which I had supposed was pretty well abandoned. If the necessity of
denying miracles imposes any necessity of believing that, I fear that
I shall sooner be got to believe a thousand."

"Well," said Fellowes, who seemed ashamed of this theory, but knew
not how to abandon it; "I cannot believe there have been any miracles,
and, what is more, I will not."

"That is perhaps the best reason you have given yet," said Harrington.
"The Will is indeed your only irresistible logician. You are one
degree, at all events, better off than I, for I can hardly say either
that I believe, or that I do not believe, in miracles."

"And yet," continued Harrington, after a pause, "two or three other
strange consequences seem to follow from that seemingly undeniable
principle on which we base the conclusion that there neither has
been nor can be any such thing as a miracle: in other words, a
departure from the established series of sequences which, as tested
by our own experience and by that of other men, we are convinced is
stable. Will you see with me whether there is any fair mode of
escaping from them? I should be very glad if I could do so."

"What are they?"

"Why, first, I am afraid it must be said, that we must entirely
justify a man in the condition of the Eastern prince mentioned by Hume,
who could not be induced to believe that there was such a thing as ice.
I am afraid that he was quite in the right; and yet we know that in fact
he was wrong."

"You are not, then, satisfied with Hume's own solution?"

"So far from it, that I cannot see, upon the principles on which we
refuse to believe miracles, that it is even intelligible. We agree,
do we not, that, from the experience we have (and, so far as we can
ascertain, from every body else's) of the uniform course of events,
of the established order of sequences, we are to reject any assertion
of a violation of those sequences; as, for example, of a man's coming
into the world in any preternatural manner, or, when he has once gone
out of it, coming into it again; and that we are entitled to do
this without any examination of the witnesses to any such fact,
merely on the strength of the principles aforesaid?"

"I admit that we have agreed to this."

"Now was not the assertion that in a certain quarter of the world
water became solid as stone, could be cut into pieces, and be put
into one's pockets, contrary, in a similar manner, to all the phenomena
which the said prince had witnessed, and also to the uniform experience
of all about him from his earliest years?"

"It certainly was."

"He was right, then, in rejecting the fact; that is, he was right in
rejecting the possibility of such an occurrence," said Harrington.

"But did we not ourselves say, with Hume, that, as we see that there
is not an absolute uniformity in the phenomena of nature, but that
they are varied within certain limits in different climates and
countries, so it does not become us to say that a phenomenon, though
somewhat variable, is a violation of the usual order of sequences?"

"We did; but we also agreed, I think, that those variations were to
be within invariable limits, as tested by the whole of our experience;
we did not include within those variations what is diametrically
contrary (as in the present case) to all our own experience and
that of every body about us. If it is to extend to such variations,
what do we say but this,--that the order of nature is uniform and
invariable, except where--it is the reverse? and, as it seems it
sometimes is so, see what comes of the admission. A man asserts the
reality of a miracle which you reject at once as simply impossible, as
contrary to your experience and that of every one whose experience
you can test. It will be easy for him to say, and upon Hume's evasion
he will say, that it was performed, for aught you know, under conditions
so totally different from those which ordinarily obtain in relation
to the same order of events, that you are no adequate judge as to
whether it was possible or not. He acknowledges that a miracle is a
very rare occurrence; that it is performed for special ends; is strictly
limited to time and place, like those phenomena the Indian prince was
asked to believe; and that your experience cannot embrace it, nor
is warranted in pronouncing upon it. I really fear that, if our
incredulous prince is to be condemned, our principle will be ruined. I
am anxious for his safe deliverance, I assure you."

"Still I cannot see that we can deny that phenomena may be manifested,
in virtue of the laws of nature, totally different from those which we
have ever seen or heard of."

"What! so different that the phenomena in question shall be a total
departure from that order of nature of which alone we and all about
us are cognizant; in fact, all but the one man, who tells us the
strange thing, we being at the same time totally incapable of testing
his experience?"

"Yes," said Fellowes; "I must grant it."

"I see," said Harrington, "you are bent on the destruction of our
criterion. Do you not perceive that, if our experience and that of
the immense majority, or of all about us, be not a sufficient
criterion of the laws of nature, our argument falls to the ground?
'Your principle,' our adversaries will say, 'is a fallacious one;
Nature has her laws, no doubt, which apply to miracles as to every
other phenomenon; but in assuming your experience to be a sufficient
criterion of these laws, you have been, not interpreting her laws,
but imposing upon her your own.' If unknown powers of nature may
thus reverse our experience and the experience of all those whose
experience, under the given conditions, we have opportunities of
testing, we ought to abstain from saying that some unknown powers may
not also have wrought miracles. Let us then affirm consistently the
sufficiency of our criterion; and the prince aforesaid must do the
same; and it warranted him, I say, in believing that there neither
was nor could be such a thing as ice."

"But this seems ridiculous," said Fellowes; "for according to this,
different and opposite experiences may, in different places give
different or opposite measures of the laws of nature; which
nevertheless are supposed to be invariably the same, or invariably
the limits certified by that experience."

"I cannot help it; upon that same experience we must believe it true
that there are no miracles, and our unbelieving prince, that there
could be no such thing as ice; for to him it was a miracle. If we do
not reason thus, may we not be compelled to admit that our uniform
experience, with its limited variations, is no rule at all, and that
there are cases for which it makes no provision? and may not the
advocate for miracles say that miracles are amongst them? No, let us
adhere to our principle, and adhering to it, I wish to know whether
the prince in question was not quite right in saying that there
neither was nor could be such a thing as ice; for the assertion that
there was, was contrary to all his experience and to that of every soul
about him."

"I must say, that, if we look only to the principle of this uniform
experience, he was right."

"But he rejected the truth."

"He certainly did."

"And he was right in rejecting the truth?"

"Certainly, upon your principle."

"Upon my principle! Do not say upon my principle, unless you mean to
deny that you too embrace it; if you give up that principle, you lay
yourself open at once to the retort that your position is insecure;
that you have taken your experience as a sufficient criterion of the
possibilities of events, when it is in fact merely a measure of such
as have fallen under your own observation."

"Perhaps," said Fellowes, "I should say that the prince in question
was justified at first in rejecting the fact, but that when he found
other men, whose veracity he could not suspect, coming from the same
regions of the world, and affirming the same phenomenon, it was his
business to correct his experience, and to admit that the fact
was so."

"I am surprised to hear you say so; you are again ruining our principle.
Do you admit that the assertion that there was a place on earth at
which water in large quantities became solid, was apparently as great
a violation of all the experience of this man, as what is ordinarily
called a miracle is of ours?"

"I cannot deny that it was so."

"But yet you think, that, though justified in disbelieving it at first,
he would not be so when others, whose veracity and motives he had no
reason to suspect, told him the same tale?"

"Yes."

"Why, then, is not this plainly to make a belief of such events depend
upon testimony, and do we not give up altogether our sufficient
principle  of rejection of all such testimony? You are yielding,
without doubt, the principle of our opponents, who affirm that there
is no event so improbable that a certain combination of testimony
would not be sufficient to warrant your reception of it; because, as
they say, that testimony might be given under such circumstances,--so
variously certified, and so above suspicion,--that it would be more
improbable that the statement to which it applied (however strange)
should be false, than that the testimony should not be true; in other
words, that the falsehood of the testimony would be the greater miracle
of the two. And they say this, because (as they assert) the uniform
experience on which we found our objection to any miraculous narrative
is no less applicable to the world of mind than to the world of matter;
that there is not indeed an absolute uniformity of experience in the
former, as neither is there in the latter; but neither in one nor in
the other is there any absolute bouleversement of the principles and
constitution of nature; which, they say, would be implied, if under
all conceivable circumstances testimony might prove false. And yet
now you seem to admit the very thing for which they contend; and in
contending for it, you give up your case. Doing so, you certainly get
rid of the paradoxical conclusions which my wretched scepticism
sometimes suggests to me, as throwing a doubt on the integrity of our
principle. I say your admission gets rid of it; but then it is with
the ruin of the principle itself."

"What was that paradox?"

"It is this; that, if we adhere to our principle, we must deny that any
amount of testimony is sufficient to warrant the belief of a miracle."

"That is what we do maintain."

"I thought so; but you seem to me to have hastily given it up. Let us
then again maintain that our prince, in denying what was a miracle
to him, was not only consistent in saying that it could not be, when
first asserted to him, but also when last asserted; and died an orthodox
infidel in the possibility of ice, or an orthodox believer in the
eternal fluidity of water, whichever you prefer to consider it."

"Well, and what then?"

"Why, then, let us act upon our principle with equal consistency in
other cases; for you say that there is no amount or complexity of
evidence which would induce you to believe in a miracle."

"I do."

"Let us suppose it was asserted that a man known to have been dead
and buried had risen again, and, after having been seen by many, had
at last, in presence of a multitude, on a clear day, ascended to
heaven through the calm sky, without artificial wings or balloon, or
any such thing; that he was seen to pass out of sight of the gazing
crowd, who watched and watched in vain for his return; and that he had
never more been seen. Let us suppose that the witnesses who saw this
constantly affirmed it; that amongst them were many known to you,
whose veracity you had no reason to suspect, and who had no imaginable
motive to deceive you; let us suppose further, that they persisted in
affirming this, in spite of all contumely and contempt, insult and
wrong, amidst threats of persecution, and persecution itself; lastly,
let there be amongst them many, who before this event had been as
strenuous assertors of the impossibility of a miracle as yourself.
I want to know whether you would believe this story, thus authenticated,
or not?"

"But it is, I think, unfair to put any such case; for there never was
such an event so authenticated."

"It is quite sufficient to test our principle, that you can imagine
such testimony. If that principle is sound, it is plain that it will
apply to all imaginable degrees of testimony, as well as to all actual.
No testimony, you say, can establish a miracle. This is true or not.
If you admit that there are any degrees in this matter, you come at
last to the old argument, which you abjure; namely, that whether a
miraculous event has taken place or not depends on the degree of
evidence with which it is substantiated, and that must be the result
of a certain investigation of it in the particular alleged case.
You remember the story of the ring of Gyges, which made the wearer
invisible. Plato tells us how a man ought to act, and how a good man
would act, if he had such a ring. Cicero tells us how absurd it would
be to reply to his reasoning (as one did), by saying that there never
was such a ring. It was not necessary to the force of the illustration
that there should be such a ring. So neither is it necessary to my
argument there should be such testimony as I have supposed, to enable
us to see whether we are prepared to admit the truth of your principle
that no evidence can establish a miracle. Once more, then, I ask you
whether, on supposition of such testimony, you would reject the
supposed fact or not?"

"Well, then, I should say, that, since no testimony can establish a
miracle, I should reject it."

"Bravo, Fellowes! I do of all things like to see an unflinching
regard to a principle, when once laid down."

"But would not you also reject it, upon the same principle?"

"Of course I should, if the principle be true; but ah! my friend,
pardon me for acknowledging my infirmities; my miserable scepticism
tosses me to and fro. I have not your strength of will; and I fear
that the rejection in such a case would cost me many qualms and
doubts. Such is the infirmity of our nature, and so much may be
said on all sides! And I fear that I should be more likely to have
these uneasy thoughts, inasmuch as I fancy I see a difficult
dilemma (I but now referred to it), which would be proposed to us by
some keen-sighted opponent,--I say not with justice,--who would
endeavor to show that we had abandoned our principle in the very
attempt to maintain it; that the bow from which we were about to
launch so fatal an arrow at the enemy had broken in our hands, and
left us defenceless."

"What dilemma do you refer to?" said Fellowes.

"I think such an adversary might perhaps say: 'That same uniform
experience on which you justify the rejection of all miracles,--does
it extend only to one part of nature, to the physical and material
only, or to the mental and spiritual also?' In other words, if there
were such things as miracles at all, might there be miracles in
connection with mind as well as in connection with matter? What would
you say?"

"What can I say, but what Hume himself says, so truly and so
beautifully, in his essay on 'Necessary Connection,' and 'On Liberty
and Necessity'; namely, that there is a uniformity in both the moral
and physical world, and that nature does not transgress certain
limits in either the one or the other'? You must remember that he
says so?"

"I do," said Harrington. "Now, I am afraid our astute adversary would
say that such a complication of false testimony as we have supposed
would itself be a flagrant violation of the established series of
sequences, on which, as applied to the physical world, we justify
the rejection of all miracles; that we have got rid of a miracle by
admitting a miracle; and that our uniform experience has broken down
with us."

"But again I say, there never was such a case of testimony,"
urged Fellowes.

"I wish this could help us; but it plainly will not; because we have
concluded that, if there were such testimony, we must believe it false,
and therefore should admit that the miracle of its falsehood was, in
that case, necessary to be believed; not to say that there has been,
in the opinion of millions, testimony often given to miracles, which,
if false, does imply that the laws of human nature must have been
turned topsy-turvy,--and I, for my part, know not how to disprove it.
If, in such cases, the testimony, the falsity of which would be a
miracle, is not to be rejected, then we must admit that the miracle
which it supports is true. I must leave it there." said Harrington,
with an air of comic resignation; "I cannot answer for any thing
except that you may reject both miracles alternatively, if that
will be any comfort to you, without being able to disbelieve
simultaneously. If you believe the testimony false, you must believe
the alleged miracle false; but you will have then the moral miracle
to believe. If you believe the testimony true, you will then believe
the physical miracle true. Perhaps the best way will be to believe both
alternately in rapid succession; and you will then hardly perceive the
difficulty at all!"

There was here a brief pause. Harrington suddenly resumed. "These
are very perplexing considerations. One thing, I confess, has often
puzzled me much; and that is,--what should we do, in what state of
mind should we be, if we did see a miracle?"

"Of what use is the discussion of such a particular case, when you know
it is impossible that we should ever see it realized?" replied Fellowes.

"Of course it is; just as it is impossible that we should ever see
levers perfectly inflexible, or cords perfectly flexible. Nevertheless,
it is perfectly possible to entertain such a hypothetical case, and
to reason with great conclusiveness on the consequences of such a
supposition; and in the same way we can imagine that we have seen a
miracle; and what then?"

"Why, if we were to see one, of course seeing is believing. We must
give up our principle," said Fellowes, laughing.

"Do you think so? I think we should be very foolish then. How can we
be sure that we have seen it? Can it appeal to any thing stronger
than senses, and have not our senses often beguiled us?" Must we not
rather abide by that general induction from the evidence to which our
ordinary experience points us? In other words, ought we not to adhere
to the great principle we have already laid down, that a miracle
is impossible?"

"But, according to this, if we err in that principle, and God were to
work a miracle for the very purpose of convincing us, it would be
impossible for him to attain his purpose."

"I think it would, my friend, I confess; just for the reason that,
since we believe a miracle to be impossible, we must believe it
impossible for even God to work one; and therefore, if we are
mistaken, and it is possible for him to work one, it is still
impossible that he should convince us of it."

"I really know not how to go that length."

"Why not? You acknowledge that your senses have deceived you; you know
that they have deceived others; and it is on that very ground that
you dispose of very many cases of supposed miracles which you are
not willing, or are not able, to resolve otherwise. If I believe, then,
that a miracle is impossible, I must admit that, if I err in that, it
is still impossible for God himself to convince me of it."

Fellowes looked grave, but said nothing.

"And do you know," said Harrington, "I have sometimes thought that
Hume, so far from representing his argument from 'Transubstantiation'
fairly, (there is an obvious fallacy on the very face of it, to which
I do not now allude,) is himself precisely in the condition in
which he represents the believer in miracles?"

Fellowes smiled incredulously. "First, however," said he, "what
is the more notorious fallacy to which you allude?"

"It is so barefaced an assumption, that I am surprised that his acuteness
did not see it; or that, if he saw it, he could have descended to make
a point by appearing not to see it. It has been often pointed out,
and you will recollect it the moment I name it. You know he commences
with the well-known argument of Tillotson against Transubstantiation
and flatters himself that he sees a similar argument in relation to
miracles. Now it certainly requires but a moderate degree of sagacity
to see that the very point in which Tillotson's argument tells, is
that very one in which Hume's is totally unlike it. Tillotson says,
that when it is pretended that the bread and wine which are submitted
to his own senses have been 'transubstantiated into flesh and blood,'
the alleged phenomena contradict his senses; and that as the information
of his senses as much comes from God as the doctrines of Scripture
(and even the miracles of Scripture appeal to nothing stronger), he must
believe his senses in this case in preference to the assertions of the
priest. Hume then goes on quietly to take it for granted that the
miracles to which consent is asked in like manner contradict the
testimony of the senses of him to whom they appeal is made; whereas,
in fact, the assertor of the miracles does not pretend that he who
denies them has ever seen them, or had the opportunity of seeing them.
To make the argument analogous, it ought to be shown that the objector,
having been a spectator of the pretended miracles, when and where they
were affirmed to have been wrought, had then and there the testimony
of his senses that no such events had taken place. It is mere juggling
with words to say that never to have seen a like event is the same
argument of an event's never having occurred, as never to have seen
that event when it was alleged to have taken place under our very
eyes!"

"I give up the reasoning on this point," said Fellowes, "but how,
I should like to know, do you retort the argument upon him?"

"Thus; you see that we maintain that a miracle is incredible per se,
because impossible; not to be believed, therefore, on any evidence."

"Certainly."

"If, then, we saw what seemed a miracle, we should distrust our senses;
we should say that it was most likely that they deceived us. Hear what
Voltaire says in one of his letters to D'Alembert: 'Je persiste a
penser que cent mille hommes qui ont vu ressusciter un mort, pourraient
bien etre cent mille hommes qui auraient la berlue.' And what he says
of their bad eyes, there is no doubt he would say of his own, if he had
been one of the hundred thousand."

"I think so, certainly."

"And Strauss, and Hume, and Voltaire, and you and I, and all who hold
a miracle impossible, would distrust our senses, and fall back upon
that testimony from the general experience of others, which alone could
correct our own halting and ambiguous experience."

"Certainly."

"It appears, then, my good fellow, that the position of those who
deny and those who assert miracles is exactly the reverse of Hume's
statement. The man who believes 'Transubstantiation' distrusts his
senses, and rather believes testimony: and even so would he who has
fully made up his mind, on our sublime principle as to the
impossibility of miracles, when any thing which has that appearance
crosses his path; he is prepared to deny his senses and to trust
to testimony,--to that general experience of others which comes to
him, and can come to him, only in that shape. It is we, therefore,
and not our adversaries, who are liable to be reached by this
unlucky illustration."

Fellowes himself seemed much amused by finding the tables thus
turned. For my part, I had difficulty in repressing a chuckle over
this display of sceptical candor and subtilty.

"There is perhaps another paradox which may be as well mentioned,"
resumed Harrington. "It is a little trying to my scepticism, but
perhaps will not be to your faith. I mean this. We are constrained
to believe from our 'uniform-experience' criterion that no miracle
has ever occurred, or ever will; in short, it is, as we say,
impossible. Now the principle which undoubtedly leads us to the
conclusion we may regard as a principle of our nature, if ever there
was one; that is, we are so constituted as to infer the perpetual
uniformity of certain sequences of phenomena from our observation
of that uniformity."

"Assuredly."

"And as all mankind obviously act upon that same principle in most
cases, and we believe that it is part of the very uniformity in
question that human nature is radically the same in all ages and in
all countries, I think we ought to conclude that it is not you and
I only, but at all events the vast majority of mankind, who have
maintained the impossibility of miracles."

"We ought to be able to conclude so," said Fellowes, "but it is very
far from being the case. So far from it, that nothing can be plainer
than that miraculous legends have been most greedily taken up by the
vast majority of mankind, and have made a very common part of almost
every form of religion."

"Men do not then, it appears, in this instance, at all regard the
uniform tenor of their experience; so that it is a part of our uniform
experience, that mankind disregard and disbelieve the lessons of their
uniform experience. This is almost a miracle of itself; at all events,
a curious paradox; but one which we must not stay to examine: though
I confess it leads to one other humiliating conclusion,--a little
corollary, which I think it is not unimportant to mark; and that is,
that we can never expect these enlightened views of ours to spread
amongst the mass of mankind."

"Nay, I cannot agree with you. I hope far other wise, and far better
for the human race."

"But will the result not contradict your uniform experience, if your
hopes be realized? Is not your experience sufficiently long and
sufficiently varied to show that the belief of miracles and all sorts
of prodigies is the normal condition of mankind, and that it is only
a comparatively few who can discern that uniform experience justifies
man in believing that no miracle is possible? While it teaches us that
a miracle is impossible does it not also teach us that, though none
is possible, it is nevertheless impossible that they should not
be generally believed? Is not this taught us as plainly by our
uniform experience as any thing else? See how fairly Hume admits this
at the commencement of his Essay on Miracles. He says, 'I flatter
myself that I have discovered an argument which, if just, will, with
the wise and learned, be an everlasting check to all kinds of
superstitious delusion, and consequently will be useful as long as the
world endures. For so long, I presume, will the accounts of miracles
and prodigies be found in all histories, sacred and profane.' Thus
are we led to the conclusion, that, though miracles never can be real,
they will nevertheless be always believed; and that, though the truth
is with us, it never can be established in the minds of men in general.
And, my dear friend, let us be thankful that it never can; for if it
could, that fact would have proved the possibility of miracles by
contradicting one of those very deductions from uniform experience on
the validity of which their impossibility is demonstrated.

"These are some of the perplexities," continued Harrington, "which,
as Theaetetus says, sometimes make 'My head dizzy,' when I revolve
the subject. Meantime, surely a nobler spectacle can hardly present
itself than our fairly abiding by our principle, amidst so many
plausible difficulties as assail it. I know no one principle in
theology or philosophy which has been so battered as that of Hume.
Not only Campbell, Paley, and so many more, confidently affirm errors
in it,--such as his assuming individual or general experience to
be universal; his quietly attributing to individual experience a belief
of facts which are believed by the vast mass of mankind on testimony,
and nothing else; his representing the experience of a man who says
he has seen a certain event as 'contrary' to the experience of him
who says he has not seen a similar one; his implying that no amount
of testimony can establish a miracle, which might compel us to believe
moral miracles to get rid of physical miracles; I say not only so, but
the most recent investigators of the theory of evidence cruelly abandon
him. The argument of Hume and Paley, says De Morgan, in his treatise
on Probabilities, (Encyclopaedia Metropolitana: Theory of
Probabilities, 182.) is a 'fallacy answered by fallacies,'--meaning
by this last that Paley had conceded to his opponent more than he ought
to have done. With similar vexatious opposition, Mr. J. S. Mill says,
that, to make any alleged fact contradictory to a law of causation,
'the allegation must be that this happened in the absence of any
adequate counteracting cause. Now, in the case of an alleged miracle,
the assertion is the exact opposite of this.' He says, 'that all which
Hume has made out is, that no evidence can prove a miracle to any one
who did not previously believe the existence of a being or beings
with supernatural power; or who believed himself to have full proof
that the character'(System of Logic, Vol. II. pp. 186, 187.) of such
being or beings is inconsistent with such an interference; that is,
the argument could have no force unless either a man believed there
were no God at all, or the objector happened to be something like a
God himself! And now, lastly, I have shown that the predicament of
Hume, and Voltaire, and Strauss, and you and myself (if consistent),
is just the reverse of that in which the argument from Transubstantiation
represents it. But never mind; so much more glory is due to us for
abiding by our principle. I begin almost to think that I am arriving
at that transcendental 'faith' which you admire so much, and which is
totally independent of logic and argument, and all 'intellectual
processes whatever.'"

____


July 23. I this day read to Mr. Fellowes the paper I had promised
a week or two before, and which I had entitled,

AN EXTERNAL REVELATION, EVEN OF ELEMENTARY "SPIRITUAL AND MORAL TRUTHS"
VERY POSSIBLE, AND VERY USEFUL; AND IN ANALOGY WITH THE CONDITIONS OF
HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, WHETHER IN THE INDIVIDUAL OR THE SPECIES.

It is Necessary to observe in the outset, that, even if I were to
grant your proposition, "that a revelation of moral and spiritual truth
is impossible,"--understanding by such "truth" what you seem to mean,
the truth which "Natural Religion," as it is called, has recognized in
some shape or other (for it has varied not a little),--it would leave
the chief reasons for imparting an external revelation just where they
were. I, at least, should never contend that the sole or even chief
object of an external revelation is to impart elementary moral or
spiritual truth, however possible I may deem it. On the contrary, I am
fully persuaded that the great purpose for which such a revelation has
been given is to communicate facts and truths many of which were quite
transcendental to the human faculties; which man would never have
discovered, and most of which he would never have surmised. All this
your favorite Mr. Newman perceived in his earlier days clearly enough,
and has recorded his sentiments held at that period in his "Phases."(p.42)
If I were to grant you, therefore, your proposition, it would leave the
question of an external revelation untouched; your hasty inference from
it, that every book-revelation is to be rejected, is perfectly gratuitous.

But I am thoroughly persuaded that the notion of the impossibility of all
external revelation of moral and spiritual truth, even of the elementary
form already referred to, is a fallacy.

Whether the religious faculty in men be a simple faculty, or (as Sir
James Mackintosh seemed to think might possibly be the case with
conscience) a complex one, constituted by means of several different
powers and principles of our nature, is a question not essential to the
argument; for I frankly admit at once, with Mr. Newman and Mr. Parker,
that there is such a susceptibility (simple or complex), and not a mere
abortive tendency, as Harrington seems to suppose possible. Otherwise
I cannot, I confess, account for the fact (so largely insisted upon by
 Mr. Parker) of the very general, the all but universal, adoption by man
of some religion, and the power, the prodigious power, which, even when
false, hideously false, it exerts over him. But then I must as
frankly confess, that I can as little account for all the (not only
terrible but) uniform aberrations of this susceptibility, on which
Harrington has insisted, and which, I do think, prove (if ever truth
was proved by induction) one of two things; either that, as he says,
this susceptibility in man was originally defective and rudimentary, or
that man is no longer in his normal state; in other words, that he
is, as the Scriptures declare, depraved. I acknowledge I accept
this last solution; and firmly believe with Pascal, that without it
moral and religious philosophy must toil over the problem of
humanity in vain.

If this be so, we have, of course, no difficulty in believing that
there may be, in spite of the existence of the religious faculty in
man, ample scope for an external revelation, to correct its aberrations
and remedy its maladies.

But you will say that this fact is not to be taken for granted. I admit
it; and therefore lay no further stress upon it. I go one step further;
and shall endeavor, at least, to prove, that, supposing man is just
as he was created, yet also supposing, what neither Mr. Parker nor
Mr. Newman will deny, (and if they did, the whole history of the world
would confute them,) that man's religious faculty is not uniform or
determinate in its action, but is dependent on external development
and culture for assuming the form it does, ample scope is still left
for an external revelation. I contend that the entire condition of this
susceptibility (as shown by experience) proves that, if in truth an
external revelation be impossible, it is not because it has superseded
the necessity for one; and that the declaration of the elder deists
and modern "spiritualists" on this in the face of what all history
proves man to be, is the most preposterous in the world.

Further; I contend that all the analogies from the fundamental laws
of the development of man's nature,--from a consideration of the
relations in which that nature stands to the external world,--from
the absolute dependence of the individual on external culture, and
that of the whole species on its historic development,--are all in
favor of the notion both of the possibility and utility of an external
revelation, and even in favor of that particular form of it which
Mr. Newman and you so contemptuously call a "book" revelation.

I. I argue from all the analogies of the fundamental laws of the
development of the human mind. Nor do I fear to apply the reasoning
even to the cases in which it has been so confidently asserted that
there can be no revelation, on the fallacious ground that a
revelation "of spiritual and moral truth" presupposes in man certain
principles to which it appeals. To possess certain faculties for the
appreciation of spiritual and moral truth is one thing; to acquire
the conscious possession of that truth is another; the former fact
would not make an external revelation superfluous, or an empty
name. Every thing in the process of the mind's development goes to
show, that, whatever its capacities, tendencies, faculties,
"potentialities," (call them what you will,) a certain external
influence is necessary to awaken its dormant life; to turn a
"potentiality" into an "energy "; to transform a dim inkling of a
truth into an intelligent, vital, conscious recognition of it.
Nor is this law confined to mind alone; all nature attests its
presence. All effects are the result of properties or susceptibilities
in one thing, solicited by external contact with those of others.
The fire no doubt may smoulder in the dull and languid embers; it
is when the external breeze sweeps over them, that they begin to
sparkle and glow, and vindicate the vital element they contain. The
diamond in the mine has the same internal properties in the darkness
as in the light; it is not till the sun shines upon it, that it
flashes on the eye its splendor. Look at a flower of any particular
species; we see that, as it is developed in connection with a variety
of external influences,--as it comes successively under the action
of the sun, rain, dew, soil,--it expands in a particular manner, and
in that only. It exhibits a certain configuration of parts, a certain
form of leaf, a certain color, fragrance, and no other. We do not doubt,
on the one hand, that without the "skyey influences" these things would
never have been; nor, on the other; that the flower assumes this form
of development, and this alone, in virtue of its internal structure and
organization. But both sets of conditions must conspire in the result.

It is much the same with the mind. That it possesses certain tendencies
and faculties, which, as it develops itself, will terminate in certain
ideas and sentiments, is admitted; but apart from certain external
conditions of development, those sentiments and ideas will, in effect,
never be formed,--the mind will be in perpetual slumber. Thus, in point
of fact, this controversy is connected ultimately with that ancient
dispute as to the origin, sources, and genesis of human knowledge and
sentiments. I shall simply take for granted that you are (as most
philosophers are) an advocate of innate capacities, but not of "innate
ideas"; of "innate susceptibilities," but not of "innate sentiments";
that is, I presume you do not contend that the mind possesses more than
the faculties--the laws of thought and feeling--which, under conditions
of development, actually give birth to thoughts and feelings. These
faculties and susceptibilities are, no doubt, congenital with the mind,
--or, rather, are the mind itself. But its actually manifested phenomena
wait the of the external; and they will be modified accordingly. It is
absolutely dependent on experience in this sense, that it is only as
it is operated upon by the outward world that the dormant faculties,
whatever they are, and whatever their nature, be they few or many,--
intellectual, moral, or spiritual,--are first awakened. If a mind were
created (it is, at least, a conceivable case) with all the avenues to
the external world closed,--in fact, we sometimes see approximations
to such a condition in certain unhappy individuals,--we do not doubt
such a mind, by the present laws of the human constitution, could not
possess any thoughts, feelings, emotions; in fact, could exhibit none
of the phenomena, spiritual, intellectual, moral, or sensational,
which diversify it. In proportion as we see human beings approach this
condition,--in fact, we sometimes see them approach it very nearly,--we
see the "potentialities" of the soul (I do not like the word, but it
expresses my meaning better than any other I know) held in abeyance,
and such an imperfectly awakened man does not, in some cases, manifest
the degree of sensibility or intelligence manifested in many animals.
If the seclusion from sense and experience be quite complete, the life
of such a soul would be wrapped up in the germ, and possess no more
consciousness than a vegetable.

It appears, then, that universally, however true it may be, and
doubtless is, that the laws of thought and feeling enable us to derive
from external influence what it alone would never give, yet that
influences an indispensable condition, as we are at present constituted,
of the development of any and of all our faculties.

As this seems the law of development universally, it is so of the
spiritual and religious part of our nature as well as the rest; and
in this very fact we have abundant scope for the possibility and
utility of a revelation,--if God be pleased to give one,--even of
elementary moral and spiritual truth; since, though conceding the
perfect congruity between that truth and the structure of the soul,
it is only as it is in some way actually presented to it from without,
that it arrives at the conscious possession of it. And what, after
all, but such an external source of revelation is that Volume of
Nature, which, operating in perfect analogy with the aforesaid
conditions of the soul's development, awakens, though imperfectly,
the dormant elements of religious and spiritual life? So far from
its being true in any intelligible sense that an external revelation
of moral and spiritual truth is impossible, it is absolutely
necessary, in some form, as a condition of its evolution; so far from
its being true that such revelation is an absurdity, it is in strict
analogy with the fundamental laws of our being. Whether, if this be so,
the express external presentation of such truth in a book constructed
by divine wisdom and expressed in human language,--this last being
the most universal and most appropriate instrument by which man's
dormant powers are actually awakened,--may not be a more effective
method of attaining the end than any of man's devising, whether
instinctive or artificial; or than the casual influences of external
nature, well or ill deciphered;--all this is another question. But
some such external apparatus--applied to the faculties of men--is
essential, whether it be in the Volume of Nature, or in the "Bible"
or in a book of Mr. Newman or Mr. Parker. All that makes the difference
between you and a Hottentot (to recur to that illustration which
Harrington, I really think, fairly employed) depends on external
influences, and the consequent development of the spiritual and
religious faculties.

And this very fact--the unspeakable differences between man and man,
nation and nation, as regards recognition the conscious possession
of even elementary "moral and spiritual truth" (varying, as it
perpetually does, as those external influences vary, and more or
less perfect, according as that external "revelation," which, in
some degree, and of some species, is indispensable, more or less
perfect)--affords another indication of the ample utility of an
external divine revelation, as well as of its possibility; and a
proof that, if there be one, it is in harmony, again, with the
conditions of human nature. And here I may employ, in further
illustration, one of the analogies I adverted to a little time
ago. Not only is the flower never independent of external influences
for its actual development,--not only would it remain in the germ
without them,--but we see that within certain limits, often very wide,
the kind of external influence operates powerfully on the species,
and on the individual itself;--according as it is in one climate
or another,--in this soil or that,--submitted to culture or suffered
to grow wild. It is needless to apply the analogy. While we see
that the moral spiritual faculties of man no more than his other
faculties can attain their development except in cooperation with
some external influences, we also see that they exhibit every degree
and variety of development according to the quality of those external
influences. Is there then not even a possibility left for an external
revelation? If the actual exhibition of any spiritual and religious
phenomena in man not only depends on some external influences and
culture, but perpetually varies with them, what would such a
revelation be but a provision in analogy with these facts? But it is
sufficient to rebut this gratuitous dictum, of an external revelation
of "spiritual and moral truth being impossible," that some external
influence is necessary for any development of the religious faculty
at all. If the last be necessary, I cannot conceive how the other
should be impossible.

Nor is it any reply to say,--as I think has been abundantly shown in
your debates with Harrington,--that any such external influences only
make articulate that which already existed inarticulately in the heart;
that they only chafe and stimulate into life "the ivory of Pygmalion's
statue," to use his expression,--the dormant principles and sentiments
which somehow existed, but were in deep slumber. That which makes them
vital, active, the objects of consciousness and the sources of power,
may well be called a "revelation." Nay, since it seems that, in some
way, this outward voice must be heard first, I think it is more properly
so called than the internal response of the heart. That is rather the echo.

It may be admitted that the elementary truths of religion, once
propounded, are promptly admitted, but still in some external shape
they require to be propounded. There is such a thing in the human
mind as unrealized truth, both intellectual and spiritual; the
inarticulate muttering of an obscurely felt sentiment; a vague
appetency for something we are not distinctly conscious of. The clear
utterance of it, its distinct proposition to us, is the very thing
that is often wanted to convert this dim feeling into distinct vision.
This is the electric spark which transforms two invisible gases into
a visible and transparent fluid; this is the influence which evolves
the latent caloric, and makes it a powerful and active element.

I cannot help thinking that the great source of fallacy on this
subject arises from confounding the idea of certain characteristic
tendencies and potentialities of our nature with the supposition,--
contradicted by the whole religious history of man in all ages,--that
they must be everywhere efficaciously active, and spontaneously exhibit
a moral manifestation; than which there cannot, I conceive, be a
greater error.

I must entreat you to recollect Harrington's dilemma. Either the
supposed truths of your spiritual theory, or that of Mr. Newman or
Mr. Parker, are known to all mankind, or not; if they are, surely
their books, and every such book is the most important in the world;
if not, these authors did well to write, supposing them to have truth
on their side; but then that vindicates the possibility and utility
of a "book-revelation."

II. But I go a step further, and not only contend that, from the
very law of the soul's development, there is ample scope for a
revelation, even of elementary "moral and spiritual truth," but that
even if we supposed all men in actual possession of that truth, in
some shape or other, there would still be abundant scope for a
divinely constructed external instrument for giving it efficacy; and
that this, again, is in perfect analogy with the fundamental condition
of the soul's action. The principles of spiritual and religious life
are capable in an infinite variety of ways, of being modified,
intensified, vivified, by the external influences brought to bear
upon them from time to time. Not only must that external influence be
exerted for the first awakening of the soul, but it must be continued
all our life long, in order to maintain the principles thus elicited
in a state of activity. Sometimes they seem for a while to have
been half obliterated,--to fade away from the consciousness; they
are reillumined, made to blaze out again in brilliant light on the
"walls of the chambers of imagery," by some outward stimulus; by a
"word spoken in season"; by the recollection of some weighty apothegm
which embodies truth,--some ennobling image which illustrates it;
by the utterance of certain "charmed words," hallowed by association
as they fall on the external sense, or are recalled by memory. How
familiar to us all is this dependence on the external! How dull, how
sluggish, has often been the soul! A single word, the sight of an
object surrounded with vivid associations, the sudden suggestion of
a half-forgotten strain of poetry or song,--what power have these to
stir its stagnant depths, and awaken "spiritual" and every other
species of emotion, as well as intellectual activity! The lightning
does not more suddenly cleave the cloud in which it slumbered, the
sleeping ocean is not more suddenly ruffled by the descending tempest,
than the soul of man is thus capable of being vivified and animated
by the presentation of appropriate objects,--nay, often by even the
most casual external impulse. If this be so, is it not possible that
an external instrument for thus stimulating and vivifying spiritual
life might be given us by God; which, if not, in literal strictness,
a "revelation," would virtually have all the effect of one, as
rekindling the dying light, reillumining the fading characters, of
spiritual truth?

Nor, surely, is there much presumption in supposing that the appropriate
influences of such an instrumentality may be brought to bear upon us
with infinite advantage by Him who alone possesses perfect access to
all the avenues of our spirits; a perfect mastery of our whole nature;
of intellect, imagination, and conscience of those laws of association
and emotion which He himself has framed. If Shakspeare and Milton can
daily exercise over myriads of minds an ascendency which makes their
admirers speak of them almost with the "Bibliolatry" with which Mr.
Newman makes Christian speak of the Bible, I apprehend God could
construct a "book," even though it told man nothing which was strictly
a revelation, which might be of infinite value to him; simply from
the fact that the modes in which truths operate upon us, and by which
our faculties are educated to their perfection, are scarcely less
important than either the truths or the faculties themselves.

But I need say the less upon this point, inasmuch as Mr. Newman has
spoken of the New Testament, and its influence over his mental history,
in terms which conclusively show that, if it be not a "revelation,"
ample space is left for such a divinely constructed book, if God were
pleased to give one.

"There is no book in all the world," says he, "which I love and esteem
so much as the New Testament, with the devotional parts of the Old.
There is none which I know so intimately, the very words of which
dwell close to me in my most sacred thoughts, none for which I so
thank God, none on which my soul and heart have been to so great an
extent moulded. In my early boyhood, it was my private delight and
daily companion; and to it I owe the best part of whatever wisdom
there is in my manhood." (Soul, pp. 241, 242.)

I only doubt whether even this testimony, strong as it is, fully
represents the power which the Book has had in modifying his interior
life, though he would now fain renounce its proper authority; whether
it has not had more to do than he thinks in originating his
conception of such "moral and spiritual" truth as he still recognizes.
Its very language comes so spontaneously to his lips, that his dialect
of "spiritualism" is one continued plagiarism from David and Isaiah,
Paul and Christ. Nay, I may well be doubted whether the entire substance
of his spiritual theory be any thing else than a distorted and mutilated
Christianity.

Some of the previous observations apply to the possibility and utility
of a divinely originated statement of "ethical truth"; nor will they
be neutralized by an objection which Mr. Newman is fond of urging,
--namely, that a book cannot express (as it is freely acknowledged
no book can) the limitations with which maxims of critical truth are
to be received and applied; that all it can do is to give general
principles, and leave them to be applied by the individual reason and
conscience. Such reasoning is refuted by fact. The same thing precisely
is done, and necessarily done, in every department in which men attempt
to convey instruction in any particular art or method. It is thus with
the general principles of mechanics, of law, of medicine. Yet men never
entertain a notion that the collection and inculcation of such maxims are
of no use, or of little, merely because they must be intelligently
modified and not blindly applied in action. If indeed there were any
force in the objection, it would put an end to all instruction,--that
of Mr. Newman's "spiritual faculty" amongst the rest, for that too can
only prompt us by general impulses, and leaves us in the same ignorance
and perplexity how far we are to obey them. That is still to be
otherwise determined. The genuine result of such reasoning, if it were
acted upon, would be that we need never, in any science or art whatever,
trouble ourselves to enunciate any general principle or maxim, because
perfectly useless! Similarly, we need never inculcate on children the
duty of obeying their honoring their superiors, of being frugal or
diligent, humble or aspiring, the particular circumstances and
limitations in which they are to be applied being indeterminate! But
is not the experience of every day and of all the world against it? Is
not the early and sedulous inculcation of just maxims of duty fell
to be a great auxiliary to its performance in the circumstances in
which it is necessary to apply them? Is not the possession of a general
rule, with the advantages of a clear and concise expression,--in the
form of familiar proverbs, or embodied in powerful imagery,--a potent
suggestive to the mind; not only whispering of duty, but, by perpetual
recurrence, aiding the habit of attending to it? Is not the early and
earnest iteration of such sententious wisdom in the ears of the young,
--the honor which has been paid to sages who have elicited it, or
felicitously expressed it,--the care with which these treasures of
moral wisdom have been garnered up,--the perpetual efforts to conjoin
elementary moral truth with the fancy and association,--is not all
this a standing testimony to a consciousness of the value of such
auxiliaries of virtue and duty? Is it not felt, that, however general
such truths may be, the very forms of expression,--the portable shape
in which the truth is presented,--have an immense value in relation
to practice? Admitting, therefore, as before,--but, as before, only
conceding it for argument's sake (for the limits of variation, even
as regards the elementary truths of morals, are, as experience shows,
very wide),--that each man in some shape could anticipate for himself
the more important ethical truth, there would be yet ample scope left
for the utility of a divinely constructed instrument for its exhibition
and enforcement, in perfect harmony with the modes in which it is
actually exhibited and enforced by man, in close analogy with the
form in which he attempts the same task, whenever he teaches any
practical art or method whatever.

Only may it not be again presumed here, that He who knows perfectly
"what is in man" would be able to perform the work with
correspondent perfection? Whether He has performed it in the Bible
or not, that book does, at all events, contain not merely a larger
portion of pure ethical truth than any other in the world, but ethical
truth expressed and exhibited (as Mr. Newman himself, and most other
persons, would admit) in modes incomparably better adapted than in
any other book to lay hold of the memory, the imagination, the
conscience, and the heart.

Even then, if we conceded that elementary "spiritual and moral truth"
is not only congruous to man's faculties, but in some shape universally
recognized and possessed, it might yet be contended, from the manner
in which such truth is dependent for its power and vitality on the
forms in which it comes in contact with the human spirit and stimulates
it, that ample space is left for such a divine instrument as the Bible;
and that it would be in perfect conformity with the laws of our nature,
--in analogy with the known modes in which external aids give efficacy
to such truth. At the same time, be pleased once more to remember, that
I concede so much only for argument's sake; I contend that in the
stricter sense, without some external aid,--and the Bible may be at
least as effectual,--the religious faculty will not expand at all; and
that, even where there are these indispensable external influences,
the recognition of the truth is obscure or bright, as those influences
vary in their degrees of appropriateness. Where they are rude and
imperfect, (as amongst barbarous nations) we have the spectacle of a
soul which struggles towards the light, like a plant to which but
small portion of the sun's rays is admitted; it depends on the free
admission of the light whether or not it shall arrive at its full
development,--its beauty, its fragrance, and its color. The most that
merely human culture can promise, even under the most favorable
circumstances, (witness ancient Greece!) is that men, in some few
favored instances, may possibly attain those truths which it may be
admitted are congenital to the soul, and easily recognized when once
propounded but which, in fact, few men, by nature's sole teaching,
ever do clearly attain. It is infinitely important that the path,
dimly explored by sages alone, should be thrown open to mankind. Is it
not even possible, then, that this task should be performed by a book
like the Bible? and if such a book were given, would it not be,
I once more ask, in analogy with the fundamental laws of the soul's
development,--its uniform dependence on external influences for any
result, and the variable nature of that result, as the influence
itself is more or less appropriate? To affirm that each man at once,
by in internal illumination alone, attains a clear recognition of
even elementary "moral and spiritual truth" is to ignore the laws
according to which the soul's activity is developed, and to contradict
universal experience, which tells us that the great majority of mankind
are but in partial possession of this "spiritual and moral truth,"
and hold it for the most part in connection with the most prodigious
and pernicious errors.

You will perceive that I have here chosen to argue the question of
the possibility and utility of a "revelation" on your own grounds; but
recollect what I have said, that, in fact, the principal reasons for a
revelation would still remain in force, even if all you demand were
conceded. It is a point which I do not find that Mr. Newman's dictum
affects.

There may obviously be other facts and other truths as intimately
connected with man's destinies and happiness as the elementary truths
of religious and moral science; facts and truths which may be necessary
to give efficacy to mere elementary principles, and to supply motives
to the performance of moral precepts. And how ample in this respect
are man's necessities, and how large the field for a "divine revelation,"
if we content ourselves with such a meagre theology as that of Mr. Parker
and Mr. Newman, you see plainly enough in the questions asked by
Harrington! How many of Mr. Newman's and Mr. Parker's assumptions--the
moment they step beyond such "spiritual and moral truth" as is
"elementary" indeed--does Harrington declare that he finds unverified
by his own consciousness, and needing, if true, an authority to
confirm them far more weighty than theirs! As to the terms of access
to the Supreme Being,--his aspects towards man,--man's duties towards
him,--the future destinies, even the future existence, of the soul
(a point on which these writers are themselves divided),--the boasted
"progress" of the race, which they "prophesy," indeed, but without any
credentials of their mission,--you see how on all these points
Harrington maintains--and oh! how many, if the Bible be untrue, must
maintain with him--that he is in total darkness!

III. But I must proceed to show yet further, if you will have patience
with me, that, supposing a divine external revelation to be given, it
is in striking analogy, not only with the primary laws of development
of our whole intellectual and spiritual being, but with the fact--
undeniable, however unaccountable--that our subjection to external
influence does, in truth, not only mould and modify, but usually
determine, our intellectual and religious position. We see not only
some external influence is necessary to awaken activity at all, but
that it is actually so powerful and so inevitable from the manner
in which man enters the world, and is brought up in it,--his long
years of dependence, absolute dependence, on the education which is
given him (and what an education it has ever been for the mass of the
race!),--that it makes all the difference, intellectually and morally,
between a New Zealand savage and an Englishman,--between the grossest
idolater and the most enlightened Christian. This fact affects alike
our intellectual and spiritual condition. The savage can use his
senses better than the civilized; but the interval is trifling
compared with that between the intellectual condition of a man can
appreciate Milton and Newman, and that of our Teutonic ancestors.
Its the sentiments of a nature there is the same wide gulf--or rather
wider--between a Hottentot and a Paul. Yet the same "susceptibilities"
and "potentialities" are in each human mind. The same remark applies
to the sense of the beautiful and sublime; the characteristic faculties
are in all mankind; it is education which elicits them. Nay, would you
not stare at a man who should affirm that education was not itself
a species of "revelation," simply because the truths thus communicated
were all "potentially" in the mind before? The fact is, that education
is of coordinate importance with the very faculties without which it
cannot be imparted.

Now we cannot break away from that law of development with which
our individual existence is involved, and which necessarily (as far
as any will of ours is concerned) is a most important, nay, the
most important, element in that tertium quid which man becomes in
virtue of the threefold elements which constitute him:--1st, a given
internal constitution of mind; 2d. the modifying effects of the
actual exercise of his faculties and their interaction with one another,
resulting in habits; and, 3d, that external world of influences which
supplies the materiel from which this strange plant extracts its
aliment, and ultimately derives its fair fruits or its poisonous
berries. All this is inevitable, upon the supposition that man was
to be a social, not a solitary being,--linked by an indissoluble chain
to those who came before and to those who come after him,--dependent,
absolutely dependent, upon others for his being, his training, his
whole condition, civil, social, intellectual, moral, and religious.
If, then, an external instrument of moral and religious culture were
Given by God to man, would it not be in strict analogy with this
tremendous and mysterious law of human development?

IV. I must be permitted to proceed yet one step further, and affirm
that the very form in which this presumed revelation has (as we say)
been given--that of a Book--is also in strict analogy with the law
by which God himself has made this an indispensable instrument of all
human progress. We have just seen that man is what he is, as much
(to say the least) by the influence of external influence as by the
influence of the internal principles of his constitution; it must be
added, that to make that external influence of much efficiency at all,
still more to render it either universally or progressively beneficial,
the world waits for a--BOOK.  Among the varied external influences
amidst which the human race is developed, this is incomparably the
most important, and the only one that is absolutely essential. Upon
it the collective education of the race depends. It is the sole
instrument of registering, perpetuating, transmitting thought.

Yes, whatever trivial and vulgar associations may impair our due
conceptions of this grandeur of this material and artificial organon
of man's development, as compared with the intellectual and moral
energies, which have recourse to it, but which are almost impotent
without it. God has made man's whole career of triumphs dependent
upon this same art of writing! The whole progress of the world he
has created, he has made dependent upon the Alphabet! Without this
the progress of the individual is inconceivably slow, and with
him, for the most part, progress terminates. By this alone can we
garner the fruits of experience,--become wise by the wisdom of
others, and strong by their strength. Without this man everywhere
remains, age after age, immovably a savage; and, if he were to lose
it when he has once gained it, would, after a little ineffectual
flutter by the aid of tradition, sink into barbarism again. Till
this cardinal want is supplied, all considerable "progress" is
impossible. It may look odd to say that the whole world is dependent
on any thing so purely artificial; but, in point of fact, it is
only another way of stating the truth that God has constituted the
race a series of mutually dependent beings; and as each term of
this series is perishable and evanescent, the development and
improvement of the race must depend on an instrument by which an
inter-connection can be maintained between its parts; till then,
progress must not only be most precarious, but virtually impossible.
To the truth of this all history testifies. I say, then, not only
that, if God has given man a revelation at all, he has but acted
in analogy with that law by which he has made man so absolutely
dependent upon external culture, but that if he has given it in
the very shape of a book, he has acted also in strict analogy
with the very form in which he has imposed that law
on the world. He has simply made use of that instrument, which,
by the very constitution of our nature and of the world, he has
made absolutely essential to the progress and advancement of
humanity. May we not conclude from analogy, that if God has
indeed thus constituted the world, and if he busies himself at all
in the fortunes of miserable humanity, he has not disdained to take
part in its education, by condescendingly using that very instrument
which himself has made the condition of all human progress? I think,
even if you hesitate to admit that God has given us a "book-revelation,"
you must admit it would be at least in manifest coincidence with the
laws of human development and the "constitution and course of nature."

To conclude; I must say that Mr. Newman, in his account of the genesis
of religion, does himself in effect admit (as Harrington has remarked)
an "external revelation," though not in a book. For what else is that
apparatus of external influences by which the several preparatory or
auxiliary emotions are awakened, and the development of your "spiritual
faculty" effected?--contact with the outward world,--with visible and
material nature,--the instruction of the living voice! You acknowledge
all this without derogation, as you imagine, to the sublime and divine
functions of the indwelling "spiritual" power, why this rabid, this, I
might almost say, puerile (if I ought not rather to say fanatical),
hatred of the very notion of a "book-revelation"?

Let us confess that, if a revelation be possible at all, it cannot be
more worthy of God to give one even from "within" than in such a shape
as a "book"; since without a "BOOK" man remains an idolater, in spite of
his fine "spiritual faculties," and a barbarian, in spite of his
sublime intellect; in fact, not much better than the beasts, in spite
of all those noble capacities which, although they are in him, are as
it were hopelessly locked up till he has obtained this key to their
treasures.

Nor do I think that the invectives of the modern spiritualists on this
point are particularly becoming, when we reflect not only that they
freely give mankind what Harrington declares to be to him, and I must
say are equally to me, their "book-revelations," but in very deed, as
he truly affirms, have given us nothing else. It has been much the same
with all who have rejected historical Christianity, from Lord Herbert's
time downwards.

I paused, and Fellowes mused. At last he said, "I cannot feel convinced
that the 'absolute religion' is (as Mr. Parker says) essentially the
same in all men, and internally revealed. The want exists in all, and
there must, according to the arrangements of universal nature, be the
supply; just as the eye is for the light, and the light is for the eye.
As he says, 'we feel instinctively it must be so.'"

"Unhappily," said Harrington, "Mr. Parker says that many things must
be which we find are not, and this among the number. At least I, for
one, shall not grant that the sort of spiritual 'supply' which is
to the Calmuck, or the savage 'besmeared with the blood of human
sacrifices,' at all resembles that uniform light which is made
for all people's eyes."

Fellowes seemed still perplexed with his old difficulty. "I cannot
help thinking," he began again, "that the 'spiritual faculty' acts
by immediate 'insight,' and has nothing to do with 'logical
processes' or 'intellectual propositions,' or the sensational or
the imaginative parts of our nature; that it 'gazes immediately
upon spiritual truth.' Now in the argument you have constructed,
you have expressly implied the contrary. You have said, you know,
that, even if you granted men to be in possession of 'spiritual and
moral truth,' there might still be large space for a divinely
constructed book from the reflex operation of the intellect, the
imagination, and so forth, upon the products of the spiritual faculty;
both directly, and also indirectly, inasmuch as external influences
modify or stimulate them."

"But," said I, "does not Mr. Newman himself, in the first part of
his Treatise on the Soul, admit the reciprocal action of all these
on the too plastic spiritual products; and as to 'logical and
intellectual processes,' does he not continually employ them--for
his system of opinions, though he will not allow them to be employed
against it? And by what other means than through the intervention of
your senses, by which you read his pages,--your imagination, by which
you seize his illustrations,--your intellect, by which you comprehend
his arguments, did he reclaim you, as you say he has done, from many
of your ancient errors? How else, in the name of common sense, did he
get access to your soul at all?"

"I cannot pretend to defend Mr. Newman's consistency," said he, "in
his various statements on this subject. I acknowledge I am even puzzled
to find out how he did convince me, upon his hypothesis."

"Are you sure," said I, laughing, "that he ever convinced you at all?
However, all your perplexity seems to me to arise from supposing the
spiritual powers of man to act in greater isolation from his other
powers than is conceivable or even possible. Not apart from these,
but in intimate conjunction with them, are the functions of the soul
performed. The divorce between the 'spiritual faculties' and the
intellect, which your favorite, Mr. Newman, has attempted to effect,
is impossible. It is an attempt to sever phenomena which coexist in
the unity of our own consciousness. I am bound in justice to admit,
that there are others of our 'modern spiritualists' who condemn this
attempt to separate what God hath joined so inseparably. Even Mr. Newman
does practically contradict his own assertions; and outraged reason
and intellect have avenged his wrongs upon them by deserting him when
he has invoked them, and left him to express his paradoxes in endless
perplexity and confusion. But this conversation is no bad preface to
some observations on this important fallacy, (as I conceive,) which
I have appended to the paper I have read, and, with your leave, I
will finish with them." They assented, and I proceeded.

It is very common for philosophers, spiritual and otherwise, to be
guilty of two opposite errors, both exposed in the first book of the
Novum Organum. One is, that of supposing the phenomena which they
have to analyze more simple, more capable of being reduced to some
one principle, than is really the case; the other, that of
introducing a cumbrous complexity of operations unknown to nature.
It is unnecessary here to adduce examples of the last; quite as
frequently, at least, man apt to be guilty of the first. He imagines
that complex and generally deeply convoluted phenomena he is called
to investigate are capable of being more summarily analyzed than
they can be. The ends to be answered in nature by the same set of
instruments are in many cases so various, and in some respects
so limit and traverse one another, that though the same multiplicity
of ends is attained more completely, and in higher aggregate
perfection, than by any device which man's ingenuity could substitute
for them, yet those instruments are necessarily very complex at
the best. Look, for example, at the system of organs by which,
variously employed, we utter the infinite variety of articulate sounds,
perform the most necessary of all vital functions (that of respiration),
masticate solid food, and swallow fluids. The miracle is, that any one
set of organs in any conceivable juxtaposition should suffice to
discharge with such amazing facility and rapidity these different and
rapidly alternated functions; yet I suppose few who have studied
anatomy will deny, that, though relatively to the variety of purposes
it has to perform the apparatus is very simple, it is absolutely
very complex; and that its parts play into one another with great
facility indeed, but with endless intricacy.

To apply these observations to my special object. To one who attentively
studies man's immaterial anatomy, much the same complexity is, I think,
apparent; the philosopher is too apt to assume it to be much more simple
than it is. It is the very error, as I conceive, into which some of
you modern "spiritualists" fall when considering the phenomena of our
religious nature. You do not sufficiently regard man as a complicated
unity; you represent, if you do not suppose, the several capacities
of his nature,--the different parts of it, sensational, emotional,
intellectual, moral, spiritual,--as set off from one another by a
sharper boundary line than nature acknowledges. They all work for
immediate ends, indeed; but they all also work for, with, and upon
each other, for other ends than their own. Yet, as they all exist in
one indivisible mind, or rather constitute it, they form one most
intricate machine: and it can rarely happen that the particular
phenomena of our interior nature we happen to be investigating do
not involve many others. Throughout his book on the "Soul," we find
Mr. Newman employing expressions (though I admit there are others
which contradict them) which imply that the phenomena of religion, of
what he calls "spiritual insight," may be viewed in clearer distinction
from those of the intellect, than, as I conceive, they ever can be;
and that a much clearer separation can be effected between them than
nature has made possible. To hear him sometimes speak, one would
imagine that the logical, the moral, and the spiritual are held together
by no vital bond of connection; nay, from some expressions, one would
think that the "logical" faculty had nothing to do with religion, if
it is not to be supposed rather to stand in the way of it; that the
"intellect" and the "spiritual faculty" may each retire to its "vacant
interlunar cave," and never trouble its head about what the other
is doing. Thus he says in one place, "All the grounds of Belief
proposed to the mere understanding have nothing to do with Faith at
all." (Soul, p. 223.) In another, "The processes of thought have nothing
to quicken the conscience or affect the soul." (ibid. p. 245) "How,
then, can the state of the soul be tested by the conclusion to
which the intellect is led?" (ibid. p. 245.) And accordingly you see
he everywhere affirms that we ought not to have any better or worse
opinion of any man for his "intellectual creed"; and that "religious
progress" cannot be "anticipated" till intellectual "creeds
are destroyed." (Phases, p. 222.)

Here one would imagine that the intellectual, moral, and spiritual
had even less to do with the production of each other's results
than matter and mind reciprocally have with theirs. These last,
we see, in a thousand cases act and react upon one another; and
modify each other's peculiar products and operations in a most
important manner. How much more reasonably may we infer that the
elementary faculties of the same indivisible mind will not discharge
their functions without important reciprocal action; that in no case
can we have the process pure and simple as the result of the
operation of a single faculty!

If it were not so, I see not how we are to perform any of the functions
of a spiritual nature, even as defined by you and your favorite writers;
unless, indeed, you would equip the soul with an entire Sunday suit
of separate capacities of reasoning, remembering, imagining, hoping,
rejoicing, and so on, to be expressly used by the "soul" alone when
engaged in her spiritual functions; quite different from that old,
threadbare, much-worn suit of faculties, having similar functions
indeed, but exercised on other objects.

What can be more obvious (and it must be admitted that the most
fanatical "spiritualist" employs expressions, and, what is more, uses
methods, which imply it) than that, whether we have a distinct
religious faculty or whether it be the result of the action of many
faculties, the functions of our "spiritual" nature are performed
by the instrumentality, and involve the intervention, of the very
same much-abused faculties which enable us to perform any other
function. It is one and the same indivisible mind which is the subject
of religious thought and emotion, and of any other thought and
emotion. Religious truth, like any other truth, is embraced by the
understanding--as indeed it would be a queer kind of truth that is
not is stated in propositions, yields inferences, is adorned by
eloquence is illustrated by the imagination, and is thus, as well
from its intrinsic claims, rendered powerful over the emotions, the
affections, and the will. In brief, when the soul apprehends, reasons,
remembers, rejoices, hopes, fears, spiritually, it surely does not
perform these functions by totally different faculties from these
by which similar things are done on other occasions. All experience
and consciousness are against the supposition. In religion, men's
minds are employed on more sublime and elevated themes indeed, but
the operations themselves are essentially of the same nature as in
other cases. Hence we see the dependence of the true development of
religion on the just and harmonious action of all our faculties.
They march together; and it is the glorious prerogative of true
religion that it makes them do so; that all the elements of our
nature, being indissolubly connected, and perpetually acting and
reacting on one another, should aid one another and attain a more
just conjoint action. If there be acceptable faith, it presupposes
belief of the truth, as well as love of it in the heart; if there
be holy habit, it implies just knowledge of duty; if there be
spiritual emotion awakened, it will still be in accordance with
the laws which ordinarily produce it; that is, because that which
should produce it is perceived by the senses or the intellect, is
recalled by the memory, is vivified by the imagination. If faith
and hope and love often kindle into activity, and hallow these
instruments by which and through which they act, it is not the less
true, that, apart from these,--as constituting the same indivisible
mind--faith and hope and love cannot exist: and not only so; but
when faith is languid, and hope faint, and love expiring, these
faculties themselves shall often in their turn initiate the process
which shall revive them all; some outward object, some incident of
life, some "magic word," some glorious image, some stalwart truth,
suddenly and energetically stated, shall, through the medium of the
senses, the imagination, or the intellect, set the soul once more
in a blaze, and revive the emotions which it is at other times only
their office to express. A sanctified intellect, a hallowed
imagination, devout affections, have a reciprocal tendency to
stimulate each other. In whatever faculty of our nature the stimulus
may be felt,--in the intellect or the imagination,--it is thence
propagated through the mysterious net-work of the soul to the emotions,
the affections, the conscience, the will: or, conversely, these last
may commence the movement and propagate it in reverse order. Each
may become in turn a centre of influence; but so indivisible is the
soul and mind of man, so indissolubly bound together the elements
which constitute them, that the influence once commenced never stops
where it began, but acts upon them all. The ripple, as that of a
stone dropped into still water, no matter where, may be fainter and
fainter the farther from the spot where the commotion began, but it
will stop only with the bank. Ordinarily many functions of the mind
are involved in each, and sometimes all in one.

____

July 24. Yesterday, a somewhat interesting conversation took place
between Harrington and Edward Robinson, a youth at college, a friend
of George Fellowes's family. He is a devout admirer of Strauss, and
thinks that writer has completely destroyed the historical character
of the Gospels. I was, as usual, struck with the candor and logical
consistency with which our sceptic was disposed to regard the subject.

"You have Lingard and Macaulay here, I see," said young Robinson. "I
need hardly ask, I think, which you find the most pleasant reading?"

"You need not, indeed," cried Harrington. "Mr. Macaulay is so superior
to the Roman Catholic historian (though his merits are great too) in
genius, in consequence, in variety and amplitude of knowledge, in
imagination, in style, that there is no comparison between them."

"And do you think Mr. Macaulay as accurate as he is full of genius
and eloquence?"

"If he be not," said Harrington, laughing, "I am afraid there are
very few of us deeply versed enough in history to detect his
delinquencies, or even to say whether they have been committed. There
may be, for aught I know, some cases (of infinite importance of
course) in which he has represented an event as having taken place
on the 20th of Dec. 1693; whereas it took place on the 3d Jan. 1694;
or he may have said that Sir Thomas Nobody was the son of another
Sir Thomas Nobody, whereas two or three antiquarians can
incontestably prove that he was the son of Sir John Nobody, and nephew
of the above. To me, I confess, he appears distinguished scarcely more
by the splendor of his imagination than by the opulence of his knowledge,
and the imperial command which he possesses over it. But, in truth,
the accuracy or otherwise of history, when it is at all remote, is a
matter in which I feel less interest than I once did. I read, indeed,
Mr. Macaulay with perpetual renewal of wonder and delight. But though
I believe that his vivid pictures are the result, of a faithful use of
his materials, yet, if I must confess the full extent of my scepticism,
his work, and every other work which involves a reference to events which
transpired only a century or two ago, is poisoned as history by the
suspicion that to ascertain the truth is impossible. I know it must
be so, if the principles of your favorite Strauss are to be received;
and yet it seems so absurd, that I am sometimes inclined, on that account
alone, to laugh at Strauss's criticisms, just as David Hume did at his
own speculative doubts when he got into society and sat down to
backgammon with a friend. At other times, as I say, the whole field
of historic investigation seems more or less the territory of scepticism."

"I know not," said the other, "how you can justify any such general
scepticism from any thing that Strauss has written."

"Do you not? and yet I think it is a perfectly legitimate inference.
Does not Strauss argue that certain discrepancies are to be observed,
certain apparent contradictions and inconsistencies detected, in the
New Testament narratives; and that therefore we are to reckon, if not
the whole, yet by far the larger part, as utterly fabulous or doubtful,
mythic or legendary? Now, I cannot but feel, on the other hand, that
these narratives are as strikingly marked by all the usual indications
of historic truthfulness as any historic writings in the world. The
artlessness, simplicity, and speciality of the narrative,--a certain
inimitable tone and air of reality, earnestness, and candor,--the
general harmony of these so-called sacred writers with themselves and
with profane authors (quite as general, to say the least, as usually
distinguishes other narratives by different hands),--above all, the
long-concealed, and yet most numerous 'coincidences' which lie deep
beneath the surface and which only a very industrious mind brings to
light; coincidences which, if ingenuity had been subtle enough to
fabricate, that same ingenuity would have been too sagacious to conceal
so deep, and which are too numerous and striking (one would imagine)
to be the effect of accident;--all these things, I say, would seem
to argue (if any thing can) the integrity of the narrative. Yet all
these things must necessarily, of course, go for nothing, on Strauss's
hypothesis. There are, you say, certain discrepancies, and from them
you proceed to conclude that the narrative is uncertain, and unworthy
of credit; that, if there be a residuum of truth at all, no man can
know with any certainty what or how much it is. We must there-fore
leave the whole problematical. Now the question comes, whether we must
not in consistency apply the same principle further; and, if so, whether
we can find in any history whatever stronger marks of credibility;
whether any was ever submitted to an examination more severe, or so
severe; whether any can boast of a larger number of minds, of the
first order, giving their assent to it."


"Let me stop you there," said the other; "you must consider that
those minds were prejudiced in favor of the conclusion. They were
inclined to believe the supernatural wonders which these pretended
historians retail."

"How differently men may argue with the same premises! I was about to
mention the suspicion attaching to miraculous narratives, as attesting
(I still think so, notwithstanding your observation) that stress and
pressure of supposed historic credibility under which so many powerful
minds--minds many of them of the first order--have felt themselves
compelled to receive these histories as true, in spite of such obstacles.
Surely, you do not think that a miracle is in our age, or has been for
many ages, an antecedent ground of credibility; or that if a history
does not contain enough of them, as this assuredly does, it is certain
to be believed. No; do not you with Strauss contend that a miracle is
not to be believed at all, because it contradicts uniform experience?
And yet thousands of powerful minds have believed the truth of these
historic records against all this uniform experience! Their prejudices
against it must surely have been stronger than those for it.--But to
resume the statement of my difficulties. I say the question returns
whether there is any history in the world which either presents in
inexplicable marks of historic credibility, or in which as numerous
and equally inexplicable discrepancies cannot be discovered. If there
be none, then how far shall we adopt and carry out the principles
of Strauss? for if we carry them out with rigid equity, the whole
field of history is abandoned to scepticism: it is henceforth the
domain of doubt and contention; as, in truth, a very large part of
it in Germany has already become, in virtue of these very principles.
Much of profane history is abandoned, as well as the sacred; and Homer
becomes as much a shadow as Christ."

"You seem," said Robinson, "to be almost in the condition to entertain
Dr. Whately's ingenious 'Historic Doubts' touching the existence of
Napoleon Bonaparte!" *
____

* Are the ingenious "Historic Certainties," by "Aristar hus Newlight,"
from the same admirable mint?--ED.
____

"I believe that it is simply our proximity to the events which
renders it difficult to entertain them. If the injuries of time and
the caprice of fortune should in the remote future leave as large gaps
in the evidence, and as large scope for ingenious plausibilities, as
in relation to the remote past, I believe multitudes would find no
difficulty in entertaining those 'doubts.' They seem to me perfectly
well argued, and absolutely conclusive on the historic canons on
which Strauss's work is constructed,--namely, that if you find what
seem discrepancies and improbabilities in a reputed history, the mass
of that historic texture in which they are found may be regarded as
mythical or fabulous, doubtful or false. If you say the principles of
Strauss are false, that is another matter. I shall not think it worth
while to contest their truth or their falsehood with you. But if you
adhere to them, I will take the liberty of showing you that you do not
hold them consistently, if you think any remote history is to be
regarded as absolutely placed beyond doubt."

"Well, if you will be grave," said Robinson, "though, upon my word.
I thought you in jest,--is it possible that you do not see that there
is a vast difference between rejecting, on the same ground of
discrepancies, the credibility of the narratives of the Gospel, and
that of any common history?"

"I must honestly confess, then, that I do not, if the discrepancies,
as Strauss alleges, and not something else, is to be assigned as the
cause of their rejection. If indeed, like some criminals under despotic
governments, they are apprehended and convicted on a certain charge,
but really hanged for an entirely different reason, I can understand
that there may be policy in the proceeding; but I do not comprehend
its argumentative honesty. Be pleased, therefore, (that I may form
some conclusion,) to tell me what are those circumstances which so
wonderfully discriminate the discrepancies in the New Testament
histories from those in other histories, as that the inevitable
consequence of finding a certain amount of discrepancies in the former
leads to the rejection of the entire, or nearly entire, documents
in which they are found, while their presence in other histories even
to a far greater extent shall not authorize their rejection at all,
or the rejection only of the parts in which the discrepancies are found.
And yet I think I can guess."

"Well, what do you guess?"

"That you think that the miraculous nature of the events which form
a portion of the New Testament history makes a great difference in
the case."

"And do not you?"

"I cannot say I do: for though it is doubtless Strauss's principal
object to get rid of these miracles, it is not as miracles, but as
history, that his canons of historic criticism are applied to them.
It is as history that he attacks the books in which they are
contained. His weapons are directed against the miracles, indeed;
but it is only by piercing the history, with which alone the supposed
discrepancies had ally thing to do."

"But I cannot conceive that the historic discrepancies occurring in
connection with such topics must not have more weight attached to
them than if they occurred in any other history."

"This is because you have already resolved that miracles are
impossible on totally different grounds. But you may see the fallacy
in a moment. Talk with a man who does not believe miracles a priori
impossible, and that, though of course improbable (otherwise they
would be none, I suppose), the authentication of a divine revelation
is a sufficient reason for their being wrought, and he evades your
argument. You are then compelled, you see, to throw yourself exclusively
upon the alleged historic discrepancies; they become your sole weapon;
and if it pierces the New Testament history, I want to know whether
it does not equally pierce all other remote history too? In truth, if,
as you and Mr. Fellowes agree,--I only doubt,--a miracle is impossible,
nothing can (as I think) be more strange, than that, instead of reposing
in that simple fact, which you say is demonstrable, you should fly to
historic proofs."

"And do you not think that miracles are impossible and absurd?"

"I think nothing, because, as I told Fellowes the other day, I am
half inclined to doubt whether I doubt whether a miracle is possible
or not, like a genuine sceptic as I am. And this doubt, you see,
even of a doubt, makes me cautious. But to resume. If that principle
be sound, it seems much more natural to adhere to it than to attack
the Gospels as history. Strauss, however, has thought otherwise; and
while he has left this main dictum unproved,--nay, has not even
attempted a proof of it,--he has endeavored to shake the historic
character of these records, treating them like any other records. I
say, therefore, that to adduce the circumstance that the narrative is
miraculous, is nothing to the purpose, until the impossibility of
miracles is proved; and then, when this is proved, it is unnecessary
to adduce the discrepancies. If on the other hand, a man has no
difficulty (as the Christian, for example) in believing miracles to
be possible, and that they have really occurred, Strauss's argument,
as I have said, is evaded; and the seeming discrepancies can do no
more against the credibility of the New Testament history, than equal
discrepancies can prove against any other document. I will, if possible,
make my meaning plain by yet another example. Let us suppose some Walter
Scott had compiled some purely fictitious history, professedly laid in
the Middle Ages (and surely even miraculous occurrences cannot be more
unreal than these products of sheer imagination); and suppose some
critic had engaged to prove it fiction from internal evidence supplied
by contradictions and discrepancies, and so on, would you not think it
strange if he were to enforce that argument by saying, 'And besides
all this, what is more suspicious is, that they occur in a work
of imagination!' Would you not say, 'Learned sir, we humbly thought
this was the point you were engaged in making out? Is it not to assume
the very point in debate? And if it be true, would it not be better
to stop there at once, instead of taking us so circuitous a road to
the same result, which we perceive you had already reached beforehand?
Are you not a little like that worthy Mayor who told Henri Quatre
that he had nineteen good reasons for omitting to fire a salute on
his Majesty's arrival; the first of which was, that he had no artillery;
whereupon his Majesty graciously told him that he might spare the
remaining eighteen?' So I should say in the supposed case.--To return,
then: you must, if you would consider the validity of Strauss's argument,
lay aside the miraculous objection, which must be decided on quite
different grounds, and which, in fact, if valid, settles the
controversy without his critical aid. All who read Strauss's book
either believe that miracles are impossible, or not; the former need
not his criticisms,--they have already arrived at the result by a
shorter road; the latter can only reject the history by supposing the
discrepancies in it, as history, justify them. I ask you, then,
supposing you one who, like the Christian, believes miracles possible,
whether these historic discrepancies would justify you in saying that
the New Testament records, considered simply as history, no longer
deserve credit, and that you are left in absolute ignorance how much
of them, or whether any part, is to be received,--ay or no?"

"Well, then, I should say that Strauss has shown that the history, as
history, is to be rejected."

"Very well; only then do not be surprised that, in virtue of such
conclusions, I doubt whether you ought not to push the principle a
little further, and contend that, as there are no writings in the
world which to bear more marks of historic sincerity and
trustworthiness, and certainly none of any magnitude or variety
in which far greater discrepancies are not to be founds, it is
doubtful whether we can receive any thing as absolutely veritable
history; and that the Book of Genesis, and Gospel of Luke, and
History of Lingard, and History of Hume, are alike covered with a
mist of sceptical obscurity."

"But really, Mr. Harrington, this is absurd and preposterous!"

"It may be so; but you must prove it, and not simply content
yourself with affirming it. I am, at all events, more consistent than
you, who tell the man who does not see your a priori objection to
the belief of miracles, that a history which certainly contains as
many marks of historic veracity as any history in the world, and
discrepancies neither greater nor more numerous, must be reduced
(ninety-nine hundredths of it) to myth on account of those
discrepancies, while the others may still legitimate their claims
to be considered as genuine history! Your only escape, as I conceive,
from this dilemma, is, by saying that the marks of historic truth
in the New Testament, looked at as mere history, are not so great as
those of other histories, or that the discrepancies are greater; and
I think even you will not venture to assert that. But if you do, and
choose to put it on that issue, I shall be most happy to try the
criterion by examining Luke and Paul, Matthew and Mark, on the one
side; and Clarendon and May, or Hume, Lingard, and Macaulay, on the
other; or, if you prefer them, Livy and Polybius, or Tacitus
and Josephus."

"But I have bethought me of another answer," said Robinson. "Suppose
the sacred writers affirm that every syllable they utter is infallibly
true, being inspired?"

"Why, then," said Harrington, "first, you must find such a passage,
which many say you cannot; secondly, you must find one which says
that every syllable would remain always infallibly true, in spite
of all errors of transcription and corruptions of time, otherwise
your discrepancies will not touch the writers; and lastly, it does
not affect my argument whether you find any such absurdities or not,
since you and I would know what to say, though the Christian would not
like to say it; namely, that these writers were mistaken in the notion
of their plenary inspiration. It would still leave the mass of their
history to be dealt with like any other history. Now I want to know why,
if I reject the mass of that on the ground of certain discrepancies,
I must not reject the mass of this on the score of equal or greater."

After a few minutes Harrington turned to Fellowes and said,--"That in
relation to the bulk of mankind there can be no authentic history of
remote events plainly appears from a statement of Mr. Newman. He says,
you know, after having relinquished the investigation of the evidences
of Christianity, that he might have spared much weary thought and
useless labor, if, at an earlier time, this simple truth had been
pressed upon him, that since the 'poor and half-educated cannot
investigate historical and literary questions, therefore these questions
cannot constitute an essential part of religion.' You, if you recollect,
mentioned it to my uncle the other night; and, in spite of what he
replied, it does appear a weighty objection; on the other hand, if I
admit it to be conclusive, I seem to be driven to the most paradoxical
conclusions, at direct variance with the experience of all mankind,--at
least so they say. For why cannot an historical fact constitute part
of a religion?"

"Because, as Mr. Newman says, it is impossible that the bulk of people
call have any 'certainty in relation to such remote facts of history,"
said Fellowes.

"And, therefore, in relation to any other remote history; for if the
bulk of men cannot obtain certainty on, such historical questions,
neither can they obtain certainty on other historical questions."

"Perhaps not; but then what does it matter, in that case, whether they
can obtain certainty or not?"

"I am not talking--I am not thinking--as to whether it would matter or
not. I merely remark that, in relation to the generality of people,
at all events, they cannot obtain certainty on any remote historical
questions. Of course, with regard to ordinary history, it is neither
a man's duty, strictly speaking, to believe or disbelieve; and therefore
I said nothing about duty. But in neither the one case nor the other
is it possible for the bulk of mankind to obtain satisfaction, from a
personal investigation, as to the facts of remote history, or indeed
any history at all, except of a man's own life and that perhaps of
his own family, up to his father and down to his son! What do you say
to this,--yes or no?"

"I do not know that I should object to say that the great bulk of
mankind never can obtain a sufficiently certain knowledge of any fact
of history to warrant their belief of it."

"Very consistent, I think; for you doubtless perceive that if we say
they can obtain a reasonable ground of assurance of the facts of
remote history,--so that, if any thing did or does depend on their
believing it, they are truly in possession of a warrant for acting
on that belief,--I say you then see whither our argument, Mr. Newman's
and yours and mine, is going; it vanishes,--oichetai, as Socrates
would say. If, for example, men can attain reasonable certainty in
relation to Alfred and Cromwell, alas! they may do the like in
reference to Christ; and many persons will say much more easily. Now,
with my too habitual scepticism, I confess to a feeling of difficulty
here. You know there are thousands and tens of thousands amongst us,
who, if you asked respecting the history of Alfred the Great or Oliver
Cromwell, would glibly repeat to you all the principal facts of the
story,--as they suppose; and if you ask them whether they have ever
investigated critically the sources whence they had obtained their
knowledge, they will say, No; but that they have read the things in
Hume's History; or, perhaps, (save the mark!) in Goldsmith's Abridgment!
But they are profoundly ignorant of even the names of the principal
authorities, and have never investigated one of the many doubtful
points which have perplexed historians; nay, as to most of them, are
not even aware that they exist. Yet nothing can be more certain,
than that their supposed knowledge would embrace by far the most
important conclusions at which the most accurate historians have
arrived. It would be principally in a supposed juster comprehension
of minor points--of details--that the latter would have an advantage
over them; compensated, however, by a 'plentiful assortment' of
doubts on other points, from which these simple souls are free;
doubts which are the direct result of more extensive investigation,
but which can scarcely be thought additions to our knowledge;--they
are rather additions to our ignorance. The impressions of the mass
of readers on all the main facts of the two memorable periods
respectively would be the same as those of more accurate critics. Now
what I want to know is, whether you would admit that these superficial
inquirers--the bulk of your decent countrymen, recollect--can be said
to have an intelligent belief in any such history; whether you think
them justified in saying that they are certain of the substantial
accuracy of their impressions, and that they may laugh in your face
(which they assuredly would do) if you told them that it is possible
that Alfred may have existed, and been a wise and patriotic prince;
and that probably Oliver Cromwell was Protector of England, and died
in 1658; but that really they know nothing about the matter."

"Of course they would affirm that they are as assured of the
substantial accuracy of their impressions as of their own existence,"
replied Fellowes.

"But what answer do you think they ought to give, my friend? Do you
think that they can affirm a reasonable ground of belief in
these things?"

"I confess I think they can."

"Ah! then I fear you are grossly inconsistent with Mr. Newman's
principles, and must so far distrust his argument against historic
religion. If you think that this ready assent to remote historic
events may pass for a reasonable conviction and an intelligent belief,
I cannot see why it should be more difficult to attain a similar
confidence in the general results of a religious history; and in that
case it may also become men's duty to act upon that belief. On the
other hand, if it be not possible to obtain this degree of satisfaction
in the latter case, neither for similar reasons will it be in the former.
If you hold Mr. Newman's principles consistently, seeing that neither
in the one case nor the other can the bulk of mankind attain that sort
of critical knowledge which he supposes necessary to certainty, you
ought to deny that any common man has any business to say that he
believes that he is certain of the main facts in the history either
of Alfred or Cromwell."

"You do not surely mean to compare the importance of a belief in
the one case with the importance of a belief in the other?"
rejoined Fellowes.

"I do not; and can as little disguise from myself that such a
question has nothing to do with the matter. The duty in the one case
depends entirely on the question whether such a conviction of the
accuracy of the main facts and more memorable events, as may pass
for moral certainty, and justify its language and acts, be possible
or not. If, from a want of capacity and opportunity for a thorough
investigation of all the conditions of the problem, it be not in
the one case, neither will it be in the other. If this be a fallacy,
be pleased to prove it such,--I shall not be sorry to have it so
proved. But at present you seem to me grossly inconsistent in this
matter. I have also my doubts (to speak frankly) whether we must
not apply Mr. Newman's principle (to the great relief of mankind)
in other most momentous questions, in which the notion of duty
cannot be excluded, but enters as an essential element. I cannot
help fancying, that, if his principle be true, mankind ought to be
much obliged to him; for he has exempted them from the necessity of
acting in all the most important affairs of life. For example, you
are, I know, a great political philanthropist; you plead for the
duty of enlightening the masses of the people on political questions,
--of making them intelligently acquainted with the main points of
political and economical science. You do not despair of all this?"

"I certainly do not," said Fellowes.

"A most hopeless task," said Harrington, "on Mr. Newman's principle.
The questions on which you seek to enlighten them are, many of them,
of the most intricate and difficult character,--are, all of them,
dependent on principles, and involve controversies, with which the
great bulk of mankind are no more competent to deal than with
Newton's 'Principia.' An easy, and often erroneous assent, on
ill-comprehended data, is all that you can expect of the mass; and
how can it be their duty, when it may often be their ruin, to act
upon this? A superficial knowledge is all that you can give them;
thorough investigation is out of the question. Most men, I fear, will
continue to believe it at least as possible for the common people
to form a judgment on the validity of Paley's 'Evidences,' as on
the reasonings of Smith's 'Political Economy.' They will say, if
the common people can be sufficiently sure of their conclusions in
the latter case to take action upon them,--that is, to render action
a duty,--the like is possible in the former. Should you not hold by
your principle, and say, that, as from the difficulty of the
investigation it is not possible for the bulk of mankind to attain
such a degree of certainty as to make belief in an 'historical religion'
a duty, so neither, for the like reason, can it be their duty to come
to any definite conclusion, or to take any definite action, in relation
to the equally difficult questions of politics, legislation, political
economy, and a variety of other sciences? I will take another case.
I believe you will not deny that you are profoundly ignorant of medicine,
nor that, though the most necessary, it is at the same time the most
difficult and uncertain of all the sciences. You know that the great
bulk of mankind are as ignorant as yourself; nay, some affirm that
physicians themselves are about as ignorant as their patients; it
is certain that, in reference to many classes of disease, doctors
take the most opposite views of the appropriate treatment, and even
treat disease in general on principles diametrically opposed! A more
miserable condition for an unhappy patient can hardly be imagined.

"Though our own life, or that of our dearest friend in the world, hangs
in the balance, it is impossible for us to tell whether the art of
the doctor will save or kill. I doubt, therefore, whether you ought
not to conclude, from the principle on which we have already said so
much, that God cannot have made it a poor wretch's duty to take any
step whatever; nay, since even the medical man himself often confesses
that he does not know whether the remedies he uses will do harm or
good, it may be a question whether he himself ought not to relinquish
his profession, at least if it be a duty in man to act only in cases
in which he can form something better than conjectures."

"Well," said Fellowes, laughing; "and some even in the profession
itself say, that perhaps it might not be amiss if the patient never
called in such equivocal aid, and allowed himself to die, not secundum
artem, but secundum naturam."

"And yet I fancy that, in the sudden illness of a wife or child, you
would send to the first medical man in your street, or the next,
though you might be ignorant of his name, and he might be almost as
ignorant of his profession; at least, that is what the generality
of mankind would do."

"They certainly would."

"But yet, upon your principles, how can it be their duty to act on
such slender probabilities, or, rather, mere conjectures, in cases
so infinitely important?"

"I know not how that may be, but it is assuredly necessary."

"Well, then, shall we say it is only necessary, but not a duty? But
then, if in a case of such importance God has made it thus necessary
for man to act in such ignorance, people will say he may possibly have
left them in something less than absolute certainty in the matter
of an 'historical religion.'--Ah! it is impossible to unravel these
difficulties. I only know, that, if the principle be true, then as
men in general cannot form any reasonable judgment, not only on the
principles of medical science, but even on the knowledge and skill of
any particular professor of it, (by their ludicrous mis-estimate of
which they are daily duped both of money and life to an enormous extent,)
it cannot be their duty to take any steps in this matter at all.
The fair application, therefore, of the principle in question would,
as I say, save mankind a great deal of trouble;--but, alas! it
involves us philosophers in a great deal."

"I cannot help thinking," said Fellowes, "that you have caricatured
the principle." And he appealed to me.

"However ludicrous the results," said I, "of Harrington's argument,
I do not think that his representation, if the principle is to be
fairly carried out, is any caricature at all. The absurdity, if anywhere,
is in the principle aimed; viz. that God cannot have constituted it
man's duty to act, in cases of very imperfect knowledge, and yet we see
that he has perpetually compelled him to do so; nay, often in a condition
next door to stark ignorance. To vindicate the wisdom of such a
constitution may be impossible; but the fact cannot be denied. The
Christian admits the difficulty alike in relation to religion and to the
affairs of this world. He believes, with Butler, that 'probability is
the guide of life';--that man may have sufficient evidence, in a
thousand cases,--varying, however, in different individuals,--to
warrant his action, and a reasonable confidence in the results,
though that evidence is very far removed from certitude;--that
similarly the mass of men are justified in saying that they know a
thousand facts of history to be true, though they never had the
opportunity, or capacitor, of thoroughly investigating them, and
that the great facts of science are true, though they may know no more
of science than of the geology of the moon;--that the statesman, the
lawyer, and the physician are justified in acting, where they yet
are compelled to acknowledge that they act only on most unsatisfactory
calculations of probabilities, and amidst a thousand doubts and
difficulties;--that you, Mr. Fellowes, are justified in endeavoring
to enlighten the common people on many important subjects connected
with political and social science, in which it is yet quite certain
that not one in a hundred thousand can ever go to the bottom of them;
of which very few can do more than attain a rough and crude notion,
and in which the bulk must act solely because they are persuaded that
other men know more about the matters in question than themselves;--all
which, say we Christians, is true in relation to the Christian religion,
the evidence for which is plainer, after all, than that on which man
in ten thousand cases is necessitated to hazard his fortune or his life.
If you follow out Mr. Newman's principle, I think you must with
Harrington liberate mankind from the necessity of acting altogether
in all the most important relations of human life. If it be thought
not only hard that men should be called perpetually to act on defective,
grossly defective evidence, but still harder that they should possess
varying degrees even of that evidence, it may be said that the
difference perhaps is rather apparent than real. Those whom we call
profoundly versed in the more difficult matters which depend on moral
evidence, are virtually in the same condition as their humbler neighbors;
they are profound only by comparison with the superficiality of these
last. Where men must act, the decisive facts, as was said in relation
to history, may be pretty equally grasped by all; and as for the rest,
the enlargement of the circle of a man's knowledge is, in a still
greater proportion, the enlargement of the circle of his ignorance;
for the circumscribing periphery lies in darkness. Doubts, in
proportion to the advance of knowledge, spring up where they were
before unknown; and though the previous ignorance of these was not
knowledge, the knowledge of them (as Harrington has said) is little
better than an increase of our ignorance."

"If, as you suppose, it cannot be our duty to act in reference to any
'historical religion' because a satisfactory investigation is impossible
to the mass of mankind, the argument may be retorted on your own theory.
You assert, indeed, that in relation to religion we have an internal
'spiritual faculty' which evades this difficulty; yet men persist in
saying, in spite of you, that it is doubtful,--1st, whether they have
any such; 2d, whether, if there be one, it be not so debauched and
sophisticated by other faculties, that they can no longer trust it
implicitly; 3d, what is the amount of its genuine utterances; 4th, what
that of its aberrations; 5th, whether it is not so dependent on
development, education, and association, as to leave room enough for
an auxiliary external revelation;--on all which questions the
generality of mankind are just as incapable of deciding, as about
any historical question whatever."

Here Fellowes was called out of the room. Harrington, who had been
glancing at the newspaper, exclaimed,--"Talk about the conditions on
which man is left to act indeed! Only think of his gross ignorance
and folly being left a prey to such quack advertisements as half
fill this column. Here empirics every day almost invite men to be
immortal for the small charge of half a crown. Here is a panacea for
nearly every disease under heaven in the shape of some divine elixir,
and, what is more, we know that thousands are gulled by it. How
satisfactory is that condition of the human intellect in which quack
promises can be proffered with any plausible chance of success!"

I told him I thought the science of medicine would yield an argument
against religious sceptics which they would find it very difficult
to reply to.

"How so?"

"Ah! it is well masked; but I know you too well to allow me to doubt
that you suspect what I am referring to."

"Upon my word, I am all in the dark."

"Is there not," said I, "a close analogy between the condition of men
in reference to the health of their bodies and the science by which
they hope to conserve or restore it, and the health of their souls and
the science by which they hope to conserve or restore that? Has not
God placed them in precisely the same difficulty and perplexity in both
cases,--nay, as I think, in greater in relation to medicine,--and yet
is not man most willing and eager to apply to its most problematic
aid, imparted even by the most ignorant practitioners, rather than
be without it altogether? The possession which man holds most valuable
in this world, and most men, alas! more valuable than aught in any
other world,--LIFE itself,--is at stake; it is subjected to a science,
or rather an art, proverbially difficult in theory and uncertain in
practice, about which there have been ten thousand varieties of opinion,
--whimsically corresponding to the diversity of sect, creed, and
priesthood, on which sceptics like you lay so much stress; in which
even the wisest and most cautious practitioners confess that their
art is at best only a species of guessing; while the patient can no
more judge of the remedies he consents, with so much faith, to swallow
on the knowledge of him who prescribes them, than he can of the
perturbations of Jupiter's satellites. Yet the moment he is sick,
away he goes to this dubious oracle, and trusts it with a most
instructive faith and docility, as if it were infallible. All his
doubts are mastered in an instant. I strongly suspect yours would
be. Ought you not in consistency to refuse to act at all in such
deplorable deficiency of evidence?"

"Well," said he, "consistent or inconsistent, it must be admitted
that the parallel is very complete,--and amusing." And he then went
on, as he was apt to do, when an analogy struck his fancy. "Let me
see,--yes, our unlucky race is condemned to put its most valued
possession on the hazard of a wise choice, without any of the
essential qualifications for wisely making it; a man cannot at all
tell whether his particular priest in medicine understands and can
skilfully apply even his own theory. Yes," he went on, "and I think
(as you say) we might find, not only in the partisans of different
systems of physic, the representatives of the various priesthoods,
but in their too credulous--or shall we say, too faithful patients?
--the representatives of all sects. There is, for example, the
superstitious vulgar in medicine,--the gross worshipper of the
Fetish, who believes in the efficacy of charm, and spell, and
incantation, of mere ceremonial and opus operatum; then there
is the polytheist, who will adore any thing in the shape of a drug,
and who is continually quacking himself with some nostrum or other
from morning to night; who not only takes his regular physician's
prescriptions, but has his household gods of empirical remedies,
to which he applies with equal devotion. Then there is the Romanist
in medicine, who swears by the infallibility of some papal Abernethy,
and the unfailing efficacy of some viaticum of a blue pill."

"And who," said I, "would represent our friend who has just left the
room, and who has tried every thing?"

"Why," he replied, "I think he is in the condition of a little boy
of whom I heard a little while ago, whose mother was a homoeopathist,
and kept a little chest, from which she dispensed to her family and
friends, perhaps as skilfully as the doctor himself could have
done. The little fellow, going into her dressing-room, opened this
box, and, thinking that he had fallen on a score of 'millions' (as
children call them), swallowed up his mother's whole doctor's shop
before he could be stopped. It was happy, said the doctor, when called
in, that the little patient had swallowed so many, or he would have
been infallibly killed. Or perhaps we may liken our friend to that
humorous traveller, Mr. Stephens, who tells us, that, having been
provided at Cairo, by a skilful physician there, with a number of
remedies for some serious complaint to which he was subject, found,
to his dismay, when suffering under a severe paroxysm in the fortress
of Akaba, that he had lost the directions which told him in what order
the medicines were to be taken. Whether pill, powder, or draught was
to come first, he knew not: 'on which,' says he, 'in a fit of
desperation, I placed them all in a row before me, and resolved to
swallow them all serialim till I obtained relief.' George has
equal faith."

"You have omitted," said I, "one character,--that of the sceptic, who
believes in no medicine at all; who sturdily dies with his doubts
unresolved, and unattended by any physician. But it must be confessed
that he is a still rarer character than the sceptic in religion. Nature,
my dear Harrington, everywhere decides against you."

"I acknowledge," he said, "that we are but a scanty flock in any
department of life; but, upon my word, the parallel you have suggested
is so striking, that I think I must in consistency, extend my scepticism
to physic at least, and, if I am ill, refrain from availing myself of
so uncertain an art, practised by such uncertain hands and which are
to be selected by one who cannot even guess whether they are ignorant
or skilful;--doctors, who may perhaps, as Voltaire said, put drugs of
which they know nothing into bodies of which they know still less."

"Act upon that resolution, Harrington," said I, "and you will at
least be consistent: but, depend upon it, nature will confute you."

"Why," said he, jestingly, "perhaps in the case of medicine, at all
events, I might face the consequences of scepticism'. I remember
reading, in some account of Madagascar, that the natives are absolutely
without the healing art; 'and yet,' says the author, with grave
surprise, 'it is not observed that the number of deaths is increased.'
Perhaps, thought I, that is the cause of it."

"The statistics," I replied, "of more civilized countries amply refute
you, and show you that, uncertain as is the evidence on which God
has destined and compelled men to act in this, the most important
affair of the present life, and absolute as is the faith they are
summoned to exercise, neither is the study of the art (uncertain as
it is in itself), nor the dependence of patients upon it (still more
precarious as that is), unjustified on the whole by the result; and
as to the abuses of downright quackery, a little prudence and common
sense are required, and are sufficient to preserve men from them."

He mused, and, I thought, seemed struck by this analogy between man's
temporal and spiritual condition I said no more, hoping that he
would ponder it.
____

July 25. I had been so much interested in the discussion between
Harrington and young Robinson on the fair application of the principle
of Strauss to history in general, that I could not resist the
temptation to tell the youth, in secret, that I thought the matter
would admit of further discussion, and that he would do well to
challenge Harrington plausibly to show that some undoubted modern
event might, when it became remote history, be rendered dubious to
posterity. He willingly acted on the hint the next morning. To some
remark of his, Harrington replied thus:--

"Assuming with you, that Strauss has really cast suspicion on the
historic character of the bulk of the transactions recorded in the
New Testament, I must suspect that there is not an event in history,
if at all remote, which, arguing exactly on the same principles, may
not be made doubtful; and that is--"

"Why, now," replied the other, "do you think it possible that the events
of the present year" (referring to the Papal Aggression), "which are
making such a prodigious noise in England, will ever stand a chance
of being similarly treated some centuries hence?"

"If they are ever treated at all," said Harrington; "but you must
have observed that it is the tendency of man to make ridiculous
miss-estimates of the importance of the transactions of his own age,
and to imagine that posterity will have nothing to do but to recount
them. He is much mistaken; they forget or care not a doit for nine
tenths of what he does; and misrepresent the tenth," continued
he, laughing.

"Well, then, upon the supposition that Pio Nono and Cardinal Wiseman
are of sufficient importance to be remembered at all eighteen hundred
and fifty years hence, that is, in the year 3700 of the Christian era,
--though in all probability some new and more rational epoch will have
jostled out both the Christian era the Mahometan hegira by that time--"

"Pray be sure," interrupted I, "before you predict a new epoch, that
it will be wanted; that Christianity is really dead before you bury
her. You will please remember that the experiment was tried in France
with much formality, but somehow came to a speedy ignominious conclusion;
the new era did not survive infancy. As Paulus thinks that Christ was
only in a trance when he seemed to be dead, so it certainly often
is (figuratively speaking) with his religion: it seems to be dead when
it is only in a trance. It is apt to rise again, and be more active
than ever; and never more so than when, as in the middle of the last
century, our infidel undertakers were providing for its funeral. But I
beg your pardon for interrupting your conversation; you were saying--"

"I was saying," said Robinson, "that I doubt whether Cardinal Wiseman
and his doings, eighteen hundred and fifty years hence, could be as
much the subject of doubt and controversy (if remembered at all) as
the events which Strauss has shown to be unhistorical. I think the
press alone, with its diffusion and multiplication 'of the sources
of knowledge, will alone prevent in the future the doubts which gather
over the past. There will never again be the same dearth of historic
materials."

"In spite of all that," replied Harrington, "I suspect it will be
very possible for men to entertain the same doubts about many events
of our time, eighteen hundred and fifty years hence, as they entertain
of many which happened eighteen hundred and fifty years ago."

"I can hardly imagine this to be possible."

"Because, I apprehend, first, that you are laboring under the delusion
already mentioned, by which men ever magnify the importance of the events
of their own age, and forget how readily future generations will let
them slip from their memory, and let documents which contain the record
of them slip out of existence; and, secondly, because you do not give
yourself time to realize all that is implied in supposing eighteen
hundred years to have elapsed, nor to transport yourself fairly into
that distant age. As to the first;--let us recollect that the importance
of historical events is by no means in proportion to the excitement they
produce at the time of their occurrence. We have many exemplifications
of this even in our own time; see the rapidity with which every trace
of a political storm, which for a moment may have lashed the whole
nation into fury, is appeased again: the surface is as smooth after
a few short years as if it had never been ruffled at all! In all such
cases, the constant tendency is to let the events which have been thus
transient in their effects sink into oblivion. But even of those which
have been far more significant, (since each future age will teem with
fresh events equally significant, all claiming a part in the page of
general history,) the importance will be perpetually diminishing in
estimate, and still more in interest, from the intenser feeling with
which each age will in turn regard the events which stand in immediate
proximity to its own. As time rolls on, all of the past that can be
spared will be gradually jostled out. Details will be lost; and then,
when remote ages turn to reinvestigate the half-forgotten past, the
want of those details will issue in the customary problems and
'historic doubts.' In the page of general history, events of a remote
age, except those of a surpassing interest, will be reduced to more
and more meagre outlines, till abridgments are abridged, and even these
compendiums thought tedious. The interval between decade and
decade now will be as much as that between century and century then.
History will have to employ a sort of Bramah press in her compositions,
and its application will compress into mere films the loose and pulpy
textures submitted to it by each age. Let human vanity think what it
will, many events and many names which seem imperishable will speedily
die out of remembrance; many lights in the firmament, destined
(as we deem) to shine 'like the stars for ever and ever,' will hereafter
be missing from the catalogue of the historic astronomer."

"But, at all events," said the other, "though there are thousands of
facts which will be virtually forgotten, it will be at all times easy
to ascertain (if a sufficiently strong motive exist) the real character
of past, events by a reference to the documents preserved by the press.
The press,--the press it is which will preserve us from the doubts of
the past."

"I doubt that. Has there been any lack of historic controversy respecting
a thousand facts which have transpired since the press was in full
activity? You forget, that, in the first place, neither the press, nor
any thing else, can preserve any original documents. Time will not be
inactive in the future more than in the past; it will have no more
respect for printed books than for manuscripts. An immense mass of print
is every year silently perishing by mere decay. The original documents
to which you refer will, eighteen hundred years hence, have almost all
perished; few will be preserved except in copies, and how many disputes
that alone will cause, it is hard to say; but we may form some guess
from the experience of the past. Of thousands of these documents, again,
no importance having been attached to them, and no one having imagined
that any importance would ever be attached to them, no copies will
have been taken, and there will be here again the usual field for
conjectures. This is a common trick of time;--silently destroying what
a present age thinks may as well be left to his maw. It is not even
discovered that valuable documents are lost, till something turns
up to make mankind wish they may be found. But neither is this the
sole nor the chief source of future historic doubts. Do not flatter
yourself too much on the wonders which the press can work, amongst
which one unquestionably is, that it will bury at least as much
as it will preserve. Several considerations will suffice to show that
here, too, we labor under a delusion. Oblivion will practically cover
many events, owing to the mere accumulations of the press itself. You
talk of the ease of consulting 'original documents'; but when they lie
buried in the depths of national museums, amidst mountain loads of
forgotten and decaying literature, it will not be so easy, even
supposing the present activity of the press only maintained for
eighteen hundred and fifty years (although, in all probability, it
will proceed at a rapidly increased ratio),--I say it will not be so
easy to lay your hands on what you want. The materials, again, will
often exist by that time in dead or half-obsolete languages, or at
least in languages full of archaic forms. It will be almost as difficult
to unearth and collate the documents which bear upon any events less
than the most momentous, as to recover the memorials of Egypt from
the pyramids, or of ancient Assyria from the mounds of Nineveh. The
historian of a remote period must be a sort of Belzoni or Layard. If
we can suppose any thing so extravagant as that the British Museum will
be in existence then, having preserved during these centuries (as it
does now) all new hooks, and accumulated ancient and foreign literature
only at the rate it has during these few years past, the library alone
will extend over hundreds of acres at least. This, unless our posterity
are fools, can hardly be the case; and therefore much will be rejected
and left to the mercy of the great destroyer. But the very existence of
any such repository is itself a very doubtful supposition. Comprehensive,
indeed, may be the destruction of many large portions of our archives,
essentially necessary to minute accuracy at so distant a date; nay,
England herself may have ceased to exist. If her subterranean fuel be
not exhausted, a cheaper and equally abundant supply of it may have
been found elsewhere, and transfer for ever the chief elements of her
manufacturing or commercial prosperity; or entirely new and more
transcendent sources of science may have done the same thing, and our
country may be left, like a stranded vessel, to rot upon the beach!
Her furnaces extinguished, her manufactories deserted, her cities decayed,
the hum of her busy population silenced, she may present a spectacle of
desolation like that of so many other famous nations which have risen,
culminated, and set for ever."

"Or," interrupted I, "(and may God avert the omen!) the same ruin may
be accomplished still earlier, and by more potent causes. Her nobles
enervated by luxury, her lower classes sunk in vice and ignorance,
and both the one and the other decaying in piety and religion (a sure
result of neglecting that Bible which has directly and indirectly formed
her strength), she may have fallen a victim to the consequences of her
own degeneracy, or to an irresistible combination of the enemies who
envy and hate her. That picture of the splendid imagination of the great
historian of our day may be realized, 'when some traveller from New
Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a
broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's.'"

"In short," resumed Harrington, "in several ways that appalling
catastrophe may have taken place; and, should this be the case, how
many questions will be asked of history, but asked in vain! As for
Rome,--what other great name in the present strife pitted against
England,--for aught we can tell, she may by that time be in desolation
far more remediless than when the grim Attilas and Alarics stormed her
walls. For aught we know, the agency of those terrible elements which
more or less mine the soil of Italy may have made her 'like unto'
Herculaneum or Pompeii; or that silent desolater, the malaria, which
Dr. Arnold thinks will be perpetual and will increase, may long before
that period have reduced, not only the Campagna of Rome, but the whole
region of the 'seven hills,' to a pestilential solitude."

"But all this is mere vision?" said Robinson.

"Certainly; but it is the vision of the possible. Similarly wonderful
and equally unexpected revolutions have taken place in the history of
past nations and empires in a less space of time; and some enormous
changes, we know, must happen during the next eighteen hundred and fifty
years; and they will tend both to jostle out thousands of events of meaner
moment, and to effect a comparative destruction of the memorials of the
past. You do not suppose, I presume, that London and Rome are absolutely
privileged from the fate which has overtaken Babylon and Memphis. I, for
one, therefore, do not expect that the time will arrive when, in the
historic investigations of the past, our Strausses will not find abundant
scope for ingenious theories; nay, many real sources of perplexity even
in reference to events which, at the time of their occurrence, seemed
written as 'with a pen of iron on the rock for ever.' But even supposing
no other difficulty, I cannot lay small stress upon the mere accumulation
of materials on which the historian, two thousand years hence, will have
to operate, if he would recover an exact account of the events of our
time. It is much the same whether you have to dig into the pyramids of
Egypt, or into the catacombs of the buried literature of two thousand
years, for the memorials which are to enable you to arrive at the exact
truth, at least as to any events of transient interest, however important
at the time of their occurrence. It will be like 'hunting for a needle
in a bundle of hay,' as the proverb says."

"Still, I cannot imagine that facts like those with which our ears have
been ringing during the last eight months, can ever be contested."

"Can you not?" said Harrington. "I cannot imagine any thing more likely
than that, eighteen hundred and fifty years hence, such an event, on
Strauss's principles, may be shown to be very problematical."

"Will you endeavor to show how it may probably be?" rejoined Robinson.

"Well, I have no objection, if you will give me till this evening to
prepare so important a document."

In the evening, after supper, he amused us by reading us a brief paper,
entitled

THE PAPAL AGGRESSION SHOWN TO BE IMPOSSIBLE.

"I shall proceed on the supposition that some Dr. Dickkopf or
Dr. Scharfsinn, for either name will do, has to deal (as my uncle here
believes our modern critics have to deal in the Gospels) with an
account literally true. This learned man I shall imagine as existing
in some nation at the antipodes eighteen hundred and fifty years hence,
and intellectually, if not literally, descended from some erudite
critics of our age. Let me further suppose that the principal memorials
of the current events are found in the page of some continuator of
Macaulay (may the Fates have pity on him! I am afraid he will be far
worse than even Smollett after Hume), who publishes his work only
sixty years hence. Let us suppose him (as surely we well may)
proceeding thus: 'During the year 1850-51, our countrymen are
represented to us, by the accounts of those who lived at the time
(some few still survive), as having been in a condition of political
and religious excitement almost unprecedented in their history. It
was occasioned by the attempt of the Pope to reestablish the Roman
Catholic hierarchy, which had been extinct since the Reformation. As
these events, though all-absorbing to the actors in them, (as are so
many others of very secondary importance,) have now shrunk to their
true dimensions, and are, in fact, infinitely less momentous than
others which were silently transpiring at the time almost without
notice, I shall content myself with simply condensing a brief
contemporaneous document which gives the chief points, without passion
or prejudice, in a narrative so simple that it vouches for its own
veracity:--

"Without permission of the Crown, or any negotiations with the
Government whatever, Pope Plus the Ninth divided the whole of England
into twelve sees, and assigned these to as many Roman Catholic bishops
with local titles and territorial jurisdiction. The chief of them was
one Nicholas Wiseman (by birth, it is said, a Spaniard), who was created
Archbishop of Westminster and Cardinal.

"'The said Wiseman issued a pastoral letter, which was read on the
27th day of October, 1850, in all the churches and chapels of the
Romanists, congratulating Catholic England on the reestablishment of
the Roman hierarchy. In it he used the startling expression, "Our
beloved country has been restored to its orbit in the ecclesiastical
firmament, from which its light had long vanished."

"'The nation was the more surprised at all this, inasmuch as the
position of Pio Nono was not such as to warrant any expectation of a
step so audacious. Little more than a year had elapsed since his own
subjects in Rome itself rebelled against him, murdered his Prime
Minister, and compelled him, in the disguise of a menial, to fly from
Rome; nor was he restored except by the arms of the French, who besieged
and took Rome in 1849.

"'That the Pope, while holding his own little dominions on so precarious
a tenure, should venture to assume such an exercise of supremacy over
the most powerful nation in the world,--a nation so jealous of its
independence, which had so long been, and which still was, most averse
to his claims,--seemed almost incredible to the people of England; and
they were proportionably indignant.

"'Some affirmed that the aforesaid Cardinal Wiseman was the chief cause
of it all,--the spectacle of many conversions from the Church of England
to that of Rome having deceived him into a notion that the national
mind was far more generally disposed to receive Romanism; and to make
up the long-standing breach with the Papacy, than was really the case.
The principal cause of the conversions above mentioned was what was
called the "Oxford Movement." In the University of Oxford had sprung up
a body of men who had consecrated their lives to the diffusion of
doctrines indefinitely near those of Rome. They spoke of the Reformation
contemptuously; advocated very many, obsolete rites and usages;
magnified the power of the church and the prerogatives of the
priesthood. Many of them, at length, finding that they could not, with
any shadow of consistency, remain in the English church, abandoned it;
but many others remained, and propagated the same opinions with
impunity. They were regarded as traitors by their brethren, though no
steps were taken to prevent them from teaching their notions, nor to
deprive them of their benefices and emoluments. Among those who gave up
their livings, of their own accord, from the feeling that they could not
hold them with a safe conscience, the principal was one afterwards
called Father Newman.


"'Now this Newman must by no means be confounded with another of the
same name, Professor Newman,--in fact his own brother,--who was also
educated at Oxford, but whose history was in most singular contrast
with his. While the one brother went over to Rome, exceeded in zeal
and credulity even the Romanists themselves, and sighed for a
restoration of mediaeval puerilities, the other lapsed into downright
infidelity, and denied even the possibility of an external revelation.

"'Very many thought, that, if the Oxford party had been wise enough
to proceed more gently in the propagation of their notions, they would
have accomplished much greater things, and perhaps eventually brought
the popular mind to embrace the Romish Church. But their later
publications (and especially No. 90) opened the eyes of many, and the
frequent defections from the English Church, which were almost daily
announced in the papers, opened the eyes of many more.

"'But whether or not Wiseman and other principal persons were misled
by erroneous representations of the state of the English mind, certain
it is that he advised the Pope to take this perilous step. The Pope
was persuaded; he assured the people of England, that he should not
cease to supplicate the Virgin Mary and all the saints whose virtues
had made this country illustrious, that they would deign to obtain,
by their intercessions with God, a happy issue to his enterprise.

"'The excitement produced by the publication of the Pope's proceedings
throughout England was prodigious, and can hardly be conceived by us
at this day. Every county, city, and almost every town, held meetings
in the utmost alarm and indignation; and resolved on petitioning the
Queen and Parliament to do something or other to prevent the Pope's
measures from taking effect; and especially to annul all claims to
local and territorial jurisdiction in this country. The universities;
the clergy in their dioceses; the Bishops collectively,--even Philpotts
of Exeter, though intoxicated with zeal for those Oxford notions which
had done all the mischief; the municipalities; almost all organized
bodies, whether of Churchmen or Dissenters;--discussed and resolved.
Amongst these meetings one was held at the Guildhall of London, which
was crowded with the merchant princes of that great city, and all that
could represent its wealth, intelligence, and energy. One Masterman
opened the proceedings, made a vehement speech against the Bishop of
Rome and his pretensions, and proposed a stringent resolution, which
was carried by acclamation.

"'At a dinner given by the Lord Mayor, at which were present many
of the Ministers of the Crown, the Lord Chancellor Wilde spoke very
boldly, and, as some thought, unadvisedly, on his possible future
relations to the Cardinal.

"'Cardinal Wiseman published a subtle defence of himself and the
Popish measure, which he addressed to the people of England; and,
whether consistently or inconsistently, pleaded in the most strenuous
manner for the inviolable observance of the principles of
"religious liberty."

"'A singular and indeed inexplicable circumstance occurred in the
course of this controversy. In a lecture, delivered at the Hanover
Square Rooms, a certain Presbyterian clergyman had asserted that
the oath prescribed in the Pontificale Romanum, which the Cardinal
Wiseman must have taken to the Pope when he received the Pallium as
Archbishop of Westminster, notoriously contained a clause enjoining
the duty of persecution. This clause, a facetious Englishman said,
ought to be translated, "I will persecute and pitch into all
heretics to the utmost of my power"; and every one knew that the Pope
of Rome looked upon the English as the greatest heretics in the world.

"'When Wiseman heard of the representations thus made, he caused his
secretary to write to the Protestant lecturer, to say that the clause
in the oath to which he had referred was not insisted upon, in his
(the Cardinal's) case, by the Pope, and that, if his calumniator chose
to go to the Cardinal's library, he would see that it was cancelled
in his copy of the Pontifical. The Protestant accepted his challenge
and went to the said library. He was then shown the oath, and found the
clause in question, totidem verbis; not cancelled, however, but marked
off by a line in black ink drawn over it, and (as it seemed) very
recently.

"'Pamphlets were published on this curious circumstance on both sides;
the Roman Catholics contended that the mere fact of Wiseman's challenge
was a sufficient proof of his consciousness of rectitude.

"'On the whole, after half a year of perpetual agitation, both in and
out of Parliament, a measure was passed which was notoriously inadequate
to suppress the offence, and which was broken with impunity.

"'It is gratifying to add, that, notwithstanding the dangerous and
vehement excitement which so long inflamed the minds of the people,
no life was lost except on one occasion. The sufferer--contrary to
what might have been expected--was of the dominant party a policeman,
who was endeavoring to repress the party violence of some Irish
Catholics in the North of England.'"
____

"Now it need not be said," proceeded Harrington, "that these sentences
contain what is perfectly well known by you--for myself I say nothing--to
be the merest matter of fact, narrated in the simplest language, without
any art or embellishment. Would you like to hear how Dr. Dickkopf, of
New Zealand, or Kamtschatka, or Caffre-land, might treat such a document
eighteen hundred and fifty years hence, amidst that imperfect light which
we well know rests upon so many portions of the past, and which may, very
possibly, be felt in the future? I think it would not be difficult for
him to show that the 'Papal Aggression' was impossible."

"We will, at least, listen to you," said Robinson.

"Let us suppose, then, some learned Theban stumbling upon this brief
record of an obscure event, and, as usual, making (if only because he
had discovered what nobody in the world either knew or cared about)
a huge commentary upon it; concluding from the internal evidence, the
simplicity of the style, the absence of all imaginable motives for
misrepresentation, and some external corroborative fragments painfully
gleaned from the history of the period, that these sentences formed a
genuine, literal, historic account of certain events which transpired
in England in the year 1850. This, of course, would of itself be
sufficient to make ten Dr. Dickkopfs turn to and prove the contrary;
and any one of them, I imagine, might, and probably would, thus
reply. Excuse his clumsy style. He would say:--

"'That there may have been, and very probably was, some nucleus of
fact which may have served as a groundwork for these pseudo-historical
memorials, is not denied: but to regard that document of which it
is professedly a condensation as a genuine record of the period in
question, can only, we conceive, be the infelicity of an essentially
uncritical mind. Most evidently, whether we regard the known events and
relations of that age (as far as they have come down to us) or the
internal characteristics of the document itself, we discover
unequivocal traces of an unhistoric origin. Let us look at both these
sources of evidence in order. If we mistake not, the document, even
as it now stands, bears on its very front, that the original document,
so far from being a literal description of the events of the time to
which it professedly related, was allegorical, or at most historico-
allegorical, and most likely designed broadly to caricature and
satirize some perceived tendencies or conditions of the English
religious development in certain parties of that age. But whether it
be, or be not, reducible to the class of allegorieo-ecclesiastico-
political satire, certainly no person of critical discernment can for
a moment allow it to be a literal statement of historic events. And
first to look at the internal evidence.

"'Is it possible to overlook the singular character of the names
which everywhere meet us? They, in fact, tell their own tale, and
almost, as it were, proclaim of themselves that they are allegorical.
Wiseman, Newman (two of them, be it observed), Masterman, Philpotts,
Wilde. Who, that has been gifted with even a moderate share of
critical acumen, can fail to see that these are all fictitious names,
invented by the allegorist either to set forth certain qualities or
attributes of certain persons whose true names are concealed, or, as
I rather think, to embody certain tendencies of the times, or represent
certain party characteristics. Thus the name "Wiseman" is evidently
chosen to represent the proverbial craft which was attributed to the
Church of Rome; and Nicholas has also been chosen (as I apprehend)
for the purpose of indicating the sources whence that craft was derived.
In all probability the name was selected just in the same manner as
Bunyan in his immortal Pilgrim's Progress (which still delights the
world) has chosen "Worldly Wiseman" for one of his characters. It is
said that he was a Spaniard: but who so fit as a Spaniard to be
represented as the agent of the Holy See? while, as there never was
a Spaniard of that name, every one can see that historic probability
has not been regarded. The word "Newman" again (and observe the
significant fact that there were two of them) was, in all probability,
I may say certainly, designed to embody two opposite tendencies, both
of which, perhaps, claimed, in impatience of the effete humanity of
that age (a dead and stereotyped Protestantism), to introduce a new
order of things. These parties (if I may form a conjecture from the
document itself) were essaying to extricate the mind of the age
from the difficulties of its intellectual position; an age,
asserting inconsistently, on the one hand, the freedom of spiritual
life, and, on the other, claiming for the Bible an authorized
supremacy over all the phenomena of that spiritual life. One of these
parties sought to solve this difficulty by endeavoring to resuscitate
the spirit of the past; the other, by attempting to set human
intellect and consciousness free from the yoke of all external
authority. In all probability the names were suggested to the
somewhat profane allegorico-satitical writer by that text in the
English version, "Put on the Newman," the new man of the spirit.
We are almost driven to this interpretation, indeed, by the extreme
and ludicrous improbability of two men--brothers, brought up at
the same university--gradually receding, pari passu, from the same
point in opposite directions, to the uttermost extreme; one till
he had embraced the most puerile legends of the Middle Ages, the
other, till he had proceeded to open infidelity. Probably such a
curious coincidence of events was never heard of since the world
began; and this must, at all events, be rejected.

"'Similar observations apply to the name Masterman, which, in ancient
English, was applied to him who was not a "servant" or "journeyman,"
and is not unfitly used to indicate collectively the assemblage of
wealthy merchants who, like those of Tyre, were "princes"; as well
as to imply that the powerful class to which they belonged were the
"Mastermen" in the country, and, in fact, spoke in a potential voice
in all such crises as that supposed. It might also, perhaps, be
designed obliquely to intimate, that, 'whatever the clergy and the
theologians of different parties might wish to realize, it was,
after all, the powerful and independent class of the laity who were
the "mastermen," and would not succumb to any spiritual guides whatever,
even though called by the specious names of Wisemen and Newmen. The
mere singularity of the names alone ought to decide the point. And
what further confirms our view is, that it is impossible to point
out any Englishmen of any distinction who ever had any of these
names. Here we do not argue from conjecture, after merely looking
into the most recent biographical repertories (as, for example,
the "Bibliotheca Clarisimorum Virorum," in three hundred and fifty
volumes folio); for it is no argument that this meagre collection
makes no mention of any such names; since, in the successive
compilations of such works, (as the world grows older,) it has
been found necessary to extrude from time to time thousands of lesser
names, which had twinkled in preceding ages. But, deeply anxious to
establish truth, we have at infinite pains caused to be fished up,
from the depths of the archives of our national museums, very rare
reprints of some of the works of the age nearest that in which these
events are said to have occurred, and in none of these works is there
an individual mentioned of the name of Newman or Masterman, and
only one comparatively obscure person of the name of Wiseman,--a
presumptive proof that they were fictitious names. Is it possible
that these curious and varied coincidences can be the mere effect
of chance?'

"I shall spare you," said Harrington, "Dr. Dickkopf's learned
etymological disquisitions on the names Wilde and Philpotts, which,
aided by the imputed 'rashness' of the one, and the 'intoxicated zeal'
of the other, he clearly demonstrated to be fictitious.

"After which, I will suppose him to proceed thus:--

'We presume we have said enough to convince any acute and candid mind
of the extreme improbability of the document being designed to convey
to posterity a literal statement of facts; not that we for a moment
think it necessary to suppose that any evil design actuated the writer,
whoever he might be. It was most likely intended, as we have already
said, to be an allegorico-political caricature of certain events which
did undeniably occur, and which formed a slender basis of historic
fact on which to found it.

"'Nor is the particularity of some of the dates and alleged
circumstances of much weight in our judgment. He must be a miserable
inventor of fiction indeed, who cannot clothe a narrative in some
verisimilitude of this kind. It is said, that the historian makes a
seeming reference to those who were living at the very time.
"Some," he says, "still survive." But who does not see that the
word "survive" may refer to the accounts (which he, it appears,
knew little how to interpret), not the persons; though, be it observed,
that on such a supposition he does not vouch for having seen them,
and may have spoken merely from report. This very clause, too, has
undeniably much the appearance of an interpolation. There are many
other little circumstances, which, to those who have been accustomed
to detect unhistoric characteristics in ancient documents, and to
draw a sharp line between the mythic or allegoric and the historic,
sufficiently proclaim the origin of this supposed narrative of facts.

"'But the internal evidence, conclusive as it is, is as nothing to
the external. If we examine the document by the light of the facts
which contemporary history supplies, nay, even by the probability or
otherwise of its own contents, we shah see the extreme absurdity of
supposing that the account from which it was borrowed was ever meant
to be a record of facts. We hesitate not to say, that the political
facts of which it makes mention are many of them in the highest degree
incredible. That there may have been a rebellion at Rome is very
possible; but assuredly the only nation in Europe, (if we except
England,) that was not likely to take the Pope's part against a
republican movement, or resent him on his throne, was the French.
To suppose them thus acting is contrary to all that we know of the
history of that nation, and of human nature. The traces of the terrible
revolutions which in that century, and at the close of the preceding
one, shook France again and again to her centre, and the outlines of
which still live in authentic history, all show the extent to which
infidelity and democratic violence prevailed in France; nay, we know
that during the dominion of the Emperor Napoleon, if we are to regard
his history as literally true, and not a collection of fables and
legends,* as some even of that age maintained, that great conqueror
arrested and imprisoned the Pope. That France should have undertaken
the task of subduing a republican movement, just when she had come
out of a similar revolution, or rather many such,--and of reseating
the Pope on his throne, when she had been more impatient of the
restraints of all religion than any other nation in Europe,--is
perfectly incredible! Not less improbable is it that, supposing (as
may perhaps be true) that there was a basis of fact in the asserted
rebellion of the Romans, and Pio Nono's restoration to his dominions
(though not by France, that the intelligent reader will on
politico-logical grounds pronounce impossible, but more probably by
the Spaniards),--yet can we suppose that a power which was always
celebrated for its astuteness and subtlety would choose that very
moment of humiliation and ignominy to rush into an act so audacious
as that of reestablishing the Romish hierarchy in England,--in a
nation by far the most powerful in the world at that time,--a nation
which, if it had pleased, could have blown Rome into the air in
three months? It must needs have strengthened a thousand-fold the
strong antipathies of the English to the See of Rome. It would,
indeed, have justified that storm of indignation with which it is
said to have been met.

____

* Dr. Dickkopf may be here supposed to refer to the "Historic Doubts"
of Archbishop Whately, which may well deceive even more astute
critics.--Ed.
____

"'There is much that is palpably improbable in many other parts of
the statement (simple as it seems to be) when submitted to the
searching spirit of modern criticism. How ridiculous is the story of
Cardinal Wiseman's pretending that the oath in receiving the Pallium
had been modified for his convenience; little less so, indeed, than
his challenge to his Presbyterian antagonist to examine it, and that,
too, in the very book in which the contested clause was not cancelled!
All this is such a maze of absurdity, that it is impossible to believe
it. In the first place, do we not know that, throughout the whole
history of the Papal power, the inflexible character, not only of
its doctrines, but of its official forms and solemnities, was always
maintained, and that this pertinacity was continually placing it at
a disadvantage in the contest with the more flexible spirit of
Protestantism? It would not renounce, in terms or words, the very
things which it did renounce in deeds, and never could prevail upon
itself to get over this unaccommodating spirit! Yet here we are to
believe that, at the Cardinal's request a certain part of a most
solemn ceremonial--that of receiving the Pallium was remitted by the
Pope! If it were so, the Cardinal would certainly have desired to
conceal it. If he could not have done that, he would, at least, never
have given so easy a triumph to his adversary as to challenge him
to inspect the very copy of the Pontifical, in which, after all, the
oath was not cancelled, in order that he might be satisfied that it was!
Who can believe that a Cardinal of the Romish Church, Wiseman or fool,
would have been simple enough for such a step as this? It is plain that
the historian himself was not unaware that such an objection would
immediately suggest itself, and endeavors to guard against it,--a
suspicious circumstance in itself--which may serve to warn us how little
we can depend on the historic character of the document.

"'Again; what can be more improbable, than that, when a great nation
was convulsed from one end to the other, as the English are said to
have been, there should have been no violence, not even accidentally,
attending those huge and excited assemblages; a thing so natural, nay,
so certain! Who can believe that only one man was sacrificed, and he on
the predominant side? I have discovered in my laborious researches on
this important subject, that only seventy years before, when a cry of
the same nature, but much less potent, was raised, London was filled
with conflagration and blood-shed. Who ever heard, indeed, of commotion
such as this is pretended to have been, and its ending in vox et
praeterea nihil?

"'It is superfluous to point out the absurdity of supposing a Cardinal
of the Romish Church lecturing the people of England on "the claims of
religious liberty"; or so great a nation, in such a paroxysm, spending
many months in the concoction of a measure confessed to be a feeble one,
and suffered to be broken with impunity!

"'But, lastly, my laborious researches have led to the important
discovery, that, in this very year of pretended hot commotion,
England--in peace with all the world, profound peace within and
profound peace without--celebrated a sort of jubilee of the nations,
in a vast building of glass (wonderful for those times), called the
Great Exhibition, to which every country had contributed specimens
of the comparatively rude manufacture--of that rude age! London was
filled with foreigners from all parts of the earth; the whole kingdom
was in a commotion, indeed, but a commotion of hospitable festivity,
in which it shook hands with all the world!

This is a piece of positive evidence which ought to settle the whole
matter. In short, the external and internal evidence alike warrants
us in rejecting this absurd story as utterly incredible.'"

"Upon my word," said young Robinson, "you have said more than I thought
you could have said on such a theme. I really almost doubt whether
Dr. Dickkopf has not the best of it, and whether we ought not to
agree that the 'Papal Aggression' is a sheer delusion."

"O," said Harrington, "I have mot given you half the arguments by
which an historian, eighteen hundred years hence, might prove that
what has actually occurred never could have occurred, and that what
has not occurred must, in the very nature of things, have occurred,
by a necessity alike political, historical, ethical, logical, and
psychological. And no doubt Dr. Dickkopf is right on the principles
on which acute critics may argue; that is, the assumption that certain
probabilities will justify conclusions on such subjects. One might
naturally have supposed the Pope to have been more politic than to
take this step,--the French more consistent than to suppress the
Republican movement of Italy,--the English less moderate in
expressing their indignation,--and certainly that there would
never have been such an array of odd names to garnish one brief document.
And now, I bethink me, it is far from impossible that some Dr.
Dickkopf may even apply to Strauss's Leben Jesu, and Dr. Whately's
'Historic Doubts' similar reasoning, to prove that the first was
elaborate irony, and the second a sincere expression of scepticism."

"How can that be?"

"Thus: he will prove that the age was remarkably fond of such species
of ironical literature. As Strauss, in his preface, has expressly
admitted (though we all know what he means) that Christianity is true,
and has suggested an unimaginably absurd hypothesis as to its true
import, founded on the principles of the Hegelian philosophy, the
learned Dr. Dickkopf will say, that no one who so spoke of Christianity
could have intended seriously to discredit it, and yet certainly could
not possibly believe the absurd theory of it concocted out of German
philosophy; ergo, that we must regard the whole book as a piece of
prolonged irony,--a little too characteristic of German pedantry, it
is true, but sincerely designed to expose that extravagance of historic
criticism and Biblical exegesis which had so distinguished the
author's countrymen, by which Homer had been annihilated, a great
part of ancient history rendered doubtful, and the Bible turned into
a riddle-book; that this hypothesis is confirmed by the space which
Strauss gives to the exposure of the absurdities of the Rationalists,
which, in fact, occupies at least half his work. Dr. D. will even
very likely prove that Strauss himself is a fictitious name; Strauss,
in the German, meaning an ostrich, which, according to the proverb,
can digest any thing. On the other hand, as he will be able to show
that Strauss's work is a piece of prolonged irony, he will very likely
show that Whately's 'Historic Doubts' may be a sincere expression of
opinion (which, in fact, many have even in our day wisely believed
it to be), and he will argue it with a gravity worthy of one of the
commentators who interpret the irony of Socrates literally; he will
prove it from the air of sobriety and sincerity which pervades the
pamphlet. Nay, for aught I know, he may show that there was an
'historic place' for such a piece in the undoubted myths to which
the wondrous achievements of Napoleon had given rise; he will say that
these had produced a natural feeling of scepticism as to the greater
part of the facts, though he will think Dr. Whately has gone a little
too far in doubting his very existence; there being sufficient evidence
that such a man as Napoleon existed, though the world really knows
little more about him than about Semitamis or Genghis Khan!"

"Well," said I, "having proved that Dr. Strauss's work is irony, and
Whately's brochure a sincere expression of opinion, it would be hard
for even Dr. Dickkopf to go further. But, seriously, it is no
laughing matter. This is a strange power the future historian has
over us."

"O, be assured," said Harrington, "he can make of us just what he
pleases. Never was a question more unreasonable than that of the
Irishman, who, being conjured, on some occasion, to think of posterity,
said, 'I should like to know what posterity has done for us.' It will
do something for us, depend upon it. A future historian will not only
make us confess, with the Prayer-Book, 'that we have done the things
we ought not to have done, and have left undone the things we ought
to have done,' but 'that we have done the things that we have not
done, and have left undone the things that we have done.'"

"I wonder," said I, "that some of Dr. Strauss's countrymen have not
proved him to be an imaginary being,--a myth. It were very easy to do
it on such principles."

"It has been done long since," said Harrington, "by Wolfgang Menzel."

"Thank you," said I, in conclusion, "you have clearly proved that a
true history may plausibly be shown to be false."

"And therefore, my dear uncle, you will, I hope, justify my scepticism
in all such matters," said he archly. I acknowledge, as Socrates says,
that I felt for a moment as if I had received a sudden blow, and
hardly knew what to say. "No," said I at last, "unless you can justify
Dr. Strauss's theory of historical criticism, of which you yourself
acknowledge you have doubts. With that any thing may be proved false;
meantime it appears that the facts to which it is applied may be
undoubtedly true."

____

On retiring to my chamber, I mused for some time on the facility with
which man's ingenuity or inclinations can pervert any facts which he
resolves shall be otherwise than they are. "Dubious as is the EVIDENCE,"
Harrington was fond of saying, "I distrust the Judas still more"; an
admission, I told him, of which I should one day remind him. Tired at
last of this unpleasant theme, I took up a volume of Leibnitz's
Theodicee, which happened to lie on the table, and read those striking
passages towards the conclusion in which he represents Theodore (reluctant
to accept the iron theory of necessity) as privileged with a peep into
a number of the infinite possible worlds; from which he has the
satisfaction of seeing that, bad as is the lot of Sextus in the best
of all possible worlds, that lot, Sextus being what he is, could not
possibly be any better; a queer consolation, by the way, till we know
why Sextus must be what he is, or why Sextus must be at all.

I sank off to slumber in my chair, no doubt under the soporific effects
of this metaphysical morphine. While I slept, the previous discussions
of the day and the dose of Theodicee operating together suggested a very
strange dream, which I shall here record. It shall be entitled

THE PARADISE OF FOOLS.

Methought I saw a grave and very venerable old man with a long white
beard enter my chamber, and quietly seat himself opposite to me.
Instead of asking who he was and how he came there, nothing seemed
more natural and proper. We all know how easily in dreams the mind
dispenses with all ceremony; little or no introduction is required;
every one is at once on a most delightful footing of familiarity
with all the world; and the greatest possible incongruities appear
just comme il faut.

He told me that he had come from a very curious part of the "best of
all possible worlds,"--the "Paradise of Fools"; and on my looking
surprised, said,--

"Are you ignorant, then, that there is a spot in the universe where
a vicegerent of the Deity has at his disposal unlimited power and
wisdom to enable him to comply with the somewhat whimsical conditions
of the theories of those wonderful philosophers who have taken upon
them to say how the universe might have been constructed without any
supreme or presiding intelligence at all; or have modestly suggested,
that, had they been consulted, certain notable improvements might
have been effected in its fabrication or government; or, lastly, who
have complained of the revelation which God has vouchsafed to man,
or contended, that, if true, it might have been more unexceptionably
framed, and more skilfully promulgated?"

"And what is the result?" I asked.

"The result is a part of 'the everlasting shame and contempt' which
are the heritage of impiety."

"There must have been enough for the said vicegerent to do," I remarked.

"Not so much as you imagine," said he, smiling. "The conditions of their
theories, so far as even omniscience can comprehend or omnipotence
realize them, are indeed exactly complied with; but nevertheless, they
often baffle both. Sometimes the reproof, thus implied, obliquely
strikes more than its immediate objects; it alights even on some of the
profoundest philosophers, who never had it in their thoughts to call
in question the infinite superiority of Divine Power and Wisdom, but
who have delivered themselves a little too positively about 'monads'
and 'atoms,' and ultimate constituents of the universe. They have
sometimes been not a little scandalized, as well as laughed at, when
some half-witted, muddle-headed followers, glad to escape their trial,
pretended to have founded systems of Pantheism, or what is just the same
thing, Atheism, on some of their too obscure definitions. One man
declared that he could do nothing without the Monads of Leibnitz, each
of which, says that philosopher, 'is a mirror representing the universe,
though obscurely, and knows every thing, but confusedly,' which last
clause is unexceptionable enough. Another rogue asked for the archetypes
of Plato,--he had had a notion, he said, that a good deal might be made
out of them without Plato's Demiurgus; another, for the constituents
of the vital automata of Descartes: he had been misled to believe, that,
if animals could be mechanically produced, the whole universe might
have been so produced also. The Archangel assured them and others,
with much politeness, that, if the philosophers in question could in
any way make their meaning intelligible, Heaven would do its poor best
to realize their conceptions; but that it was impossible for even
omnipotence to execute commands which even omniscience could not
comprehend.

"Similarly, one man requested that he might be provided with a little
of Aristotle's 'Eternal Matter,' but he was told that there was no such
thing in rerum natura, and that it was unfortunately too late to make
it. He seemed to think himself very unjustly treated. Another demanded
some of the Atoms of Epicurus, to make a slight experiment with;
unexceptionably spherical, invisible, and so forth. These, he was told,
he might be accommodated with; and that all he had to do was to shake
them long enough, and doubtless the fortuitous jumble would come out
at last a miniature world.

"Above all, there were several German philosophers, who, having founded
various physical theories, more or less extensive, on the perspicuous
metaphysics of their countrymen, were confident that, if they had not
hit on the modes which Supreme Wisdom had adopted, their modes were
yet very excellent modes; and they were absolutely clamorous that their
experiments should begin. But, alas! many of them stood but little
chance of being ever tried, for the very same reason which prevented
the disciple of Leibnitz from obtaining his 'Monads'; their authors
could not make their meaning intelligible to the delegated omniscience.
As to some of the metaphysicians, since their theories embraced nothing
less than the evolution of the 'totality' of the universe, the 'infinite'
and the 'absolute' included, it was of course impossible that they
could be tried. But it was thought an appropriate punishment for them
to be condemned to write on till they had made their meaning intelligible.
Some have labored with incredible industry to comply with this very
reasonable request, but their notions seem to grow darker and darker
at every step; and one in particular has written a huge folio, in which,
by universal consent of men and angels, there is not the smallest
glimmer of meaning from one end to the other. Another even complains in
private of the want of philosophical genius in the court of celestial
criticism, and declares that in Germany they could have constructed ten
theories of the universe and given twenty solutions of the 'infinite'
and the 'absolute' in the time he has been vainly endeavoring to
explain his meaning to personages so deplorably deficient in
metaphysical acumen."

He was going on with some other details of the hapless philosophers.

"I would much rather hear from you," said I, "for it is a subject in
which I take a far deeper interest, how those have sped who have objected
to the Revelation with which God has favored man, on the ground that
it cannot be true, else it would have been more unexceptionably framed
or more wisely promulgated. I take it for granted that these have not
been destitute of opportunities of trying their experiment."

"Surely not," replied my new acquaintance. "'The Paradise of Fools'
is well stocked with creatures of this description. Many of the
experiments which required time to test them were commenced hundreds
of years ago, and are completed. Others are still unfinished while
there have been many which required only to be commenced and they were
completed instantly, to the confusion of their authors."

"I should much like," said I, "to hear an account of some of these
experiments."

"Willingly," answered he; "only you must bear in mind that they were all
to be performed under certain limitations, without which no revelation
which God can give to man would be of the slightest value."

He then informed me, that the evidence afforded must not be such as to
annihilate the conditions on which man is to be made virtuous and happy,
if he is to be made so at all. It must not be inconsistent with the
exercise of either his reason or his faith, nor prevent the play of
his moral dispositions, nor triumph by mere violence over his
prejudices; it must not operate purely upon the passions or the senses,
nor overhear all possibility of offering resistance,--as would be
the case, for example, if a man were placed on the edge of a precipice,
and told that he would immediately be thrown over it if he transgressed
the rules of temperance or chastity. The happiness, he said, which
God originally designed for his intelligent and moral creatures was a
voluntary happiness, springing out of the well-balanced and well-directed
activity of all the principles of their nature. Any revelation, therefore,
must proceed on the same basis, both as regards itself and the mode in
which it is given. Arguments and motives morally sufficient, but not
more than sufficient, must be addressed to the intellect and the
conscience. All this is necessary to render the felicity and perfection
of man stable and permanent; for without such a trial, triumphantly
sustained, he would have no security that, in the presence of objects
which tend to exert an overpowering influence on his senses or his
feelings, he might not at some period of the unknown future be impelled
to take a wrong path, and err and be miserable. This ordeal, originally
designed for man and not superseded by revelation, must be continued
long enough to render the principles on which he ought to act practical
habits; after which he may go forth (sublime and glorious privilege!) to
any part of this world, or of any world to which God may call him,
master of himself and his destiny; not afraid lest temptations should
warp him from a steadfastness that is founded on the decisions of an
inflexible will, itself directed by enlightened intelligence and moral
rectitude; in a word, in possession of the appropriate and alone
appropriate happiness of an intellectual and moral agent; an image
of the felicity of the great Creator himself. This condition, he
said, of giving a revelation, so far from being a hardship, is not
only in harmony with the nature of things, but is itself an expression
of the Divine Beneficence; which designed for man no casual,
precarious safety, as the result of transient external violence
to the principles of his nature, but a permanent and inviolable
equilibrium of the powers within him. "Heaven itself," he concluded,
"can be heaven only to those who are internally prepared for it."

"Were there many," I cried, "who were willing to make the experiment
of giving a revelation more unexceptionably than it has been given,
on the proposed conditions?"

"Not very many, as you may well suppose," said he; "but if objectors
had been unwilling, they would have been compelled to make it."

"But upon whom were the experiments to be made?" said I; "for
unless they were beings of the same intellectual and moral condition
as themselves, I see not how aught could come of it."

"O, be satisfied," he replied; "the beings who are provided for
these Projectors are as like the inhabitant of your world as one
egg is like another. They are men themselves; communities made up
of those who have lived in your world, and who have gone out of it
with the same thoughts, passions, and emotions as they had on earth;
many of them having rejected or disregarded the true revelation, and
others never having had that revelation to reject. Of course they
are ignorant, in this intermediate state, of the tricks which these
experimenters play with them, till they are concluded; but in
rejecting the new revelations, many of them reject the very conditions
of belief which when on earth they said would have been sufficient,
while the result in those who make the experiment and in those on
whom the experiment is made is to 'vindicate the ways of God to man.'"

There is a wonderful power in getting over trifling difficulties in
our dreams, or I should certainly have demurred to some parts of this
statement. Instead of that, I let my mind, as usual in such cases,
dwell on a point which was no difficulty at all. "If," said I, "they
are dead, they are probably very different beings from what they were
when alive."

"And do you think," said he, with an unpleasant half-sneer, "that mere
change of place makes any difference in man, or that the merely physical
effects of death operate a magical change on his intellect, affections,
emotions, and volitions, or can render him a more reasonable creature
than he was before?"

"I did not mean exactly that," said I; "but surely it is not possible
that the soul without the body can be exactly like the soul with it."

"Have not your philosophers," said he, "often founded, or pretended to
found, scepticism on the argument that it is difficult to tell whether
life itself may not be a series of illusions like those in dreams?
Have they not even declared, that, as in dreams all seems to be real,
so in their waking moments all may be no more than a dream? nay, have
not some said that it is impossible to tell which is the real and
which the dreaming part of their existence?"

"There have been such," said I, "but I never knew any one convinced by
their reasoning."

"Perhaps not," he answered, "but it may be of use to show you, that
in that intermediate state men may, as in dreams, be capable of a
series of thoughts and emotions exactly similar to what they experienced
in this world; quite as vivid, and," he added with a quiet smile,
"perhaps as rational."

"But they must be more coherent than those which now visit our
slumbers," said I.

"It is hardly worth while to contend about the difference," he
replied, with a sarcastic expression which I did not much like.
"It is sufficient to say, however, that these projectors have no
reason to complain; for with whatever show of reason men think or
act here, so under exactly the same laws of thought and emotion do
those shadows act there."

"But I, who am now awake and perfectly sensible--"

He laughed outright. "Are you so sure," said he, "that you are awake.
How do you know it?"

"Because I am conscious of it," said I.

"And this too, I suppose, is a philosopher," he muttered to himself.
"Well," he continued aloud, "we must not discuss these matters just now;
you must believe me when I say that the communities to which our
experimenters go to work, on their own hypotheses, are just as capable
of ingenious reasoning and impartial and candid deliberation, as you are
now in your present waking moments. You wish to hear a few of these
experiments?"

I nodded.

"Well, then, first, there was one worthy philosopher, who, having seen
the advantages which infidelity has gained from the discrepancies and
other difficulties occasioned by the varied testimonies which the
evangelical historians have left behind them, resolved, after having
wrought a number of splendid miracles (uniformly affirmed and never
denied by the parties in whose presence they were performed), that
they should all be consigned to one single history., so admirably
constructed that there was not a single discrepancy from beginning
to end."

"And what was the effect?"

"Why, in the first place, you must recollect that, according to that
or any other mode of authenticating a divine communication by miracles,
there were a great many more of those who never saw the miracles than
of those who did; for if miracles had been common, they would have
ceased to be miracles. There were vast numbers, therefore, who, even
in the age in which they were performed, never believed them; but,
what is more, in four generations there was not a soul that did
not treat them as old wives' fables."

"Surely they were very unreasonable," I said.

"Not at all; it was inevitable; for it was asked (and every one assented
to it), whether it was reasonable that a story so marvellous, and so
contrary to experience, should be believed on any single testimony,
however unexceptionable? There were also keen critics who said, that,
as there was proof that in the very age in which the miracles were
wrought there were many who did not believe the message which they
professedly confirmed, it was a strong indication that the whole was a
fiction; while some others of still greater acumen discovered that the
very freedom from all discrepancies and contradictions in the account
itself smelt very strongly of art and design; that this perfection of
consistency was not the characteristic of any history ever written by
an honest man, and that no doubt it had been elaborately contrived by
a single highly inventive mind."

"The idiots!" I exclaimed. "Why, this very circumstance ought surely
to have led them to argue the other way."

"They thought otherwise; and I must say I think they argued very
plausibly, and that very much is to be said for them. They thought
that perfect self-consistency might possibly be obtained by a single
mind of highly inventive power, and they preferred believing that,
to receiving such wonderful things supported by any single testimony."

"But did none attempt to remedy this defect of the unhappy speculator?"

"O, yes; another attempted to establish in a second community of our
reasonable shadows a revelation on the same basis of miracles; but
instead of trusting to one witness, he recorded the results by ten;
and with such perfection of art, that all the ingenuity of all the
critics of succeeding ages could not detect a single variation other
than in language; the records themselves and their contents were
precisely the same.

"And what was the result."

"Much the same as before; for this identity of substance and almost
of manner showed most evidently, said the critics, that there had
been collusion between the several parties who had framed the
revelation:--and in the course of three or four generations it was
universally rejected, as totally unworthy of belief."

"I see not, then, how a revelation by any such means could be
authenticated at all?"

"Why, our reasonable creatures require a great deal of management,
--that is the truth. There is no way in which you cannot prove to your
own satisfaction, that no one of any divine communications (given
under the conditions aforesaid) is to be believed; but perhaps after
all, the method would have been more sure, had these sages confined
these communications to different testimonies, in which the general
harmony and undesigned coincidences should be manifest, but which
should contain slight discrepancies, and even some apparent
contradictions, which the parties, if there had been collusion, would
certainly have obviated. This would, perhaps, have been the best
guaranty that there could not be any fraud in the case."

"But this," I remarked, "was just the mode in which the Gospels of
Christ were consigned to mankind."

"And you see with what mixed result. It was sufficient, indeed, to
justify the method, if it was attended with less disastrous effects
than any other mode. For it is a problem of limits even at the
very best."

Prompted, I suppose, by some recollection of Woolston's opinion,
that the miracles of Jesus Christ would have been better worthy
of attention, and more likely to be credited by posterity, if they
had been performed on royal or notable public characters, or in
their presence, I felt curious to know if any one had been
determined to guard against a similar error. I was told that there
had been; and for a time every thing went on well. This sage's
doctrine and pretensions were rapidly propagated within certain
limits of space and time. But alas! while even in his lifetime the
zeal of some of the royal or noble converts caused the doctrine to
be regarded with considerable suspicion among the rival great, to
whom the fame of the miracles was known only by hearsay, its early
success proved an insurmountable objection in a few generations;
for several learned infidels showed to the satisfaction of the
entire community, that the pretended revelation could have been
nothing else than a conspiracy of crafty statesmen for political
purposes. It was sagely remarked, that it was not wonderful that a
doctrine had been believed, and had rapidly diffused itself, which
had all the prestige of rank, and power, and statesmanship in
its favor; that if, indeed, it had appeared amongst the poor and
ignorant portion of mankind, and the had been witnessed by such as
from their situation were rather likely to be persecuted by the
great and powerful than to be favored by them; and lastly, if the
pretended revelation had vanquished such resistance instead of
being suspiciously allied with it, something more might be said in
its behalf; but as it was, the whole thing was evidently--a lie.

"Really," said I, "it seems a more difficult thing for God to make
known his will to mankind than I had supposed."

"It is," said he, "on those conditions to which his wisdom for man's
own sake has restricted him, and apart from which condition I have
already stated that a revelation would be worthless. It is a far
more difficult matter than those who have not reflected upon the
subject would suppose, and you would have more reason to say so
still, if you knew, as I do, how ludicrously, as well as how utterly,
many other attempts have failed."

He then amused me with an account of a sage, who, seeing the ill
consequences which had followed from the very local or limited
character of miracles (when a few generations had passed by),
resolved to remedy this by a series of wonders so stupendous and
magnificent, that the very echo of them, as it were, should
reverberate through the hollow of future ages, and so impress all
tradition as to render them independent of the voice of individual
historians. He accordingly passed to the very extreme limit (if he
did not go beyond it) by which a miracle is necessarily restricted,--
that of not disturbing general laws. He succeeded perfectly in the
place in which these phenomena were witnessed; though, as there were
multitudes who knew nothing of the operator, but were only conscious
that nature was playing some strange pranks, no connection was
established in their minds between the doctrine and the miracles.
But the consequences in the future were the direct contrary of what
the sanguine philosopher had contemplated. If the impression of
those who saw these splendid wonders could have been prolonged,
all had been well; but so far from the report of them conciliating
the regard of posterity, their very grandeur and vastness were the
principal arguments against them, and condemned them to universal
rejection. Who could believe, men said, that phenomena so strange
and so portentous--not only so different from, and so contrary to,
the uniform course of nature, but so much beyond the limited purpose
which must have been contemplated by a truly miraculous
interposition--had ever happened? If they had been single events,
very transient and local disturbances of the laws of nature for a
high object, the case, they candidly avowed, would have been wholly
different; but such wholesale infractions of the fixed laws of the
universe were at once to be summarily rejected. They were
unquestionably the offspring of an age of fable and superstition.

It did not fare much better with another miracle-monger of the
same species. In one community, which he had engaged to instruct in
the mysteries of his revelation, the wonders he wrought extended to
such large classes of phenomena, and for a time were so constant,
that they ceased to be miracles at all. As he could not add ubiquity
to his other attributes, few attached any importance to his declaration
that he was the author of such vast and distant operations, and fewer
absolutely believed him. Moreover, men became accustomed to phenomena
which they daily witnessed; for such, it seems, is the constitution of
human nature in any world, that things cease to be wonderful when they
cease to be novel. Were it otherwise, men would be always wondering;
for no miracles are more wonderful than the phenomena of every day
in every part of the universe. Not a few wise men, therefore, in this
community, succeeded in giving a perfectly plausible account of these
wholesale infractions of the uniformity of nature. Nature, it was said,
was unquestionably uniform, but only in the several larger portions
of her operations; that within certain cycles she varied her operations,
as was clearly seen in the introduction of new races, and so forth;
that the generation which had just witnessed such departures from what
seemed the established order of things were doubtless living at an
epoch in which the huge evolution of the universe was about to exhibit
one of these new phases, and that the series of sequences to which they
were just becoming accustomed would afterwards continue uniform for a
number of ages; that such things were no miracles, but merely
indicated that nature was, within certain limits, only variably uniform,
though she was also, within certain limits, uniformly invariable.
After this very clear deliverance of philosophy, few people troubled
themselves about the claims of this seer, and were so fast getting
accustomed to the new uniformity, that it seemed highly probable that
the very next generation, or at most the second, would begin to prate
in the old style about the invariable uniformity of nature, and to
treat all the ancient order of things which their progenitors had
seen changed as a lying fable of those remote ages. Enraged at such
an unexpected result of his operations, the projector changed his plan,
and broke in upon nature with such a startling explosion of single
miracles, that there could be no longer any doubt that nature was
neither 'variably uniform' nor 'uniformly invariable': the only
question was, whether nature was not 'uniformly variable.' He set
the sun spinning through the heavens at such a rate, or rather at
such a jaunty pace, that no one knew when to expect either light or
darkness; men now froze with cold, and now melted with heat; the
seasons seemed playing one grand masquerade; the longest day and the
shortest day, and no day at all, succeeded one another in rapid
succession, and the whole universe seemed threatened with ruin and
desolation. Now, he thought, was the time to put an end to all this
strange disorder, and avow himself the great agent in all these marvels!
But he found, to his chagrin, that, so far from having convinced men
of the being and attributes of God, and of the truth of the revelation
which he had brought them, they were never less disposed to listen to
any such story; and, in fact, that the very few whose terror had
left them at all in possession of their senses, had become perfectly
convinced that the universe was under the dominion of Chance; and that
the only orthodox belief in such a world was stark Atheism. As there
will always be men who will speculate upon chance itself, there were
not wanting philosophers who concocted admirable theories of all this
disorder, but not one of them dreamed of the true. They all agreed,
however, that the state of things admitted of no remedy from any gods,
celestial or infernal; for if a divine artificer had existed, they said,
it could not have occurred. And thus the miracles which were designed
by this great man to convince the world of a God, served for a
demonstration that there was and could be none! They equally served
also to stifle the sage's claims to be considered God's messenger,
for, unhappily exhorting a large crowd to believe that he was the
cause of all the misery and terror which they had suffered, they were
so exasperated that they took summary vengeance on him: upon which
the sun resumed his wonted quiet pace again through the heavens, and
every thing fell into the old harmonious jogtrot of uniformity.
Philosophers who lived at a distance from the scene of the prophet's
exit quietly adjusted their old theory to the new phenomena, and showed
most conclusively that the whole train of things had been just what
must necessarily have been, and could not but have happened, without
the most serious consequences; while those who lived near to the scene
aforesaid, and were privy to the circumstances, speculated upon the
curious coincidence between the impostor's death and the return of
nature to her order. It was well, they said, that such things did not
happen often, or they could not fail to give rise to some superstitious
notions as to some law of causation between ignorant fanaticism and the
sublimest phenomena of the universe.

I asked my visitor how it fared with the many who have objected to the
clearness and force of prophecy, and who have not scrupled to assert,
that, if prophecies had been given, they would have been given in such
a shape as would have made their claims more plain, and their fulfilment
more incontrovertible. "Were there none who relied on this mode of
demonstrating the reality of a divine revelation, and manifesting their
claims to be regarded as an embassy from heaven?"

"Many," he replied, "so many that it were tedious to detail them. But
you are quite mistaken if you suppose it possible that even God can
employ any moral methods which man cannot evade; how much less the
fools who think they can improve upon his! The wisdom of God," said he,
with a melancholy smile, "is no match for the ingenuity of man. As to
your present question, you know there have been persons who have
continually complained in your world that prophecy is so obscure that
the event cannot be certainly known to have been referred to by it, or
else so plain that, ipso facto, it proves that the prediction must have
been composed after the event. Now it was precisely in attempting the
juste milieu between these extremes that our prophetical speculators
wrecked themselves. Men always had it to say that their prophecies had
been either too plain or too obscure; or, if very plain, and yet as
plainly written before the event, that their very plainness had insured
their own accomplishment by prompting to the very actions and conduct
they so clearly indicated!"

"I can easily conceive that," I answered. "But now for another problem.
Not a few of our older infidels complained of the revelation in the Bible
on the score that the maxims of conduct which it delivers are too general
to be of any use, because the application of them is still left to be
adjusted by a reference to particular circumstances; and that, if a
revelation were framed, it ought to take in all the limitations of action,
and furnish, in fact, a complete system of casuistry; otherwise it would
be of no avail. Were there none who attempted this task?"

"Five-and-twenty men," he answered, "who were destined to be a torment
to one another, were instructed to compile such a system of rules, and
publish them for the benefit of a certain community as an infallible
rule of life."

"And have they completed it?"

"Completed it! They have been sitting now for two hundred years, and
have not yet exhausted the infinitude of cases to be digested under
their very first capitulary." He said that being all of them ingenious
men, all anxious to show their ingenuity, and knowing that their credit
was staked upon the completeness of their system, it was incredible
what strange and ridiculous contingencies and combinations of
circumstance they had suggested as modifying the application of
their general rules. The books of law, voluminous as they are in
most civilized countries, were conciseness itself compared with this
new code of morals. It was thought by many, that the labors of the
commissioners would not come to an end till long after the race for
whose benefit it was designed had ceased to exist. Afraid, apparently,
of such a direful contingency, they had published, about three years
before, the first part, in seventy-five folio volumes, containing
limitations, illustrative cases, exceptions, and modifications, in
relation to that very obscure general maxim, 'Do unto others as ye
would that others should do unto you.' All questions appertaining to
this point were from that time to be decided by the precise statements
contained in these statutes at large. But their mere publication
sufficed to make an incredible number of infidels in the authority
of the commission. Such a voluminous rule, they truly said, could be
no rule at all, and could be fruitful of nothing but everlasting
litigation. If (they admitted) general maxims had been as briefly as
possible laid down, and men's common sense had been left to interpret
and apply them with the requisite restrictions, there would be much
more to be said for their divine origin. But on such a system, no man,
if he lived for a thousand years, could tell what his duty was. Many
complained that, before they found the rule for which they were in
search, the time for its application had passed away. Many excused
themselves from complying with the dictates of justice and charity,
because they could not discover the cases that related to their special
circumstances; some even denied that the rules could have been devised
by heavenly wisdom, because, having carefully studied the whole of the
seventy-five volumes, they did not hesitate to say, that there were
many cases which had not been provided for at all!

I was so amused with this last disastrous attempt to construct a
revelation, that I laughed outright, and in so doing awoke. I found
that my lamp was fast going out; so, dismissing the innocent volume
of Leibnitz which had suggested all these incongruities, I went to
bed; firmly convinced that the shadows of men in the "Paradise of
Fools" are about as wise and ingenious as are men themselves.
____

July 28. I had this morning some curious, and, if it had not been
for the grave importance of the subject, amusing conversation with
Mr. Fellowes on his views, or rather his no views, respecting a
"future life." He said he wished he could make up his mind whether
the doctrine was true; also whether, as some of his favorite writers
supposed, it was of no "spiritual" importance to decide it. I said it
certainly did seem of some importance. I reminded him of Pascal's
saying, that he could excuse men's contented ignorance with any thing
rather than that. "They are not obliged," says he, "to examine the
Copernican system; but it is vital to the whole of existence to
ascertain whether the soul is mortal or not."

"Mr. Newman," said Fellowes, "thinks very differently: but then his
whole mind is differently constituted from Pascal's."

I admitted it, of course.

"Mr. Newman's views," he continued, "on the subject, certainly do not
quite satisfy me; and yet they are very sublime. If he has any hope in
this matter, (of which he appears not absolutely destitute,) it is from
the sheer strength of a 'faith' which triumphs over all obstacles, or
rather hangs upon nothing. He ridicules all intellectual proofs, and
at the same time declares that his 'spiritual insight' deserts him.
It is a faith pure from all reason, and from all 'insight' too. As to
insight in this matter, I must agree with him, that, to ascertain the
fact of a future life by 'direct vision,' is 'to me hitherto impossible.'"

Harrington, who was sitting by, smiled: "You speak of your 'insight' and
'direct vision' much as a Highlander might talk of his 'second sight.'
As to your present difficulty, do you remember the advice of Ranald of
the Mist to Allan M'Aulay, when the 'vision' obstinately averted its face
from him? 'Have you reversed your own plaid,' said Ranald, 'according to
the rule of the experienced seers in such cases?' You do not wear a plaid,
George, but suppose you try the experiment of turning your coat
inside out."

"Really, Harrington," said Fellowes, with becoming solemnity, "'insight'
is far too serious a subject to joke upon."
"Why, my dear fellow," said the other, "you do not think I am going to
treat your 'insight' with more respect than we treat the Bible."

"Odi profanum," said Fellowes, almost angrily.

"No man hateth his own flesh," said Harrington, with provoking quiet;
"and that, I am sure, is from no profane writer. As to the 'odi profanum,'
why, I shall simply say, that

'You can quote it,
With as much truth as he who wrote it.'"

So saying, he left the room. I was not sorry that he was gone, as I
thought perhaps Fellowes might be more communicative. I asked him why
he felt Mr. Newman's arguments on this subject unsatisfactory; why
he could not acquiesce in them.

"In the first place, then," said he, "I was struck with the fact, that,
while admitting that he had no 'spiritual insight' on the subject of a
future life, he yet admits that others may have enjoyed what is impossible
to him; that there may be souls favored with this 'vision,' though clouds
obscure his own. It is true he has admitted (and indeed who can deny it?)
that the spiritual faculty is not equally developed in all men;--though,
as it is not, I feel some difficulty in rejecting the arguments hence
arising for the possibility and utility of an external revelation;--yet
at the best, if the faculty may be so uncertain in reference to so
important a question, when consulted by so diligent and deep a student
of its oracles as Mr. Newman, if even his soul may be dubious on such
a point,--why, upon my soul, I sometimes hardly know what to think.
Again, Mr. Newman says, that some may have, as by special privilege
from God, what is denied to him. Now really this looks a little too
much like favoring the vulgar view of inspiration, nay, a sort of
Calvinistic 'election' in this matter; it seems to me to cast doubts
both on the competency and the uniformity of the sublime 'spiritual
faculty,' even when most sedulously consulted."

"It does look a little like it," said I; "and what next?"

"In the next place, I am free to confess, that, if I may be allowed
to argue against such an authority--"

"O, remember, I pray, that you are of the school of free thought: do
not Bibliolatrize."

"To state my views freely then: I must say, that, if this suspected
doctrine be not one of the unsophisticated utterances of the spiritual
nature of man, I am almost led to doubt whether the clearness with
which the spiritualist 'gazes' on the rest may not possibly be an
illusion. For if any truth would seem to be a dictate of nature, it is
a sort of dim conviction or impression of a future state. We see it,
in some shape or other, extensively believed by all nations, and forming
a feature of all systems of religion, however degraded they may be.
Mr. W. J. Fox mentions it as one of those things which are certainly
characteristic of the absolute religion; so does Mr. Parker. Mr. Fox
expressly affirms that the approximate universality of the belief
justifies the application of his criterion for detecting the eternally
'true' under the Protean shapes of the 'false' in religion; it is one
of the points, he says, in which they are all agreed."

"Which," said I, "if true, is perhaps the only point in which all
religions are agreed, unless we affirm that they have all recognized a
Deity, because most of them have recognized thousands. Yet as men's
Gods have varied between the Infinite Creator and a monkey, so in
relation to this article of a 'future life,' it must be confessed that
there is a little difference between the Heaven of a Christian, the
Paradise of a Mahometan, and the Valhalla of an ancient Goth. Still,
as you say, it is true that, in some shape or other, nations have
more distinctly recognized the idea of an after existence, than any
other assignable religious tenet."

"You know," resumed Fellowes, "that in the draught of 'natural religion'
given us by Lord Herbert, that writer particularly insists on this as
one of the articles which nature itself teaches us, as amongst the
'common notions,' a sentiment innate to the human mind. Now if such
masters as Mr. Newman may be in doubt about our innate sentiments, truly
I scarcely know what to think."

"You can easily decide," said I, gravely, "and decide infallibly."

"How so?"

"Consult that spiritual faculty which Mr. Newman says you have as
well as he or Lord Herbert. If your theory be true, how can there be
any doubt as to your 'innate' sentiments? If you say they are
written in very small characters, and require to be magnified by
somebody's microscope, that, recollect, is tantamount to
acknowledging the possible utility of an external revelation. But
what next?"

"Well, then, if I must confess all the truth, I thought Mr. Newman
hardly fair in his exhibition of Paul's reasoning on this matter. He,
if you recollect, says that Paul seems to have rested the belief of
Christ's resurrection very little upon evidence, which he received
very credulously, upon very insufficient proof, and in a manner which
would have moved the laughter of Paley; that, in short, he cared very
little about the evidence, and arrived mainly at his convictions in
virtue of his 'spiritual aspirations'; that it was rather his strong
aspirations after immortality which made Paul believe the supposed
fact, than the supposed fact which gave strength to his aspirations
after immortality. Now it is very clear (from texts which, for
whatsoever reasons, are not quoted by Mr. Newman), that the Apostle
Paul made his whole argument depend on the alleged fact of Christ's
resurrection, whether carelessly received or not: 'If Christ be not
risen, then is your faith vain, and our preaching is also vain ....
Then are we of all men most miserable.'"

"But you recollect that Mr. Newman alleges that Paul deals very
superficially with the evidence,--with that of the 'five hundred,' for
example. He observes that Paley would have made a widely different
matter of it."

"See how variously men may argue," replied Fellowes, candidly. "I was
talking on that very point with one of the orthodox the other day, and
he reasoned in some such way as this:--

"On the supposition, he said, that the possession of miraculous powers
was notorious in the Church,--that many of those whom Paul addressed
had actually witnessed them,--that the Gospel, when preached by him
and by the other Apostles, was confirmed by 'signs and wonders,'--nothing
could be more natural than the very tone which the Apostles employed:
that, so far from its being suspicious, it was one of the truest touches
of nature and verisimilitude in their compositions; so much so, that,
supposing there were no miracles, that very tone required itself to be
accounted for as unnatural; he said that it is, in fact, just the way
in which men talk and write of any other extraordinary events which
notoriously happened in their time. They never think of posterity, and
what it may think; of anticipating either future doubts or charges of
fraud. It is natural that men should speak in this, as we should call it,
loose way, of what is transpiring under their very noses. If, on the
other hand, there had been no miracles to appeal to, so as to render
this style as natural as, on the contrary supposition, it was the reverse,
he could not, he said, imagine, that, in that or any other age, any men,
especially men opposed to such pretensions, would so easily have been
satisfied, even had the Apostles confined themselves to rumors of
alleged distant miracles; but much less where similar wonders were said
to have been brought under the eyes of the very parties to whom the
appeal was made! He said he would even go a step further, and affirm that,
under the circumstances of the professed notoriety of the miraculous
occurrences to which Paul and the other Apostles appealed, any
declaration that they had instituted that careful scrutiny of evidence,
that minute circumstantial cross-examination of the witnesses,--which
would be a course all very well in the days of Paley, eighteen hundred
years after, but absolutely preposterous then,--would have appeared to
our age a much more suspicious thing than the tone actually adopted;
that the scrupulous deposition of technical proof would have been
finessing too much, and would have been the strongest proof of collusion.
The very tone objected to, he said, supposing there were no miracles, is
one of the most striking proofs of the astonishing sagacity of these
men; for it is just the tone they would have used if there had been. So
differently may men reason from the same data! Whether (he concluded)
Mr. Newman's view of the facts, or his, was founded on a deeper and more
comprehensive knowledge of human nature, he must leave to my judgment."

"I protest," said I, "I think the orthodox had the best of it. But what
struck you next as unaccountable in Mr. Newman's view of this subject
of a future life?"

"I confess, then, that the reasoning by which he endeavors to show
that, even admitting the fact of Christ's resurrection, there could
be nothing in it to warrant the expectation of the resurrection of
any other human beings, simply because he must have differed so
stupendously from all the rest of mankind, appears to me very damaging
to us. Of what use is it, to argue upon such an hypothesis?"

"Of none in the world, certainly," said I, laughing.

"Surely not," he replied; "for if Christ's resurrection be admitted, we
know very well it will carry with it, in the estimation of the bulk of
mankind, all the other great facts implicated with the Christian system.
They will concede, at once, the supernatural character, the divine
origin, of the New Testament. I suppose them scarcely ever was a man
who admitted these premises who would trouble himself to contest the
conclusion."

"But seriously," continued this half-repentant admirer, almost
frightened at the extent of his own freedom of thought, "though I
cannot say I am satisfied with Mr. Newman's notions on this subject,
--and, in fact, cannot make up my mind upon it,--can there be any
thing morally more sublime than the view, that the doctrine of
immortality, which has been superficially supposed, if not necessary,
yet so conducive to sincere and elevated piety, may be readily
dispensed with, as no way necessary (as Mr. Newman feels) for the
spiritual nourishment of the soul? 'Confidence,' he says, 'there is
none; and hopeful aspiration is the soul's highest state. But, then,
there is herein nothing what ever to distress her; no cloud of grief
crosses the area of her vision, as she gazes upwards.' He even
intimates that, from the stress laid upon immortality by 'modern
divines,' they might seem to be 'incarnations of selfishness.' He says
it tends to 'degrade religion into a prudential regard for our interests
after death'; that 'conscience, the love of virtue, for its own sake,
and much more the love of God, are ignored.' Many of the 'spiritual'
school agree with him in this; and some even affirm that the hope of
immortal felicity is but a bribe to selfishness. Can any thing be
more elevated or original than this view?"

"As to the elevation," said I, "I confess I prefer the spectacle of
Socrates, relying even on feeble arguments rather than sink to this
tame acquiescence in a notion so degrading to the Deity, as that
man was created for a dog's life with the tormenting aspiration for
something better. The spectacle of the heathen sage, who, amidst the
thick gloom, the 'palpable obscure,' which involved this subject,
gazed intently into the darkness, and 'longed for the day,'--who
strained every nerve of an insufficient logic, and was willing to
take even the whispers of hope for the oracles of truth, rather than
part with the prospect of immortality,--is, to my mind, much more
attractive. As to the originality of the view you just expressed, why,
it is merely a resurrection of one of the theories of some of our
very 'spiritual deists' a century ago. Collins and Shaftesbury were,
in like manner, apprehensive lest an elevated 'virtue' should suffer
at all from this bribery of a hope of a 'blessed immortality'; as you
may see in the Characteristics. For my own part, I certainly have my
doubts whether virtue will be the less virtuous, or spirituality the
less spiritual, for such a doctrine; and I must believe it even on
the hypothesis of you spiritual folks; for you generally affirm that
the Belief of a Future Life does not really exercise any thing more
than an insignificant influence on human nature; the hopes and the
fears of that so distant a morrow are too vague to be operative. Now,
if it be so, immortality can be no more a bribe than a menace."

"Yet," said Fellowes, "in justice to Mr. Newman, it must not be
forgotten, that he thinks that 'a firm belief of immortality must
have very energetic force,' provided it 'rises out of insight'; it
is as 'an external dogma' that he thinks it of little efficacy. He
says, you know, that, supposing Paul to have had this insight, 'his
light can do us no good, while it is a light outside of us. If
he in any way confused the conclusions of his logic (which is often
extremely inconsequent and mistaken) with the perceptions of his
divinely illuminated soul, our belief might prove baseless.'
(Soul, pp. 226. 227.) These are his very words."

"Very well, then; say that Mr. Newman thinks the notions of a future
hell of little efficacy; and of a future heaven of as little, except
when it rises from 'insight';--he confessing that he has not that
'insight,' and; from the necessity of the case, not knowing whether
any body else has, it being a 'light outside him.' If so, I think
he is much like the rest of you, and cannot in fact suppose the
thought of a future life to operate strongly either as a bribe
or a menace."

"But, surely, whatever his views, or those of any individual, you
must admit that a piety which is sustained without any hopes of
immortality is less selfish than that which is."

"Why," replied I, laughing; "I cannot conceive how the hope of a
virtuous immortality can produce a vicious self-love. But if the
hope and the consciousness of happiness now exercise any influence
at all, your argument proves too much; and there is a simple
impossibility of being unselfishly religious at all."

"How so?"

"Do you think that, admitting not only the uncertainty of any future
life, but the certainty that there is none, and that nevertheless
(as you affirm) man, under that conviction, is just as capable of
manifesting a true devotion and piety towards God, any felicity flows
from his so doing?"

"The highest, of course," said he.

"Do you think that the happiness so derived and expected from day to
day has any sinister influence on the spiritual life of him who
feels it?"

"Of course, none."

"The contrary, perhaps?"

"I think so."

"Then neither need the expectation of an eternity of such blessedness
be any impediment. Again; let us come to facts; are not the declarations
of those whom Mr. Newman, however oddly, is willing to admit have been
the best specimens yet afforded of his true 'spiritual' man,--the
Doddridges, the Fletchers, the Baxters, and Paul especially,--full of
this sentiment? 'I desire to depart,' says Paul, 'and to be with Christ,
which is far better'; and similar selfish hopes inspired those excellent
men whose names still rise spontaneously to Mr. Newman's memory when
he would remind us of examples of his 'spiritual religion! Tell me, do
you not think Paul a 'spiritual' man?"

"Yes; with all his blunders," said Fellowes, "I do; and Mr. Newman's
writings are full of that admission."

"Very true. But then Paul is so selfish, you know, as to say, not merely
that the immortality of man is true, and that the 'light afflictions
which are but for a moment' are to be despised, because unworthy 'to be
compared with the glory to be revealed'; but that, if immortality be not
true, Christians, as deluded in such hopes, are of all men most miserable.
All this shows how powerfully the 'spiritual' Paul thought that the
doctrine of a future state operated and ought to operate on the mind of
a Christian; he never supposed that it could possibly have a negative,
still less a sinister influence.'

"But then, surely, what Mr. Newman says is true, that many of the saints
of the Old Testament exemplified all the heroism of a true faith, and
kindled with the ardors of a true devotion, in an ignorance of any such
state, and the absence of all such expectations."

"I answer, that Mr. Newman too often speaks as if his individual
impressions were to be taken for demonstration. That the Old Testament
is unpervaded by any distinct traces of expectations of a future life is,
at all events, not the opinion of the majority of men, many of them at
least as capable of judging as Mr. Newman. It is not the opinion of
the writers of the New Testament, that the Old Testament worthies were
in this deplorable darkness; nor of the majority of the Jewish
interpreters of their ancestors' writings; nor is it the impression of
the great majority of those who now read them. How it can be the opinion
of any one who has not some hypothesis to serve, is to me a mystery.
Meanwhile Mr. Newman himself at least gives some notable passages to
the contrary, though he chooses to call them only personal aspirations.
Think of the absurdity, my good friend, of supposing that Job, David,
Isaiah, failed to realize a doctrine (imperfectly it may be) which, as
you truly affirm, has, in some shape or other, animated all forms of
religion! that these brightest specimens of 'spiritual religion' in
the ancient world somehow missed what many of the lowest savages have
managed to stumble upon!"

"Well," he replied, "but, after all, he who loves God without any
thought of heaven must surely be more unselfish than he who hopes
for it."

I laughed,--for I could not help it.

"Unhappy Paul!" interjected Harrington, who had again entered the
library; "unhappy Paul! Burdened with the hopes of immortality; what an
impediment he must have found it in his Christian course! I wonder he
did not throw aside 'this weight, which so easily beset him.' Pity
that when he became a Christian, and ceased to be a Pharisee, he did
not, like so many 'spiritual' Christians of our day, know that, when
he became a Christian, he might still remain in one of the Jewish
sects, and turn Sadducee."

"Be it so," said Fellowes, "a Christian Sadducee, caeteris partibus,
might perhaps be a more virtuous man having no hopes of heaven by
which he can possibly be bribed."

"Religious love and hope," said I, "will with difficulty exist in
such an atmosphere as you create. It is a sublime altitude, doubtless,
but no ordinary 'spiritual' beings can breathe that rarefied air. It
is for the honor of Shaftesbury and some few other Deists, that they
aspired to this transcendental virtue! You are imitating them. I fear
you will not be more successful. Once leave a man to conclude, or even
to suspect, that he and his cat end together, and, if a bad man, he
will gladly accept a release from every claim but that of his passions
and appetites (the effects being more or less philosophically calculated
according to his intellectual power); while the best man would be
liable to contemplate God and religion with a depressed and faltering
heart. He would be apt to lose all energy; he would feel it impossible
to repress doubts of the infinite wisdom and benignity of Him (whatever
he might think of His power) who had given him the soul of a man and
the life of a butterfly; conceptions and aspirations so totally
disproportioned to the evanescence of his being! If, however, you
really think that the hopes of an immortality of virtuous happiness
will stand in the way of a sublime disinterestedness of spirituality,
you ought to recollect that any expectation of happiness, even for a
day, will, in its measure, have the same effect. So that the only way
in which you can accommodate so 'spiritual a piety,' and absolutely
insure yourself against 'spiritual bribery,' is to deprive yourself
of all possibility of being so misled. If your piety would be
absolutely sure that it loves God on these sublime terms, it should
take care to neutralize the happiness which that love brings with it;
so that, if God has not made you miserable, you should never fail, like
the ascetics, to make yourself so. I fear you never can be perfectly
'spiritual' till you have made yourself supremely wretched. But to quit
this point," I continued; "if immortality be a delusion, I fear we
say that it covers the divine administration with an penetrable
cloud,--one which we cannot hope will removed. The inequalities of
that administration not be redressed."

"But do you not recollect," replied Fellowes, reason Mr. Newman gives
for despising any such mitigation? Does he not say, that it is a
strange argument for a day of recompense, that man has unsatisfied
claims upon God? He says, 'Christians have added an argument of their
own for a future state, but, unfortunately, one that cannot bring
personal comfort or assurance. A future state (it seems) is requisite
to redress the inequalities of this life. And can I go to the Supreme
Judge, and tell Him that I deserve more happiness than He has granted
me in this life?' Do you not recollect this?--or has this sarcasm
escaped you?"

"It has not escaped me,--I remember it well; but it seems to have
escaped you, that it is a very transparent sophism. For what is it
but a pretence that the Christian in general is confident enough of
his virtue to think that he has not been sufficiently well treated,
and that his Creator and Judge cannot do less than make amends for
his injustice, by giving him compensation in another world?"

"And is not that the true statement of the case?"

"I imagine not; whether men be Christians or otherwise. The generality,
when they reason upon this subject, (you and I, for example, at this
very moment,) not at all considering the aspect of such a day upon
themselves; how much they will lose if there be none; perhaps the
bulk would wish that it could be proved that it would never come! It
has been from a wish to escape great speculative perplexities, connected
with the divine administration, and not in relation to man's deserts,
that the question has been argued. When dictated by other feelings,
the conviction of a future state has been quite as generally the
utterance of remorse and fear, the response of an accusing conscience,
as of hope and aspiration; and derives, perhaps, a terrible significance
from that circumstance. But it has certainly not been, in the Christian,
the result of any absurd expectation of virtues to be rewarded, or rights
to be redressed. As to the Christian, though he feels that he would not,
and dare not, go to the divine tribunal with any such absurd plea as
Mr. Newman is pleased to put into his mouth,--though he cannot impeach
the divine goodness,--he none the less feels that that goodness, if
this scene be all, is open to very grievous impeachment in relation to
millions who have suffered much, and done no wrong, and to multitudes
more who have inflicted infinite wrong, and suffered next to nothing;
and they would fain, if they could, get over difficulties which
Mr. Newman chooses, from the mere exigencies of his theology, to
represent as no difficulties at all. To escape them or to solve them is
the thing principally in the minds of those who contend for a day
of recompense; not the imaginary compensation of individual wrongs. I do
contend that, if this world be all, the divine administration in many
points is more hopelessly opposed to our moral instincts, and to all
our notions of equity and benevolence, than any thing on which you
spiritualists are accustomed to justify your censure of Scripture.
You ought, as Harrington says, to go further."
____

July 30. I was much interested yesterday morning by a conversation
between Harrington and two pleasant youths, acquaintances of Mr.
Fellowes, both younger by three or four years than either he or
Harrington. They are now at college, and have imbibed in different
degrees that curious theory which, professedly recognizing
Christianity (as consigned to the New Testament) as a truly
divine revelation, yet asserts that it is intermingled with a large
amount of error and absurdity, and tells each man to eliminate
the divine element for himself. According to this theory, the
problem of eliciting revealed truth may be said to be indeterminate;
of the unknown x varies through all degrees of magnitude; it is equal
to any thing, equal to every thing, equal to nothing, equal
to infinity.

The whole party thought, with the exception of Harrington, who knew
not what to think, that the "religious faculty or faculties" (one or
many,--no man seems to know exactly) are quite sufficient to decide
all doubts and difficulties in religious matters.

Harrington knew not whether to say there was any truth in Christianity
or not; Fellowes knew that there was none, except in that "religious
element," Which is found alike essentially in all religions; that
its miracles, its inspiration, its peculiar doctrines, are totally false.

The young gentlemen just referred to believed "that it might be admitted
that an external revelation was possible," and "that the condition of
man, considering the aspects of his history, has not been altogether
felicitous as to show that he never needed, and might not be benefited,
by such light." I could cordially agree with them so far; superabundance
of religious illumination not being amongst the things of which humanity
can legitimately complain.

But then, as they both believed that each man was to distil the "elixir
Vitrae" for himself from the crude mass of truth and falsehood which
the New Testament presents, Harrington, with his interrogations, soon
compelled them to see how inconsistent they were both with themselves
and with one another. One of them believed, he said, that the Apostles
might have been favored by a true revelation; but not in such a sense
"as to prevent their often falling into serious errors," whenever the
distinctly "religious element" was not concerned; this was the only
truly "divine" thing about it; but he saw no particular objection to
receiving the miracles; at least some of them,--the best authenticated
and most reasonable; perhaps they were of value as part of the complex
evidence needful to establish doctrines which, if not absolutely
transcendental to the human faculties,--as the doctrine of a future life,
for example,--yet, apart from revelation, are but matter of conjecture.

The other was also not unwilling to admit the miraculous and inspired
character of the revelation, but contended, further, that the "religious
element" was to be submitted to human judgment as well as the rest;
and that, if apparently absurd, contradictory, or pernicious, as judged
by that infallible and ultimate standard, it was to be rejected.

It was amusing to think that, in this little company of three devout
believers in the "internal oracle," no two thought alike! After the two
youths had frankly stated their opinions, Harrington quietly said,
"I should much like to ask each of you a few questions. There are
certain difficulties connected with each hypothesis just stated,
on which I should be glad to receive some light. I frankly confess
beforehand, however, that I fear that that curiously constructed
book, which gives us all so much trouble,--which will not allow me
to say positively either that it is true or false,--will still less
permit you to reject a part or parts at your pleasure. It is, I must
admit, a most independent book in that respect, and treats your spiritual
illumination most cavalierly. It says to you, "Receive me altogether,
or reject me altogether, just as you please"; and when men have
rejected it altogether, it leaves them certain literary and
historical, and moral problems, in all fairness demanding solution,
which I doubt whether it is in our power to solve, or to give any
decent account of."

"What do you mean," said the younger of the two youths, "by affirming
that we are compelled to receive the whole book, or to reject it all?"

"Let us see," said Harrington, "whether there is any consistent
stopping-place between. It appears to me, that, whether by the most
singular series of 'coincidences,' or by immense subtlety of design,
this book, evidently composed by different hands, has yet its
materials so interwoven, and its parts so reciprocally dependent,
that it is impossible to separate them,--to set some aside, and say,
'We will accept these, and reject those': just as, in certain textures,
no sooner do we begin to take out a particular thread, than we find it
is inextricably entangled with others, and those again with others; so
that there immediately takes place a prodigious 'gathering' at that
point, and if we persevere, a rent; but the obstinate part at which
we tug will not come away alone. Whether it is so or not, we shall
soon see, by examining the results of the application of your theories.
I will begin with you," (addressing the younger,) "because you believe
least; you say, I think, that you admit the records of the New Testament
contain a real revelation,--a religious element,--and that it has been
authenticated to you by miracles and other evidence; but that the
human mind is still the judge of how much of that revelation is to
be received, 'and sit in judgment' on the 'religious element as well
as the rest.'"

The other assented.

"You admit, probably, the doctrine of the soul's immortality as a part
of that revelation,--perhaps even the doctrine of a resurrection?"

"I do,--both these doctrines."

"But perhaps you reject the idea of an 'atonement,' though you admit
it to be in the Book?"

"Yes. At the same time it is contended by many (as you are aware) that
such a doctrine is not there."

"I am aware of it, of course; but with them we have no controversy here.
They are consistent, so far as the present argument goes; as consistent
as the orthodox themselves. They do not allege a liberty of rejecting
what they admit the book does contain, but only deny that it does contain
some things which they reject. They would admit that, if those doctrines
be there, then either they must concede them because authenticated
by the miracles and other evidence, which proves what else they concede,
or they must reject the said evidence altogether, because it authenticated
what they found it impossible to concede. The controversy between them
and the orthodox is one of interpretation, and is quite different from
that in which we are now engaged."

"I must admit it."

"They may go, then?" said Harrington.

"They may."

"You admit, then, the miraculous authentication of such an event as
the resurrection of man, but deny the doctrine of the atonement,
though equally found in the said records?"

"I do."

"May I ask why?"

"Because the one doctrine does not seem to me to contradict my
'spiritual consciousness,' and the other does."

"You receive the one, I suppose you will say, on account of the
miracles, and so on; since, while not contradicting your impressions
of spiritual truth, it could not be authenticated without external
evidence?"

"Exactly so."

"But is not the other doctrine as much authenticated by the miracles
and so forth? or have you any thing to show that, while all those
passages which relate to the former are true assertions, as well as
truly the assertions of those who published the revelation, those
which relate to the latter are not?"

"I acknowledge I have not," replied the youth.

"Or supposing they are not their sayings at all, have you any evidence
by which you can show that they are not, so as to separate them from
those that are?"

"I must admit that I have no criterion of this kind."

"For aught you know, then, since you know nothing of Christianity
except from those documents in which the miracles and the doctrines are
alike consigned to you, the said miracles, together with the other
evidence, do equally establish the truths which you say are a part
of divine revelation, and the errors which you say your 'spiritual
faculty,' 'moral intuitions,' or what you will, tells you that you
are to reject. You believe, then, in the force of evidence, which
equally establishes truth and falsehood?"

"You can hardly expect me to admit that."

"But I expect you to answer a plain question?"

"Why," said the youth, with a little flippancy, but with a good-humored
laugh too, "the proverb says 'Even a fool may ask questions which a
wise man cannot answer.'"

"I acknowledge myself to be a fool" said Harrington, with a half
serious, half comic air; "and you shall be the wise man who does not
--for I will not say cannot--answer the fool's question."

"I beg your pardon," said the other. "I acknowledge that it was an
uncourteous expression."

"Enough said," replied Harrington; "and now, since you are not pleased
to answer my question, I will answer it myself; and I say, it is plain
that the evidence to which you refer does affirm equally the truths
you declare thus revealed to you, and the errors you declare you must
reject. Now either the evidence is not sufficient to prove the one, or
it is sufficient to prove both. So far, then, I think we may say, and
say justly, that the supposed revelation is so constructed that you
cannot accept a part and reject a part, on such a theory. But to make
the case a little plainer still, if possible. There have been men, you
know, who have taken precisely opposite views of the two doctrines you
have mentioned; who have declared that the doctrine, not of man's
immortality, but of the resurrection, so far from being conceivable,
is, in their judgment, a physical contradiction; but who have also
declared that the doctrine of atonement, in some shape, is instinctively
taught by human nature, and has consequently formed a part of almost
every religion; that it is in analogy with many singular facts of this
world's constitution, and is not absolutely contradicted by any principle
of our nature, intellectual or moral. Such a man, therefore, might take
the very opposite of the course you have taken. He would proceed upon
your common basis of a miraculously confirmed revelation, grossly infested
with errors and falsehoods; he might say that he believed the
authentication of the doctrine of 'atonement' in virtue of the evidence,
because, though transcendental to his reason, it was not repugnant to
it; but that he rejected the doctrine of the 'resurrection,' though
equally established by the evidence, because contrary to the plainest
conclusions of his reason."

"I cannot in candor deny," said the other, "the possibility of such a
case."

"And in such a case, we might say, he does the very opposite of what
you do."

"Neither can I help admitting that."

"The miracles, then, and other evidence, not only play the part of
equally supporting truth and falsehood, but, what is still more
wonderful, convert the same things, in different men, into truth and
falsehood alternately. Miracles they must verily be if they can do
that! A wonderful revelation it certainly is, which thus accommodates
itself to the varying conditions of the human intellect and
conscience, and demonstrates just so much as each of you is pleased
to accept, and no more. No doubt the whole 'corpus dogmatum,' so
supported, will, by the entire body of such believers, be eaten up;
just as was the Mahometan hog, so humorously referred to by Cowper;
but even that had not all its 'forbidden parts' miraculously shown
to be 'unforbidden' to different minds! I do not wonder that such
a revelation should need miracles; that any should be sufficient, is
the greatest wonder of all; if indeed we except two;--the first, that
Supreme Wisdom should have constructed such a curious revelation, in
which he has revealed alternately, to different people, truth and
falsehood, and has established each on the very same evidence; and
the second (almost as great), that any rational creature should be
got to receive such a revelation on such evidence as equally applies
to which he says it does not prove, and to points which he says it
does; these points, however, being, it appears, totally different
in different men! But I will now go to your friend, who has got a
point further in his belief, and graciously accepts all the 'religious
elements' in this revelation."

"Excuse me," said the last; "before you go to him, permit me to mention
a difficulty which occurred to me while we were speaking."

"By all means; but I do not promise to solve it. Perhaps I on this
occasion shall prove the 'wise man,' though I am sure you will not be
the fool."

"You recollect," said the other, blushing, "our dismissing those who,
while contending, like myself, that such and such doctrines are to be
rejected, differ from me in this, that they contend that the said
doctrines are not contained in the records of the supposed revelation
at all; while others contend that they are. Now, if, while the two
parties admit the general evidence which is to substantiate all that
is in the records, they arrive by different interpretation at such
very different results as to the supposed truth which it supports,
are they in any better condition than I? There is the same difference,
though arrived at in different ways; and the revelation still remains
indeterminate."

"Your objection is ingenious," replied Harrington. "First, however, it
is rather hard to ask me to solve a difficulty with which I am in no
way concerned, who profess to be altogether sceptical on the subject.
Secondly, it certainly does not at all mend your case to prove that
there are other men who possibly are as inconsistent as yourself. It
makes your theory neither better nor worse. But, thirdly, if I were a
Christian, I should not hesitate to contend that there was an obvious
and vital difference in the two cases."

"Indeed! If you can show that."

"I should attempt it, at all events I should say that in the latter case
the evidence to which the appeal was made did not equally serve to
establish truth and falsehood, or, what is still worse, alternately
to make falsehood truth, and truth falsehood, to different minds;
that it was designed to establish all that was really in the records,
though what that all was might give rise to different views, from the
prejudices and the ignorance, the different degrees of intelligence and
candor, on part of those who interpreted the records; that they made the
falsehoods, and not the records or the evidence. I should, therefore,
have no difficulty in relation to what, on your theory, is so
incomprehensible; namely, that God should have given man so peculiarly
constructed a revelation. That men should differ or err in its
interpretation is not, I presume, very wonderful, because man, they
say, is a creature of prejudice and passion as well as reason."

"But God would still have given the revelation, and yet it is capable,
it appears, of being variously interpreted!" said the other.

"Very true, and it is very plain to me that, supposing him to have
given any, he could have given no other, unless his omnipotence
had been immediately exerted separately upon each individual of the
human race, and then in such a way as to supersede all the moral
discipline which Christians affirm is involved in its reception.
Supposing this discipline (as those who believe in a revelation
contend) to be an essential condition, I cannot conceive God himself
to give a document which man's ingenuity cannot easily misinterpret.
You see man plays the same trick equally well with that faculty of
'spiritual insight,' which some say is the sole source of religious
truth, and which you say is the sole arbiter of an external revelation!
We cannot find two of you who think alike, or who will give us the
same transcript of religious truth. Similarly, we see the same
ingenuity manifested by man whenever it is his interest to find in
a document a different meaning from that which it apparently carries
on its face. Does not the endless controversy, the perpetual
litigation of men, respecting the meaning of seemingly the plainest
documents, assure us that, if a revelation were really given, the
like would be possible with that? It is doubtful with me, therefore,
whether God himself could give a revelation, such that men could not
misrepresent and pervert it; that is, as long as they were rational
creatures," he continued bitterly. "But the mischief of your theory
is, that it charges the inevitable result of man's perverseness or
ignorance on God, and the revelation he has been supposed to construct,
and that is to me an absurdity."

"I do not see that these answers are satisfactory," said the other.

"I must leave you to judge of that," said Harrington, "or to contest
it with my uncle here. I am keeping my next friend waiting, who, I can
see, is impatient to run a course in favor of his view of revelation.
He tells us, too, that a divine revelation, as conveyed in the New
Testament, is to be admitted, but he cannot away with the notion that
its certainty extends to any thing more than to what he calls the
'religious element.' Is not that your notion?"

"It is."

"You think, for example, that it is possible that the Apostles and
writers of the New Testament (in fact, whoever had the charge of
recording and transmitting to posterity the doctrines of this
revelation) were left liable, just as any other men, to all sorts
of errors, geographical, chronological, logical, historical,
political, moral--"

"No, no, not moral," said the other; "I did not say moral: their
morality is implied in their theology."

"O, very well! we shall better see that presently; only I have to
remind you, for the glory of your Rationalism, that other Rationalists
make the errors extend even to the 'moral element'; but it is all
one to me. You say, that, as far as regards every thing else, it is
very possible that these 'inspired' men might err to any amount?"

"Yes; I believe it."

"You have, doubtless, some reason for saying that they were made
infallible in religion and morality, but liable to all sorts of errors
on other subjects?"

"Nothing but this; that, if to give us 'spiritual truth' (as is
supposed) was their proper function (and we cannot but suppose that
it was), they must have been invested (we must suppose) with all the
necessary qualities for this end, since I am supposing that even
miracles were thought worth working in order to confirm their doctrine."

"You use the word suppose rather frequently, my friend; however, I
will not quarrel with you for that; only you ought not to be
surprised if, adopting your last supposition,--that, when miracles
and inspiration have been supposed to be vouchsafed to authenticate
a particular revelation, all such endowments, at least, will be
granted as shall secure that object from defeat,--other Christians
further suppose that the documents in which the revelation was to be
consigned to all future ages would not be disfigured (and in many
respects obscured) by the liability of their authors to all sorts
of errors on an infinity of points, hopelessly entangled, as we shall
soon see, with this one! that when heaven was at the trouble to embark
its cargo of diamonds and pearls for this world, it would not send
them in a vessel with a great hole in the bottom! If the Apostles
were plenarily inspired with regard to this one subject, men will
think it strange, perhaps, that divine aid should not have gone a
little further, and since the destined revelation was to be recorded
or rather imbedded, in history, illustrated by imagination, enforced
by argument, and expressed in human language,--its authors should
have been left liable to destroy the substance by egregious and
perpetual blunders as to the form; to run the chance of knocking out
the brains of the unfortunate revelation by upsetting the vehicle
in which it was to be conveyed!"

"But, then, these supposed endowments are purely a supposition on
the part of Christians in general."

"Just as yours, we may say, of an indefectible wisdom on one point
is a supposition on your part. I think in that respect that you are
both well matched. But I freely confess that I think their
supposition more plausible than yours; and, if I were an advocate
for Christianity, I should certainly rather suppose with them than
suppose with you; that is, I should think it more credible, if God
interposed with such stupendous instruments as miracles, inspiration,
and prophecy at all, he would endow the men thus favored (not with
all knowledge, indeed, but) with whatever was necessary to prevent
their encountering a certainty of vitiating their testimony."

"But how would their testimony be liable to be vitiated? I am supposing
them to be absolutely free from error as regards the religious clement,
which they deliver pure."

'We shall see in a minute whether their testimony was liable to be
vitiated or not, and whether the separation for which you contend be
conceivable, or even possible. I fear that you have no winnowing-fan
which will separate the chaff from the wheat."

"To me, nothing seems more easy than the supposition I have made."

"Few things are more easy than to make suppositions; but let us see.
I am sure you will answer as fairly as I shall ask questions. To do
otherwise would be to separate the 'moral element' from the 'logical,'
whatever the New Testament writers may have done. You believe, you
say, in the resurrection of Christ?"

"I do."

"As a fact or doctrine?"

"Both as a fact and doctrine."

"For it is both, if true," said Harrington; "and so, I apprehend, it
will be found with the other doctrines of Christianity. Whether, in
your particular latitude of Rationalism, you believe many or few of
them, still, if true at all (which we at present take for granted),
they are both facts and doctrines, from the Incarnation to the
Resurrection. But to confine ourselves to one,--that of the
Resurrection,--for one will answer my purpose as well as a thousand;
--that, you say, is a fact,--a fact of history?"

"It is."

"It is, then, conveyed to us as such?"

"Certainly."

"Were the recorders of that fact liable to error in conveying it to
us? In other words, might they so blunder in conveying that fact (as
we know the unaided historian may, and often does) as to leave us
in doubt whether it ever took place or not?"

"Well," said the youth, "and you know they have exhibited it in such
a way as to suggest many apparent discrepancies, and those very
difficult to be reconciled."

"I am aware of it, and for that very reason selected this particular
fact. In my judgment, there are no passages which more exercise the
ingenuity of the harmonists than those which record the transactions
connected with the resurrection. But still, in spite of them all, I
presume that you do not think that those discrepancies really call
the fact in question, else you would not continue to believe it. I
should then suddenly find myself arguing with a very different person."

"Certainly, you are quite right. I agree that the substantial facts
are as the writers have delivered them; although they may, from
their liability to error, have delivered some of the details
erroneously."

"But might this liability to error have led them a little further
in their discrepancies, so as to involve the fact itself in just doubt,
and so of other great facts which constitute the doctrines as well as
the facts of Scripture?"

"Of course, I think it might, since I suppose them unaided by any
supernatural wisdom in this respect."

"The answer is honest. I thought, perhaps, you would have answered
differently, in which case you would have given me the trouble of
pursuing the argument one step further. It appears, then, that,
though inspired to give mankind a true statement of doctrines, yet
that, when these doctrines assume the form of facts (which, unhappily,
they do perpetually), this hazardous liability to error as historians
may counteract their inspiration, and they may give them in such a form
as to throw upon them all manner of doubts and suspicions; possibly
they have done so, for aught you can tell.--But, again, you also affirm
that these so-called inspired men were liable to make all sorts of
logical blunders, just as the uninspired."

"Certainly; and I must confess I think the logic of the Apostle Paul,
in particular, often exceedingly absurd."

"Very fair and candid. For example, I dare say that you do not think
much of his arguments or inferences from certain doctrines; or his
proofs of those doctrines from the Old Testament or--"

"They are not, indeed, worth much in my estimation."

"Candid again; but then it is plain, first, that you will have to
distinguish between the pure doctrines which Paul derived from a
celestial source, and his erroneous proofs or inferences, which are
delivered in precisely the same manner and with the same assumption
of authority. And this, I think, would be an insuperable task; at
least, it seems so, for you Rationalists decide this matter very
differently. When any of you favor me with your sketches of the true
heaven-descended Pauline theology, I find them widely different
from each other. Your 'religious element' is of the most variable
volume. Some of you include nearly the whole creed of ordinary
orthodoxy; others, fifty or even eighty per cent. less, both in
bulk and weight."

"Perhaps so."

"Perhaps so! But then, what becomes of your principle, that you may
separate the pure 'religion element,' as conveyed to the minds of the
sacred writers by direct illumination, from the errors of vicious
logic which have been permitted to mingle with it? To me it appears
any thing but easy to separate the functions of a revealer of truly
inspired truth from the vitiating influences of a fallacious logic.
The 'heavenly vision,' however 'obedient' a Paul may be to it, will
be but obscurely represented, and suffer egregiously from that
distorted image which the ill-constructed mirror will convey to us.
--But once more, I think you do not hold Paul's rhetoric to be always
of the first excellence?"

"Certainly not; I think his representations are often as faulty as his
logic is vicious; especially when, under the influence of his Jewish
education, he throws old Gamaliel's mantle over his shoulders, and dotes
about 'allegories' founded on the Old Testament."

"Fair and candid once more; but then, I suppose you will admit that
the divine truths which he was, nevertheless, commissioned to teach
mankind, will, like any other truths, be much affected by the mode
in which they are represented to the imagination; will become brighter
or more obscure, more animated or more feeble, and even more just or
distorted, as this task is wisely and judiciously, or preposterously
performed?"

"No doubt."

"Then it appears, I think, that, if there were nothing to control the
Apostle Paul's manner of exhibiting divine verities, even in relation
only to the imagination, there might be all the difference between
sober truth and fanatical perversions of it. I might, in the same manner,
proceed to show that the feelings, uncontrolled by a superior influence,
would be also likely to give distortion or exaggeration to the doctrines.
But it is enough. It appears very plain, that, according to your
hypothesis, even though the Apostles were commissioned to teach by
supernatural illumination certain truths, yet that, being liable to be
infected with all the faults of false history, bad logic, vicious
rhetoric, fanatical feeling, these divine truths might, possibly, be
most falsely presented to us. We have, really, no guaranty but your
gratuitous 'supposition' that they have been taught at all. We have no
criterion for separating what is thus divine from what is merely human.
I fear, therefore, your distinction will not hold. The stream, whatever
the crystal purity of its fountain, could not fail to be horribly impure
by the time it had flowed through such foul conduits."

"In short," continued Harrington, with a bitter smile at the same time,
"there are but three consistent characters in the world; the Bible
Christian, and the genuine Atheist,--or the absolute Sceptic."

"No,--no,--no," exclaimed the whole trio at once; "and you yourself
must be true to your principles, and therefore sceptical as to this."

"It is" he replied, "one of the very few things which I am not sceptical
about. At all events, right or wrong, I am, as usual, willing to give
you my reasons for my belief."

"Rather say your doubts," said Fellowes.

"Well, for my doubts, then. You see, my friends, the matter is as
follows. The Christian speaks on this wise:--

"'I find, in reference to Christianity as in references to Theism,
what appears to me an immense preponderance of evidence of various
kinds in favor of its truth; but both alike I find involved in many
difficulties which I acknowledge to be insurmountable, and in many
mysteries which I cannot fathom. I believe the conclusions in spite
of them. As to the revelation, I see some of its discrepancies are the
effect of transcription and corruption; others are the result of
omissions of one or more of the writers, which, if supplied, would
show that they are apparent only; of others, I can suggest no
explanations at all; and, over and above these, I see difficulties of
doctrine which I can no more profess to solve than I can the parallel
perplexities in Nature and Providence, and especially those involved
in the permitted phenomenon of an infinity of physical and moral evil.
As to these difficulties, I simply submit to them, because I think the
rejection of the evidence for the truths which they embarrass would
involve me in a much greater difficulty. With regard to many of the
difficulties, in both cases, I set that the progress of knowledge and
science is continually tending to dissipate some, and to diminish, if
not remove, the weight of others: I see that a dawning light now
glimmers on many portions of the void where continuous darkness once
reigned; though that very light has also a tendency to disclose other
difficulties; for, as the sphere of knowledge increases, the outline
of darkness beyond also increases, and increases even in a greater
ratio. But I also find, I frankly admit, that on many of my difficulties,
and especially that connected with the origin of evil, and other
precisely analogous difficulties of Scripture, no light whatever is
cast: to the solution of them, man has not made the slightest
conceivable approximation. These things I submit to, as an exercise of
my faith and a test of my docility, and that is all I have to say about
them; you will not alter my views by dwelling on them, for your sense
of them cannot be stronger than mine.' Thus speaks the Christian; and
the Atheist and the Sceptic occupy ground as consistent. They say, 'We
agree with you Christians, that the Bible contains no greater
difficulties than those involved in the inscrutable "constitution and
course of nature"; but on the very principles on which the Rationalist,
or Spiritualist, or Deist, or whatever he pleases to call himself,
rejects the divine origin of the former, we are compelled to go a few
steps farther, and deny--or doubt the divine origin of the latter. It
is true that the Bible presents no greater difficulties than the
external universe and its administration; (it cannot involve greater;)
but if those difficulties are sufficient to justify the denial or doubt
of the divine authorship of the one, they are sufficient to justify
denial or doubt about the divine origin of the other.'--But as to you,
what consistent position can you take, so long as you affirm and deny
so capriciously? Who 'strain at the gnats' of the Bible, and 'swallow
the camels' of your Natural Religion? You ought, on the principle on
which you reject so much of the Bible,--namely, that it does not
harmonize with the deductions of your intellect, the instincts of
conscience, the intuitions of the 'spiritual faculty,' and Heaven knows
what,--to become Manichaeans at the least."

"But these very arguments," said one of the youths, "are just the
old-fashioned arguments of BUTLER, Which it is surely droll of all
things to find a sceptic making use of."

"I admit they are his, my friend; but not that there is any inconsistency
in my employing them. I affirm that Butler is quite right in his premises,
though I may reject the conclusion to which he would bring me. He leaves
two alternatives, and only two, in my judgment, open; leaves two parties
untouched; one is the Christian, and the other is the Atheist or the
Sceptic, which-ever you please; but I am profoundly convinced he does
not leave a consistent footing for any thing between. His fire does not
injure the Christian, for-comes out of his own camp; nor me, for it
falls short of my lines; but for you, who have pitched your tent
between, take heed to yourselves. He proves clearly enough, that the
very difficulties for which you reject Christianity exist equally,
sometimes to a still amount, in the domain of nature."

"Oh!" said the youngest, "we do not think that Butler's argument is
sound."

"Then," said Harrington, "the sooner you refute it the better. All you
have to do is, just to show that this world does not exhibit the
inequalities, the miseries,--the apparent caprice in its administration,
--the involuntary ignorance,--the enormous wrongs,--the wide-spread
sorrows and death,--it does. You will do greater service to the
Deist than the whole of the have ever done him yet. I am convinced
that Butler is not to be refuted."

"But do you not recollect what no less a man than Pitt said,--'Analogy
is an argument so easily retorted!'" replied the same youth.

"Then you will have the less difficulty in retorting it," said
Harrington, coolly. "Pitt's observation only shows that he had
forgotten the true object of the work, or never understood it. For the
purposes of refutation, it does not follow that an analogy may be easily
retorted; it may be, and often is, irresistible. It is when employed
to establish a truth, not to expose an error, that it is often feeble.
If Butler had attempted to prove that the inhabitants of Jupiter must
be miserable, nothing could have been more ridiculous than to adduce the
analogy of our planet. But if he merely wished to show that it did not
follow that that beautiful orb, being created by infinite power, wisdom,
and goodness, must be an abode of happiness, (just the Rationalist style
of reasoning,) it would be quite sufficient to introduce the speculator
to this ill-starred planet of ours."

There are few who will not acquiesce in this remark of Harrington's,
however they may lament the alternative he seemed disposed to take.
Assuredly, for the specific object in view, no book written by man
was ever more conclusive than that of Butler. For if you can show to
an unbeliever in Christianity, who is yet (as most are) a Theists, that
any objection derived from its apparent repugnance to wisdom or goodness
applies equally to the "constitution and course of nature," you do
fairly compel him (as long as he remains a Theist) to admit that that
objection ought not to have weight with him. He has indeed an alternative;
that of Atheism or Scepticism; but it is clear he must give up either his
argument or his--Theism. It may be called, indeed, an argument ad hominem;
but as almost every unbeliever in Christianity is a man of the above
stamp, it is of wide application. This is the fair issue to which
Butler brings the argument; and the conclusiveness of his logic has
been shown in this, that, however easily "analogies" may be "retorted,"
the parties affected by it have never answered it. I was amused with
the criticism with which Harrington wound up. "Butler," said he, "wrote
but little; but when reading him, I have often thought of Walter Scott's
wolf-dog Maida, who seldom was tempted to join in the bark of his lesser
canine associates. 'He seldom opens his mouth,' said his master; 'but when
he does, he shakes the Eildon Hills. Maida is like the great gun at
Constantinople,--it takes a long time to load it; but when it does go
off, it goes off for something!'"
____

Aug. 1. I this day put into Mr. Fellowes's hands the brief notes on
the three questions on which he had solicited my opinion. They were as
follows:--

I. Mr. Newman says that it is an idle boast that the elevation of woman
is in any high degree attributable to the Gospel. "In point of fact,"
says he, "Christian doctrine, as propounded by Paul, is not at all so
honorable to woman as that which German soundness of heart has
established. With Paul the sole reason for marriage is that a man may
without sin vent his sensual desires."

If, indeed, there were no other passage in the New Testament than that
to which Mr. Newman refers, there might be something to be said for him.
But it is only one of many, and the question really at issue is
consequently blinked, namely, what is the aspect of the entire New
Testament institute upon the relations of woman? It is true, indeed,
that the reason for marriage which Mr. Newman contends is the only
thing Paul thought about, is very properly urged; for from the
constitution of human nature, (as every comprehensive philosopher
and legislator would admits) as well as from the horrible condition of
things where marriage is neglected, prominence is very justly given
to the preservation of chastity as one of the primary objects of the
institution. But the question as between Mr. Newman and Christianity
is this: Is this the only aspect under which the relations of man and
woman are represented to us? That every thing is not said in one passage
is true enough. From the desultory manner in which the ethics as well
as doctrines of the New Testament are expounded to us, and especially
from the casual form which they assume in the Apostolic Epistles,
where the particular circumstances of the parties addressed naturally
suggested the degree of prominence given to each topic, we must fairly
examine the whole volume in order to comprehend the spirit of the whole,
and not take up a solitary passage as though it were the only one.
Now, if we examine other passages, we cannot fail to see that the New
Testament consecrates married life by enjoining the utmost purity,
devotion, and tenderness of affection. Look at only one or two of the
passages in which the New Testament enjoins the reciprocal duties of
husbands and wives; what sort of model it proposes for their love.
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and
gave himself for it ..... Let every one in particular so love his
wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies, .... giving honor
unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together
of  the grace of life."

Is this like condemning women to be "elegant toys and voluptuous
appendages"?

Admitting, for the sake of argument, that the whole of Christianity
is a delusion; that Christ never lived, and therefore never died; that
he is a more palpable myth than even Dr. Strauss contends for; still
it is impossible not to see that the writers of the New Testament
represent his love for man as the ideal of pure, disinterested,
self-sacrificing affection; this appears whether we listen to the
words which the Evangelists have put into his mouth, or those in
which they have spoken of him. "Greater love hath non man than this
that a man lay down his life for his friends." Now, let there be as
much or as little historic truth in such statements, in the doings
and sufferings of Christ on behalf of humanity, as you will, the
conclusion is irresistible that his conduct (real or imaginary) is
set forth as the exhibition of unequalled patience, gentleness,
meekness, and forbearance; of a love anxious to purchase, at the
dearest cost, the purest and highest happiness of its objects. Now
such is the pattern of affection which the Apostles commend to the
imitation of "husbands and wives" in their conduct towards one
another. Such is to be the lofty standard which their love is to
emulate. Is it possible to go further? Does not the fantastical
observance, or rather the absolute idolatry of women cherished
by chivalry,--itself, however, rooted in the influences of a corrupt
Christianity,--look like a caricature beside the picture? And who
are the "poets of Germanic culture" who have risen to an equal ideal
of the reciprocal  duties and sentiments of wedded life? I must contend
that so beautiful a picture of a real equality between man and
woman,--founded on the love of the common Lord of both,--such a picture
of woman's true elevation, was never realized in the ancient world,
nor would have been to this day had not Christianity been
promulgated; nor is now, except where Christianity is known, though,
alas! not always where it is. But if you think otherwise, beg
Mr. Newman to give you a catena of passages from the "poets of Germanic
culture" (he has not adduced a syllable in proof); and recollect it
ought to be from Germanic poets who lived before the Germans were
Christians! Or perhaps you would wish to seek the Germanic "sentiment"
towards woman pure in its source, as given in the certainly not
unfavorable estimate of Tacitus. In their respect for woman and the
stress they laid on chastity, the ancient Germans transcended without
doubt many savages. Still, few readers will suppose there was much
reason to boast of the elevation of women, or the presence of much
refined "sentiment" between the sexes! As long as women do all the
drudgery of house and field work, while their lazy husbands drink and
gamble; as long as they are liable (and their children too) to be sold
or put on the hazard of a cast of the dice; as long as they are
themselves ferocious enough to go out to battle with their husbands;
I presume you will think the "Germanic culture" very far short of the
"culture" likely to be produced by the New Testament! Well says Gibbon,
"Heroines of such a cast may claim admiration; but they were most
assuredly neither lovely nor very susceptible of love."

II. Mr. Newman says, that undue credit has been claimed for Christianity
as the foe and extirpator of slavery. He says that, at this day, the
"New Testament is the argumentative stronghold of those who are trying
to keep up the accursed system." Would it not have been candid to add,
that the New Testament has ever been also the stronghold of those who
oppose it, as well in this country as in America? It is on the express
ground to its supposed inconsistency with the maxims and spirit of
Christianity, that the great mass of Abolitionists hate and loathe it.
A public clamor against it was never raised in the days of ancient
slavery, nor is now in any country where Christianity is unknown.
The opposition to it in our own country was a religious one; that we
know full well; and so is the opposition of the American Abolitionists
at the present day. If selfish cupidity, on the one hand, appeals to
the New Testament for its continuance, so does philanthropy, on the
other, for its abolition; and though in my judgment the inferences of
the latter are far more reasonable, the mere fact that both parties
appeal to the book shows that the New Testament neither sanctions
it--rather the contrary by implication--nor expressly denounces
it;--Mr. Newman doubtless can do it safely. This very moderation of
language, however, has to many minds, and those of no mean capacity,
(the late Dr. Chalmers for example,) been regarded as an indication
of the wisdom which has presided over the construction of the New
Testament; it was not only a tone peremptorily demanded by the
necessary conditions of publishing Christianity at all, but was best
adapted,--nay, alone adapted,--in the actual condition of the world
in relation to slavery, to make any salutary impression.

Admitting that the great, the primary end of the Gospel was spiritual;
that it was the object of the Apostles to obtain for it a dispassionate
hearing among all nations; and that, however they might hope
indirectly to affect the temporal prosperity and political welfare of
mankind, all good of this kind was in their view subordinate to that
spiritual amelioration, which, if affected, would necessarily involve
all inferior social and political improvements;--I say, admitting this,
it is really difficult to imagine any other course open to a wise choice
than that which was actually adopted. I contend, that in not
passionately denouncing slavery, and in contenting themselves with
quietly depositing those principles and sentiments which, while
achieving objects infinitely more important, would infallibly abolish
it, the Apostles took the wisest course, even with relation to this
latter object,--though it was doubtless not the course into which a
blind fanaticism would have plunged. To enter upon an open crusade
against slavery in that age would have been to render the preaching of
the Gospel a simple impossibility, and to convert a professedly moral
and spiritual institute into an engine of political agitation; it would
have afforded the indignant governments of the world--quite prompt enough
to charge it with seditious tendencies--a plausible pretext for its
suppression. Both the primary and the secondary objects would have been
sacrificed; and the chains of slavery riveted, not relaxed. Slavery,
in that age, we must recollect, was interwoven with the entire fabric of
society in almost all nations. To denounce it would have been a
provocation, nay, a challenge, to a servile war in every country to
which the zeal of the Christian emissaries might carry the Gospel.
Contenting themselves, therefore, with the enunciation of those
principles which, where they are truly embraced, are inconsistent
with the permanent existence of slavery, and, if triumphant, insure
its downfall, the Apostles pursued that which was their great object;
and for those of an inferior order, patiently waited for the time
when the seed they had sown broadcast in the earth should
yield its harvest.

And surely the event has justified their sagacity. For to what, after
all, have just notions on this most important subject been owing,
except to this said Christianity? Though it is true that, owing to the
imperfect exemplification of its principles by men who profess it, it
has not yet done its work, it is doing it; though some Christian
nations--more shame for them--have slaves, none but Christian nations
are without them. Not only is the sincere admission of the maxims and
principles of the New Testament inconsistent with the permanent
existence of slavery, but the history of Christianity affords perpetual
illustrations of its tendency to destroy it. Even during the Dark Ages,
even in its most corrupted form, Christianity wrought for the practical
extinction of serfdom. Mr. Newman says that it was Christians, not men,
that the church sought to enfranchise; it little matters; she sought
to abolish all villanage. He says that even Mahometans do not like to
enslave Mahometans; I ask, can he find immense bodies of Mahometans
who contend that it is Contrary to the spirit, tendencies, and maxims,
if not precise letter, of their religion, to enslave any body? For it
was such a principle which expressly called forth the abhorrence and
condemnation of slavery in our own age and nation. It cannot be denied
that the movement by which this accursed system was, after so long a
struggle, exterminated amongst us, was an eminently religious one, as
regards its main supporters, the ground they took, and the
sacrifices they made.

"But Christian nations have defended and practised slavery!" you will say.

They have; and Christian nations have often practised the vices which
the "Book" expressly condemns,--just as all nations have practised many
things which their codes of morals or laws condemn. The question is
whether in the one case the Book, or in the other case the codes,
approve them; not, I presume, whether man is a very inconsistent animal.
But no system is made answerable for the violations of its spirit--except
Christianity.

Mr. Newman says that slaveholders make the "New Testament the
stronghold of the accursed system." It had been more to the purpose
if he had pointed out a passage or two which recommend it. He knows
that it is simply because it does not (for reasons already stated)
denounce it, that they say it approves it. Are you satisfied with
this reasoning? Then try it on another case,--for despotism is exactly
parallel. The New Testament does not expressly denounce that, and
for the same reasons; and the arguments for passive obedience have
been with equal plausibility drawn from its pages. Will the
Transatlantic republicans approve despotism on the same authority?
--Despotism has wrought at least as much misery to mankind as slavery,
and probably much more. Was it a duty of the Apostles, instead of laying
down principles which, though having another object, would infallibly
undermine it, to denounce despotism everywhere, and invite all people
to an insurrection against their rulers? If they had, the spiritual
objects of the Gospel would have been easily understood, and very
properly treated. Let me apply the argumentum ad hominem. Mr. Newman
has favored the world with his views of religious truth, and the
"spiritual" weapons by which its "champion" is to make it victorious
over mankind; he has also recorded his hatred of slavery and despotism,
where such magnanimity is perfectly safe, and perfectly superfluous.
Let me now suppose you, not only partly, but wholly of his mind, and
animated (if "spiritualism" will ever prompt men to do any thing,
except, as Harrington says, to write books against book-revelation),
--let me suppose you animated to go as missionary to the East to
preach this spiritual system: would you, in addition to all the rest,
publicly denounce the social and political evils under which the
nations groan? If so, your spiritual projects would soon be perfectly
understood, and summarily dealt with. It is in vain to say that, if
commissioned by Heaven, and endowed with power of working miracles,
you would do so; for you cannot tell under what limitations your
commission would be given; it is pretty certain that it would leave you
to work a moral and spiritual system by moral and spiritual means, and
not allow you to turn the world upside down, nor mendaciously tell it
that you came only to "preach peace," while every syllable you uttered
would be an incentive to sedition.

III. The last point on which you ask a few remarks is in relation to
the early spread of Christianity. Mr. Newman makes easy work of this
great problem. He says, "Before Constantine, Christians were but a
small fraction of the empire ..... In fact, it was the Christian
soldiers in Constanline's army who conquered the empire for
Christianity." (Phases, p. 162.)

In the first place, supposing the facts just as stated.--namely, that
it was the Christian soldiers of Constantine who conquered the empire
for Christianity,--who was it that conquered the army for Christianity?
When I find Mahometanism the prevalent religion through the English
regiments, I shall shrewdly suspect that the conquest of England for
Mahometanism will have been made an easy task, by its having already
made equal progress amongst the people generally!

I suppose it will not be denied that the soldiers, by whose aid
Constantine achieved this great victory, were themselves professedly
converts to Christianity; and Christianity as it had existed in the
times of the recent persecutions was not likely to allure men to the
profession of arms. I think, therefore, we may fairly assume, that,
if the imperial armies were to any considerable extent--and it must
have been ex hypothesi to a prevailing extent--composed of Christians,
Christianity had made at least equal progress in the ranks of civil
life. The one may be taken as the measure of the other; though we might
fairly suppose, both from the principles and habits of the Christians,
that they would be found in civil life in a larger ratio. The camp was
not precisely the place for them; the Gospel might find them there, it
rarely sent them. So that the question returns, How came it to pass
that the bulk of the armies which "conquered the empire for Christianity"
came to be Christians,--at least in name and profession?

"Ah!" you will say, "in name,--but they were strange Christians who
became soldiers." Very true; and it makes my argument the stronger. Mere
professors of a religious system only follow in the wake of its triumphs.
When those who do not care much for a system profess and embrace it,
depend upon it, it has largely triumphed. To suppose, therefore, that
Constantine conquered the empire for Christianity, while we admit that
the army was already Christian, is very like getting rid of the objection
in the way the Irishman proposed to get rid of some superfluous cart-loads
of earth. "Let us dig a hole," said he, "and put it in." It is much the
same here.

Constantine became a convert, perhaps from conviction, but certainly
rather late. Supposing him a political convert, as many have done, it
could only be because he saw that Christianity had done its work to
such an extent as to render it more probable that it would assist him
than that he could assist it. This induced him to take it under the wing
of his patronage. And on such a theory, what but such a conviction could
have justified him in the attempt for a moment? How could he be fool
enough to add to the difficulties of his position--a candidate for
empire--the stupendous difficulty of forcing upon his unwilling or
indifferent subjects a religion which by supposition they were any
thing but prepared to receive? If the prospects of Christianity had not
already decided the question for him, so far from receiving credit for
political sagacity, as he ever has done, he would deserve rather to be
considered an absolute idiot!

Again; is it not plain from history in general, and must we not infer
it from the nature of the case a priori, that Christianity must in some
fashion have conquered its millions before Constantine or any other
man was likely to attempt to conquer the empire for Christianity, or
to succeed in so doing if he had? Is there an instance on record of a
people suddenly, at a moment's notice, changing its religion, or
rather--for this is the true representation--of many different
nations changing their many different religions at the simple command
of their sovereign, and he too an upstart? In two cases, and in only
two, it may be done; first, by an unsparing use of the sword, the brief,
simple alternative of Mahomet, Death or the Koran; the other, when the
new form of belief has converted the bulk or a large portion of the
nation; of which, in this case, the conversion of the army is a
tolerably significant indication.

But again; if it be said that the people, or rather the many different
nations, abandoned their religions out of complaisance to their
sovereign, I answer, Why do we not see the same thing repeated when
Julian wished to reverse the experiment? They were not so pliant
then; then was it seen very dearly that the people were, as in
every other case, unwilling, as regards their religion, to be mere
puppets in the hands of their governors. He was animated by at least
as strong a hatred of Christianity as Constantine by a love of it.
Yet we see all the way through, that there was not a chance of
success for him.

"But there were some persecutions," you will say, "by Constantine."
True, but they were so trifling compared with what would have been
required had the conversion of an unbelieving and refractory empire
depended on such means, that few who read the history of religious
revolutions will believe that they were the cause of the change. Every
thing shows that a vast preceding moral revolution in the empire is
the only sufficient explanation of so sudden an event. Gibbon himself
admits Constantine's tolerant disposition.

"But," it may be said, "the old heathenism was worn out and effete;
no one thought it worth his while to stand up in its defence."

I answer, first, it seems to have been sufficiently loved, or at
least Christianity was sufficiently hated, to insure frequent and
sanguinary persecutions of the latter, almost up to the eve of
Constantine's accession. Secondly, you are to consider that, though
in the schools of philosophers, in the Epicurean or sceptical
atmosphere of the luxurious capital and other great cities, there was
unquestionably a numerous party to whom the old superstition was a
laughing-stock, there were vast multitudes to whom it was still, in
its various forms, a thing of power. You are to recollect that the
Roman empire was made up of many nations, each with a different mode
of religion, and to suppose that these different religions had ceased
to exercise the usual influence on vast multitudes of the people would
be mere delusion. If they were surrendered at last so easily, it could
only be because a great party--antagonistic to each--had been silently
forming in each nation, and undermining the power of the popular
superstitions. But, thirdly, if the representation were true, to
what can so singular a phenomenon--this simultaneous decay of different
religions, this epidemic pestilence amongst the gods of the Pantheon
--be ascribed, but to the previous influence of Christianity, and its
extensive conquests? And, fourthly, supposing this not the case, and
yet that the indifference in question existed, this indifference to
the old systems of religion would not presuppose equal indifference
to new, or induce the people to embrace them at the mere bidding of
their new master. If this were so, we ought to see the same phenomenon
repeated in the case of Julian. If, in their presumed indifference to
the old and the new, they listened to Constantine when he commanded
them to become Christians, why did not they manifest an equally
compliant temper when the Apostate enjoined them to become heathens,
and like Constantine, gave them both precept and example?

But look at the historic evidence on the subject long before the
establishment of Christianity. Is it possible for any candid person to
read the Epistle of Pliny to Trajan, and not see in that alone, after
making every deduction for any supposed bias under which the letter may
have been written (though, in fact, it is difficult to suppose any
bias that would not rather lead the writer to diminish the number of
the Christians than to exaggerate it),--is it possible, I say, to read
that singular state paper, and not feel that the new religion had
made prodigious progress in that remote province? and that, a fortiori,
if in Bithynia it had conquered its thousands of proselytes, in other
and more favored provinces it must have gained its tens of thousands?
To me the letter of Pliny speaks volumes; and if so much could be said
at so early a period as A. D. 107, what was the state of things two
centuries later?

Precisely the same conclusion must be arrived at if we consult the
uniform tone of the Christian apologists, from Justin Martyr to Minucius
Felix. Making here, again, what deductions you please for the fervid
eloquence and rhetorical exaggerations of such a man as Tertullian, it
is too much to suppose even his "African" impetuosity would have
ventured, not merely on the virulent invective, the bold taunts, with
which he everywhere assails the popular superstitions, but on such
strong assertions of the triumphant progress of the upstart religion,
unless there had been obvious approximation to truth in his statements.
"We were but of yesterday," says he, "and we have filled your cities,
islands, towns, and assemblies; the camp, the senate, the palace, and
the forum swarm with converts to Christianity." Apologist for
Christianity! Unless these words had been enforced by very much of
truth, he would have made Christianity simply ridiculous; and
Christians would have been necessitated to apologize for
their mad apologist.

The same conclusion equally follows from the consideration of those
very corruptions of Christianity, which no candid student of
ecclesiastical history will be slow to admit had already infected
it, many years before Constantine ventured to aid it by his equivocal
patronage. It was obviously its triumphant progress,--its attraction
to itself of much wealth,--the accession, to a considerable extent,
of fashion, rank, and power,--that chiefly caused those corruptions.
So long as the Christian Church was poor and despised, such scenes
as often attended the election of bishops in the great cities of the
empire would be quite impossible.

Under such circumstances the argument of Mr. Newman--judiciously
compressed into a few sentences--appears to me even ludicrous. How
different the course which Gibbon pursues! What a pity that the
great historian did not perceive that this statement would have led
him equally well to his desired end; that so brief a demonstration
would suffice to account for that unmanageable phenomenon, the rapid
progress and ultimate triumph of Christianity! He, on the contrary,
seems to have read history with very different eyes; and yet I suppose
no man will question either his learning or his sagacity. He finds
himself obliged to admit the conspicuous advance which the Gospel had
made before Constantine's accession, and employs every nerve to invent
sufficient natural causes to account for it. What a facile task would
he have had of it, if he had but bethought him that Christianity,
instead of having been to an enormous extent successful was, in
fact, waiting, in comparative failure, the triumphant aid of a
military conqueror! He might then have dispensed with the celebrated
chapter, and substituted for it the two pregnant sentences by which
Mr. Newmen has, in effect, declared it superfluous.
____

August 7. Three days ago (the evening before my return home) I managed
to prevail upon myself to have a close and formal discussion with
Harrington on the subject of his scepticism. We had a regular fight,
which lasted till midnight, and beyond. A good deal of it was (in a
double sense, perhaps) a nuktomachia. As I had no one to jot down
short-hand notes of our controversy,--perhaps it is as well for me and
for truth that there was none,--it is impossible that I should do more
than give you a succinct summary of its course. But its principal
topics are too indelibly impressed on my memory to leave me in doubt
about general accuracy.

I hardly know what led to it; I believe, however, it was an observation
he made on the different fates of metaphysical and physical science,--the
last all progress, and the first perpetual uncertainty. He had been
reading a remark of some philosopher who attributed this difference to
the more substantial incentives offered to the cultivation of the
physical sciences. "So that," said he, "they are, it seems, what our
German friends would call 'Brodwissenschaften'! Not the brain, as some
idly suppose, but the stomach, is the true organon of discovery, and
if the metaphysician could but be punctually assured of his dinner
(which has not always been the case), or at all events of a fortune,
we should soon have the true theories of the Sublime and
Beautiful,--of Ethics,--of the Infinite,--of the Absolute,--of Mind
and Matter,--of Liberty and Necessity; whereas I think we should
only have a multiplication of doubtful theories."

He remarked that he doubted the truth of the hypothesis in both its
parts; that not the want of adequate motives, but the intrinsic
difficulty of the subjects, had kept metaphysics back (on what
subjects had men expended more gigantic toil?); nor, on the other
hand, was it necessity that chiefly impelled man to cultivate physical
science; it was the desire of knowledge,--or rather, he added, the
love of truth; for what else was his admitted curiosity, in the last
resort, unless man is equally curious about falsehood and truth; "that
is," said he, laughing, "as curious after ignorance as after knowledge!
No," he continued, "the sciences are made arts for utilitarian purposes;
but the sciences themselves have a very different origin. For my own
part, I would as soon believe that Sir Isaac Newton excogitated his
system of the universe in hopes of being made one day Master of the
Mint." I assented, and, smiling, told him I was glad to find him admit
that there was in man a love of knowledge, identical with the love of
truth. He said he admitted the appetite, but denied that there was
always an adequate supply of food. He admitted that in physical science
man seemed capable of unlimited progress; but it seemed doubtful whether
this was the case in other directions. "What was there inconsistent
with scepticism in that?" he asked.

I answered, that it was not for me to say at what point of the scale
a man might become an orthodox doubter; but I was, at all events,
glad that he had not gone all the lengths which some had gone, or
professed to have gone; who, if they had not reached that climax
of Pyrrhonism, to doubt even if they doubt, yet had declared the
attainment of all truth impossible. I then bantered him a little
on the advantages of "absolute scepticism"; told him I wondered that
he should throw them away; and reminded him of the success with
which the sceptic might train on his adversary into the "bosky depths"
of German metaphysics,--the theories of Schelling, Fichte, Hegel. "If
truth be in any of those dusky labyrinths," said I, "you are not
compelled to find her; the more unintelligible the discussion becomes,
the better for the sceptic; you may not only doubt, but doubt whether
you even understand your doubts. You may play 'hide and seek' there
for ten thousand years." "For all eternity," was his reply. But he
said he had no wish to seek any such covert, nor to play the sceptic.

I told him I was glad to find that his scepticism did not--to use
Burke's expression on another subject--"go down to the foundations."
He answered that he was afraid it did on all subjects really of any
significance to man. "As to the present life," he continued, "I am
quite willing to accept Bayle's dictum: 'Les Sceptiques ne nioient
pas qu'il ne se fallut conformer aux coutumes de son pays, et
pratiquer des devoirs de la morale, et prendre parti en ces choses
la sur des probabilites, sans attendre la certitude.'"

I was not sorry that he took Bayle's limits of scepticism rather than
Hume's: I told him so.

Hume, he said, was evidently playing with scepticism; for himself, he
had no heart to jest upon the subject. The Scotch sceptic acknowledged
that the metaphysical riddles of his "absolute scepticism" exercised,
and ought to exercise, no practical influence on himself or any man;
that the moment he quitted them, and entered into society, "they
appeared to him so frigid and unnatural" that he could not get himself
to interest himself about them any further; that a dinner with a
friend, or a game at backgammon, put them all to flight, and restored
him to the undoubting belief of all the maxims which his meditative
hours had stripped him of. It was natural, Harrington said; for such
scepticism was impossible. He added, however, that, had Hume been
honest, he would never have employed his subtilty in the one-sided way
he did; "for," said he, "if his principles be true, they tell just as
much against those who deny any religious dogmas as against those who
maintain them. Yet everywhere in relation to religion--take the question
of miracles, for example--he argues not as a sceptic at all, but as a
dogmatist, only on the negative side. If his doctrine of 'Ideas' and
of 'Causation' be true, he ought to have maintained that; for any thing
we know, miracles may have occurred a thousand times, and may as often
occur again. Hume," he said, "was amusing himself; but I am not: nor
can any one really feel--many pretend to do so without feeling at
all--the pressure of such doubts as envelop me, and be content to
amuse themselves with them."

I found it very difficult to attack him in the intrenchments he had
thrown up. I thought I would just try for a moment to act on the
Spiritualist's advice, and, throwing aside all "intellectual and
logical processes," all appeals to the "critical faculties," advance
"lightly equipped as Priestley himself," making my appeal to the
"spiritual faculty." I cannot say that the result was at all what
"spiritualism" promises. On the contrary, Harrington parried all such
appeals in a twinkling. He said he did not admit that he had any
"spiritual faculty" which acted in isolation from the intellect;
that religious faith must be founded on religious truth, and even
quasi-religious faith on quasi-religious truth. That the intellect
and the moral and spiritual faculties (if he had any) acted together,
since he felt that he was indivisible, and that the former man
be satisfied as well as the latter; that it was so with all
his faculties, none of which acted in isolation; that however
hunger might prompt to food, he never took what his senses of sight
and touch told him was sand or gravel; that if he indulged love, or
pity, or anger, it was only as the senses and the imagination and
the understanding were busied with objects adequate to elicit them;
that if beautiful poetry excited emotion, it was only as he understood
the meaning and connection of the words. "And what else are you doing
now, while urging me to realize by direct 'insight,' by 'gazing' on
'spiritual truth,' and so forth, the things you wish me to realize,
--I say what are you doing but appealing to me, through these same
media of the senses and the imagination, by rhetoric and logic? How
else can you gain any access to my supposed 'spiritual faculties'?"
I replied, that even the spiritualist did that,--he endeavored to
convince men, I supposed. "Yes," he replied, laughing, "because he
is privileged doubly to abuse logic at one and the same time; to
abuse it in one sense as a fallacious instrument of religious conviction
in the hands of others, and to abuse it in another sense, as an
instrument of fallacious conviction in his own. But you are not so
privileged."

Harrington insisted on the fact, that the whole thing was a delusion;
I might appeal, he said, if I thought proper, to any faculties, or
rudiments of faculties, he possessed, spiritual or otherwise; but he
really could not pretend even to comprehend one syllable I said, if
I denied him the use of his understanding. I might as well, and for
the same reasons, appeal to him without the intervention of his senses,
--for his "soul" could not be more different from his "intellect" than
from them. "Besides," he continued, "I know you do not imagine that any
spiritual faculty acts thus independently of the intellect; and
therefore you are only mocking me."

I thought it best to cut my cable and leave this unsafe anchorage.

I told him that, as he doubted whether man had any distinctly marked
religious and spiritual faculties, while I affirmed that he had,
--although he was quite right in supposing that I did not believe that
they acted except in close conjunction with the intellect,--it made
it difficult to hold any discourse with him. Doubting the Bible, he had
also learned to doubt that doctrine of human depravity, which he once
thought harmonized--and I still thought did alone harmonize--the great
facts of man's essentially religious constitution and his eternally
varied and most egregiously corrupt religious development.

However, I told him that, even in the concession of the probable as a
sufficient rule of conduct in this life, he had granted enough to
condemn utterly his sceptical position.

He now looked sincerely interested. "Let me," said I, "ask you a few
questions." He glanced towards me an arch look. "What!" he said, "you
wish to get the Socratic weather-gage of me, do you? You forget, my dear
uncle, that you introduced me to the Platonic dialectics."

"Heaven forgive you," said I, "for the thought. You know I make little
pretension to your favorite erotetic method: and if I did, oh! do you not
know, Harrington, my son, that, if I could but convince you on this
one subject, I would consent to be confuted by you on every other every
day in the year?--nay, to be trampled under your feet?" I added, with a
faltering voice. "And, besides that, do you not know that there can be
no rivalry between father and son; that it is the only human affection
which forbids it; that pride, and not envy, swells a father's heart, when
he finds himself outdone?"

He was not unmoved; told me he knew that I loved him well, and desired
me to ask any questions I pleased.

He saw how gratified his affection made me feel. I said, gayly, "Well,
then, let me ask (as our old friend with the queer face might have said),
Do you not grant there is such a thing as prudence?"

"I do," he said.

"But to be prudent is, I think, to do that which is most likely to
promote our happiness."

"That which seems most likely, for I do not admit that we know what will."

"That which seems, then, for it is of no consequence."

"Of no consequence! surely there is a little difference between being
and seeming to be."

"All the difference in the world," I replied, "but not in relation to
our choice of conduct, We choose, if prudent, that conduct which, on
the whole, deliberately seems most likely to promote our happiness, and,
as far as that goes, what seems is."

"I grant it; and that probabilities are the measure of it,"
said Harrington.

"You are of Bayle's opinion, that there is in relation to the present
life a probable prudent, and that it would be gross folly to neglect it?"

"Certainly."

"And in proportion as the interest was greater, and extended over a longer
time, you would be content with less and less probabilities to justify
action?"

"I freely grant I should."

"If now a servant came into the room to say that he feared your
farm-house at King's O--- was on fire, though you might think it but
faintly probable, you would not think it prudent to neglect the
information?"

"I certainly should not."

"And if you were immortal here on earth, and the neglect of some probably,
or (we will say) only possibly, true information in relation to some
vital interest might affect it through that whole immortality, you
would consider it prudent to act on almost no probability at all, on the
very faintest presumption of the truth?"

"I must in honesty agree with you so far."

"What does your scepticism promise you, if it be well founded?
Much happiness?"

"To me none; rather the contrary; and to none, I think, can it promise
much."

"And if Christianity be true,--for I speak only of that,--I know there
is not in your estimate any other religion that comes into competition
with it--immortal felicity, immortal misery, depends on it?"

"Yes; it cannot be denied."

"You admit that scepticism may be false, even though it has a
thousand to one in its favor; for by its very principles you know
nothing, and can know nothing, on the subjects to which its doubts
extend?"

"I acknowledge it."

"And Christianity may be true by the very same reasoning, though
the chances be only as one to a thousand?"

"It is so."

"Then by your own confession you are not prudent, for you do not act
in relation to Christianity on the principles on which you say you
act in the affairs of the present life; where you acknowledge that
the least presumption will move you, when the interests are
sufficiently permanent and great."

He told me, with a smile, I might have arrived at the same conclusion
without any argument; for he was willing to acknowledge in general
that he was not prudent, and in relation to this very subject should
always admit, with Byron, that the sincere Christian had an undeniable
advantage over both the infidel and the sceptic; "since," he added,
putting the admission into a very concise form, "their best is
his worst."

"Very well," said I, "Harrington, only remember that your imprudence is
none the less for your admission of it."

"None in the world," he admitted; but be contended there was a flaw
in the argument; for that it was impossible to accept any religion
on merely prudential grounds. And he then went on, in his curious
way, to lament that an unreasonable candor prevented him from here
taking advantage of an ingenious argument adopted by some of the
modern "spiritualists" in reasoning on the probabilities of a
"future life." They contend that it is necessary to insulate the soul
(if it would discover "spiritual truth") from all bias of self-
interest,--from all oblique glances at prospective advantage; in
fact, that only he is fully equipped for discovering "spiritual truth"
who is disinterestedly indifferent as to whether it be discovered or
not. Harrington said he could not pretend that even the sceptic was
so favorably circumstanced as that. "For my part," he said, "I cannot
honestly adopt this view, and always think it prudent to accept as
large an armful of happiness as I can grasp, when truth and duty do
not come in the way."

"And in the name of common sense," I said, "what truth and duty are
to stand in your way? Is not your truth, that there is none?"

"Yes," he replied, smiling; "but is not the truth the truth, as
Falstaff said? though to be sure it was when he was manufacturing his
eleven men in buckram out of two. However, as Mr. Newman, when some
one foretold that he would be some day a Socinian or an infidel, replied,
'Well, if Socinianism or any thing else be the truth, Socinians or
any thing else let us be'; so I must say, if no truth be the truth,
no-truth men let us be."

"Very well," I replied. "Then, it seems, truth stands in the way of
acting prudently; and, instead of remedying our first paradox, we
have started on another, that truth and prudence are here opposed:
for in no other cases (I think) in which you apply your own rule of
the probable to the present life will a mind of your comprehensiveness
say they are opposed; I am sure you will admit the general maxims,
that to lie is inexpedient, and that honesty is the best policy,
and so on."

He granted it.

"But further," said I, "what sort of truth is this, which involves
duty, and yet is opposed to prudence? It is, that there is no truth,
it seems, and this completes the paradox. This strange truth--the
Alpha Omega of the sceptic, his first and his last--is to involve
duty; he is to be a confessor and martyr for it! Nothing less than
happiness and prudence are to be sacrificed to conscience in the matter.
Truly, if the truth that there is no truth involves any duty, it ought
to be the duty of believing that there is no duty to be performed; and
you might as well call yourself a no-duty man as a no-truth man."

He smiled, but replied, that, seriously, it was impossible to adopt
any religious opinions, or to change them, at the bidding of the will.

I admitted, of course, that the will had no direct power in the matter;
but reminded him that, if he meant it had no influence, or even a little,
on the formation or retention of opinions, no one could be a more
strenuous assertor of the contrary than he had often been. I reminded
him it was so notorious that man usually managed to believe as he wished,
that was no one maxim more frequently on the lips of the greatest
philosophers, orators, and poets. But I added that there is also a
legitimate way of influencing will, and that is through the understanding;
and was with the hope of inducing him to reconsider the paradoxes of
scepticism, and not with any expectation of instant or violent change,
that I was anxious to enumerate them on the present occasion.

It is impossible for me to recollect exactly the course
of the long conversation that ensued; suffice it to say, that he
willingly granted many other paradoxes, some of them so readily, as
to confirm the suspicion I had sometimes felt, that he must often
have doubted the validity of his doubts. He admitted, for example,
that since men in general (whether from the possession of a distinct
religious faculty, though it might be corrupt and depraved, or a
mere rudimentary tendency to religion) had adapted some religion,
religious scepticism, in an intelligible sense, was opposed to nature;
--that it was equally opposed to nature, inasmuch as the general
constitution of man sought and loved certainty, or supposed certainty,
and found a state of perpetual doubt intolerable; and that if this be
attributed to a tendency to dogmatism, that is the very tendency of
nature which is affirmed;--that it is opposed to nature again in this
way, that whereas restlessness and agitation of mind are usually, at
all events, warnings to seek relief, scepticism produces these as its
pure and proper result;--that since, by the confession of every mind
worthy of respect, the great doctrines of religion, if not true, are
such that we cannot but wish they were; since, by his own confession,
scepticism has nothing to allure in it, and rather causes misery than
happiness; and since, by his confession and that of every one else, men
in general easily believe as they wish, it is an unaccountable paradox,
that any one should remain a sceptic for a day, except, indeed, from a
guilty fear of the truth;--that, since scepticism tends to misery, it
is better not to know its truth, and that therefore ignorance is better
than knowledge;--that, if Christianity be an illusion, it, at all events,
tends to make men happier than the truth of scepticism, and that therefore
error is better than truth;--that religious scepticism is open to the
same objection as scepticism absolute; for whereas the last is taunted
with trusting to reason to prove that reason can in nothing be trusted,
religious scepticism is chargeable with declaring the certainty of all
uncertainty, and, while proclaiming: that there is nothing true, avowing
that that is truth and lastly, that if, in consistency, it leaves
even that uncertainty uncertain, it arrives at a  conclusion which
everlastingly remits us to renewed investigation!

"But," said he, "the sceptic does affirm the certainty of all
uncertainty. That is precisely my state of mind, even in relation
to Christianity. Both its truth and falsehood are--uncertain."

"Then," said I, "I must not say you reject Christianity, but only
that you do not receive it?

"Precisely so," said he, with a smile and a blush at the same time.
I was much amused with this logical ceremoniousness, by which a man
is not to say that he rejects any thing so conditioned, but only
that he does not receive it. I told him I imagined they came to
much the same thing.

"It is impossible," said he, after a pause, "to affirm any thing on
these subjects."

"It is equally impossible?" said I, "to affirm nothing; on the
contrary, you sceptics have two conclusions, though in a negative
form, for every body else's one,--together with the pleasant addition,
that they are contraries to one another; and as Pascal said that the
man who attempted to be neuter between the sceptic and dogmatist was
a sceptic par excellence, so the genuine sceptic may be called a
dogmatist par excellence."

"For my part," said he, smiling sadly, "I hardly think it is very
difficult either to believe nothing or every thing. Fellowes, you see,
has believed everything, and now he is in a fair way to believe nothing.
However, all I mean is, that the evidence on these subjects reduces
one to a state of complete mental suspense, in which it is equally
unreasonable to say that we believe, as to say that we believe not.
However, I grant you most of the paradoxes you mention; but a sceptic
is not to be startled by paradoxes, I trow; alas! they prove nothing."

"Prove nothing! nay, I think you do your system injustice; I think it
is entitled to the distinction of making great discoveries. You confess
that the only truth on these subjects is, that there is no truth; that
to act on this truth necessitates a conduct opposed to nature, to
prudence, to happiness; that it is a knowledge worse than ignorance;
that it is a truth that is worse than error; that it never did, will,
or can be embraced by many, and that it makes the few who embrace it
miserable; you admit further, with me, that men generally believe as
they wish. Why, then, do you not fly from so hideous a monster, on
the very ground (only in this case it is stronger) on which you doubt
all religious systems,--that is, on account of the supposed paradoxes
they involve? It may be but a little argument with you, who seem to
demand demonstration of religious truth; but for myself, I feel that,
whatever be the truth, such a chimera as scepticism, bristling all
over with paradoxes, must be--a lie."

"Well," he replied, "but then which religion is the true?"

"Nay," I said, "that is an after consideration; if you can but be
brought to believe that any is true, I know you will believe but one."

"You touched just now," he replied, "on the very difficulty. I shall
believe as soon as any one gives me what you truly say I ask,--
demonstration of the truth of some one of the thousand and one religious
systems which men have believed."

"And that, demonstration," said I, "you cannot have; for God has not
granted demonstration to man on that or any other subject in which
duty is involved."

"But why might I not have had it? and should I not have had it, if it
had been incumbent on me to believe it?"

We had now come to the very knot of the whole argument.

"Incumbent on you to believe! I suppose you mean, if there had been
any system which you could not but believe; which you must believe
whether you would or not. No doubt, in that case, the requisite
evidence would have been such that scepticism would have been
impossible; that word 'incumbent' implies duty; and that word duty
is the key to the whole mystery, for it implies the possibility of
resisting its claims. We do not speak of its being incumbent on a man
to run out of a burning house, or to swim, if he can, when thrown
into deep water. He cannot help it. If there be a Supreme Ruler of the
universe, and if the posture of his intelligent creatures be that of
submissive obedience to him, it is inconceivable that a man can ever
have experience of his being willing to perform that duty with the
sort of demonstration which you demand; and, for aught we know, it
may be impossible, constituted as we are, that we should ever be
actually trained to that duty, except in the midst of very much less
than certainty. Now, if this be so,--and I defy you or any man to
prove that it may not be so,--then we are asking a simple impossibility
when we ask that we may be freed from these conditions; for it is
asking that we may perform our duty, under circumstances which shall
render all duty impossible." I pursued this subject at some length,
and reminded him that the supposed law of our religious condition was
throughout in analogy with that of the entire condition of our present
life, and in conformity with his own rule of the probable; that it is
probable evidence only that is given to man in either case, and
"probable evidence," as Bishop Butler says, "often of even wretchedly
insufficient character." Nature, or rather God himself, everywhere
cries aloud to us, "O mortals! certainty, demonstration, infallibility,
are not for you, and shall not be given to you; for there must be a sphere
for faith, hope, sincerity, diligence, patience." And as if to prove to
us, not only that this evidence is what we must trust to, but that we
safely may, He impels us by strong necessities of our lower nature
operating on the higher (which would otherwise, perhaps, plead for the
sceptic's inaction in relation to this as well as to another world)
to play our part; if we stand shivering on the brink of action,
necessity plunges us headlong in; if we fear to hoist the sail, the
strength of the current of life snaps our moorings, and compels us to
drive. I reminded him, that the general result also shows that, as man
must, so he may, can, will, shall, (and so through all the moods and
tenses of contingency,) do well; that faith in that same sort of evidence
which the sceptic rejects when urged in behalf of religion, prompts the
farmer to cast in his seed, though he can command no blink of sunshine,
nor a drop of rain; the merchant to commit his treasures to the deep,
though they may all go to the bottom, and sometimes do; the physician
to essay the cure of his patient, though often half in doubt whether
his remedy will kill or save. "It is," said I, "in that same faith
that we build, and plant, and lay our little plans each day; sometimes
coming to nothing, but generally, and according to the fidelity and
manliness with which we have conducted ourselves, securing more than
a return for the moral capital embarked; and even where this is not
the case, issuing, when there have been the qualities which would
naturally secure success, a vigor and robustness of character,
which, like the rude health glowing in the weather-beaten mariner,
who has buffeted with wind and wave, are a more precious recompense
than success itself. In these examples God says to us in effect,
'On such evidence you must and shall act,' and shows us that we
safely may. Without promising us absolute success in all our plans,
or absolute truth in the investigation of evidence, he says, in either
case, 'Do your best; be faithful to the light you have, diligent and
conscientious in your investigations of available evidence, great or
little,--act fearlessly on what appears the truth, and leave the
rest to me.'"

Harrington here asked the question I expected:--"But suppose different
men coming (as they do) on religious subjects to different conclusions,
after the diligence and fidelity of which you speak, what then?"

"Then, if the fidelity and diligence have been absolute,--if all has
been done which, under the circumstances, could be done,--I doubt not
they are blameless. But I fear there are very few who can absolutely
say this; and for those who cannot say it at all, their guilt is
proportionate to the demands which the momentous nature of the subject
made on diligence and fidelity."

"I suppose" said he, with some hesitation, "you will not allow that
I have exercised this impartial search; and yet, supposing that I have,
will you not hold me blameless on the very principles now laid down?"

It was a painful question; but I was resolved I would have nothing
to reproach myself with; and therefore answered steadily, that it was
not for me to judge the degree of blame which attached to his present
state of mind, which I trusted was only transient; that the argument
from sincerity was itself only one of the probable things of which we
had been speaking; that, so subtle are the operations of the human mind,
so mysterious the play of the passions and affections, the reason and
conscience, so intimate the connection amongst all our powers and
faculties, that it is one of the most difficult things to be able to
say, with truth, that we are perfectly sincere; that I did not see
any difficulty in believing that there is many a man who, without
hesitation and without any conscious hypocrisy, would avow his
sincerity, who, upon being suffered to look into his own mind through
a moral solar microscope, would see there all sorts of misshapen
monsters, and turn away from the spectacle with disgust and horror;
that such a microscope (to speak in figure) might one day be applied
by that Power to whom only the human heart is fully known. I added,
however, that, if I knew more of his mental history for some years
past, (into which my affection-should never induce me impertinently
to pry,) I might, perhaps, in some measure, account for his scepticism;
that I could even conceive cases of minds so "encompassed with
infirmity," or so dependent on states of health, as to render such a
state involuntary, and therefore to take them out of the sphere of
our argument. But, apart from some such causes, I plainly told him I
could not permit myself to believe that religious scepticism could be
free from heavy blame, if only on the ground that such as feel it do
not act consistently with its maxims in other cases, where the
evidence is of the same dubious nature, or rather is much more dubious.
The parallel case would be, (if we could find it,) of a man whose
interest urgently required him to act one way or the other, and who,
instead of acting accordingly, sat down in absolute inaction, on the
score that he did not know what course to pursue. That indecision
would be always blamable. "Ah!" said I, "those cool heads and skilful
hands which pilot the little bark of their worldly fortunes amidst
such dangerous rocks and breakers, under such dark and stormy skies,
what can they say, if asked why they gave up all thought of religion
on the score of doubt, when its hopes are at least as high as those of
the schemes of earthly success, and its claims at least as strong as
those of present duty? What will they be able to say?

"O Harrington!" I continued, in some such words as these, "supposing
the draught of our present condition not to be such as I have sketched;
that the sceptical view of the gloom in which we are placed is the true
one, and that the Christian's is false; which, nevertheless, is likely
to be not merely the happier, but the nobler being,--he who sits down
in querulous repining or slothful inactivity, as the result of doubt,
or he who, buoyant with faith and hope, encounters the gloom, and,
while longing for the dawn, is confident that it will come? But if
that sketch be a true one,--if the trial of which I have spoken be
necessary for you and for all, to develop and discipline those qualities
which alone will elicit and mature an Immortal Virtue, and secure to us
at last the privilege of indefectible 'children of God,'--then with
what feelings will you hear the Great Master say, 'In every other case
but this, you acted on the principles and maxims by which I taught
you (not obscurely) that I summoned you to act in this case also:
doubts and difficulties were necessary to you as to all, and I
exacted of you no more than were necessary ultimately to secure for
you an eternal exemption from them. But because you could not have
that certainty which the very necessity of the case excluded, you
declined the trial, and have accounted yourself unworthy of eternal
life!' Ah! how different if you could hear him say, 'It was indeed a
temptation; amidst numberless blessings denied to others, I yet
gave you, too, your trial;--the questionable talent of an inquisitive
intellect, and leisure to use or abuse it. Tempted to absolute doubt,
you would not succumb to it; you would not be so inconsistent here
as to relinquish those maxims on which I compelled you to act in
every other case in life, nor deny to ME the confidence which you
granted to every common friend! Warned by the very misery which was
sent to caution you that in that direction lay death, you struggled
against the incursions of your subtle foes, and you overcame. Welcome,
child of clay! welcome to that world in which there is no more NIGHT!'"

We had been talking on till long past midnight; and the lamp suddenly
warned us that its light was just expiring. Harrington took off the
shade, and was about to light a candle by the dying flame, when it
went out. "It matters not," he said, "I have the means of kindling a
light close at hand." "Let it alone," said I, rising, and gently laying
my hand on his arm, and speaking in a low voice, but with much
earnestness; "this darkness is an emblem of our present life. You
cannot see me, but you hear my voice and feel the touch of my hand. For
any thing you know, I may be seized with a sudden fit of insanity. I may
be about to stab you in this darkness; such things have been. You have
lost, with the light, more than half the indications of affection which
that would disclose. But you trust to the probable; your pulse does not
beat any the quicker, nor do your nerves tremble. You may have similar,
nay, how much stronger proofs (if you will) of the confidence with which
you may trust God, and Him, the compassionate One, "whom he hath sent,"
in spite of all the gloom in which this life is involved. That certainty
for which you have just now asked will only be granted when the darkness
is passed away; and then you will 'rejoice in the light of his
countenance.' And, further," I continued, "there is yet one thing which
I wish to say to you; and I feel as if I could say it better in this
darkness; for I will not venture to say that I should not manifest more
feeling than is consistent in a hard-hearted metaphysician. Yes! it
is on the side of feeling that I would also address you. You will say,
feeling is not argument? No; but is man all reason? I firmly believe,
indeed, that man is not called upon to do any thing for which his
reason does not tell him that he has sufficient evidence; but a part
of that very evidence is often the dictate of feeling; and genuine
reason will listen to the heart, as not always, nor perhaps more
frequently than otherwise, a suspicious pleader. If, as Pascal says
so truly, it sometimes has its reasons which the reason cannot
comprehend, it has also its reasons which the reason thoroughly
understands.

"You were early an orphan; you do not remember your mother; but I do;
ah, how well! I saw her the last time she ever saw you. You were
brought to her bedside when she was in the full possession of all
her faculties, and deeply conscious that she had not many hours to
live. She looked at you as you were held in your nurse's arms, smiling
upon her with to me an agonizing unconsciousness of your approaching
orphanage. She gazed upon you with that intense look of inexpressible
affection which only maternal love, sharpened by death, can give; she
looked long and earnestly, but spoke not one syllable. As you were at
length taken from the room, she followed you with her eyes till the
door closed, and then it seemed as if the light of this world had been
quenched in them for ever. 'I charge you,' she said at length, 'let
me see him again.' I made a motion as if to recall the attendant
'Not here,' she added, laying her hand gently on my arm, and I
understood her but too well. You know whether I have in any degree
fulfilled my trust. But is it possible that I can think of an utter
failure, and not be more than troubled? And if Christianity be true,
and if I am so happy as to obtain admission to that 'blessed country
into which an enemy never entered, and from which a friend never went
away,' and she whom I loved so well should ask me why you come
not,--that she had tarried for you long,--must I say that you will
never come? that her child had wandered from the fold of the Good
Shepherd, and had gone I knew not whither? that I sought him in the
lonely glens and mountains, but found him not? I hardly know, but I
almost think--such was the love she had for you--that such reply
would shade that radiant face even amidst the glories of Paradise.
And now--let all this be a dream--suppose that not simply by your
own fault you will never see that mother more, but that from the sad
truth of your no truth--you never can; that the 'Vale, vale, in
aeternum, vale,' is all that you can say to her: yet I say this,--that
to live only in the hope of the possibility of fulfilling the better
wishes of such a friend, and rejoining her for ever in (if you will)
the fabulous 'islands of the blest,' would not only make you a happier,
but even a nobler, being than your present mood can ever make you.
My FABULOUS is better than your TRUE."

I felt that he was not unmoved. I was myself moved too much to allow
me to stay any longer, and saying that I could find my way very well
to my chamber in the dark, where I had the means of kindling a light,
I softly closed the door and left him.
____

As I was to leave very early in the morning, I had told Harrington
that I should depart for the neighboring town (whither his servant
was to drive me) without disturbing him. But I could not tear myself
away, after the singular close of our interview on the last evening,
without a more express farewell. I tapped at his chamber door, but,
receiving no reply, gently entered. He was resting in unquiet slumber.
A table, lamp, and books, by his bedside, bore witness to his
perseverance in that pernicious habit which he had early formed! I
gently drew back one of the curtains, and let in the light of the
summer morning on his pallid, but most speaking features, and gazed
on them with a sad and foreboding feeling. I recalled those days
when I used nightly to visit the slumbers of the little orphan, and
trace in his features the image of his mother. He was not aroused by
my entrance; most likely he had sunk to slumber at a late hour.
Presently he began to talk in his sleep, which was almost a constant
habit in his younger days, and which I used to consider one of the
symptoms of that intense cerebral activity by which he was
distinguished. On the present occasion I thought I could interpret
the fitful and fleeting images which were chasing each other by the
laws of association through his mind. "But how shall I know that
these thing which I call real, are different from the phenomena
of sleep which I call real?" Alas! thought I, the ruling passion
is strong in sleep, as in waking moments! How I dread lest it should
be strong "in death" itself, of which this sleep is the image! After
a pause, an expression of deepest sadness crept over the features,
and he murmured, with a slight alteration, two lines from Coleridge's
translation of that glorious scene in which Wallenstein looks forth
into the windy night in search of his "star," and thinks of that
brighter light of his life which had been just extinguished.
Harrington used to say, that he preferred the translation of that
scene even to the magnificent original itself. These lines, (now a
little varied,) I had often heard him quote with delight:--

"Methinks
If I but saw her, 't would be well with me;
She was the star of my nativity."

Was he, by the magic of dream-land, transported back to childhood? Was
he as an orphan child thinking of his mother, the image of whose dying
hours I had so recently called up before him? Or was it the
recollection of a still brighter and more recently extinguished "star,"
which thus troubled his wandering fancy?--There was another pause, and
again the fitful breeze of association awakened the sad and plaintive
melody of the AEolian lyre; but I could not distinguish the words.

Presently the scene again changed; and he suddenly said, "Beautiful
shadow! if thou art a shadow,--thou hast said, Come to me all ye
that are weary,--and surely if ever man was weary--To whom can I
go--" It was with intense feeling that I watched for something more;
but to my disappointment, (I may almost call it anguish,) he continued
silent. I could not find it in my heart to rouse him, and, softly
leaving the chamber, departed for home.
____

October 31. The young Sceptic has since gone where doubts are solved
for ever; but I am not without hope, that in his last hours he was
able to finish the sentence which his dream-left incomplete. "To
whom can I go, but unto Thee? THOU ONLY HAST THE WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE."
For me, I have nothing more to live for here. In a few weeks I gladly
go to join my brother in his distant exile;--and for Thee, my Country,
"Peace be within thy dwellings, and prosperity within thy palaces!"
And that it may be so, may that Christianity, which, all imperfectly
as it has been exemplified, has yet been thy Palladium and thy Glory,
be ever and increasingly dear to thee!
____

December 27. I have resolved that the fragments which originally
constituted this journal shall not be destroyed. I have employed the
interval since the last date in adapting and disguising them
for publication. How far an embroidery of fiction has been necessary
in attaining this object, is a matter of no consequence to any one;
since the book aspires to none of the appropriate attractions of
either a novel or a history. No doubt a much stronger interest, of
a certain kind, might have been secured by a free employment of
fictitious embellishment, or even by a more liberal indulgence in
biographical details. But I have been content, for a special object,
to do what some tell us is to be done with the Bible,--to separate,
from the mass of incident which might have varied or adorned the
narrative the exclusively "Religious Element." If the discussions
in the preceding pages shall in any instance convince the youthful
reader of the precarious nature of those modern book-revelations
which are somewhat inconsistently given us in books which tell us
that all book-revelations of religious truth are superfluous or
even impossible; if they shall convince him how easily an impartial
doubter can retort with interest the deistical arguments against
Christianity, or how little merely insoluble objections can avail
against any thing; if they shall convince him that the differences
with which the assailants of the Bible taunt its advocates are
neither so numerous nor half so appalling as those which divide
its enemies; or, lastly, if they shall, par avarice, in any degree
protect those who, like Harrington D----, are being made, or are
in danger of being made, sceptical as to all religious truth, by the
religious distractions of the present day,--I shall be well content
to bear the charge of having spoiled a Fiction, or even of having
mutilated a Biography.

F.B.

THE END.





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