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Title: My Path to Atheism
Author: Besant, Annie Wood, 1847-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MY PATH TO ATHEISM

By Annie Besant

[Third Edition]

London:

Freethought Publishing Company,

63, Fleet Street, E.C.

1885.

TO

THOMAS SCOTT,

WHOSE NAME IS HONORED AND REVERED WHEREVER

FREETHOUGHT HAS--

WHOSE WIDE HEART AND GENEROUS KINDNESS WELCOME

ALL FORMS OF THOUGHT, PROVIDED THE THOUGHT

BE EARNEST AND HONEST;

WHO KNOWS NO ORTHODOXY SAVE THAT OF HONESTY, AND

NO RELIGION SAVE THAT OF GOODNESS;

TO WHOM I OWE MOST GRATEFUL THANKS,

AS ONE OF THE EARLIEST OF MY FREETHOUGHT FRIENDS,

AND AS THE FIRST WHO AIDED ME IN MY NEED;--

TO HIM

I DEDICATE THESE PAGES,

KNOWING THAT, ALTHOUGH WE OFTEN DIFFER IN OUR

THOUGHT,

WE ARE ONE

IN OUR DESIRE FOR TRUTH.

ANNIE BESANT.



PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION.

The Essays which form the present book have been written at intervals
during the last five years, and are now issued in a single volume
without alterations of any kind. I have thought it more useful--as
marking the gradual growth of thought--to reprint them as they were
originally published, so as not to allow the later development to mould
the earlier forms. The essay on "Inspiration" is, in part, the oldest
of all; it was partially composed some seven years ago, and re-written
later as it now stands.

The first essay on the "Deity of Jesus of Nazareth" was written just
before I left the Church of England, and marks the point where I broke
finally with Christianity. I thought then, and think still, that to
cling to the name of Christian after one has ceased to be the thing
is neither bold nor straightforward, and surely the name ought, in all
fairness, to belong to those historical bodies who have made it their
own during many hundred years. A Christianity without a Divine Christ
appears to me to resemble a republican army marching under a royal
banner--it misleads both friends and foes. Believing that in giving up
the deity of Christ I renounced Christianity, I place this essay as the
starting-point of my travels outside the Christian pale. The essays
that follow it deal with some of the leading Christian dogmas, and are
printed in the order in which they were written. But in the gradual
thought-development they really precede the essay on the "Deity of
Christ". Most inquirers who begin to study by themselves, before they
have read any heretical works, or heard any heretical controversies,
will have been awakened to thought by the discrepancies and
inconsistencies of the Bible itself. A thorough knowledge of the Bible
is the groundwork of heresy. Many who think they read their Bibles never
read them at all. They go through a chapter every day as a matter of
duty, and forget what is said in Matthew before they read what is said
in John; hence they never mark the contradictions and never see the
discrepancies. But those who _study_ the Bible are in a fair way to
become heretics. It was the careful compilation of a harmony of the
last chapters of the four Gospels--a harmony intended for devotional
use--that gave the first blow to my own faith; although I put the doubt
away and refused even to look at the question again, yet the effect
remained--the tiny seed, which was slowly to germinate and to grow up,
later, into the full-blown flower of Atheism.

The trial of Mr. Charles Voysey for heresy made me remember my own
puzzle, and I gradually grew very uneasy, though trying not to think,
until the almost fatal illness of my little daughter brought a sharper
questioning as to the reason of suffering and the reality of the love of
God. From that time I began to study the doctrines of Christianity from
a critical point of view; hitherto I had confined my theological reading
to devotional and historical treatises, and the only controversies
with which I was familiar were the controversies which had divided
Christians; the writings of the Fathers of the Church and of the modern
school which is founded on them had been carefully studied, and I had
weighed the points of difference between the Greek, Roman, Anglican, and
Lutheran communions, as well as the views of orthodox dissenting schools
of thought; only from Pusey's "Daniel", and Liddon's "Bampton Lectures",
had I gathered anything of wider controversies and issues of more vital
interest. But now all was changed, and it was to the leaders of the
Broad Church school that I first turned in the new path. The shock of
pain had been so! rude when real doubts assailed and shook me, that I
had steadily made up my mind to investigate, one by one, every Christian
dogma, and never again to say "I believe" until I had tested the object
of faith; the dogmas which revolted me most were those of the Atonement
and of Eternal Punishment, while the doctrine of Inspiration of
Scripture underlay everything, and was the very foundation of
Christianity; these, then, were the first that I dropped into the
crucible of investigation. Maurice, Robertson, Stopford Brooke, McLeod,
Campbell, and others, were studied; and while I recognised the charm
of their writings, I failed to find any firm ground whereon they could
rest: it was a many-colored beautiful mist--a cloud landscape, very
fair, but very unsubstantial. Still they served as stepping stones away
from the old hard dogmas, and month by month I grew more sceptical as
to the possibility of finding certainty in religion. Mansel's Bampton
lectures on "The Limits of Religious Thought" did much to increase the
feeling; the works of F. Newman, Arnold, and Greg carried on the
same work; some efforts to understand the creeds of other nations, to
investigate Mahommedanism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, all led in the same
direction, until I concluded that inspiration belonged to all people
alike, and there could be no necessity of atonement, and no eternal
hell prepared for the unbeliever in Christianity. Thus, step by step,
I renounced the dogmas of Christianity until there remained only, as
distinctively Christian, the Deity of Jesus which had not yet been
analysed. The whole tendency of the Broad Church stream of thought was
to increase the manhood at the expense of the deity of Christ; and with
hell and atonement gone, and inspiration everywhere, there appeared
no _raison d'etre_ for the Incarnation. Besides, there were so many
incarnations, and the Buddhist absorption seemed a grander idea. I now
first met with Charles Voysey's works, and those of Theodore Parker and
Channing, and the belief in the Deity of Jesus followed the other dead
creeds. Renan I had read much earlier, but did not care for him; Strauss
I did not meet with until afterwards; Scott's "English Life of Jesus",
which I read at this period, is as useful a book on this subject as
could be put into the hands of an inquirer. From Christianity into
simple Theism I had found my way; step by step the Theism melted into
Atheism; prayer was gradually discontinued, as utterly at variance with
any dignified idea of God, and as in contradiction to all the results
of scientific investigation. I had taken a keen interest in the later
scientific discoveries, and Darwin had done much towards freeing me from
my old bonds. Of John Stuart Mill I had read much, and I now took him up
again; I studied Spinoza, and re-read Mansel, together with many other
writers on the Deity, until the result came which is found in the essay
entitled "The Nature and Existence of God ". It was just before this was
written that I read Charles Bradlaugh's "Plea for Atheism" and his "Is
there a God?". The essay on "Constructive Rationalism" shows how we
replace the old faith and build our house anew with stronger materials.

The path from Christianity to Atheism is a long one, and its first steps
are very rough and very painful; the feet tread on the ruins of the
broken faith, and the sharp edges cut into the bleeding flesh; but
further on the path grows smoother, and presently at its side begins to
peep forth the humble daisy of hope that heralds the spring tide, and
further on the roadside is fragrant with all the flowers of summer,
sweet and brilliant and gorgeous, and in the distance we see the promise
of the autumn, the harvest that shall be reaped for the feeding of man.

Annie Besant. 1878.



ON THE DEITY OF JESUS OF NAZARETH

"WHAT think ye of Christ, whose son is he?" Humane child of human
parents, or divine Son of the Almighty God? When we consider his purity,
his faith in the Father, his forgiving patience, his devoted work
among the offscourings of society, his brotherly love to sinners
and outcasts--when our minds dwell on these alone,--we all feel the
marvellous fascination which has drawn millions to the feet of this
"son of man," and the needle of our faith begins to tremble towards the
Christian pole. If we would keep unsullied the purity of our faith
in God alone, we are obliged to turn our eyes some times--however
unwillingly--towards the other side of the picture and to mark the human
weaknesses which remind us that he is but one of our race. His harshness
to his mother, his bitterness towards some of his opponents, the marked
failure of one or two of his rare prophecies, the palpable limitation of
his knowledge--little enough, indeed, when all are told,--are more
than enough to show us that, however great as man, he is not the
All-righteous, the All-seeing, the All-knowing, God.

No one, however, whom Christian exaggeration has not goaded into unfair
detraction, or who is not blinded by theological hostility, can fail
to revere portions of the character sketched out in the three synoptic
gospels. I shall not dwell here on the Christ of the fourth Evangelist;
we can scarcely trace in that figure the lineaments of the Jesus of
Nazareth whom we have learnt to love.

I propose, in this essay, to examine the claims of Jesus to be more
than the man he appeared to be during his lifetime: claims--be it
noted--which are put forward on his behalf by others rather than by
himself. His own assertions of his divinity are to be found only in the
unreliable fourth gospel, and in it they are destroyed by the sentence
there put into his mouth with strange inconsistency: "If I bear witness
of myself, my witness is not true."

It is evident that by his contemporaries Jesus was not regarded as God
incarnate. The people in general appear to have looked upon him as a
great prophet, and to have often debated among themselves whether he
were their expected Messiah or not. The band of men who accepted him
as their teacher were as far from worshipping him as God as were their
fellow-countrymen: their prompt desertion of him when attacked by his
enemies, their complete hopelessness when they saw him overcome and put
to death, are sufficient proofs that though they regarded him--to quote
their own words--as a "prophet mighty in word and deed," they never
guessed that the teacher they followed, and the friend they lived with
in the intimacy of social life was Almighty God Himself. As has been
well pointed out, if they believed their Master to be God, surely when
they were attacked they would have fled to him for protection, instead
of endeavouring to save themselves by deserting him: we may add that
this would have been their natural instinct, since they could never
have imagined beforehand that the Creator Himself could really be taken
captive by His creatures and suffer death at their hands. The third
class of his contemporaries, the learned Pharisees and Scribes, were as
far from regarding him as divine as were the people or his disciples.
They seem to have viewed the new teacher somewhat contemptuously at
first, as one who unwisely persisted in expounding the highest doctrines
to the many, instead of--a second Hillel--adding to the stores of
their own learned circle. As his influence spread and appeared to be
undermining their own,--still more, when he placed himself in direct
opposition, warning the people against them,--they were roused to a
course of active hostility, and at length determined to save themselves
by destroying him. But all through their passive contempt and direct
antagonism, there is never a trace of their deeming him to be anything
more than a religious enthusiast who finally became dangerous: we never
for a moment see them assuming the manifestly absurd position of men
knowingly measuring their strength against God, and endeavouring to
silence and destroy their Maker. So much for the opinions of those who
had the best opportunities of observing his ordinary life. A "good man,"
a "deceiver," a "mighty prophet," such are the recorded opinions of his
contemporaries: not one is found to step forward and proclaim him to be
Jehovah, the God of Israel.

One of the most trusted strongholds of Christians, in defending their
Lord's Divinity, is the evidence of prophecy. They gather from the
sacred books of the Jewish nation the predictions of the longed-for
Messiah, and claim them as prophecies fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
But there is one stubborn fact which destroys the force of this
argument: the Jews, to whom these writings belong, and who from
tradition and national peculiarities may reasonably be supposed to be
the best exponents of their own prophets, emphatically deny that these
prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus at all. Indeed, one main reason for
their rejection of Jesus is precisely this, that he does not resemble in
any way the predicted Messiah. There is no doubt that the Jewish nation
were eagerly looking for their Deliverer when Jesus was born: these very
longings produced several pseudo-Messiahs, who each gained in turn
a considerable following, because each bore some resemblance to the
expected Prince. Much of the popular rage which swept Jesus to his
death was the re-action of disappointment after the hopes raised by the
position of authority he assumed. The sudden burst of anger against one
so benevolent and inoffensive can only be explained by the intense hopes
excited by his regal entry into Jerusalem, and the utter destruction of
those hopes by his failing to ascend the throne of David. Proclaimed
as David's son, he came riding on an ass as king of Zion, and allowed
himself to be welcomed as the king of Israel: there his short fulfilling
of the prophecies ended, and the people, furious at his failing them,
rose and clamoured for his death. Because he did _not_ fulfil the
ancient Jewish oracles, he died: he was too noble for the _rôle_ laid
down in them for the Messiah, his ideal was far other than that of a
conqueror, with "garments rolled in blood." But even if, against all
evidence, Jesus was one with the Messiah of the prophets, this would
destroy, instead of implying, his Divine claims. For the Jews were pure
monotheists; their Messiah was a prince of David's line, the favoured
servant, the anointed Jehovah, the king who should rule in His name: a
Jew would shrink with horror from the blasphemy of seating Messiah on
Jehovah's throne remembering how their prophets had taught them that
their God "would not give His honour to another." So that, as to
prophecy, the case stands thus: If Jesus be the Messiah prophesied of
in the old Jewish books, then he is not God: if he be not the Messiah,
Jewish prophecy is silent as regards him altogether, and an appeal to
prophecy is absolutely useless.

After the evidence of prophecy Christians generally rely on that
furnished by miracles. It is remarkable that Jesus himself laid but
little stress on his miracles; in fact, he refused to appeal to them
as credentials of his authority, and either could not or would not work
them when met with determined unbelief. We must notice also that the
people, while "glorifying God, who had given such power unto _men_,"
were not inclined to admit his miracles as proofs of his right to claim
absolute obedience: his miracles did not even invest him with such
sacredness as to protect him from arrest and death. Herod, on his trial,
was simply anxious to see him work a miracle, as a matter of curiosity.
This stolid indifference to marvels as attestations of authority is
natural enough, when we remember that Jewish history was crowded with
miracles, wrought for and against the favoured people, and also that
they had been specially warned against being misled by signs and
wonders. Without entering into the question whether miracles are
possible, let us, for argument's sake, take them for granted, and see
what they are worth as proofs of Divinity. If Jesus fed a multitude with
a few loaves, so did Elisha: if he raised the dead, so did Elijah and
Elisha; if he healed lepers, so did Moses and Elisha; if he opened
the eyes of the blind, Elisha smote a whole army with blindness
and afterwards restored their sight: if he cast out devils, his
contemporaries, by his own testimony, did the same. If miracles prove
Deity, what miracle of Jesus can stand comparison with the divided Red
Sea of Moses, the stoppage of the earth's motion by Joshua, the check of
the rushing waters of the Jordan by Elijah's cloak? If we are told that
these men worked by _conferred_ power and Jesus by _inherent_, we can
only answer that this is a gratuitous assumption, and begs the whole
question. The Bible records the miracles in equivalent terms: no
difference is drawn between the manner of working of Elisha or Jesus; of
each it is sometimes said they prayed; of each it is sometimes said
they spake. Miracles indeed must not be relied on as proofs of divinity,
unless believers in them are prepared to pay divine honours not to Jesus
only, but also to a crowd of others, and to build a Christian Pantheon
to the new found gods.

So far we have only seen the insufficiency of the usual Christian
arguments to establish a doctrine so stupendous and so _prima facie_
improbable as the incarnation of the Divine Being: this kind of negative
testimony, this insufficient evidence, is not however the principle
reason which compels Theists to protest against the central dogma of
Christianity. The stronger proofs of the simple manhood of Jesus remain,
and we now proceed to positive evidence of his not being God. I
propose to draw attention to the traces of human infirmity in his noble
character, to his absolute mistakes in prophecy, and to his evidently
limited knowledge. In accepting as substantially true the account
of Jesus given by the evangelists, we are taking his character as
it appeared to his devoted followers. We have not to do with slight
blemishes, inserted by envious detractors of his greatness; the history
of Jesus was written when his disciples worshipped him as God, and his
manhood, in their eyes, reached ideal perfection. We are not forced to
believe that, in the gospels, the life of Jesus is given at its highest,
and that he was, at least, not more spotless than he appears in these
records of his friends. But here again, in order not to do a gross
injustice, we must put aside the fourth gospel; to study his character
"according to S. John" would need a separate essay, so different is
it from that drawn by the three; and by all rules of history we should
judge him by the earlier records, more especially as they corroborate
each other in the main.

The first thing which jars upon an attentive reader of the gospels is
the want of affection and respect shown by Jesus to his mother. When
only a child of twelve he lets his parents leave Jerusalem to return
home, while he repairs alone to the temple. The fascination of the
ancient city and the gorgeous temple services was doubtless almost
overpowering to a thoughtful Jewish boy, more especially on his first
visit: but the careless forgetfulness of his parents' anxiety must be
considered as a grave childish fault, the more so as its character is
darkened by the indifference shown by his answer to his mother's grieved
reproof. That no high, though mistaken, sense of duty kept him in
Jerusalem is evident from his return home with his parents; for had he
felt that "his Father's business" detained him in Jerusalem at all, it
is evident that this sense of duty would not have been satisfied by a
three days' delay. But the Christian advocate would bar criticism by an
appeal to the Deity of Jesus: he asks us therefore to believe that
Jesus, being God, saw with indifference his parents' anguish at
discovering his absence; knew all about that three days' agonised search
(for they, ignorant of his divinity, felt the terrible anxiety as to
his safety, natural to country people losing a child in a crowded city);
did not, in spite of the tremendous powers at his command, take any
steps to re-assure them; and finally, met them again with no words of
sympathy, only with a mysterious allusion, incomprehensible to them, to
some higher claim than theirs, which, however, he promptly set aside to
obey them. If God was incarnate in a boy, we may trust that example as a
model of childhood: yet, are Christians prepared to set this early
piety and desire for religious instruction before their young children
as an example they are to follow? Are boys and girls of twelve to be
free to absent themselves for days from their parents' guardianship
under the plea that a higher business claims their attention? This
episode of the childhood of Jesus should be relegated to those "gospels
of the infancy" full of most unchildlike acts, which the wise discretion
of Christendom has stamped with disapproval. The same want of filial
reverence appears later in his life: on one occasion he was teaching,
and his mother sent in, desiring to speak to him: the sole reply
recorded to the message is the harsh remark: "Who is my mother?" The
most practical proof that Christian morality has, on this head,
outstripped the example of Jesus, is the prompt disapproval which
similar conduct would meet with in the present day. By the strange
warping of morality often caused by controversial exigencies, this want
of filial reverence has been triumphantly pointed out by Christian
divines; the indifference shown by Jesus to family ties is accepted as a
proof that he was more than man! Thus, conduct which they implicitly
acknowledge to be unseemly in a son to his mother, they claim as natural
and right in the Son of God, to His! In the present day, if a person is
driven by conscience to a course painful to those who have claims on his
respect, his recognised duty, as well as his natural instinct, is to try
and make up by added affection and more courteous deference for the pain
he is forced to inflict: above all, he would not wantonly add to that
pain by public and uncalled-for disrespect.

The attitude of Jesus towards his opponents in high places was marked
with unwarrantable bitterness. Here also the lofty and gentle spirit
of his whole life has moulded Christian opinion in favour of a course
different on this head to his own, so that abuse of an opponent is now
commonly called _un_-Christian. Wearied with three years' calumny and
contempt, sore at the little apparent success which rewarded his labour,
full of a sad foreboding that his enemies would shortly crush him, Jesus
was goaded into passionate denunciations: "Woe unto you, Scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites... ye fools and blind... ye make a proselyte
twofold more the child of hell than yourselves... ye serpents, ye
generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell!" Surely
this is not the spirit which breathed in, "If ye love them which love
you, what thanks have ye?... Love your enemies, bless them that curse
you, pray for them that persecute you." Had he not even specially
forbidden the very expression, "Thou fool!" Was not this rendering evil
for evil, railing for railing?

It is painful to point out these blemishes: reverence for the great
leaders of humanity is a duty dear to all human hearts; but when homage
turns into idolatry, then men must rise up to point out faults which
otherwise they would pass over in respectful silence, mindful only of
the work so nobly done.

I turn then, with a sense of glad relief, to the evidence of the limited
knowledge of Jesus, for here no blame attaches to him, although _one_
proved mistake is fatal to belief in his Godhead. First as to prophecy:
"The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels:
and then shall he reward every man according to his works. Verily I say
unto you, There be some standing here which shall not taste of death
till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." Later, he amplifies
the same idea: he speaks of a coming tribulation, succeeded by his own
return, and then adds the emphatic declaration: "Verily I say unto
you, This generation shall not pass till all these things be done." The
non-fulfilment of these prophecies is simply a question of fact: let
men explain away the words now as they may, yet, if the record is true,
Jesus did believe in his own speedy return, and impressed the same belief
on his followers. It is plain, indeed, that he succeeded in impressing
it on them, from the references to his return scattered through the
epistles. The latest writings show an anxiety to remove the doubts which
were disturbing the converts consequent on the non-appearance of Jesus,
and the fourth gospel omits any reference to his coming. It is worth
remarking, in the latter, the spiritual sense which is hinted at--either
purposely or unintentionally--in the words, "The hour... _now_ is when
the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear
shall live." These words may be the popular feeling on the advent of the
resurrection, forced on the Christians by the failure of their Lord's
prophecies in any literal sense. He could not be mistaken, _ergo_ they
must spiritualise his words. The limited knowledge of Jesus is further
evident from his confusing Zacharias the son of Jehoiada with Zacharias
the son of Barachias: the former, a priest, was slain in the temple
court, as Jesus states; but the son of Barachias was Zacharias, or
Zachariah, the prophet.* He himself owned a limitation of his knowledge,
when he confessed his ignorance of the day of his own return, and said
it was known to the "Father only." Of the same class of sayings is
his answer to the mother of James and John, that the high seats of
the coming kingdom "are not mine to give." That Jesus believed in the
fearful doctrine of eternal punishment is evident, in spite of the
ingenious attempts to prove that the doctrine is not scriptural:
that he, in common with his countrymen, ascribed many diseases to the
immediate power of Satan, which we should now probably refer to natural
causes, as epilepsy, mania, and the like, is also self-evident. But on
such points as these it is useless to dwell, for the Christian believes
them on the authority of Jesus, and the subjects, from their nature,
cannot be brought to the test of ascertained facts. Of the same
character are some of his sayings: his discouraging "Strive to enter
in at the strait gate, _for_ many," etc.; his using in defence of
partiality Isaiah's awful prophecy, "that seeing they may see and not
perceive," etc.; his using Scripture at one time as binding, while he,
at another, depreciates it; his fondness for silencing an opponent by an
ingenious retort: all these things are blameworthy to those who regard
him as man, while they are shielded from criticism by his divinity to
those who worship him as God. There morality is a question of opinion,
and it is wasted time to dwell on them when arguing with Christians,
whose moral sense is for the time held in check by their mental
prostration at his feet. But the truth of the quoted prophecies, and
the historical fact of the parentage of Zachariah, can be tested, and on
these Jesus made palpable mistakes. The obvious corollary is, that being
mistaken--as he was--his knowledge was limited, and was therefore human,
not divine.

     * See Appendix, page 12.

In turning to the teaching of Jesus (I still confine myself to the three
gospels), we find no support of the Christian theory. If we take his
didactic teaching, we can discover no trace of his offering himself as
an object of either faith or worship. His life's work, as teacher, was
to speak of the Father. In the sermon on the Mount he is always striking
the keynote, "your heavenly Father;" in teaching his disciples to
pray, it is to "Our Father," and the Christian idea of ending a prayer
"through Jesus Christ" is quite foreign to the simple filial spirit
of their master. Indeed, when we think of the position Jesus holds in
Christian theology, it seems strange to notice the utter absence of any
suggestion of duty to himself throughout this whole code of so-called
Christian morality. In strict accordance with his more formal teaching
is his treatment of inquirers: when a young man comes kneeling, and,
addressing him as "Good Master," asks what he shall do to inherit
eternal life, the loyal heart of Jesus first rejects the homage, before
he proceeds to answer the all-important question: "Why callest thou _me_
good: there is none good but one, that is, God." He then directs the
youth on the way to eternal life, and _he sends that young man home
without one word of the doctrine on which, according to Christians,
his salvation rested_. If the "Gospel" came to that man later, he would
reject it on the authority of Jesus, who had told him a different "way
of salvation;" and if Christianity is true, the perdition of that young
man's soul is owing to the defective teaching of Jesus himself. Another
time, he tells a Scribe that the first commandment is that God is
one, and that all a man's love is due to Him; then adding the duty of
neighbourly love, he says: "There is _none other_ commandment greater
than these:" so that "belief in Jesus," if incumbent at all, must come
after love to God and man, and is not necessary, by his own testimony,
to "entering into life." On Jesus himself then rests the primary
responsibility of affirming that belief in him is a matter of secondary
importance, at most, letting alone the fact that he never inculcated
belief in his Deity as an article of faith at all. In the same spirit of
frank loyalty to God are his words on the unpardonable sin: in answer
to a gross personal affront, he tells his insulters that they shall be
forgiven for speaking against him, a simple son of man, but warns them
of the danger of confounding the work of God's. Spirit with that of
Satan, "because they said" that works; done by God, using Jesus as His
instrument, were done by Beelzebub.

There remains yet one argument of tremendous force, which can only
be appreciated by personal meditation. We find Jesus praying to
God, relying on God, in his greatest need crying in agony to God for
deliverance, in his last: struggle, deserted by his friends, asking why
God, his God, had also forsaken him. We feel how natural, how true to
life, this whole account is: in our heart's reverence for that noble
life, that "faithfulness unto death," we can scarcely bear to think of
the insult offered to it by Christian lips: they take every beauty
out of it by telling us that through all that struggle Jesus was
the Eternal, the Almighty, God: it is all apparent, not real: in his
temptation he could not fall: in his prayers he needed no support: in
his cry that the cup might pass away he foresaw it was inevitable: in
his agony of desertion and loneliness he was present everywhere with
God. In all that life, then, there is no hope for man, no pledge of
man's victory, no promise for humanity. This is no _man's_ life at all,
it is only a wonderful drama enacted on earth. What God could do is no
measure of man's powers: what have we in common with this "God-man?"
This Jesus, whom we had thought our brother, is after all, removed from
us by the immeasurable distance which separates the feebleness of man
from the omnipotence of God. Nothing can compensate us for such a loss
as this. We had rejoiced in that many-sided nobleness, and its very
blemishes were dear, because they assured us of his brotherhood to
ourselves: we are given an ideal picture where we had studied a history,
another Deity where we had hoped to emulate a life. Instead of the
encouragement we had found, what does Christianity offer us?--a perfect
life? But we knew before that God was perfect: an example? it starts
from a different level: a Saviour? we cannot be safer than we are with
God: an Advocate? we need none with our Father: a Substitute to endure
God's wrath for us? we had rather trust God's justice to punish us as
we deserve, and his wisdom to do what is best for us. As God, Jesus can
give us nothing that we have not already in his Father and ours: as man,
he gives us all the encouragement and support which we derive from every
noble soul which God sends into this world, "a burning and a shining
light":

     "Through such souls alone
     God stooping shows sufficient of
     His light For us in the dark to rise by."

As God, he confuses our perceptions of God's unity, bewilders our reason
with endless contradictions, and turns away from the Supreme all those
emotions of love and adoration which can only flow towards a single
object, and which are the due of our Creator alone: as man, he gives us
an example to strive after, a beacon to steer by; he is one more leader
for humanity, one more star in our darkness. As God, all his words would
be truth, and but few would enter into heaven, while hell would overflow
with victims: as man, we may refuse to believe such a slander on our
Father, and take all the comfort pledged to us by that name. Thank God,
then, that Jesus is only man, "human child of human parents;" that
we need not dwarf our conceptions of God to fit human faculties, or
envelope the illimitable spirit in a baby's feeble frame. But though
only man, he has reached a standard of human greatness which no other
man, so far as we know, has touched: the very height of his character is
almost a pledge of the truthfulness of the records in the main: his life
had to be lived before its conception became possible, at that period
and among such a people. They could recognise his greatness when it was
before their eyes: they would scarcely have imagined it for themselves,
more especially that, as we have seen, he was so different from the
Jewish ideal. His code of morality stands unrivalled, and he was the
first who taught the universal Fatherhood of God publicly and to the
common people. Many of his loftiest precepts may be found in the books
of the Rabbis, but it is the glorious prerogative of Jesus that he
spread abroad among the many the wise and holy maxims that had hitherto
been the sacred treasures of the few. With him none were too degraded
to be called the children of the Father: none too simple to be worthy of
the highest teaching. By example, as well as by precept, he taught that
all men were brothers, and all the good he had he showered at their
feet. "Pure in heart," he saw God, and what he saw he called all to see:
he longed that all might share in his own joyous trust in the Father,
and seemed to be always seeking for fresh images to describe the freedom
and fulness of the universal love of God. In his unwavering love of
truth, but his patience with doubters--in his personal purity, but his
tenderness to the fallen--in his hatred of evil, but his friendliness
to the sinner--we see splendid virtues rarely met in combination. His
brotherliness, his yearning to raise the degraded, his lofty piety, his
unswerving morality, his perfect self-sacrifice, are his indefeasible
titles to human love and reverence. Of the world's benefactors he is the
chief, not only by his own life, but by the enthusiasm he has known to
inspire in others: "Our plummet has not sounded his depth:" words fail
to tell what humanity owes to the Prophet of Nazareth. On his example
the great Christian heroes have based their lives: from the foundation
laid by his teaching the world is slowly rising to a purer faith in God.
We need now such a leader as he was--one who would dare to follow the
Father's will as he did, casting a long-prized revelation aside when
it conflicts with the higher voice of conscience. It is the teaching
of Jesus that Theism gladly makes its own, purifying it from the
inconsistencies which mar its perfection. It is the example of Jesus
which Theists are following, though they correct that example in some
points by his loftiest sayings. It is the work of Jesus which Theists
are carrying on, by worshipping, as he did, the Father, and the Father
alone, and by endeavouring to turn all men's love, all men's hopes, and
all men's adoration, to that "God and Father of all, who is above all,
and through all, and," not in Jesus only, but "_in us all_."

APPENDIX: "Josephus mentions a Zacharias, a son of Baruch ('Wars of
the Jews,' Book iv., sec. 4), who was slain under the circumstances
described by Jesus. His name would be more suitable at the close of the
long list of Jewish crimes, as it occurred just before the destruction
of Jerusalem. But, as it took place about thirty-four years after the
death of Jesus, it is clear that he could not have referred to it;
therefore, if we admit that he made no mistake, we strike a serious
blow at the credibility of his historian, who then puts into his mouth a
remark never uttered."



A COMPARISON BETWEEN THE FOURTH GOSPEL AND THE THREE SYNOPTICS

EVERY one, at least in the educated classes, knows that the authenticity
of the fourth gospel has been long and widely disputed. The most
careless reader is struck by the difference of tone between the simple
histories ascribed to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and the theological and
philosophical treatise which bears the name of John. After following
the three narratives, so simple in their structure, so natural in their
style, so unadorned by rhetoric, so free from philosophic terms,--after
reading these, it is with a feeling of surprise that we find ourselves,
plunged into the bewildering mazes of the Alexandrine philosophy, and
open our fourth gospel to be told that, "In the beginning was the word,
and the word was with God, and the word was God." We ask instinctively,
"How did John, the fisherman of Galilee, learn these phrases of the
Greek schools, and why does he mix up the simple story of his master
with the philosophy of that 'world which by wisdom knew not God?'"

The general Christian tradition is as follows: The spread! of
"heretical" views about the person of Jesus alarmed the "orthodox"
Christians, and they appealed to John, the last aged relic of the
apostolic band, to write a history of Jesus which should confute their
opponents, and establish the essential deity of the founder of their
religion. At their repeated solicitations, John wrote the gospel which
bears his name, and the doctrinal tone of it is due to its original
intention,--a treatise written against Cerinthus, and designed to
crush, with the authority of an apostle, the rising doubts as to
the pre-existence and absolute deity of Jesus of Nazareth. So far
non-Christians and Christians--including the writer of the gospel--are
agreed. This fourth gospel is not--say Theists--a simple biography
of Jesus written by a loving disciple as a memorial of a departed and
cherished friend, but a history written with a special object and to
prove a certain doctrine. "St. John's gospel is a polemical treatise,"
echoes Dr. Liddon. "These are written that ye may believe that Jesus
is the Christ, the Son of God," confesses the writer himself. Now, in
examining the credibility of any history, one of the first points
to determine is whether the historian is perfectly unbiassed in his
judgment and is therefore likely give facts exactly as they occurred,
un-coloured by views of his own. Thus we do not turn to the pages of a
Roman Catholic historian to gain a fair idea of Luther, or of William
the Silent, or expect to find in the volumes of Clarendon a thoroughly
faithful portraiture of the vices of the Stuart kings; rather, in
reading the history of a partisan, do we instinctively make allowances
for the recognised bias of his mind and heart. That the fourth gospel
comes to us prefaced by the announcement that it is written, not to give
us a history, but to prove a certain predetermined opinion, is, then,
so much doubt cast at starting on its probable accuracy; and, by the
constitution of our minds, we at once guard ourselves against a too
ready acquiescence in its assertions, and become anxious to test its
statements by comparing them with some independent and more impartial
authority. The history may be most accurate, but we require proof
that the writer is never seduced into slightly--perhaps
unconsciously--colouring an incident so as to favour the object he
has at heart. For instance, Matthew, an honest writer enough, is often
betrayed into most non-natural quotation of prophecy by his anxiety to
connect Jesus with the Messiah expected by his countrymen. This latent
wish of his leads him to insert various quotations from the Jewish
Scriptures which, severed from their context, have a verbal similarity
with the events he narrates. Thus, he refers to Hosea's mention of the
Exodus: "When Israel was a child then I loved him and called my son
out of Egypt," and by quoting only the last six words gives this as a
"prophecy" of an alleged journey of Jesus into Egypt. Such an instance
as this shows us how a man may allow himself to be blinded by a
pre-conceived determination to prove a certain fact, and warns us to
sift carefully any history that comes to us with the announcement that
it is written to prove such and such a truth.

Unfortunately we have no independent contemporary history--except a
sentence of Josephus--whereby to test the accuracy of the Christian
records; we are therefore forced into the somewhat unsatisfactory task
of comparing them one with another, and in cases of diverging testimony
we must strike the balance of probability between them.

On examining, then, these four biographies of Jesus, we find a
remarkable similarity between three of them, amid many divergencies of
detail; some regard them, therefore, as the condensation into writing
of the oral teaching of the apostles, preserved in the various Churches
they severally founded, and so, naturally, the same radically, although
diverse in detail. "The synoptic Gospels contain the substance of the
Apostles' testimony, collected principally from their oral teaching
current in the Church, partly also from written documents embodying
portions of that teaching."* Others think that the gospels which we
possess, and which are ascribed severally to Matthew, Mark, and Luke,
are all three derived from an original gospel now lost, which was
probably written in Hebrew or Aramaic, and variously translated into
Greek. However this may be, the fact that such a statement as this has
been put forward proves the striking similarity, the root identity, of
the three "synoptical gospels," as they are called. We gather from them
an idea of Jesus which is substantially the same: a figure, calm, noble,
simple, generous; pure in life, eager to draw men to that love of the
Father and devotion to the Father which were his own distinguishing
characteristics; finally, a teacher of a simple and high-toned morality,
perfectly unfettered by dogmatism. The effect produced by the sketch of
the Fourth Evangelist is totally different. The friend of sinners has
disappeared (except in the narrative of the woman taken in adultery,
which is generally admitted to be an interpolation), for his whole time
is occupied in arguing about his own position; "the common people"
who followed and "heard him gladly" and his enemies, the Scribes and
Pharisees, are all massed together as "the Jews," with whom he is in
constant collision; his simple style of teaching--parabolic indeed, as
was the custom of the East, but consisting of parables intelligible to
a child--is exchanged for mystical discourses, causing perpetual
misunderstandings, the true meaning of which is still wrangled about by
Christian theologians; his earnest testimony to "your heavenly Father"
is replaced by a constant self-assertion; while his command "do this and
ye shall live," is exchanged for "believe on me or perish."

     * Alford.

How great is the contrast between that discourse and the Sermon on
the Mount.... In the last discourse it is His Person rather than his
teaching which is especially prominent. His subject in that discourse is
Himself.

Certainly he preaches himself in His relationship to His redeemed; but
still he preaches above all, and in all, Himself. All radiates from
Himself, all converges towards Himself.... in those matchless words all
centres so consistently in Jesus, that it might seem that "Jesus Alone is
before us."* These and similar differences, both of direct teaching and
of the more subtle animating spirit, I propose to examine in detail; but
before entering on these it seems necessary to glance at the disputed
question of the authorship of our history, and determine whether, if it
prove apostolic, it _must_ therefore be binding on us.

I leave to more learned pens than mine the task of criticising
and drawing conclusions from the Greek or the precise dogma of the
evangelist, and of weighing the conflicting testimony of mighty names.
From the account contained in the English Bible of John the Apostle, I
gather the following points of his character: He was warm-hearted to his
friends, bitter against his enemies, filled with a fiery and unbridled
zeal against theological opponents; he was ambitious, egotistical,
pharisaical. I confess that I trace these characteristics through all
the writings ascribed to him, and that they seem to be only softened by
age in the fourth gospel. That John was a warm friend is proved by his
first epistle; that he was bitter against his enemies appears in his
mention of Diotrephes, "I will remember his deeds which he doeth,
prating against us with malicious words;" his unbridled zeal was rebuked
by his master; the same cruel spirit is intensified in his "Revelation;"
his ambition is apparent in his anxiety for a chief seat in Messiah's
kingdom; his egotism appears in the fearful curse he imprecates on those
who alter _his_ revelation; his pharisaism is marked in such a feeling
as, "we know _we_ are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness."
Many of these qualities appear to me to mark the gospel which bears
his name; the same restricted tenderness, the same bitterness against
opponents, the same fiery zeal for "the truth," i.e., a special
theological dogma, are everywhere apparent.

     * Liddon.

The same egotism is most noticeable, for in the other gospels John
shares his master's chief regard with two others, while here he is
"_the_ disciple whom Jesus loved," and he is specially prominent in the
closing scenes of Jesus' life as the _only_ faithful follower. We should
also notice the remarkable similarity of expression and tone between
the fourth gospel and the first epistle of John, a similarity the more
striking as the language is peculiar to the writings attributed to
John. It is, however, with the utmost diffidence that I offer these
suggestions, well knowing that the greatest authorities are divided on
this point of authorship, and that the balance is rather against the
apostolic origin of the gospel than for it. I am, however, anxious
to show that, _even taking it as apostolic_, it is untrustworthy and
utterly unworthy of credit. If John be the writer, we must suppose
that his long residence in Ephesus had gradually obliterated his Jewish
memories, so that he speaks of "the Jews" as a foreigner would. The
stern Jewish monotheism would have grown feebler by contact with the
subtle influence of the Alexandrine tone of thought; and he would have
caught the expressions of that school from living in a city which was
its second home. To use the Greek philosophy as a vehicle for Christian
teaching would recommend itself to him as the easiest way of approaching
minds imbued with these mystic ideas. Regarding the master of his youth
through the glorifying medium of years, he gradually began to imagine
him to be one of the emanations from the Supreme, of which he heard so
much. Accustomed to the deification of Roman emperors, men of infamous
lives, he must have been almost driven to claim divine honours for _his_
leader. If his hearers regarded _them_ as divine, what could he say to
exalt _him_ except that he was ever with God, nay, was himself God? If
John be the writer of this gospel, some such change as this must have
passed over him, and in his old age the gradual accretions of years must
have crystallised themselves into a formal Christian theology. But if we
find, during our examination, that the history and the teaching of this
gospel is utterly irreconcilable with the undoubtedly earlier synoptic
gospels, we must then conclude that, apostolic or not, it must give
place to them, and be itself rejected as a trustworthy account of the
life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.

The first striking peculiarity of this gospel is that all the people
in it talk in exactly the same style and use the same markedly peculiar
phraseology, (a) "The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things
into his hand." (b) "For the Father loveth the Son and showeth him all
things that Himself doeth." (c) "Jesus, knowing that the Father had
given all things into his hand." These sentences are evidently the
outcome of the same mind, and no one, unacquainted with our gospel,
would guess that (a) was spoken by John the Baptist, (b) by Jesus, (c)
by the writer of the gospel. When the Jews speak, the words still run in
the same groove: "If any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will,
him He heareth," is not said, as might be supposed, by Jesus, but by the
man who was born blind. Indeed, commentators are sometimes puzzled, as
in John iii. 10-21, to know where, if at all, the words of Jesus stop
and are succeeded by the commentary of the narrator. In an accurate
history different characters stand out in striking individuality, so
that we come to recognise them as distinct personalities, and can even
guess beforehand how they will probably speak and act under certain
conditions. But here we have one figure in various disguises, one voice
from different speakers, one mind in opposing characters. We have here
no beings of flesh and blood, but airy phantoms, behind whom we see
clearly the solitary preacher. For Jesus and John the Baptist are two
characters as distinct as can well be imagined, yet their speeches are
absolutely indistinguishable, and their thoughts run in the same groove.
Jesus tells Nicodemus: "We speak that we do know and testify that we
have seen, and ye receive not our witness; and no man hath ascended
up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven." John says to his
disciples: "He that cometh from heaven is above all, and what he hath
seen and heard that he testifieth, and no man receiveth his testimony."
But it is wasting time to prove so self-evident a fact: let us rather
see how a Christian advocate meets an argument whose force he cannot
deny. "The character and diction of our Lord's discourses entirely
penetrated and assimilated the habits of thought of His beloved Apostle;
so that in his first epistle he writes in the very tone and spirit of
those discourses; and when reporting the sayings of his former teacher,
the Baptist, he gives them, consistently with the deepest inner truth
(!) of narration, the forms and cadences so familiar and habitual to
himself."* It must be left to each individual to judge if a careful and
accurate historian thus tampers with the words he pretends to narrate,
and thus makes them accord with some mysterious inner truth; each
too must decide as to the amount of reliance it is wise to place on a
historian who is guided by so remarkable a rule of truth. But further,
that the "character and diction" of this gospel are moulded on that of
Jesus, seems a most unwarrantable assertion. Through all the recorded
sayings of Jesus in the three gospels, there is no trace of this very
peculiar style, except in one case (Matt. xi. 27), a passage which comes
in abruptly and unconnectedly, and stands absolutely alone in style
in the three synoptics, a position which throws much doubt on its
authenticity. It has been suggested that this marked difference of style
arises from the different auditories addressed in the three gospels and
in the fourth; on this we remark that (a), we intuitively recognise such
discourses as that in Matt. x. as perfectly consistent with the usual
style of Jesus, although this is addressed to "his own;" (b), In this
fourth gospel the discourses addressed to "his own" and to the Jews are
in exactly the same style; so that, neither in this gospel, nor in
the synoptics do we find any difference--more than might be reasonably
expected--between the style of the discourses addressed to the disciples
and those addressed to the multitudes. But we _do_ find a very marked
difference between the style attributed to Jesus by the three synoptics
and that put into his mouth by the fourth evangelist; this last being a
style so remarkable that, if usual to Jesus, it is impossible that its
traces should not appear through all his recorded speeches. From which
fact we may, I think, boldly deduce the conclusion that the style in
question is not that of Jesus, the simple carpenter's son, but is one
caught from the dignified and stately march of the oratory of Ephesian
philosophers, and is put into his mouth by the writer of his life. And
this conclusion is rendered indubitable by the fact above-mentioned,
that all the characters adopt this poetically and musically-rounded
phraseology.

     * Alford.

Thus our first objection against the trustworthiness of our historian
is that all the persons he introduces, however different in character,
speak exactly alike, and that this style, when put into the mouth of
Jesus, is totally different from that attributed to him by the three
synoptics. We conclude, therefore, that the style belongs wholly to the
writer, and that he cannot, consequently, be trusted in his reports of
speeches. The major part, by far the most important part, of this gospel
is thus at once stamped as untrustworthy.

Let us next remark the partiality attributed by this gospel to Him Who
has said--according to the Bible--"all souls-are Mine." We find the
doctrine of predestination, i.e., of favouritism, constantly put
forward. "_All that the Father giveth me_ shall come to me." "No man can
come to me except the Father draw him." "That of all _which He hath given
me_ I should lose nothing." "Ye believe not, _because_ ye are not of
my sheep." "Though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they
believed not on him: _that the saying_ of Esaias the prophet _might be
fulfilled._" "Therefore, they _could not believe because_ that Esaias
said," &c. "I have chosen you out of the world." "Thou hast given him
power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to _as many as
Thou hast given him?_" "Those that thou gavest me I have kept and none
of them is lost, but the son of perdition, _that the Scriptures might
be fulfilled._" These are the most striking of the passages which teach
that doctrine which has been the most prolific parent of immorality and
the bringer of despair to the sinner. Frightfully immoral as it is, this
doctrine is taught in all its awful hopelessness and plainness by this
gospel: some "_could not_ believe" because an old prophet prophesied
that they should not-So, "according to St. John," these unbelieving Jews
were pre-ordained to eternal damnation and the abiding wrath of God.
They were cast into an endless hell, which "they _could not_" avoid. We
reject this gospel, secondly, for the partiality it dares to attribute
to Almighty God.

We will now pass to the historical discrepancies between this gospel and
the three synoptics, following the order of the former.

It tells us (ch. i) that at the beginning of his ministry Jesus was at
Bethabara, a town near the junction of the Jordan with the Dead Sea;
here he gains three disciples, Andrew and another, and then Simon Peter:
the next day he goes into Galilee and finds Philip and Nathanael, and on
the following day--somewhat rapid travelling--he is present, with
these disciples, at Cana, where he performs his first miracle, going
afterwards with them to Capernaum and Jerusalem. At Jerusalem, whither
he goes for "the Jews' passover," he drives out the traders from the
temple, and remarks, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I
will raise it up:" which remark causes the first of the strange
misunderstandings between Jesus and the Jews, peculiar to this Gospel,
simple misconceptions which Jesus never troubles himself to set right.
Jesus and his disciples then go to the Jordan, baptising, whence Jesus
departs into Galilee with them, because he hears that the Pharisees know
he is becoming more popular than the Baptist (ch. iv. 1-3). All this
happens before John is cast into prison, an occurrence which is a
convenient note of time. We turn to the beginning of the ministry of
Jesus as related by the three. Jesus is in the south of Palestine, but,
hearing that John is cast into prison, he departs into Galilee, and
resides at Capernaum. There is no mention of any ministry in Galilee and
Judaea before this; on the contrary, it is only "from that time" that
"Jesus _began_ to preach." He is alone, without disciples, but, walking
by the sea, he comes upon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, and calls
them. Now if the fourth gospel is true, these men had joined him in
Judaea, followed him to Galilee, south again to Jerusalem, and back to
Galilee, had seen his miracles and acknowledged him as Christ, so it
seems strange that they had deserted him and needed a second call, and
yet more strange is it that Peter (Luke v. i-ii) was so astonished and
amazed at the miracle of the fishes. The driving out of the traders from
the temple is placed by the synoptics at the very end of his ministry,
and the remark following it is used against him at his trial: so was
probably made just before it. The next point of contact is the history
of the 5000 fed by five loaves (ch. vi.), the preceding chapter relates
to a visit to Jerusalem unnoticed by the three: indeed, the histories
seem written of two men, one the "prophet of Galilee" teaching in its
cities, the other concentrating his energies on Jerusalem. The account
of the miraculous, feeding is alike in all: not so the succeeding
account of the conduct of the multitude. In the fourth gospel, Jesus
and the crowd fall to disputing, as usual, and he loses many disciples:
among the three, Luke says nothing of the immediately following
events, while Matthew and Mark tell us that the multitudes--as would be
natural--crowded round him to touch even the hem of his garment. This is
the same as always: in the three the crowd loves him; in the fourth it
carps at and argues with him. We must again miss the sojourn of Jesus in
Galilee, according to the three, and his visit to Jerusalem, according
to the one, and pass to his entry into Jerusalem in triumph. Here we
notice a most remarkable divergence: the synoptics tell us that he
was going up to Jerusalem from Galilee, and, arriving on his way at
Bethphage, he sent for an ass and rode thereon into Jerusalem: the
fourth gospel relates that he was dwelling at Jerusalem, and leaving it,
for fear of the Jews, he retired, not into Galilee, but "beyond Jordan,
into the place where John at first baptised," i.e., Bethabara, "and
_there he abode_" From there he went to Bethany and raised to life a
putrefying corpse: this stupendous miracle is never appealed to by the
earlier historians in proof of their master's greatness, though
"much people of the Jews" are said to have seen Lazarus after his
resurrection: this miracle is also given as the reason for the active
hostility of the priests, "from that day forward." Jesus then retires
to Ephraim near the wilderness, from which town he goes to Bethany, and
thence in triumph to Jerusalem, being met by the people "for that they
heard that he had done this miracle." The two accounts have absolutely
nothing in common except the entry into Jerusalem, and the preceding
events of the synoptics exclude those of the fourth gospel, as does the
latter theirs. If Jesus abode in Bethabara and Ephraim, he could not
have come from Galilee; if he started from Galilee, he was not abiding
in the south. John xiii.-xvii. stand alone, with the exception of the
mention of the traitor. On the arrest of Jesus, he is led (ch. xviii.
13) to Annas, who sends him to Caiaphas, while the others send him
direct to Caiaphas, but this is immaterial. He is then taken to Pilate:
the Jews do not enter the judgment-hall, lest, being defiled, they could
not eat the passover, a feast which, according to the synoptics, was
over, Jesus and his disciples having eaten it the night before. Jesus is
exposed to the people at the sixth hour (ch. xix. 14), while Mark tells
us he was crucified three hours before--at the third hour--a note of
time which agrees with the others, since they all relate that there
was darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour, i.e., there was thick
darkness at the time when, "according to St. John," Jesus was exposed.
Here our evangelist is in hopeless conflict with the three. The accounts
about the resurrection are irreconcilable in all the gospels, and
mutually destructive. It remains to notice, among these discrepancies,
one or two points which did not come in conveniently in the course of
the narrative. During the whole of the fourth gospel, we find Jesus
constantly arguing for his right to the title of Messiah. Andrew speaks
of him as such (i. 41); the Samaritans acknowledge him (iv. 42); Peter
owns him (vi. 69); the people call him so-(vii. 26, 31, 41); Jesus
claims it (viii. 24); it is the subject of a law (ix. 22); Jesus speaks
of it as already claimed by him (x. 24, 25); Martha recognises it
(xi. 27). We thus find that, from the very first, this title is openly
claimed by Jesus, and his right to it openly canvassed by the Jews.
But--in the three--the disciples acknowledge him as Christ, and he
charges them to "tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ" (Matt. xvi.
20; Mark viii. 29, 30; Luke ix. 20, 21); and this in the same year that
he blames the Jews for not owning this Messiahship, since he had told
them who he was. "from the beginning" (ch. viii. 24, 25); so that, if
"John" was right, we fail to see the object of all the mystery about it,
related by the synoptics. We mark, too, how Peter is, in their account,
praised for confessing him, for flesh and blood had not revealed it to
him, while in the fourth gospel, "flesh and blood," in the person of
Andrew, reveal to Peter that the Christ is found; and there seems little
praise due to Peter for a confession which had been made two or three
years earlier by Andrew, Nathanael, John Baptist, and the Samaritans.
Contradiction can scarcely be more direct. In John vii. Jesus owns that
the Jews know his birthplace (28), and they state (41, 42) that he comes
from Galilee, while Christ should be born at Bethlehem. Matthew and Luke
distinctly say Jesus was born at Bethlehem; but here Jesus confesses
the right knowledge of those who attribute his birthplace to Galilee,
instead of setting their difficulty at rest by explaining that though
brought up at Nazareth, he was born in Bethlehem. But our writer was
apparently-ignorant of their accounts. We reject this gospel, thirdly,
because its historical statements are in direct contradiction to the
history of the synoptics.

The next point to which I wish to direct attention is the relative
position of faith and morals in the three synoptics and the fourth
gospel. It is not too much to say that on this point their teaching is
absolutely irreconcilable, and one or the other must be fatally in the
wrong. Here the fourth gospel clasps hands with Paul, while the others
take the side of James. The opposition may be most plainly shown by
parallel columns of quotations:

 "Except your righteousness            "He that _believeth on the_ Son
 exceed that of the scribes and        hath everlasting life."--iii. 36.
 Pharisees, ye shall _in no
 case_ enter Heaven."--Matt. v. 20.

 "Have  we not prophesied in           "He that believeth on Him _is
 thy name and in thy name done         not condemned_."--iii. 18.
 many wonderful works?"

 "Then will I profess unto them...
 Depart...ye that work iniquity."
 --Matt. vii. 22, 23.

 "If thou  wilt enter into life,       "He that believeth not the Son
 keep the commandments."--Mark          shall not see life."--iii. 36. x. 17-28.

 "Her sins, which are many, are        "If ye believe not that I am he
 forgiven, _for she loved_ much."--    ye shall die in your sins."--viii.
                                       Luke vii. 47. 24.

These few quotations, which might be indefinitely multiplied, are
enough to show that, while in the three gospels _doing_ is the test of
religion, and no profession of discipleship is worth anything unless
shown by "its fruits," in the fourth _believing_ is the cardinal matter:
in the three we hear absolutely nothing of faith in Jesus as requisite,
but in the fourth we hear of little else: works are thrown completely
into the background and salvation rests on believing--not even in
God--but in Jesus. We reject this gospel, fourthly, for setting faith
above works, and so contradicting the general teaching of Jesus himself.

The relative positions of the Father and Jesus are reversed by the
fourth evangelist, and the teaching of Jesus on this head in the three
gospels is directly contradicted. Throughout them Jesus preaches the
Father only: he is always reiterating "your heavenly Father;" "that
ye may be the children of your Father," is his argument for forgiving
others; "your Father is perfect," is his spur to a higher life; "your
Father knoweth," is his anodyne in anxiety; "it is the Father's good
pleasure," is his certainty of coming happiness; "_one_ is your Father,
which is in heaven," is, by an even extravagant loyalty, made a reason
for denying the very name to any other. But in the fourth gospel all is
changed: if the Father is mentioned at all, it is only as the sender of
Jesus, as _his_ Witness and _his_ Glorifier. All love, all devotion, all
homage, is directed to Jesus and to Jesus only: even "on the Christian
hypothesis the Father is eclipsed by His only begotten Son."* "All
judgment" is in the hands of the Son: he has "life in himself;" "the
work of God" is to believe on him; he gives "life unto the world;" he
will "raise" us "up at the last day;" except by eating him there is "no
life;" he is "the light of the world;" he gives true freedom; he is the
"one shepherd: none can pluck" us out of his hand; he will "draw all men
unto" himself: he is the "Lord and Master," "the truth and the life;"
what is even asked of the Father, _he_ will do; he will come to his
disciples and abide in them; his peace and joy are their reward. Verily,
we need no more: he who gives us eternal life, who raises us from the
dead, who is our judge, who hears our prayers, and gives us light,
freedom, and truth, He, He only, is our God; none can do more for us
than he: in Him only will we trust in life and death. So, consistently,
the Son is no longer the drawer of believers to the Father, but the
Father is degraded into becoming the way to the Son, and none can come
to Jesus unless Almighty God draws them to him. Jesus is no longer the
way into the Holiest, but the Eternal Father is made the means to an end
beyond himself.

     * Voysey.

For this fifth reason, more than for anything else, we reject this
gospel with the most passionate earnestness, with the most burning
indignation, as an insult to the One Father of spirits, the ultimate
Object of all faith and hope and love.

And who is this who thus dethrones our heavenly Father? It is not even
the Jesus whose fair moral beauty has exacted our hearty admiration. To
worship _him_ would be an idolatry, but to worship him--were he such as
"John" describes him--would be an idolatry as degrading as it would
be baseless. For let us mark the character pourtrayed in this fourth
gospel. His public career begins with an undignified miracle: at a
marriage, where the wine runs short, he turns water into wine, in order
to supply men who have already "well drunk" (ch. ii. 10). [We may ask,
in passing, what led Mary to expect a miracle, when we are told that
this was the first, and she could not, therefore, know of her son's
gifts.] The next important point is the conversation with Nicodemus,
where we scarcely knew which to marvel at most, the stolid stupidity
of a "Master in Israel" misunderstanding a metaphor that must have been
familiar to him, or the aggressive way in which Jesus speaks as to the
non-reception of his message before he had been in public many months,
and as to non-belief in his person before belief had become possible.
We then come to the series of discourses related in ch. v. 10.
Perfect egotism pervades them all; in all appear the same strange
misunderstandings on the part of the people, the same strange
persistence in puzzling them on the part of the speaker. In one of them
the people honestly wonder at his mysterious words: "How is it that he
saith, I come down from heaven," and, instead of any explanation, Jesus
retorts that they should not murmur, since no man _can_ come to him
unless the Father draw him; so that, when he puts forward a statement
apparently contrary to fact--"his father and mother we know," say the
puzzled Jews--he refuses to explain it, and falls back on his favourite
doctrine: "Unless you are of those favoured ones whom God enlightens,
you cannot expect to understand me." Little wonder indeed that "many
of his disciples walked no more with" a teacher so perplexing and so
discouraging; with one who presented for their belief a mysterious
doctrine, contrary to their experience, and then, in answer to their
prayer for enlightenment, taunts them with an ignorance he admits was
unavoidable. The next important conversation occurs in the temple,
and here Jesus, the friend of sinners, the bringer of hope to the
despairing--this Jesus has no tenderness for some who "believed on him;"
he ruthlessly tramples on the bruised reed and quenches the smoking
flax. First he irritates their Jewish pride with accusations of slavery
and low descent; then, groping after his meaning, they exclaim, "We have
one Father, even God," and he--whom we know as the tenderest preacher
of that Father's universal love--surely he gladly catches at their
struggling appreciation of his favourite topic, and fans the hopeful
spark into a flame? Yes! Jesus of Nazareth would have done so. But
Jesus, "according to St. John," turns fiercely on them, denying the
sonship he elsewhere proclaims, and retorts, "Ye are of your father,
the devil." And this to men who "believed on him;" this from lips which
said, "_One_ is your Father," and He, in heaven. He argues next with the
Pharisees, and we find him arrogantly exclaiming: "_all_ that ever came
before me were thieves and robbers." What, all? Moses and Elijah, Isaiah
and all the prophets? At length, after he has once more repulsed some
inquirers, the Jews take up stones to stone him, as Moses commanded,
because "thou makest thyself God." He escapes by a clever evasion, which
neutralises all his apparent assertions of Divinity. "Other men have
been called gods, so surely I do not blaspheme by calling myself God's
son." Never let us forget that in this gospel, the stronghold of the
Divinity of Jesus, Jesus himself explains his strongest assertion "I and
my Father are one" in a manner which can only be honest in the mouth of
a man.* We pass to the celebrated "last discourse." In this we find
the same peculiar style, the same self-assertion, but we must note,
in addition, the distinct tritheism which pervades it. There are
three distinct Beings, each necessarily deprived of some attribute of
Divinity: thus, the Deity is Infinite, but if He is divided He becomes
finite, since two Infinites are an impossible absurdity, and unless
they are identical they must bound each other, so becoming finite.
Accordingly "the Comforter" cannot be present till Jesus departs,
therefore neither Jesus nor the Comforter can be God, since God is
omnipresent. Since, then, prayer is to be addressed to Jesus as God,
the low theory of tri-theism, of a plurality of Gods, none of whom is
a perfect God, is here taught. In this discourse, also, the Christian
horizon is bounded by the figure of Jesus, the office of the Comforter
is sub-servient to this one worship, "he shall glorify me." Jesus, at
last, prays for his disciples, markedly excluding from his intercession
"the world" he was said to have come to save, and, as throughout this
gospel, restricting all his love, all his care, all his tenderness to
"these, whom Thou hast given me." Here we come to the essence of the
spirit which pervades this whole gospel. "I pray for them; I pray not
for the world: not for them who are of their father the devil, nor for
my betrayer, the son of perdition." This is the spirit which Christians
dare to ascribe to Jesus of Nazareth, the tenderest, gentlest,
widest-hearted man who has yet graced humanity. This is the spirit, they
tell us, which dwelt in _his_ bosom, who gave us the parables of the
lost sheep and the prodigal son. "No," we answer, "this is not the
spirit of the Prophet of Nazareth, but" (Dr. Liddon will pardon the
appropriation) "this is the temper of a man who will not enter the
public baths along with the heretic who has dishonoured his Lord."

     * "For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy;
     and because that thou being a man makest thyself God." Jesus
     answered them, "Is it not written in your law, I said, ye
     are gods? If he called them gods unto whom the word of God
     came (and the scripture cannot be broken), say ye of him
     whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world,
     Thou blasphemest, because I said I am the son of God?"

This is the spirit of the writer of the gospel, not of Jesus: the
egotism of the writer is reflected in the words put into the mouth of
his master; and thus the preacher of the Father's love is degraded into
the seeker of his own glory, and bearing witness of himself, his witness
becomes untrue. I must also draw attention to one or two cases of
unreality attributed to Jesus by this gospel. He prays, on one occasion,
"because of the people who stand by:" he cries on his cross, "I thirst,"
not because of the burning agony of crucifixion, but in order "that
the Scriptures might be fulfilled:" a voice answers "his prayer," "not
because of me, but for your sakes." This calculation of effect is very
foreign to the sincere and open spirit of Jesus. Akin to this is the
prevarication attributed to him, when he declines to accompany his
brethren to Judaea, but "when his brethren were gone up then went he
also up to the feast, not openly but as it were in secret." All this
strikes us strangely as part of that simple, fearless life.

We reject this gospel, sixthly, for the cruel spirit, the arrogance, the
self-assertion, the bigotry, the unreality, attributed by it to Jesus,
and we denounce it as a slander on his memory and an insult to his noble
life.

We may, perhaps, note, as another peculiarity of this gospel--although I
do not enter here into the argument of the divinity of Jesus,--that when
Dr. Liddon, in his celebrated Bampton Lectures, is anxious to prove
the Deity of Jesus _from his own mouth_, he is compelled to quote
exclusively from this gospel. Such a fact as this cannot be overlooked,
when we remember that "St. John's gospel is a polemical treatise"
written to prove this special point. We cannot avoid noting the
coincidence.

We have now gone through this remarkable record and examined it in
various lights. At the outset we conceded to our opponents all the
advantage which comes from admitting that the gospel _may_ be written
by the Apostle John; we have left the authorship a moot point, and
based our argument on a different ground. Apostolic or non-apostolic,
Johannine or Corinthian, we accept it or reject it for itself, and not
for its writer. We have found that all its characters speak alike in a
marked and peculiar style--a style savouring of the study rather than
the street, of Alexandria rather than Jerusalem or Galilee. We
have glanced at its immoral partiality. We have noted the numerous
discrepancies between the history of this gospel and that of the three
synoptics. We have discovered it to be equally opposed to them in morals
as in history: in doctrine as in morals. We have seen that, while it
degrades God to enthrone Jesus in His stead, it also degrades Jesus,
and so lowers his character that it defies recognition. Finally, we
have found it stands alone in supporting the Deity of Jesus from his own
mouth.

I know not how all this may strike others; to me these arguments are
simply overwhelming in their force. I tear out the "Gospel according to
St. John" from the writings which "are profitable" "for instruction
in righteousness." I reject it from beginning to end, as fatally
destructive of all true faith towards God, as perilously subversive of
all true morality in man, as an outrage on the sacred memory of Jesus of
Nazareth, and as an insult to the Justice, the Supremacy, and the Unity
of Almighty God.



ON THE ATONEMENT.

THE Atonement may be regarded as the central doctrine of Christianity,
the very _raison d'être_ of the Christian faith. Take this away, and
there would remain indeed a faith and a morality, but both would have
lost their distinctive features: it would be a faith without its
centre, and a morality without its foundation. Christianity would be
unrecognisable without its angry God, its dying Saviour, its covenant
signed with "the blood of the Lamb:" the blotting out of the Atonement
would deprive millions of all hope towards God, and would cast them
from satisfaction into anxiety from comfort into despair. The warmest
feelings of Christendom cluster round the Crucifix, and he, the
crucified one, is adored with passionate devotion, not as martyr for
truth, not as witness for God, not as faithful to death, but as the
substitute for his worshippers, as he who bears in their stead the wrath
of God, and the punishment due to sin. The Christian is taught to see in
the bleeding Christ the victim slain in his own place; he himself should
be hanging on that cross, agonised and dying; those nail-pierced hands
ought to be his; the anguish on that face should be furrowed on his own;
the weight of suffering resting on that bowed head should be crushing
himself inta the dust. In the simplest meaning of the words, Christ is
the sinner's substitute, and on him the sin of the world is laid: as
Luther expressed it, he "is the greatest and only sinner;" literally
"made sin" for mankind, and expiating the guilt which, in very deed, was
transferred from man to-him.

I wish at the outset, for the sake of justice and candour, to
acknowledge frankly the good which has been drawn forth by the preaching
of the Cross. This good has been, however, the indirect rather than the
direct result of a belief in the Atonement. The doctrine, in itself, has
nothing elevating about it, but the teaching closely connected with
the doctrine has its ennobling and purifying side. All the enthusiasm
aroused in the human breast by the thought of one who sacrificed himself
to save his brethren, all the consequent longing to emulate that love by
sacrificing all for Jesus and for those for whom he died, all the moral
gain caused by the contemplation of a sublime self-devotion, all these
are the fruits of the nobler side of the Atonement. That the sinless
should stoop to the sinful, that holiness should embrace the guilty in
order to raise them to its own level, has struck a chord in men's bosoms
which has responded to the touch by a harmonious melody of gratitude
to the divine and sinless sufferer, and loving labour for suffering and
sinful man. The Cross has been at once the apotheosis and the source of
self-sacrificing love. "Love ye one another _as_ I have loved you: not
in word but in deed, with a deep self-sacrificing love:" such is the
lesson which, according to one of the most orthodox Anglican divines,
"Christ preaches to us from His Cross." In believing in the Atonement,
man's heart has, as usual, been better than his head; he has passed over
the dark side of the idea, and has seized on the divine truth that the
strong should gladly devote themselves to shield the weak, that labour,
even unto death, is the right of humanity from every son of man. It is
often said that no doctrine long retains its hold on men's hearts which
is not founded on some great truth; this divine idea of self-sacrifice
has been the truth contained in the doctrine of the Atonement, which has
made it so dear to many loving and noble souls, and which has hidden its
"multitude of sins"--sins against love and against justice, against God
and against man. Love and self-sacrifice have floated the great error
over the storms of centuries, and these cords still bind to it many
hearts of which love and self-sacrifice are the glory and the crown.

This said, in candi d'homage to the good which has drawn its inspiration
from Jesus crucified, we turn to the examination of the doctrine itself:
if we find that it is as dishonouring to God as it is injurious to man,
a crime against justice, a blasphemy against love, we must forget all
the sentiments which cluster round it, and reject it utterly. It is well
to speak respectfully of that which is dear to any religious soul,
and to avoid jarring harshly on the strings of religious feeling, even
though the soul be misled and the feeling be misdirected; but a time
comes when false charity is cruelty, and tenderness to error is treason
to truth. For long, men who know its emptiness pass by in silence the
shrine consecrated by human hopes and fears, by love and worship, and
the "times of this ignorance God (in the bold figure of Paul) also winks
at;" but when "the fulness of the time is come," God sends forth some
true son of his to dash the idol to the ground, and to trample it into
dust. We need not be afraid that the good wrought by the lessons derived
from the Atonement in time past will disappear with the doctrine itself;
the mark of the Cross is too deeply ploughed into humanity ever to be
erased, and those who no longer call themselves by the name of Christ
are not the most backward scholars in the school of love and sacrifice.

The history of this doctrine has been a curious one. In the New
Testament the Atonement is, as its name implies, a simply making at one
God and man: _how_ this is done is but vaguely hinted at, and in order
to deduce the modern doctrine from the Bible, we must import into
the books of the New Testament all the ideas derived from theological
disputations. Words used in all simplicity by the ancient writers must
have attached to them the definite polemical meaning they hold in the
quarrels of theologians, before they can be strained into supporting a
substitutionary atonement. The idea, however, of "ransom" is connected
with the work of Jesus, and the question arose, "to whom is this ransom
paid?" They who lived in those first centuries of Christianity were
still too much within the illumination of the tender halo thrown by
Jesus round the Father's name, to dream for a moment that their redeemer
had ransomed them from the beloved hands of God. No, the ransom was paid
to the devil, whose thrall they believed mankind to be, and Jesus, by
sacrificing himself, had purchased them from the devil and made them
sons of God. It is not worth while to enter on the quaint details of
this scheme, how the devil thought he had conquered and could hold Jesus
captive, and was tricked by finding that his imagined gain could not
be retained by him, and so on. Those who wish to become acquainted
with this ingenious device can study it in the pages of the Christian
fathers: it has at least one advantage over the modern plan, namely,
that we are not so shocked at hearing of pain and suffering as
acceptable to the supposed incarnate evil, as at hearing of them being
offered as a sacrifice to the supreme good. As the teaching of Jesus
lost its power, and became more and more polluted by the cruel thoughts
of savage and bigoted men, the doctrine of the atonement gradually
changed its character. Men thought the Almighty to be such a one as
themselves, and being fierce and unforgiving and revengeful, they
projected their own shadows on to the clouds which surrounded the
Deity, and then, like the shepherd who meets his own form reflected
and magnified on the mountain mist, they recoiled before the image they
themselves had made. The loving Father who sent his son to rescue his
perishing children by sacrificing himself, fades away from the hearts of
the Christian world, and there looms darkly in his place an awful form,
the inexorable judge who exacts a debt man is too poor to pay, and who,
in default of payment, casts the debtor into a hopeless prison, hopeless
unless another pays to the uttermost farthing the fine demanded by the
law. So, in this strange transformation-scene God actually takes the
place of the devil, and the ransom once paid to redeem men from Satan
becomes the ransom paid to redeem men from God. It reminds one of the
quarrels over the text which bids us "fear him who is able to destroy
both body and soul in hell," when we remain in doubt whom he is we are
to fear, since half the Christian commentators assure us that it refers
to our Father in heaven, while the other half asseverate that the devil
is the individual we are to dread. The seal was set on the "redemption
scheme" by Anselm in his great work, "_Cur Deus Homo_" and the doctrine
which had been slowly growing into the theology of Christendom was
thenceforward stamped with the signet of the Church. Roman Catholics
and Protestants, at the time of the Reformation, alike believed in the
vicarious and substitutionary character of the atonement wrought by
Christ. There is no dispute between them on this point. I prefer to
allow the Christian divines to speak for themselves as to the character
of the atonement: no one can accuse me of exaggerating their views, if
their views are given in their own words. Luther teaches that "Christ
did truly and effectually feel for all mankind, the wrath of God,
malediction and death." Flavel says that "to wrath, to the wrath of an
infinite God without mixture, to the very torments of hell, was Christ
delivered, and that by the hand of his own father." The Anglican homily
preaches that "sin did pluck God out of heaven to make him feel the
horrors and pains of death," and that man, being a firebrand of hell and
a bondsman of the devil, "was ransomed by the death of his own only and
well-beloved son;" the "heat of his wrath," "his burning wrath,"
could only be "pacified" by Jesus, "so pleasant was this sacrifice and
oblation of his son's death." Edwards, being logical, saw that there was
a gross injustice in sin being twice punished, and in the pains of
hell, the penalty of sin, being twice inflicted, first on Christ, the
substitute of mankind, and then on the lost, a portion of mankind. So
he, in common with most Calvinists, finds himself compelled to restrict
the atonement to the elect, and declared that Christ bore the sins, not
of the world, but of the chosen out of the world; he suffers "not for
the world, but for them whom Thou hast given me." But Edwards adheres
firmly to the belief in substitution, and rejects the universal
atonement for the very reason that "to believe Christ died for all is
the surest way of proving that he died for none in the sense Christians
have hitherto believed." He declares that "Christ suffered the wrath of
God for men's sins;" that "God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ
underwent the pains of hell for," sin. Owen regards Christ's sufferings
as "a full valuable compensation to the justice of God for all the sins"
of the elect, and says that he underwent "that same punishment which....
they themselves were bound to undergo."

The doctrine of the Christian Church--in the widest sense of that
much-fought-over term--was then as follows, and I will state it in
language which is studiously moderate, _as compared with the orthodox
teaching_ of the great Christian divines. If any one doubts this
assertion, let him study their writings for himself. I really dare
not transfer some of their expressions to my own pages. God the Father
having cursed mankind and condemned them to eternal damnation, because
of Adam's disobedience in eating an apple--or some other fruit, for the
species is only preserved by tradition, and is not definitely settled
by the inspired writings--and having further cursed each man for his own
individual transgressions, man lay under the fierce wrath of God, unable
to escape, and unable to pacify it, for he could not even atone for his
own private sins, much less for his share of the guilt incurred by his
forefather in Paradise. Man's debt was hopelessly large, and he had
"nothing to pay;" so all that remained to him was to suffer an eternity
of torture, which sad fate he had merited by the crime of being born
into an accursed world. The second person of the Trinity moved to pity
by the helpless and miserable state of mankind, interposed between the
first person of the Trinity and the wretched sinners; he received into
his own breast the fire-tipped arrows of divine wrath, and by suffering
inconceivable tortures, equal in amount to an eternity of the torments
of hell, he wrung from God's hands the pardon of mankind, or of a
portion thereof. God, pacified by witnessing this awful agony of one who
had from all eternity been "lying in his bosom" co-equal sharer of his
Majesty and glory, and the object of his tenderest love, relents
from his fierce wrath, and consents to accept the pain of Jesus as
a substitute for the pain of mankind. In plain terms, then, God is
represented as a Being so awfully cruel, so implacably revengeful,
that pain _as_ pain, and death _as_ death, are what he demands as a
propitiatory sacrifice, and with nothing less than extremest agony can
his fierce claims on mankind be bought off. The due weight of suffering
he must have, but it is a matter of indifference whether it is undergone
by Jesus or by mankind. Did not the old Fathers do well in making the
awful ransom a matter between Jesus and the devil?

When this point is pressed on Christians, and one urges the dishonour
done to God by painting him in colours from which heart and soul recoil
in shuddering horror, by ascribing to him a revengefulness and pitiless
cruelty in comparison with which the worst efforts of human malignity
appear but childish mischief, they are quick to retort that we are
caricaturing Christian doctrine; they will allow, when overwhelmed with
evidence, that "strong language" has been used in past centuries, but
will say that such views are not now held, and that they do not ascribe
such harsh dealing to God the Father. Theists are therefore compelled to
prove each step of their accusation, and to quote from Christian writers
the words which embody the views they assail. Were I simply to state
that Christians in these days ascribe to Almighty God a fierce wrath
against the whole human race, that this wrath can only be soothed by
suffering and death, that he vents this wrath on an innocent head, and
that he is well pleased by the sight of the agony of his beloved Son,
a shout of indignation would rise from a thousand lips, and I should be
accused of exaggeration, of false witness, of blasphemy. So once more I
write down the doctrine from Christian dictation, and, be it remembered,
the sentences I quote are from published works, and are therefore, the
outcome of serious deliberation; they are not overdrawn pictures taken
from the fervid eloquence of excited oratory, when the speaker may
perhaps be carried further than he would, in cold blood, consent to.

Stroud makes Christ drink "the cup of the wrath of God." Jenkyn says,
"he suffered as one disowned and reprobated and forsaken of God." Dwight
considers that he endured God's "hatred and contempt." Bishop Jeune
tells us that "after man had done his worst, worse remained for Christ
to bear. He had fallen into his father's hands." Archbishop Thomson
preaches that "the clouds of God's wrath gathered thick over the whole
human race: they discharged themselves on Jesus only;" he "becomes a
curse for us, and a vessel of wrath." Liddon echoes the same sentiment:
"the apostles teach that mankind are slaves, and that Christ on the
Cross is paying their ransom. Christ crucified is voluntarily devoted
and accursed:" he even speaks of "the precise amount of ignominy and
pain needed for the redemption," and says that the "divine victim" paid
more than was absolutely necessary.

These quotations seem sufficient to prove that the Christians of the
present day are worthy followers of the elder believers. The theologians
first quoted are indeed coarser in their expressions, and are less
afraid of speaking out exactly what they believe, but there is no
real difference of creed between the awful doctrine of Flavel and the
polished dogma of Canon Liddon. The older and the modern Christians
alike believe in the bitter wrath of God against "the whole human race."
Both alike regard the Atonement as so much pain tendered by Jesus to the
Almighty Father in payment of a debt of pain owed to God by humanity.
They alike represent God as only to be pacified by the sight of
suffering. Man has insulted and injured God, and God must be revenged by
inflicting suffering on the sinner in return. The "hatred and contempt"
God launched at Jesus were due to the fact that Jesus was the sinner's
substitute, and are therefore the feelings which animate the Divine
heart towards the sinner himself. God hates and despises the world. He
would have "consumed it in a moment" in the fire of his burning wrath,
had not Jesus, "his chosen, stood before him in the gap to turn away his
wrathful indignation."

Now, how far is all this consistent with justice? Is the wrath of God
against humanity justified by the circumstances of the case, so that we
may be obliged to own that some sacrifice was due from sinful man to his
Creator, to propitiate a justly incensed and holy God? I trow not. On
this first count, the Atonement is a fearful injustice. For God has
allowed men to be brought into the world with sinful inclinations, and
to be surrounded with many temptations and much evil. He has made
man imperfect, and the child is born into the world with an imperfect
nature. It is radically unjust, then, that God should curse the work
of His hands for being what He made them, and condemn them to endless
misery for failing to do the impossible. Allowing that Christians are
right in believing that Adam was sinless when he came from his Maker's
hands, these remarks apply to every other living soul since born into
the world; the Genesis myth will not extricate Christians from the
difficulty. Christians are quite right and are justified by facts when
they say that man is born into the world frail, imperfect, prone to sin
and error; but who, we ask them, made men so? Does not their own Bible
tell them that the "potter hath power over the clay," and, further, that
"we are the clay and thou art the potter?" To curse men for being men,
_i.e._, imperfect moral beings, is the height of cruelty and injustice;
to condemn the morally weak to hell for sin, _i.e._, for failing in
moral strength, is about as fair as sentencing a sick man to death
because he cannot stand upright. Christians try and avoid the force of
this by saying that men should rely on God's grace to uphold them, but
they fail to see that this _very want of reliance_ is part of man's
natural weakness. The sick man might be blamed for falling because he
did not lean on a stronger arm, but suppose he was too weak to grasp
it? Further, few Christians believe that it is impossible in practice,
however possible in theory, to lead a perfect life; and as to "offend in
one point is to be guilty of all," one failure is sufficient to send the
generally righteous man to hell. Besides, they forget that infants are
included under the curse, although _necessarily_ incapable of grasping
the idea either of sin or of God; all babies born into the world and
dying before becoming capable of acting for themselves would, we are
taught, have been inevitably consigned to hell, had it not been for the
Atonement of Jesus. Some Christians actually believe that unbaptized
babies are not admitted into heaven, and in a Roman Catholic book
descriptive of hell, a poor little baby writhes and screams in a red-hot
oven.

This side of the Atonement, this unjust demand on men for a
righteousness they could not render, necessitating a sacrifice to
propitiate God for non-compliance with his exaction, has had its due
effect on men's minds, and has alienated their hearts from God. No
wonder that men turned away from a God who, like a passionate but
unskilful workman, dashes to pieces the instrument he has made because
it fails in its purpose, and, instead of blaming his own want of skill,
vents his anger on the helpless thing that is only what he made it.
Most naturally, also, have men shrunk from the God who "avengeth and
is furious" to the tender, pitiful, human Jesus, who loved sinners
so deeply as to choose to suffer for their sakes. They could owe no
gratitude to an Almighty Being who created them and cursed them, and
only consented to allow them to be happy on condition that another paid
for them the misery he demanded as his due; but what gratitude could
be enough for him who rescued them from the fearful hands of the living
God, at the cost of almost intolerable suffering to himself? Let us
remember that Christ is said to suffer the very torments of hell, and
that his worst sufferings were when "fallen into his father's hands,"
out of which he has rescued us, and then can we wonder that the
crucified is adored with a very ecstasy of gratitude? Imagine what it is
to be saved from the hands of him who inflicted an agony admitted to be
unlimited, and who took advantage of an infinite capacity in order to
inflict an infinite pain. It is well for the men before whose eyes this
awful spectre has flitted that the fair humanity of Jesus gives them a
refuge to fly to, else what but despair and madness could have been the
doom of those who, without Jesus, would have seen enthroned above the
wailing universe naught but an infinite cruelty and an Almighty foe.

We see, then, that the necessity for an atonement makes the Eternal
Father both unjust in his demands on men and cruel in his punishment of
inevitable failure; but there is another injustice which is of the
very essence of the Atonement itself. This consists in the vicarious
character of the sacrifice: a new element of injustice is introduced
when we consider that the person sacrificed is not even the guilty
party. If a man offends against law, justice requires that he should be
punished: the punishment becomes unjust if it is excessive, as in the
case we have been considering above; but it is equally unjust to allow
him to go free without punishment. Christians are right in affirming
that moral government would be at an end were men allowed to sin with
impunity, and did an easy forgiveness succeed to each offence. They
appeal to our instinctive sense of justice to-approve the sentiment that
punishment should follow sin: we acquiesce, and hope that we have now
reached a firm standing-ground from which to proceed further in our
investigation. But, no; they promptly outrage that same sense of justice
which they have called as a witness on their side, by asking us to
believe that its ends are attained provided that somebody or other is
punished. When we reply that _this_ is not justice, we are promptly
bidden not to be presumptuous and argue from our human ideas of justice
as to the course that ought to be pursued by the absolute justice of
God. "Then why appeal to it at all?" we urge; "why talk of justice in
the matter if we are totally unable to judge as to the rights and wrongs
of the case?" At this point we are commonly overwhelmed with Paul's
notable argument--"Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against
God?" But if Christians value the simplicity and straightforwardness
of their own minds, they should not use words which convey a certain
accepted meaning in this shuffling, double sense. When we speak of
"justice," we speak of a certain well-understood quality, and we do not
speak of a mysterious divine attribute, which has not only nothing in
common with human justice, but which is in direct opposition to that
which we understand by that name. Suppose a man condemned to death for
murder: the judge is about to sentence him, when a bystander--as it
chances, the judge's own son--interposes: "My Lord, the prisoner is
guilty and deserves to be hanged; but if you will let him go, I will
die in his place." The offer is accepted, the prisoner is set free, the
judge's son is hanged in his stead. What is all this? Self-sacrifice
(however misdirected), love, enthusiasm--what you will; but certainly
not _justice_--nay, the grossest injustice, a second murder, an
ineffaceable stain on the ermine of the outraged law. I imagine that,
in this supposed case, no Christian will be found to assert that justice
was done; yet call the judge God, the prisoner mankind, the substitute
Jesus, and the trial scene is exactly reproduced. Then, in the name of
candour and common sense, why call that just in God which we see would
be so unjust and immoral in man? This vicarious nature of the Atonement
also degrades the divine name, by making him utterly careless in
the matter of punishment: all he is anxious for, according to this
detestable theory, is that he should strike a blow _somewhere_. Like
a child in a passion, he only feels the desire to hurt somebody, and
strikes out vaguely and at random. There is no discrimination used;
the thunderbolt is launched into a crowd: it falls on the head of the
"sinless son," and crushes the innocent, while the sinner goes
free. What matter? It has fallen somewhere, and the "burning fire of
his-wrath" is cooled. This is what men call the vindication of the
justice of the Moral Governor of the universe: this is "the act of
God's awful holiness," which marks his hatred of sin, and his immovable
determination to punish it. But when we reflect that this justice
is consistent with letting off the guilty and punishing the innocent
person, we feel dread misgivings steal into our minds. The justice of
our Moral Governor has nothing in common with our justice--indeed, it
violates all our notions of right and wrong. What if, as Mr. Vance
Smith suggests, this strange justice be consistent also with a double
punishment of sin; and what if the Moral Governor should bethink himself
that, having confused morality by an unjust--humanly speaking, of
course--punishment, it would be well to set things straight again by
punishing the guilty after all? We can never dare to feel safe in the
hands of this unjust--humanly speaking--Moral Governor, or predicate
from our instinctive notions of right and wrong what his requirements
may be. One is lost in astonishment that men should believe such things
of God, and not have manhood enough to rise up rebellious against such
injustice--should, instead, crouch at his feet, and while trying to hide
themselves from his wrath should force their trembling lips to murmur
some incoherent acknowledgment of his mercy. Ah! they do not believe it;
they assert it in words, but, thank God, it makes no impression on their
hearts; and they would die a thousand deaths rather than imitate, in
their dealings with their fellow-men, the fearful cruelty which the
Church has taught them to call the justice of the Judge of all the
earth.

The Atonement is not only doubly unjust, but it is perfectly futile. We
are told that Christ took away the sins of the world; we have a right to
ask, "how?" So far as we can judge, we bear our sins in our own bodies
still, and the Atonement helps us not at all. Has he borne the physical
consequences of sin, such as the loss of health caused by intemperance
of all kinds? Not at all, this penalty remains, and, from the nature
of things, cannot be transferred. Has he borne the social consequences,
shame, loss of credit, and so on? They remain still to hinder us as
we strive to rise after our fall. Has he at least borne the pangs of
remorse for us, the stings of conscience? By no means; the tears of
sorrow are no less bitter, the prickings of repentance no less keen.
Perhaps he has struck at the root of evil, and has put away sin itself
out of a redeemed world? Alas! the wailing that goes up to heaven from a
world oppressed with sin weeps out a sorrowfully emphatic, "no, this
he has _not_ done." What has he then borne for us? Nothing, save the
phantom wrath of a phantom tyrant; all that is real exists the same as
before. We turn away, then, from the offered atonement with a feeling
that would be impatience at such trifling, were it not all too
sorrowful, and leave the Christians to impose on their imagined
sacrifice, the imagined burden of the guilt of the accursed race.

Further, the Atonement is, from the nature of things, entirely
impossible: we have seen how Christ fails to bear our sins in any
intelligible sense, but can he, in any way, bear the "punishment" of
sin? The idea that the punishment of sin can be transferred from one
person to another is radically false, and arises from a wrong conception
of the punishment consequent on sin, and from the ecclesiastical guilt,
so to speak, thought to be incurred thereby. _The only true punishment
of sin is the injury caused by it to our moral nature_: all the indirect
punishments, we have seen, Christ has not taken away, and the true
punishment can fall only on ourselves. For sin is nothing more than the
transgression of law. All law, when broken, entails _of necessity_ an
appropriate penalty, and recoils, as it were, on the transgressor. A
natural law, when broken, avenges itself by consequent suffering, and so
does a spiritual law: the injury wrought by the latter is not less
real, although less obvious. Physical sin brings physical suffering;
spiritual, moral, mental sin brings each its own appropriate punishment.
"Sin" has become such a cant term that we lose sight, in using it, of
its real simple meaning, a breaking of law. Imagine any sane man coming
and saying, "My dear friend; if you like to put your hand into the fire
I will bear the punishment of being burnt, and you shall not suffer." It
is quite as absurd to imagine that if I sin Jesus can bear my consequent
suffering. If a man lies habitually, for instance, he grows thoroughly
untrue: let him repent ever so vigorously, he must bear the consequences
of his past deeds, and fight his way back slowly to truthfulness of
word and thought: no atonement, nothing in heaven or earth save his own
labour, will restore to him the forfeited jewel of instinctive candour.
Thus the "punishment" of untruthfulness is the loss of the power of
being true, just as the punishment of putting the hand into the fire is
the loss of the power of grasping. But in addition to this simple and
most just and natural "retribution," theologians have invented certain
arbitrary penalties as a punishment of sin, the wrath of God and hell
fire. These imaginary penalties are discharged by an equally imaginary
atonement, the natural punishment remaining as before; so after all we
only reject the two sets of inventions which balance each other, and
find ourselves just in the same position as they are, having gained
infinitely in simplicity and naturalness. The punishment of sin is not
an arbitrary penalty, but an inevitable sequence: Jesus may bear, if his
worshippers will have it so, the theological fiction of the "guilt of
sin," an idea derived from the ceremonial uncleanness of the Levitical
law, but let him leave alone the solemn realities connected with the
sacred and immutable laws of God.

Doubly unjust, useless, and impossible, it might be deemed a work of
supererogation to argue yet further against the Atonement; but its hold
on men's minds is too firm to allow us to lay down a single weapon which
can be turned against it. So, in addition to these defects, I remark
that, viewed as a propitiatory sacrifice to Almighty God, it is
thoroughly inadequate. If God, being righteous, as we believe Him to be,
regarded man with anger because of man's sinfulness, what is obviously
the required propitiation? Surely the removal of the cause of anger,
_i.e._, of sin itself, and the seeking by man of righteousness. The old
Hebrew prophet saw this plainly, and his idea of atonement is the
true one: "wherewith shall I come before the Lord," he is asked, with
burnt-offerings or--choicer still--parental anguish over a first-born's
corpse? "What doth the Lord require of thee," is the reproving answer,
"but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
But what is the propitiatory element in the Christian Atonement?
let Canon Liddon answer: "the ignominy and pain _needed_ for the
redemption." Ignominy, agony, blood, death, these are what Christians
offer up as an acceptable sacrifice to the Spirit of Love. But what have
all these in common with the demands of the Eternal Righteousness, and
how can pain atone for sin? they have no relation to each other; there
is no appropriateness in the offered exchange. These terrible offerings
are in keeping with the barbarous ideas of uncivilized nations, and we
understand the feelings which prompt the savage to immolate tortured
victims on the altars of his gloomy gods; they are appropriate
sacrifices to the foes of mankind, who are to be bought off from
injuring us by our offering them an equivalent pain to that they desire
to inflict, but they are offensive when given to Him who is the
Friend and Lover of Humanity. An Atonement which offers suffering as
a propitiation can have nothing in common with God's will for man, and
must be utterly beside the mark, perfectly inadequate. If we must have
Atonement, let it at least consist of something which will suit the
Righteousness and Love of God, and be in keeping with his perfection;
let it not borrow the language of ancient savagery, and breathe of blood
and dying victims, and tortured human frames, racked with pain.

Lastly, I impeach the Atonement as injurious in several ways to human
morality. It has been extolled as "meeting the needs of the awakened
sinner" by soothing his fears of punishment with the gift of a
substitute who has already suffered his sentence for him; but nothing
can be more pernicious than to console a sinner with the promise that
he shall escape the punishment he has justly deserved. The Atonement
may meet the first superficial feelings of a man startled into the
consciousness of his sinfulness, it may soothe the first vague fears and
act as an opiate to the awakened conscience; but it does not fulfil the
cravings of a heart deeply yearning after righteousness; it offers a
legal justification to a soul which is longing for purity, it offers
freedom from punishment to a soul longing for freedom from sin. The true
penitent does not seek to be shielded from the consequences of his past
errors: he accepts them meekly, bravely, humbly, learning through pain
the lesson of future purity. An atonement which steps in between us and
this fatherly discipline ordained by God, would be a curse and not a
blessing; it would rob us of our education and deprive us of a priceless
instruction. The force of temptation is fearfully added to by the idea
that repentance lays the righteous penalty of transgression on another
head; this doctrine gives a direct encouragement to sin, as even
Paul perceived when he said, "shall we continue in sin that grace may
abound?" Some one has remarked, I think, that though Paul ejaculates,
"God forbid," his fears were well founded and have been widely realised.
To the Atonement we owe the morbid sentiment which believes in the holy
death of a ruffianly murderer, because, goaded by ungovernable terror,
he has snatched at the offered safety and been "washed in the blood of
the lamb." To it we owe the unwholesome glorying in the pious sentiments
of such an one, who ought to go out of this life sadly and silently,
without a sickening parade of feelings of love towards the God whose
laws, as long as he could, he has broken and despised. But the Christian
teachers will extol the "saving grace" which has made the felon die with
words of joyful assurance, meet only for the lips of one who crowns
a saintly life with a peaceful death. The Atonement has weakened that
stern condemnation of sin which is the safeguard of purity; it has
softened down moral differences, and placed the penitent above the
saint; it has dulled the feeling of responsibility in the soul; it has
taken away the help, such as it is, of fear of punishment for sin; it
has confused man's sense of justice, outraged his feeling of right,
blunted his conscience, and misdirected his repentance. It has chilled
his love to God by representing the universal father as a cruel tyrant
and a remorseless and unjust judge. It has been the fruitful parent of
all asceticism, for, since God was pacified by suffering once, he would,
of course, be pleased with suffering at all times, and so men have
logically ruined their bodies to save their souls, and crushed their
feelings and lacerated their hearts to propitiate the awful form
frowning behind the cross of Christ. To the Atonement we owe it that God
is served by fear instead of by love, that monasticism holds its head
above the sweet sanctities of love and home, that religion is crowned
with thorns and not with roses, that the _miserere_ and not the _gloria_
is the strain from earth to heaven. The Atonement teaches men to crouch
at the feet of God, instead of raising loving, joyful faces to meet his
radiant smile; it shuts out his sunshine from us, and veils us in the
night of an impenetrable dread. What is the sentiment with which Canon
Liddon closes a sermon on the death of Christ? I quote it to show the
slavish feeling engendered by this doctrine in a very noble human soul:
"In ourselves, indeed, there is nothing that should stay His (God's)
arm or invite his mercy. But may he have respect to the acts and the
sufferings of his sinless son? Only while contemplating the inestimable
merits of the Redeemer can we dare to hope that our heavenly Father will
overlook the countless provocations which he receives at the hands of
the redeemed." Is this a wholesome sentiment, either as regards our
feelings towards God or our efforts towards holiness? Is it well to look
to the purity of another as a makewight for our personal shortcomings?
All these injuries to morality done by the atonement are completed
by the crowning one, that it offers to the sinner a veil of "imputed
righteousness." Not only does it take from him his saving punishment,
but it nullifies his strivings after holiness by offering him a
righteousness which is not his own. It introduces into the solemn
region of duty to God the legal fiction of a gift of holiness, which is
imputed, not won. We are taught to believe that we can blind the eyes
of God and satisfy him with a pretended purity. But that every one whose
purity we seek to claim as ours, that fair blossom of humanity, Jesus
of Nazareth, whose mission we so misconstrue, launched his anathema at
whited sepulchres, pure without and foul within. What would he have said
of the whitewash of unimputed righteousness? Stern and sharp would have
been his rebuke, methinks, to a device so untrue, and well-deserved
would have been his thundered "woe" on a hypocrisy that would fain
deceive God as well as man.

These considerations have carried so great a weight with the most
enlightened and progressive minds among Christians themselves, that
there has grown up a party in the Church whose repudiation of an
atonement of agony and death is as complete as even we could wish.
They denounce with the utmost fervour the hideous notion of a "bloody
sacrifice," and are urgent in their representations of the dishonour
done to God by ascribing to him "pleasure in the death of him that
dieth," or satisfaction in the sight of pain. They point out that there
is no virtue in blood to wash away sin, not even "in the blood of a
God." Maurice eloquently pleads against the idea that the suffering
of the "well-beloved Son" was in itself an acceptable sacrifice to the
Almighty Father, and he sees the atoning element in the "holiness and
graciousness of the Son." Writers of this school perceive that a moral
and not a physical sacrifice can be the only acceptable offering to the
Father of spirits, but the great objection lies against their theory
also, that the Atonement is still vicarious. Christ still suffers _for_
man, in order to make men acceptable to God. It is, perhaps, scarcely
fair to say this of the school as a whole, since the opinions of Broad
Church divines differ widely from each other, ranging from the orthodox
to the Socinian standing-point. Yet, roughly speaking, we may say that
while they have given up the error of thinking that the death of
Christ reconciles God to-us, they yet believe that his death, in
some mysterious manner, reconciles us to God. It is a matter of deep
thankfulness that they give up the old cruel idea of propitiating God,
and so prepare the way for a higher creed. Their more humane teaching
reaches hearts which are as yet sealed against us, and they are the
John Baptist of the Theistic Christ. We must still urge on them that an
atonement at all is superfluous, that all the parade of reconciliation
by means of a mediator is perfectly unnecessary as between God and his
child, man; that the notion put forward that Christ realised the ideal
of humanity and propitiated God by showing what a man _could_ be, is
objectionable in that it represents God as needing to be taught what
were the capacities of his creatures, and is further untrue, because the
powers of God in man are not really the equivalent of the capabilities
of a simple man. Broad Churchmen are still hampered by the difficulties
surrounding a divine Christ, and are puzzled to find for him a place in
their theology which is at once suitable for his dignity, and consistent
with a reasonable belief. They feel obliged to acknowledge that some
unusual benefit to the race must result from the incarnation and death
of a God, and are swayed alternately by their reason, which places
the crucifixion of Jesus in the roll of martyrs' deaths, and by their
prejudices, which assign to it a position unique and unrivalled in the
history of the race. There are, however, many signs that the deity of
Jesus is, as an article of faith, tottering from its pedestal in the
Broad Church school. The hold on it by such men as the Rev. J. S. Brooke
is very slight, and his interpretation of the incarnation is regarded
by orthodox divines with unmingled horror. Their _moral_ atonement, in
turn, is as the dawn before the sunrise, and we may hope that it will
soon develop into the real truth: namely, that the dealings of Jesus
with the Father were a purely private matter between his own soul and
God, and that his value to mankind consists in his being one of the
teachers of the race, one "with a genius for religion," one of the
schoolmasters appointed to lead humanity to God.

The theory of M'Leod Campbell stands alone, and is highly interesting
and ingenious--it is the more valuable and hopeful as coming from
Scotland, the home of the dreariest belief as to the relations existing
between man and God. He rejects the penal character of the Atonement,
and makes it consist, so to speak, in leading God and man to understand
one another. He considers that Christ witnessed to men on behalf of God,
and vindicated the father's heart by showing what he could be to the son
who trusted in him. He witnessed to God on behalf of men--and this
is the weakest point in the book, verging, as it does, on
substitution--showing in humanity a perfect sympathy with God's feelings
towards sin, and offering to God for man a perfect repentance for human
transgression. I purposely say "verging," because Campbell does not
_intend_ substitution; he represents this sorrow of Jesus as what he
must inevitably feel at seeing his brother-men unconscious of their sin
and danger, so no fiction is supposed as between God and Christ. But he
considers that God, having seen the perfection of repentance in Jesus,
accepts the repentance of man, imperfect as it is, because it is _in
kind_ the same as that of Jesus, and is the germ of that feeling of
which his is the perfect flower; in this sense, and only in this sense,
is the repentance of man accepted "for Christ's sake." He considers that
men must share in the mind of Christ as towards God and towards sin, in
order to be benefited by the work of Christ, and that each man must thus
actually take part in the work of atonement. The sufferings of Jesus he
regards as necessary in order to test the reality of the life of sonship
towards God, and brotherhood towards men, which he came to earth to
exemplify. I trust I have done no injustice in this short summary to a
very able and thoughtful book, which presents, perhaps, the only view of
the Atonement compatible with the love and the justice of God; and this
only, of course, if the idea of _any_ atonement can fairly be said to
be consistent with justice. The merits of this view are practically that
this work of Jesus is not an "atonement" in the theological sense at
all. The defects of Campbell's book are inseparable from his creed,
as he argues from a belief in the deity of Jesus, from an unconscious
limitation of God's knowledge (as though God did not understand man
till he was revealed to him by Jesus) and from a wrong conception of the
punishment due to sin. I said, at starting, that the Atonement was the
_raison d'être_ of Christianity, and, in conclusion, I would challenge
all thoughtful men and women to say whether good cause has or has not
been shown for rejecting this pillar "of the faith." The Atonement has
but to be studied in order to be rejected. The difficulty is to persuade
people to _think_ about their creed, Yet the question of this doctrine
must be faced and answered. "I have too much faith in the common sense
and justice of Englishmen when once awakened to face any question
fairly, to doubt what that answer will be."



ON THE MEDIATION AND SALVATION OF ECCLESIASTICAL CHRISTIANITY.

THE whole Christian scheme turns on the assumption of the inherent
necessity of some one standing between the Creator and the creature,
and shielding the all-weak from the power of the All-mighty. "It is a
fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God;" such is the
key-note of the strain which is chanted alike by Roman Catholicism, with
its thousand intercessors, and by Protestantism, with its "one Mediator,
the man Christ Jesus." "Speak _thou_ for me," cries man to his favourite
mouthpiece, whoever it may be; "go thou near, but let me not see the
face of God, lest I die." The heroes, the saints, the idols of humanity,
have been the men who have dared to search into the Unseen, and to gaze
straight up into the awful Face of God. They have dashed aside all that
intervened between their souls and the Eternal Soul, and have found it,
as one of them quaintly phrases it, "a profitable sweet necessity to
fall on the naked arm of Jehovah." Then, because they dared to-trust Him
who had called them into existence, and to stretch out beseeching hands
to the Everlasting Father, they have been forced into a position they
would have been the very first to protest against, and have been made
into mediators for men less bold, for children less confiding. Those
who dared not seek God for themselves have clung to the garments of the
braver souls, who have thus become, involuntarily, veils between
their brother-men and the Supreme. There is, perhaps, no better way of
demonstrating the radical errors from which spring all the so-called
"schemes of redemption" and "economies of Divine grace" than by starting
from the Christian hypothesis.

We will admit, for argument's sake, the Deity of Jesus, in order that we
may thus see the more distinctly that a mediator of any kind between
God and man is utterly uncalled for. It is mediation, in itself, that
is wrong in principle; we object to it as a whole, not to any special
manifestation of it. Divine or human mediators, Jesus or his mother,
saint, angel, or priest, we reject them each and all; our birthright
as human beings is to be the offspring of the Universal Father, and we
refuse to have any interloper pressing in between our hearts and His.

We will take mediation first in its highest form, and speak of it as if
Jesus were really God as well as man. All Christians agree in asserting
that the coming of the Son into the world to save sinners was the result
of the love of the Father for these sinners; _i.e._, "_God_ so loved the
world that _He_ sent His Son." The motive-power of the redemption of the
world is, then, according to Christians, the deep love of the Creator
for the work of His hands. This it was that exiled the Son from the
bosom of the Father, and caused the Eternal to be born into time.
But now a startling change occurs in the aspect of affairs. Jesus has
"atoned for the sins of the world;" he "has made peace through the blood
of his cross;" and having done so, he suddenly appears as the mediator
for men. What does this pleading of the Son on behalf of sinners imply?
Only this--_a complete change in the Father's mind towards the world_.
After the yearning love of which we have heard, after this absolute
sacrifice to win His children's hearts, He at last succeeds. He sees His
children at His feet, repentant for the past, eager to make amends in
the future; human hands appealing to Him, human eyes streaming with
tears. He turns His back on the souls He has been labouring to win; He
refuses to clasp around His penitents the arms outstretched to them so
long, unless they are presented to Him by an accredited intercessor,
and come armed with a formal recommendation. The inconsistency of such a
procedure must be palpable to all minds; and in order to account for
one absurdity, theologians have invented another; having created one
difficulty, they are forced to make a second, in order to escape from
the first. So they represent God as loving sinners, and desiring to
forgive and welcome them. This feeling is the Mercy of God; but, in
opposition to the dictates of Mercy, Justice starts up, and forbids any
favour to the sinner unless its own claims are first satisfied to the
utmost. A Christian writer has represented Mercy and Justice as standing
before the Eternal: Mercy pleads for forgiveness and pity, Justice
clamours for punishment. Two attributes of the Godhead are personified
and placed in opposition to each other, and require to be reconciled.
But when we remember that each personified quality is really but a
portion, so to speak, of the Divine character, we find that God is
divided against Himself. Thus, this theory introduces discord into the
harmonious mind which inspires the perfect melodies of the universe. It
sees warring elements in the Serenity of the Infinite One; it pictures
successive waves of love and anger ruffling that ineffable Calm; it
imagines clouds of changing motives sweeping across the sun of that
unchanging Will. Such a theory as this must be rejected as soon as
realised by the thoughtful mind. God is not a man, to be swayed first
by one motive and then by another. His mercy and justice ever point
unwaveringly in the same direction: perfect justice requires the same
as perfect mercy. If God's justice could fail, the whole moral universe
would be in confusion, and that would be the greatest cruelty that
could be inflicted on intelligent beings. The weak pliability, miscalled
mercy, which is supposed to be worked upon by a mediator, is a human
infirmity which men have transferred to their idea of God.

A man who has announced his intention to punish may be persuaded out
of his resolution. New arguments may be adduced for the condemned one's
innocence, new reasons for clemency may be suggested; or the judge may
have been over-strict, or have been swayed by prejudice. Here a mediator
may indeed step in, and find good work to do; but, in the name of the
Eternal Perfection, what has all this to do with the judgment of God?
Can His knowledge be imperfect, His mercy increased? Can His sentence be
swayed by prejudice, or made harsh by over-severity?

But if His judgment is already perfect, any change implies imperfection,
and all left for the mediator to do is to persuade God to make a change,
_i.e._, to become imperfect; or, God having decided that sin shall
be punished, the mediator steps in, and actually so works upon God's
feelings that He revokes His decision, and--most cruel of mercies--lets
it go unnoticed. Like an unwise parent, God is persuaded not to punish
the erring child. But such is not the case. God is just, and because He
is just He is most truly merciful: in that justice rests the certainty
of the due punishment of sin, and, therefore of the purification of the
sinner! and no mediator--thanks be to God for it!--shall ever cause to
waver for one instant that Rock of Justice on which reposes the hope of
Humanity.

But the theory we are considering has another fatal error in it:
it ascribes imperfection to Almighty God. For God is represented as
desiring to forgive sinners, and this desire must be either right or
wrong. If it be right, it can at once be gratified; but if Justice
opposes this forgiveness, then the desire to forgive is not wholly
right. Theologians are thus placed in this dilemma: if God is
perfect--as He is--any desire of His must likewise be flawlessly
perfect, and its fulfilment must be the very best thing that could
happen to His whole creation; on the other hand, if there is any barrier
of right--and Justice _is_ right--interposed between God and His desire,
then His Will is not the most perfect Good. Theologians must then choose
between admitting that the desire of God to welcome sinners is just, or
detracting from the Eternal Perfection.

It is obvious that we do not weaken our case by admitting, for the
moment, the Deity of Jesus; for we are striking at the root-idea
of mediation. That the mediator should be God is totally beside the
question, and in no way strengthens our adversaries' hands. His Deity
does nothing more than introduce a new element of confusion into the
affair; for we become entangled in a maze of contradictions. God, who is
One, even according to Christians, is at one and the same time estranged
from sinners, pleading for sinners, and admitting the pleading. God
pleads to Himself--but we are confounding the persons: one God pleads to
another--but we are dividing the substance. Alas and alas for the creed
which compels its votaries to deny their reason, and degrade their
Maker! which babbles of a Nature it cannot comprehend, and forces
its foolish contradictions on indignant souls! If Jesus be God, his
mediation is at once impossible and unnecessary; if he be God, his will
is the will of God; and if he wills to welcome sinners, it is God who
wills to welcome them. If he, who is God, is content to pardon and
embrace, what further do sinners require? Christians tell us that Jesus
is one with God: it is well, we reply; for you say he is the Friend of
sinners, and the Redeemer of the lost. If he be God, we both agree as to
the friendliness of God to sinners. You need no mediator between you
and Jesus; and, since he is God, you need no mediator with God. This
reasoning is irrefragable, unless Christians are content to assign to
their mediator some place which is less than divine; for they certainly
derogate from his dignity when they imagine him as content to receive
those whom Almighty God chases from before His face. And in making this
difference between Jesus and the Father they make a fatal admission that
he is distinct in feeling from God, and therefore cannot be the One God.
It is the proper perception of this fact which has introduced into
the Roman Church the human mediators whose intercession is constantly
implored. Jesus, being God, is too awful to be approached: his mother,
his apostles, some saint or martyr, must come between. I have read a
Roman Catholic paper about the mediation of Mary which would be accepted
by the most orthodox Protestant were Mary replaced by Jesus, and Jesus
by the Father. For Jesus is there painted, as the Father is painted by
the orthodox, in stern majesty, hard, implacable, exacting the uttermost
farthing; and Mary is represented as standing between him and the
sinners for whom she pleads. It is only a further development of the
idea which makes the man Jesus the Mediator between God and man. As the
deification of Mary progresses, following in slow but certain steps
the deification of Jesus, a mediator will be required through whom to
approach _her_; and then Jesus, too, will fade out of the hearts of
men, as the Father has faded out of the hearts of Christians, and this
superstition of mediation will sink lower and lower, till it is rejected
by all earnest hearts, and is loathed by human souls which are aching
for the living God.

We see, then, that mediation implies an absurd and inexplicable change
in the supposed attitude of God towards man, and destroys all confidence
in the justice of the Supreme Ruler. We should further take into
consideration the strange feeling towards the Universal _Heart_ implied
in man's endeavour to push some one in between himself and the Eternal
Father. As we study Nature and try to discover from its workings
something of the characteristics of the Worker therein, we find not only
a ruling Intelligence--a _Supreme Reason_, before which we bow our heads
in an adoration too deep for words--but we catch also beautiful glimpses
of a ruling Love--a _Supreme Heart_, to which our hearts turn with a
glad relief from the dark mysteries of pain and evil which press us in
on every side. Simple belief in God at all, that is to say, in a Power
which works in the Universe, is quite sufficient to disperse any of
that feeling of fear which finds its fit expression in the longing for
a mediator. For being placed here without our request, and even without
our consent, we have surely, as a simple matter of justice, a right to
demand that the Power which placed us here shall provide us with means
by which we can secure our happiness. I speak, of course, as of a
_conscious_ Power, because a blind Force is necessarily irresponsible;
but those who believe in a God are bound to acknowledge that He is
responsible for their well-being. If any one should suggest that to
say thus is to criticise God's dealings and to speak with presumptuous
irreverence, I retort that the irreverence lies with those who ascribe
to the Supreme a course of action towards His creatures that they
themselves would be ashamed to pursue towards their own children, and
that they who fling at us the reproach of blasphemy because we will not
bow the knee before their idol, would themselves lie open to the charge,
were it not that their ignorance shields them from the sterner censure.
All good in man--poor shallow streamlet though it be--flows down from
the pure depths of the Fountain of Good, and any throb of Love on
earth is a pulsation caused by the ceaseless beating of the Universal
Father-Heart. Yet men fear to trust that Heart, lest it should cease
beating; they fear to rest on God, lest He should play them false.
When will they catch even a glimpse of that great ocean of love which
encircles the universe as the atmosphere the earth, which is infinite
because God is infinite? If there is no spot in the universe of which
it can be said, "God is not here," then is there also no spot where love
does not rule; if there is no life existing without the support of the
Life-Giver and the Life-Sustainer, then is there also no life which is
not cradled in the arms of Love. Who then will dare to push himself in
between man and a God like this? In the light of the Universal Reason
and the Universal Heart mediation stands confessed as an impertinent
absurdity. Away with any and all of those who interfere in the most
sacred concerns of the soul, who press in between the Creator and His
offspring; between the heart of man and the parent Heart of God. Whoever
it may be, saint or martyr, or the king of saints and martyrs, Jesus of
Nazareth, let him come down from a position which none can rightly hold.
To elevate the noblest son of man into this place of mediator is to make
him into an offence to his brethren, and to cause their love to turn
into anger, and their reverence into indignation. If men persist in
talking about the need of a mediator before they dare to approach God,
we must remind them that, if there be a God at all, He _must_ be just,
and that, therefore, they are perfectly safe In His hands; if they begin
to babble about forgiveness "_for the sake of Jesus Christ?_ we must
ask them what in the world they mean by the forgiveness of sin?" Surely
they do not think that God is like man, quick to revenge affront and
jealous of His dignity; even were it possible for man to injure, in any
sense, the Majesty of God, do they conceive that God is an irascible and
revengeful Potentate? Those who think thus of God can never--I assert
boldly--have caught the smallest glimpse of _God_. They may have seen
a "magnified man," but they have seen nothing more; they have never
prostrated themselves before that Universal Spirit who dwells in this
vast universe; they have never felt their own littleness in a place so
great. How _can_ sin be forgiven? can a past act be undone, or the hands
go back on the sun-dial of Time? All God's so-called chastisements are
but the natural and inevitable results of broken laws--laws invariable
in their action, neither to be escaped or defied. Obedience to law
results in happiness, and the suffering consequent on the transgression
of law is not inflicted by an angry God, but is the simple natural
outcome of the broken law itself. Put your hand in the fire, and no
mediator can save you from burning; cry earnestly to God to save you,
and then cast yourself from a precipice, and will a mediator come
between you and the doom you have provoked? We should do more wisely if
we studied laws and tried to conform ourselves to them, instead of
going blundering about with our eyes shut, trusting that some one will
interpose to shield us from the effects of our own folly and stupidity.
Happily for mankind, mediation is impossible in that beautiful realm of
law in which we are placed; when men have quite made up their minds that
their happiness depends entirely on their own exertions, there will at
last be some chance for the advancement of Humanity, for then they will
work for things instead of praying for them. It is of real practical
importance that this Christian notion of mediation should be destroyed,
because on it hang all the ideas about trusting to some one else to do
our own work. This plan has not answered: we judge it by results, and
it has failed. Surely we may hope that as men get to see that prayer has
not succeeded in its efforts to "move the arm which moves the world, to
bring salvation down," they may turn to the more difficult, but also
the more hopeful task, of moving their own arms to work out their own
salvation. For the past, it is past, and none can reverse it; none
can stay the action of the eternal law which links sorrow with
transgression, and joy and peace with obedience. When we slip back on
our path upward, we may repent and call on God or man for forgiveness
as we list, but only through toil and suffering can the lost way be
recovered, and the rugged path must be trodden with bleeding feet; for
there is none who can lift the sinner over the hindrances he has built
up for himself, or carry him over the rocks with which he has strewed
his road.

Does the sentimental weakness of our age shrink from this doctrine, and
whimper out that it is cold and stern? Ay, it is cold with the cold
of the bracing sea-breeze, stringing to action the nerves enfeebled by
hot-houses and soft-living; ay, it is stern with the blessed sternness
of changeless law, of law which never fails us, never varies a hair's
breadth. But in that law is strength; man's arm is feeble, but let him
submit to the laws of steam, and his arm becomes dowered with a giant's
force; conform to a law, and the mighty power of that law is on your
side; "humble yourself under the mighty hand of God," who is the
Universal Law, "and He shall lift you up."

So much for mediation. We turn with a still deeper repugnance to study
the Christian idea of "Salvation." Mediation at least leaves us
God, however it degrades and blasphemes Him, but salvation takes us
altogether out of His Hands. Not content with placing a mediator between
themselves and God, Christians cry out that He is still too near them;
they must push Him yet further back, they must have a Saviour too,
through whom all His benefits shall filter.

"Saviour," is an expression often found in the Old Testament, where it
bears a very definite and noble meaning. God is the Saviour of men from
the power of sin, and although we may consider that God does _not_ save
from sin in this direct manner, we are yet bound to acknowledge that
there is nothing in this idea which is either dishonouring or repulsive.
But the word "Saviour" has been degraded by Christianity, and the
salvation He brings is not a salvation from sin. "The Lord and Saviour,
Jesus Christ" is the Saviour of men, not because he delivers them from
sin, but "because he saves them from hell, and from the fiery wrath
of God." Salvation is no longer the equivalent of righteousness, the
antithesis of sin; in Christian life it means nothing more than the
antithesis of damnation. It is true that Christians may retort that
Jesus "saves his people from their sins;" we gladly acknowledge the
nobleness and the beauty of many a Christian life, but nevertheless this
is _not_ the primary idea attached by popular Christianity to the word
"salvation." "Being saved" is to be delivered out of "those hands of
the living God," into which, as they are taught by their Bible, it is
so fearful a thing to fall. "Being saved" is the _immediate_ result of
conversion, and is the opposite of "being lost." "Being saved" is being
hidden "in the riven side of Jesus," and so preserved from the awful
flames of the destroying wrath of God. Against all this we, believers in
an Almighty Love, in a Universal Father, enter our solemn and deliberate
protest, with a depth of abhorrence, with a passion of indignation which
is far too intense to find any adequate expression in words. There is no
language strong enough to show our deeply-rooted repugnance to the idea
that we can be safer anywhere or at any time than we are already here;
we cannot repel with sufficient warmth the officious interference which
offers to take us out of the hands of God. To push some one in between
our souls and Him was bad enough; but to go further and to offer us
salvation from our Maker, to try and threaten us away from the arms of
His Love, to suggest that another's hands are more tender, another's
heart more loving than the Supreme Heart,--these are blasphemies
to which we will not listen in silence. It is true that to us these
suggestions are only matters of laughter; dimly as we guess at the
Deity, we know enough not to be afraid of Him, and these crude and
childish conceptions about Him are among ourselves too contemptible to
refute.

     "Non ragione di lor, mai guardo e passo."

But we see how these ideas colour men's thoughts and lives, how they
cripple their intellect and outrage their hearts, and we rise to trample
down these superstitions, not because they are in themselves worth
refuting, but simply because they degrade our brother-men. We believe in
no wisdom that improves on Nature's laws, and one of those laws, written
on our hearts, is that sorrow shall tread on the heels of sin. We are
conscious that men should learn to welcome this law, and not to shrink
from it. To fly from the suffering following on broken law is the last
thing we should do; we ought to have no gratitude for a "Saviour" who
should bear our punishment, and so cheat us out of our necessary lesson,
turn us into spoiled children, and check our moral growth; such an offer
as this, could it really be made, ought to be met with stern refusal.
We should trust the Supreme so utterly, and adore His wisdom with a
humility so profound, that if we could change His laws we should not
dare to interfere; nor ought we, even when our lot is saddest, to
complain of it, or do anything more than labour to improve it in
steadfast obedience to law. We should ask for no salvation; we should
desire to fall--were it possible that we _could_ be out of them--into
the hands of God.

Further, is it impossible to make Christians understand that were Jesus
all they say he is, we should still reject him; that were God all they
say He is, we would, in that case, throw back His salvation. For were
this awful picture of a soul-destroying Jehovah, of a blood-craving
Moloch, endowed with a cruelty beyond human imagination, a true
description of the Supreme Being, then would we take the advice of Job's
wife, we would "curse God and die?" we would hide in the burning depths
of His hell rather than dwell within sight of Him whose brightness would
mock at the gloom of His creatures, and whose bliss would be a sneer at
their despair. Were it thus indeed--

     "O King of our salvation,
     Many would curse to thee, and I for one!
     Fling Thee Thy bliss, and snatch at Thy damnation,
     Scorn and abhor the rising of Thy sun.

"Is it not worth while to believe," blandly urges a Christian
writer, "if it is true, as it is true, that they who deny will suffer
everlasting torments?" No! we thunder back at him, _it is not worth
while_; it is not worth while to believe a lie, or to acknowledge as
true that which our hearts and intellects alike reject as false; it is
not worth while to sell our souls for a heaven, or to defile our honesty
to escape a hell; it is not worth while to bow our knee to a Satan or
bend our heads before a spectre. Better, far better, to "dwell with
everlasting burnings" than to degrade our humanity by calling a lie,
truth, and cruelty, love, and unreasonableness, justice; better to
suffer in hell, than to have our hearts so hard that we could enjoy
while others suffer; could rejoice while others are tormented, could
sing alleluias to the music of golden harps, while our lyrics are echoed
by the anguished wailing of the lost. God Himself--were He such as
Christians paint Him--could not blot out of our souls our love of truth,
of righteousness, of justice. While we have these we are _ourselves_,
and we can suffer and be happy; but we cannot afford to pay down these
as the price of our admission to heaven. We should be miserable even as
we paced the golden streets, and should sit in tears beside the river
of the water of life. Yet _this_ is salvation; _this_ is what Christians
offer us in the name of Jesus; _this_ is the glad tidings brought to
us as the gospel of the Saviour, as the "good news of God;" and this we
reject, wholly and utterly, laughing it to scorn from the depths of
our glad hearts which the Truth has made free; this we denounce, with a
stern and bitter determination, in the name of the Universal Father, in
the name of the self-reliance of humanity, in the name of all that is
holy, and just, and loving.

But happily many, even among Christians, are beginning to shrink from
this idea of salvation from the God in whom they say they place all
their hopes. They put aside the doctrine, they gloss it over, they
prefer not to speak of it. Free thought is leavening Christianity, and
is moulding the old faith against its will. Christianity now hides its
own cruel side, and only where the bold opponents of its creeds have not
yet spread, does it dare to show itself in its real colours; in Spain,
in Mexico, we see Christianity unveiled; here, in England, liberty is
too strong for it, and it is forced into a semblance of liberality. The
old wine is being poured into new bottles; what will be the result? We
may, however, rejoice that nobler thoughts about God are beginning to
prevail, and are driving out the old wicked notions about Him and His
revenge. The Face of the Father is beginning, however dimly, to shine
out from His world, and before the Beauty of that Face all hard thoughts
about Him are fading away. Nature is too fair to be slandered for ever,
and when men perceive that God and Nature are One, all that is ghastly
and horrible must die and drop into forgetfulness. The popular
Christian ideas of mediation and salvation must soon pass away into the
limbo of rejected creeds which is being filled so fast; they are already
dead, and their pale ghosts shall soon flit no longer to vex and harass
the souls of living men.



ON ETERNAL TORTURE.

SOME time ago a Clergyman was proving to me by arguments many and
strong that hell was right, necessary and just; that it brought glory
to God and good to man; that the holiness of God required it as a
preventive, and the justice of God exacted it as a penalty, of sin.
I listened quietly till all was over and silence fell on the reverend
denunciator; he ceased, satisfied with his arguments, triumphant in the
consciousness that they were crushing and unassailable. But my eyes were
fixed on the fair scene without the library window, on the sacrament
of earth, the visible sign of the invisible beauty, and the contrast
between God's works and the Church's speech came strongly upon me. And
all I found to say in answer came in a few words: "If I had not heard
you mention the name of God, I should have thought you were speaking of
the Devil." The words, dropped softly and meditatively, had a startling
effect. Horror at the blasphemy, indignation at the unexpected result of
laboured argument, struggled against a dawning feeling that there must
be something wrong in a conception which laid itself open to such
a blow; the short answer told more powerfully than half an hour's
reasoning.

The various classes of orthodox Christian doctrines should be attacked
in very different styles by the champions of the great army of
free-thinkers, who are at the present day besieging the venerable
superstitions of the past. Around the Deity of Jesus cluster many
hallowed memories and fond associations; the worship of centuries has
shed around his figure a halo of light, and he has been made into the
ideal of Humanity; the noblest conceptions of morality, the highest
flights of enlightened minds, have been enshrined in a human personality
and called by the name of Christ; the Christ-idea has risen and expanded
with every development of human progress, and the Christ of the highest
Christianity of the day is far other than the Christ of Augustine, of
Thomas à Kempis, of Luther, or Knox; the strivings after light, after
knowledge, after holiness, of the noblest sons of men have been
called by them a following of Jesus; Jesus is baptized in human tears,
crucified in human pains, glorified in human hopes. Because of all this,
because he is dear to human hearts and identified with human struggles,
therefore he should be gently spoken of by all who feel the bonds of
the brotherhood of man; the dogma of his Deity must be assailed, must be
overthrown, because it is false, because it destroys the unity of God,
because it veils from us the Eternal Spirit, the source of all things,
but he himself should be reverently spoken of, so far as truthfulness
permits, and this dogma, although persistently battled against, should
be attacked without anger and without scorn.

There are other doctrines which, while degrading in regard to man's
conception of God, and therefore deserving of reprobation, yet enshrine
great moral truths and have become bound up with ennobling lessons; such
is the doctrine of the Atonement, which enshrines the idea of selfless
love and of self-sacrifice for the good of humanity. There are others
again against which ridicule and indignation may rightly be brought to
bear, which are concessions to human infirmity, and which belong to the
childhood of the race; man may be laughed out of his sacraments and out
of his devils, and indignantly reminded that he insults God and degrades
himself by placing a priesthood or mediator between God and his own
soul. But there is one dogma of Orthodox Christianity which stands
alone in its atrocity, which is thoroughly and essentially bad, which is
without one redeeming feature, which is as blasphemous towards God as
it is injurious to man; on it therefore should be poured out unsparingly
the bitterest scorn and the sharpest indignation. There is no good human
emotion enlisted on the side of an Eternal Hell; it is not hallowed by
human love or human longings, it does not enshrine human aspirations,
nor is it the outcome of human hopes. In support of this no appeal
can be made to any feeling of the nobler side of our nature, nor does
eternal fire stimulate our higher faculties: it acts only on the lower,
baser, part of man; it excites fear, distrust of God, terror of his
presence; it may scare from evil occasionally, but can never teach good;
it sees God in the lightning-flash that slays, but not in the sunshine
which invigorates; in the avalanche which buries a village in its fall,
but not in the rich promise of the vineyard and the joyous beauty of
the summer day. Hell has driven thousands half-mad with terror, it
has driven monks to the solitary deserts, nuns to the sepulchre of the
nunnery, but has it ever caused one soul of man to rejoice in the Father
of all, and pant, "as the hart panteth after the water-springs, for the
presence of God"?

It is only just to state, in attacking this as a Christian doctrine,
that, though believed in by the vast majority of Christians, the most
enlightened of that very indefinite body repudiate it with one voice.
It is well known how the great Broad-Church leader, Frederick Denison
Maurice, endeavoured to harmonize, on this point, his Bible and his
strong moral sense, and failed in so doing, as all must fail who would
reconcile two contradictories. How he fought with that word "eternal,"
struggled to prove that whatever else it might mean it did _not_ mean
everlasting in our modern sense of the word: that "eternal death" being
the antithesis to "eternal life" must mean a state of ignorance of
the Eternal One, even as its opposite was the knowledge of God: that
therefore men could rise from eternal death, aye, did so rise every
day in this life, and might so rise in the life to come. Noble was
his protest against this awful doctrine, fettered as he was by undue
reverence for, and clinging to, the Bible. His appeal to the moral sense
in man as the arbiter of all doctrine has borne good fruit, and his
labours have opened a road to free thought greater than he expected or
even hoped. Many other clergymen have followed in his steps. The word
"eternal" has been wrangled over continually, but, however they arrive
there, all Broad Churchmen unite in the conclusion that it does not,
cannot, shall not, mean literally lasting for ever. This school of
thought has laid much stress on the fondness of Orientals for imagery;
they have pointed out that the Jewish word Gehenna is the same as Ge
Hinnom, or valley of Hinnom, and have seen in the state of that valley
the materials for "the worm that dieth not and the fire that is not
quenched:" they show how by a natural transition the place into which
were thrown the bodies of the worst criminals became the type of
punishment in the next world, and the valley where children were
sacrificed to Moloch gave its name to the infernal abode of devils. From
that valley Jesus drew his awful picture, suggested by the pale lurid
fires ever creeping there, mingling their ghastly flames with the
decaying bodies of the dishonoured dead. In all this there is probably
much truth, and many Broad Churchmen are content to accept this
explanation, and so retain their belief in the supernatural character
of the Bible, while satisfying their moral sense by rejecting its most
immoral dogma.

Among the evangelicals, only one voice, so far as I know, is heard
to protest against eternal torture; and all honour is due to the Rev.
Samuel Minton, for his rare courage in defying on this point the opinion
of his "world," and braving the censure which has been duly inflicted on
him. He seems to make "eternal" the equivalent of "irremediable" in some
cases and of "everlasting" in others. He believes that the wicked will
be literally destroyed, burnt up, consumed; the fact that the fire is
eternal by no means implies, he remarks, that that which is cast into
the fire should be likewise eternal, and that the fire is unquenchable
does not prove that the chaff is unconsumable. "Eternal destruction" he
explains as irreparable destruction, final and irreversible extinction.
This theory should have more to recommend it to all who believe in
the supernatural inspiration of the Bible, than the Broad Church
explanation; it uses far less violence towards the words of Scripture,
and, indeed, a very fair case may be made out for it from the Bible
itself.

It is scarcely necessary to add to this small list of dissentients from
orthodox Christianity, the Unitarian body; I do not suppose that there
is such a phenomenon in existence as a Unitarian Christian who believes
in an eternal hell.

With these small exceptions the mass of Christians hold this dogma, but
for the most part carelessly and uncomprehendingly. Many are ashamed of
it even while duteously confessing it, and gabble over the sentences in
their creed which acknowledge it in a very perfunctory manner. People
of this kind "do not like to talk about hell, it is better to think of
heaven." Some Christians, however, hold it strongly, and proclaim their
belief boldly; the members of the Evangelical Alliance actually make the
profession of it a condition of admittance into their body, while many
High Church divines think that a sharp declaration of their belief in
it is needed by loyalty towards God and "charity to the souls of men." I
wish I could believe that all who profess this dogma did not realize
it, and only accepted it because their fathers and mothers taught it to
them. But what can one say to such statements as the following, quoted
from Father Furniss by W. R. Greg in his splendid "Enigmas of Life:" I
take it as a specimen of Roman Catholic _authorized_ teaching. Children
are asked: "How will your body be when the devil has been striking it
every moment for a hundred million years without stopping?" A girl of
eighteen is described as dressed in fire; "she wears a bonnet of fire.
It is pressed down all over her head; it burns her head; it burns into
the skull; it scorches the bone of the skull and makes it smoke." A
boy is boiled: "Listen! there is a sound just like that of a kettle
boiling.... The blood is boiling in the scalded veins of that boy. The
brain is boiling and bubbling in his head. The marrow is boiling in his
bones." Nay, even the poor little babies are not exempt from torture:
one is in a red hot oven, "hear how it screams to come out; see how it
turns and twists about in the fire.... You can see on the face of this
little child"--the fair pure innocent baby-face--"what you see on the
faces of all in hell--despair, desperate and horrible." Surely this
man realized what he taught, but then he was that half-human being--a
priest.

Dr. Pusey, too, has a word to say about hell: "Gather in mind all that
is most loathsome, most revolting--the most treacherous, malicious,
coarse, brutal, inventive, fiendish cruelty, unsoftened by any remains
of human feeling, such as thou couldst not endure for a single hour....
hear those yells of blaspheming, concentrated hate as they echo along
the lurid vault of hell."

Protestantism chimes in, and Spurgeon speaks of hell: "Wilt thou think
it is easy to lie down in hell, with the breath of the Eternal fanning
the flames? Wilt thou delight thyself to think that God will invent
torments for thee, sinner?" "When the damned jingle the burning irons of
their torment, they shall say, 'for ever;' when they howl, echo cries,
'for ever.'"

I may allude, to conclude my quotations, to a description of hell which
I myself heard from an eminent prelate of the English Church, one who is
a scholar and a gentleman, a man of moderate views in Church matters,
by no means a zealot in an ordinary way. In preaching to a country
congregation composed mainly of young men and girls, he warned them
specially against sins of the flesh, and threatened them with the
consequent punishment in hell. Then, in language which I cannot
reproduce, for I should not dare to sully my pages by repeating what
I then listened to in horrified amazement, there ensued a description
drawn out in careful particulars of the state of the suffering body in
hell, so sickening in its details that it must suffice to say of it that
it was a description founded on the condition of a corpse flung out on
a dungheap and left there to putrefy, with the additional horror of
creeping, slowly-burning flames; and this state of things was to go
on, as he impressed on them with terrible energy, for ever and ever,
"decaying but ever renewing."

I should almost ask pardon of tender-hearted men and women for laying
before them language so abominable; but I urge on all who are offended
by it that this is the teaching given to our sons and daughters in the
present day. Father Furniss, Dr. Pusey, Mr. Spurgeon, an English Bishop,
surely these are honoured names, and in quoting them I quote from the
teaching of Christendom. Nor mine the fault if the language be unfit for
printing. I _quote_, because if we only assert, Christians are quick to
say, "you are misrepresenting our beliefs," and I quote from writers of
the present day only, that none may accuse me of hurling at Christians
reproaches for a doctrine they have outgrown or softened down. Still, I
own that it seems scarcely credible that a man should believe this and
remain sane; nay, should preach this, and walk calmly home from his
Church with God's sunshine smiling on the beautiful world, and after
preaching it should sit down to a comfortable dinner and very likely
a quiet pipe, as though hell did not exist, and its awful misery and
fierce despair.

It is said that there is no reason that we should not be contented in
heaven while others suffer in hell, since we know how much misery there
is in this world and yet enjoy ourselves in spite of the knowledge.
I say, deliberately, of every one who does realise the misery of this
world and remains indifferent to it, who enjoys his own share of the
good things of this life, without helping his brother, who does not
stretch out his hand to lift the fallen, or raise his voice on behalf of
the down-trodden and oppressed, that that man is living a life which is
the very antithesis of a Divine life--a life which has in it no beauty
and no nobility, but is selfish, despicable, and mean. And is this the
life which we are to regard as the model of heavenly beauty? Is the
power to lead this life for ever to be our reward for self-devotion
and self-sacrifice here on earth? Is a supreme selfishness to crown
unselfishness at last? But this is the life which is to be the lot of
the righteous in heaven. Snatched from a world in flames, caught up in
the air to meet their descending Lord, his saints are to return with him
to the heaven whence he came; there, crowned with golden crowns, they
are to spend eternity, hymning the Lamb who saved them to the music
of golden harps, harps whose melody is echoed by the curses and the
wailings of the lost; for below is a far different scene, for there the
sinners are "tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the
holy angels and the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment
ascendeth up for ever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night."

It is worth while to gaze for a moment at the scene of future felicity;
there is the throne of God and rejoicing crowds: "Rejoice over her, thou
heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets," so goes out the command, and
they rejoice because "God has avenged them on her," and again they
said "Alleluia, and her smoke rose up for ever and ever." Truly God
must harden the hearts of his saints in heaven as of old he hardened
Pharaoh's heart, if they are to rejoice over the anguished multitude
below, and to bear to live amid the lurid smoke ascending from the
burning bodies of the lost. To me the idea is so unutterably loathsome
that I marvel how Christians endure to retain such language in their
sacred books, for I would note that the awful picture drawn above is not
of my doing; it is not the scoffing caricature of an unbeliever, _it is
heaven as described by St. John the divine_. If this heaven is true I do
not hesitate to say that it is the duty of every human being to reject
it utterly and to refuse to enter it. We might even appeal to Christians
by the example of their own Jesus, who could not be content to remain in
heaven himself while men went to hell, but came down to redeem them from
endless suffering. Yet they, who ought to imitate him, who do, many
of them, lead beautiful lives of self-devotion and compassion, are
suddenly, on death, to lose all this which makes them "partakers of the
Divine Nature," and are to be content to win happiness for themselves,
careless that millions of their brethren are in woe unspeakable. They
are to reverse the aim of their past lives, they are to become selfish
instead of loving, hard instead of selfless, indifferent instead of
loving, hard instead of tender. Which is the better reproduction of the
"mind of Christ," the good Samaritan tending the wounded man, or the
stern Inquisitor gloating over the fire which consumes heretics to the
greater glory of God? Yet the latter is the ideal of heavenly virtue.
Never will they who truly love man be content to snatch at bliss for
themselves while others suffer, or endure to be crowned with glory while
they are crowned with thorns. Better, far better, to suffer in hell and
share the pains of the lost, than to have a heart so hard, a nature
so degraded, as to enjoy the bliss of heaven, rejoicing over, or even
disregarding, the woes of hell.

But there is worse than physical torture in the picture of hell; pain is
not its darkest aspect. Of all the thoughts with which the heart of man
has outraged the Eternal Righteousness, there is none so appalling, none
so blasphemous, as that which declares that even one soul, made by the
Supreme Good, shall remain during all eternity, under the power of
sin. Divines have wearied themselves in describing the horrors of the
Christian hell; but it is _not_ the furnace of flames, _not_ the undying
worm, _not_ the fire which never may be quenched, that revolt us most;
hideous as are these images, they are not the worst terror of hell. Who
does not know how St. Francis, believing himself ordained to be lost
everlastingly, fell on his knees and cried, "O my God, if I am indeed
doomed to hate thee during eternity, at least suffer me to love thee
while I live here." To the righteous heart the agony of hell is a far
worse one than physical torture could inflict: it is the existence of
men and women who might have been saints, shut out from hope of holiness
for evermore; God's children, the work of his hands, gnashing their
teeth at a Father who has cast them down for ever from the life he might
have given; it is Love everlastingly hated; good everlastingly trampled
under foot; God everlastingly baffled and defied; worst of all, it is
a room in the Father's house where his children may hunger and thirst
after righteousness, but never, never, can be filled.

      "Depart, O sinner, to the chain!
      Enter the eternal cell;
      To all that's good and true and right,
      To all that's fair and fond and bright,
      To all of holiness and right,
      Bid thou thy last farewell."


Would to God that Christian men and women would ponder it well and think
it out for themselves, and when they go into the worst parts of our
great cities and their hearts almost break with the misery there, then
let them remember how that misery is but a faint picture of the endless,
hopeless, misery, to which the vast majority of their fellow-men are
doomed.

Christian reader, do not be afraid to realise the future in which you
say you believe, and which the God of Love has prepared for the home of
some of his children. Imagine yourself, or any dear to you, plunged
into guilt from which there is no redeemer, and where the voice cannot
penetrate of him that speaks in righteousness, mighty to save. In the
well-weighed words of a champion of Christian orthodoxy, think there is
no reason to believe that hell is only a punishment for past offences;
in that dark world sin and misery reproduce each other in infinite
succession. "What if the sin perpetuates itself, if the prolonged misery
may be the offspring of the prolonged guilt?" Ponder it well, and, if
you find it true, then cast out from your creed the belief in a Jesus
who loved the lost; blot out from your Bible every verse that speaks of
a Father's heart; tear from your Prayer-books every page that prays to a
Father in heaven. If the lowest of God's creatures is to be left in the
foul embraces of sin for ever, God cannot be the Eternal Righteousness,
the unconquerable Love. For what sort of Righteousness is that which
rests idly contented in a heaven of bliss, while millions of souls
capable of righteousness are bound by it in helpless sin; what sort of
love is that which is satisfied to be repulsed, and is willing to be
hated? As long as God is righteous, as long as God is love, so long is
it impossible that men and women shall be left by him forever in a
state to which our worst dens of earth are a very paradise of beauty and
purity. Bible writers may have erred, but "Thou continuest holy, O Thou
worship of Israel!" There is one revelation that cannot err, and that
is written by God's finger on every human heart. What man recoils from
doing, even at his lowest, can never be done by his Creator, from whose
inspiration he draws every righteous thought. Is there one father,
however brutalized, who would deliberately keep his child in sin because
of a childish fault? one mother who would aimlessly torture her son,
keeping him alive but to torment? Yet this, nothing less,--nay, a
thousand times more, for it is this multiplied infinitely by infinite
power of torture,--this is what Christians ask us to believe about our
Father and our God, a glimmer from the radiance of whose throne falls on
to our earth, when men love their enemies and forgive freely those who
wrong them If this so-called orthodox belief is right, then is their
gospel of the Love of God to the world a delusion and a lie; if this is
true, the teaching of Jesus to publicans and harlots of the Fatherhood
of God is a cruel mockery of our divinest instincts; the tale of
the good Shepherd who could not rest while one sheep was lost is the
bitterest irony. But this awful dogma is not true, and the Love of God
cradles his creation; not one son of the Father's family shall be left
under the power of sin, to be an eternal blot on God's creation, an
endless reproach to his Maker's wisdom, an everlasting and irreparable
mistake.

No amount of argument, however powerful, should make us believe a
doctrine from which our hearts recoil with such shuddering horror as
they do from this doctrine of eternal torture and eternal sin. There is
a divine instinct in the human heart which may be trusted as an arbiter
between right and wrong; no supernatural revelation, no miracle, no
angel from heaven, should have power to make us accept as divine that
which our hearts proclaim as vile and devilish. It is not true faith
to crush down our moral sense beneath the hoof of credulity; true faith
believes in God only as a "Power which makes for _Righteousness_" and
recks little of threats or curses which would force her to accept that
which conscience disapproves. And what is more, if it were possible that
God were not what we dream, if he were not "righteous in all his ways
and holy in all his works," then were it craven cowardice to worship him
at all. It has been well said, "that to worship simple power, without
virtue, is nothing but devil-worship;" in that case it were nobler to
refuse to praise him and to take what he might send. Then indeed we
must say, with John Stuart Mill, in that burst of passion which reads so
strangely in the midst of his passionless logic, that if I am told that
this is justice and love, and that if I do not call it so, God will send
me to hell, then "to hell I'll go."

I have purposely put first my strong reprobation of eternal hell,
because of its own essential hideousness, and because, were it ever
so true, I should deem myself disgraced by acknowledging it as
either loving or good. But it is, however, a satisfaction to note the
feebleness of the arguments advanced in support of this dogma, and to
find that justice and holiness, as well as love, frown on the idea of an
eternal hell.

The first argument put forth is this: "God has made a law which
man breaks; man must therefore in justice suffer the penalty of his
transgression." This, like so many of the orthodox arguments, sounds
just and right, and at first we perfectly agree with it. The instinct
of justice in our own breasts confirms the statement, and looking abroad
into the world we see its truth proved by facts. Law is around us on
every side; man is placed in a realm of law; he may-strive against the
laws which encircle him, but he will only dash himself to pieces against
a rock; he is under a code which he breaks at his peril. Here is perfect
justice, a justice absolutely unwavering, deaf to cries, unseducible
by-flatteries, unalloyed by favouritism: a law exists, break it, and
you suffer the inevitable consequences. So far, then, the orthodox
argument is sound and strong, but now it takes a sudden leap. "The
penalty of the broken law is hell." Why? What common factor is there
between a lie, and the "lake of fire in which all liars shall have their
part?" Nature is absolutely against the orthodox corollary, because hell
as a punishment of sin is purely arbitrary, the punishment might quite
as well have been something else; but in nature the penalty of a broken
law is always strictly in character with the law itself, and is derived
from it. Men imagine the most extraordinary "judgment." A nation is
given to excessive drinking, and is punished with cattle-plague; or
shows leanings towards popery, and is chastised with cholera. It is as
reasonable to believe this as it would be to expect that if a child fell
down stairs he would be picked up covered with blisters from burning,
instead of his receiving his natural punishment of being bruised.
Why, because I lie and forget God, should I be punished with fire and
brimstone? Fire is not derivable from truth, nor is brimstone a stimulus
to memory. There is also a strange confusion in many minds about the
punishment of sin. A child is told not to put his hand into the fire,
he does so, and is burnt; the burning is a punishment, he is told; for
what? Not for disobedience to the parent, as is generally said, but for
disregarding the law of nature which says that fire burns. One often
hears it said: "God's punishments for sin are not equal: one man sins
once and suffers for it all his life, while another sins twenty times
and is not punished at all." By no means: the two men both break a moral
law, and suffer a moral degradation; one of them breaks in addition some
physical law, and suffers a physical injury. People see injustice where
none exists, because they will not take the trouble to distinguish
what laws are broken when material punishments follow. There is nothing
arbitrary in nature: cause and effect rule in her realm. Hell is then
unjust, in the first place, because physical torture has nothing in
common with moral guilt.

It is unjust, secondly, because it is excessive. Sin, say theologians,
is to be punished infinitely, because sin is an offence committed
against an infinite being. Of course, then, good must logically be
rewarded infinitely, because it is duty offered to an infinite being.
There is no man who has never done a single good act, so every man
deserves an infinite reward. There is no man who has never done a single
bad act, so every man deserves an infinite punishment. Therefore every
man deserves both an infinite reward and an infinite punishment,
"which," as Euclid says, "is absurd." And this is quite enough answer to
the proposition. But I must protest, in passing, against this notion of
"sin against God" as properly understood. If by this expression is only
meant that every sin committed is a sin against God, because every sin
is done against man's higher nature, which is God in man, then indeed
there is no objection to be made to it. But this is not what is
generally meant by the phrase. It usually means that we are able, as it
were, to injure God in some way, to dishonour him, to affront him, to
trouble him. By sin we make him "angry," we "provoke him to wrath;"
because of this feeling on his own part he punishes us, and demands
"satisfaction." Surely a moment's reflection must prove to any
reasonable being that sin against God in this sense is perfectly
impossible. What can the littleness of man do against the greatness of
the Eternal! Imagine a speck of dust troubling the depths of the
ocean, an aphis burdening an oak-tree with its weight: each is far
more probable than that a man could ruffle the perfect serenity of God.
Suppose I stand on a lawn watching an ant-heap, an ant twinkles his
feelers at me scornfully; do I fly into a passion and rush on the insect
to destroy it, or seize it and slowly torture it? Yet I am far less
above the level of the ant than God is above mine.

But I must add a word here to guard against the misapprehension that
in saying this I am depriving man of the strength he finds in believing
that he is personally known to God and an object of his care. Were I
the ant's creator familiar with all the workings of its mind, I
might regret, for its sake, the pride and scorn of its maker shown by
its-action, because it was not rising to the perfection of nature of
which it was capable. So, in that nature in which we live and move,
which is too great to regard anything as-little, which is around all and
in all, and which we believe to be conscious of all, there is--I cannot
but think--some feeling which, for want of a better term, we must call
a desire for the growth of his creatures (because in this growth lies
their own happiness), and a corresponding feeling of regret when they
injure themselves. But I say this in fear and reverence, knowing that
human language has no terms in which to describe the nature we adore,
and conscious that in the very act of putting ideas about him into
words, I degrade the ideas and they no longer fully answer to the
thought in my own mind. Silent adoration befits man best in the presence
of his maker, only it is right to protest against the more degrading
conceptions of him, although the higher conceptions are themselves far
below what he really is. Sin then, being done against oneself only,
cannot deserve an eternity of torture. Sin injures man already, why
should he be further injured by endless agony? The infliction of pain
is only justifiable when it is the means of conveying to the sufferer
himself a gain greater than the suffering inflicted; therefore
punishment is only righteous when reformatory. But _endless_ torture
cannot aim at reformation; it has no aim beyond itself, and can only
arise, therefore, from vengeance and vindictiveness, which we have
shown to be impossible with God. Hell is unjust, secondly, because its
punishment is excessive and aimless. It is also unjust, because to avoid
it needs an impossible perfection. It is no answer to this to say that
there is an escape offered to us through the Atonement made by Jesus
Christ. Why should I be called on to escape like a criminal from that
which I do not deserve? God makes man imperfect, frail, sinful,
utterly unable to keep perfectly a perfect law: he therefore fails,
and is--what? To be strengthened? by no means; he is to go to hell. The
statement of this suffices to show its injustice. We cavil not at the
wisdom which made us what we are, but we protest against the idea which
makes God so cruelly unjust as to torture babies because they are unable
to walk as steadily as full-grown men. Hell is unjust, in the third
place, because man does not deserve it.

To all this it will probably be retorted, "you are arguing as though
God's justice were the same as man's, and you were therefore capable
of judging it, an assumption which is unwarrantable, and is grossly
presumptuous." To which I reply: "If by God's justice you do not mean
justice at all, but refer to some Divine attribute of which we know
nothing, all my strictures on it fall to the ground; only, do not commit
the inconsistency of arguing that hell is _just_, when by 'just' you
mean some unknown quality, and then propping up your theories with
proofs drawn from human justice. It would perhaps tend to clearness in
argument if you gave this Divine attribute some other name, instead of
using for it an expression which has already a definite meaning."

The justice of hell disposed of, we turn to the love of God. I have
never heard it stated that hell is a proof of his great love to the
world, but I take the liberty myself of drawing attention to it in this
light. God, we are told, existed alone before ought was created; there
perfect in himself, in happiness, in glory, he might have remained,
say orthodox theologians. Then, we have a right to ask in the name of
charity, why did he, happy himself, create a race of beings of whom the
vast majority were to be endlessly and hopelessly miserable? Was this
love? "He created man to glorify him." But was it loving to create those
who would only suffer for his glory? Was it not rather a gigantic, an
inconceivable selfishness?

"Man may be saved if he will." That is not to the point; God foreknew
that some would be lost, and yet he made them. With all reverence I say
it, God had no right to create sentient beings, if of one of them it can
ever be truly said, "good were it for that man that he had never been
born." He who creates, imposes on himself, by the very act of creation,
duties towards his creatures. If God be self-conscious and moral, it
is an absolute certainty that the whole creation is moving towards
the final good of every creature in it. We did not ask to be made; we
suffered not when we existed not; God, who has laid existence on us
without our consent, is responsible for our final good, and is bound by
every tie of righteousness and justice, not to speak of love, to make
the existence he gave us, unasked, a blessing and not a curse to us.
Parents feel this responsibility towards the children they bring into
the world, and feel themselves bound to protect and to make happy those
who, without them, had not been born. But, if hell be true, then every
man and woman is bound not to fulfil the Divine command of multiplying
the race, since by so doing they are aiding to fill the dungeons of
hell, and they will, hereafter, have their sons and their daughters
cursing the day of their birth, and overwhelming their parents with
reproaches for having brought into the world a body, which God was thus
enabled to curse with the awful gift of an immortal soul.

We must notice also that God, who is said to love righteousness, can
never crush out righteousness in any-human soul. There is no one so
utterly degraded as to be without one sign of good. Among the lowest and
vilest of our population, we find beautiful instances of kindly feeling
and generous help. Can any woman be more degraded than she who only
values her womanhood as a means of gain, who drinks, fights, and steals?
Let those who have been among such women say if they have not been
cheered sometimes by a very ray of the light of God, when the most.
degraded has shown kindness to an equally degraded sister, and when the
very gains of sin have been purified by being; poured into the lap of a
suffering and dying companion. Shall love and devotion, however feeble,
unselfishness and sympathy, however transitory in their action, shall
these stars of heaven be quenched in the blackness of the pit of hell?
If it be so, then, verily, God is not the "righteous. Lord who loveth
righteousness."

But we cannot leave out of our impeachment of hell that it injures man,
as much as it degrades his conceptions of God. It cultivates selfishness
and fear, two of his basest passions. There has scarcely perhaps been
born into the world this century a purer and more loving soul than that
of the late John Keble, the author of the "Christian Year." Yet what a
terrible effect this belief had on him; he must cling to his belief in
hell, because otherwise he would have no certainty of heaven:

     "But where is then the stay of contrite hearts?
     Of old they leaned on Thy eternal word;
     But with the sinner's fear their hope departs,
     Fast linked as Thy great name to Thee, O Lord;

     That Name by which Thy faithful hope is past,
     That we should endless be, for joy or woe;--
     And if the treasures of Thy wrath could waste,
     Thy lovers must their promised heaven forego."

That is to say in plain English: "I cannot give up the certainty of
hell for others, because if I do I shall have no certainty of heaven for
myself; and I would rather know that millions of my brethren should
be tormented for ever, than remain doubtful about my own everlasting
enjoyment." Surely a loving heart would say, instead, "O God, let
us all die and remain unconscious for ever, rather than that one soul
should suffer everlastingly." The terrible selfishness of the Christian
belief degrades the noblest soul; the horror of hell makes men lose
their self-control, and think only of their personal safety, just as
we see men run wild sometimes at a shipwreck, when the gain of a minute
means life. The belief in hell fosters religious pride and hatred, for
all religious people think that they themselves at least are sure of
heaven. If then they are going to rejoice through all eternity over
the sufferings of the lost, why should they treat them with kindness or
consideration here? Thus hell, becomes the mother of persecution;
for the heretic, the enemy of the Lord, there is no mercy and no
forgiveness. Then the saints persuade themselves that true charity
obliges them to persecute, for suffering may either save the heretic
himself by forcing him to believe, or may at least scare others from
sharing his heresy, and so preserve them from eternal fire. And they
are right, if hell is true. Any means are justifiable which may save man
from that horrible doom; surely we should not hesitate to knock a man
down, if by so doing we preserved him from throwing himself over a
precipice.

Belief in hell takes all beauty from virtue; who cares for obedience
only rendered through fear? No true love of good is wrought in man by
the fear of hell, and outward respectability is of little worth when the
heart and the desires are unpurified. We may add that the fear of hell
is a very slight practical restraint; no man thinks himself really bad
enough for hell, and it is so far off that every one intends to repent
at the last and so escape it. Far more restraining is the proclamation
of the stern truth that, in the popular sense of the word, there is no
such thing as the "forgiveness of sins;" that as a man sows, so shall he
reap, and that broken laws avenge themselves without exception.

Belief in hell stifles all inquiry into truth by setting a premium
on one form of belief, and by forbidding another under frightful
penalties.. "If it be true, as it is true, that all who do not believe
this shall perish everlastingly, then, I ask, _is it not worth while to
believe?_" So says a clergyman of the Church of England. Thus he presses
his people to accept the dogma of the Deity of Jesus, not because it
is-true, but because it is dangerous to deny it. And this-difficulty
meets us every day. If we urge inquiry, we are told "it is dangerous;"
if we suggest a difficulty, we are told "it is safer to believe;" and
so this doctrine of hell chains down men's faculties and palsies their
intellects, and they dare not seek for truth at all, lest he who is
Truth should cast them into hell for it.

It may perhaps be said by many that I have attacked this dogma with
undue vehemence, and with excessive warmth. I attack it thus, because I
know the harm that it is doing, because it saddens the righteous heart
and clouds the face of God. Only those who have realised hell, and
realising it, have believed in it, know the awful shadow with which it
darkens the world. There are many who laugh at it, but they have not
felt its power, and they forget that a dogma which is only ludicrous
to them is weighing heavily on many a tender heart and sensitive brain.
Hell drives many mad: to others-it is a life-long horror. It pales the
sunlight with its lurid flames; it blackens the earth with the smoke of
its torment; it makes the Devil an actual presence; it transforms God
into an enemy, eternity into an awful doom. It takes the spring out of
all pleasures; it poisons all enjoyments; it spreads gloom over life,
and enshrouds the tomb in horror unspeakable. Only those who have
felt the anguish of this nightmare know what it is to wake up into the
sunlight, and find it is only a disordered dream of the darkness; they
only know the glorious liberty of heart and soul, with which they lift
up smiling faces to meet the smile of God, when they can say from the
depths of their glad hearts, "I believe that God is Light, and in Him is
no darkness at all; I believe that all mankind is safe, cradled in the
everlasting arms."



ON INSPIRATION

THERE is a certain amount of difficulty in defining the word
Inspiration: it is used in so many different senses by the various
schools of religious thought, that it is almost necessary to know the
theological opinions of the speaker before being quite sure of his
meaning when he talks of a book as being inspired. In the halcyon days
of the Church, when faith was strong and reason weak, when priests had
but to proclaim and laymen but to assent, Inspiration had a distinct and
a very definite meaning. An inspired man spoke the very words of God:
the Bible was perfect from the "In the beginning" of Genesis to the
"Amen" of Revelation: it was perfect in science, perfect in history,
perfect in doctrine, perfect in morals. In that diamond no flaw was
to be seen; it sparkled with a spotless purity, reflecting back in
many-coloured radiance the pure white light of God. But when the
chemistry of modern science came forward to test this diamond, a
murmuring arose, low at first, but irrepressible. It was scrutinised
through the microscope of criticism, and cracks and flaws were
discovered in every direction; then, instead of being enshrined on
the altar, encircled by candles, it was brought out into the searching
sunlight, and the naked eye could see its imperfections. Then it was
tested anew, and some bold men were heard to whisper, "It is no diamond
at all, God formed in ages past; it is nothing but paste, manufactured
by man;" and the news passed from mouth to mouth, until the whisper
swelled into a cry, and many voices echoed, "This is no diamond at all."
And so things are to-day; the battle rages still; some maintain their
jewel is perfect as ever, and that the flaws are in the eyes that look
at it; some reluctantly allow that it is imperfect, but still consider
it a diamond; others resolutely assert that, though valuable for its
antiquity and its beauty, it is really nothing but paste.

To take first the really orthodox theory of inspiration, generally
styled the "plenary" or "verbal" inspiration of the Bible. It was well
defined centuries since by Athenagoras; according to him the inspired
writers "uttered the things that were wrought in them when the Divine
Spirit moved them, the Spirit using them as a flute-player would blow
into the flute." The same idea has been uttered in powerful poetry by a
writer of our own day:--

     "Then thro' the mid complaint of my confession,
     Then thro' the pang and passion of my prayer,
     Leaps with a start the shock of His possession,
     Thrills me and touches, and the Lord is there.

Scarcely I catch the words of His revealing, Hardly I hear Him, dimly
understand; Only the power that is within me pealing, Lives on my lips
and beckons to my hand."

The idea is exactly the same as that of the Pagan prophetesses: they
became literally possessed by a spirit, who used their lips to declare
his own thoughts; so orthodox Christians believe that it is no longer
Moses or Isaiah or Paul that speaks, but the Spirit of the Father that
speaks in them. This theory is held by all strictly orthodox believers;
this and this only is from their lips, inspiration; hard pressed on the
subject they will allow that the Spirit inspires all good thoughts "in
a sense," but they will be very careful in declaring that this is only
inspiration in a secondary sense, an inspiration which diners in kind as
well as in degree from the inspiration of the writers of the Bible. By
this mechanical theory, so to speak, it is manifest that all possibility
of error is excluded; thus, when Matthew quotes from the Old Testament
an utterly irrelevant historical reference--"when Israel was a child,
then I loved him and _called my son out of Egypt_", as a prophecy of the
alleged flight of Jesus into Egypt, and his subsequent return from that
country into Palestine--we find Dr. Wordsworth, Right Reverend Father
in God, and Bishop of Lincoln, gravely telling us that "the Holy Spirit
here declares what had been in His own mind when He uttered these words
by Hosea. And who shall venture to say that he knows the mind of the
Spirit better than the Spirit Himself?" Dr. Pusey again, standing
valiantly, after the manner of the man, to every Church dogma, however
it may be against logic, against common sense, against reason, or
against charity, makes a very reasonable inquiry of those who believe
in an outward and supernatural inspiration, and yet object to the term
verbal. "How," he asks, "can thought be conveyed to a man's mind except
through words?" The learned doctor's remark is indeed a very pertinent
one, as addressed to all those who believe in an exterior revelation.
Thoughts which are communicated from without can only become known
to man through the medium of words: even his own thoughts only become
appreciable to him when they are sufficiently distinct to be clothed
in words (of course not necessarily _spoken_ words); and we can only
exclude from this rule such thoughts as may be presented to the mind
through mental sight or hearing: e.g., music might probably be composed
mentally by imagining the _sounds_, or mechanical contrivances invented
by imagining the _objects_; but any argument, any story, which is,
capable of reproduction in writing, must be thought out in words.
A moment's thought renders this obvious; if a man is arguing with a
Frenchman in his own language, he must, to render his arguments clear
and powerful, _think_ in French. Now, if the Bible be inspired so as to
insure accuracy, how can this be done except through words; for many
of the facts recorded must, from the necessity of the case, have been
unknown to the writers. Suppose for a moment that the Biblical account
of the creation of the world were true, no man in that case could
possibly have thought it out for himself. Only two theories can
reasonably be held regarding this record: one, that it is true, which
implies necessarily that it is literally true and verbally inspired,
since the knowledge could only have come from the Creator, and, being
communicated must have come in the form of words, which words being
God's, must be literally true; the other, that it ranks with other
ancient cosmogonies, and is simply the thought of some old writer,
giving his idea as to the origin of the world around him. I select
the account of the Creation as a crucial test of the verbal theory of
inspiration, because any other account in the Bible that I can think of
has a human actor in it, and it might be maintained--however unlikely
the hypothesis--that a report was related or written down by one who had
been present at the incident reported, and the inspiration of the final
writer may be said to consist in re-writing the previous record which he
may be directed to incorporate in his own work. But no one witnessed
the creation of the world, save the Creator, or, at the most, He and
His angels, and the account given of it must, if true, be word for word
divine; or, if false--as it is--must be nothing more than human
fancy. We must push this argument one step further. If the account was
communicated only to the man's _mind_, in words rising internally to
the inward ear alone, how could the man distinguish between these
divine thoughts rising in his mind, and his own human thoughts rising in
exactly the same manner? Thoughts rise in our minds, we know not how; we
only become conscious of them when they are there, and, as far as we can
judge, they are produced quite naturally according to certain laws. But
how is it possible for us to distinguish whence these thoughts come?
There they are, ours, not another's--ours as the child is the father's
and mother's, the product of their own beings. If my thought is not
mine, but God's, how am I to know this? it is produced within me as my
own, and the source of one thought is not distinguishable from that of
another. Thus, those who believe in the accuracy of the Bible are step
by step driven to allow that not only are words necessary, but spoken
words; if the Bible be supernaturally inspired at all, then must God
have spoken not only in human words but also in human voice; if the
Bible be supernaturally inspired at all, it must be verbally inspired,
and be literally accurate about every subject on which it treats.

Unfortunately for the maintainers of verbal inspiration, their theory is
splendidly adapted for being brought before the bar of inexorable fact.
It is worth while to remark, in passing, that the infallibility of
the Bible has only remained unchallenged where ignorance has reigned
supreme; as soon as men began to read history and to study nature,
they also began to question scriptural accuracy, and to defy scriptural
authority. Infallibility can only live in twilight: so far, every
infallibility has fallen before advancing knowledge, save only the
infallibility of Nature, which is the infallibility of God Himself.
Protestants consider Roman Catholics fools, in that they are not able to
see that the Pope cannot be infallible, because one Pope has cursed
what another Pope has blessed. They can see in the case of others that
contradiction destroys infallibility, but they cannot see the force of
the same argument when applied to their own pope, the Bible. Strong in
their "invincible ignorance," they bring us a divinely-inspired book;
"good," we answer; "then is your book absolutely true, and it will
square with all known truth in science and history, and will, of course,
never be self-contradictory." The first important question which arises
in our minds as we open so instructive a book as a revelation from on
high, refers naturally to the Great Inspirer. The Bible contains, as
might indeed be reasonably expected, many statements as to the nature
of God, and we inquire of it, in the first place, the character of its
Author. May we hope to see Him in this world? "Yes," answers Exodus.
"Moses in days gone by spoke to God face to face, and seventy-four
Israelites saw Him, and eat and drank in His presence." We have scarcely
taken in this answer when we hear the same voice proceed: "No; for God
said thou canst not see my face, for there shall no man see me and live;
while John declares that no man hath seen Him, and Paul, that no man
neither hath nor can see Him." Is He Almighty? "Yes," says Jesus. "With
God all things are possible." "No," retorts Judges; "for He could not
drive out the inhabitants of the valley, _because_ they had chariots of
iron." Is He just? "Yes," answers Ezekiel. "The son shall not bear the
iniquity of the father; the soul that sinneth _it_ shall die." "No,"
says Exodus. "The Lord declares that He visits the iniquity of the
fathers upon the children." Is He impartial? "Yes," answers Peter. "God
is no respecter of persons." "No;" says Romans, "for God loved Jacob and
hated Esau before they were born, that His purpose of _election_ might
stand." Is He truthful? "Yes; it is impossible for God to lie," says
Hebrews. "No," says God of Himself, in Ezekiel. "I, the Lord, have
deceived that prophet." Is He loving? "Yes," sings the Psalmist. "He
is loving unto every man, and His tender mercy is over all His works."
"No," growls Jeremiah. "He will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy on
them." Is he easily pacified when offended? "Yes," says the Psalmist.
"His wrath endureth but the twinkling of an eye." "No," says Jeremiah.
"Ye have kindled a fire in His anger that shall burn for ever." Unable
to discover anything reliable about God, doubtful whether he be just or
unjust, partial or impartial, true or false, loving or fierce, placable
or implacable, we come to the conclusion that at all events we had
better be friends with Him, and surely the book which reveals His will
to us will at least tell us in what way He desires us to approach Him.
Does He accept sacrifice? "Yes," says Genesis: "Noah sacrificed and God
smelled a sweet savour;" and Samuel tells us how God was prevailed on to
take away a famine by the sacrifice of seven men, hanged up before the
Lord. In our fear we long to escape from Him altogether and ask if this
be possible? "Yes," says Genesis. "Adam and his wife hid from Him in the
trees, and He had to go-down from His heaven to see if some evil deeds
were rightly reported to Him." "No," says Solomon. "You cannot hide from
Him, for His eyes are in every place." So we throw up in despair all
hope of finding out anything reliable about Him, and proceed to search
for some trustworthy history. We try to find out how man was made. One
account tells us that he was made male and female, even in the image of
God Himself; another that God made man alone, and subsequently formed
a woman for him out of one of his own ribs. Then we find in one
chapter that the beasts were all made, and, lastly, that God made "His
masterpiece, man." In another chapter we are told that God having made
man thought it not good to leave him by himself, and proceeded to make
every beast and fowl, saying that he would make Adam a help-meet for
him; on bringing them to Adam, however, none was found worthy to mate
with him, so woman was tried as a last experiment. As we read on we find
evident marks of confusion; double, or even treble, accounts of the same
incident, as, for instance, the denying a wife and its consequences.
Then we see Moses fearing Pharaoh's wrath, and flying out of Egypt to
avoid the king's wrath, and not venturing to return until after his
death, and are therefore surprised to learn from Hebrews that he forsook
Egypt by faith, _not fearing_ the wrath of the king. Then we come across
numberless contradictions in Kings and Chronicles, in prophecy and
history. Ezekiel prophecies that Nebuchadnezzar shall conquer Tyrus, and
destroy it and _take all its riches_; and a few chapters afterwards it
is recorded that he did accordingly attack Tyrus but failed, and that as
he got _no wages_ for this attack he should have Egypt for his failure.
In the New Testament the contradictions are endless; Joseph, the
husband of Mary, had two fathers, Jacob and Heli; Salah is in the same
predicament, for although the son of Canaan, Arphaxad begat him. When
John was cast into prison, Jesus _began_ to preach, although He had been
preaching and gaining disciples while John was still at large. Jesus
sent the Twelve to preach, telling them to take a staff, and yet bidding
them to take none. He eat the Passover with His disciples, although He
was crucified before that feast. He had one title on his cross, but
it is verbally inspired in four different ways. He rose with many
variations of date and time, and ascended the same evening, although He
subsequently went into Galilee and remained on earth for forty days.
He sent word to His disciples to meet Him in Galilee, and yet suddenly
appeared among them as they sat quietly together the same evening at
Jerusalem. Stephen's history contradicts our Old Testament. When Paul
is converted, his companions hear a voice, although another account says
that they heard none at all. After his conversion he goes in and out at
Jerusalem with the Apostles, although, strangely enough, he sees none of
them, except Peter and James. But one might spend pages in noting these
inconsistencies, while even one of them destroys the verbal inspiration
theory. From these contradictions I maintain that one of two things must
follow, either the Bible is not an inspired book, or else inspiration is
consistent with much error, as I shall presently show.

I am quite ready to allow that the Bible _is_ inspired, and I therefore
lay down as my first canon of inspiration, that: "Inspiration does
not prevent inaccuracy." I turn to the second class of orthodox
inspirationists, who, while allowing that verbal inspiration is proved
impossible by many trivial inconsistencies, yet affirm that God's
overruling power ensures substantial accuracy, and that its history
and science are perfectly true and are to be relied on. To test this
assertion, we--after noting that Bible history is, as has been remarked
above, continually self-contradictory--turn to other histories and
compare the Bible with them. We notice first that many important
Biblical occurrences are quite ignored by "profane" historians. We
are surprised to see that while the Babylonish captivity left marks on
Israel which are plainly seen, Egypt left no trace on Israel's names
or customs, and Israel no trace on Egypt's monuments. The doctrine of
angels comes not from heaven, but slips into Jewish theology from the
Persian; while immortality is brought to light neither by Hebrew prophet
nor by the Gospel of Jesus, but by the people among whom the Jews
resided during the Babylonish captivity. The Jewish Scriptures which
precede the captivity know of nothing beyond the grave; the Jewish
Scriptures after the captivity are radiant with the light of a life
to come; to these Jesus adds nothing of joy or hope. The very central
doctrine of Christianity--the Godhead of Jesus--is nothing but a
repetition of an idea of Greek philosophy borrowed by early Christian
writers, and is to be found in Plato and Philo as clearly as in the
fourth Gospel. Science contradicts the Bible as much as does history;
geology laughs at its puny periods of creation; astronomy destroys its
heavens, and asks why this little world took a week in making, while the
sun and moon and the countless stars were rapidly turned out in twelve
hours; natural history wonders why the kangaroos did not stay in Asia
after the Deluge, instead of undertaking the long sea voyage to far
Australia, and enquires how the Mexicans, and Peruvians, and others,
crossed the wide ocean to settle in America; archaeology presents its
human bones from ancient caves, and asks how they got there, if only
six thousand years have passed since Adam and Eve stood alone in Eden,
gazing out on the unpeopled earth; the Pyramids point at the negro
type distinct and clear, and ask how it comes that it was so rapidly
developed at first, and yet has remained stationary ever since. At last,
science gets weary of slaying a foe so puny, and goes on its way with a
smile on its grand, still face, leaving the Bible to teach its science
to whom it lists. Evidence so weighty crushes all life out of this
second theory of inspiration, and gives us a second rule to guide us in
our search: "Inspiration does not prevent ignorance and error." We may
pass on to the third class of inspirationists, those who believe that
the Bible is not given to man to teach him either history or science,
but only to reveal to him what he could not discover by the use of his
natural faculties--_e g._ the duties of morality and the nature of God.
I must note here the subtilty of this retreat. Driven by inexorable fact
to allow the Bible to be fallible in everything in which we can test its
assertions, they, by a clever strategic movement, remove their defence
to a post more difficult to attack. They maintain that the Bible is
infallible in points where no cannonade of facts can be brought to bear
on it. What is this but to say, that although we can prove the Bible
to be fallible on every point capable of proof, we are still blindly to
believe it to be infallible where demonstrated error is, from the nature
of the case, impossible? As regards the nature of God, we have already
seen that the Bible ascribes to him virtue and vice indifferently. We
turn to morality, and here our first great difficulty meets us, for when
we point to a thing and say, "that is profoundly immoral," our opponents
retort, "it is perfectly moral." Only the progress of humanity can prove
which of us is in the right, though here, too, we have one great fact on
our side, and that is, the conscience in man; already men would rather
die than imitate the actions of Old Testament saints who did that which
was "right in the eyes of Jehovah;" and presently they will be bold
enough to reject in words that which they already reject in deeds. Few
would put the Bible freely into the hands of a child, any more than
they would give freely to the young the unpurged editions of Swift and
Sterne; and I imagine that the most pious parents would scarcely see
with un-mingled pleasure their son and daughter of fifteen and sixteen
studying together the histories and laws of the Pentateuch. But taking
the Bible as a rule of life, are we to copy its saints and its laws?
For instance, is it right for a man to marry his half-sister, as did the
great ancestor of the Jews, Abraham, the friend of God?--a union, by the
way, which is forbidden by Jewish law, although said to be the source of
their race. Is the lie of the Egyptian midwives right, because Jehovah
blessed them for it, even as Jael is pronounced blessed by Deborah, the
prophetess, for her accursed treachery and murder? Is the robbery of the
Egyptians right, because commanded by Jehovah? Are the old cruel laws
of witchcraft right, because Jehovah doomed the witch to death? Are
the ordeals of the Middle Ages right, because derived from the laws
of Jehovah? Is human sacrifice right, because attempted by Abraham,
enjoined by Moses, practised by Jephthah, efficacious in turning away
God's wrath when Saul's seven sons were offered up? Is murder right
because Phineas wrought atonement by it, and Moses sent his murderers
throughout the camp to stay God's anger by slaying their brethren? Is
it right that the persons of women captives should be the prey of the
conquerors, because the Jews were commanded by Jehovah to save alive the
virgins and keep them for themselves, except the sixty-four reserved for
himself? Is the man after God's own heart a worthy model for imitation?
Are Jehu's lying and slaughter right, because right in the eyes of
Jehovah? Is Hosea's marriage commendable, because commanded by Jehovah?
or are the signs of Jeremiah and Ezekiel the less childish and indecent
because they are prefaced with, "thus saith Jehovah?" Far be it from me
to detract from the glorious morality of portions of the Bible; but if
the whole book be inspired and infallible in its moral teaching, then,
of course, one moral lesson is as important as another, and we have no
right to pick and choose where the whole is divine. The harsher part of
the Old Testament morality has burnt its mark into the world, and may
be traced through history by the groans of suffering men and women, by
burning witches and tortured enemies of the Lord, by flaming cities and
blood-stained fields. If murder and rapine, treachery and lies, robbery
and violence, were commanded long ago by Almighty God; if things are
right and wrong only by virtue of His command, then who can say that
they may not be right once more, when used in the cause of the Church,
and how are we to know that Moses speaks in God's name when he commands
them, and Torquemada only in his own? But even Christians are beginning
to feel ashamed of some of the exploits of the "Old Testament Saints,"
and to try and explain away some of the harsher features; we even hear
sometimes a wicked whisper about "imperfect light," &c. Good heavens!
what blasphemy! Imperfect light can mean nothing less than imperfect
God, if He is responsible for the morality of these writings.

So, from our study of the Bible we deduce another canon by which we may
judge of inspiration:

"Inspiration does not prevent moral error." There is a fourth class of
inspirationists, the last which clings to the skirts of orthodoxy, which
is always endeavouring to plant one foot on the rocks of science, while
it balances the other over the quicksands of orthodox super-naturalism.
The Broad Church school here takes one wide step away from orthodoxy,
by allowing that the inspiration of the Bible differs only in degree and
not in kind from the inspiration common to all mankind. They recognise
the great fact that the inspiring Spirit of God is the source whence
flow all good and noble deeds, and they point out that the Bible itself
refers all good and all knowledge to that one Spirit, and that He
breathes mechanical skill into Bezaleel and Aholiab, strength into
Samson's arms, wisdom into Solomon, as much as He breathes the ecstacy
of the prophet into Isaiah, faith into Paul, and love into John. They
recognise the old legends as authentic, but would maintain as stoutly
that He spoke to Newton through the falling of an apple, as that He
spoke of old to Elijah by fire, or to the wise men by a star. This
school try and remove the moral difficulties of the Old Testament by
regarding the history recorded in it as a history which is specially
intended to unveil the working of God through all history, and so to
gradually reveal God as He makes Himself known to the world; thus the
grosser parts are regarded as wholly attributable to the ignorance of
men, and they delight to see the divine light breaking slowly through
the thick clouds of human error and prejudice, and to trace in the
Bible the gradual evolution of a nobler faith and a purer morality.
They regard the miracles of Jesus as a manifestation that God underlies
Nature and works ever therein: they believe God to be specially
manifested in Jewish history, in order that men may understand that He
presides over all nations and rules over all peoples. To Maurice the
Bible is the explainer of all earth's problems, the unveiler of God, the
Bread of Life. There is, on the whole, little to object to in the Broad
Church view of inspiration, although liberal thinkers regret that, as a
party, they stop half way, and are still trammelled by the half-broken
chains of orthodoxy. For instance, they usually regard the direct
revelation of morality as closed by Jesus and His immediate followers,
although they allow that God has not deserted His world, nor confined
His inspiration within the covers of a book. To them, however, the Bible
is still _the_ inspired book, standing apart by itself, differing from
all other sacred books. From their views of inspiration, which contains
so much that is true, we deduce a fourth rule:

"Inspiration is not confined to written words about God." From a
criticism of the book, which is held by orthodox Christians, to be
specially inspired, we have then gained some idea of what inspiration
does _not_ do. It does not prevent inaccuracy, ignorance, error, nor
is it confined to any written book. Inspiration, then, cannot be an
overwhelming influence, crushing the human faculties and bearing along
the subject of it on a flood which he can neither direct nor resist. It
is a breathing--gentle and gradual--of pure thoughts into impure hearts,
tender thoughts into fierce hearts, forgiving thoughts into revengeful
hearts. David calls home his banished son, and he learns that, "even as
a father pitieth his children, so is the Lord merciful unto them that
fear Him." Paul wishes himself accursed if it may save his brethren,
and from his own self-sacrificing love he learns that "God will have
all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Thus
inspiration is breathed into the man's heart. "I love and forgive, weak
as I am; what must be the depth of the love and forgiveness of God?"
David's fierce revenge finds an echo in his writings; for man writes,
and not God: he defaces God by ascribing to Him the passions surging
only in his own burning Eastern heart: then, as the Spirit moves him to
forgiveness, his song is of mercy; for he feels that his Maker must be
better than himself. That part of the Bible is inspired, I do not deny,
in the sense that all good thoughts are the result of inspiration, but
only as we share the inspiration of the Bible can we distinguish between
the noble and the base in it, between the eternal and that which is
fast passing away. But as we do not expect to find that inspiration,
now-a-days, guards men from much error, both of word and deed, so we
should not expect to find it otherwise in days gone by; nor should we
wonder that the man who spoke of God as showing His tender fatherhood by
punishing and correcting, could so sink down into hard thoughts of that
loving Father as to say that it was a fearful thing to fall into His
hands. These contradictions meet us in every man; they are the highest
and the lowest moments of the human soul. Only as we are inspired to
love and patience in our conduct towards men will our words be inspired
when we speak of God.

Having thus seen what inspiration does not do, we must glance at what
it really is. It is, perhaps, natural that we, rejecting, as we do,
with somewhat of vehemence, the idea of supernatural revelation, should
oftentimes be accused of denying all revelation and disbelieving all
inspiration. But even as we are not atheists, although we deny the
Godhead of Jesus, so are we not unbelievers in inspiration because we
refuse to bend our necks beneath the yoke of an inspired Bible. For we
believe in a God too mighty and too universal to be wrapped in swaddling
clothes or buried in a cave, and we believe in an inspiration too mighty
and too universal to belong only to one nation and to one age. As the
air is as free and as refreshing to us as it was to Isaiah, to Jesus, or
to Paul, so does the spiritual air of God's Spirit breathe so softly and
as refreshingly on our brows as on theirs. We have eyes to see and
ears to hear quite as much as they had in Judea long ago. "If God
be omnipresent and omniactive, this inspiration is no miracle, but a
regular mode of God's action on conscious Spirit, as gravitation
on unconscious matter. It is not a rare condescension of God, but a
universal uplifting of man. To obtain a knowledge of duty, a man is not
sent away outside of himself to ancient documents for the only rule of
faith and practice; the Word is very nigh him, even in his heart, and
by this word he is to try all documents whatever.... Wisdom,
Righteous-ness, and Love are the Spirit of God in the soul of man;
wherever these are, and just in proportion to their power, there is
inspiration from God.... Inspiration is the in-come of God to the
soul, in the form of Truth through the Reason, of Right through the
Conscience, of Love and Faith through the Affections and Religious
Element.... A man would be looked on as mad who should claim miraculous
inspiration for Newton, as they have been who denied it in the case of
Moses. But no candid man will doubt that, humanly speaking, it was a
more difficult thing to write the Principia than to write the Decalogue.
Man must have a nature most sadly anomalous if, unassisted, he is
able to accomplish all the triumphs of modern science, and yet cannot
discover the plainest and most important principles of Religion and
Morality without a miraculous inspiration; and still more so if, being
able to discover by God's natural aid these chief and most important
principles, he needs a miraculous inspiration to disclose minor
details."* Thus we believe that inspiration from God is the birthright
of humanity, and to be an heir of God it needs only to be a son of man.
Earth's treasures are highly priced and hard to win, but God's blessings
are, like the rain and the sunshine, showered on all-comers.

     "'Tis only heaven is given away;
     'Tis only God may be had for the asking;
     No price is set on the lavish summer;
     June may be had by the poorest comer."

          * Theodore Parker.

If inspiration were indeed that which it is thought to be by the
orthodox Christians, surely we ought to be able to distinguish its
sayings from those of the uninspired. If inspiration be confined to the
Christian Bible, how is it that the inspired thoughts were in many cases
spoken out to the world hundreds of years before they fell from the
lips of an inspired Jew? It seems a somewhat uncalled for miraculous
interference for a man to be supernaturally inspired to inform the world
of some moral truth which had been well known for hundreds of years to
a large portion of the race. Or is it that a great moral truth bears
within itself so little evidence of its royal birth, that it cannot be
accepted as ruler by divine right over men until its proclamation is
signed by some duly accredited messenger of the Most High? Then, indeed,
must God be "more cognizable by the senses than by the soul;" and then
"the eye or the ear is a truer and quicker percipient of Deity than the
Spirit which came forth from Him."* Was Paul inspired when he wished
himself accursed for his brethren's sake, but Kwan-yin uninspired, when
she said, "Never will I seek nor receive private individual salvation;
never enter into final peace alone?" If Jesus and the prophets were
inspired when they placed mercy above sacrifice, was Manu uninspired
in saying that a man "will fall very low if he performs ceremonial acts
only, and fails to discharge his moral duties"? Was Jesus inspired when
he taught that the whole law was comprehended in one saying, namely,
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself?" and yet was Confucius
uninspired when, in answer to the question, "What one word would serve
as a rule to one's whole life?" he said, "Reciprocity; what you do not
wish done to yourself, do not to others." Or take the Talmud and study
it, and then judge from what uninspired source Jesus drew much of His
highest teaching. "Whoso looketh on the wife of another with a lustful
eye, is considered as if he had committed adultery."--(Kalah.) "With
what measure we mete, we shall be measured again."--(Johanan.) "What
thou wouldst not like to be done to thyself, do not to others; this
is the fundamental law."--(Hillel.) "If he be admonished to take the
splinter out of his eye, he would answer, Take the beam out of
thine own."--(Tarphon.) "Imitate God in His goodness. Be towards thy
fellow-creatures as He is towards the whole creation. Clothe the naked;
heal the sick; comfort the afflicted; be a brother to the children of
thy Father." The whole parable of the houses built on the rock and on
the sand is taken out of the Talmud, and such instances of quotation
might be indefinitely multiplied. What do they all prove? That there is
no inspiration in the Bible? by no means. But surely that inspiration
is not confined to the Bible, but is spread over the world; that much
in all "sacred books" is the outcome of inspired minds at their highest,
although we find the same books containing gross and low thoughts.
We should always remember that although the Bible is more specially
a revelation to us of the Western nations than are the Vedas and the
Zend-Avesta, that it is only so because it is better suited to our modes
of thought, and because it has-been one of the agents in our education.

     * W. R. Greg.

The reverence with which we may regard the Bible as bound up with
many-sacred memories, and as the chosen teacher of many of our greatest
minds and purest characters, is rightly directed in other nations to
their own sacred books. The books are really all on a level, with
much good and much bad in them all; but as the Hebrew was inspired to
proclaim that "the Lord thy God is one Lord" to the Hebrews, so was the
Hindoo inspired to proclaim to Hindoos, "There is only one Deity, the
great Soul." Either all are inspired, or none are. They stand on the
same footing. And we rejoice to-believe that one Spirit breathes in all,
and that His inspiration is ours to-day. "The Father worketh hitherto,"
although men fancy He is resting in an eternal Sabbath. The orthodox
tells us that, in rejecting the rule of morality laid down for us in the
Bible, and in trusting ourselves to this inspiration of the free Spirit
of God, our faith and our morality will alike be shifting and unstable.
But we reck not of their warnings; our faith and our morality are only
shifting in this sense, that, as we grow holier, and purer, and wiser,
our conception of God and of righteousness will rise and expand with our
growth. It was a golden saying of one of God's noblest sons that "no man
knoweth the Father save the Son:" to know God we must resemble Him,
as we see in the child the likeness of the parent. But in trusting
ourselves to the guidance of the Spirit of God, we are not building the
house of our faith on the shifting sand; rather are we "dwelling in a
city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Wisely was
it sung of old, "Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but
lost that build it." Vain are all efforts of priestly coercion; vain
all toils of inspired books; vain the utter sacrifice of reason and
conscience; their labour is but lost when they strive to build a temple
of human faith, strong enough to bear the long strain of time, or the
earthquake-shock of grief. God only, by the patient guiding of His love,
by the direct inspiration of His Spirit, can lay, stone by stone, and
timber by timber, that priceless fabric of trust and love, which shall
outlive all attacks and all changes, and shall stand in the human soul
as long as His own Eternity endures.



ON THE RELIGIOUS EDUCATION OF CHILDREN.

IN every transition-stage of the world's history the question of
education naturally comes to the front. So much depends on the first
impressions of childhood, on the first training of the tender shoot,
that it has always been acknowledged, from Solomon to Forster, that to
"train up a child in the way he should go" is among the most important
duties of fathers and citizens. To the individual, to the family, to the
State, the education of the rising generation is a question of primary
importance. Plato began the education of the citizens of his ideal
Republic from the very hour of their birth; the nursing child was taken
from the mother lest injudicious treatment should mar, in the slightest
degree, the perfection of the future warrior. On this point modern and
ancient wisdom clasp hands, and place the education of the child among
the most important duties of the State. The battle at present raging
between the advocates of "secular" and "religious" education--to use the
cant of the day--is a most natural and righteous recognition of the vast
interests at stake when Church or State claims the right of training the
sons and daughters of England. No one has yet attempted to explain why
it should be "irreligious" to teach writing, or history, or geography;
or why it should "destroy a child's soul" to improve his mental
faculties. It is among the "mysteries" of the faith, why it is better
for our poor to leave' them to grow up in both moral and intellectual
darkness, than to dissipate the intellectual darkness by some few rays
of knowledge, and to leave the moral training to other hands. If we left
a starving man to die because we could only give him bread, and were
unable to afford cheese in addition, all would unite in declaiming at
our folly: but "religious" people would rather that our street Arabs
grew up both heathens and brutes, than that we should improve their
minds without Christianizing their souls. Better let a lad grow up a
thief and a drunkard, than turn him into an artizan and a freethinker.
There can scarcely be a better proof of the unreasonableness of
Christian doctrine, than the Christian fear of sharpening mental
faculties, without binding them down, at the same time, in the chains
of dogma. Only a religion founded on reason can dare to train children's
minds to the utmost, and then leave them free to use all the power and
keenness acquired by that training on the investigation of any religious
doctrine presented to them. We, who have written Tekel on the Christian
faith, share in the opinion of the Christian clergy, that man's carnal
reason is a terrible foe to the Christian revelation; but here we begin
to differ from them, for while they regard this reason as a child of
the devil, to be scourged and chained down, we do homage to it as to the
fairest offspring of the Divine Spirit, the brightest earthly reflection
of His glory, and the nearest image of His "Person"; we would cherish
it, tend it, nourish it, as our Father's noblest gift to humanity, as
our surest guide and best counsellor, as the ear which hears His voice,
and the eye which sees Him, as the sharpest weapon against superstition,
the ultimate arbiter on earth between right and wrong. To us, then,
education is ranged on the side of God; we welcome it freely and gladly,
because all truth, all light, all knowledge, are foes of falsehood, of
darkness, of ignorance. If we mistake error for truth a brighter light
will set us right, and we only wish to be taught truth, not to be proved
right.

Most liberal thinkers agree in recognizing the fact that the duties of
the State in the matter of education must, in the nature of things, be
purely "secular:" that is to say, that while the State insists that the
future citizen shall be taught at least the elements of learning, so as
to fit him or her for fulfilling the duties of that citizenship, it has
no right to insist on impressing on the mind of its pupil any set of
religious dogmas or any form of religious creed. The abdication by the
State of the pretended right of enforcing on its citizens any special
form of religion, is not at all identical with the opposition by the
State to religious teaching; It is merely a development of the very wise
maxim of the great Jewish Teacher, to render the things of Caesar
to Caesar, and the things of God to God. To teach reading, writing,
honesty, regard for law, these things are Caesar's duties; to teach
religious dogma, creed, or article, is entirely the province of the
teachers who claim to hold the truth of God.

But my object now is not to draw the line between the duties of Church
and State, of school and home; nor do I wish to enter the lists of
sectarian controversy, to break a lance in favour of a new religious
dogma. The question is rather this: "What are the limits of the
religious education which it is wise to impose on the young? Is any
dogmatic teaching to be a part of their moral training, and is the
dogmatism against which we have rebelled to be revived in a new form?
Are the fetters which we are breaking for ourselves to be welded
together again for the young limbs of our children? Are they to be fed
on the husks which have starved our own religious aspirations, and which
we have analysed, and rejected as unfit to sustain our moral and mental
vigour? On the other hand, are our children to grow up without any
religious teaching at all, without a ray of that sunshine which is
to most of us the very source of our gladness, and the renewal of our
strength?"

I think the best way of deciding this question is to notice the gradual
development of the childish body and mind. Nature's indications are a
sure guide-post, and we cannot go very far wrong in following her hints.
I am now on ground with which mothers are familiar, though perhaps few
men have watched young children with sufficient attention to be able to
note their gradual development. The first instincts of a baby are purely
personal: the "not-I" is for it nonexistent: food, warmth, cleanliness,
comprise all its needs and all our duties to it. The next stage is
when the infant becomes conscious of the existence of something outside
itself: when, vaguely and indistinctly, but yet decidedly, it shows
signs of observing the things around it: to cultivate observation, to
attract attention, slowly to guide it into distinguishing one object
from another, are the next steps in its education. The child soon
succeeds in distinguishing forms, and learns to attach different sounds
to different shapes: it is also taught to avoid some things and to play
with others: it awakes to the knowledge that while some objects give
pleasure, others give pain: so far as material things go, it learns
to choose the good and to avoid the evil. This power is only gained by
experience, and is therefore acquired but gradually, and after a time,
side by side with it, runs another lesson; slowly and gradually there
appears a dawning appreciation of "right" and "wrong." This appreciation
is not, however, at first an appreciation of any intrinsic rightness or
wrongness in any given action; it is simply a recognition on the child's
part that some of its acts meet with approval, others with disapproval,
from its elders. The standard of its seniors is unquestioningly
accepted by the child. The moral sense awakes, but is completely guided
in its first efforts by the hand of the child's teacher, as completely
as the first efforts to walk are directed by the mother. Thus it comes
to pass that the conscience of the child is but the reflex of the
conscience of its parents or guardians: "right" and "wrong" in a
child's vocabulary are in the earliest stages equivalent to "reward"
and "punishment;" its final court of appeal in cases of morality is the
judgment of the parent.*

     * The moral sense does show itself, however, in very young
     children, in a higher form than this; for we may often
     observe in a young child an instinctive sense of shame at
     having done wrong. But the moral sense is awakened and
     educated by the parents' approval and disapproval. This may
     be proved, I think, by the fact that a child brought up
     among thieves and evil-livers will accept their morality as
     a matter of course, and will steal and lie habitually,
     without attaching to either act any idea of wrong. The moral
     sense is inherent in man, and is in no way _given_ by the
     parent; but I think that it is first aroused and put into
     action by the parent; the parent accustoms the child to
     regard certain actions as right and wrong; this appeals to
     the moral sense in the child, and the child very rapidly is
     ashamed of wrong, as wrong, and not simply from dread of
     punishment. I would be understood to mean, in the text, that
     the wish for reward is the first response of the child to
     the idea of an inherent distinction between different
     actions; this feeling rapidly developes into the true moral
     sense, which regards right as right, and wrong as wrong.

     I append this note at the suggestion of a valued friend, who
     feared that the inference might be drawn from the text that
     the moral sense was implanted by the parent instead of
     being, as it is, the gift of God.

It is perhaps scarcely accurate to call this motive power in the child
a _moral_ sense at all; still, this recognition of some thing which
is immaterial and intangible, and which is yet to be the guide of its
actions, is a great step forward from the simple consciousness of outer
and material objects, and is truly the dawn of that moral sense which
becomes in men and women the test of right and wrong. So far we have
considered the growing faculties of the child as regards physical and
moral development, and I particularly wish to remark that the moral
sense appears long before any "religious" tendency can be noted. There
is, however, another side of the complete human character which is very
important, but which is slow in showing itself in any healthy child; I
mean what may be called the _spiritual_ sense, in distinction from the
moral; the sense which is the crowning grace of humanity, the sense
which belongs wholly to the immortal part of man: the outstretched hands
of the human spirit groping after the Eternal Spirit; the yearning after
that all-pervading Power which men call God. I know well that in many
precociously-pious children this spiritual sense is forced into a
premature and unwholesome maturity; by means of a spiritual hot-house
the summer-fruit of piety may be obtained in the spring-time of the
childish heart. The imitative instinct of childhood quickly reproduces
the sentiments around it, and set phrases which meet with admiration
flow glibly from baby-lips. But this strongly developed religious
feeling in a child is both unnatural and harmful, and can never, because
it is unreal, produce any lasting good effect. Yet is it none the less
true that, at an early age, differing much in different children, the
"spiritual sense" does show signs of awakening; that children soon begin
to wonder about things around them, and to ask questions which can only
find their true answer in the name of God. How to meet these questions,
how to train this growing sentiment without crushing it on the one hand,
and without unduly stimulating it on the other, is a source of deep
anxiety to many a mother's heart in the present day. They are unable
to tell their children the stories which satisfied their own childish
cravings: no longer can they hold up before the eager faces the picture
of the manger at Bethlehem, or dim the bright eyes with the story of the
cross on Calvary; no longer can they fold the little hands in prayer to
the child of Nazareth, or hush the hasty tongue with the reminder of
the obedience of the Virgin's son. To a certain extent this is a loss.
A child quickly seizes the concrete; the idea of the child Jesus or the
man Jesus is readily grasped by a child's intellect; the God of the Old
Testament, the "magnified man," is also, though more dimly, understood.
These conceptions of the childhood of humanity suit the childhood of the
individual, and it is far more difficult for the child to realize the
idea of God when he is divested of these materialistic garments. Yet I
speak from experience when I say that it is by no means impossible to
train a child into the simplest and happiest feelings as regards the
Supreme Being, without degrading the Divine into the human. By one name
we can speak of God by which He will be readily welcomed to the child's
heart, and that is the name of the Father. Most children are keenly
alive to natural beauties, and are quick to observe birds, and flowers,
and sunshine; at times they will ask how these things come there, and
then it is well to tell them that they are the works of God Thus the
child's first notions of the existence of a Power he cannot see or feel
will come to him clothed in the things he loves, and will be free from
any suggestion of fear.* Even those who regard God from the stand-point
of Pantheism may use natural objects so as to train the child into a
fearless and happy recognition of the constant working of the Spirit
of Nature, and so guard the young mind against that shrinking from, and
terror of God, which popular Christianity is so apt to induce. The lad
or girl who grows up with even the habit of regarding God as the calm
and mighty motive-power of the forces of Nature, changeless, infinite,
absolutely trustworthy, will be slow to accept in later life the crude
conceptions which incarnate the creative power in a virgin's womb, and
ascribe caprice, injustice, and cruelty to the mighty Spirit of the
Universe.

     * The ordinary shrinking of a child from the idea of a
     Presence which he cannot see, but which sees him, will not
     be felt by children whose only ideas about God are that He
     is the Father from whose hand come all beautiful things. In
     any home where the parents' thoughts of God are free from
     doubt and mistrust, the children's thoughts will be the same;
     religion, in their eyes, will be synonymous with
     happiness, for God and good will be convertible terms.

There is a deep truth in the idea of Pantheism, that "Nature is an
apparition of the Deity, God in a mask;" that "He is the light of the
morning, the beauty of the noon, and the strength of the sun. He is the
One, the All... The soul of all; more moving than motion, more stable
than rest; fairer than beauty, and stronger than strength. The power of
Nature is God... He is the All; the Reality of all phenomena." The child
fed on this food will have scarcely anything to unlearn, even when he
begins to believe that God is something more than Nature; "the created
All is the symbol of God," and he will pass easily and naturally on from
seeing God in Nature to see Him in a higher form.

Of course, as a Theist, I should myself go much further than this: I
should speak of all natural glory as but the reflection of the Deity,
or as the robe in which He veils His infinite beauty; I should bid
my children rejoice in all happiness as in the gift of a Father who
delights in sharing His joy with His creatures; I should point out that
the pain caused by ignorance of, or by breaking natural laws, is God's
way of teaching men obedience for their own ultimate good: in the
freedom and fulness of Nature's gifts I should teach them to see the
equal love of God for all; through marking that in Nature's visible
kingdom no end can be gained without labour and without using certain
laws, they should learn that in the invisible kingdom they need not
expect to find favouritism, nor think to share the fruits of victory
without patient toil. To all who believe in a God who is also the Father
of Spirits such teaching as this comes easily; as they themselves learn
of God only through His works, so they naturally teach their children to
seek Him in the same way.

The questions, so familiar to every mother, "Can God see me?" "Where is
God?" can only be met with the simple assertion that God sees all, and
is everywhere. For there are many childish questions which it is wisest
to meet with statements which are above the grasp of the childish mind.
These statements may be simply given to the child as statements which it
is too young either to question or to understand. Nothing is gained
by trying to smooth down spiritual subjects to the level of a child's
capacity; the time will come later when the child must meet and answer
for itself all great spiritual questions; the parent's care should be to
remove all hindrances from the child's path of inquiry, but not to give
it cut-and-dried answers to every possible question; religion, to be
worth anything, must be a personal matter, and each must find it out for
himself; the wise parent will endeavour to save the child from the pain
of unlearning, by giving but little formal religious teaching; he cannot
fight the battle for his child, but he can prevent his being crippled by
a fancied armour which will stifle rather than protect him; he can give
a few wide principles to direct him, without weighing him down with
guide-books.

But even the most general ideas of God should not be forced on a
childish mind; they should come, so to speak, by chance; they should be
presented in answer to some demand of the child's heart; they should
be inculcated by stray words and passing remarks; they should form the
atmosphere surrounding the child habitually, and not be a sudden "wind
of doctrine." Of course all this is far more troublesome than to teach
a child a catechism or a creed, but it is a far higher training. Dogma,
_i e_., conviction petrified by authority, should be utterly excluded
from the religious education of children; a few great axiomatic truths
may be laid down, but even in these primary truths dogmatism should be
avoided. The parent should always take care to make it apparent that he
is stating his own convictions, but is not enforcing them on the child
by his authority. So far as the child is capable of appreciating them,
the reasons for the religious conviction should be presented along with
the conviction itself. Thus the child will see, as he grows older, that
religion cannot be learned by rote, that it is not shut up in a book, or
contained in creeds; he will appreciate the all-important fact that free
inquiry is the only air in which truth can breathe; that one man's faith
cannot justly be imposed on another, and that every individual soul has
the privilege and the responsibility of forming his own religion, and
must either hear God with his own ears, or else not hear Him at all.

We have noticed that the moral sense awakes before the religious (I must
state my repugnance to these terms, although I use them for the sake of
clearness; but morality _is_ religion, although religion is more than
morality, and the so-called religion which is not morality is worthless
and hateful). There remains then to consider what we will call the
second side of religion, although it is by far its most important side.
True religion consists not only in feelings towards God, but also in
duties towards men: the first, noble and blessed as they are, should, in
every healthy religion, give place to the second; for a morally good man
who does not believe in God at all, is in a far higher state of being
than the man who believes in God and is selfish, cruel or unjust. Error
in faith is forgiveable; error in life is fatal. The good man shall
surely see God, although, for a time, his eyes be holden; the evil man,
though he hold the noblest faith yet known, shall never taste the joy of
God, until he turns from sin, and struggles after holiness. Faith first,
and then morality, is the war-cry of the churches; morality above all,
and let faith follow in good time, is the watch-word of Theism; so,
among us, the principal part of the religious training of our children
should be morality; religious feeling may be over-strained, or give rise
to self-deception; religious talk may be morbid and unreal; religious
faith may be erring, and must be imperfect; but morality is a rock which
can never be shaken, a guide which can never mislead. Whether we are
right or wrong in our belief about God, whether we are immortal spirits
or perishable organizations, yet purity is nobler than vice, courage
than cowardice, truth than falsehood, love than hate. Let us, then,
teach our children morality above all things. Let us teach them to love
good for its own sake, without thought of reward, and they will remain
good, even if, in after life, they should, alas! lose all hope of
immortality and all faith hi God. A child's natural instinct is towards
good; a tale of heroism, of self sacrifice, of generosity, will bring
the eager blood flushing up to a child's face and wake a quick response
and a desire of emulation. It is therefore well to place in children's
hands tales of noble deeds in days gone by. Nothing is easier than to
train a child into feeling a desire to be good for the sake of being so.
There is something so attractive in goodness, that I have found it more
effectual to hold up the nobility of courage and unselfishness before
the child's eyes, than to descend to punishment for the corresponding
faults. If a child is in the habit of regarding all wrong as something
low and degrading, he quickly shrinks from it; all mothers know the
instinctive ambition of children to be something superior and admirable,
and this instinct is most useful in inculcating virtue. Later in life
nothing ruins a young man like discovering that morality and religion
are often divorced, and that the foremost professors of religion are
less delicately honourable and trustworthy than high-minded "worldly
men;" on the other hand, nothing will have so beneficial an effect on
men and women entering life, as to see that those who are most joyful in
their faith towards God, lead the purest and most blameless lives. "Do
good, be good" is, as has been well said, the golden rule of life;
"do good, be good" must be the law impressed on our children's hearts.
Whatever "eclipse of faith" may await England, whatever darkness of most
hopeless scepticism, whatever depth of uttermost despair of God, there
is not only the hope, but the certainty of the resurrection of religion,
if we all hold fast through the driving storm to the sheet-anchor of
pure morality, to most faithful discharge of all duty towards man to
love, and tenderness, and charity, and patience. Morality never faileth;
but, whether there be dogmas, they shall fail; whether there be creeds,
they shall cease; whether there be churches, they shall crumble away;
but morality shall abide for evermore and endure as long as the endless
circle of Nature revolves around the Eternal Throne.



NATURAL RELIGION VERSUS REVEALED RELIGION.

ONE is almost ashamed to repeat so trite an aphorism as the well-worn
saying that "history repeats itself." But in studying the course taken
by the advocates of what is called "revealed religion," in seeing their
disdain of "mere nature," their scornful repudiation of the idea that
any poor natural product can come into competition with their special
article, hall-stamped by heaven itself, I feel irresistibly compelled
to glance backwards down the long vista of history, and there I see
the conflict of the present day raging fierce and long. I see the same
serried ranks of orthodoxy marshalled by bishops and priests, arrayed
in all the splendour of prescriptive right, armed with mighty weapons
of authority and thunderbolts of Church anathemas. Their war-cry is the
same as that which rings in our ears to-day; "revelation" is inscribed
on their banners and "infallible authority" is the watchword of their
camp. The Church is facing nature for the first time, and is setting her
revealed science against natural science. "Mere Nature" is temporarily
getting the worst of it, and Galileo, Nature's champion, is sorely
pressed by "revealed truth." I hear scornful taunts at his presumption
in attacking revealed science by his pretended natural facts. Had they
not God's Own account of His creation, and did he pretend to know more
about the matter than God Himself? Was he present when God created the
world, that he spoke so positively about its shape? Could he declare, of
his own personal knowledge, that it was sent hurtling through space in
the ridiculous manner he talked about, and could he, by the evidence of
his own eye-sight, declare that God was mistaken when He revealed to man
how He "laid the foundation of the earth that it never should move at
anytime?" But if he was only reasoning from the wee bit of earth he
knew, was he not speaking of things he had not seen, being vainly
puffed-up in his fleshly mind? Was it probable, _à priori_, that
God would allow mankind to be deceived for thousands of years on so
important a matter; would in fact--God forgive it!--deceive man Himself
by revealing through His holy prophets an account of His creation
which was utterly untrue; nay, further, would carry on the delusion for
century after century, by working miracles in support of it--for what
but a miracle could make men unconscious of the fact that they were
being hurried through space at so tremendous a rate? Surely very little
reverence, or rather no reverence at all, was needed to allow that God
the Holy Ghost, who inspired the Bible, knew better than we did how
He made the world. But, the theologian proceeds, he must remind his
audience that, under the specious pretext of investigating the creation,
this man, this pseudo-scientist, was in reality blaspheming the Creator,
by contradicting His revealed word, and thus "making Him a liar." It
was all very well to talk about _natural_ science; but he would ask this
presuming speculator, what was the use of God revealing science to us if
man's natural faculties were sufficient to discover it for himself? They
had sufficient proofs of the absurdities of science into which reason,
unenlightened by revelation, had betrayed men in past ages. The idea of
the Hindoo, that the world rested on an elephant and the elephant on
a tortoise, was a sad proof of the incapacity of the acutest natural
intellect to discover scientific truth without the aid of revelation.
Reason had its place, and a very noble placer in science; but it must
always bow before revelation, and not presume to set its puny guesses
against a "thus sayeth the Lord." Let reason, then, pursue its way with
belief not unbelief, for its guide. What could reason, with all its
vaunted powers, tell us of the long-past creation of the world? Eye hath
not seen those things of ages past, but God hath revealed them to us by
His Spirit. A darkness that might be felt would enshroud the origin of
the world were it not for the magnificent revelation of Moses, that "in
six days God created the heaven and the earth." He might urge how our
conceptions of God were enlarged and elevated, and what a deep awe
filled the adoring heart on contemplating the revealed truth, that this
wonderful earth with its varied beauty, and the heavens above with their
countless stars, were all called forth out of nothing within the space
of one short week by the creative fiat of the Almighty. What could this
pseudo-science give them in exchange for such a revelation as that? Was
it probable, further, that God would have become incarnate for the sake
of a world that was only one out of many revolving round the sun? How
irreverent to regard the theatre of that awful sacrifice as aught less
than the centre of the universe, the cynosure of angelic eyes, gazing
from their thrones in the heaven above! Galileo might say that his
heresy does not affect the primary truths of our holy faith; but this is
only one of the evasions natural to evildoers--and it is unnecessary
to remark that intellectual error is invariably the offspring of moral
guilt--for consider how much is involved in his theory. The inspiration
of Scripture receives its death-blow; for if fallible in one point, we
have no reason to conclude it to be infallible in others. If there is
one fact revealed to us more clearly than another in Holy Scripture, it
is this one of the steadfastness of our world, which we are distinctly
told, "cannot be moved." It is plainly revealed to us that the earth was
created and fixed firmly on its foundations; that then there was formed
over it the vast vault of heaven, in which were set the stars, and in
this vault was prepared "the course" for the sun, spoken of, as you will
remember, in the 19th Psalm, where holy David reveals to us that in the
heavens God has made a tabernacle for the sun, which "goeth forth from
the uttermost part of the heaven, and runneth about unto the end of
it again." Language has no definiteness of meaning if this inspired
declaration can be translated into a statement that the sun remains
stationary and is encircled by a revolving earth. This great revealed
truth cannot be contradicted by any true science. God's works
cannot contradict His word; and if for a moment they appear mutually
irreconcileable, we may be sure that our ignorance is to blame, and that
a deeper knowledge will ultimately remove the apparent inconsistency.
But it is yet more important to observe that some of the cardinal
doctrines of the Church are assailed by this novel teaching. How could
our blessed Redeemer, after accomplishing the work of our salvation,
ascend from a revolving earth? Whither did He go? North, south, east, or
west? For, if I understand aright this new heresy, the space above us
at one time is below us at another, and thus Jesus might be actually
descending at His glorious Ascension. Where, too, is that Right Hand of
God to which He went, in this new universe without top or bottom? How
can we hope to rise and meet Him in the air at His return, according to
the most sure promise given to us through the blessed Paul, if He comes
we know not from what direction? How can the lightning of His coming
shine at once all round a globe to herald His approach, or how can the
people at the other side of the world see the sign of the Son of Man in
the heavens? But I cannot bring myself to accumulate these blasphemies;
all must see that the most glorious truths of the Bible are bound up
with its science, and must stand or fall together. And if this is so,
and this so-called natural science is to be allowed to undermine the
revealed science, what have we got to rely upon in this world or in the
next? With the absolute truth of the Bible stands or falls our faith in
God and our hope of immortality; on the truth of revelation hinges all
morality, and they who deny to-day the truth of revealed science
will tamper tomorrow with the truth of revealed history, of revealed
morality, of revealed religion. Shall we, then, condescend to accept
natural science instead of revealed; shall we, the teachers of
revelation, condescend to abandon revealed science, and become the mere
teachers of nature?

Thunders of applause greeted the right reverend theologian as he
concluded--he happened to be a bishop, the direct ancestor in regular
apostolical succession of a late prelate who inherited among other
valuable qualities the very argument which closed the speech above
quoted--and Galileo, the foolish believer in facts and the heretical
student of mere nature, turned away with a sigh from trying to convince
them, and contented himself with the fact he knew, and which must surely
announce itself in the long run. _E pur si muove!_ Fear not, noble
martyr of science: facts alter not to suit theologies: many a one may
fall crushed and vanquished before the Juggernaut-car of the Church, but
"God does not die with His children, nor truth with its martyrs;" the
natural is the divine, for Nature is only "God in a mask." So, looking
down at that first great battle-field between nature and revelation I
see the serried ranks break up and fly, and the excommunicated student
become the prophet of the future, Galileo the seer, the revealer of the
truth of God.

It is eternally true that nature must triumph in the long run.
Theories are very imposing, doubtless, but when they are erected on a
misconception the inexorable fact is sure to assert itself sooner or
later, and with pitiless serenity level the magnificent fabric with
the dust. It is this which gives to scientific men so grave and calm an
attitude; theologians wrangle fiercely and bitterly because they wrangle
about _opinions_, and one man's say is as good as another's where both
deal in intangibles; but the man of science, when absolutely sure of his
ground, _can afford to wait_, because the fact he has discovered remains
unshaken, however it be assailed, and it will, in time, assert itself.
When nature and revelation then come into contact, revelation must go to
the wall; no outcry can save it; it is doomed; as well try and dam the
rising Thames with a feather, as seek to bolster up a theology whose
main dogmas are being slowly undermined by natural science. Of course
no one nowadays (at least among educated people, for Zadkiel's Almanac
I believe still protests on Biblical grounds against the heresy of the
motion of the earth) dreams of maintaining Bible, _i e_., revealed,
science against natural science; it is agreed on all hands that on
points where science speaks with certainty the words of the _Bible must
be explained so as to accord with the dictum of nature_; _i e._, it
is allowed--though the admission is wrapped up in thick folds of
circumlocution--that science must mould revelation, and not revelation
science. The desperate attempts to force the first chapter of Genesis
into some faint resemblance to the ascertained results of geological
investigations are a powerful testimony to the conscious weakness of
revealed science and to the feeling on the part of all intelligent
theologians that the testimony graven with an iron pen on the rocks
cannot be contradicted or refuted. In fact so successfully has science
asserted its own preeminence in its own domain that many defenders of
the Bible assert loudly, to cover their strategic movement to the rear,
that revelation was not intended to teach science, and that scientific
mistakes were only to be expected in a book given to mankind by the
great Origin of all scientific law. They are freely welcome to find
out any reasons they like for the errors in revealed science; all
that concerns us is that their revelation should get out of the way of
advancing science, and should no longer interpose its puny anathemas
to silence inquiry into facts, or to fetter free research and free
discussion.

But I challenge revelation further than this, and assert that when the
dictates of natural_ religion_ are in opposition to those of revealed
_religion_ then the natural must again triumph over the revealed.
Christianity has so long successfully impressed on human hearts the
revelation that natural impulses are in themselves sinful, that in "the
flesh dwelleth no good thing," that man is a fallen creature, thoroughly
corrupt and instinctively evil, that it has come to-pass that even those
who would be liberal if they dared, shrink back when it comes to casting
away their revelation-crutches, and ask wildly _what_ they can trust
to if they give up the Bible. Their teachers tell them that if they let
this go they will wander compassless on the waves of a pathless ocean;
and so determinedly do they fix their eyes on the foaming waters,
striving to discern there the trace of a pathway and only seeing the
broken reflections of the waving torches in their hands, that they do
not raise their heads and gaze upwards at the everlasting stars, the
silent natural guides of the bewildered mariner. "Trust to mere nature!"
exclaim the priesthood, and their flocks fall back aghast, clutching
their revelation to their bosom and crying out: "What indeed is there to
rely on if this be taken from us?" Only God. "Mere" God indeed, who is
a very feeble support after the bolstering up of creeds and dogmas,
of Churches and Bibles. As the sunshine dazzles eyes accustomed to the
darkness, as the fresh wind makes shiver an invalid from a heated room,
so does the light of God dazzle those who live amid the candles of the
Churches, and the breath of His inspiration blows cold on feeble souls.
But the light and the air invigorate and strengthen, and nature is a
surer medicine than the nostrums of the quack physician.

"Mere" God is, in very truth, all that we Theists have to offer the
world in exchange for the certainties of its Bibles, Korans, Vedas, and
all other revelations whatsoever. On points where they each speak with
certainty, our lips are dumb. About much they assert, we confess our
ignorance. Where they know, we only think or hope. Where they possess
all the clearness of a sign-post, our eyes can only study the mistiness
of a valley before the rising sun has dispelled the wreathing clouds.
They proclaim immortality, and are quite _au fait_ as to the particulars
of our future life. They differ in details, it is true, as to whether
we live in a jewelled city, where the dust is gold-dust and the gates
pearls, and spend our time in attending Sacred Harmonic Societies with
an archangelic Costa directing perpetual oratorios, or whether we lie in
rose-embowered arbours with delights unlimited, albeit unintellectual;
but if we take them one at a time they are most satisfactory in the
absolute information afforded by each. But we, we can only, whisper--and
the lips of some of us quiver too much to speak--"I believe in the life
everlasting." We do not pretend to _know_ anything about it; the belief
is intuitive, but is not demonstrable; it is a hope and a trust, not an
absolute knowledge. We entertain a reasonable hope of immortality; we
argue its likelihood from considerations of the justice and the love
which, as we believe, rule the universe; we, many of us--as I freely
confess I do myself--believe in it with a firmness of conviction
absolutely immovable; but challenged to _prove_ it, we cannot answer.
"Here," the revelationists triumphantly exclaim, "is our advantage; we
foretell with absolute certainty a future life, and can give you all
particulars about it." Then follows a confused jumble of harps and
houris, of pasture-field and hunting-grounds; we seek for certainty
and find none. All that they agree in, _i e_., a future life, we find
imprinted on our own hearts, a dictate of natural religion; all they
differ in is contained in their several revelations, and as they all
contradict each other about the revealed details, we gain nothing from
them. Nature whispers to us that there is a life to come; revelation
babbles a number of contradictory particulars, marring the majesty of
the simple promise, and adding nothing reliable to the sum of human
knowledge. And the subject of immortality is a fair specimen of what is
taught respectively by nature and by revelation; what is common to all
creeds is natural, what is different in each is revealed. It is so with
respect to God. The idea of God belongs to all creeds alike; it is the
foundation-stone of natural religion; confusion begins when revelation
steps in to change the musical whisper of Nature into a categorical
description worthy of "Mangnall's Questions." Triune, solitary, dual,
numberless, whatever He is revealed to be in the world's varied sacred
books, His nature is understood, catalogued, dogmatised on; each
revelation claims to be His own account of Himself; but each contradicts
its fellows; on one point only they all agree, and that is the point
confessed by natural religion--"God is."

From these facts I deduce two conclusions: first, that revelation does
not come to us with such a certainty of its truth as to enable us to
trust it fearlessly and without reserve; second, that revelation is
quite superfluous, since natural religion gives us every thing we need.

I. Revelation gives an uncertain sound. There are certain books in the
world which claim to stand on a higher ground than all others. They
claim to be special revelations of the will of God and the destiny of
man. Now surely one of the first requisites of a Divine revelation is
that it should be undoubtedly of Divine origin. But about all these
books, except the Koran of Mahomet, hangs much obscurity both as regards
their origin and their authorship. "Believers" urge that were the proofs
undoubted there would be no room for faith and no merit in believing.
They conceive it, then, to be a worthy employment for the Supreme
Intelligence to set traps for His creatures; and, there being certain
facts of the greatest importance, undis-coverable by their natural
faculties, He proceeds to reveal these facts, but envelopes them in
such wrappings of mystery, such garments of absurdity, that those of
His creatures whom he has dowered with intellects and gifted with subtle
brains, are forced to reject the whole as incredible and unreasonable.
That God should give a revelation, but should not substantiate it, that
He should speak, but in tones unintelligible, that His noblest gifts of
reason should prove an insuperable bar to accepting his manifestation,
are surely statements incredible, are surely statements utterly
irreconcileable with all reverent ideas of the love and wisdom of
Almighty God. Further, the believers in the various revelations all
claim for their several oracles the supreme position of the exponent of
the Will of God, and each rejects the sacred books of other nations as
spurious productions, without any Divine authority. As these revelations
are mutually destructive, it is evident that only one of them, at the
most can be Divine, and the next point of the inquiry is to distinguish
which this is. We, of the Western nations, at once put aside the Hindoo
Vedas, or the Zendavesta, on certain solid grounds; we reject their
claims to be inspired books because they contain error; their mistaken
science, their legendary history, their miraculous stories, stamp them,
in our impartial eyes, as the work of fallible men; the nineteenth
century looks down on thee ancient writings as the instructed and
cultured man smiles at the crude fancies and imaginative conceits of the
child. But when the generality of Christians turn to the Bible they lay
aside all ordinary criticism and all common-sense. Its science may be
absurd; but excuses are found for it. Its history may be false, but
it is twisted into truth. Its supernatural marvels may be flagrantly
absurd; but they are nevertheless believed in. Men who laugh at the
visions of the "blessed Margaret" of Paray-le-Monial assent to the
devil-drowning of the swine of Gadara; and those who would scorn to
investigate the tale of the miraculous spring at Lourdes, find
no difficulty in believing the story of the angel-moved waters of
Bethesda's pool. A book which contains miracles is usually put aside as
unreliable. There is no good reason for excepting the Bible from this
general rule. Miracles are absolutely incredible, and discredit at once
any book in which they occur. They are found in all revelations, but
never in nature, they are plentiful in man's writings, but they never
deface the orderly pages of the great book of God, written by His own
Hand on the earth, and the stars, and the sun. Powers? Yes, beyond our
grasping, but Powers moving in stately order and changeless consistency.
Marvels? Yes, beyond our imagining, but marvels evolved by immutable
laws. Revelation is incredible, not only because it fails to bring proof
of its truth, but because the proofs abound of its falsehood; it claims
to be Divine, and we reject it because we test it by what we know of
His undoubted works, for men can write books of Him and call them His
revelations, but the frame of nature can only be the work of that mighty
Power which man calls God. Revelation depicts Him as changeable, nature
as immutable; revelation tells us of perfection marred, nature of
imperfection improving; revelation speaks of a Trinity, nature of one
mighty central Force; revelation relates interferences, miracles, nature
unbroken sequences, inviolable law. If we accept revelation we must
believe in a God Who made man upright but could not keep him so; Who
heard in his far-off heaven the wailing of His earth and came down to
see if things were as bad as was reported; Who had a face which brought
death, but Whose hinder parts were visible to man; Who commanded and
accepted human sacrifice; Who was jealous, revengeful, capricious, vain;
Who tempted one king and then punished him for yielding, hardened the
heart of another and then punished him for not yielding, deceived a
third and thereby drew him to his death. But nature does not so outrage
our morality and trample on our hearts; only we learn of a power and
wisdom unspeakable, "mightily and sweetly ordering all things," and
our hearts tell of a Father and a Friend, infinitely loving, and
trustworthy, and good. The God of Nature and the God of Revelation are
as opposed as Ormuzd and Ahriman, as darkness and light; the Bible and
the universe are not writ by the same hand.


II. Revelation then being so utterly untrustworthy, it is satisfactory
to discover, secondly, that it is perfectly superfluous.

All man needs for his guidance in this world he can gain through the use
of his natural faculties, and the right guidance of his conduct in this
world must, in all reasonableness, be the best preparation for whatever
lies beyond the grave. Revelationists assure us that without their books
we should have no rules of morality, and that without the Bible man's
moral obligations would be unknown. Their theory is that only through
revelation can man know right from wrong. Using the word "revelation"
in a different sense most Theists would agree with them, and would
allow that man's perception of duty is a ray which falls on him from the
Righteousness of God, and that man's morality is due to the illumination
of the inspiring Father of Light. Personally, I believe that God
does teach morality to man, and is, in very deed, the Inspirer of all
gracious and noble thoughts and acts. I believe that the source of all
morality in man is the Universal Spirit dwelling in the spirits He has
formed, and moving them to righteousness, and, as they answer to His
whispers by active well-doing--speaking ever in louder and clearer
accents. I believe also that the most obedient followers of that inner
voice gain clearer and loftier views of duty and of the Holiest,
and thus become true prophets of God, revealers of His will to their
fellows. And this is revelation in a very real sense; it is God
revealing Himself by the natural working of moral laws, even as all
science is a true revelation, and is God revealing Himself by the
natural working of physical laws. For laws are modes of action, and
modes of action reveal the nature and character of the actor, so that
every law, physical and moral, which is discovered by truth-seekers and
proclaimed to the world is a direct and trustworthy revelation of God
Himself. But when Theists speak thus of "revelation" using the word as
rightfully applicable to all discoveries and all nobly written religious
or scientific books, it is manifest that the word has entirely changed
its signification, and is applied to "natural" and not "supernatural"
results. We believe in God working through natural faculties in a
natural way, while the revelationists believe in some non-natural
communication, made no one knows how, no one knows where, no one knows
to whom.

Where opposing theories are concerned an ounce of fact outweighs pounds
of assertion; and so against the statement of Christians, that morality
is derived only from the Bible and is undiscoverable by "man's natural
faculties," I quote the morality of natural religion, unassisted by what
they claim as their special "revelation."

Buddha, as he lived 700 years before Christ, can hardly be said to
have drawn his morality from that of Jesus or even to have derived any
indirect benefit from Christian teaching, and yet I have been gravely
told by a Church of England clergyman--who ought to have known
better--that forgiveness of injuries and charity were purely Christian
virtues. This heathen Buddha, lighted only by natural reason and a pure
heart, teaches: "a man who foolishly does me wrong I will return to him
the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him the
more good shall go from me;" among principal virtues are: "to repress
lust and banish desire; to be strong without being rash; to bear insult
without anger; to move in the world without setting the heart on it; to
investigate a matter to the very bottom; to save men by converting them;
to be the same in heart and life." "Let a man overcome evil by good,
anger by love, the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth. For hatred
does not cease by hatred at any time; hatred ceases by love; this is an
old rule." He inculcates purity, charity, self-sacrifice, courtesy, and
earnestly recommends personal search after truth: "do not
believe in guesses"--in assuming something at hap-hazard as a
starting-point--reckoning your two and your three and your four before
you have fixed your number one. Do not believe in the truth of that to
which you have become attached by habit, as every nation believes in the
superiority of its own dress and ornaments and language. Do not believe
merely because you have heard, but when of your own consciousness you
know a thing to be evil abstain from it. Methinks these sayings of
Buddha are unsurpassed by any revealed teaching, and contain quite as
noble and lofty a morality as the Sermon on the Mount, "natural" as they
are.

Plato, also, teaches a noble morality and soars into ideas about the
Divine Nature as pure and elevated as any which are to be found in the
Bible. The summary of his teaching, quoted by Mr. Lake in a pamphlet
of Mr. Scott's series, is a glorious testimony to the worth of natural
religion. "It is better to die than to sin. It is better to suffer wrong
than to do it. The true happiness of man consists in being united to
God, and his only misery in being separated from Him. There is one God,
and we ought to love and serve Him, and to endeavour to resemble Him
in holiness and righteousness." Plato saw also the great truth that
suffering is not the result of an evil power, but is a necessary
training to good, and he anticipates the very words of Paul--if indeed
Paul does not quote from Plato--that "to the just man all things work
together for good, whether in life or death." Plato lived 400 years
before Christ, and yet in the face of such teaching as his and
Buddha's,--and they are only two out of many--Christians fling at us the
taunt that we, rejectors of the Bible, draw all our morality from
it, and that without this one revelation the world would lie in moral
darkness, ignorant of truth and righteousness and God. But the light
of God's revealing shines still upon the world, even as the sunlight
streams upon it steadfastly as of old; "it is not given to a few men in
the infancy of mankind to monopolise inspiration and to bar God out of
the soul.... Wherever a heart beats with love, where Faith and Reason
utter their oracles, there also is God, as formerly in the heart of
seers and prophets."*

     * Theodore Tarker.

It is a favourite threat of the priesthood to any inquiring spirit: "If
you give up Christianity you give up all certainty; rationalism speaks
with no certain sound; no two rationalists think alike; the word
rationalism covers everything outside Christianity, from Unitarianism to
the blankest atheism;" and many a timid soul starts back, feeling that
if this is true it is better to rest where it is, and inquire no more.
To such--and I meet many such--I would suggest one very simple thought:
does "Christianity" give any more certainty than rationalism? Just
try asking your mentor, "_whose_ Christianity am I to accept?" He will
stammer out, "Oh, the teaching of the Bible, of course." But persevere:
"As explained by whom? for all claim to found their Christianity on
the Bible: am I to accept the defined logical Christianity of Pius IX.,
defiant of history, of science, of common sense, or shall I sit under
Spurgeon, the denunciator, and flee from the scarlet woman and the cup
of her fascinations: shall I believe the Christianity of Dean Stanley,
instinct with his own gracious, kindly spirit, cultured and polished,
pure and loving, or shall I fly from it as a sweet but insidious poison,
as I am exhorted to do by Dr. Pusey, who rails at his 'variegated
language which destroys all definiteness of meaning.' For pity's sake,
good father, label for me the various bottles of Christian medicine,
that I may know which is healing to the soul, which may be touched with
caution, as for external application, and which are rank poison."
All the priest will find to answer is, that "under sad diversities
of opinion there are certain saving truths common to all forms of
Christianity," but he will object to particularise what they are, and
at this stage will wax angry and refuse to argue with anyone who shows
a spirit so carping and so conceited. There is the same diversity in
rationalism as in Christianity, because human nature is diverse, but
there is also one bond between all freethinkers, one "great saving
truth" of rationalism, one article of faith, and that is, that "free
inquiry is the right of every human soul;" diverse in much, we all agree
in this, and so strong is this bond that we readily welcome any thinker,
however we disagree with his thoughts, provided only that he think them
honestly and allow to all the liberty of holding their own opinions
also. We are bound together in one common hatred of Dogmatism, one
common love of liberty of thought and speech.

It is probably a puzzle to good and unlearned Christians whence men,
unenlightened by revelation, drew and still draw their morality. We
answer, "from mere Nature, and that because Nature and not revelation is
the true basis of all morality." We have seen the untrustworthiness of
all so-called revelations; but when we fall back on Nature we are
on firm ground. Theists start in their search after God from their
well-known axiom: "If there be a God at all He must be at least as
good as His highest creature;" and they argue that what is highest and
noblest and most lovable in man _must_ be below, but cannot be above,
the height and the nobleness and the loveableness of God. "Of all
impossible thing, the most impossible must surely be that a man should
dream something of the Good and the Noble, and that it should prove
at last that his Creator was less good and less noble than he had
dreamed."* "The ground on which our belief in God rests is Man. Man,
parent of Bibles and Churches, inspirer of all good thoughts and good
deeds. Man, the master-piece of God's work on earth. Man, the text-book
of all spiritual knowledge. Neither miraculous or infallible, Man is
nevertheless the only trustworthy record of the Divine mind in things
pertaining to God. Man's reason, conscience, and affections are the only
true revelation of his Maker,"** And as we believe that we may glean
some hints of the Glory and Beauty of our Creator from the glory and
beauty of human excellence, so we believe that to each man, as he lives
up to the highest he can perceive, will surely be unveiled fresh heights
of righteousness, fresh possibilities of moral growth.

     * Frances Power Cobbe.

     ** Rev. Charles Voysey.

To all men alike, good and evil, is laid open Nature's revelation of
morality, as exemplified in the highest human lives; and these noble
lives receive ever the heavenly hall-mark by the instinctive response
from every human breast that they "are very good." To those only
who live up to the good they see, does God give the further inner
revelation, which leads them higher and higher in morality, quickening
their moral faculties, and making more sensitive and delicate their
moral susceptibilities. We cannot, as revelationists do, chalk out
all the whole range of moral perfection: we "walk by faith and not by
sight:" step by step only is the path unveiled to us, and only as we
surmount one peak do we gain sight of the peak beyond: the distant
prospect is shrouded from our gaze, and we are too fully occupied in
doing the work which is given us to do in this world, to be for ever
peering into and brooding over the world beyond the grave. We have light
enough to do our Father's work here; when he calls us yonder it will be
time enough to ask Him to unveil our new sphere of labour and to
cause His sun to rise on it. Wayward children fret after some fancied
happiness and miss the work and the pleasure lying at their feet, and
so petulant men and women cry out that "man that is born of woman... is
full of misery," and wail for a revelation to ensure some happier life:
they seem to forget that if this world is full of misery _they_ are put
here to mend it and not to cry over it, and that it is our shame and our
condemnation that in God's fair world so much sin and unhappiness are
found. If men would try to read nature instead of revelation, if they
would study natural laws and leave revealed laws, if they would follow
human morality instead of ecclesiastical morality, then there might be
some chance of real improvement for the race, and some hope that the
Divine Voice in Nature might be heard above the babble of the Churches.

And Nature is enough for us, gives us all the light we want and all that
we, as yet, are fitted to receive. Were it possible that God should now
reveal Himself to us as He is, the Being of Whose Nature we can form
no conception, I believe that we should remain as ignorant as we are
at present, from the want of faculties to receive that revelation:
the Divine language might sound in our ears, but it would be as
unintelligible as the roar of the thunder-clap, or the moan of the
earthquake, or the whisper of the wind to the leaves of the cedar-tree.
God is slowly revealing Himself by His works, by the course of events,
by the progress of Humanity: if He has never spoken from Heaven in human
language, He is daily speaking in the world around us to all who have
ears to hear, and as Nature in its varied forms is His only revelation
of Himself, so the mind and the heart alone can perceive His presence
and catch the whispers ot His mysterious voice.

     Never yet has been broken
     The silence eternal:
     Never yet has been spoken
     In accents supernal
     God's Thought of Himself.

     We are groping in blindness
     Who yearn to behold Him:
     But in wisdom and kindness
     In darkness He folds Him
     Till the soul learns to see.

     So the veil is unriven
     That hides the All-Holy,
     And no token is given
     That satisfies wholly
     The cravings of man.

     But, unhasting, advances
     The march of the ages,
     To truth-seekers' glances
     Unrolling the pages
     Of God's revelation.

     Impatience unheeding,
     Time, slowly revolving;
     Unresting, unspeeding,
     Is ever evolving
     Fresh truths about God.

     Human speech has not broken
     The stillness supernal:
     Yet ever is spoken
     Through silence eternal,
     With growing distinctness
     God's Thought of Himself.



ON THE NATURE AND THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.

IT is impossible for those who study the deeper religious; problems of
our time to stave off much longer the question which lies at the root
of them all, "What do you believe in regard to God?" We may controvert
Christian doctrines, one after another; point by point we may be driven
from the various beliefs of our churches; reason may force us to see
contradictions where we had imagined harmony, and may open our eyes
to flaws where we had dreamed of perfection; we resign all idea of a
revelation; we seek for God in Nature only; we renounce for ever the
hope (which glorified our former creed into such alluring beauty) that
at some future time we should verily "see" God, that "our eyes should
behold the King in his beauty" in that fairy "land which is very far
off." But every step we take onwards towards a more reasonable faith
and a surer light of Truth leads us nearer and nearer to the problem of
problems, "What is That which men call God?" Not till theologians have
thoroughly grappled with this question have they any just claim to
be called religious guides; from each of those whom we honour as our
leading thinkers we have a right to a distinct answer to this question,
and the very object of the present paper is to provoke discussion on
this point.

Men are apt to turn aside somewhat impatiently from an argument about
the Nature and Existence of the Deity, because they consider that
the question is a metaphysical one which leads nowhere; a problem the
resolution of which is beyond our faculties, and the study of which
is at once useless and dangerous; they forget that action is ruled by
thought, and that our ideas about God are therefore of vast practical
importance. On our answer to the question propounded above depends our
whole conception of the nature and origin of evil, and of the sanctions
of morality; on our idea of God turns our opinion on the much-disputed
question of prayer, and, in fact, our whole attitude of mind towards
life, here and hereafter. Does morality consist in obedience to the will
of a perfectly moral Being, and are we to aim at righteousness of life
because in so doing we please God? Or are we to lead noble lives because
nobility of life is desirable for itself alone, and because it spreads
happiness around us and satisfies the desires of our own nature? Is our
mental attitude to be that of kneeling or standing? Are our eyes to
be fixed on heaven or on earth? Is prayer to God reasonable and helpful,
the natural cry of a child for help from a Father in Heaven? Or is it,
on the other hand, a useless appeal to an unknown and irresponsible
force? Is the mainspring of our actions to be the idea of duty to God,
or a sense of the necessity of bringing our being into harmony with the
laws of the universe? It appears to me that these questions are of such
grave and vital moment that no apology is needed for drawing attention
to them; and because of their importance to mankind I challenge the
leaders of the religious and non-religious world alike, the Christians,
Theists, Pantheists, and those who take no specific name, duly to test
the views they severally hold. In this battle the simple foot
soldier may touch with his lance the shield of the knight, and the
insignificance of the challenger does not exempt the general from the
duty of lifting the gauntlet flung down at his feet. Little care I
for personal defeat, if the issue of the conflict should enthrone more
firmly the radiant figure of Truth. One fault, however, I am anxious
to avoid, and that is the fault of ambiguity. The orthodox and the
free-thinking alike do a good deal of useless fighting from sheer
misunderstanding of each other's standpoint in the controversy. It
appears, then, to be indispensable in the prosecution of the following
inquiry that the meaning of the terms used should be unmistakably
distinct. I begin, therefore, by defining the technical forms of
expression to be employed in my argument; the definitions may be good or
bad, that is not material; all that is needed is that the sense in which
the various terms are used should be clearly understood. When men fight
only for the sake of discovering truth, definiteness of expression is
specially incumbent on them; and, as has been eloquently said, "the
strugglers being sincere, truth may give laurels to the victor and the
vanquished: laurels to the victor in that he hath upheld the truth,
laurels still welcome to the vanquished, whose defeat crowns him with a
truth he knew not of before."

The definitions that appear to me to be absolutely necessary are as
follows:--

_Matter_ is used to express that which is tangible. _Spirit (or
spiritual_) is used to express those intangible forces whose existence
we become aware of only through the effects they produce.

_Substance_ is used to express that which exists in itself and by
itself, and the conception of which does not imply the conception of
anything preceding it.

_God_ is used to represent exclusively that Being invested by the
orthodox with certain physical, intellectual, and moral attributes.

Particular attention must be paid to this last definition, because the
term "atheist" is often flung unjustly at any thinker who ventures
to criticise _the popular and traditional idea_ of God; and different
schools, Theistic and non-Theistic, with but too much facility, bandy
about this vague epithet in mutual reproach.

As an instance of this uncharitable and unfair use of ugly names, all
schools agree in calling the late Mr. Austin Holyoake an "atheist," and
he accepted the name himself, although he distinctly stated (as we find
in a printed report of a discussion held at the Victoria Institute) that
he did not deny the possibility of the existence of God, but only
denied the possibility of the existence of that God in whom the orthodox
exhorted him to believe. It is well thus to protest beforehand against
this name being bandied about, because it carries with it, at present,
so much popular prejudice, that it prevents all possibility of candid
and free discussion. It is simply a convenient stone to fling at the
head of an opponent whose arguments one cannot meet, a certain way of
raising a tumult which will drown his voice; and, if it have any serious
meaning at all, it might fairly be used, as I shall presently show,
against the most orthodox pillar of the orthodox faith.

It is manifest to all who will take the trouble to think steadily, that
there can be only one eternal and underived substance, and that matter
and spirit must therefore only be varying manifestations of this one
substance. The distinction made between matter and spirit is then
simply made for the sake of convenience and clearness, just as we may
distinguish perception from judgment, both of which, however, are alike
processes of thought. Matter is, in its constituent elements, the same
as spirit; existence is one, however manifold in its phenomena; life is
one, however multiform in its evolution. As the heat of the coal differs
from the coal itself, so do memory, perception, judgment, emotion, and
will, differ from the brain which is the instrument of thought. But
nevertheless they are all equally products of the one sole substance,
varying only in their conditions. It may be taken for granted that
against this preliminary point of the argument will be raised the
party-cry of "rank materialism," because "materialism" is a doctrine of
which the general public has an undefined horror. But I am bold to say
that if by matter is meant that which is above defined as substance,
then no reasoning person can help being a materialist. The orthodox are
very fond of arguing back to what they call the Great First Cause. "God
is a spirit," they say, "and from him is derived the spiritual part of
man." Well and good; they have traced back a part of the universe to
a point at which they conceive that only one universal essence is
possible, that which they call God, and which is spirit only. But I then
invite their consideration to the presence of something which they
do not regard as spirit, _i e._, matter. I follow their own plan of
argument step by step: I trace matter, as they traced spirit, back and
back, till I reach a point beyond which I cannot go, one only existence,
substance or essence; am I therefore to believe that God is matter only?
But we have already found it asserted by Theists that he is spirit only,
and we cannot believe two contradictories, however logical the road
which led us to them; so we must acknowledge two substances, eternally
existent side by side; if existence be dual, then, however absurd
the hypothesis, there must be two First Causes. It is not I who am
responsible for an idea so anomalous. The orthodox escape from this
dilemma by an assumption, thus: "God, to whom is to be traced back all
spirit, _created_ matter." Why, am I not equally justified in assuming,
if I please, that matter created spirit? Why should I be logical in one
argument and illogical in another? If we come to assumptions, have not
I as much right to my assumption as my neighbour has to his? Why may he
predicate creation of one half of the universe, and I not predicate it
of the other half? If the assumptions be taken into consideration at
all, then I contend that mine is the more reasonable of the two, since
it is possible to imagine matter as existing without mind, while it is
utterly impossible to conceive of mind existing without matter. We all
know how a stone looks, and we are in the habit of regarding that
as lifeless matter; but who has any distinct idea of a mind _pur et
simple?_ No clear conception of it is possible to human faculties;
we can only conceive of mind as it is found in an organisation;
intelligence has no appreciable existence except as-residing in the
brain and as manifested in results. The lines of spirit and matter are
not one, say the orthodox; they run backwards side by side; why then, in
following the course of these two parallel lines, should I suddenly bend
one into the other? and on what principle of selection shall I choose
the one I am to curve? I must really decline to use logic just as far as
it supports the orthodox idea of God, and arbitrarily throw it down
the moment it conflicts with that idea. I find myself then compelled
to believe that one only substance exists in all around me; that the
universe is eternal, or at least eternal so far as our faculties are
concerned, since we cannot, as some one has quaintly put it "get to
the outside of everywhere;" that a Deity cannot be conceived of as apart
from the universe, pre-existent to the universe, post-existent to the
universe; that the Worker and the Work are inextricably interwoven, and
in some sense eternally and indissolubly combined. Having got so far, we
will proceed to examine into the possibility of proving the existence
of that one essence popularly called by the name of _God_, under the
conditions strictly defined by the orthodox. Having demonstrated, as I
hope to do, that the orthodox idea of God is unreasonable and absurd,
we will endeavour to discover whether _any_ idea of God, worthy to be
called an idea, is attainable in the present state of our faculties.

The orthodox believers in God are divided into two camps, one of
which maintains that the existence of God is as demonstrable as any
mathematical proposition, while the other asserts that his existence
is not demonstrable to the intellect. I select Dr. McCann, a man of
considerable reputation, as the representative of the former of these
two opposing schools of thought, and give the Doctor's position in his
own words:--"The purpose of the following paper is to prove the
fallacy of all such assumptions" (i e., that the existence of God is an
insoluble problem), "by showing that we are no more at liberty to deny
His being, than we are to deny any demonstration of Euclid. He would be
thought unworthy of refutation who should assert that any two angles of
a triangle are together greater than two right angles. We would content
ourselves by saying, 'The man is mad'--mathematically, at least--and
pass on. If it can be shown that we affirm the existence of Deity
for the very same reasons as we affirm the truth of any geometric
proposition; if it can be shown that the former is as capable of
demonstration as the latter--then it necessarily follows that if we are
justified in calling the man a fool who denies the latter, we are
also justified in calling him a fool who says there is no God, and in
refusing to answer him according to his folly." Which course is a very
convenient one when you meet with an awkward opponent whom you cannot
silence by sentiment and declamation. Again: "In conclusion, we believe
it to be very important to be able to prove that if the mathematician be
justified in asserting that the three angles of a triangle are equal to
two right angles, the Christian is equally justified in asserting,
not only that he is compelled to believe in God, but that he knows Him
(sic). And that he who denies the existence of the Deity is as unworthy
of serious refutation as is he who denies a mathematical demonstration."
('A Demonstration of the Existence of God,' a lecture delivered at the
Victoria Institute, 1870, pp. I and II.) Dr. McCann proves his very
startling thesis by laying down as axioms six statements, which, however
luminous to the Christian traditionalist, are obscure to the sceptical
intellect. He seems to be conscious of this defect in his so-called
axioms, for he proceeds to prove each of them elaborately,
forgetting that the simple statement of an axiom should carry direct
conviction--that it needs only to be understood in order to be accepted.
However, let this pass: our teacher, having stated and "proved"
his axioms, proceeds to draw his conclusions from them; and as his
foundations are unsound, it is scarcely to be wondered at that his
superstructure should be insecure, I know of no way so effectual to
defeat an adversary as to beg all the questions raised, assume every
point in dispute, call assumptions axioms, and then proceed to reason
from them. It is really not worth while to criticise Dr. McCann in
detail, his lecture being nothing but a mass of fallacies and unproved
assertions. Christian courtesy allows him to call those who dissent from
his assumptions "fools;" and as these terms of abuse are not considered
admissible by those whom he assails as unbelievers, there is a slight
difficulty in "answering" Dr. McCann "according to his" deserts. I
content myself with suggesting that they who wish to learn how pretended
reasoning may pass for solid argument, how inconsequent statements
may pass for logic, had better study this lecture. For my own part, I
confess that my "folly" is not, as yet, of a sufficiently pronounced
type to enable me to accept Dr. McCann's conclusions.

The best representation I can select of the second orthodox party, those
who admit that the existence of God is not demonstrable, is the late
Dean Mansel. In his 'Limits of Religious Thought,' the Bampton Lectures
for 1867, he takes up a perfectly unassailable position. The peculiarity
of this position, however, is that he, the pillar of orthodoxy, the
famed defender of the faith against German infidelity and all forms
of rationalism, regards God from exactly the same point as does a
well-known modern "atheist." I have almost hesitated sometimes which
writer to quote from, so identical are they in thought. Probably neither
Dean Mansel nor Mr. Bradlaugh would thank me for bracketing their names;
but I am forced to confess that the arguments used by the one to prove
the endless absurdities into which we fall when we try to comprehend the
nature of God, are exactly the same arguments that are used by the
other to prove that God, as believed in by the orthodox, cannot exist.
I quote, however, exclusively from the Dean, because it is at once novel
and agreeable to find oneself sheltered by Mother Church at the exact
moment when one is questioning her very foundations; and also because
the Dean's name carries with it so orthodox an odour that his authority
will tell where the same words from any of those who are outside the
pale of orthodoxy would be regarded with suspicion. Nevertheless, I
wish to state plainly that a more "atheistical" book than these Bampton
Lectures--at least, in the earlier part of it--I have never read; and
had its title-page borne the name of any well-known Free-thinker,
it would have been received in the religious world with a storm of
indignation.

The first definition laid down by the orthodox as a characteristic of
God is that he is an Infinite Being. "There is but one living and true
God... of _infinite_ power, &c." (Article of Religion, 1.) It has been
said that _infinite_ only means _indefinite_, but I must protest against
this weakening of a well-defined theological term. The term _Infinite_
has always been understood to mean far more than indefinite; it means
literally _boundless_: the infinite has no limitations, no possible
restrictions, no "circumference." People who do not think about the
meaning of the words they use speak very freely and familiarly of the
"infinitude" of God, as though the term implied no inconsistency. Deny
that God is infinite and you are at once called an atheist, but press
your opponent into a definition of the term and you will generally find
that he does not know what he is talking about. Dean Mansel points out,
with his accurate habit of mind, all that this attribute of God implies,
and it would be well if those who "believe in an infinite God" would try
and realise what they express. Half the battle of freethought will be
won when people attach a definite meaning to the terms they use. The
Infinite has no bounds; then the finite cannot exist. Why? Because in
the very act of acknowledging any existence beside the Infinite One you
limit the Infinite. By saying, "This is not God" you at once make him
finite, because you set a bound to his nature; you distinguish between
him and something else, and by the very act you limit him; that _which
is not he_ is as a rock which checks the waves of the ocean; in that
spot a limit is found, and in finding a limit the Infinite is destroyed.
The orthodox may retort, "this is only a matter of terms;" but it is
well to force them into realising the dogmas which they thrust on our
acceptance under such awful penalties for rejection. I know what "an
infinite God" implies, and, as apart from the universe, I feel compelled
to deny the possibility of his existence; surely it is fair that the
orthodox should also know what the words they use mean on this head,
and give up the term if they cling to a "personal" God, distinct from
"creation."--Further--and here I quote Dean Mansel--the "Infinite"
must be conceived as containing within itself the sum, not only of all
actual, but of all possible modes of being.... If any possible mode can
be denied of it... it is capable of becoming more than it now is, and
such a capability is a limitation. (The hiatus refers to the "absolute"
being of God, which it is better to consider separately.) "An unrealised
possibility is necessarily (a relation and) a limit." Thus is orthodoxy
crushed by the powerful logic of its own champion. God is infinite;
then, in that case, everything that exists is God; all phenomena are
modes of the Divine Being; there is literally nothing which is not God.
Will the orthodox accept this position? It lands them, it is true,
in the most extreme Pantheism, but what of that? They believe in an
"infinite God" and they are therefore necessarily Pantheists. If they
object to this, they must give up the idea that their God is infinite
at all; there is no half-way position open to them; he is infinite or
finite, which?

Again, God is "before all things," he is the only Absolute Being,
dependent on nothing outside himself; all that is not God is relative;
that is to say, that God exists alone and is not necessarily related to
anything else. The orthodox even believe that God did, at some
former period (which is not a period, they say, because time then was
not--however, at that hazy "time" he did), exist alone, _i e._, as what
is called an _Absolute_ Being: this conception is necessary for all who,
in any sense, believe in a _Creator_.

     "Thou, in Thy far eternity,
     Didst live and love alone."

So sings a Christian minstrel; and one of the arguments put forward for
a Trinity is that a plurality of persons is necessary in order that God
may be able to love at the "time" when he was alone. Into this point,
however, I do not now enter. But what does this Absolute imply? A simple
impossibility of creation, just as does the Infinite; for creation
implies that the relative is brought into existence, and thus the
Absolute is destroyed. "Here again the Pantheistic hypothesis seems
forced upon us. We can think of creation only as a change in the
condition of that which already exists, and thus the creature is
conceivable only as a phenomenal mode of the being of the Creator."
Thus once more looms up the dreaded spectre of Pantheism, "the dreary
desolation of a Pantheistic wilderness;" and who is the Moses who has
led us into this desert? It is a leader of orthodoxy, a dignitary of the
Church; it is Dean Mansel who stretches out his hand to the universe and
says, "This is thy God, O Israel."

The two highest attributes of God land us, then, in the most thorough
Pantheism; further, before remarking on the other divine attributes, I
would challenge the reader to pause and try to realise this infinite and
absolute being. "That a man can be conscious of the infinite is, then,
a supposition which, in the very terms in which it is expressed,
annihilates itself.... The infinite, if it is to be conceived at all,
must be conceived as potentially everything-and actually nothing; for
if there is anything in general which it cannot become, it is thereby
limited; and if there is anything in particular which it actually is, it
is thereby excluded from being any other thing. But again, it must also
be conceived as actually everything and potentially nothing; for an
unrealised potentiality is likewise a limitation. If the infinite can
be" (in the future) "that which it is not" (in the present) "it is by
that very possibility marked out as incomplete and capable of a higher
perfection. If it is actually everything, it possesses no characteristic
feature by which it can be distinguished from anything else and
discerned as an object of consciousness." I think, then, that we must be
content, on the showing of Dr. Mansel, to allow that God is, in his
own nature--from this point of view--quite beyond the grasp of
our faculties; _as regards us he does not exist_, since he is
indistinguishable and undiscernable. Well might the Church exclaim
"Save me from my friends!" when a dean acknowledges that her God is a
self-contradictory phantom; oddly enough, however, the Church likes
it, and accepts this fatal championship. I might have put this argument
wholly in my own words, for the subject is familiar to every one who has
tried to gain a distinct idea of the Being who is called "God," but I
have preferred to back my own opinions with the authority of so orthodox
a man as Dean Mansel, trusting that by so doing the orthodox may be
forced to see where logic carries them. All who are interested in
this subject should study his lectures carefully; there is really no
difficulty in following them, if the student will take the trouble of
mastering once for all the terms he employs. The book was lent to me
years ago by a clergyman, and did more than any other book I know to
make me what is called an "infidel;" it proves to demonstration the
impossibility of our having any logical, reasonable, and definite idea
of God, and the utter hopelessness of trying to realise his existence.
It seems necessary here to make a short digression to explain, for
the benefit of those who have not read the book from which I have been
quoting, how Dean Mansel escaped becoming an "atheist." It is a
curious fact that the last part of this book is as remarkable for its
assumptions, as is the earlier portion its pitiless logic. When he ought
in all reason to say, "we can know nothing and therefore can believe
nothing," he says instead, "we can know nothing and therefore let us
take Revelation for granted." An atheistic reasoner suddenly startles
us by becoming a devout Christian; the apparent enemy of the faithful
is "transformed into an angel of light." The existence of God "is
inconceivable by the reason," and, therefore, "the only ground that can
be taken for accepting one representation of it rather than another
is, that one is revealed and the other not revealed." It is the
acknowledgment of a previously formed _determination_ to believe at any
cost; it is a wail of helplessness; the very apotheosis of despair. We
cannot have history, so let us believe a fairy-tale; we can discover
nothing, so let us assume anything; we cannot find truth, so let us take
the first myth that comes to hand. Here I feel compelled to part company
with the Dean, and to leave him to believe in, to adore, and to
love that which he has himself designated as indistinguishable and
undiscernable; it may be an act of faith but it is a crucifixion of
intellect; it may be a satisfaction to the yearnings of the heart, but
it dethrones reason and tramples it in the dust.

We proceed in our study of the attributes of God. He is represented as
the Supreme Will, the Supreme Intelligence, the Supreme Love.

_As the Supreme Will_. What do we mean by "will?" Surely, in the usual
sense of the word, a will implies the power and the act of choosing.
Two paths are open to us, and we will to walk in one rather than in the
other. But can we think of power of choice in connection with God? Of
two courses open to us one must needs be better than the other, else
they would be indistinguishable and be only one; perfection implies that
the higher course will always be taken; what then becomes of the power
of choice? We choose because we are imperfect; we do not know everything
which bears on the matter on which we are about to exercise our will; if
we knew everything we should inevitably be driven in one direction, that
which is the _best possible course_. The greater the knowledge, the more
circumscribed the will; the nobler the nature, the more impossible the
lower course. Spinoza points out most clearly that the Divinity _could
not_ have made things otherwise than they are made, because any change
in his action would imply a change in his nature; God, above all, must
be bound by necessity. If we believe in a God at all we must surely
ascribe to him perfection of wisdom and perfection of goodness; we are
then forced to conceive of him--however strange it may sound to those
who believe, not only without seeing but also without thinking--as
without will, because he must always necessarily pursue the course which
is wisest and best.

_As the Supreme Intelligence_. Again, the first question is, what do
we mean by intelligence? In the usual sense of the word intelligence
implies the exercise of the various intellectual faculties, and gathers
up into one word the ideas of perception, comparison, memory, judgment,
and so on. The very enumeration of these faculties is sufficient to show
how utterly inappropriate they are when thought of in connection with
God. Does God perceive what he did not know before? Does he compare one
fact with another? Does he draw conclusions from this correlation
of perceptions, and thus judge what is best? Does he remember, as we
remember, long past events? Perfect wisdom excludes from the idea of God
all that is called intelligence in man; it involves unchangeableness,
complete stillness; it implies a knowledge of all that is knowable;
it includes an acquaintance with every fact, an acquaintance which has
never been less in the past, and can never be more in the future. The
reception at any time of a new thought or a new idea is impossible
to perfection, for if it could ever be added to in the future it is
necessarily something less than perfect in the past.

_As the Supreme Love_. We come here to the darkest problem of existence.
Love, Ruler of the world permeated through and through with pain, and
sorrow, and sin? Love, mainspring of a nature whose cruelty is sometimes
appalling? Love? Think of the "martyrdom of man!" Love? Follow the
History of the Church! Love? Study the annals of the slave-trade! Love?
Walk the courts and alleys of our towns! It is of no use to try and
explain away these things, or cover them up with a veil of silence;
it is better to look them fairly in the face, and test our creeds by
inexorable facts. It is foolish to keep a tender spot which may not
be handled; for a spot which gives pain when it is touched implies the
presence of disease: wiser far is it to press firmly against it, and,
if danger lurk there, to use the probe or the knife. We have no right
to pick out all that is noblest and fairest in man, to project these
qualities into space, and to call them God. We only thus create an ideal
figure, a purified, ennobled, "magnified" Man. We have no right to
shut our eyes to the sad _revers de la medaille_, and leave out of our
conceptions of the Creator the larger half of his creation. If we are
to discover the Worker from his works we must not pick and choose amid
those works; we must take them as they are, "good" and "bad." If we only
want an ideal, let us by all means make one, and call it _God_, if thus
we can reach it better, but if we want a true induction we must take
_all_ facts into account. If God is to be considered as the author of
the universe, and we are to learn of him through his works, then we
must make room in our conceptions of him for the avalanche and the
earthquake, for the tiger's tooth and the serpent's fang, as well as for
the tenderness of woman and the strength of man, the radiant glory of
the sunshine on the golden harvest, and the gentle lapping of the summer
waves on the gleaming shingled beach.*

     * "I know it is usual for the orthodox when vindicating the
     moral character of their God to say:--'All the Evil that
     exists is of man; All that God has done is only good.' But
     granting (which facts do not substantiate) that man is the
     only author of the sorrow and the wrong that abound in the
     world, it is difficult to see how the Creator can be free
     from imputation. Did not God, according to orthodoxy, plan
     all things with an infallible perception that the events
     foreseen must occur? Was not this accurate prescience based
     upon the inflexibility of God's Eternal purposes? As, then,
     the purposes, in the order of nature, at least preceded the
     prescience and formed the groundwork of it, man has become
     extensively the instrument of doing mischief in the world
     simply because the God of the Christian Church did not
     choose to prevent man from being bad. In other words, man is
     as he is by the ordained design of God, and, therefore, God
     is responsible for all the suffering, shame, and error,
     spread by human agency.--So that the Christian apology for
     God in connection with the spectacle of evil falls to
     pieces."--Note by the Editor.

The Nature of God, what is it? Infinite and Absolute, he evades our
touch; without human will, without human intelligence, without human
love, where can his faculties--the very word is a misnomer--find a
meeting-place with ours? Is he everything or nothing? one or many? _We
know not. We know nothing._ Such is the conclusion into which we are
driven by orthodoxy, with its pretended faith, which is credulity, with
its pretended proofs, which are presumptions. It defines and maps out
the perfections of Deity, and they dissolve when we try to grasp them;
nowhere do these ideas hold water for a moment; nowhere is this position
defensible. Orthodoxy drives thinkers into atheism; weary of its
contradictions they cry, "there is _no_ God"; orthodoxy's leading
thinker lands us himself in atheism. No logical, impartial mind can
escape from unbelief through the trap-door opened by Dean Mansel: he
has taught us reason, and we cannot suppress reason. The "serpent
intellect"--as the Bishop of Peterborough calls it--has twined itself
firmly round the tree of knowledge, and in that type we do not see, with
the Hebrew, the face of death, but, with the older faiths, we reverence
it as the symbol of life.

There is another fact, an historical one, still on the destructive side,
which appears to me to be of the gravest importance, and that is the
gradual attenuation of the idea of God before the growing light of true
knowledge. To the savage everything is divine; he hears one God's voice
in the clap of the thunder, another's in the roar of the earthquake,
he sees a divinity in the trees, a deity smiles at him from the clear
depths of the river and the lake; every natural phenomenon is the abode
of a god; every event is controlled by a god; divine volition is at the
root of every incident. To him the rule of the gods is a stern reality;
if he offends them they turn the forces of nature against him; the
flood, the famine, the pestilence, are the ministers of the avenging
anger of the gods. As civilisation advances, the deities lessen in
number, the divine powers become concentrated more and more in one
Being, and God rules over the whole earth, maketh the clouds his
chariot, and reigns above the waterfloods as a king. Physical phenomena
are still his agents, working his will among the children of men; he
rains great hailstones out of heaven on his enemies, he slays their
flocks and desolates their lands, but his chosen ure safe under his
protection, even although danger hem them in on every side; "thou shalt
not be afraid for any terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by
day; for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the sickness
that destroyeth in the noon-day. A thousand shall fall besides thee, and
ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee....
He shall defend thee under his wings, and thou shalt be safe under his
feathers." (Ps. xci., Prayer-Book.) Experience contradicted this theory
rather roughly, and it gave way slowly before the logic of facts; it is,
however, still more or less prevalent among ourselves, as we see when
the siege of Paris is proclaimed as a judgment on Parisian irreligion,
and when the whole nation falls on its knees to acknowledge the
cattle-plague as the deserved punishment of its sins! The next step
forward was to separate the physical from the moral, and to allow that
physical suffering came independently of moral guilt or righteousness:
the men crushed under the fallen tower of Siloam were not thereby proved
to be more sinful than their countrymen. The birth of science rang the
death-knell of an arbitrary and constantly interposing Supreme Power-.
The theory of God as a miracle worker was dissipated; henceforth if God
ruled at all it must be as in nature and not from outside of nature; he
no longer imposed laws on something exterior to himself, the laws could
only be the necessary expression of his own being. Laws were, further,
found to be immutable in their working, changing not in accordance with
prayer, but ever true to a hair's breadth in their action. Slowly, but
surely, prayer to God for the alteration of physical phenomena is being
found to be simply a well-meant superstition; nature swerves not for our
pleading, nor falters in her path for our most passionate supplication.
The "reign of law" in physical matters is becoming acknowledged even by
theologians. As step by step the knowledge of _the natural_ advances,
so step by step does the belief in _the supernatural_ recede; as the
kingdom of science extends, so the kingdom of miraculous interference
gradually disappears. The effects which of old were thought to be caused
by the direct action of God are now seen to be caused by the uniform and
calculable working of certain laws--laws which, when discovered, it is
the part of wisdom implicitly to obey. Things which we used to pray for,
we now work and wait for, and if we fail we do not ask God to add his
strength to ours, but we sit down and lay our plans more carefully.
How is this to end? Is the future to be like the past, and is science
finally to obliterate the conception of a personal God? It is a question
which ought to be pondered in the light of history. Hitherto the
supernatural has always been the makeweight of human ignorance; is it,
in truth, this and nothing else?

I am forced, with some reluctance, to apply the whole of the above
reasoning to every school of thought, whether nominally Christian or
non-Christian, which regards God as a "magnified man." The same
stern logic cuts every way and destroys alike the Trinitarian and the
Unitarian hypothesis, wherever the idea of God is that of a Creator,
standing, as it were, outside his creation. The liberal thinker,
whatever his present position, seems driven infallibly to the above
conclusions, as soon as he sets himself to realise his idea of his God.
The Deity must of necessity be that one and only substance out of which
all things are evolved under the uncreated conditions and eternal laws
of the universe; he must be, as Theodore Parker somewhat oddly puts
it, "the materiality of matter, as well as the spirituality of spirit;"
_i e._, these must both be products of this one substance: a truth which
is readily accepted as soon as spirit and matter are seen to be but
different modes of one essence. Thus we identify substance with the
all-comprehending and vivifying force of nature, and in so doing we
simply reduce to a physical impossibility the existence of the Being
described by the orthodox as a God possessing the attributes of
personality. The Deity becomes identified with nature, co-extensive
with the universe; but the God of the orthodox no longer exists; we may
change the signification of God, and use the word to express a different
idea, but we can no longer mean by it a Personal Being in the orthodox
sense, possessing an individuality which divides him from the rest of
the universe. I say that I use these arguments "with some reluctance,"
because many who have fought and are fighting nobly and bravely in the
army of freethought, and to whom all free-thinkers owe much honour, seem
to cling to an idea of the Deity, which, however beautiful and poetical,
is not logically defensible, and in striking at the orthodox notion of
God, one necessarily strikes also at all idea of a "Personal" Deity.
There are some Theists who have only cut out the Son and the Holy Ghost
from the Triune Jehovah, and have concentrated the Deity in the Person
of the Father; they have returned to the old Hebrew idea of God, the
Creator, the Sustainer, only widening it into regarding God as the
Friend and Father of all his creatures, and not of the Jewish nation
only. There is much that is noble and attractive in this idea, and it
will possibly serve as a religion of transition to break the shock of
the change from the supernatural to the natural. It is reached entirely
by a process of giving up; Christian notions are dropped one after
another, and the God who is believed in is the residuum. This Theistic
school has not gained its idea of God from any general survey of nature
or from any philosophical induction from facts; it has gained it only
by stripping off from an idea already in the mind everything which is
degrading and revolting in the dogmas of Trinitarianism. It starts, as
I have noticed elsewhere, from a very noble axiom: "If there be a God at
all he must be at least as good as his highest creatures," and thus
is instantly swept away the Augustinian idea of a God,--that monster
invented by theological dialectics; but still the same axiom makes
God in the image of man, and never succeeds in getting outside a human
representation of the Divinity. It starts from this axiom, and the axiom
is prefaced by an "if." It assumes God, and then argues fairly enough
what his character must be. And this "if" is the very point on which the
argument of this paper turns.

"If there be a God" all the rest follows, but _is there a God at all_
in the sense in which the word is generally used? And thus I come to the
second part of my problem; having seen that the orthodox "idea of God is
unreasonable and absurd, is there any idea of God, worthy to be called
an idea, which is attainable in the present state of our faculties?"

The argument from design does not seem to me to be a satisfactory
one; it either goes too far or not far enough. Why in arguing from the
evidences of adaptation should we assume that they are planned by a
mind? It is quite as easy to conceive of matter as self-existent, with
inherent vital laws moulding it into varying phenomena, as to conceive
of any intelligent mind directly modelling matter, so that the
"heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his
handy-work." It is, I know, customary to sneer at the idea of beautiful
forms existing without a conscious designer, to parallel the adaptations
of this world to the adaptations in machinery, and then triumphantly to
inquire, "if skill be inferred from the one, why ascribe the other to
chance?" We do not believe in chance; the steady action of law is not
chance; the exquisite crystals which form themselves under certain
conditions are not a "fortuitous concourse of atoms:" the only question
is whether the laws which we all allow to govern nature are immanent in
nature, or the outcome of an intelligent mind. If there be a lawmaker,
is he self-existent, or does he, in turn, as has been asked again and
again by Positivist, Secularist, and Atheist, require a maker? If
we think for a moment of the vast mind implied in the existence of a
Creator of the universe, is it possible to believe that such a mind is
the result of chance? If man's mind imply a master-mind, how much more
that of God? Of course the question seems an absurd one, but it is quite
as pertinent as the question about a world-maker. We must come to a
stop somewhere, and it is quite as logical to stop at one point as at
another. The argument from design would be valuable if we could prove,
a priori, as Mr. Gillespie attempted to do,* the existence of a Deity;
this being proved we might then fairly argue deductively to the various
apparent signs of mind in the universe. Again, if we allow design we
must ask, "how far does design extend?" If some phenomena are designed,
why not all? And if not all, on what principle can we separate that
which is designed from that which is not? If intellect and love reveal
a design, what is revealed by brutality and hate? If the latter are not
the result of design, how did they become introduced into the universe?
I repeat that this argument implies either too much or too little.*

     * "The Necessary Existence of Deity."

There is but one argument that appears to me to have any real weight,
and that is the argument from instinct. Man has faculties which appear,
at present, as though they were not born of the intellect, and it seems
to me to be unphilosophical to exclude this class of facts from our
survey of nature. The nature of man has in it certain sentiments and
emotions which, reasonably or unreasonably, sway him powerfully
and continually; they are, in fact, his strongest motive powers,
overwhelming the reasoning faculties with resistless strength; true,
they need discipline and controlling, but they do not need to be, and
they cannot be, destroyed. The sentiments of love, of reverence, of
worship, are not, as yet, reducible to logical processes; they are
intuitions, spontaneous emotions, incomprehensible to the keen and cold
intellect. They may be laughed at or denied, but they still exist in
spite of all; they avenge themselves, when they are not taken into
account, by ruining the best laid plans, and they are continually
bursting the cords with which reason strives to tie them down. I do
not for a moment pretend to deny that these intuitions will, as our
knowledge of psychology increases, be reducible to strict laws; we call
them instincts and intuitions simply because we are unable to trace them
to their source, and this vague expression covers the vagueness of
our ideas. Therefore, intuition is not to be accepted as a trustworthy
guide, but it may suggest an hypothesis, and this hypothesis must then
be submitted to the stern verification of observed facts. We are not as
yet able to say to what the instinct in man to worship points, or what
reality answers to his yearning. Increased knowledge will, we may hope,
reveal to us* where there lies the true satisfaction of this instinct:
so long as the yearning is only an "instinct" it cannot pretend to be
logically defensible, or claim to lay down any rule of faith. But still
I think it well to point out that this instinct exists in man, and
exists most strongly in some of the noblest souls.

     * "Is there in man any such Instinct? May not the general
     tendency to worship a Deity, everywhere be the result of the
     influence gained by Priests over the mind by the play of the
     mysterious Unknown and Hereafter upon susceptible
     imaginations? Besides, what are we to say of the immense
     number of philosophical Buddhists and Brahmins, for whose
     comfort or moral guidance the idea of a God or a hereafter
     is felt to be quite unnecessary? They cannot comprehend it,
     and consequently acts of worship to God would be deemed by
     them fanatical. It is traditionalists who either do not
     think at all, or think only within a narrow, creed-bound
     circle, that are most devoted to worshipping Deity; and if
     so, may not the whole history of worship have its origin in
     superstition and priestcraft! In that case, the theory of an
     instinct of worship falls to the ground."--Note by the
     Editor.

Of all the various sentiments which are thus at present "intuitional,"
none is so powerful, none so overmastering as this instinct to worship,
this sentiment of religion. It is as natural for man to worship as to
eat. He will do it, be it reasonable or unreasonable. Just as the baby
crams everything into his mouth, so does man persist in worshipping
something. It may be said that the baby's instinct does not prove that
he is right in trying to devour a matchbox; true, but it proves the
existence of something eatable; so fetish-worship, polytheism, theism,
do not prove that man has worshipped rightly, but do they not prove the
existence of something worshipable! The argument does not, of course,
pretend to amount to a demonstration; it is nothing more than the
suggestion of an analogy. Are we to find that the supply is correlated
to the demand throughout nature, and yet believe that this hitherto
invariable system is suddenly altered when we reach the spiritual part
of man? I do not deny that this instinct is hereditary, and that it is
fostered by habit. The idea of reverence for God is transmitted from
parent to child; it is educated into an abnormal development, and thus
almost indefinitely strengthened; but yet it does appear to me that the
bent to worship is an integral part of man's nature. This instinct has
also sometimes been considered to have its root in the feeling that
one's individual self is but a "part of a stupendous whole;" that the
so-called religious feeling which is evoked by a grand view or a bright
starlight night is only the realisation of personal insignificance,
and the reverence which rises in the soul in the presence of the mighty
universe of which we form a part. Whatever the root and the significance
of this instinct, there can be no doubt of its strength; there is
nothing rouses men's passions as does theology; for religion men rush
on death more readily and joyfully than* for any other cause; religious
fanaticism is the most fatal, the most terrible power in the world. In
studying history I also see the upward tendency of the race, and
note that current which Mr. Matthew Arnold has called "that stream of
tendency, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness." Of course,
if there be a conscious God, this tendency is a proof of his moral
character, since it would be the outcome of his laws; but here again
an argument which would be valuable were the existence of God already
proved, falls blunted from the iron wall of the unknown. The same
tendency upwards would naturally exist in any "realm of law," although
the law were an unconscious force. For righteousness is nothing more
than obedience to law, and where there is obedience to law, Nature's
mighty forces lend their strength to man, and progress is secured.
Only by obedience to law can advance be made, and this rule applies,
of course, to morality as well as to physics. Physical righteousness is
obedience to physical laws; moral righteousness is obedience to moral
laws: just as physical laws are discovered by the observation of natural
phenomena, so must moral laws be discovered by the observation of social
phenomena. That which increases the general happiness is right; that
which tends to destroy the general happiness is wrong. Utility is the
test of morality. But a law must not be drawn from a single fact or
phenomenon; facts must be carefully collated, and the general laws of
morality drawn from a generalisation of facts. But this subject is too
large to enter upon here, and it is only hinted at in order to note
that, although there is a moral tendency apparent in the course of
events, it is rather a rash assumption to take it for granted that the
power in question is a conscious one: it may be, and that, I think, is
all we can justly and reasonably say.

Again, as regards Love. I have protested above against the easiness
which talks glibly of the Supreme Love while shutting its eyes to the
supreme agony of the world. But here, in putting forward what may be
said on the other side of the question, I must remark that there is a
possible explanation for sorrow and sin which is consistent with
love given immortality of man and beast, and the future gain may then
outweigh the present loss. But we are bound to remember that we can only
have a _hope_ of immortality; we have no demonstration of it, and this
is, therefore, only an assumption by which we escape from a difficulty.
We ought to be ready to acknowledge, also, that there is love in nature,
although there is cruelty too; there is the sunshine as well as the
storm, and we must not fix our eyes on the darkness alone and deny the
light. In mother-love, in the love of friends, loyal through all doubt,
true in spite of danger and difficulty, strongest when most sorely
tried, we see gleams of so divine, so unearthly a beauty, that our
hearts whisper to us of an universal heart pulsating throughout nature,
which, at these rare moments, we cannot believe to be a dream. But there
seems, also, to be a vague idea that love and other virtues could not
exist unless derived from the Love, &c. It is true that we do conceive
certain ideals of virtue which we personify, and to which we apply
various terms implying affection; we speak of a love of Truth, devotion
to Freedom, and so on. These ideals have, however, a purely subjective
existence; they are not objective realities; there is nothing answering
to these conceptions in the outside world, nor do we pretend to believe
in their individuality. But when we gather up all our ideals, our
noblest longings, and bind them into one vast ideal figure, which we
call by the name of God, then we at once attribute to it an objective
existence, and complain of coldness and hardness if its reality is
questioned, and we demand to know if we can love an abstraction? The
noblest souls do love abstractions, and live in their beauty and die for
their sake.

There appears, also, to be a possibility of a mind in Nature, although
we have seen that intelligence is, strictly speaking, impossible. There
cannot be perception, memory, comparison, or judgment; but may there
not be a perfect mind, unchanging, calm, and still? Our faculties
fail us when we try to estimate the Deity, and we are betrayed into
contradictions and absurdities; but does it therefore follow that He
is not? It seems to me that to deny his existence is to overstep the
boundaries of our thought-power almost as much as to try and define it.
We pretend to know the Unknown if we declare Him to be the Unknowable.
Unknowable to us at present, yes! Unknowable for ever, in other possible
stages' of existence?--We have reached a region into which we cannot
penetrate; here all human faculties fail us; we bow our heads on "the
threshold of the unknown."

     And the ear of man cannot hear, and the eye of man cannot see;
     But if we could see and hear, this Vision--were it not He?

Thus sings Alfred Tennyson, the poet of metaphysics: "if we could see
and hear"; alas! it is always an "if."

We come back to the opening of this essay: what is the practical result
of our ideas about the Divinity, and how do these ideas affect the daily
working life? What conclusions are we to draw from the undeniable fact
that, even if there be a "personal God," his nature and existence are
beyond our faculties, that "clouds and darkness are round about him,"
that he is veiled in eternal silence and reveals himself not to men?
Surely the obvious inference is that, if he does-really exist, he
desires to conceal himself from the inhabitants of our world. I repeat,
that if the Deity exist, he does-not wish us to know of his existence.
There may be, in the very nature of things, an impossibility of his
revealing himself to men; we may have no faculties with which to
apprehend him; can we reveal the stars and the rippling expanse of ocean
to the sightless limpet on the rock? Whether this be so or not, certain
is it that the Deity does not reveal himself; either he cannot or he
will not. And the reason--I am granting for the moment, for argument's
sake, his personal existence--is not far to seek; it is blazed upon
the face of history. For what has been the result of theology upon the
whole? It has turned men's eyes from earth, to fix them on heaven; it
has bid them be careless of the temporal, while luring them to grasp at
the eternal; it has induced multitudes to lavish fervent sentiment
upon a conception framed by Priests of an incomprehensible God, while
diverting their strength from the plain duties which Humanity has before
it; it has taught them to live for the world to come, when they should
live for the world around them; it has made earth's wrongs endurable
with the hope of the glory to be revealed. Wisely indeed would the
Deity hide himself, when even a phantom of him has wrought such fatal
mischief; and never will real and steady progress be secured until men
acquiesce in this beneficent law of their nature, which draws a stern
circle of the "limits of Religious Thought" and bids them concentrate
their attention on the work they have to do in this world, instead of
being "for ever peering into and brooding over the world beyond the
grave." "What is to be our conception of morality, is it to base itself
on obedience to God, or is it to be sought for itself and its effects?"
When we admit that God is beyond our knowing, morality becomes at once
necessarily grounded on utility, or the natural adaptation of certain
feelings and actions to promote the general welfare of society. As
no revelation is given to us as one "infallible standard of right and
wrong," we must form our morality for ourselves from thought and from
experience. For example, our moral nature, as educated under the highest
civilisation, tells us that lying is wrong;* with this hypothesis in our
minds we study facts, and discover that lying causes mistrust, anarchy,
and ruin; thence we lay down as a moral law, "Lie not at all." The
science of morality must be content to grow like other sciences; first
an hypothesis, round which to group our facts, then from the collected
and collated facts reasoning up to a solid law. Scientific morality has
this great advantage over revealed, that it stands on firm, unassailable
ground; new facts will alter its details, but can never touch its
method; like all other sciences, it is at once positive and progressive.

     * All men do not think lying wrong, e g.. Thugs and old
     Spartans. Therefore it is not our moral nature that
     intuitively tells us thus, but our moral nature as
     instructed by the moral ideas prevailing in the society in
     which we happen to be living.--Note by the Editor.

"_Is our mental attitude to be kneeling or standing?_" When we admit
that the Deity is veiled from us, how can we pray? When we see that that
law is inexorable, of what use to protest against its absolute sway?
When we feel that all, including ourselves, are but modes of Being which
is one and universal, and in which we "live and move," how shall we pray
to that which is close to us as our own souls, part of our very selves,
inseparable from our thoughts, sharing our consciousness? As well talk
aloud to ourselves as pray to the universal Essence. Children _cry_ for
what they want; men and women _work_ for it. There are two points of
view from which we may regard prayer: from the one it is a piece of
childishness only, from the other it is sheer impertinence. Regarding
Nature's mighty order, her grand, silent, unvarying march,--the
importunity which frets against her changeless progress is a mark of the
most extreme childishness of mind; it shows that complete irreverence
of spirit which cannot conceive the idea of a greatness before which
the individual existence is as nothing, and that infantile conceit
which imagines that its own plans and playthings rival in importance
the struggles of nations and the interests of distant worlds. Regarding
Nature's laws as wiser than our own whims, the idea which finds its
outlet in prayer is a gross impertinence; who are we that we should
take it on ourselves to remind Nature of her work, God of his duty? Is
there any impertinence so extreme as the prayer which "pleads" with the
Deity? There is only one kind of "prayer" which is reasonable, and that
is the deep, silent, adoration of the greatness and beauty and order
around us, as revealed in the realms of non-rational life and in
Humanity; as we bow our heads before the laws of the universe and mould
our lives into obedience to their voice, we find a strong, calm peace
steal over our hearts, a perfect trust in the ultimate triumph of the
right, a quiet determination to "make our lives sublime." Before our
own high ideals, before those lives which show us "how high the tides of
divine life have risen in the human world," we stand with hushed voice
and veiled face; from them we draw strength to emulate, and even dare
struggle to excel. The contemplation of the ideal is true prayer; it
inspires, it strengthens, it ennobles. The other part of prayer is work:
from contemplation to labour, from the forest to the street. Study
Nature's laws, conform to them, work in harmony with them, and work
becomes a prayer and a thanksgiving, an adoration of the universal
wisdom, and a true obedience to the universal law.

"_Is the mainspring of our actions to be the idea of duty to God, or the
of loyalty to law and to man's well-being?_" We cannot serve God in any
real sense; we are awed before the Unknown, but we cannot _serve_ it.
For the Mighty, for the Incomprehensible, what can we do? But we can
serve man, ay, and he needs our service; service of brain and hand,
service untiring and unceasing, service through life and unto-death.
The race to which we belong (our own families and kinsfolk, and then the
community at large) has the first claim on our allegiance, a claim from
which nothing can release us until death drops a veil over our work.

Surely I may claim that my subject is not an unpractical one, and that
our ideas of the Nature and Existence of God influence our lives in a
very real way. If I have substituted a different basis of morality for
that on which it now stands, if I have suggested a different theory of
prayer, and offered a different motive for duty, surely these changes
affect the whole of human life And if one by one these theories ate
denied by the orthodox, and they reject them because they sever human
life from that which is called revealed religion, is not my position
justified, that the ideas we hold of God are the ruling forces of our
lives? that it is of primary importance to the welfare of mankind that
a false theory on this point should be destroyed and a more reasonable
faith accepted?

Will any one exclaim, "You are taking all beauty out of human life,
all hope, all warmth, all inspiration; you give us cold duty for filial
obedience, and inexorable law in the place of God?" All beauty from
life? Is there, then, no beauty in the idea of forming part of the great
life of the universe, no beauty in conscious harmony with Nature, no
beauty in faithful service, no beauty in ideals of every virtue? "All
hope?" Why, I give you more than hope, I give you certainty: if I bid
you labour for this world, it is with the knowledge that this world will
repay you a thousandfold, because society will grow purer, freedom more
settled, law more honoured, life more full and glad. What is your hope?
A heaven in the clouds. I point to a heaven attainable on earth. "All
warmth?" What! You serve warmly a God unknown and invisible, in a sense
the projected shadow of your own imaginings, and can only serve
coldly your brother whom you see at your side? There is no warmth in
brightening the lot of the sad, in reforming abuses, in establishing
equal justice for rich and poor? You find warmth in the church, but none
in the home? Warmth in imagining the cloud-glories of heaven, but none
in creating substantial glories on earth? "All inspiration?" If you want
inspiration to feeling, to sentiment, perhaps you had better keep to
your Bible and your creeds; if you want inspiration to work, go and walk
through the east of London, or the back streets of Manchester. You
are inspired to tenderness as you gaze at the wounds of Jesus, dead in
Judaea long ago, and find no inspiration in the wounds of men and women
dying in the England of to-day? You "have tears to shed for him,"
but none for the sufferer at your doors? His passion arouses your
sympathies, but you see no pathos in the passion of the poor? Duty is
colder than "filial obedience?" What do you mean by filial obedience?
Obedience to your ideal of goodness and love, is it not so? Then how is
duty cold? I offer you ideals for your homage: here is Truth for your
Mistress, to whose exaltation you shall devote your intellect; here is
Freedom for your General, for whose triumph you shall fight; here is
Love for your Inspirer, who shall influence your every thought; here is
Man for your Master--not in heaven but on earth--to whose service you
shall consecrate every faculty of your being. Inexorable law in the
place of God? Yes: a stern certainty that you shall not waste your life,
yet gather a rich reward at the close; that you shall not sow misery,
yet reap gladness; that you shall not be selfish, yet be crowned with
love, nor shall you sin, yet find safety in repentance. True, our creed
is a stern one, stern with the beautiful sternness of Nature. But if we
be in the right, look to yourselves: laws do not check their action
for your ignorance; fire will not cease to scorch, because "you did not
know."

We know nothing beyond Nature; we judge of the future by the present
and the past; we are content to work now, and let the work to come
wait until it appears as the work to do; we find that our faculties
are sufficient for fulfilling the tasks within our reach, and we cannot
waste time and strength in gazing into impenetrable darkness. We must
needs fight against superstitions, because they hinder the advancement
of the race, but we will not fall into the error of opponents and try to
define the Undefinable.



EUTHANASIA.

I HAVE already related to you with what care they look after their
sick, so that nothing is left undone which may contribute either to
their health or ease. And as for those who are afflicted with incurable
disorders, they use all possible means of cherishing them, and of making
their lives as comfortable as possible; they visit them often, and take
great pains to make their time pass easily. But if any have torturing,
lingering pain, without hope of recovery or ease, the priests and
magistrates repair to them and exhort them, since they are unable to
proceed with the business of life, are become a burden to themselves and
all about them, and have in reality outlived themselves, they should no
longer cherish a rooted disease, but choose to die since they cannot but
live in great misery; being persuaded, if they thus deliver themselves
from torture, or allow others to do it, they shall be happy after death.
Since they forfeit none of the pleasures, but only the troubles of life
by this, they think they not only act reasonably, but consistently with
religion; for they follow the advice of their priests, the expounders
of God's will. Those who are wrought upon by these persuasions, either
starve themselves or take laudanum. But no one is compelled to end his
life thus; and if they cannot be persuaded to it, the former care and
attendance on it is continued. And though they esteem a voluntary death,
when chosen on such authority, to be very honourable, on the contrary,
if any one commit suicide without the concurrence of the priest and
senate, they honour not the body with a decent funeral, but throw into a
ditch.*

     * Memoirs. A translation of the Utopia, &c, of Sir Thomas
     Moore, Lord High Chancellor of England. By A. Cayley the
     Younger, pp. 102,103.    (Edition of 1808.)

In pleading for the morality of Euthanasia, it seems not unwise to
show that so thoroughly religious a man as Sir Thomas Moore deemed that
practice so consonant with a sound morality as to make it one of the
customs of his ideal state, and to place it under the sanction of the
priesthood. As a devout Roman Catholic, the great Chancellor would
naturally imagine that any beneficial innovation would be sure to obtain
the support of the priesthood; and although we may differ from him on
this head, since our daily experience teaches _us_ that the priest may
be counted upon as the steady opponent of all reform, it is yet
not uninstructive to note that the deep religious feeling which
distinguished this truly good man, did not shrink from this idea of
euthanasia as from a breach of morality, nor did he apparently dream
that any opposition would (or could) be offered to it on religious
grounds. The last sentence of the extract is specially important; in
discussing the morality of euthanasia we are not discussing the moral
lawfulness or unlawfulness of suicide in general; we may protest against
suicide, and yet uphold euthanasia, and we may even protest against the
one and uphold the other, on exactly the same principle, as we shall see
further on. As the greater includes the less, those who consider that a
man has a right to choose whether he will live or not, and who therefore
regard all suicide as lawful, will, of course, approve of euthanasia;
but it is by no means necessary to hold this doctrine because we contend
for the other. _On the general question of the morality of suicide, this
paper expresses no opinion whatever_. This is not the point, and we do
not deal with it here. This essay is simply and solely directed to prove
that there are circumstances under which a human being has a moral right
to hasten the inevitable approach of death. The subject is one which is
surrounded by a thick fog of popular prejudice, and the arguments in
its favour are generally dismissed unheard. I would therefore crave the
reader's generous patience, while laying before him the reasons
which dispose many religious and social reformers to regard it as of
importance that euthanasia should be legalised.

In the fourth Edition of an essay on Euthanasia, by P. D. Williams,
jun.,--an essay which powerfully sums up what is to be said for and
against the practice in question, and which treats the whole subject
exhaustively--we find the proposition for which we contend laid down in
the following explicit terms:

"That in all cases of hopeless and painful illness, it should be the
recognised duty of the medical attendant, whenever so desired by the
patient, to administer chloroform, or such other anaesthetic as may
by-and-by supersede chloroform, so as to destroy consciousness at once,
and to put the sufferer to a quick and painless death; all needful
precautions being adopted to prevent any abuse of such duty; and means
being taken to establish, beyond the possibility of doubt or question,
that the remedy was applied at the express wish of the patient."

It is very important, at the outset, to lay down clearly the limitations
of the proposed medical reform. It is, sometimes, thoughtlessly stated
that the supporters of euthanasia propose to put to death all persons
suffering from incurable disorders; no assertion can be more inaccurate
or more calculated to mislead. We propose only, that where an incurable
disorder is accompanied with extreme pain--pain, which nothing can
alleviate except death--pain, which only grows worse as the inevitable
doom approaches--pain, which drives almost to madness, and which must
end in the intensified torture in the death agony--that pain should be
at once soothed by the administration of an anaesthetic, which should
not only produce unconsciousness, but should be sufficiently powerful
to end a life, in which the renewal of consciousness can only be
simultaneous with the renewal of pain. So long as life has some
sweetness left in it, so long the offered mercy is not needed;
euthanasia is a relief from unendurable agony, not an enforced
extinguisher of a still desired existence. Besides, no one proposes to
make it obligatory on anybody; it is only urged that where the patient
asks for the mercy of a speedy death, instead of a protracted one, his
prayer may be granted without any danger of the penalties of murder or
manslaughter being inflicted on the doctors and nurses in attendance. I
will lay before the reader a case which is within my own knowledge,--and
which can be probably supplemented by the sad experience of almost every
individual,--in which the legality of euthanasia would have been a boon
equally to the sufferer and to her family. A widow lady was suffering
from cancer in the breast, and as the case was too far advanced for the
ordinary remedy of the knife, and as the leading London surgeons refused
to risk an operation which might hasten, but could not retard, death,
she resolved, for the sake of her orphan children, to allow a medical
practitioner to perform a terrible operation, whereby he hoped to
prolong her life for some years. Its details are too-painful to enter
into unnecessarily; it will suffice to say that it was performed by
means of quick-lime, and that the use of chloroform was impossible.
When the operation, which extended over days, was but half over,
the sufferer's strength gave way, and the doctor was compelled to
acknowledge that even a prolongation of life was impossible, and that
to complete the operation could only hasten death. So the patient had to
linger on in almost unimaginable torture, knowing that the pain could
only end in death, seeing her relatives worn out by watching, and
agonised at the sight of her sufferings, and yet compelled to live on
from hour to hour, till at last the anguish culminated in death. Is it
possible for any one to believe that it would have been wrong to have
hastened the inevitable end, and thus to have shortened the agony of
the sufferer herself, and to have also-spared her nurses months of
subsequent ill-health. It is in such cases as this that euthanasia would
be useful. It is, however, probable that all will agree that the benefit
conferred by the legalisation of euthanasia would, in many instances, be
very great; but many feel that the objections to it, on moral grounds,
are so weighty, that no physical benefit could countervail the moral
wrong. These objections, so far as I can gather them, are as follows:--

Life is the gift of God, and is therefore sacred, and must only be taken
back by the giver of life.*

     * We, of course, here, have no concern with theological
     questions touching the existence or non-existence of Deity,
     and express no opinion about them.

Euthanasia is an interference with the course of nature, and is
therefore an act of rebellion against God.

Pain is a spiritual remedial agent inflicted by God, and should
therefore be patiently endured.

_Life is the gift of God, and is therefore sacred, and must only
be taken back by the Giver of life_. This objection is one of those
high-sounding phrases which impose on the careless and thoughtless
hearer, by catching up a form of words which is generally accepted as an
unquestionable axiom, and by hanging thereupon an unfair corollary.
The ordinary man or woman, on hearing this assertion, would probably
answer--"Life sacred? Yes, of course; on the sacredness of life depends
the safety of society; anything which tampers with this principle must
be both wrong and dangerous." And yet, such is the inconsistency of the
thoughtless, that, five minutes afterwards, the same person will glow
with passionate admiration at some noble deed, in which the sacredness
of life has been cast to the winds at the call of honour or of humanity,
or will utter words ot indignant contempt at the baseness which counted
life more sacred than duty or principle. That life is sacred is an
undeniable proposition; every natural gift is sacred, _i e._, is
valuable, and is not to be lightly destroyed; life, as summing up all
natural gifts, and as containing within itself all possibilities of
usefulness and happiness, is the most sacred physical possession which
we own. But it is _not_ the most sacred thing on earth. Martyrs slain
for the sake of principles which they could not truthfully deny;
patriots who have died for their country; heroes who have sacrificed
themselves for others' good;--the very flower and glory of humanity
rise up in a vast crowd to protest that conscience, honour, love,
self-devotion, are more precious to the race than is the life of the
individual. Life is sacred, but it may be laid down in a noble cause;
life is sacred, but it must bend before the holier sacredness of
principle; life which, though sacred, can be destroyed, is as nothing
before the indestructible ideals which claim from every noble soul the
sacrifice of personal happiness, of personal greatness, yea, of personal
life.*

     * The word "life" is here used in the sense of "personal
     existence in this world." It is, of course, not intended to
     be asserted that life is really destructible, but only that
     personal existence, or identity, may be destroyed. And
     further, no opinion is given on the possibility of life
     otherwhere than on this globe; nothing is spoken of except
     life on earth, under the conditions of human existence.

It will be conceded, then, on all hands, that the proposition that life
is sacred must be accepted with many limitations: the proposition, in
fact, amounts only to this, that life must not be voluntarily laid down
without grave and sufficient cause. What we have to consider is, whether
there are present, in any proposed euthanasia, such conditions as
overbear considerations for the acknowledged sanctity of life. We
contend that in the cases in which it is proposed that death should be
hastened, these conditions do exist.

We will not touch here on the question of the endurance of pain as a
duty, for we will examine that further on. But is it a matter of no
importance that a sufferer should condemn his attendants to a prolonged
drain on their health and strength, in order to cling to a life which is
useless to others, and a burden to himself? The nurse who tends, perhaps
for weeks, a bed of agony, for which there is no cure but death--whose
senses are strained by intense watchfulness--whose nerves are racked
by witnessing torture which she is powerless to alleviate--is, by
her self-devotion, sowing in her own constitution the seeds of
ill-health--that is to say, she is deliberately shortening her own life.
We have seen that we have a right to shorten life in obedience to a call
of duty, and it will at once be said that the nurse is obeying such a
call. But has the nurse a right to sacrifice her own life--and an
injury to health is a sacrifice of life--for an obviously unequivalent
advantage? We are apt to forget, because the injury is partially veiled
to us, that we touch the sacredness of life whenever we touch health:
every case of over-work, of over-strain, of over-exertion, is, so to
speak, a modified case of euthanasia. To poison the spring of life is
as real a tampering with the sacredness of life as it is to check its
course. The nurse is really committing a slow euthanasia. Either the
patient or the nurse must commit an heroic suicide for the sake of the
other--which shall it be? Shall the life be sacrificed, which is torture
to its possessor, useless to society, and whose bounds are already
clearly marked? or shall a strong and healthy life, with all its future
possibilities, be undermined and sacrificed _in addition to that which
is already doomed?_ But, granting that the sublime generosity of the
nurse stays not to balance the gain with the loss, but counts herself as
nothing in the face of a human need, then surely it is time to urge then
to permit this self-sacrifice is an error, and that to accept it is a
crime. If it be granted that the throwing away of life for a manifestly
unequivalent gain is wrong, that we ought not to blind ourselves to the
fact, that to sacrifice a healthy life in order to lengthen by a few
short weeks a doomed life, is a grave moral error, however much it may
be redeemed in the individual by the glory of a noble self-devotion.
Allowing to the full the honour due to the heroism of the nurse, what
are we to say to the patient who accepts the sacrifice? What are we to
think of the morality of a human being who, in order to preserve the
miserable remnant of life left to him, allows another to shorten life?
If we honour the man who sacrifices himself to defend his family, or
risks his own life to save theirs, we must surely blame him who, on the
contrary, sacrifices those he ought to value most, in order to prolong
his own now useless existence. The measure of our admiration for the
one, must be the measure of our pity for the weakness and selfishness of
the other. If it be true that the man who dies for his dear ones on the
battlefield is a hero, he who voluntarily dies for them on his bed of
sickness is a hero no less brave. But it is urged that _life is the gift
of God, and must only be taken back by the Giver of life_, I suppose
that in any sense in which it can be supposed true that life is the gift
of God, it can only be taken back by the giver--that is to say, that
just as life is produced in accordance with certain laws, so it can
only be destroyed in accordance with certain other laws. Life is not the
direct gift of a superior power: it is the gift of man to man and
animal to animal, produced by the voluntary agent, and not by God, under
physical conditions, on the fulfilment of which alone the production of
life depends. The physical conditions must be observed if we desire to
produce life, and so must they be if we desire to destroy life. In
both cases man is the voluntary agent, in both law is the means of his
action. If life-giving is God's doing, then life-destroying is his doing
too. But this is not what is intended by the proposers of this aphorism.
If they will pardon me for translating their somewhat vague proposition
into more precise language, they say that they find themselves in
possession of a certain thing called life, which must have come from
_somewhere_; and as in popular language the unknown is always the
divine, it must have come from God: therefore this life must only be
taken from them by a cause that also proceeds from _somewhere_--i e.,
from an unknown cause--i e., from the Divine will. Chloroform comes from
a visible agent, from the doctor or nurse, or at least from a bottle,
which can be taken up or left alone at our own choice. If we swallow
this, the cause of death is known, and is evidently not divine; but if
we go into a house where scarlet fever is raging, although we are in
that case voluntarily running the chance of taking poison quite as truly
as if we swallow a dose of chloroform, yet if we die from the infection,
we can imagine the illness to be sent from God. Wherever we think the
element of chance comes in, there we are able to imagine that God rules
directly. We quite overlook the fact that there is no such thing as
chance. There is only our ignorance of law, not a break in natural
order. If our constitution be susceptible of the particular poison
to which we expose it, we take the disease. If we knew the laws of
infection as accurately as we know the laws affecting chloroform,
we should be able to foresee with like certainty the inevitable
consequence; and our ignorance does not make the action of either set of
laws less unchangeable or more divine. But in the "happy-go-lucky" style
of thought peculiar to ignorance, the Christian disregards the fact
that infection is ruled by definite laws, and believes that health and
sickness are the direct expressions of the will of his God, and not the
invariable consequence of obscure but probably discoverable antecedents;
so he boldly goes into the back slums of London to nurse a family
stricken down with fever, and knowingly and deliberately runs "the
chance" of infection--i e., knowingly and deliberately runs the chance
of taking poison, or rather of having poison poured into his frame.
This he does, trusting that the nobility of his motive will make the
act right in God's sight. Is it more noble to relieve the sufferings of
strangers, than to relieve the sufferings of his family? or is it more
heroic to die of voluntarily-contracted fever, than of voluntarily-taken
chloroform?

The argument that _life must only be taken back by the life-giver_,
would, if thoroughly carried out, entirely prevent all dangerous
operations. In the treatment of some diseases there are operations that
will either kill or cure: the disease must certainly be fatal if left
alone; while the proposed operation may save life, it may equally
destroy it, and thus may take life some time before the giver of life
wanted to take it back. Evidently, then, such operations should not
be performed, since there is risked so grave an interference with the
desires of the life-giver. Again, doctors act very wrongly when they
allow certain soothing medicines to be taken when all hope is gone,
which they refuse so long as a chance of recovery remains: what
right have they to _compel_ the life-giver to follow out his apparent
intentions? In some cases of painful disease, it is now usual to produce
partial or total unconsciousness by the injection of morphia, or by the
use of some other anaesthetic. Thus, I have known a patient subjected to
this kind of treatment, when dying from a tumour in the aesophagus; he
was consequently for some weeks before his death, kept in a state
of almost complete unconsciousness, for if he were allowed to become
conscious, his agony was so unendurable as to drive him wild. He was
thus, although breathing, practically dead for weeks before his death.
We cannot but wonder, in view of such a case as his, what it is that
people mean when they talk of "life." Life includes, surely, not only
the involuntary animal functions, such as the movements of heart and
lungs; but consciousness, thought, feeling, emotion. Of the various
constituents of human life, surely those are not the most "sacred" which
we share with the brute, however necessary these may be as the basis on
which the rest are built. It is thought, then, that we may rightfully
destroy all that constitutes the beauty and nobility of human life, we
may kill thought, slay consciousness, deaden emotion, stop feeling,
we may do all this, and leave lying on the bed before us a breathing
figure, from which we have taken all the nobler possibilities of life;
but we may not touch the purely animal existence; we may rightly
check the action of the nerves and the brain, but we must not dare to
outrage-the Deity by checking the action of the heart and the lungs.

We ask, then, for the legalisation of euthanasia, because it is in
accordance with the highest morality yet known, that which teaches the
duty of self sacrifice for the greater good of others, because it is
sanctioned in principle by every service performed at personal danger
and injury, and because-it is already partially practised by modern
improvements in medical science.

_Euthanasia is an interference with the course of nature, and its
herefore an act of rebellion against God_. In considering this
objection, we are placed in difficulty by not being told what sense our
opponents attach to the word "nature"; and we are obliged once more
to ask pardon for forcing these vague and high-flown arguments into a
humiliating precision of meaning. Nature, in the widest sense of the
word, includes all natural laws: and in this sense it is of course
impossible to interfere with nature at all. We live, and move, and have
our being in nature; and we can no more get outside it than we can get
outside everything. With this-nature we cannot interfere: we can study
its laws, and learn how to balance one law against another, so as to
modify results; but this can only be done by and through nature itself.
The "interference with the course of nature" which is intended in the
above objection does not of course mean this impossible proceeding; and
it can then only mean an interference with things which would proceed
in one course without human agency meddling with them, but which are
susceptible of being turned into another course by human agency. If
interference with nature's course be a rebellion against God, we are
rebelling against God every day of our lives. Every achievement of
civilisation is an interference with nature. Every artificial comfort we
enjoy is an improvement on nature. Everybody professes to approve and
admire many great triumphs of art over nature: the junction by bridges
of shores which nature had made separate, the draining of nature's
marshes, the excavation of her wells, the dragging to light of what
she has buried at immense depths in the earth, the turning away of her
thunderbolts by lightning-rods, of her inundations by embankments, of
her ocean by breakwaters. But to commend these and similar feats, is
to acknowledge that the ways of nature are to be conquered, not obeyed;
that her powers are often towards man in the position of enemies, from
whom he must wrest, by force and ingenuity, what little he can for his
own use, and deserves to be applauded when that little is rather more
than might be expected from his physical weakness in comparison to those
gigantic powers. All praise of civilisation, or art, or contrivance, is
so much dispraise of nature; an admission of imperfection, which it
is man's business, and merit, to be always endeavouring to correct or
mitigate.*

     * "Essay on Nature," by John Stuart Mill.

It is difficult to understand how anyone, contemplating the course of
nature, can regard it as the expression of a Divine will, which man has
no right to improve upon. Natural law is essentially unreasoning and
unmoral: gigantic forces clash around us on every side unintelligent,
and unvarying in their action. With equal impassiveness these blind
forces produce vast benefits and work vast catastrophes. The benefits
are ours, if we are able to grasp them; but nature troubles itself not,
whether we take them or leave them alone. The catastrophes may rightly
be averted, if we can avert them; but nature stays not its grinding
wheel for our moans. Even allowing that a Supreme Intelligence gave
these forces their being, it is manifest that he never intended man to
be their plaything, or to do them homage; for man is dowered with reason
to calculate, and with genius to foresee; and into man's hands is given
the realm of nature (in this world) to cultivate, to govern, to improve.
So long as men believed that a god wielded the thunderbolt, so long
would a lightning-conductor be an outrage on Jove; so long as a god
guided each force of nature, so long would it be impiety to resist,
or to endeavour to regulate the divine volitions. Only as experience
gradually proved that no evil consequences followed each amendment of
nature, were natural forces withdrawn, one by one, from the sphere
of the unknown and the divine. Now, even pain, that used to be God's
scourge, is soothed by chloroform, and death alone is left for nature
to inflict, with what lingering agony it may. But why should death,
any more than other ills, be left entirely to the clumsy, unassisted
processes of nature?--why, after struggling against nature all our
lives, should we let it reign unopposed in death? There are some natural
evils that we cannot avert. Pain and death are of these; but we can dull
pain by dulling feeling, and we can ease by shortening its pangs. Nature
kills by slow and protracted torture; we can defy it by choosing a rapid
and painless end. It is only the remains of the old superstition that
makes men think that to take life is the special prerogative of
the gods. With marvellous inconsistency, however, the opponents of
euthanasia do not scruple to "interfere with the course of nature" on
the one hand, while they forbid us to interfere on the other. It is
right to prolong pain by art, although it is wrong to shorten it. When a
person is smitten down with some fearful and incurable disease, they do
not leave him to nature; on the contrary, they check and thwart nature
in every possible way; they cherish the life that nature has blasted;
they nourish the strength that nature is undermining; they delay each
process of decay which nature sows in the disordered frame; they contest
every inch of ground with nature to preserve life; and then, when life
means torture, and we ask permission to step in and quench it, they cry
out that we are interfering with nature. If they would leave nature to
itself, the disease would generally kill with tolerable rapidity; but
they will not do this. They will only admit the force of their own
argument when it tells on the side of what they choose to consider
right. "Against nature," is the cry with which many a modern improvement
has been howled at; and it will continue to be raised, until it is
generally acknowledged that happiness, and not nature, is the true guide
to morality, and until men recognises that nature is to be harnessed to
his car of triumph, and to bend its mighty forces to fulfil the human
will.

_Pain is a spiritual remedial agent, inflicted by God, and should
therefore be patiently endured._ Does anyone, except a self-torturing
ascetic, endure any pain which he can get rid of? This might be deemed
a sufficient answer to this objection, for common sense always bids
us avoid all possible pain, and daily experience tells us that people
invariably evade pain, wherever such evasion is possible. The objection
ought to run: "pain is a spiritual remedial agent, inflicted by God,
which is to be got rid of as soon as possible, but ought to be patiently
endured when unavoidable." Pain as pain has no recommendations,
spiritual or otherwise; nor is there the smallest merit in a voluntary
and needless submission to pain. As to its remedial and educational
advantages, it as often as not sours the temper and hardens the heart;
if a person endures great physical or mental pain with unruffled
patience, and comes out of it with uninjured tenderness and sweetness,
we may rest assured that we have come across a rare and beautiful nature
of exceptional strength. As a general rule, pain, especially if it be
mental, hardens and roughens the character. The use of anaesthetics is
utterly indefensible, if physical pain is to be regarded as a special
tool whereby God cultivates the human soul. If God is directly acting on
the sufferer's body, and is educating his soul by racking his nerves,
by what right does the doctor step between with his impious anaesthetic,
and by reducing the patient to unconsciousness, deprive God of his
pupil, and man of his lesson? If pain be a sacred ark, over which hovers
the divine glory, surely it must be a sinful act to touch the holy
thing. We may be inflicting incalculable spiritual damage by frustrating
the divine plan of education, which was corporeal agony as a spiritual
agent. Therefore, if this argument be good for anything at all, we
must from henceforth eschew all anaesthetics, we must take no steps
to alleviate human agony, we must not venture to interfere with this
beneficent agent, but must leave nature to torture us it will. But we
utterly deny that the unnecessary endurance of pain is even a merit,
much less a duty; on the contrary, we believe that it is our duty to
war against pain as much as possible, to alleviate it wherever we cannot
stop it entirely; and, where continuous and frightful agony can only end
in death, then to give to the sufferer the relief he craves for, in
the sleep which is mercy. "It is a mercy God has taken him," is an
expression often heard when the racked frame at last lies quiet, and the
writhed features settle slowly into the peaceful smile of the dead. That
mercy we plead that man should be allowed to give to man, when human
skill and human tenderness have done their best, and when they have left
within their reach no greater boon than a speedy and painless death.

We are not aware that any objection, which may not be classed under one
or other of these three heads, has been levelled against the proposition
that euthanasia should be legalised. It has, indeed, been suggested that
to put into-a doctor's hands this "power of life and death," would be
to offer a dangerous temptation to those who have any special object to
gain by putting a troublesome person quietly out of the way. But this
objection overlooks the fact that the patient himself must _ask_ for the
draught, that stringent precautions can be taken to render euthanasia
impossible except at the patient's earnestly, or even repeatedly,
expressed wish, that any doctor or attendant, neglecting to take these
precautions, would then, as now, be liable to all the penalties for
murder or for manslaughter; and that an ordinary doctor would no more
be ready to face these penalties then, than he is now, although he
undoubtedly has now the power of putting the patient to death with but
little chance of discovery. Euthanasia would not render murder less
dangerous than it is at present, since no one asks that a nurse may be
empowered to give a patient a dose which would ensure death, or that she
might be allowed to shield herself from punishment on the plea that the
patient desired it. If our opponents would take the trouble to find out
what we do ask, before they condemn our propositions, it would greatly
simplify public discussion, not alone in this case, but in many proposed
reforms.

It may be well, also, to point out the wide line of demarcation which
separated euthanasia from what is ordinarily called suicide. Euthanasia,
like suicide, is a voluntarily chosen death, but there is a radical
difference between the motives which prompt the similar act. Those who
commit suicide thereby render themselves useless to society for the
future; they deprive society of their services, and selfishly evade
the duties which ought to fall to their share; therefore, the social
feelings rightly condemn suicide as a crime against society. I do not
say that under no stress of circumstances is suicide justifiable; that
is not the question; but I wish to point out that it is justly regarded
as a social offence. But the very motive which restrains from suicide,
prompts to euthanasia. The sufferer who knows that he is lost to
society, that he can never again serve his fellow-men; who knows, also,
that he is depriving society of the services of those who uselessly
exhaust themselves for him, and is further injuring it by undermining
the health of its healthy members, feels urged by the very social
instincts which would prevent him from committing suicide while in
health, to yield a last service to society by relieving it from a
useless burden. Hence it is that Sir Thomas Moore, in the quotation with
which he began this essay, makes the _social authorities_ of his ideal
state urge euthanasia as the duty of a faithful citizen, while they
yet consistently reprobate ordinary suicide as a _lèse-majestê_ a
crime against the State. The life of the individual is, in a sense, the
property of society. The infant is nurtured, the child is educated,
the man is protected by others; and, in return for the life thus given,
developed, preserved, society has a right to demand from its members a
loyal, self-forgetting devotion to the common weal. To serve humanity,
to raise the race from which we spring, to dedicate every talent, every
power, every energy, to the improvement of, and to the increase of
happiness in, society, this is the duty of each individual man and
woman. And, when we have given all we can, when strength is sinking,
and life is failing, when pain racks our bodies, and the worse agony of
seeing our dear ones suffer in our anguish tortures our enfeebled minds,
when the only service we can render man is to relieve him of a useless
and injurious burden, then we ask that we may be permitted to die
voluntarily and painlessly, and so to crown a noble life with the laurel
wreath of a self-sacrificing death.



ON PRAYER.

THE mania for Prayer-meetings has lately been largely on the increase,
and the continual efforts being made to

     "Move the arm that moves the world,"

naturally draw one's attention strongly to the subject of Prayer; to its
reasonableness, propriety, and prospect of success. If Prayer to God
be reverent as towards the Deity, if it be consistent with his
immutability, with his foreknowledge, with his wisdom, and with
every kind of trust in his goodness--if it be also, as regards man,
permissible by science, and approved by experience, then there can be
no doubt at all that it should be sedulously practised, and should be of
universal obligation. But if it be at once useless and absurd, if it be
forbidden by reason and frowned at by common sense, if it weaken man and
be irreverent towards the Being to whom it is said to be addressed, then
it will be well for all who practise it to reconsider their position,
and at least to endeavour to give some solid reason for persisting in a
course which is condemned by the intellect and is unneeded by the heart.

The practice of Prayer is generally founded upon the supposed position
held by man--first, as a creature towards his Creator, and secondly,
as a child towards his Father in heaven. In its first aspect, it is a
simple act of homage from the inferior to the superior, parallel to the
courtesy shown by the subject to the monarch; it is an acknowledgment of
dependence, and a sign of gratitude for the gifts which are supposed
to be freely given by God to man--gifts which man has done nothing to
deserve, but which come from the free bounty of the giver. Putting aside
the whole question of God as Creator, which is not the point at issue,
we might argue that, since he brought us into this world without our
request, and even without our consent, he is in duty bound to see that
we have all things necessary for our life and happiness in the world in
which he has thus placed us. We might argue that the "blessings" said
to be bestowed upon us, such as food, clothing, &c, can only be called
"given" by a fiction, for that they are won by our own hard toil, and
are never "gifts from God" in any real sense at all. Further, we might
plead that we find "bestowed" upon us many things which are decidedly
the reverse of blessings, and that if gratitude be due to God for some
things, the contrary of gratitude is due to him for others; and that
if praise be his right for the one, blame must be his desert for
the second. We should be thus forced into the logical, but somewhat
peculiar, frame of mind of the savage, who caresses his fetish when it
hears his prayers, and belabours it heartily when it fails to help him.
But, taking the position that Prayer is due from man by reason of his
creaturehood, it must surely be clear that it cannot be a proper way
of manifesting a sense of inferiority to degrade the Being to whom the
homage is offered. Yet Prayer is essentially degrading to God, and the
character ascribed to him of "a hearer and answerer of Prayer" is a most
lowering conception of Deity. For God to hear and to answer Prayer
means that Prayer changes his action, making him do that which he would
otherwise have abstained from doing; it means that man is wiser than
God, and is able to instruct him in his duty; and it means that God is
less loving than he ought to be, and will not bestow upon his creature
that which is good for him, unless he be importuned into giving it. We
are told that God is immutable, "the same yesterday, to-day, and for
ever;" "God is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he
should repent." If this be true--and surely immutability of purpose must
be a necessary characteristic of an all-wise and all-good Being--how can
Prayer be anything more than a childish fretting against the inevitable?
The Changeless One has planned a certain course of action, and is
steadily carrying it out; in passionless serenity he goes upon his way;
then man breaks in with his feeble cries and petulant upbraidings,
and actually turns God from his purpose, and changes the course of his
providence. If Prayer does not do this it does nothing at all; either
it changes the mind of God or it does not. If it does, God is at the
disposal of man's whim; if it does not, it is perfectly useless, and
might just as well be left undone. The parable told by Christ about the
unjust judge (Luke xviii. 1-8) is a most extraordinary representation
of God: "Because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by
her continual coming she weary me.... And shall not God avenge his own
elect, which cry day and night unto him?" Verily, the picture of the
divine justice is not an attractive one! The judge does his duty, not
because it is his duty, not because the widow needs his aid, not because
her cause is a just one, but "lest by her continual coming she weary"
him. There is only one moral to be drawn from this, namely, that God
will not care for his "elect," because they are "his own;" that he will
not guard them, because it is his duty; but that, if they cry day and
night to him, he will attend to them, because the continual cry wearies
him, and he desires to silence it. In the same way God the immutable
changes at the sound of Prayer, not because the change will be better or
wiser, but because man's cry "wearies" him, and he will be quiet if he
obtains his petition. Surely the idea is as degrading as it can be; it
puts God on a level with the unwise human parent, who allows himself to
be governed by the clamour of his children, and gives any favour to
the spoilt child, if only the child be tiresome enough in its petulant
persistence.

Is Prayer consistent with the _foreknowledge_ of God? It is one of the
attributes ascribed to God that he knows all before it happens, and that
the future lies mapped out before him as clearly as does the past. If
this be so, is it more reasonable to pray about things in the future
than things in the past? No one is so utterly irrational as to pray to
God, in so many words, to change the things that are gone, or to alter
the record of the past. Yet, is it more rational to ask him to change
the things that are coming, and to alter the already-written chart of
the future? In reality, man's own eyes being blinded, he deems his God
such an one as himself, and where he cannot _see_, he can allow himself
to _hope_. But there is no excuse from the inexorable logic which
pierces us with one horn or the other of this dilemma, however we may
writhe in our efforts to escape them; either God knows the future or he
knows it not; if he knows it, it cannot be altered, so it is of no use
to pray about it, everything being already fixed; if he knows it not, he
is not God, he is no wiser than man. But, then, some Christians argue,
he has pre-arranged that he will give this blessing in answer to Prayer,
and he foreknows the Prayer as well as its answer. Then, after all, it
is pre-determined whether we shall pray or not in any given case, and we
have only to follow the course along which we are impelled by an
irresistible destiny; so the matter is beyond all discussion, and the
power to pray, or not to pray, does not reside in us; if there is a
blessing in store for us which needs the arm of Prayer to pluck it from
the tree on which it hangs, we shall inevitably pray for it at the right
moment, and thus--in his effort to escape from one difficulty--the
praying Christian has landed himself in a worse one, for absolute
foreknowledge implies complete determinism, and prevents all human
responsibility of any kind.

Is Prayer consistent with the _wisdom_ of God? After all, what does
Prayer mean, boldly stated? It means that man thinks that he knows
better than God, and so he tells God that which ought to happen. Is
there any self-conceit so intolerable as that which pretends to bow
itself in the dust before him who created and who upholds the infinite
worlds which make up the universe, and which then sets itself to correct
the ordering of him who traced the orbits of the planets, and who
measured the rule of suns? Finite wisdom instructing infinite
wisdom; mortal reason laying down the course of immortal reason; low
intelligence guiding supreme intelligence; man instructing God. All this
is implied in the fact of Prayer, and every man who has prayed, and who
believes in God, ought to cast himself down in passionate humiliation
before the wisdom he has insulted and impugned, and ask pardon for
the insolent presumption which dared to lay hands on the helm of the
Supreme, and to dream that man could be more wise than God. At least,
those who believe in God might be humble enough to acknowledge his
superiority to themselves, and if they demand that homage should be paid
to him by their brethren, they should also confess him to be wiser and
higher than they are themselves.

Is Prayer consistent with _trust in the goodness_ of God? Surely Prayer
is a distinct refusal to trust, and is a proclamation that we think
that we could do better for ourselves than God will do for us. If God
be "good and loving to every man," it is manifest that, without any
pressure being put upon him, he will do for each the best thing that
can possibly be done. The people of Madagascar are wiser, in this matter
than the people who throng our churches and our chapels, for they say,
addressing the good Spirit, "We need not pray to thee, for thou, without
our prayers, wilt give us all things that be good for us;" and then they
turn to the evil Spirit, saying, that they must pray to _him_ lest, if
they do not, he should work them harm, and send troubles in their way.
Prayer implies that God judges all good gifts, and will withhold them
unless they are wrung from his reluctant hands; it denies that he loves
his creatures, and is good to all. In addition to this, it also
implies that we will not trust him to judge what is best for us; on the
contrary, we prefer to judge for ourselves, and to have our own way. If
a trouble comes, it is prayed against, and God is besought "to remove
his heavy hand." What does this mean, except that when God sends sorrow,
man clamours for joy, and when God deems it best that his child should
weep, the child demands cause for smiles? If people trusted God,
as they pretend to trust him--if the phrases of the Sunday were the
practice of the week--if men believed that God's ways were higher than
man's ways, and his thoughts than their thoughts--then no Prayer would
ever ascend from earth to the "Throne of grace," and man would welcome
joy and sorrow, peace and care, wealth and poverty, as wise men welcome
nature's order, when the rain comes down to swell the seed for the
harvest, and the sunshine glows down upon earth to burnish the golden
grain.

But, say the praying Christians, even if Prayer be not defensible as
homage from the creature to the Creator, in that it lowers our idea of
God, it must surely yet be natural as the instinctive cry from the child
to the Father in heaven; and then follow arguments drawn from the family
and the home, and the need of communion between parent and child. As a
matter of fact,--taking the analogy, imperfect as it is--do we find much
Prayer, as from child to parent, in the best and the happiest homes; _is
not the amount of asking the exact measure of the imperfection of the
relationship?_ The wiser and the kinder the parent, the less will the
child ask for; rather, it learns from experience to trust the older
wisdom, and to be contented with the love which is ever giving,
unsolicited, all good things. At the most, the simple expression of
the child's wish is all that is needed, if the child desire anything
of which the parent have not thought; and even this mere statement of a
wish is still the result of _imperfection, i e._, the want of knowledge
on the parent's part of the child's mind and heart In this case there
is no pleading, no urging; the single request and single answer suffice;
there is nothing which corresponds with the idea of the prophet to
pray to God and to "give him no rest" until he grant the petition. In a
well-ordered home, the child who persisted in pressing his request
would receive a rebuke for his want of trust, and for his conceited
self-sufficiency; and yet _this_ is the analogy on which Prayer to God
is built up, and in this fashion "natural instincts" are dragged in, in
order to support supernatural and artificial cravings.

Leaving Prayer, as it affects man's relationship to God, let us look at
it as it regards man's relationship to things around him, and ask if it
be permitted by our scientific knowledge, and approved by experience and
by history. The chief lesson of science is that all things work by law,
that we dwell in a realm of law, and that _nothing_ goes by chance. All
science is built up upon this idea; science is not possible unless this
primary rule be correct; science is only the codified experience of the
race, the observed sequence of to-day marked down for the guidance of
to-morrow, the teaching of the past hived up for the improvement of
the future. But all this accumulation and correlation of facts becomes
useless if laws can be broken--i e., if this observed sequence of
phenomena can be suddenly broken by the interposition of an unknown and
incalculable force, acting spasmodically and guided by no discoverable
order of action. Science is impossible if these "providential
occurrences" may take place at any moment. A physician, in writing his
prescription, selects the drugs which experience has pointed out as the
suitable remedy for the disease under which his patient is labouring.
These drugs have a certain effect upon the tissues of the human frame,
and the physician calculates on this effect being produced; but if
Prayer is to come in as a factor, of what use the physician's science?
Here is suddenly introduced--to speak figuratively--a new drug of
unknown power, and the effect of medicine plus Prayer can in no way be
calculated upon. The prescription is either efficient or non-efficient;
if it be efficient, Prayer is unnecessary, as the cure would take place
without it; if it be non-efficient, and Prayer makes up the deficiency,
then medical science is not needed, for the impotency of the drugs can
always be balanced by the potency of the Prayer. This argument may be
used as regards every science. Prayer is put up for a ship which goes to
sea. The ship is fitted for the perils it encounters, or it is unfit. If
fitted, it arrives safely without Prayer; if, though unfit, it
arrives, being guarded by Prayer, then Prayer becomes a factor in the
shipbuilder's calculations, and sound timbers and strong rivets sink
into minor importance. If it be argued that to speak thus is to use
Prayer unfairly, because it is our duty to take every proper means to
ensure safety, what, is this except to say that, after all, Prayer is
only a fiction, and that while we bow our knees to God, and pretend to
look to _him_ for safety, we are really looking to the strong timbers of
the ship-builder, and to the skill of the captain?

Science teaches, also, that all phenomena are the results of preceding
phenomena, and that an unbroken sequence of cause and effect stretches
back further than our poor thoughts can reach. In stately harmony all
Nature moves, evolving link after link of the endless chain, each link
bound firmly to its predecessor, and affording, in its turn, the same
support to its successor. Prayer is put up in the churches for fair
weather; but rain and sunshine do not follow each other by chance, they
obey a changeless law. To alter the weather of to-day means to alter
the weather of countless yesterdays, which have faded away, one after
another, "into the infinite azure of the past." The weather of to-day
is the result of all those long-past phases of temperature, and, unless
they were altered, no change is pos sible to-day. The Prayer that goes
up in English churches should really run:--"O God, we pray thee to
change all that thou hast wrought in the past; we, to-day, in this petty
corner of thy world, are discontented with thy ordering; we desire of
thee, then, that, to pleasure our fancy, thou wilt unroll the record of
the past, and change all its order, remoulding its history to suit our
convenience here to-day." It is difficult to say which is the worse, the
self-conceit which deems its own petty needs worthy of such complaisance
of Deity, or the ignorance which forgets the absurdities implied in the
request it makes. But, after all, it is the ignorance which is to blame:
these Prayers were written when science was scarcely born; in those days
God was the immediate cause of each phenomena, sending rain from heaven
when it pleased him, thundering from heaven against his enemies, pouring
hailstones from heaven to slay his foes, opening and closing the windows
of heaven to punish a wicked king or to pleasure an angry prophet. In
those days heaven was very close to earth: so near that when it opened,
the dying Stephen could see and recognise the form and features of the
Son of Man; so near that, lest man should build a tower which should
reach it, God had himself to descend and discomfit the builders. All
these things were true to the writers whose words are repeated in
English churches in the nineteenth century, and they naturally
believed that what God wrought in days of old he could work also among
themselves. But knowledge has shattered the fairy fabric which fancy had
raised up; astronomy built towers--not of Babel--from which men could
gauge the heaven, and find that through illimitable ether worlds
innumerable rolled, and that where the throne of God should have been
seen, suns and planets sped on their ceaseless rounds. Further and
further back, the ancient God who dwelt among men was pressed back,
till now, at last, no room is found for spasmodic divine solutions, but
Nature's mighty order rolls on uninterrupted, in a silence unbroken by
voice and undisturbed by miraculous volitions, bound by a golden chain
of inviolable law. The most learned and the most thoughtful Christian
people now acknowledge that prayer is out of place in dealing with
"natural order;" but surely it is time that they should make their
voices heard plainly, so as to erase from the Prayer-book these obsolete
notions, born of an ignorance which the world has now outgrown. Few
really _believe_ in the power of Prayer over the weather, but people go
on from the sheer force of habit, repeating, parrot-like, phrases which
have lost their meaning, because they are too indolent to exert thought,
or too fettered by habit to test the Prayer of the Sunday by the
standard of the week. When people begin to _think_ of what they repeat
so glibly, the battle of Free Thought will have been won.

Many earnest people, however, while recognising the fact that Prayer
ought not to be used for rain, fine weather, and the like, yet think
that it may be rightly employed to obtain "spiritual benefits." Is
not this idea also the product of ignorance? When men knew nothing of
natural laws they thought they could gain natural benefits by Prayer;
now that people know nothing of "spiritual" laws, they think they can
gain "spiritual" benefits by Prayer. In each case the Prayer springs
from ignorance. Is it really more reasonable to expect to gain
miraculous spiritual strength from Prayer, than to expect to give
vigour, by Prayer, to arms enfeebled by fever? Growth, slow and steady,
is Nature's law; no sudden leaps are possible; and no Prayer will give
that spiritual stature which only develops by continual effort, and by
"patient continuance in well-doing." The mind--which is probably what
is generally meant by the word "spirit"--has its own laws, according to
which it grows and strengthens; it is moulded, formed, developed, as
the body is, by the play of the circumstances around it, and by the
organisation with which it comes into the world, and which it has
inherited from a long race of ancestors. Here, too, inexorable law
surrounds all, and in mind, as in matter, the "reign of law" Is
all-embracing, all-compelling.

Is Prayer approved by experience? It seems necessary here to refer to
the experience of some, who say that they have found Prayer strengthen
them to meet a trouble which they had dreaded, or to accomplish a duty
for which their own ability was insufficient. This appears to be very
probable, but the reason is not far to seek, and as the explanation of
the increased strength may be purely natural, it seems unnecessary to
search for a supernatural cause. Prayer, when earnest and heartfelt,
appears to exert a kind of reflex action on the person praying, the
petition not piercing heaven, but falling back upon earth. A duty has
to be done or a trouble has to be faced; the person affected prays
for help, and by the intense concentration of his thoughts, and by the
passion of his desire, he naturally gains a strength he had not, when
he was less deeply and thoroughly in earnest. Again, the interior
conviction that a olivine strength is on his side, nerves his heart and
braces his courage: the soldier fights with a tenfold courage when he
is sure that endurance will make victory a certainty. But all this is no
proof that God hears and answers Prayer; if it were so, it would prove
also that the Virgin Mother, and all the saints, and Buddha, and Brahma,
and Vishnu were alike hearers and answerers of Prayer. In all cases
the sincere worshipper gains strength and comfort, and finds the same
"answer" to his Prayer. Yet surely no one will contend that all these
are "Prayer-hearing and Prayer-answering" Gods? This fancied answer is
not a proof of the truth of the worshipper's belief, but is only a proof
_of his conviction of its truth_; not the soundness of the belief, but
the sincerity of the conviction, is proved by the glow and ardour which
succeed the act of Prayer. All the dormant energies are aroused; the
soul's whole strength is put forth; the worshipper is warmed by the fire
struck from his own heart, and is thrilled with the electricity which
resides in his own frame. So far, Prayer is found to be answered,
just as every strong conviction, however erroneous, is found to confer
increased strength and vigour on him who possesses it. But, excepting
this, Prayer is not proved to be efficacious when tested by experience.
How many Prayers have gone up to the Father in heaven from his children
overwhelmed in the sea, and drowning in floods, and encircled by fire?
How many passionate appeals of patriots and martyrs, of exiles and of
slaves? How many cries of anguish from beside the beds of the dying,
and the fresh graves of the newly-dead? In vain the wife's wail for the
husband, the mother's pleading for the only child; no voice has answered
"Weep not;" no command has replied, "Rise up;" the Prayers have fallen
back on the breaking heart, poor white-winged birds that have tried
to fly towards heaven, but have only sunk back to earth, their breasts
bruised and bleeding from striking against the iron bars of a pitiless
and relentless fate. So continually has Prayer failed to win an answer,
that, in spite of the clearness and the force of the Bible promises in
regard to it, Christians have found themselves obliged to limit their
extent, and to say that God judges whether or no it will be beneficial
for the worshipper to grant the petition, and if the Prayer be a
mistaken one he will, in mercy, withhold the implored-for boon. Of
course, this prevents Prayer from being ever tested by experience at
all, because whenever a Prayer remains unanswered the reply is ready,
that "it was not according to the will of God." This means, that we
cannot test the value of Prayer in any way; we must accept its worth
wholly as a matter of faith; we must pray because we are bidden to do
so, and fulfil an useless form which affords no tangible results. In
this melancholy position are we landed by an appeal to experience, by
which we are challenged to test the value of Prayer.

The answer of history is even yet more emphatic. The Ages of Prayer
are the Dark Ages of the world. When learning was crushed out, and
superstition was rampant, when wisdom was called witchcraft, and priests
ruled Europe, then Prayer was always rising up to God from the countless
monasteries where men dwarfed themselves into monks, and from the
convents where women shrivelled up into nuns. The sound of the bell that
called to Prayer was never silent, and the time that was needed for work
was wasted in Prayer, and in the straining to serve God the service of
man was neglected and despised.

There is one obvious fact that throws into bright relief the absurdity
of Prayer. Two people pray for exactly opposite things; whose Prayers
are to be answered? Two armies ask for victory; which is to be crowned?
Amongst ourselves, now, the Church is divided into two opposing camps,
and while the Ritualists appeal to God for protection, the Evangelical
clamour also for his aid. To which is he to bend his ear? which Prayer
is he to answer? Both appeal to his promises; both urge that his honour
is pledged to them by the word he has given; yet it is simply impossible
that he should grant the Prayer of both, because the Prayer of the one
is the direct contradiction of the prayer of the other.

Again, none of the believers in Prayer appear to consider, that, if it
were true that Prayer is so powerful a weapon--if it were true that by
Prayer man can prevail with God--it would then be madness ever to pray
at all. To pray would be as dangerous a thing as to put a cavalry sword
into the hands of a child just strong enough to lift it, but unable to
control it, or to understand the danger of its blows. Who can tell all
the results to himself and to others which might flow from a granted
Prayer, a Prayer made in all honesty of purpose, but in ignorance and
short-sightedness? If Prayers really brought answers it would be most
wickedly reckless ever to pray at all, as wickedly reckless as if a
man, to quench a moment's thirst, pierced a hole in a reservoir of water
which overhung a town.

But, in spite of all arguments, in spite of all that reason can urge and
that logic can prove, it is probable that many will still cling to the
practice of Prayer, craving for the relief it gives to the feelings
of the heart, however much it may be condemned by the judgment of the
intellect. They seem to think that they will lose a great inspiration to
work if they give up "communion with God," and that they will miss the
glow of ardour which they deem they have caught from Prayer. But
surely it may fairly be urged on them that no real good can arise
from continuing a practice which it is impossible to defend when it is
carefully analysed. Prayer is as the artificial stimulant which excites,
but does not strengthen, and lends a factitious brightness, which is
followed by deeper depression. Those who have prayed most have often
stated that "seasons of special blessing" are generally followed by
"special temptations of Satan." The reaction follows on the unreal
excitation, and the soul that has been flying in heaven grovels upon
earth. To the patient who is weak and depressed from long illness, the
bright air of the morning seems chill and cold, and he yearns for the
warmth of the artificial stimulants to which he has grown accustomed;
yet better for him is it to gain health from the morning breezes, and
stimulus from the glad clear sunshine, than to yield to the craving
which is a relic of his disease. If they who find in communion with God
a sweetness which is lacking when they commune with their brethren--if
they who cultivate dependence on God would learn the true dependence of
man on man--if they who yearn for the invisible would concentrate their
energies on the visible--then they would soon find a sweetness in labour
which would compensate for the languor of Prayer, and they would learn
to draw from the joy of serving men, and from the serene strength of
an earnest life, a warmth of inspiration, a passion of fervour, an
exhaustless fount of energy, beside which all Prayer-given ardour would
seem dull and nerveless, in the glow of which the fancied warmth of
God-communion would seem as the pale cold moonshine in the glory of the
rising sun.



CONSTRUCTIVE RATIONALISM.

IT is a common complaint against the Rationalistic school of thought
that they can destroy but cannot construct; that they tear down, but do
not build up; that they are armed only with the axe and with the sword,
and not with the trowel and the mason's line. "We have had enough of
negations," is a common cry; "give us something positive." Much of this
feeling is foolish and unreasonable; the negation of error, where
error is supreme, is necessary before the assertion of truth can become
possible. Before a piece of ground can be sown with wheat, it must be
cleared of the weeds which infest it; before a solid house can be built
in the place of a crumbling ruin, the ancient rubbish must be carried
off, and the rotten walls must be thoroughly pulled down. Destructive
criticism is necessary and wholesome; the heavy battering-ram of science
must thunder against the walls of the churches; the swift arrows of
logic must rain on the black-robed army; the keen lance-points of
irony must pierce through the leather jerkin of superstition. But the
destruction of orthodox Christianity being accomplished, there remains
for the Rationalist much more to do. He has to frame a code which shall
rule in the place of the code of Moses and of Jesus; he has to found
a morality which shall replace the morality of the Bible; he has to
construct an ideal which shall be as attractive as the ideal of the
Churches; he has to proclaim laws which shall supersede revelation: in a
word, he has to build up the religion of humanity.

As the Rationalist looks abroad over the contending armies of faith and
of reason, he gradually recognises the fact that his new religion, if it
is to serve as a bond of union, must stand on stable ground, apart from
the warring hosts. Round the idea of God rages the hottest din of the
battle. The old, popular, and traditional belief is wounded to
the death, and is slowly breathing out its life. The philosophical
subtleties of the metaphysician are beyond the grasp of folk busied
chiefly with common work. The new school of Theists, believers in a
"spiritual personal God," stands on a slippery incline, whereon is
no firm foothold. It simply spreads over the abysses of thought
a sentimental veil of poetical imaginings, and bows down before a
beatified and celestial man, whose image it has sculptured out of the
thought-marble of its sublimest aspirations. If the idea of God be thus
warred over, thus changing, thus uncertain, it is plain that the new
religion cannot find its foundation on this shifting and disputed
ground. While theologians are wrangling about God, plain men are looking
wistfully over the shattered idols to find the ideal to which they
can cling. The new religion, then, studying the varying phases of the
God-idea, seizes on its one permanent element, its idealised resemblance
to man, its embodiment of the highest humanity; and, grasping this
thought, it turns to men and says, "In loving God you are only loving
your own highest selves; in conforming yourselves to the Divine image
you are only conforming yourselves to your own highest ideals; the
unknown God whom you ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you; in
serving your family, your neighbours, your country, you serve this
unknown God; this God is Humanity, the race to which you belong; this is
the veiled God whom all generations have worshipped in heaven, while he
trod the world around them in every human form; this is the only God,
the God who is manifest in the flesh: "--

     "There is no God, O son, If thou be none."

The first great constructive effort of the new religion is thus to
transform the idea of God, and to turn all men's aspirations, all men's
hopes, all men's labours, into this channel of devotion to humanity,
that so the practical outcome of the new motive power may be a steady
flow of loving and energetic work for man, work that begins in the
family, and spreads, in ever-widening circles, over the whole race.

This transformation of the central figure necessarily transforms also
the whole idea of religion, which must take its colour from that centre.
Revelation from heaven being no longer possible, its place must be
supplied by study on earth: revealed laws being no longer attainable, it
becomes the duty of the Humanitarian to discover natural laws. This
duty is the more cheering from the manifest failure of revealed laws, as
exemplified in popular Christianity. "Law," in the mouth of the believer
in revelation, means a command issued by God; the "laws of Nature" are
the rules laid down by God, in accordance with which all things move;
they are the behests of the Creator of Nature, the controlling wires of
the mechanism, held by the hand of God. But "law" in the mouth of
the Rationalist means nothing more than the observed and registered
invariable sequence of events. Thus it is said "a stone falls to
the ground in obedience to the law of gravitation." By the "law of
gravitation" the Christian would mean that God had ordered that all
stones _should_ so fall. The Rationalist would simply mean that all
stones _do_ so fall, and that invariable sequence he calls the "law of
gravitation." Obedience to the laws of Nature replaces, in the religion
of Humanity, obedience to the laws of God. As there is no inspired
revelation of these laws the student must carefully and patiently
ascertain them, either by direct observation, or most often, in the
books of those who have devoted their lives to the elucidation of
Nature's code. Scientific books will, in fact, replace the Bible, and by
the study of the laws of health, both physical, moral, and mental, the
Rationalist will ascertain the conditions which surround him to which he
must conform himself if he desires to retain physical, moral, and mental
vigour. This difference in the authority which is obeyed leads naturally
to the difference of morality between the orthodox Christian and the
Rationalist. Christian morality consists of obedience to the will of
God, as revealed in the Bible. The grand difficulty regarding this
obedience is, that the will of Jehovah, as revealed to the Jews at
different times, varies so much from age to age that the most zealous
Christian must fail to obey all the conflicting behests prefaced by a
"Thus saith the Lord." God would, of course, never command any one to do
a thing which was directly wrong, yet God distinctly said: "Thou
shalt not suffer a Witch to live;" and God sanctioned Slavery, and
God commanded Persecution on account of religious convictions: true,
Christians plead that all these laws are obsolete, but what is that but
to acknowledge that revealed morality is obsolete, _i.e._, that it was
never revealed by God at all. For a command to persecute must be either
right or wrong: if right, it is the duty of Christians to obey it,
and to raise once more the stakes of Smithfield for heretics and
unbelievers; if wrong, it can never have come from God at all, and must
be blasphemously attributed to him. In God, Christians tell us there is
no changeableness, neither shadow of turning; then what pleased him in
long past ages would please him still, and what he commanded yesterday
would be right to-day. Thus fatally does revealed morality fail when
tested, and it becomes impossible to know which particular "will of
God" he desires that we should obey. Now, once more, the Rationalist
experiences the advantages of his new motive-power; he has to serve
Humanity, and is unencumbered by the difficulties attendant upon
"pleasing God." Not the pleasure of God, but the benefit of man, is
the basis of his morality. Revealed morality is as a child's garment,
into-which one should try to force the limbs of a full-grown man; it
is the morality of the past stereotyped for the use of today, and is
clumsy, archaic, half-illegible from age. Rational morality, on the
other hand, grows with the growth of those who follow its dictates; its
errors are corrected by wider experience, its omissions are filled up by
the irrefragable arguments of necessity. It is founded upon the needs of
man; his happiness is its sole object; not only his physical happiness,
not only the fulfilment of the desires of the body for ease and comfort,
but the satisfaction also of all the cravings of his intellectual
and moral powers, the love of truth, the love of beauty, the love of
justice. A morality founded on this basis can never be overthrown; one
sure test it affords whereby to decide on the morality or the immorality
of any-given action: "Is it useful to man? does it tend to the promotion
of human happiness?" The will of God is doubtful, and is always
disputable, and therefore it can never form the foundation of a
universal system of morality, a code which shall unite all men in
obedience. A code which shall unite all men must needs be founded on
those human interests which are common to all men. Such a code is the
utilitarian. For man's happiness is on earth, and can be known and
understood; the promotion of that happiness is an intelligible aim;
the test of morality may be applied by every one; it is a system which
everybody can understand, and which the common sense of each must
approve, for by it man lives for man, man labours for man, the efforts
of each are directed to the good of all, and only in the happiness of
the whole can the happiness of each part be perfected and complete.

There is much popular misconception with regard to utilitarianism:
"utility" is supposed to include only those material things which are
useful to the body, and which tend to increase physical comfort. But
utility includes all art; for art cultures the taste and refines the
nature. It thus adds a thousand charms to life, deepens, softens,
purifies human happiness. Utility includes all study, for study-awakens
and trains the intellectual faculties, and therefore increases the
sources of happiness possible to man. Utility includes all science; for
science is man's true providence, foreseeing the dangers that threaten
him, and shielding him against their shock. Science leads man up to
those intellectual heights where to stand awhile and breathe in the
keen, clear air after dwelling in the turbid atmosphere of daily toils
and cares, is as the refreshment of the pure mountain wind to the weary
inhabitant of the crowded city streets.. Utility includes all love and
search of truth; for the discovery of a truth is the keenest pleasure of
which the noblest mind is susceptible. It includes all sublimest virtue;
for self-sacrifice and devotion yield the purest forms-of happiness
to be found on earth. In a word, utility includes everything which is
_useful_ in building up a grander manhood and womanhood, wiser, purer,
truer, tenderer than that we have to-day.

Such is the basis of the morality which is to supersede the supernatural
morality of the Churches; a morality which is: for this life and for
this world, since we have this life, and are in this world; a morality
which seeks to ensure human happiness on this side the grave, instead of
dreaming of it on the other side; a morality which endeavours to carve
solid heavens here, instead of seeing them in distant cloud-lands, white
and soft and beautiful, but still only clouds.

One vast advantage of this humanitarian philosophy is that it endeavours
to train men into unselfishness, instead of following the popular
Christian plan of making self the central thought. Self is appealed to
at every step in the New Testament: if we are bidden to rejoice under
persecution, it is because "great is your reward in heaven;" if urged
to pray, it is because "thy Father, which seeth in secret, himself shall
reward thee openly;" if to be charitable, it is because at the judgment
it will bring a kingdom as the recompense; if to resign home or wealth,
it is because we shall receive "a hundredfold in this present life, and
in the world to come life everlasting;" even the giver of a cup of cold
water "shall in no wise lose his reward." It is one system of bribes,
mingling the thought of personal pain with every effort of human
improvement and human happiness, and thereby directly fostering and
encouraging selfishness and gilding it over with the name of religion
and piety. Humanitarian morality, on the other hand, while utilising the
natural and rightful craving for individual happiness as a motive-power,
endeavours to accustom each to look to, and to labour for, the happiness
of all, making that general happiness the aim of life. Thus it gradually
weakens the selfish tendencies and encourages the social, holding
up ever the noble ideal by the very contemplation of its beauty
transforming its votaries into its likeness. "Vivre pour au-trui," is
the motto of the utilitarian code; and in so living the fullest and
happiest life for self is really attained; so closely drawn are the
bands that bind men together that happiness and unhappiness re-act from
one to another, and as the general standard of happiness rises higher
and higher, the wheels of social life run more and more easily, with
less of friction, less of jar, and therefore with increased comfort to
each individual member. While Christianity developes selfishness by
its continual cry of "Save thyself," Utilitarianism gradually developes
unselfishness by the nobler whisper, "Save others, and in so doing
thou shalt thyself be saved." Delivered from every debasing fear of an
unknowable and inscrutable power, Utilitarianism works with a single
heart and a single eye for the happiness of the race, stamping with
the brand of "wrong" every act the general repetition of which would be
harmful to society, or the tendency of which is injurious, and sealing
as "right" every act which brightens human life, and makes the general
happiness more perfect, and more widely spread. As morality rises higher
and higher, human judgment will grow keener and purer, and in the times
to come probably many an act now approved on all sides will be seen to
be harmful, and will therefore become marked as immoral, while, on the
other hand, acts that are now considered wrong, because "offensive
to God," will be seen to be beneficial to man, and will therefore be
accepted by all as moral. Thus Utilitarian morality can never be a bar
to progress, for it will become higher and nobler as man mounts upwards.
Revealed morality is as a milestone on the road of the world's onward
march: it marks how far the world had travelled when its tables of
law were first set up in its place: as a milestone, it is useful,
interesting, and instructive, and none would desire to destroy it; but
if the milestone be removed from its post as a mark of distance, and be
laid across the road as a barrier which none must overclimb in days to
come, then it becomes necessary for the pioneers of progress to hew
it to pieces that men may go on their way unchecked, and this revealed
morality now lies across the upward path of the world, and must be
broken in pieces with the hammer of logic and the axe of common sense,
so that we may press ever higher up the mountain of progress, whose
summit is hid in everlasting cloud.

And what has constructive Rationalism to say to us, when we stand face
to face with the mighty destroyer of all living things? "Your creed may
do well enough to live by," say-objectors, "but is it good to die by?"
A creed that is good in life must needs be good in death, and never yet
was a hero-life closed by a coward death. What can better smooth the bed
of the dying man than the knowledge that the world is the happier for
his living, that he leaves it better than he found it, that he has
helped to raise and to purify it? What easier pillow to rest the dying
head on than the memory of a useful life? The Rationalist has no fear
lurking around his death-bed; no lurid gleams from a hell on the other
side lighten around him as his breath begins to fail; no angry God
frowns on him from the great white throne; no devil stands beside him
to drag him down into the bottomless pit; quietly, peacefully, happily,
without fear and without dread, he passes out of life. As calmly as the
tired child lies down to sleep in its mother's arms, and passes into
dreamless unconsciousness, so calmly does the Rationalist lie down in
the arms of the mighty mother, and pass into dreamless unconsciousness
on her bosom.

To the Rationalist, the future of the race replaces in thought the
future of the individual; for that he thinks, for that he plans, for
that he labours. A heaven upon earth for those who come after him, such
is his inspiration to effort and to self-devotion. He seeks the smile of
man instead of the smile of God, and finds in the thought of a happier
humanity the spur that Christians seek in the thought of pleasing God.
His hopes for the future spread far and wide before him, but it is a
future to be inherited by his children in this same world in which he
himself lives; freer and fuller life, wider knowledge, deepened and more
polished culture--all these are to be the heritage of the generations
to come, and it is his to make that heritage the richer by every grander
thought and nobler deed that he can do to-day.

Let us place side by side the dogmas of Christianity and the motive
power of the Rationalist, and see which of these two is the gladder
life-moulder of man. Christianity has a God in heaven, all powerful and
all-wise, who in ages gone by made the universe and fore-ordained all
that should happen in time to come; who created man and woman with a
serpent to tempt them, and made for them the opportunity of falling;
who, having made the opportunity, forced them to take it. It is said
that Adam and Eve were free agents, but they were nothing of the kind,
for the lamb was slain from the foundation of the world: the sacrifice
was offered before the sin was committed; and the sacrifice being made,
the sin was its necessary consequence. If Adam had been free, he might
not have sinned, and then there would have been a slain lamb and no
sin for which he could atone; but God, having provided the Saviour,
was obliged to provide the sinner, and therefore he made the tree of
knowledge and sent the tempter to entrap the parents of mankind. They
fell, according to God's predestination, and thus became accursed, and
then the waiting Redeemer was revealed, and "the divine scheme" was
complete. Accursed for a sin in which they had no part, the children of
Adam are born with an evil nature, and being evil they act evilly, and
thereby sink lower and lower; at their feet yawns a bottomless pit, and
the road to it is broad, easy, and pleasant; above their heads shines
a luxurious heaven, and the path is narrow, steep, and rugged. Their
nature--God-given to all--drags them downwards; the Holy Ghost--God
given to some--drags them upwards: immortality is their inheritance, and
"few there be that find" immortal happiness, while "many there be that
go in" at the gate of hell to immortal woe; a severance, bitter beyond
all earthly bitterness of parting, is in store for all, since, at the
great day of judgment, "one shall be taken and the other left," and
there will not be a family some of whose members will not be lost for
ever. Eternal life, to the vast majority, is to mean eternal torment,
and they are to be "salted with fire," burning yet never burnt up,
consuming ever but never consumed. Towards the gaining of heaven,
towards the avoidance of hell, all human effort must be turned. "What
shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own
soul?" All life must be one striving "to enter in at the strait gate,
for many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able;" poverty,
oppression, misery, what matters it? the "light affliction which is but
for a moment worketh a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
Thus this world is forgotten for the sake of another, crushed out of
sight beneath the overwhelming grandeur of eternity; the spur to human
effort is blunted by the infinitesimal importance of time as compared
with eternity; bad government, bad laws, injustice, tyranny, pauperism,
misery, all these things need not move us, for "we seek a better
country, that is a heavenly;" we are "strangers and pilgrims;" "here we
have no continuing city, but we seek one to come;" "our citizenship is
in heaven," and there also is our home. True, Christians do not carry
out into daily life these phrases and thoughts of their creed, but in
so much as they do not they are the less Christian, and the more
imbued with the spirit of Rationalism. Rationalists they are, the vast
majority, six days in the week, and are only Christians on the Sunday.
To come out of, these old world dreams into Rationalism is like coming
into the open air after a hothouse. Rationalism clears away the terrible
God of orthodoxy, the fall, the serpent, the Saviour, the hell, the
devil. "Work, toil, struggle," it cries to man; "the ills around you
are not the appointment of God, not the effects of his curse; they arise
from your own ignorance, and may all be cleared away by your own study,
and your own effort. Salvation? Yes, you need saviours, but the saviours
must save you from earthly woes and not from the wrath of God; save
yourselves, by thought, by wisdom, by earnestness. Redemption? yes,
you need redeeming, but the redemption you want is from vice, from
ignorance, from poverty, and must be wrought out by human effort.
Prayer? yes, you need praying for, but the prayer you want is work
compelling the result; not crying out for what you desire, but winning
it by labour and by toil. The world stretches wide before you, capable
of paying you a thousandfold for all you do for it. Life is in your
hands, full of all glorious possibilities; throw away your dreams of
heaven, and make heaven here; leave aside visions of the life to come,
and make beautiful the life which is."

Full of hope, full of joy, strong to labour, patient to endure, mighty
to conquer, goes forth the new glad creed into the sad grey Christian
world; at her touch men's faces soften and grow purer, and women's eyes
smile instead of weeping; at last, at last, the heir arises to take
to himself his own, and the negation of the usurped sovereignty of
the popular and traditional God over the world developes into the
affirmation of the rightful monarchy of man.



THE BEAUTIES OF THE PRAYER-BOOK.



MORNING PRAYER.

"HABIT, is second nature," saith a wise old saw, so it must be from
custom that it has become natural to Church people to repeat placidly,
week after week, the same palpable self-contradictions and absurdities.
A sensible, shrewd man of business puts away his papers on the Saturday
night, and apparently locks his mind up with them in his desk; certain
it is that he

     "Goes on Sunday to the church,
     And sits among his boys;
     He hears the parson pray and preach,"

and yet never discovers that his boys are repeating the most
contradictory responses, while the parson is enunciating as axioms the
most startling propositions.

When the preliminary silence in church is broken by the "sentences,"
the first words that fall from the clergyman's lips are a distinct
declaration of the conditions of salvation: "When the wicked man turneth
away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which
is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive;" and we are further
instructed as to our sins, that "if we confess our sins, He is
faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from
all unrighteousness." These very plain statements take high and
comprehensible ground. God is supposed to desire that man should be
righteous, and is, therefore, naturally satisfied when "the wicked
forsakes his way and the unrighteous man his path." We proceed, then, to
confess our sins, and after Mrs. A., whose eyes are straying after her
neighbour's bonnet, has confessed that she is erring and straying like a
lost sheep, and Mrs. B., who is devising a way to make an old dress look
new, has owned plaintively that she is following the devices of her own
heart; and Squire C, of the rubicund visage and broad shoulders, has
sonorously remarked that there is no health in him, and his son, with
the joyous face, has cheerfully acknowledged that he is a miserable
sinner--after these very appropriate and reasonable confessions, to a
Divine Being who "seeth the heart," and may therefore be supposed to
take them for what they are worth, have been duly gone through, we are
somewhat puzzled to hear the clergyman announce that God "pardoneth and
absolveth all them that truly repent, _and unfeignedly believe His holy
Gospel._" What is this sudden appendix to the before-declared conditions
of salvation? We had been told that if we confessed our sins God's
faithfulness and justice would cause him to forgive us; here we have
duly done so, and surely the language is sufficiently strong; we are
yet suddenly called upon to believe a "holy Gospel" as a preliminary
to forgiveness. But we are not yet, to use a colloquialism, out of the
wood; for while we are moodily meditating on this infraction of our
contract the time slips on unobserved, and, it being a feast-day, we
are startled by a stern voice conveying the cheerful intelligence,
"Whosoever will be saved, _before all things_, it is necessary that he
hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and
undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly." "Before all
things?" before repentance? before turning away from our wickedness?
before doing that which is lawful and right? And what is this "Faith"
which we must keep whole and undefiled if we would save our souls alive?
A bewildering jumble of triplets and units, mingled in inextricable
confusion. But as he that "will be saved must thus think of the
Trinity," we will try and disentangle the thread of salvation. "The
Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God," says the
parson. "They are not three Gods, but one God," shout out the people.
We are compelled "to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and
Lord," reiterates the parson. "We are forbidden by the Catholic Religion
to say there be three Gods or three Lords," obstinately persist the
people. Then, after some rather intrusive particulars about the family
(and very intricate) relations of the Father to the Son, and of both to
the Holy Ghost, we are told that "so"--why so?--"there is one Father,
not three Fathers, one Son, not three Sons, one Holy Ghost, not three
Holy Ghosts." In so far as we have been able to follow the meaning, or
rather the no-meaning, of the preceding sentences, no one said anything
about three Fathers, three Sons, or three Holy Ghosts. The definite
article _the_ had been used in each case with a singular noun. We
imagine the clause must have been inserted because all ideas as to the
meaning; of numerals must have been by this time so hopelessly lost by
the congregation, that it became necessary to remark that "the Father"
meant one Father, and not three. The list of necessaries for salvation
is not yet complete, for "furthermore it is necessary to everlasting
salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord
Jesus Christ." So far, then, from its being true that the wicked man who
turns from his sins shall save his soul alive, we find that our sinner
must also believe the Gospel, must accept contradictory arithmetical
assertions, must think of the Trinity in a way which makes thought a
ludicrous impossibility, and must believe _rightly_ all the details
of the method by which a Divine Being became a human being. If a sinner
chances to go out of church after the first sentence, and from being
a drunkard becomes temperate, from being a liar becomes truthful, from
being a profligate becomes chaste, and foolishly imagines that he
is thereby doing God's will, and thus saving his soul alive, he will
certainly, according to the Athanasian Creed, wake up from his pleasant
delusion to find himself in everlasting fire. As sceptics, we need offer
no-opinion as to which is right, the creed or the text; we only suggest
that both cannot be correct, and that it would be more satisfactory if
the Church, in her wisdom, would make up her venerable mind which is
the proper path, and then keep in it. After all this, we are in no way
surprised to learn from a collect that being saved is dependent on quite
a new support, namely, on the knowledge we have of God. How many more
things may be necessary to salvation it is impossible to say at this
point, but the office for Morning Prayer, at any rate, gives us no more.
It would be rash to conclude, however, that we have fulfilled all, for
the Church has some more scattered up and down her Prayer-Book; the end
of all which double-dealing is, that we can never be sure that we have
really fulfilled every condition; sad experience teaches us that
when the Church says, "do so-and-so, and you shall be saved," she is,
meanwhile, whispering under her breath, "provided you also do everything
else."

We fail also to see the reasonableness of the constant cry, "for the
sake of Jesus Christ," or "through Jesus Christ." We ask that we may
lead "a godly, righteous, and sober life" _for His sake_; but this is
just what we are told God wishes already, so why should He be asked to
grant it for some one else's sake, as though He were unwilling that we
should be righteous, and can only be coaxed into allowing us to be so by
a favourite son? In the same way we are to come to God's "eternal joy,"
through Jesus, which is, by the way, another of these endless conditions
of salvation. We ask to be defended from our enemies "through the might
of Jesus Christ," as though God Himself was not strong enough for the
task; and God is urged to send down His healthful Spirit for the "honour
of our advocate and Mediator," although that very advocate told His
disciples that God would always give that spirit to those who asked
for it. To the outside critic, these continual references to Jesus,
as though God grudged all good gifts, appear very dishonouring to the
"Father in Heaven."

Is it considered necessary to press God vehemently to hurry himself?
"O God, make speed to save us. O Lord, make haste to help us." Will
not God, of his own accord, do things at the best possible time? and
further, is it possible for a Divine Being to make haste?

It will, perhaps, be considered hypercritical to object to the
versicles: "Give peace in our time, O Lord, because there is none other
that fighteth for us but only thou, O God." What more do they want than
an almighty reinforcement? "None other?" Well, we should have fancied
that God and somebody else were really more than were needed. At any
rate it sounds very insulting to say to God, "please give us peace,
since we cannot count on any assistance except yours."

We have nothing to say about the prayers for the Royal Family, except
that they do not show any very attractive results, and that it must have
much edified George IV. to hear himself spoken of as a "most religious
and gracious king." Never surely was a family so much prayed for, but
_cui bono?_ If the "Bishops, Curates, and all congregations" truly
please God, he is about, the only person that they succeed in pleasing,
for the Bishops abuse the clergy, and the clergy abuse the Bishops,
and the congregations abuse both. Of the last prayer, we must note
the exceeding failure of the petition to grant the Church knowledge of
truth, and we cannot help marvelling why, if they really desire to know
the truth, they so invariably frown at and endeavour to crush out every
earnest search after truth, every effort for clearer light. Of all
things that can happen to the Church, the knowledge of the truth would
be the least "expedient for" her, for she would fade away before the
sunshine of truth as ghosts are said to fly at the cockcrow which
announces the dawn.

A criticism on the office of Morning Prayer is scarcely complete
without a few words upon the canticles appointed to be daily sung by
the faithful to the glory of God. Any thing more ludicrously absurd than
these from the lips of our congregations it would indeed be difficult to
imagine. The _Venite_ (Ps. xcv.) is the first we are called upon to take
part in, and the first shock comes when we find ourselves-chanting
"The Lord is a great God and a _great king above all gods_." "Above
all Gods!" what terrible heresy have we been unwittingly committing
ourselves to? Is there not only one God--or, at least, it may be
three--but, if three, they are co-equal, and no one is above the other;
who are these "all gods" that "the Lord" is "king above?" We remember
for a moment that when this psalm was written the gods of the nations
around Israel were believed to have a real existence, and that,
therefore, it was no inconsistency in the mouth of the Hebrew to rejoice
that his national god was ruler above the gods of other peoples. This
explanation is reasonable, but then it does not explain why we, who
believe not in this multiplicity of deities should pretend that we do.
Our equanimity is not restored by the next phrase, "In his hand are all
the corners of the earth;" but the earth is a globe, and has no corners.
A misty remembrance floats through our mind of Iræneus stating that
there were four gospels because there were four corners to the earth and
four winds that blew; but since his time things have changed, and the
corners have been smoothed off. Is it quite honest to say in God's
praise a thing which we know to be untrue, and must we be unscientific
because we are devotional? We then hear about our fathers being forty
years in the wilderness, although we know that they were not there at
all, unless the people--generally looked upon as amiable lunatics--are
correct, who assert that the English nation is descended from the ten
lost tribes of Israel. Why should we pretend to God that we are Jews,
when both He and we know perfectly well that we are nothing of the kind?
We come to the _Te Deum_, said to have been composed by S. Ambrose for
the baptism of S. Augustine:--"To thee cherubin and seraphin continually
do cry." Putting aside the manifest weariness both to God and to the
cryers of the never-ceasing repetition of these words, and the degrading
idea of God implied in the thought that it gives Him any pleasure to
be perpetually assured of His holiness, as though it were a doubtful
matter--we cannot help inquiring, "Who are these cherubin and seraphin?"
According to the Bible, they are six-winged creatures, who cover their
faces with two wings, and their feet with two more, and fly with the
remaining pair: they may be seen in pictures of the ark, balancing
themselves on their feet-covering wings, and preventing themselves
from falling by steadying each other with another pair. "Lord God of
Sabaoth," or of "Hosts;" is this a reasonable name for one supposed to
be a "God of peace?" The elder Jewish and the Christian ideas of God
here come into direct collision: according to one, "the Lord is a man
of war" (Ex. xv.), while the other represents him as "the Everlasting
Father, the Prince of Peace" (Isai. ix.). The _Te Deum_ midway changes
the object of its song, and addresses itself to the Son instead of to
the Father. How far this is permissible is much disputed, for certain
it is that in the early ages of Christianity prayer was addressed to the
Father _only_, and that one of the Fathers* sharply rebukes those who
pray to the Son, since they thereby deprive the Father of the honour due
to Him alone. How this can be, when Father and Son are one, we do not
pretend to explain. Then ensue those curious details regarding Christ
which we shall touch upon in dealing later with the Apostles' Creed.
We find ourselves, presently, asking to be kept "this day without sin;"
yet, we are perfectly well aware, all the time, that God will do nothing
of the kind, and that all Christians believe that they sin every day.
Why does the Church teach her children to sing this in the morning, and
then prepare a "confession" for the evening, unless she feels perfectly
sure that God will pay no attention to her prayer? The wearisome
reiteration in the _Benedicite_ is so thoroughly recognised that it is
very seldom heard in the church, while the _Benedictus_ (Luke i.) is
open to the same charge of unreality as is the _Venite_, that it is a
song for Jews only.

     * Origen.

Many other faults and absurdities might be pointed cut which disfigure
Morning Prayer, even if the whole idea of prayer be left untouched.
The prayers of the-Prayer-Book are dishonouring to God from their
childishness, their unreality, their folly, their conflict with sound
knowledge. Allowing that prayer may be reasonable, these prayers are
unreasonable; allowing that prayer may be reverent, these prayers are
irreverent; allowing that prayer may be sincere, these prayers are
insincere. They are fragments of an earlier age transplanted into the
present, and they are as ludicrous as would be men walking about in
our streets to-day clad in the armour of the Middle Ages, the ages of
Darkness and of Prayer.



EVENING PRAYER.

The Church, in her wisdom, fearing that the quaint conceits and
impossibilities which we have referred to, the--

     "Jewels which adorn the spouse of the eternal glorious King,"

should not be sufficiently appreciated and admired by her children, if
presented to their adoration once only on every day, has appointed for
the use of the faithful an office of Evening Prayer, which, in its main
features, is identical with that which is to be "said or sung" each
morning. Sentences, address, confession, absolution, Lord's Prayer, and
versicles, are all exactly reproduced, and Psalms and Lessons follow
in due course, varying from day to day. To take the whole Psalter, and
analyse it, would be a task too-long for our own patience, or for that
of our readers, so we only pick out a few salient absurdities, and ask
why English men and women should be found singing sentences which have
no beauty to recommend them, and no meaning to dignify them. We will not
lay stress on the quaintness of a congregation standing up and gravely
singing: "Or ever your pots be made hot with thorns, so let indignation
vex him, even as a thing that is raw" (Ps. lviii.); we will not ask what
the clergyman means when he reads out to his congregation: "Though ye
have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove." (Ps.
lxviii.) These are isolated passages, which a pen might erase, retaining
the major part of the Psalter: we go further, and challenge it as a
whole, asserting that it is ludicrously inappropriate as a song-book for
sensible people, even although those people may be desirous of praying
to, or praising God. Our strictures are here levelled, not at prayer as
prayer, but simply at this particular form of prayer. In the first place
the Psalter is written only for a single nation; it is full of local
allusions, and of references of Israelitish history, which are only
reasonable in the mouth of a Jew. With what amount of sense can an
English congregation every 15th evening of the month sing such a Psalm
as the lxxviii., recounting all the marvels of the plagues and of the
exodus, or on the following day plead with God to help them, because
"the heathen are come into Thine inheritance; Thy holy temple have they
defiled, and made Jerusalem an heap of stones?" (Ps. lxxix.) Is there
any respect to God in telling him that "we are become an open shame to
our enemies; a very scorn and derision unto them that are round about
us" (v. 4), when, as a matter of simple fact, the speakers are become
nothing of the kind? Can it be thought to be consistent with reverence
to God to make these extraordinary assertions in praying to Him, and
then to base upon them the most urgent pleas for His immediate aid? for
we find the congregation proceeding: "Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of Thy Name; O deliver us and be merciful unto our sins
for Thy Name's sake.... O let the vengeance of Thy servant's blood
which is shed be openly shewed upon the heathen in our sight. O let the
sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before Thee; according to the
greatness of Thy power, preserve Thou those that are appointed to die"
(w. 9, 10, 11). Now in all sober seriousness what does this mean? Is
this addressed to God, or is it not? If it be, is it right and fit to
address to him words that are absolutely untrue, and to cry urgently for
aid which is not required, and which He cannot possibly give? If it be
not, is it decent to solemnly sing or read phrases seemingly addressed
to God, but really not intended to be noticed by him, phrases which use
His name as though an appeal to Him were seriously made? It cannot be
healthy to juggle thus with words, and to make emotional prayers which
are utterly devoid of all meaning. Some devout persons talk very freely
about the wickedness of blasphemy, but is not that kind of game with
God, in wailings which are devoid of reality, appeals not intended to be
answered, a far more real blasphemy in the mouth of any one who believes
in Him as a hearer of prayer, than the so-called blasphemy of those who
distinctly assert that to them the popular and traditional "God" is
a phantom, and that they see no reason to believe in His existence?
Passing from this graver aspect of the use of the Psalter as a
congregational song-book, we notice how purely comic many of the psalms
would appear to us had not the habit-fashion of our lives accustomed us
to repeat them in a parrot-like manner, without attaching the smallest
meaning to the words so glibly recited. "Every night wash I my bed and
water my couch with my tears" (Ps. vi.), is sung innocently by laughing
maiden and merry youth, the bright current of whose life is undimmed by
the shadow of grief. "Bring unto the Lord, O ye mighty, bring young
rams unto the Lord" (Ps. xxix.), is solemnly read out by the country
clergyman, who would be beyond measure astonished if his direction were
complied with. Then we find the congregation making the certainly untrue
assertion: "Moab is my wash-pot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe;
Philistia, be thou glad of me" (Ps. lx.). At another time they cry out,
"O, clap your hands together, all ye people" (Ps. xlvii.); they speak
of processions which have no existence, "The singers go before, the
minstrels follow after, in the midst are the damsels playing on the
timbrels" (Ps. lxviii.). Another phase of this Psalter, which is
offensive rather than comic, is the habit of swearing and cursing which
pervades it; we find Christians, who are bidden to love their enemies,
and to bless them that curse them, pouring out curses of the most
fearful character, and displaying the most reckless hatred: "The
righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance; he shall wash his
footsteps in the blood of the ungodly" (Ps. lviii.). "Let them fall from
one wickedness into another, and not come into Thy righteousness" (Ps.
lxix.). A nice prayer, truly, for one man to pray for his brother man,
to a holy God who is supposed to desire righteousness in man. Then there
is that fearful imprecation in Psalm cix., too long to quote, where the
vindictive and cruel anger not only curses the offender himself, but
passes on to his children: "Let there be no man to pity him, nor to
have compassion upon his fatherless children." Of course, people do not
really mean any of these terrible things which they repeat day after
day; humanity is too noble to wish to draw down such curses from heaven;
the people have outgrown the bad spirit of that cruel age when the
Psalter was written, and their hearts have grown more loving; but surely
it is not well that men and women should stand on a lower level in their
prayers than in their lives; surely the moments, which ought to be the
noblest, should not be passed in using language which the speakers would
be ashamed of in their daily lives; surely the worship of the Ideal
should not be degraded below the practice of the Real, or the notion
of God be less lofty than the life of man. By making their worship an
unreality, by being less than true in their religious feelings, by
using words they do not mean, and by pretending emotions they do not
experience, people become trained into insincerity, and lose that rare
and beautiful virtue of instinctive and thorough honesty. When the
prayer does not echo the yearning of the heart, then the habit grows
of not making the word really the representative of the thought, of not
making the feeling the measure of the expression. Much of the cant
of the day, much of the social insincerity, much of the prevalent
unreality, may be laid at the door of this crime of the Churches, of
making men speak words which are meaningless to the speaker, and of
teaching them to be untrue in the moments which should be the truest
and the purest. At another time, we might impeach prayer as a whole; we
might argue against it, either as opposed to the unchangeableness and
the wisdom of God, if a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God be
believed in, or as utterly futile, and proved worthless by experience.
But here we only plead for sincerity in prayer, wherever prayer is
practised; we only urge that at least the prayer shall be sincere, and
that the lips shall obey the heart.

Exactly the same objection applies to the "Canticles," which, in modern
lips, are absolutely devoid of sense. What meaning has the "song of the
blessed Virgin Mary" from an ordinary English congregation; why should
English people talk about God promising His mercy "to our forefathers,
Abraham, and his seed for ever," when Abraham is not their forefather
at all? Why should they ask God to let them "depart in peace," when
they have not the smallest desire to depart at all, and why should they
assert to Him that they "have seen Thy salvation," when they have seen
nothing of the kind? For the perpetually recurring _Gloria_, one cannot
help wondering what it means; when was "the beginning," and is the "it"
which was at that period, the "glory" which is wished to the Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost; further, what is the good of wishing glory to
Him--or to Them--if He--or They--have always had, and always will
have it? When we have heard a congregation reciting the Creed, we have
sometimes wondered what meaning they attached to it. "The maker of
heaven and earth." Do people ever try to carry the mind back to the time
before this "making," and realise the period when nothing existed? Is it
possible to imagine things coming into existence, "something" emerging
from where before "nothing" was? And then Jesus, the only Son, conceived
by the Holy Ghost, who proceeds from Himself, and son, therefore, not of
"the Father," but of that spirit which only exists in and through "the
Father and the Son." Again, how can a "spirit" conceive a material body?
If the whole affair be miraculous, why try to compromise matters with
nature, by making this kind of pseudo-father? Surely it would be simpler
to leave it a complete miracle, and let the Virgin remain the solitary
parent. Except for making the story match better with the elder Greek
mythology, there is no need to introduce a godparent in the affair; a
child without a father is no more remarkable than a mother who remains
a virgin. This attempt at reasonableness only makes the whole more
outrageously unnatural, and provokes criticism which would be better
avoided. A God, who suffered, was crucified, dead, buried, who rose and
ascended, is a complete enigma to us. Could He, the impassive, suffer?
could He, the intangible, be crucified? could He, the immortal, die?
could He, the omnipresent, be buried in one spot of earth, rise from it,
and ascend to some place where he was not the moment before? What kind
of God is this who is to "come again" to a place where He is not now?
If the answer be, that all this refers to the manhood of Jesus, then we
inquire, "Is Christ divided?" if He be one God with the Father, then all
He did was done by the Father as much as by Himself; if He did it only
as man, then God did not come from heaven to save men; then this is
not a divine sacrifice at all; then, a simple man cannot have made an
atonement for the sin of the world. And where is "the right hand" of
Almighty God? Is Jesus sitting at the right hand of a pure spirit, who
has neither body nor parts? and, since He is one with God, is He sitting
at his own right hand? Such questions as these are called blasphemous;
but we fling back the charge of blasphemy on those who try to compel us
to recite a creed so absurd. We decline to repeat words which convey to
us no meaning, and not ours the fault, if any inquiry into the meaning
produce dilemmas so inconvenient to the orthodox. We are also required
to believe in "the" Holy Catholic Church, but we know of no such body.
Catholic means universal, and there is no universal Church: to believe
in that which does not exist would, indeed, be faith without sight.
There is the Orthodox Church, but that is anathematised by the Roman;
there is the Roman Church, but that is the "scarlet whore of Babylon" in
the eyes of the Protestant; there are the Protestant sects, but they
are many and not one, a multiformity in disunity. We are asked to
acknowledge a "Communion of Saints," and we see those who severally call
themselves saints excommunicating each the other; in a "forgiveness of
sins," but Nature tells us of no forgiveness, and we find suffering
invariably following on the disregard of law; in a "resurrection of the
body," but we know that the body decays, that its gases and its juices
are transmuted in the alembic of Nature into new modes of existence;
in a "life everlasting," when the dark veil of ignorance envelopes the
"Beyond the tomb." Only the thoughtless can repeat the creed; only the
ignorant cannot see the impossibilities it professes to believe.

The two Collects, which are different in the evening prayer to those
used in the morning office, call for no special remark, save that
they--in common with all prayers--make no practical difference in human
life. The devout Christian is no more defended from "all perils and
dangers of this night," than is the most careless atheist; wisely, also,
does the Christian, having prayed his prayer, walk carefully round his
house, and examine the bolts and bars, mindful that these commonplace
defences are more likely to be efficacious against burglars than the
protecting arm of the Most High.

The remainder of the service is the same as that used in the morning,
so calls for no further remark. If only people would take the trouble
of _thinking_ about their religion; if only they could be led, or even
provoked, into trying to realise that which they say they believe, then
the foundations of the popular religion would rapidly be undermined, and
the banner of Freethought would soon float proudly over the crumbling
ruins of that which was once a Church.



THE LITANY.

The Litany has a fault which runs throughout the Prayer-Book, that "vain
repetition" which, according to the Gospel, was denounced by Jesus of
Nazareth; the refrain of "Good Lord, deliver us," and "We beseech
Thee to hear us, good Lord," recurs with wearisome reiteration, and is
repeated monotonously by the congregation, few of whom, probably, would
know from what they were requesting deliverance, if the clergyman were
to stop and ask so unexpected a question. Gods the Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost are severally besought to have mercy upon the miserable sinners
praying to them, and then the Trinity as a whole is asked to do the
same. How far this separation is consistent with the unity of the
Godhead, and whether in praying to the Son we do, or do not, implicitly
pray to the Father, and _vice versa_, those only can tell us who
understand the "mystery of the Holy Trinity." This preamble over, the
remainder of the Litany is addressed to "God the Son," who is the "Good
Lord" invoked throughout, in spite of His reproof to the young man who
knelt to Him, calling Him "Good Master;" "why callest thou Me good?"
Various dogmas are alluded to in the succeeding verses in which few
educated people now retain any belief. How many really care to be
delivered "from the crafts and assaults of the devil," or believe in the
existence of the devil at all? He is one of those phantoms that can only
be found in the darkness, and which fade away when the sun arises.
How many believe in the "everlasting damnation," of the same verse,
or really consider themselves in the smallest danger of it? No one who
believed in hell could pray to be delivered from it in careless accents,
for the smallest chance of that awful doom would force a wail of terror
from the lightest-hearted of the listeners. Is it consistent to ask
Christ to deliver us from His wrath? if He loved men so much as to die
for them, it seems as though a great change must have come over His mind
since He ascended into heaven, if He really requires to be pressed so
urgently not to "take vengeance," and to spare us and deliver us from
His wrath. Which is right, the wrath or the love? for they are not
compatible; and does God really like to see people crouching before Him
in this fashion, praising His mercy while they tremble lest He should
"break out" upon them? If we were inclined to be hypercritical we might
suggest that the prayer to be delivered from "all uncharitableness"
gives a melancholy proof of the inadequacy of prayer; the answer to it
may be read weekly in the _Church Times_ and the _Rock_ more especially
in the clerical contributions. The other petitions are also curiously
ineffectual: "from all false doctrine, heresy, and schism," is so
manifestly accepted at the Throne of Grace in these rationalising days.
Jesus is then abjured to deliver His petitioners by the memory of His
days upon earth, and we get the ancient idea of an incarnate God, so
common to all eastern religions, and the curious picture of a God who
is born, circumcised, baptised, fasts, is tempted, suffers, dies, is
buried, rises, ascends. How God can do all this remains a mystery, but
these suffering, and then conquering gods are familiar to all readers
of mythologies; we learn further, that God the Holy Ghost can come to a
place where He was not previously, although He is the infinite God, and
is therefore omnipresent. Verily, it needs that our faith be great.
Being delivered sufficiently, the congregation proceed to a number of
additional petitions, the first of which is, unfortunately, as great
a failure as the preceding ones, for it prays that the Church may be
guided "in the right way;" and having regard to the multiplicity of
Churches, each one of which goes doggedly in her own particular way, it
is manifest that they can't all be right, as they are all different.
Then follow prayers for the Royal Family and the Government, and a
general request to "bless and keep all Thy people;" a request which is
systematically disregarded. In these days of "bloated armaments" it
is at least pleasant to dream in church of there being given "to all
nations, unity, peace, and concord." The "pure affection" with which
God's Word is received is also perfectly imaginary; those who do not
believe it criticise and cavil; those who do believe it go to sleep
over it. The last part of these verses seems designed simply to pray for
everybody all round, and this being satisfactorily accomplished, we come
across another trace of an ancient creed: "Lamb of God, that takest away
the sins of the world;" this is a fragment of sun-worship, alluding to
the sun-god, when, entering the sign of the Lamb, he bears away all the
coldness and the darkness of the winter months, and gives life to the
world. The remainder of the Litany is of the same painfully servile
character as the earlier portions; God seems to be regarded as a fierce
tyrant, longing to wreak His fury on mankind, and only withheld by
incessant entreaties. All possible evils seem to be showering down on
the congregation, and, if one closed one's eyes, one could imagine
a sad-faced, care-worn, haggard group of Covenanters, or Huguenots,
instead of the fashionable crowd that fills the pews; and when one hears
them ask that they may be "hurt by no persecutions," one is inclined
to mutter grimly: "You are all safe, mother Church, and you are the
persecutor, not the persecuted." The service concludes with the same
unreal cant about afflictions and infirmities, till one could wish
almost to hear something of the style of observation made by an angry
nurse to a tiresome child: "If you don't stop crying this minute, I will
give you something to cry for." If men would only be as real inside the
church as they are outside; if they would think and mean what they say,
this pitiful burlesque would speedily be put an end to, and they would
no longer offer up that sacrifice of lying lips, which are said to be
"an abomination to the Lord."



PRAYERS AND THANKSGIVINGS UPON SEVERAL OCCASIONS.

These special prayers are, perhaps, on the whole, the most childish of
all the childish prayers in the Church-book before us. A prayer "for
rain;" a prayer "for fair weather:" it is almost too late to argue
seriously against prayers like these, except that uneducated people do
still believe that God regulates the weather, day by day, and may be
influenced in His arrangements by the prayer of some weather-critic
below. Yet it is a literal fact that storm-signals fly before the
approaching storm, and prepare people for its coming, so that when it
sweeps across our seas the vessels are safely in port, which otherwise
would have sunk beneath its fury; meteorology is progressing day by day,
and is becoming more and more perfect, but this science--as all other
science--would be impossible if God could be influenced by prayer; a
storm-signal would be needless if prayer could stay the storm, and would
be unreliable if a prayer could suddenly, in mid-ocean, check the course
of the tempest. Science is only possible when it is admitted that "God
works by laws," _i.e._, that His working at all need not be taken into
account. The laws of weather are as unchangeable as all other natural
laws, for laws are nothing more than the ascertained sequence of
events; not until that sequence has been found by long observation to
be invariable, does the sequence receive the title of "a law." As the
weather of to-day is the result of the weather of countless yesterdays,
the only way in which prayers for change can be effectual is that God
should change the whole weather of the past, and so let fresh causes
bring about fresh results; but this seems a rather large prayer, to
say the least of it, and might, by the carnal mind, be considered as
somewhat presumptuous. In the prayers "in the time of dearth and famine"
we find the old barbarous notion that men's moral sins are punished by
physical "visitations of God," and that God's blessing will give plenty
in the place of death: if men work hard they will get more than if they
pray hard, and even long ago in Eden God could not make his plants grow,
because "there was not a man to till the ground;" at least, so says the
Bible. The prayer "in the time of war," is strikingly beautiful, begging
the All-Father to abate the pride, assuage the malice, and confound the
devices of some of His children for the advantage of the others. The
"most religious and gracious" Sovereign recommended to the care of
God has been known to be such a king as George IV., but yet clergy
and people went on day after day speaking of him thus to a God who
"searcheth the hearts." A quaint old Prayer-Book remarks upon this
prayer for the High Court of Parliament, that the "right disposing of
the hearts of legislators proceeds from God," and that "both disbelief
and ignorance must have made fearful progress where this principle
is not recognised." In these latter days we fear that disbelief and
ignorance of this kind _have_ made very considerable progress. The
Thanksgivings run side by side with the prayers in subjects, and are
therefore open to the same criticisms. None of these prayers or praises
can be defended by reason or by argument; reason shows us their utter
folly, and their complete uselessness. Is it wise to persist in forcing
into people's lips words which have lost all their meaning, and which
the people, if they trouble themselves to think about them at all, at
once recognise as false? All danger in progress lies in the obstinate
maintenance of things which have outlived their age; just as a stream
which flows peacefully on, spreading plenty and fertility in its
course, and growing naturally wider and fuller, will--if dammed up too
much--burst at length through the dam, and rush forward as a torrent,
bearing destruction and ruin in its course; so will gradual and gentle
reform in ancient habits change all that needs changing, without abrupt
alterations, letting the stream of thought grow wider and fuller; but
if all Reform be delayed, if all change be forbidden, if the dam of
prejudice, of custom, of habit, bar the stream too long, then thought
hurls it down with the crash of revolution, and many a thing is lost
in the swirling torrent which might have remained long, and might have
beautified human life. Few things call more loudly for Reform than our
hitherto loudly-boasted Reformation.



THE COMMUNION SERVICE.

NO doctrine, perhaps, has done so much to cause disunion in the Church
as the doctrine of Communion enshrined in the Lord's Supper. A feast of
love in idea, it has been pre-eminently a feast of hate in reality,
and the fiercest contests have been waged over this "last legacy of
the Redeemer." Down to the time of the Reformation it was the central
service of the Church universal, Eastern and Western alike: it was the
Liturgy, distinguished from every-other office by this distinctive name.
Round this rite revolved the whole of the other services, as week-days
around the Lord's Day; on its due performance was lavished everything of
beauty and of splendour that wealth could bring; sweetest incense, most
harmonious music, richest vestments, rarely jewelled vessels, pomp of
procession, stateliness of ceremony, all brought their glory and their
beauty to render magnificent the reception of the present God. Among the
Reformed Churches the festival was shorn of its grandeur; it became once
more the simple "supper of the Lord," no memorial sacrifice, but only a
commemorative rite; no coming of the Lord to men, but only a sign of
the union through faith of the believer with the Saviour. At the present
time the old contest rages, even within the bosom of the Reformed
Church of England; one party still clings to the elder belief of a
real presence of Christ in the elements themselves, or in indissoluble
connection with them, and, therefore, celebrates the service with much
of the ancient pomp; while the other furiously rejects this so-called
idolatry, and makes the service as bare and as simple as possible.
Both parties can claim parts of the Communion Office as upholding
their special views, for the English service has passed through much of
tinkering from High and Low, and retains the marks of the alterations
that have been made by each.

To those outside the Church this office has particular attraction, as
being, in a special manner, a link between the past and the present, and
being full of traces of the ancient religion of the world, that catholic
sun-worship of which Christianity is a modernised revival. From the
Nicene Creed, in which Jesus is described as "God of God, Light of
Light, very God of very God, Begotten not made, Being of one substance
with the Father, By whom all things were made"--from this point we
breathe the full atmosphere of the elder world, and find ourselves
engaged in the worship of that Light of Light, who, being the image of
the invisible God, the first-born of every creature, has for ages and
ages been adored as incarnate in Mithra, in Christna, in Osiris, in
Christ. We give thanks for "the redemption of the world by the death and
passion of 'the Sun-Saviour, who suffered on the Cross for us,' who lay
in darkness and in the shadow of death;" we praise Him who fills heaven
and earth with His glory, and who rose as "the Paschal Lamb," and has
"taken away the sin of the world," bearing away in the sign of the Lamb
the darkness and dreariness of the winter; we remember the Holy Ghost,
the fresh spring wind, who, "as it had been a mighty wind," came to
bring us "out of darkness" into "the clear light" of the sun; then we
see the priest, with his face turned to the sun-rising, take the bread
and wine, the symbols of the God, and bless them for the food of men,
these symbols being changed into the very substance of the deity, for
are they not, in very truth, of him alone? "How naturally does the
eternal work of the sun, daily renewed, express itself in such lines as

     'Into bread his heat is turned,
     Into generous wine his light.'

And imagining the sun as a person, the change to 'flesh' and 'blood'
becomes inevitable; while the fact that the solar forces are actually
changed into food, without forfeiting their solar character, finds
expression in the doctrines of transubstantiation and the real
presence." ("Keys of the Creeds," page 91.) After this union with the
Deity, by partaking of his very self, we praise once more the "Lamb of
God that takest away the sins of the world," and is "most high in the
glory of God the Father." The resemblance is made the nearer in the
churches where much of ceremony is found (although noticeable in all,
since that resemblance is stereotyped in the formulas themselves; but in
the more elaborate performances the old rites are more clearly apparent)
in the tonsured head of the priest, in the suns often embroidered on
vestment and on altar-cloth, in the rays that surround the sacred
monogram on the vessels, in the cross imprinted on the bread, and
marking each utensil, in the lighted candles, in the grape-vine
chiselled on the chalice--in all these, and in many another symbol, we
read the whole story of the Sun-god, written in hieroglyphics as easily
decipherable by the initiated as is the testimony of the rocks by the
geologian.

But passing by this antiquarian side of the Office, we will examine it
as a service suitable for the use of educated and thoughtful people at
the present time. The Rubric which precedes the Office is one of those
unfortunate rules which are obsolete as regards their practice, and yet
which--from their preservation--appear to simple-minded parsons to be
intended to be enforced, whereby the said parsons fall into the clutches
of the law, and suffer grievously. "An open and notorious evil-liver"
must not be permitted to come to the Lord's Table, and this expression
seems to be explained in the Exhortation in the Office, wherein we read:
"if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slanderer of His
word, an adulterer, or be in malice, or envy, or in any other grievous
crime, repent you of your sins, or else come not to that holy Table;
lest, after the taking of that holy Sacrament, the devil enter into
you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and
bring you to destruction both of: body and soul." In a late case,
the Sacrament was refused to one who disbelieved in the devil and who
slandered God's word, on those very grounds, and it would seem to be an
act of Christian charity so to deny it; for surely to say that part of
God's word is "contrary to religion and decency" must be to slander it,
if words have any meaning, and people who do not believe in the devil
ought hardly to be sharers in a rite after which the devil will
enter into them with such melancholy consequences. It would seem more
consistent either to alter the formulas or else to carry them out;
true, one clergyman wrote that the responsibility lay with the unworthy
recipient who "did nothing else but increase" his "damnation," but it
is scarcely a pleasing notion that the clergyman should stand inviting
people to the Lord's table and, coolly handing to one of those who
accept, the body of Christ, say, "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ
preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life," when he means--in the
delicate language used by the above-mentioned clergyman--"The Body of
our Lord Jesus Christ damn thy body and soul unto everlasting death."
No one but a clergyman could dream of so offensive a proceeding, and, to
those who believe, one so terribly awful.

The Ten Commandments which stand in the fore-front of the service are
very much out of place as regards some of them, to say nothing of the
want of truthfulness in the assertion, that "God spake these words," &c.
In the second we are forbidden to make any graven image, or any likeness
of any thing, a command which would destroy all art, and which no member
of the congregation can have the smallest notion of obeying. The Jews,
who made the cherubim over the ark, upon which God sat, are popularly
supposed not to have disobeyed this command, because the cherubim were
not the likeness of anything in heaven, earth, or water: they were,
like unicorns, creatures undiscovered and undiscoverable. Yet in direct
opposition to this command, Solomon made brazen oxen to support his sea
of brass (1 Kings vii. 25,29) and lions on the steps of his ivory throne
(Kings x. 19,20) and God himself, said to have ordered Moses to make a
brazen Serpent. God is described, in this same commandment as a "jealous
God"--which is decidedly immoral and unpleasant who visits "the sins of
the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of
them that hate me;" the justice of this is so obvious that no comment on
it is necessary. The fourth Commandment is another which no one dreams
of attending to; in the first place, we do not keep the seventh day at
all, and in the second, our man-servant, our maid-servant and our cattle
do all manner of work on the day we keep as the Sabbath. Further, who
in the present day believes that "in six days the Lord made heaven and
earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day;"
geology, astronomy ethnology have taught us otherwise, and, among those
who repeat the response to this commandment in a London church, not
one could probably be found who believes it to be true. The fifth
Commandment is equally out of place, for dutiful children do not live
any longer than undutiful. The remainder touch simple moral duties,
enforced by all creeds alike, and are noticeable for their omissions
and not for their commissions: the insertion of the Buddhist Commandment
against intoxication, for instance, would be an improvement, although
such a commandment is naturally not to be found in the case of so gross
and sensual a people as the ancient Jews. The alternative prayers for
the Queen, which follow next, are only worth noting, because the first
enshrines the doctrine of divine right, which is long since dead and
buried, except in church; and the other says "that the hearts of Kings
are in thy rule and governance," and suggests the thought that, if
this be so, it is better to be out of that "rule and governance," the
effects on the hearts of Kings not having been specially attractive.
The Nicene Creed comes next, and is open to-the objections before made
against the Apostles' Creed; the last clauses relating to the Holy
Ghost are historically interesting, since the "and the Son" forms the
_Filioque_ which severed Eastern from Western Christendom;*

     * A short but very graphic account of the shameful
     transaction by which the Filioque clause was, so to speak,
     smuggled into the Nicene Creed, is to be found in the first
     ten or twelve pages of the shilling pamphlet written by
     Edmond S. Fouldes, B.D., entitled "The Church's Creed, or
     the Crown's Creed".... clearly provides, too, that the
     Church of Rome once held that the Holy Ghost only proceeded
     from the Father, as the Dominus in it can only refer to the
     Father.

"Who with the Father and the Son together" ought to be "worshipped and
glorified," would be more true to fact than "is," since the Holy Ghost
is sadly ignored by modern Christendom, and has a very small share of
either prayers or hymns: yet he is the husband of the virgin Mary, and
the Father of Jesus Christ; he is, therefore, a very important, though
puzzling, person in the Godhead, being the Father of him from whom
he himself proceeds: this is a mystery, and can only be understood
by faith. The texts that follow are remarkable for their ingenious
selection: "Who goeth a warfare," &c. (Cor. ix. 7); "If we have
sown,"&c. (I cor. ix. 9); "Do ye know," &c. (I Cor. ix. 13); "He that
soweth little," &c, (2 Cor. ix. 6); "Let him that is taught," (Gal. vi.
6). the pervading selfishness of motive is also worth nothing: Give now
in order that ye may get hereafter; "Never turn thy face from any
poor man, _and then the face of the Lord shall not be turned away from
thee_;" "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord: _and
look, what he layeth out, it shall be paid him again_;" "If thou hast
much, give plenteously; if thou hast little, do thy diligence gladly to
give of that little; _for so gathered thou thyself a good reward in the
day of necessity_."* No free, glad giving here; no willing, joyful aid
to a poorer brother, because he needs what I can give; no ready offer of
the cup of cold water, simply because the thirsty is there and wants the
refreshment; ever the hateful whisper comes: "thou shalt in no wise lose
thy reward." These time-serving offerings are then presented to God by
being placed "upon the Holy Table," and we then get another prayer for
Queen, Christian Kings, authorities, Bishops, and people in general,
concluding with thanks for the dead, not a cheerful subject to bless God
for, if there chance to be present any mourner whose heart is sore with
the loss of a beloved one. At this point the service is supposed to end,
when no celebration of the Holy Communion is intended, and here we find
two Exhortations, or notices of celebration, from the first of which
we have already quoted:** in the second, we cannot help remarking the
undignified position in which God is placed; it is a "grievous and
unkind thing" not to come to a rich feast when invited thereto,
wherefore we are to fear lest by withdrawing ourselves from this holy
Supper, we "provoke God's indignation against" us. "Consider with
yourselves how great injury ye do unto God:" what a very curious
expression. Is God thus at the mercy of man? Surely, then, of all living
Beings the lot of God must be the saddest, if his happiness and his
glory are in the hands of each man and woman; the greater his knowledge
the greater the misery, and as his knowledge is perfect, and the vast
majority of human kind know and care nothing about him, his wretchedness
must be complete.

     * As if the clergy, with very few exceptions, are not
     sufficiently provided for by the tithes, &c, without having
     to go a-begging like either Buddhist or Roman Catholic
     monks, to both of whom P.P. and P.M. are not inappropriately
     applied (Professors of Poverty and Practisers of
     Mendicancy).

     ** It is, however, only just to say that that portion of it
     contained between "The Way and Means thereto," and "Offences
     at God's Hands," is one of the best bits in the whole
     Prayer-Book, and which far surpasses the generality of
     sermons one hears afterwards.

All things being ready, the clergyman begins by another Exhortation, of
somewhat threatening character: "So is the danger great if we receive
the same unworthily. For then we are guilty of the Body and Blood of
Christ our Saviour; we eat and drink our own damnation, not considering
the Lord's Body; we kindle God's wrath against us; we provoke him to
plague us with divers diseases, and sundry kinds of death." (Surely we
cannot be plagued with more than one kind of death at once, and we can't
die sundry times, even after the Communion.) One almost wonders why
anyone accepts this very threatening invitation, even though there are
advantages promised to "meet partakers." The High Church party have
indeed the right to talk much of the real presence, since ordinary bread
and wine have none of these fearful penalties attached to the eating and
drinking, and some curious change must have taken place in them before
all these terrible consequences can ensue. What would happen if some
consecrated bread and wine chanced to be left by mistake, and a stray
comer into the vestry eat it unknowingly? One thinks of Anne Askew, who,
told that a mouse eating a crumb fallen from the Host would infallibly
be damned, replied, "Alack, poor mouse!" Then follows a Confession of
the most cringing kind, fit only for the lips of some coward suppliant
crouching at the feet of an Eastern monarch; it is marvellous that free
English men and women can frame their lips into phrases of such utter
abasement, even to a God; manliness in religion: is sorely-needed,
unless, indeed, God be something smaller than man, and be pleased with
the degradation painful to human eyes. The prayer of consecration is the
central point of the ordinance; of old they prayed for the descent of
the Holy Ghost on the elements, "for whatsoever the Holy-Ghost toucheth
is sanctified and clean"--it is not explained how the Holy Ghost, being
omnipresent, manages to avoid touching everything--and now the priest
asks that in receiving the bread and wine we "may be partakers of"
Christ's Body and Blood, and repeats the words, "This is my Body," "This
is my Blood," laying his hand alternately-over the bread and the wine:
now if this means anything, if it is not mere mockery, it means that
after the consecration the bread and wine are other than they were
before; if it does not mean this, the whole prayer is simply a farce, a
piece of acting scarcely decent under the circumstances. But flesh
and blood! Putting aside the extreme repulsiveness of the idea, the
coarseness of the act, the utter unpleasantness of eating flesh and
drinking blood, all of which has become non-disgusting by habit and
fashion, and the distastefulness of which can scarcely be realised by
any believer--putting aside all this, is there any change in the bread
and wine? Examine it; analyse it; test it in any and every fashion;
still it answers back to the questioner, "bread and wine." Are our
senses deceived? Then try a hundred different persons; all cannot be
deceived alike. Unless every result of experience is untrustworthy, we
have here to do with bread and wine, and with nothing more. "But faith
is needed." Ah yes! There is the secret: no flesh and blood without
faith; no miracle without credulity. Miracle-working priests are only
successful among credulously-disposed people; miracles can only be
received by those who think it less likely that Nature should speak
falsely than that man should deceive; those who believe in this change
through consecration cannot be touched by argument; they have closed
their eyes that they may not see, their ears that they may not hear;
no knowledge can reach them, for they have shut the gateways whereby
it could enter, they are literally dead in their superstition, buried
beneath the stone of their faith. The reception of the Body and Blood of
Christ being over, the people having knelt to eat and drink, as is only
right when eating and drinking Christ (John vi. 57), the Lord's Prayer
is said for the second time, a prayer and thanksgiving follows, confined
to "we and all thy whole Church," for the spirit is the same as that of
the prayer of Christ, "I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou
hast given me" (John xvii. 9), and then the service winds up with the
_Gloria in Excelsis_ and the Benediction. Such is the "bounden duty and
service" offered by the Church to God, the service of which the central
act must be either a farce or a falsehood, and therefore insulting to
the God to whom it is offered. Regarded as a service to God, the whole
Communion Office is objectionable in the highest degree; regarded as
an antiquarian survival, it is very interesting and instructive; it is
surely time that it should be put in its right place, and that its true
origin should be recognised. The day is gone by for these barbarous,
though poetic, ceremonials; the "flesh and blood," which was a bold
figure for the heat and light of the sun, becomes coarse when joined in
thought to a human being; ceremonies that fitted the childhood of the
world are out of place in its manhood, as the play that is graceful
in the child would be despicable in the man; these rites are the
baby-clothes of the world, and cannot be stretched to fit the stalwart
limbs of its maturer age, cannot add grace to its form, or dignity to
its graver walk.



THE BAPTISMAL OFFICES.

For all purposes of criticism the Offices for "Public Baptism of
Infants, to be used in the Church," for "Private Baptism of Children in
houses," and "Baptism to such as are of riper years, and able to answer
for themselves," may be treated as one and the same, the leading idea
of each service being identical; this idea is put forward clearly and
distinctly in the preface to the Office: "Dearly beloved, forasmuch
as all men are conceived and born in sin; and that our Saviour Christ
saith, None can enter into the kingdom of God, except he be regenerate
and born anew of water and of the Holy Ghost; I beseech you to call upon
God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous
mercy he will grant to this Child that thing which by nature he cannot
have." According to the doctrine of the Church, then, baptism is
absolutely necessary to salvation: "_None can enter_... except he be...
born anew of water;" thus peals out the doom of condemnation on the
whole human race, save that fragment of it which is sprinkled from the
Christian font; there is no evasion possible here; no exception made
in favour of heathen peoples; no mercy allowed to those who have no
opportunity of baptism; none can enter save through "the laver of
regeneration." Can any words be too strong whereby to denounce a
doctrine so shameful, an injustice so glaring? A child is born into the
world; it is no fault of his that he is conceived in sin; it is no fault
of his that he is born in sin; his consent was not asked before he was
ushered into the world; no offer was made to him which he could reject
of this terribly gift of a condemned life; flung is he, without his
knowledge, without his will, into a world lying under the curse of God,
a child of wrath, and heir of damnation. "By nature he _cannot_ have."
Then why should God be wrath with him because he hath not? The whole
arrangement is of God's own making. He fore-ordained the birth; he gave
the life; the helpless, unconscious infant lies there, the work of his
own hands; good or bad, he is responsible for it; heir of love or of
wrath, he has made it what it is; as wholly is it his doing as the
unconscious vessel is the doing of the potter; as reasonably may God
be angry with the child as the potter swear at the clay he has clumsily
moulded: if the vessel be bad, blame the potter; if the creature be
bad, blame the Creator. The congregation pray that God "of his bounteous
mercy," "for thine infinite mercies," will save the child, "that he,
being delivered from thy wrath," may be blessed. It is no question of
mercy we have to do with here; it is a question of simple justice, and
nothing more; if God, for his own "good pleasure," or in the pursuance
of the designs of his infinite wisdom, has placed this unfortunate child
in so terrible a position, he is bound by every tie of justice, by every
sacred claim of right, to deliver the blameless victim, and to place him
where he shall have a fair chance of well-being. "It is certain by
God's Word," says the Rubric, "that children _which are baptized_, dying
before they commit actual sin, are undoubtedly saved." And those which
are not baptized? The Holy Roman Church sends these into a cheerful
place called Limbo, and the baby-souls wander about in chill twilight,
cursed with immortality, shut out for ever from the joys of Paradise.
Many readers will remember Lowell's pathetic poem on this subject, and
the ghastly baptism; they will also know into what devious paths of
argumentative indecency that Church has wandered in deciding upon the
fate of unbaptized infants;--how, when mothers have died in childbirth,
the yet unborn children have been baptized to save them from the
terrible doom pronounced upon them by their Father in heaven, even
before they saw the light;--how it has been said that in cases where
mother and child cannot both be saved the mother should be sacrificed
that the child may not die unbaptized. Into the details of these
arguments we cannot enter; they are only fit for orthodox Christians,
in whose pages they may read them who list. Truly, the Lord is a jealous
God, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children, since unborn
children are condemned for the untimely death of their mother, and
unbaptized infants for the carelessness of their parents or nurses. Of
course, the majority of English clergymen believe nothing of this kind;
but then why do they read a service which implies it? Why do they use
words in a non-natural sense? Why do they put off their honesty when
they put on their surplices?

And why will the laity not give utterance to their thoughts on these and
all such objectionable parts of the Service? In the Office for adults,
as regards the necessity of the Sacrament, the words come in: "where it
may be had;" but the phrase reads as though it had been written in the
margin by some kindly soul, and had from thence crept into the text, for
it is in direct opposition to the whole argument of the address wherein
it occurs and to the rest of the office, as also to the other two
offices for infants. The stress laid upon right baptism, i.e., baptism
with water, accompanied by the "name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost," appears specially in the office to follow
the private baptism of a child, should the child live; for the Rubric
directs that if there be any doubt of the use of-the water and the
formula, "which are essential parts of Baptism," the priest shall
perform the baptismal ceremony, saying, "If thou art not already
baptized, I baptize thee," &c. Surely such care and pains to ensure
correct baptism speak with sufficient plainness as to the importance
attached by the Church to this initiatory rite; this importance she
gives to it in other places: none, unbaptized, must approach her altar
to take the "bread of life:" none, unbaptized, must be buried by her
ministers, "in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal
life." The baptized are within the ark of the Church; the unbaptized
are struggling in the waves of God's wrath outside; no hand can be
outstretched to save them; they are strangers, aliens, to the covenant
of promise; they are without hope. The whole office for infants reads
like a play: the clergyman asks that the infant "may receive remission
of his sins;" what sins? The people are admonished "that they defer not
the Baptism of their children longer than the first or second Sunday
next after their birth." What sins can a baby a week old have
committed? from what sins can he need release? for what sins can he
ask forgiveness? And yet, here is a whole congregation prostrate before
Almighty God, praying that a tiny long-robed baby may be forgiven, may
be pardoned his sins of--coming into the world when God sent him! The
ceremony would be ludicrous were it not so pitiful. And supposing that
the infant does need forgiveness, and has sins to be washed away, why
should a few drops of water, sprinkled on the face--or bonnet--of the
baby, or even the immersion of his body in the font, wash away the sins
of his soul? The water is "sanctified;" we pray: "Sanctify this water to
the mystical washing away of sin." As the hymn sweetly puts it:

     "The water in this font
     Is water, by gross mortals eyed;
     But, seen by faith, 'tis blood
     Out of a dear friend's side."

Blood once more! how Christians cling to the revolting imagery of a
bygone and barbarous age of gross conceptions. And, applied by faith,
it cleanses the soul of the child from sin. Well, the whole thing is
consistent: the invisible soul is washed from invisible sin by invisible
blood, and to all outward appearance the child remains after baptism
exactly what it was before--except it chance to get inflammation of
the lungs, as we have known happen, from High Church free use of water,
which is, perhaps, the promised baptism of fire. The promises of the
sponsors are in full accordance with the rest of the services; promises
made by other people, in the child's name, as to his future conduct,
over which they have no control. The baby renounces the devil and all
his belongings, believes the Apostles' Creed, and answers "that is my
desire," when asked if he will be baptized; all which "is very pretty
acting," but jars somewhat on the feeling of reality which ought surely
to characterize a believer's intercourse with his God. The child being
baptized and signed with the Cross, "is regenerate," according to the
declaration of the priest. Some contend that the Church of England does
not teach baptismal regeneration, but it is hard to see how any one can
read this service, and then deny the teaching; it is clearer and fuller
than is the teaching of her voice upon most subjects. The ceremony
of baptism and the idea of regeneration are both derived from the
sun-worship of which so many traces have already been pointed out: the
worshippers of Mithra practised baptism, and it is common to the various
phases of the solar faith. Regeneration, in some parts, especially in
India, was obtained in a different fashion: a hole through a rock, or
a narrow passage between two, was the sacred spot, and a worshipper,
squeezing himself through such an opening, was regenerated, and was, by
this literal representation of birth, born a second time, born into a
new life, and the sins of the former life were no longer accounted to
him. Many such holes are still preserved and revered in India, and there
can be little doubt that the ancient Druidic remains bear traces of
being adapted for this same ceremony, although a natural fissure appears
ever to have been accounted the most sacred.*

     * Even in this country, at Brimham Rocks, near Ripon, in
     Yorkshire, the dead form of the custom is, or was, until
     very lately, kept up by the guide sending all visitors, who
     chose to avail themselves of the privilege, through such a
     fissure.

One ought scarcely to leave unnoted the preamble to the first prayer in
the baptismal service: "Who of thy great mercy didst save Noah and his
family in the ark from perishing by water; and also didst safely lead
the children of Israel thy people through the Red Sea, figuring thereby
thy holy baptism; and by the baptism of thy well-beloved Son Jesus
Christ, in the river Jordan, didst sanctify water to the mystical
washing of sin." In the two first examples given the choice of the
Church appears to be peculiarly unfortunate, as in each case water was
the element to be escaped _from_, and it was a source of death, not
of life; perhaps, though, there is a subtle meaning in the Red Sea,
it points to the blood of Christ: but then, again, the Red Sea drowned
people, and surely the anti-type is not so dangerous as that? It must
be a mystery. It would be interesting to know how many of the educated
clergymen who read this prayer believe in the story of the Noachian
deluge, and of the miraculous passage of the Red Sea; and further,
how many of them believe that God, by these fables, figured his holy
baptism. Will the nineteenth century ever summon up energy enough to
shake off these remnants of a dead superstition, and be honest enough to
stop using a form of words which is no longer a vehicle of belief? When
the Prayer Book was compiled these words had a meaning; to-day they have
none. Shall not a second Reformation sweep away these dead beliefs,
even as the first away for its own age the phrases which represented an
earlier and coarser creed?



THE ORDER OF CONFIRMATION.

"These signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they
cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up
serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them;
they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." In those
remarkable days the "order of Confirmation" might have been in
consonance with its surroundings, a state of things which is very far
from being its present position. Mr. Spurgeon, writing for the benefit
of street preachers, lately pointed out very sensibly that as the Holy
Ghost no longer gave the gift of tongues, they had "better stick to
their grammars," and in these degenerate days honest effort is more
likely to show results more satisfactory than those which ensue from the
laying on of Bishops' hands. When the Apostles performed this ceremony,
which the Bishop now performs after their example, definite proofs
of its efficacy were said to have been seen; so much so, indeed, that
Simon, the sorcerer, wished to invest some money in heavenly securities,
so that "on whomsoever I lay hands he may receive the Holy Ghost." A
Simon would manifestly never be found nowadays ready to pay a Bishop for
the power of causing the effects of Confirmation. So far as the carnal
eye can see, the white-robed, veiled young ladies, and the shame-faced
black-coated boys, who throng the church on a Confirmation day, return
from the altar very much the same as they went up to it: no one begins
to speak with tongues; if they did, the beadle would probably interfere
and quench the Spirit with the greatest promptitude. They are supposed
to have received some special gifts: "the spirit of wisdom and
understanding; the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength; the spirit
of knowledge and true godliness;" and in addition to these six spirits,
there is one more: "the spirit of thy holy fear." No less than seven
spirits, then, enter these lads and lasses. Wisdom and understanding
are easily perceptible: are they wiser after Confirmation than they were
before? do they understand more rapidly? do they know more? if there
be no perceptible difference is the presence of the Holy Spirit of none
effect? if of none effect can his presence be of any use, of the very
smallest advantage? if of no use, why make all this parade about giving
a thing whose gift makes the recipient no richer than he was before?
Besides, what certainty can there be that the Holy Ghost is given
at all? Allowing--what seems to an outsider a gross piece of
irreverence--that the Holy Ghost is in the fingers of the Bishop to be
given away when it suits the Bishop's convenience, or is in a sort of
reservoir, of which the Bishop turns the tap and lets the stream of
grace descend--allowing all this as possible, ought not some "sign to
follow them that believe"? How can we be sure that the Bishop is not
an impostor, going through a conjuror's gestures and mutterings, and no
magic results accruing? If, in the ordinary course of daily-life, any
one came and offered us some valuable things he said that he possessed,
and then went through the form of giving them to us, saying: "Here
they are; guard and preserve them for the rest of your life;" and the
outstretched hand contained nothing at all, and we found ourselves with
nothing in our grasp, should we be content with his assurance that we
had really got them, although we might not be able to see them, and we
ought to have sufficient faith to take his word for it? Should we not
utterly refuse to believe that we had received anything unless we had
some proof of having done so, and were in some way the better or the
worse for it? The truth is that people's religion is, to them, a matter
of such small importance that they do not trouble themselves about
proof--Faith is enough to comfort them; the six week-days require their
brains, their efforts, their thought: the Sunday is the Lord's day, and
he must see toft: earth needs all their earnest attention, but heaven
must take care of itself; the validity of an earthly title is important,
and the confirmation of a right to inherit property in this world is
eagerly welcomed, but the Confirmation to a heavenly inheritance is
a mere farce, which it is the fashion to go through about the age of
fifteen, but which is only a fashion, the confirmation of a faith in
nothing in particular to an invisible heritage of nothing at all.



THE FORM OF THE SOLEMNIZATION OF MATRIMONY.

One of the most curious blunders regarding orthodox Christianity is,
that it has tended to the elevation of woman. As a matter of fact, the
Eastern ideas about women are embodied in Christianity, and these ideas
are essentially degraded and degrading. From the time when Paul bade
women obey their husbands, Augustine's mother was beaten, unresisting,
by Augustine's father, and Jerome fled from woman's charms, and monks
declaimed against the daughters of Eve, down to the present day, when
Peter's authority is used against woman suffrage, Christianity has
consistently regarded woman as a creature to be subject to man, because,
being deceived, she was first in transgression. The Church service for
matrimony is redolent of this barbarous idea, relic of a time when men
seized wives by force, or else purchased them, so that the wives became,
in literal fact, the property of their husbands. We learn that matrimony
was "instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto
us the mystical union that is between Christ and his Church." It would
be interesting to know how many of those joined by the Church believe
in the Paradise story of man's innocency and fall. It seems that Christ
has adorned the holy estate by his first miracle in Cana; but the
adornment is rather of a dubious character, when we reflect that the
probable effect of the miracle would be a scene somewhat too gay, from
the enormous quantity of wine made by Christ for men who already had
"well drunk." Christ's approval of marriage may well be considered
doubtful when we remember that a virgin was chosen as his mother, that
he himself remained unmarried, and that he distinctly places celibacy
higher than marriage in Matt. xix. 11, 12, where he urges: "he that is
able to receive it let him receive it." St. Paul also, though he allows
it to his converts, advises virginity in preference: "I say to the
unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I;" "he
that giveth her not in marriage doeth better" (see throughout 1 Cor.
vii.) The reasons given for marriage are surely misplaced; last of all,
it is said that marriage is "ordained for the mutual society, help,
and comfort that the one ought to have of the other;" this, instead of
"thirdly," ought to be "first." "As a remedy against sin and to avoid
fornication, that such persons as have not the gift of continency might
marry," is not a reason very honourable to the marriage estate, nor very
delicate to read out before a mixed congregation to a young bride and
bridegroom; so strongly objectionable is the heedless coarseness of
this preface felt to be that in many churches it is entirely omitted,
although it is retained--as are all remains of a coarser age--in the
Prayer-Book as published by authority. The promise exchanged between the
contracting parties is of far too sweeping a character, and is immoral,
because promising what may be beyond the powers of the promisers to
perform; "to love" "so long as ye both shall live," and "till death us
do part," is a pledge far too wide; love does not stay by promising, nor
is love a feeling which can be made to order. A promise to live always
together might be made, although that would be unwise in this changing
world, and the endless processes in the Divorce Court are a satire on
this so-called joined by God; "what God hath joined together" man does
continually "put asunder," and it would be wiser to adapt the service to
the altered circumstances of the times in which we live. The promise of
obedience and service on the woman's part should also be eliminated, and
the contract should be a simple promise of fidelity between two equal
friends. The declaration of the man as he places the ring on the woman's
finger is as archaic as the rest of this fossil service, and about as
true: "With all my worldly goods I thee endow," says the man, when, as a
matter of fact, he becomes possessed of all his wife's property and she
does not become possessed of his. One of the concluding prayers is a
delightful specimen of Prayer-Book science: "O God, who of thy mighty
power hast made all things of nothing." What was the general aspect
of affairs when there was "nothing?" how did something emerge where
"nothing" was before? if God filled all space, was he "nothing?" is the
existence of nothing a conceivable idea? "can people think of nothing
except when they don't think at all?" who also (after other things set
in order) didst appoint that out of man (created after thine own image
and similitude) woman should take her beginning:" "out of man," that
is out of one of man's ribs; has any one tried to picture the scene:
Almighty God, who has no body nor parts, taking one of Adam's ribs, and
closing up the flesh, and "out of the rib made he a woman." God, a pure
spirit, holding a man's rib, not in his hands, for he has none, and
"making" a woman out of it, fashioning the rib into skull, and arms,
and ribs, and legs. Can a more ludicrous position be imagined; and Adam?
What became of his internal economy? was he made originally with a rib
too much, to provide against the emergency, or did he go, for the rest
of his life, with a rib too little? And the Church of England endorses
this ridiculous old-world fable. Man was created "after thine own image
and similitude." What is the image of God? He is a spirit and has no
similitude. If man is made in his image, God must be a celestial man,
and cannot possibly be omnipresent. Besides, in Genesis i. 27, where it
is stated that "God created man in his own image," it distinctly goes
on to declare: "in the image of God created he him; _male and female_
created he them. Thus the woman is made in God's image as much as the
man, and God's image is "male and female." All students know that the
ancient ideas of God give him this double nature, and that no trinity
is complete without the addition of the female element; but the pious
compilers of the Prayer-Book did not probably intend thus to transplant
the simple old nature-worship into their marriage office. Once more we
hear of Adam and Eve in the next prayer, and we cannot help thinking
that, considering all the trouble Eve brought upon her husband by her
flirtation with the serpent, she is made rather too prominent a figure
in the marriage service. The ceremony winds up with a long exhortation,
made of quotations from the Epistles, on the duties of husbands and
wives. Husbands are to love their wives because Christ loved a church--a
reason that does not seem specially _a propos_, as husbands are not
required to die for their wives or to present to themselves glorious
wives, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing (!); nor would most
husbands desire that their wives' conversation should be coupled with
fear." Why should women be taught thus to abase themselves? They are
promised as a reward that they shall be the daughters of Sarah; but
that is no great privilege, nor are English wives likely to call their
husbands "lord;" if they did not adorn themselves with plaited hair and
pretty apparel, their husbands would be sure to grumble, and the only
defence that can be made for this absurd exhortation is that nobody ever
listens to it.

Among the various reforms needed in the Marriage Laws one imperatively
necessary is that all marriages should be made civil contracts--that
is, that the contract which is made by citizens of the State, and which
affects the interests of the State, should be entered into before a
secular State official; if after that the parties desired a religious
ceremony, they could go through any arrangements they pleased in their
own churches and chapels, but the civil contract should be compulsory
and should be the only one recognised by the law. Of course the Church
might maintain its peculiar marriage as long as it chose, but it would
probably soon pass out of fashion if it were not acknowledged as binding
by the State.



THE ORDER FOR THE VISITATION OF THE SICK.

Of all the services in the Prayer-Book this is, perhaps-, the most
striking relic of barbarism, the most completely at variance with sound
and reasonable thought. The clergyman entering into a house of sickness,
and as he enters the sick man's room and catches sight of him, kneeling
down and exclaiming, as though horror-stricken: "Remember not, Lord, our
iniquities, nor the iniquities of our forefathers; spare us, good Lord,
spare Thy people whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy most precious blood,
and be not angry with us for ever." This clergyman reminds one of
nothing so much as of one of Job's friends, who appear to have been an
even more painful infliction than Job's boils. The sickness, the patient
is told, "is God's visitation," and "for what cause soever this sickness
is sent unto you: whether it be to try your faith for the example of
others, . . . or else it be sent unto you to correct and amend in
you whatsoever doth offend the eyes of your heavenly Father; know you
certainly, that if you truly repent you of your sins, and bear your
sickness patiently, ... it shall turn to your profit, and help you
forward in the right way that leadeth unto everlasting life." One might
question the justice of Almighty God if the theory be correct that the
sickness may be sent "to try your patience for the example of others;"
why should one unfortunate victim be tormented simply that others
may have the advantage of seeing how well he bears it? If we are to
endeavour to conform ourselves to the image of God, then it would seem
that we should be doing right if we racked our neighbours occasionally
to "try their patience for the example of others." And is the idea
of God a reverent one? What should we think of an earthly father who
tortured one of his children in order to teach the others how to bear
pain? if we should condemn the earthly father as wickedly cruel, why
should the same action be righteous when done by the Father in heaven?
If we accept the second reason given for the sickness, it is difficult
to see the rationale of it. Why should illness of the body correct
illness of the mind; does pain cure fretfulness, or fever increase
truthfulness? Is not sickness likely rather to bring out and strengthen
mental faults than to weaken them? And how far is it true that sickness
is, in any sense, the visitation of God for moral delinquencies? Is
it not true, on the contrary, that a man may lie, rob, cheat, slander,
tyrannise, and yet, if he observe the laws of health, may remain in
robust vigour, while an upright, sincere, honest and truthful man,
disregarding those same laws, may be miserably feeble and suffer an
early death? Is it, or is it not, a fact, that in the Middle Ages, when
people prayed much and studied little, when the peasant went to the
shrine for a cure instead of to the doctor, when sanitary science was
unknown, and cleanliness was a virtue undreamed of,--is it, or is
it not, true, that pestilence and black death then swept off their
thousands, while these terrible scourges have been practically driven
away in modern times by proper attention to sanitary measures, by
improved drainage and greater cleanliness of living? How can that be a
visitation of God for moral transgressions, which can be prevented by
man if he attends to physical laws? Is man's power greater than God's,
and can he thus play with the thunderbolts of the divine displeasure?
The clergyman prays that "the sense of his weakness may add strength to
his faith;" what fine irony is here, as body and mind grow weak faith
grows strong; as a man is less able to think, he becomes more ready to
believe. It is impossible to pass, without a word of censure, over the
passage in the exhortation, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, which
says, "for they (fathers of our flesh) verily for a few days chastened
us after their own pleasure." Good earthly fathers do not chasten their
children for their own amusement, while God does it "for our profit;"
on the contrary, they do it for the improvement of their children,
while God alone, if there be a hell, tortures his children for his
own pleasure and for no gain to them. The succeeding portion of the
Exhortation, that, "our way to eternal joy is to suffer here with
Christ," is full of that sad asceticism which has done so much to darken
the world since the birth of Christ; men have been so engaged in looking
for the "eternal joy" that they have let pass unnoted the misery here;
they have been so busy planting flowers in heaven that they have let
weeds grow here; yes, and they have rejoiced in the misery and in
the weeds, because they were only strangers and pilgrims, and the
tribulation, which was but temporal, increased the weight of the glory
that was eternal. Thus has Christianity blighted the flowers of this
world, and entwined the brows of its followers with wreaths of thorns.
The concluding portion of the exhortation deals with the duty of
self-examination and self-accusation, that you may "not be accused and
condemned in that fearful judgment." Very wholesome teaching for a sick
man; sickness always makes a person morbid, and the Church steps in to
encourage the unwholesome feeling; sickness always makes a person
timid and unnerved, and the Church steps in to talk about a "fearful
judgment," and bewilders and stuns the confused brain by the terrible
pictures called up to the mind by the thought of the last day.

But worse follows; for after the sick person has said that he
steadfastly believes the creed, the clergyman is bidden by the rubric
to "examine whether he repent him truly of his sins, and be in
charity with all the world." Imagine a sick person being worried by an
examination of this kind, putting aside the gross impertinence of the
whole affair. Further, "the minister should not omit earnestly to move
such persons as are of ability to be liberal to the poor." When every
one remembers the terrible scandals of by-gone days, when priests drew
into the net of the Church the goods of the dying, using threat of hell
and promise of heaven to win that which should have been left for the
widow and the orphan, one marvels that such a rubric should be left
to recall the rapaciousness and the greed of the Church, and to invite
priests to grasp at the wealth slipping out of dying hands. And here the
sick person is to "be moved to make a special confession of his sins, if
he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter," and the priest
is bidden to absolve him, for Christ having "left power to his Church to
absolve by his authority committed to me," says the priest, "I absolve
thee." Confession, delegated authority, priestly absolution, such is the
doctrine of the Church of England: all the untold abominations of the
confessional are involved in this rubric and sentence; for if the man
can absolve a man at one time, he can do it at another. The precious
power should surely not be left unused and wasted; whenever sin presses,
behold the remedy, and thus we are launched and in full sail. But never
in England shall the confessional again flourish; never again shall
English women be corrupted by the foul questions of the priests; never
again shall Englishmen have their mental vigour and virility destroyed
by such degradation. Let the Church fall that countenances such an
accursed thing, and leave English purity and English courage to grow and
flourish unchecked.

The devil is in great force in this service, as is only right in a so
generally barbarous an office: "Let the enemy have no advantage of him;"
"defend him from the danger of the enemy;" "renew in him whatsoever
hath been decayed by the fraud and malice of the devil;" "the wiles of
Satan;" "deliver him from fear of the enemy;" all this must convey to
the sick person a cheerful idea of the devil lingering about his bed,
and trying to get hold of him before it is too late to drag him down to
hell.

Is there any meaning at all in the expression, "the Almighty Lord....
to whom all things in heaven, in earth and _under the earth_ do bow and
obey." Where is "under the earth "? The sun is under some part of the
earth to some people at any given time; the stars are under, or above,
according to the point of view from which they are looked at. Of course,
the expression is only a survival from a time when the earth was flat
and the bottomless pit was under it, only it seems a Pity to continued
to use expressions which have all but lost their meaning and are now
thoroughly ridiculous. People seem to think that any old things are good
enough for God's service. The last two prayers are remarkable
chiefly for their melancholy and 'craven tone towards God: "we humbly
recomment," "most humbly beseeching thee." Surely God is not supposed
to be an Eastern despot, desiring this kind of cringing at his feet.
Yet the "Prayer for persons troubled in mind or in conscience" is one
pitiful wail, as though only by passionate entreaty could God be moved
to mercy, and he were longing to strike, and with difficulty withheld
from avenging himself. When will men learn to stand upright on their
feet, instead of thus crouching on their knees? When will they learn
to strive to live nobly, and then to fear no celestial anger, either in
life or in death?



THE ORDER FOR THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD.

It is a little difficult to write a critical notice of a funeral office,
simply because people's feelings are so much bound up in it that any
criticism seems a cruelty, and any interference seems an impertinence.
Round the open grave all controversy should be hushed, that no jarring
sounds may mingle with the sobs of the mourners, and no quarrels wring
the torn hearts of the survivors. Our criticism of this office, then,
will be brief and grave.

The opening verses strike us first as manifestly inappropriate:
"Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die;" yet the dead is
then being carried to his last home, and the words seem a mockery spoken
in face of a corpse. In the Fourth Gospel they preface the raising of
Lazarus, and of course are then very significant, but to-day no power
raises our dead, no voice of Jesus says to the mourners, "Weep not." The
second verse from Job is---as is well known--an utter mistranslation:
"without my flesh" would be nearer the truth than "in my flesh," and
"worms" and body are not mentioned in the original at all. It seems a
pity that in such solemn moments known falsehoods should be used.

The whole argument in the 15th ch of Corinthians is the reverse of
convincing. Christ is not the first fruits them that slept A dead man
had been raised by touching the bones of Ehsha (2 Kings xii). Elisha,
in his lifetime had raised the dead son of the Shunamite (2 Kings iv.);
Elijah, before him, had raised the son of the Widow of Zarephath
(2 Kings xvii.); Christ had raised Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus,
and the son of a widow. In no sense, then, if the Scriptures of the
Christians be true can it be said that Christ has become the first
fruits, the first begotten from the dead. "For since by man came death;"
but death did not come by man; myriads of ages before man was in the
world animals were born, lived and died, and they have left their
fossilised remains to prove the falsity of the popular belief. We notice
also that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." If this
be so, what becomes of the "resurrection of the flesh," spoken of in
the Baptismal and Visitation Offices? What has become of the "flesh and
bones" which Christ had after his resurrection and with which, according
to the 4th Article, he has gone into heaven? Cannot Christ "inherit the
kingdom of God"? It is hard to see how, in any sense, the resurrection
of Christ can be taken as a proof of the resurrection of man. Christ
was only dead thirty-six or thirty-seven hours before he is said to have
risen again; there was no time for bodily decay, no time for corruption
to destroy his frame: how could the restoration to life of a man
whose body was in perfect preservation prove the possibility of the
resurrection of the bodies which have long since been resolved into
their constituent elements, and have gone to form other bodies, and to
give shape to other modes of existence? People talk in such superior
fashion of the resurrection that-they never stoop to remember its
necessary details, or to think where is to be found sufficient matter
wherewith to clothe all the human souls on the resurrection morn.
The bodies of the dead make the earth more productive; they nourish
vegetable existence; transformed into grass they feed the sheep and the
cattle; transformed into these they sustain human beings; transformed
into these they form new bodies once more, and pass from birth to death,
and from death to birth again, a perfect circle of life, transmuted by
Nature's alchemy from form to form. No man has a freehold of his body;
he possesses only a life-tenancy, and then it passes into other hands.
The melancholy dirge which succeeds this chapter sounds like a wail of
despair: man "hath but a short time to live and is full of misery. He
cometh up and is cut down like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow,
and never continueth in one stay." Can any teaching be more utterly
unwholesome? It is the confession of the most complete helplessness, the
recognition of the futility of toil. And then the agonised pleading: "O
Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour
deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death." But if he be
most merciful, whence all this need of weeping and wailing? If he be
most merciful, what danger can there be of the bitter pains of eternal
death? And again the cry rises: "Shut not thy merciful ears to our
prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and
merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge Eternal, suffer us not, at our
last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee." It is nothing but
the wail of humanity, face to face with the agony of death, feeling its
utter helplessness before the great enemy, and clinging to any straw
which may float within reach of the drowning grasp; it is the horror of
Life facing Death, a horror that seems felt only by the fully living and
not by the dying; it is the recoil of vigorous vitality from the silence
and chilliness of the tomb.

After this comes a sudden change of tone, and the mourners are told of
God's "great mercy" in taking the departed, and of the "burden of the
flesh," and they are bidden to give "hearty thanks" for the dead being
delivered "out of the miseries of this sinful world." Can anything be
more unreal? There is not one mourner there who desires to share in
the great mercy, who wants to be freed from the burden of the flesh, or
desires deliverance from the miseries of this world. Why should people
thus play a farce beside the grave? Do they expect God to believe them,
or to be deceived by such hypocrisy?

It is urged by some that the Church cannot have a "sure and certain hope
of the Resurrection to eternal life" as regards some of those whom she
buries with this service; and it is manifest that, if the Bible be
true, drunkards and others who are to be cast into the lake of fire, can
scarcely rise to eternal life at the same time, and therefore the Church
has no right to express a hope where God has pronounced condemnation.
The Rubric only shuts out of the hope the uhbaptized, the
excommunicated, and the suicide; all others have a right to burial at
her hands, and to the hope of a joyful resurrection, in spite of the
Bible.

We may hope that the day will soon come when people may die in England
and may be buried in peace without this cry of pain and superstition
over their graves. Wherever cemeteries are within reasonable distance
the Rationalist may now be buried, lovingly and reverently, without
the echo of that in which he disbelieved during life sounding over his
grave; but throughout many small towns and country villages the Burial
Service of the Church is practically obligatory, and is enforced by
clerical bigotry. But the passing knell of the Establishment sounds
clearer and clearer, and soon those who have rejected her services in
life shall be free from her ministrations at the tomb.



A COMMINATION OR DENOUNCING OF GOD'S ANGER AND JUDGMENTS AGAINST
SINNERS.

THIS service is too beautiful to be passed over without a word of
homage; the spectacle of the Church raving and cursing is too edifying
to be ungratefully ignored. "Brethren, in the primitive Church there was
a godly discipline that, at the beginning of Lent, such persons as stood
convicted of notorious sin were put to open penance and punished in this
world, that their souls might be saved.... Instead whereof (until the
said discipline may be restored again, which is much to be wished), it
is thought good," &c. That is, in other words: "In days gone by, we were
able to bite, as well as to bark; now that our mouths are muzzled we
can only snarl; but, until the old power comes back, which is much to
be wished, let us, since we cannot bite, show our teeth and growl as
viciously as we can, so that people may understand that it is only the
power that is wanting, and not the will, and that, if we could, we would
torture and burn as vigorously as we curse and damn." And promptly
the priest begins with his curses, and all the people say Amen: what a
pretty sight--a whole church full of Christians with one consent cursing
their neighbours! Then comes an exhortation; as so many curses are
flying about we must take care of our heads: "Let us, remembering the
dreadful judgment hanging over our heads, and _always ready to fall upon
us_, return to our Lord God." Always ready to fall; but is God, then,
always lying in wait to catch us tripping, and crush us with his
judgments? Does he punish gladly, and keep his blow suspended, to fall
at the first chance our weakness gives him? If so, by no means let us
return to our Lord God, but let us rather try to put a considerable
distance between himself and us, and endeavour, like the prophet Jonah,
to flee from the presence of the Lord. "It is a fearful thing to fall
into the hands of the living God: he shall pour down rain upon the
sinners, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest." And who made the
sinners? Who called them into the world without their own consent? Who
made them with an evil nature? Who moulded them as the potter the clay?
Who made it impossible for them to go to Jesus unless he drew them,
and then did not draw them? If God wants to pour fire and brimstone on
anybody, he should pour it on himself, for he made the sinners, and is
responsible for their existence and their sin. "It shall be too late to
knock when the door shall be shut; too late to cry for mercy when it
is the time of justice." How utterly repulsive is this picture of the
popular and traditional God: how black the colours wherein is painted
this Moloch; surely the artist must have been sketching a picture of the
devil, and by mistake wrote under it the name of God when he should have
put the name of Satan. If, however, we submit ourselves, and walk in his
ways, and seek his glory, and serve him duly--that is, if we acknowledge
injustice to be justness, and cruelty to be mercy, and evil to be
good--then we shall escape "the extreme malediction which shall light
upon them that shall be set on the left hand." On the whole, brave men
and women will prefer to do rightly and justly here, caring much about
serving man, and nothing about glorifying such a God, and leaving the
malediction alone, very sure that no punishment can befal a man for
living nobly, and that no fear need cloud the death-bed of him who has
made his life a blessing to mankind.

Of course, after all this preface, come cringing confessions of sin. The
51st Psalm leads the way, the congregation having by this time become so
thoroughly confused that they see no incongruity in saying that when
God has built the walls of Jerusalem, he will be pleased with burnt
offerings and oblations, and that "then shall they offer young bullocks
upon thy altar." As a matter of fact, they have no intention of offering
young bullocks at all--bullocks having become too useful to be wasted in
that fashion, but they have so thoroughly left the realm of common sense
that they have become unconscious of the absurdities which they repeat.
The gross exaggeration of the concluding prayers must be patent to
everyone; they are full of the hysteria which passes for piety. "We are
grieved and wearied with the burden of our sins," although most of the
congregation will forget all about the burden before they leave
the church: we are "vile earth and miserable sinners;" we "meekly
acknowledge our vileness." One longs to shake them all, and tell them
to stand up like men and women, instead of cringing there like cowards,
whining about their vileness. If they are vile, why don't they mend,
instead of saying the same thing every year? They should be ashamed to
tell God of their miserable condition year after year, when his grace
is sufficient for them, and they might be perfect as their Father in
heaven.

The Church in all this service reminds one of nothing so much as a
wicked old crone, who whines to the parson and scolds all the children.
In days gone by the old woman has been the terror of the village, and
her sturdy arm has been shown on many a black eye and bruised face;
now she can no longer strike, she can only curse; she can no longer
tyrannise, she can only scowl; her palsied tongue still mutters the
curses which her shrivelled arm can no longer translate into act, and in
her bleared eye, in her wrinkled cheeks, in her shaking frame, we read
the record of an evil youth, wherein she abused her strength, and we see
descending upon her the gloom of a dishonoured age, and the night of a
fathomless despair.



FORMS OF PRAYER TO BE USED AT SEA.

There is now a special service used at the launching of her Imperial
Majesty's war-vessels which has not yet found its way into the
Prayer-Book; curious thoughts arise in the mind in contemplating that
fashion, conjoined to the office to be "used in her Majesty's navy every
day." How does God protect "the persons of us, thy servants, and the
fleet in which we serve?" Does prayer make bad ships more seaworthy, or
supply the place of stout iron and sound wood? If the ship is not safe
without prayer, will prayer make it so?

If not, what is the use of praying over it? Either the ship is seaworthy
or it is not; if it is, it will sail safely without prayer; if it is
not, will prayer carry the rotten ship through the storm? If prayer
be so efficacious, would it not be cheaper to use less wood and more
prayer? Bad materials roughly put together would serve, for a curate
would be cheaper than a shipwright, and much prayer would enable us to
dispense with much labour. In "storms at sea," a special prayer is to be
used; "O most powerful and glorious Lord God, at whose command the
winds blow, and lift up the waves of the sea, and who stillest the rage
thereof:" "O send thy word of command to rebuke the raging winds and the
roaring sea." Is not this the prayer of utter ignorance, the prayer of
an unscientific age? For what does the prayer imply? Only the modest
request that the state of the atmosphere round the whole globe may be
modified to suit the convenience of a small ship! And not only that, but
also that the whole course of weather may be changed during countless
yesterdays, the weather of to-day being only an effect caused by them.
Such prayers were offered up in former days by a people who knew nothing
of the inviolability of natural order, and who imagined that the weather
might be changed at their bidding as the clerk may push on the hands of
the church clock. The sailors are very frank in their confession: "When
we have been safe and seen all things quiet about us, we have forgot
thee, our God... But now we see how terrible thou art in all thy works
of wonder; the great God to be feared above all." At any rate they
cannot be accused of hypocrisy in their dealings with God! Nor is this
all. Short prayers are provided for those who have no time for the long
ones; and if the danger grows very pressing, everybody who can be spared
is to join in a special confession of sins, taken from the Communion
Office. It would surely be well to avoid a very pious crew, as they
might be wasting the time in prayer which might save the ship by work.
One serious thought presents itself for consideration in connection with
this supposed power of God to smooth the turbulent billows. Many ships
go down year after year; many thousands of lives sink in the pitiless
ocean; many a bitter wail goes up from drowning crews; how wickedly
cruel to have such power and to see the ship sink in the storm! how
icily stony to have such power and to watch unmoved the agony of the
perishing!

The prayers against the enemy are beautiful effusions; some of the
children praying the All-father to enable them to slay his other
children: "Stir up thy strength, O Lord, and come and help us." What
a curious request! Does the All-strong require to stir up his strength
before he can crush a few men? "Judge between us and our enemies." But
suppose the enemy is in the right, what then? Suppose English sailors
are on the wrong side, as in the dispute between George III. and the
American Colonies, such a prayer then becomes a prayer for defeat, not
an encouraging thought with which to go into battle. The prayers are
also offensive for their cowardice of tone: "Let not our sins now cry
against us for vengeance; but hear us thy poor servants begging mercy,
and imploring thy help." The praises after victory are as objectionable
as the prayers before: "The Lord hath covered our heads and made us
to stand in the day of battle." And what of the poor wounded, groaning
below in the cockpit, whose heads the Lord hath not covered? "The Lord
hath overthrown our enemies, and dashed in pieces those that rose up
against us." How thoroughly savage and bloodthirsty the thanksgiving! Is
God supposed to rejoice over the sufferings of the defeated? Is he to
be thanked for slaying his creatures? And then the victory is to be
improved to the "advancement of thy gospel;" the gospel of so-called
peace and goodwill is to be advanced by cannon-ball and torpedo, by
sabre and cutlass. Truly they must believe that Jesus came to send
a sword through the earth. And yet this is the true spirit of
Christianity; of the creed which has shed more human blood than any
other faith; of the creed which won its way through Europe with the
crucifix in one hand, and the battle-axe in the other; of the creed
that tortured innumerable victims on the rack, and which lit the
funeral pyres of the martyrs; of the creed whose cross has ever been
crimson-red, not with the blood of one who died to save humanity, but
with the blood of a humanity sacrificed to the glory of God.



THE FORM AND MANNER OF MAKING, ORDAINING, AND CONSECRATING OF BISHOPS,
PRIESTS, AND DEACONS, ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF
ENGLAND AND IRELAND.

If the Church of England confined herself in her ministrations to
offices which had some demonstrable effect, her occupation would be
gone. These Ordination offices stand on a par with that of Confirmation.
In both, the Holy Ghost is given by imposition of episcopal hands;
in both, no appreciable results follow the gift. The preface to these
offices says: "It is evident unto all men diligently reading the Holy
Scripture and ancient authors, that from the Apostles' time there have
been these orders of ministers in Christ's Church: Bishops, Priests,
and Deacons." The "evidence" of this appears doubtful, seeing that all
Presbyterians acknowledge no such triple order, and regard bishops as
an invention of the devil, and "the pride of prelacy" as "a rag of
the scarlet" lady. The three offices before us may, to all intents and
purposes, be treated as one, for they are the progressive steps of the
ladder which reaches-from earth to heaven, from the poor deacon-curate
on 70_l_. a year at the bottom, to the archbishop luxuriating on
15,000_l_. a year at the top. There is much of solemn farce in the
opening: the archdeacon presents the candidates for ordination to the
bishop, and the reverend father in God, who has had them examined, who
knows all about them, and has-probably dined with them the night before,
gravely responds, "Take heed that the persons whom ye present unto us
be-apt and meet, for their learning and godly conversation, to exercise
their ministry duly, to the honour of God and the edifying of his
Church." For the learning of some young clergymen, the less said about
it the better, but those presented have at least scraped through the
bishop's examination, and will not now be turned back. The question
is simply a sham, and both candidates and bishop would be thoroughly
astonished if the archdeacon replied that any one of them was deficient.

The Litany follows after this, and then the Communion Office, with
special Collect, Epistle, and Gospel. After the Oath of Supremacy, the
bishop examines the candidates for the diaconate: "Do you trust that you
are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office?" is
asked of each, and each answers: "I trust so." This ought to be a solemn
question: to be inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost is surely an important
thing; and when one remembers how very little many of these young men,
fresh from college, seem to think of the matter, and how one chooses the
Church because it is "gentlemanly," and another because there is a fat
living in the family, and another because he is too stupid for any other
profession, we can scarcely help wondering at the workings of the Holy
Spirit in the heart of man. They are also asked if they "unfeignedly
believe all the Canonical Scriptures." If they really do believe them at
their ordination much change must take place in after life, judging by
the amount of scepticism among the clergy. Much of the fault lies in
pledging young men of three-and-twenty to absolute belief in what they
have probably studied but little; at college all their instruction is in
Christian _Evidences_, not in attacks on Christianity; they really know
but little of the anti-Christian arguments, and therefore are naturally
shaken when they learn them further on. Then the deacon is to read
Homilies in Church, and promises to do so, although he never fulfils the
promise, and he vows to obey his "Ordinary and other chief ministers
of the Church... following with a glad mind and will their godly
admonitions." How well the deacons and priests keep this pledge may be
seen in the daily struggles between them and their bishops, and in the
necessity of passing a Public Worship Regulation Act for the easier
suppression of rebellious priests. A year must intervene between the
diaconate and the priesthood, and when this year has run, the youthful
aspirant to the power of the keys presents himself once more before the
Father in God, and the same farce of question and answer is repeated.
The service runs as in that for deacons, save the special Epistle
and Gospel, until after the Oath of Supremacy; and then comes a long
exhortation, wherein what strikes us most is the complete contrast
between the priest in theory and the priest in practice: "If it shall
happen the same Church, or any member thereof, to take any hurt or
hindrance by reason of your negligence, ye know the greatness of the
fault, and also the horrible punishment that will ensue see that you
never cease your labour, your care and diligence, until you have done
all that lieth in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such
as are or shall be committed to your charge, unto that agreement in the
faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age
in Christ, that there be no place left among you, either for error in
religion, or for viciousness in life." Now change the scene to six weeks
later, and our young priest is playing croquet and flirting meekly with
his rector's daughters, oblivious of the "horrible punishment" he
is incurring from Hodge at the public-house getting drunk unrebuked.
"Consider how studious ye ought to be in reading and learning the
Scriptures... and for this self-same cause how ye ought to forsake and
set aside (as much as you may) all worldly cares and studies." Alas for
the special vanities of country clergymen; this one botanizes, and that
one zoologizes, and another one geologizes, and a fourth is devoted to
his garden, and a fifth to his poultry, and a sixth to his farming,
not to speak of those who adorn the bench of magistrates and sternly
sentence wicked poachers, and sinful old women who pick up sticks, and
children who steal flowers. It may be urged that no set of men could
possibly live the life sketched in this exhortation: granted; but,
then, why pretend that they are bound to live it, and threaten horrible
punishments if they do not perform the impossible? Besides, the bishop
expresses his hope that they have well considered the whole matter,
and have "clearly determined, by God's grace... you will apply yourself
wholly to this one thing, and draw all your cares and studies this way."
When the time comes to put the questions to the candidates, this very
point forms one of them: "Will you be diligent in prayers, and in
reading of the Holy Scriptures, and in such studies as help to the
knowledge of the same, laying aside the study of the world and the
flesh?" And the candidates solemnly promise to do that which they must
know they have no intention of doing. One might further urge, that the
perpetual meddlesomeness enjoined in this Office on the priest would
make that individual a perfect nuisance to his parishioners if he tried
to carry it into practice, and that he would probably very often find
his ministrations cut short with unpleasant emphasis. The consecration
follows in due course: "Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and work
of a priest in the Church of God... Whose sins thou dost forgive they
are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained." And
yet some people pretend that the Church of England does not sanction an
absolving priesthood! If these words have any meaning, they mean that
the young men now ordained have the most awful power given into their
hands, that they can, in very truth, lock and unlock heaven, for by
their absolution the forgiven sinner may enter, while through their
retainment of his sins he may be shut out. How tremendous then is the
authority thus given into hands so young and so untried! And surely such
power is not to be wasted? Surely it is the duty of these priests to
be continually urging people to seek, and continually to be giving,
absolution. Why should one sinner die unshriven, when such death may be
prevented by the diligence of the priest? Life would be impossible were
all this really believed; what priest could live in reasonable comfort
if this were true and were realised? All earthly things would sink into
insignificance, and life would become a desperate struggle to save
and absolve the perishing; real belief would end its days in a lunatic
asylum.

The Consecration of Archbishop or Bishop is somewhat more ceremonious,
but is one in character with the preceding offices. The promise to
banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to
God's word is one the fulfilment of which brings unfortunate bishops
nowadays into much trouble in the flesh. For when a Colenso "comes down
like a wolf on the fold," and a faithful Bishop of Oxford forbids him
to tear the lambs of his flock, immediately people mutter "bigoted,"
"narrow-minded," "tyranny," with sundry other unpleasant adjectives and
nouns. Yet can there be no doubt that he of Oxon was only obeying his
ordination vow. In truth the present spirit of liberty is thoroughly
at issue with the spirit of these offices, and the only effect of
maintaining them is to create hypocrites and vow breakers. Nor is it
fair to-judge too harshly those who break these foolish vows, for a man
may honestly think that he can best serve his generation as clergyman,
and may have a general belief in Christianity, and he may then argue
that he cannot permit himself to be kept out of a wide sphere of
usefulness by a few obsolete vows. The pity is that men, whose common
sense is too strong to be bound by foolish promises taken in ignorance
in their youth, do not join earnestly together to remove this
stumbling-block from before the feet of the next generation, so that, if
they deem their church valuable, they may preserve her by adapting her
to the realities of the nineteenth instead of the sixteenth century,
and may make her services something more than a farce, her ceremonies
something better than a show.



THE ARTICLES.

It is a little difficult to make out how far the Thirty-nine Articles
of the Church of England--"the forty stripes save one"--are binding or
non-binding on her members. There is, of course, no question that they
accurately sketch her doctrines, and that all her faithful children
should accept and believe them with devout piety, but scarcely any dogma
can be enforced by law against the laity, the whole spirit of the time
being directly antagonistic to such enforcement. But there is no doubt
that these Articles are both legally and morally binding on the clergy,
as they voluntarily submit themselves to them, and declare their full
and free belief in them when entering upon the enjoyment of any benefice
of the Establishment. The Royal Declaration, prefixed to the Articles,
is sweeping and decisive enough. "The Articles of the Church of England
do contain the true doctrine of the Church of England agreeable to God's
word; which we do therefore ratify and confirm, requiring all our loving
subjects to continue in the uniform profession thereof, and prohibiting
the least difference from the said Articles." After this distinct
declaration we are commanded "That no man hereafter shall either print,
or preach, to draw the Article aside either way, but shall submit to it
in the plain and full meaning thereof; and shall not put his own sense
or comment to be the meaning of the Article, but shall take it in
the literal and grammatical sense." When any outsider has read this
declaration it becomes to him one of the mysteries of the faith how it
is that English gentlemen, honest, honourable men in everything else,
manage to accept livings on condition of declaring their full concord
with these Articles, and then deliberately twist them into non-natural
meanings, in order that they may be Roman Catholic or Latitudinarian,
according to the opinions of the readers. It may, certainly, be conceded
that the "literal and grammatical sense" is very often nonsense, and
therefore cannot be believed; perfectly true: but these honest men
have no right to give the weight of their culture and their goodness
to bolster up this falling Church, whose dogmas they can never accept,
except by transfiguring their unreason into reason, and their folly into
wisdom. Many who are ignorant, and careless, and uncultured are kept as
nominal members of the Anglican Church because a glamour is thrown over
it by the Broad Church clergy; but their position cannot be too strongly
reprobated, _so long as they make no effort to alter that in which they
do not believe, so long as they silently support superstitions which
without their aid would, long ago, have crumbled into ruin._

Article I. deals with "Faith in the Holy Trinity." Most creeds,
certainly all Oriental creeds, cluster around a Trinity; the root of the
worship of the Trinity is struck deep into the nature of man, for it is
the worship of the life universal, localised in the giver of the life
individual, under the symbol of the phallic emblem, the creator of each
new existence. The Christian Trinity has, naturally, outgrown the primal
barbarism of Nature-worship, although preserving the Trinity in unity:
"There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts,
or passions... and in unity of this Godhead there be three persons, of
one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Ghost" So far have we travelled under the guidance of the Church, and
we have before our mind's eye, one God, uncorporeate, passionless,
indivisible, and yet divided into three "persons," thus implying three
individualities, separate the one from the other. Let us remember that
the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, but that
since there is but one God, the Father is the Son, and the Son is the
Holy Ghost, and since the Father is the same as the Son, and the Son
is the same as the Holy Ghost, the Father and the Holy Ghost must
necessarily be identical. Article II. teaches us that "the Son, which
is the word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the
very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took man's
nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance;" the Son:
that is, the Second Person in the undivided and indivisible Trinity:
"begotten from everlasting of the Father;" but the Father is one with
the Son, for both are God, and yet there is but one God, and therefore
Son and Father are interchangeable terms; the Son then is begotten from
everlasting of himself, for in the one true God no division is possible,
and "such as the Father is such is the Son;" and further, the Son, being
the Son, and at the same time identical with his own Father, takes man's
nature: then the Father and the Holy Ghost must also take man's nature,
for "such as the Son such is the Father, and such is the Holy Ghost:"
and God, "without body," takes man's body, and "without parts" is
crucified, and "without passions" suffers. But the Son dies "to
reconcile his Father to us;" but he is his Father, and his Father is
himself. Can the one living and true God die to reconcile himself to
himself, and to offer himself up a sacrifice to himself to appease his
own wrath? The bodiless is nailed on the cross: the impassible suffers:
the undying dies: the one God on earth is offered to appease the one
God in heaven, and there is but one living and true God. If this be so,
either the God in heaven or the God on earth must have been a false God,
for there is but one true God: and the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who
must be kept indivisible in thought, hang upon the cross, as a sacrifice
to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and cry, being the one true God, to
"my God, my God" who has forsaken himself. And all this "to reconcile
the Father to us:" the Father who is "without passions," and who
therefore cannot be angry or need reconcilement. "As Christ died for
us, and was buried, so also it is to be believed that he went down into
hell." _Down_ into hell; which way is down from a round globe? In the
ancient conception of the universe the earth was flat, with heaven
above and hell underneath, and Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, when the earth
opened her mouth, "went down quick (alive) into hell:" did Jesus do
the same? But, hanging on the cross, he said to the penitent thief:
"_To-day_ shalt thou be with me in Paradise:" is Paradise the same hell?
and is heaven identical with both? Jesus ascended, went up, not down, to
heaven: if this be so, might not some confusion arise on the way, for
a soul starting downwards from Australia on its way to hell, might
be found soaring upwards from England after a few hours' journey. Are
heaven and hell both all round the world, and if so, why is one "up" and
the other "down"? Rome was right and wise when she set her face sternly
against the heliocentric theory; a revolving globe destroys all the old
notions of the "heaven above," and of "the water under the earth," and
of hell below; and it was a strong argument against the sphericity of
the earth that "in the day of judgment, men on the other side of the
globe could not see the Lord descending through the air." The Fourth
Article teaches us that Christ "took again his body, with flesh,
bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature;
_wherewith_ he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth." Body, flesh,
bones, and all things appertaining to man's nature; wishes, and
appetites, and needs, heart and lungs, for instance; and he took these
beyond the atmosphere? lungs to breathe where no air is? heart to
pulse where no oxygen can purify the blood? flesh and bones among pure
spirits? the form of man sitting on the throne of God? and this flesh,
bones, &c, all one with the indivisible, from the God without body
and parts, and Jesus the Son of Mary, the crucified man, sitting in his
flesh and bones in heaven, not to be separated in thought from the one
living and true God, without body, parts, or passions.* Such is the
"literal and grammatical sense" of the first four Articles, and to
analyse the Fifth, "of the Holy Ghost," would be simply to repeat all
that has been said above, since "such is the Son, such is the Holy
Ghost." May it not justly be said that belief in the Trinity in Unity
is the negation of thought, and that faith is only possible where reason
ends?

     * 1 Cor. xv. 50.

Article VI. deals with "the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for
Salvation," and lays down the Canon that anything not capable of proof
from the Bible must not be "required of any man that it should be
believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or
necessary to salvation." The converse of this proposition, that dogmas
that can be proved therefrom _are_ necessary to salvation, is said
not to be binding on the Church, and some notable "depravers" of the
Scriptures have successfully slipped through this Article. The list
of books given as those "of whose authority was never any doubt in the
Church" seems open to grave objections, as the authority of many of
the books now accounted canonical has been distinctly challenged. "The
history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible."
"Job spake not therefore as it stands written in his book." "Isaiah hath
borrowed his whole art and knowledge from David." Thus, among many other
staid criticisms, wrote Luther. To go further back, is to find much
sharp challenging. The Epistle to the Hebrews is of most doubtful
authenticity. The 2nd Epistle of Peter and that of Jude are debatable.
The Revelation of St. John the Divine was very slowly received, and the
two shorter Epistles which bear his name are dubiously recognised. If
only the books are to be received of which there "was never any doubt in
the Church," the canonical list must be shorn of most of its ornaments.
When Article VII. tells us that the ceremonial and civil precepts of the
Old Testament are not binding upon us, it seems a pity that some test
is not given whereby unlearned people may be able to distinguish between
the "Commandments which are called moral" and the others. Is the command
to persecute non-believers in Jehovah (Deut. xiii., xvii. 2--7) binding
to-day? Is the command to put Witches to death (Lev. xx. 27) binding
to-day? John Wesley said that belief in witchcraft was incumbent on all
those who believed the Bible, and if witchcraft was possible then, why
not now? or has God changed his mind as to the proper method of dealing
with such persons? Are the commands enjoining and regulating Slavery
(Ex. xxi. 2--6, and 20, 21; Lev. xxv. 44--46; Deut. xv. 12--18) intended
for the guidance of slave-holders to-day? What is there to make the
"Commandments which are called moral"--by which we may presume are meant
the Ten Commandments--more binding on "Christian men" than the other
parts of the law? The Fourth Commandment is essentially a Jewish one,
and is not obeyed among Christians. The Second Commandment is invariably
ignored, and the Fifth promises a reward which is not given. The
Commandments touching murder, adultery, stealing, lying are not peculiar
to the Mosaic code. They are found in all moral legislation, and are
binding--not because taught by Moses or by Buddha, but--because their
observance is necessary to the existence of society. Of the three
Creeds of the Church we have already spoken, so pass to Article IX., "of
Original or Birth-sin." It seems that a fault and corruption of Nature
are naturally "engendered of the offspring of Adam," and that this
fault "in every person born into the world deserveth God's wrath and
damnation." That seems scarcely fair, since the infant's consent is not
asked before he is born into the world, and the fault of being born is,
therefore, none of his. How, then, can the babe _deserve_ God's wrath
and damnation? And seeing that the very next Article (X.) informs us
that our condition is such that a man "cannot turn and prepare himself,
by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon
God," it appears terribly unjust that either child or man should be
held accursed because they do not do what God has made them incapable of
doing. It would be as reasonable to torture a man for not flying without
wings, as for God to punish man for being born of the race of Adam, and
for not turning to God when the power so to do is withheld; for "we have
_no power to do good works_.... without the grace of God by Christ," and
when that grace is not given we lie helpless and strength-less, unable
to do right. Nor can any deed of ours make us fit recipients of the
grace of God, for (Article XIII.) "works done before the grace of Christ
and the Inspiration of his Spirit _are not pleasant_ to God.... neither
do they make men meet to receive grace.... yea, rather, for that they
are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, _we doubt
not but that they have the nature of sin_." So that if a good and noble
heathen, who has never heard of Christ, and whose good deeds cannot
therefore "spring of faith in Jesus Christ," does some high-minded
action, or shows some kindly charity, his good deeds are of "the nature
of sin," and in fact make him rather worse off than he was before: as
Melancthon said, his virtues are only "splendid vices" because done
without faith in a person of whom he has never heard. For (Art. XVIII.)
they "are to be accursed that presume to say that every man shall be
saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to
frame his life according to that law, and the light of nature:" "we are
accounted righteous before God (Art. XI.) _only_ for the merit of our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and _not for our own works and'
deservings_." Thus we learn that God cares not for righteousness of
life, but only for blind faith, and that he sends us out into a world
lying under his curse, without any chance of salvation except by
attaining a faith which he gives or withholds at his pleasure, and which
we can of ourselves do nothing to deserve, much less to obtain. To crown
this beautiful theory we learn,--Article XVII. "of Predestination
and Election:"--predestination to life, it seems, "is the everlasting
purpose of God whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid)
he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from
curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind,
and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made
to honour." But if this be true, man has no choice of any kind in the
matter; for not only is grace to do right the gift of God, but man's
acceptance of the gift is also compulsory. God has arranged, before he
made the world how many and whom he will save. What, then, becomes of
man's boasted free will? Before the creation God drew the plan of every
human life, and as the potter moulds the ductile clay into the shape
he desires, so God moulds his human pottery after his own will into
"vessels made to salvation" or made to dishonour. To talk of man's
freedom is a mockery. What freedom had Adam and Eve in Paradise? "They
might have stood:" nay; for was not "the Lamb slain from the foundation
of the world?" Before the sin was committed God had made the atonement
for it. If Adam were free not to sin, then it would be possible that
he might not have sinned, and then God would have offered a needless
sacrifice, and would have a Saviour with no one to save, so that it
would have been necessary to provide a sinner in order to utilise the
sacrifice. All idea of justice is here hideously impossible; God has
predestinated some human beings _out of mankind_. These "in due season"
he calls; "through grace they obey the calling;" "they be justified
freely... and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting
felicity." And the rest--those who are _not_ predestined; those who are
_not_ called; those to whom _no_ grace is given; those who are _not_
justified freely; those who have no God's mercy to aid them;--what
of them? Made by God, the creatures of his hand, the vessels of his
moulding, the clay of his shaping, are they cast into the lake of
brimstone, into the fire that never shall be quenched, simply because
God in "his sovereignty" put them--unconscious--under his curse and left
them there, adding to the cruelty of creation the more savage cruelty
of preservation? No! whether such deeds should be wrought by God or man,
they would be wickedly wrong. Almighty power is no excuse for crime, and
the God of the Articles of the Church of England is a gigantic criminal,
who uses his Almightiness to make life that he may torment it, and to
create sentient beings foredoomed to bitterest agony, to keenest woe.
Such frightful misuse of power can only meet with strongest reprobation
from all moral beings; unlimited power turned to evil purposes may
trample upon and crush us into helplessness, but it can never force us
to worship, nor compel us to adore.

These first eighteen Articles of the Church may be said to contain the
more salient points of the Church's teaching, and it is needless to
point out the utter impossibility of reasonable and gentle-hearted men
and women believing in the "plan of, salvation" sketched out in them.
They are instinct with the cruel theology of Calvin and of Zwingli,
and imply (though they do not so plainly word) the view of the Lambeth
Articles of 1595, that "God from eternity hath predestinated certain men
unto life; _certain he hath reprobated_." These Anglican Articles
must be taken as teaching predestination to damnation as well as to
salvation, since those not called to life must inevitably fall to
death. The next section--so to speak--of the Articles deals with
Church affairs, defining the authority of Churches and of Councils, and
explaining the 'doctrine of the Sacraments. It is with these that
the High Church party chiefly fall out, for the Twenty-first Article,
acknowledging that General Councils may err and have erred, strikes at
the root of the infallibility of the Church Universal, so dear to the
priestly soul. The Articles on the Sacraments also tend somewhat to the
Low Church view of them, and dwell more on the faith of the recipient
than on the consecration of the priest. The Article (XXXIII.) levelled
against "excommunicate persons," commanding that such an one shall
"be taken of the whole multitude of the faithful, as an Heathen and
Publican, until he be openly reconciled by penance," is duly believed
and subscribed by clergymen, but has no real meaning to-day. If the
Thirty-fifth Article were acted upon, some curiosities of English
literature would enliven the Churches; for this Article bids the
clergy read the Homilies: "we judge them to be read in Churches by the
Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of
the people." It is really a pity that this direction is not carried out,
for some of the barbarous doctrines of popular Christianity would then
be seen as they are described by men who thoroughly believed in them,
instead of being known only as they are presented to us to-day, with
some of their deformity hidden under the robes woven for them by modern
civilisation, wherein humanity has outgrown the old Christianity, and
men's reason chastens their faith. The last three Articles touch on
civil matters, acknowledging the Royal Supremacy and dealing with other
matters pertaining to Caesar, but on the borderland between him and God.

Such are the Articles of the Church; believed by few, unknown to
many, winked at by all, because religion is practically a matter of
indifference to most, and while custom and fashion enforce conformity
with the Church, the brain troubles not itself to analyse the claim, or
to weigh the conditions of allegiance. Men have become so sceptical as
to regard all creeds with indifference, and the half-conceived unbelief
of the clergy, sighing with mental reservations, and formally asserting
belief where the thought and the lips are at variance, appears to have
eaten the heart out of all religious honesty in England, and men lie to
God who would revolt at lying to man. If belief in the Articles is now a
thing of the past, then the Articles should also pass away; if Churchmen
have outgrown these dogmas, why do they suffer them to deface their
Prayer-Book, to barb "the shafts of the sceptic, and to give power to
the sneer of the scoffer?"



THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND CATECHISM

WISE men, in modern times, are striving earnestly and zealously to, as
far as possible, free religion from the cramping and deadening effect of
creeds and formularies, in order that it may be able to expand with the
expanding thought of the day. Creeds are like iron moulds, into which
thought is poured; they may be suitable enough to the way in which they
are framed; they may be fit enough to enshrine the phase of thought
which designed them; but they are fatally unsuitable and unfit for
the days long afterwards, and for the thought of the centuries which
succeed. "No man putteth new wine into old bottles, else the new wine
doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will
be marred; but new wine must be put into new bottles." The new wine
of nineteenth century thought is being poured into the old bottles of
fourth century creeds: and sixteenth century formulas, and the strong
new wine-bursts the bottles, while the weak new wine that cannot:
burst them ferments into vinegar in them, and often becomes harmful
and poisonous. Let the new wine be poured into new bottles; let the
new thought mould its own expression; and then the old bottles will be
preserved unbroken as curious specimens of antiquity, instead of being
smashed to pieces because they get in the way of the world. Nothing is
more to be deprecated in a new and living movement than the formulating
into creeds of the thoughts that inspire it, and the imposition of those
creeds on those who join it. The very utmost that can be done to give
coherency to a large movement is to put forward a declaration of a few
cardinal doctrines that do not interfere with full liberty of divergent
thought. Thus, Rationalists might take as the declaration of their
central thought, that "reason is supreme," but they would be destroying
the future of Rationalism if they formulated into a creed any of the
conclusions to which their own reason has led them at the present time,
for by so doing they would be stereotyping nineteenth century thought
for the restraint of twentieth century thought, which will be larger,
fuller, more instructed than their own. Freethinkers may declare as
their symbol the Right to Think, and the Right to express thought, but
should never claim the declaration by others of any special form of
Freethought, before acknowledging them as Freethinkers. Bodies of
men who join together in a society for a definite purpose may fairly
formulate a creed to be assented to by those who join them, but they
must ever remember that such creed will lose its force in the time to
come, and that while it adds strength and point to their movement
now, it also limits its useful duration, if it is to be maintained as
unalterable, for as circumstances change different needs will arise,
and a fresh expression of the means to meet those needs will become
necessary. A wise society, in forming a creed, will leave in the hands
of its members full power to revise it, to amend it, to alter it, so
that the living thought within the society may ever have free scope. A
creed must be the expression of _living thought_, and be moulded by
it, and not the skeleton of dead thought, moulding the intellect of its
heirs. The strength of a society lies in the diversity, and not in the
uniformity, of the thought of its members, for progress can only be
made through heretical thought, _i.e_., thought that is at variance
with prevailing thought. All Truth is new at some time or other, and
the fullest encouragement should therefore be given to free and fearless
expression, since by such expression only is the promulgation of new
truths possible. An age of advancement is always an age of heresy;
for advancement comes from questioning, and questioning springs from
doubt, and hence progress and heresy walk ever hand-in-hand, while an
age of faith is also an age of stagnation.

Every argument that can be brought against a stereotyped creed for
adults, tells with tenfold force against a stereotyped catechism for
children. If it is evil to try and mould the thought of those whose
maturity ought to be able to protect them against pressure from without,
it is certainly far more evil to mould the thought of those whose still
unset reason is ductile in the trainer's hand. A catechism is a sort of
strait-waistcoat put upon children, preventing all liberty of action;
and while the child's brain ought to be cultured and developed, it ought
never to be trained to run in one special groove of thought. Education
should teach children _how_ to think, but should never tell them _what_
to think. It should sharpen and polish the instruments of thought, but
should not fix them into a machine made to cut out one special shape
of thought. It should send the young out into the world keen-judging,
clear-eyed, thoughtful, eager, inquiring, but should not send them out
with answers cut-and-dried to every question, with opinions ready
made for them, and dogmas nailed into their brains. Most churches have
provided catechism-sawdust for the nourishment of the lambs of their
flock; Roman Catholics, Church of Englanders, Presbyterians, they have
all their juvenile moulds. The Church of England catechism is, perhaps,
the least injurious of all, because the Church of England is the result
of a compromise, and has the most offensive parts of its dogmas cut out
of the public formularies. It wears some slight apron of fig-leaves in
deference to the effect produced by the eating of the tree of knowledge.
But still, the Church of England catechism is bad enough, training the
child to believe the most impossible things before he is old enough
to test their impossibility. To the age which believes in
Jack-and-the-bean-stalk, and the adventures of Cinderella, all things
are possible; whether it be Jonah in the whale's belly, or Tom Thumb in
the stomach of the red cow, all is gladly swallowed with implicit faith;
the children grow out of Tom Thumb, in the course of nature, but they
are not allowed to grow out of Jonah.

When the baby is brought to the font to make divers promises, of the
making of which he is profoundly unconscious--however noisily he may at
times convey his utter disgust at the whole proceeding--the godfathers
and godmothers are directed to see that the child is "brought to the
bishop to be confirmed by him, so soon as he can say the creed, the
Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, in the vulgar tongue, and be
further instructed in the Church Catechism set forth for that purpose."
It is scarcely necessary to say that these words--being in the
Prayer-Book--are not meant to be taken literally, and that the bishop
would be much astonished if all the small children in the Sunday School
who can glibly repeat the required lesson, were to be brought up to him
for confirmation. As a matter of fact, the large majority of godfathers
and godmothers do not trouble themselves about seeing their godchildren
brought to confirmation at all, and the children are sent up when they
are about fifteen, at which period most of them who are above the Sunday
School going grade, are rapidly "crammed" with the Catechism, which they
as rapidly forget when the day of confirmation is over.

The Christian name of the child being given in answer to the first
question of the Catechism, the second inquiry proceeds: "Who gave you
this name?" The child is taught to answer--"My godfathers and godmothers
in my baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of
God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven." Thus, the first lesson
imprinted on the child's memory is one of the most objectionable of the
dogmas of the Church, that of baptismal regeneration. In baptism he
is "made" something; then he becomes something which he was not before;
according to the baptismal office, he is given in baptism "that thing
which by nature he cannot have," and being under the wrath of God, he
is delivered from that curse, and is received for God's "own child by
adoption;" he is also "incorporated" into the "holy Church," and thus
becomes "a member of Christ," being made a part of the body of which
Christ is the head; this being done, he is, of course, an "inheritor of
the kingdom of heaven" through the "adoption."

Thus the child is taught that, by nature, he is bad and accursed by God;
that so bad was he as an infant, that his parents were obliged to wash
away his sins before God would love him. If he asks what harm he had
done that he should need cleansing, he will be told that he inherits
Adam's sin; if he asks why he should be accursed for being born, and
why, born into God's world at God's will, he should not by nature be
God's child, he will be told that God is angry with the world, and that
everyone has a bad nature when they are born; thus he learns his first
lesson of the unreality of religion; he is cursed for Adam's sin, which
he had no share in, and forgiven for his parent's good deed, which he
did not help in. The whole thing is to him a play acted in his infancy
in which he was a puppet, in which God was angry with him for what
he had not done, and pleased with him for what he did not say, and he
consequently feels that he has neither part nor lot in the whole affair,
and that the business is none of his; if he be timid and superstitious,
he will hand over his religion to others, and trust to the priest to
finish for him what Adam and his parents began, shifting on to them all
a responsibility that he feels does not in reality belong to him.

The unreality deepens in the next answer which is put into his
mouth--"What did your godfathers and god-mothers then for you?" "They
did promise and vow-three things in my name: First, that I should
renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this
wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh. Secondly, that I
should believe all the articles of the Christian Faith. And thirdly,
that I should keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the
same all the days of my life." Turning to the Baptismal Service again,
we find that the godparents are asked, "Dost thou, _in the name of this
child_, renounce," &c, and they answer severally, "I renounce them all,"
"All this I steadfastly believe;" and, asked if they will keep God's
holy will, they still answer for the child, "I will." What binding force
can such promises as these have upon the conscience of anyone when he
grows up? The promises were made without his consent; why should he
keep them? The belief was vowed before he had examined it; why should he
profess it? No promise made in another's name can be binding on him who
has given no authority for such use of his name, and the unconscious
baby, innocent of all knowledge of what is being done, can never, in
justice, be held liable for breaking a contract in the making of which
he had no share. Bentham rightly and justly protests against "the
implied--the necessarily implied--assumption, that it is in the power of
any person--not only with the consent of the father or other guardian,
but without any such consent--to fasten upon a child at its birth, and
long before it is itself even capable of giving consent to anything,
with the concurrence of two other persons, alike self-appointed, load it
with a set of obligations--obligations of a most terrific and appalling
character--obligations of the nature of oaths, of which just so much
and no more is rendered visible as is sufficient to render them
terrific--obligations to which neither in quantity nor in quality are
any limits attempted to be, or capable of being, assigned."

This obligation, laid upon the child in its unconsciousness, places
it in a far worse position, should it hereafter reject the Christian
religion, than if such an undertaking had not been entered into on
its behalf. It becomes an "apostate," and is considered to have
disgracefully broken its faith; it lies under legal disabilities which
it would not otherwise incur, for heavy statutes are levelled against
those who, after having "professed the Christian religion," write or
speak against it. Thus in early infancy a chain is forged round the
child's neck which fetters him throughout life, and the unconsciousness
of the baby is taken advantage of to lay him under terrible penalties.
In English law a minor is protected because of his youth; surely we
need an ecclesiastical minority, before the expiration of which no
spiritual contracts entered into should be enforceable. From the
religious point of view, apostacy is far more fatal than simple
non-Christianity. Keble writes:

     "Vain thought, that shall not be at all
     I Refuse me, or obey,
     Our ears have heard the Almighty's call,
     We cannot be as they."

Is it fair not to ask the child's assent before making his case worse
than that of the heathen should he hereafter reject the faith which his
sponsors promise he shall believe?

Besides, how absurd is this promising for another; a child is taught not
to break _his_ baptismal vow, when he has made no such vow at all; how
can the god-parents ensure that the child shall renounce the devil and
believe in Christianity, and obey God? It is foolish enough to make a
promise of that kind for oneself when changing circumstances may force
us into breaking it, but it is sheer madness to make such a promise on
behalf of somebody else. The promise to "believe all the Articles of the
Christian Faith," cannot take effect until the judgment has grown ripe
enough to test, to accept, or to reject, and who then can say for his
brother, "he shall believe." Belief is not a matter of will, it is a
matter of evidence; if evidence enough supports an assertion, we must
believe it, while if the evidence be insufficient we must doubt it.
Belief is neither a virtue nor a vice; it is simply the consequence
of sufficient evidence. Theological belief is demanded on insufficient
evidence; such belief is called, theologically, "faith," but in
ordinary matters it would be called "credulity." First amongst the
renouncings comes "the devil and all his works." Says Bentham--"The
Devil, who or what is he, and how is it that he is _renounced?_
The works of the Devil, what are they, and how is it that they are
renounced? Applied to the Devil, who or whatever he is--applied to
the Devil's works, whatever they are--what sort of an operation is
_renouncement or renunciation?_"

Pertinent questions, surely, and none of them answerable. A Court of Law
lately sat upon the Devil, and could not find him; "how is the Christian
to explain to the child whom it is he has renounced in his infancy? And
in the first place, the Devil himself--of whom so decided and familiar a
mention, as of one whom everybody knows, is made--where lives he? Who is
he? What is he? The child itself, did it ever see him? By any one, to
whom for the purpose of the inquiry the child has access, was he ever
seen? The child, has it ever happened to it to have any dealings with
him? Is it in any such danger as that of having, at any time, to his
knowledge, any sort of dealings with him? If not, then to what purpose
is this _renouncement?_ and, once more, what is it that is meant by it?"

But supposing there were a devil, and supposing he had works, how could
the child renounce him? The devil is not in the child's possession that
he might give him up as if he were an injurious toy. In days gone by the
phrase had a definite meaning; people were supposed to be able to hold
commerce with the devil, to commune with familiar spirits, and summon
imps to do their bidding; to "renounce the devil and all his works" was
then a promise to have nothing to do with witchcraft, sorcery, or magic;
to regard the devil as an enemy, and to take no advantage by his help.
All these beliefs have long since passed away into "The Old Curiosity
Shop" of Ecclesiastical Rubbish, but children are still taught to repeat
the old phrases, to rattle the dry bones which life has left so long.
The "pomps of this wicked world" might be renounced by Christians if
they wanted to do so, but they show a strange obliviousness of their
baptismal vow. A reception at court is as good an instance of the
renunciation of the vain pomp and glory of this wicked world as we could
wish to see, and when we remember that the children who are taught the
Catechism in their childhood are taught to aim at winning these pomps in
their youth and maturity, we learn to appreciate the fact that spiritual
things can only be spiritually discerned. Would it not be well if the
Church would publish an "Explanation of the Catechism," so that the
children may know what they have renounced?

"Dost thou not think that thou art bound to believe, and to do as they
have promised for thee?" "Yes, verily; and by God's help so I will. And
I heartily thank our heavenly Father, that he hath called me to this
state of salvation, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And I pray unto
God to give me his grace, that I may continue in the same unto my life's
end." "Bound to believe... as they have promised for thee!" In the name
of common sense, why? What a marvellous claim for any set of people to
put forward, that they have the right to promise what other people
shall believe. And the child is taught to answer to this preposterous
question, "Yes, verily." The Church does wisely in training children to
answer thus before they begin to think, as they would certainly never
admit so palpably unjust a claim as that they were bound to believe or
to do anything simply because some other persons said that they should.
The hearty thanks due to God "that he hath called me to this state of
salvation," seem somewhat premature, as well as unnecessary. God, having
made the child, is bound to put him in some "state" where existence
will not involve a curse to him; the "salvation" is very doubtful, being
dependent on a variety of things in addition to baptism. Besides, it
is doubtful whether it is an advantage to be in a "state of salvation,"
unless you get finally saved, some Christian authors appearing to think
that damnation is the heavier if it is incurred after being put in the
state of salvation, so that, on the whole, it would probably be less
dangerous to be a heathen. The child is then required to "rehearse the
articles of his belief," and is taught to recite "the Apostles' Creed,"
_i.e_., a creed with which the apostles had nothing in the world to do.
The act of belief ought surely to be an intelligent one, and anyone who
professes to believe a thing ought to have some idea of what the thing
is. What idea can a child have of conception by the Holy Ghost and being
born of the Virgin Mary, in both which recondite mysteries he avows his
belief? Having recited this, to him (as to everyone else) unintelligible
creed, he is asked, "What dost thou chiefly learn in these articles of
thy belief?" a most necessary question, since they can have conveyed no
idea at all to his little mind. He answers: "First, I learn to believe
in God the Father, who hath made me and all the world. Secondly, in God
the Son, who hath redeemed me and all mankind. Thirdly, in God the Holy
Ghost, who sanctifieth me and all the elect people of God." Curiously,
the last two paragraphs have no parallels in the creed itself; there is
no word there that the Son is God, nor that he redeemed the child, nor
that he redeemed all mankind; neither is it said that the Holy Ghost is
God, nor that he sanctifies anyone at all. How is the child to believe
that God the Son redeemed _all mankind_, when he is taught that only by
baptism has he himself been brought into "this state of salvation?" if
all are redeemed, why should he specially thank God that he himself is
called and saved? if all are redeemed, what is the meaning of the phrase
that "all the elect people of God" are sanctified by the Holy Ghost?
Surely all who are redeemed must also be sanctified, and should not the
two passages touch only the same people? Either the Holy Ghost should
sanctify all mankind, or Christ should redeem only the elect people of
God. A redeemed, but unsanctified, person would cause confusion as to
his proper place when he arrived in the realms above; St. Peter would
not know where to send him to. Bentham caustically remarks: "Here, then,
in this word, we have the name of a sort of _process_, which the child
is made to say is going on within him; going on within him at all
times--going on within him at the very instant he is giving this
account of it. This process, then, what is it? Of what feelings is it
productive? By what marks and symptoms is he to know whether it really
is or is not going on within him, as he is forced to> say it is? How
does he feel, now that the Holy Ghost is _sanctifying_ him? How is it
that he would feel, if no such operation were going on within him? Too
often does it happen to him in some shape or other, to commit _sin_; or
something which he is told and required to believe is _sin_: an event
which cannot fail to be frequently, not to say continually, taking
place, if that be true, which in the Liturgy we are all made so
decidedly to confess and assert,--viz., that we are all--all of us
without exception--so many _'miserable sinners.'_ In the schoolroom,
doing what by this Catechism he is forced to do, saying what he is
forced to say, the child thus declares himself, notwithstanding, a
sanctified person. From thence going to church, he confesses himself
to be no better than '_a miserable sinner.'_ If he is not always this
miserable sinner, then why is he always forced to say he is? If he is
always this same miserable sinner, then this sanctification, be it what
it may, which the Holy Ghost was at the pains of bestowing upon him,
what is he the better for it?" Besides, how can the child be taught to
believe in one God if he finds three different gods all doing different
things for him? As clear a distinction as possible is here made between
the redeeming work of God the Son and the sanctifying work of God the
Holy Ghost, and if the child tries to realise in any fashion that which
he is taught to say he believes, he must inevitably become a Tri-theist
and believe in the creator, the redeemer, the sanctifier, as three
different gods. The creed being settled, the child is reminded: "You
said that your godfathers and godmothers did promise for you that you
should keep God's commandments. Tell me how many there be? Ans. Ten.
Ques. Which be they? Ans. The same which God spake in the twentieth
chapter of Exodus, saying, I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out
of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none
other gods but me." But God has not brought the child, nor the child's
ancestors, out of the land of Egypt, nor out of the house of bondage:
therefore the first commandment, which is made dependent on such
out-bringing, is not spoken to the child. The argument runs: "Seeing
that I have done so much for thee, thou shalt have no other God instead
of me." The second commandment is rejected by general consent, and it is
almost certain that the child will be taught that God has commanded that
no likeness of anything shall be made in a room with pictures on the
walls. Christians conveniently gloss over the fact that this commandment
forbids all sculpture, all painting, all moulding, all engraving; they
plead that it only means nothing that shall be made for purposes of
worship, although the distinct words are: "_Thou shalt not make any
likeness of anything._'" In order to thoroughly understand the state of
the child's mind who has learned that "I the Lord thy God am a jealous
God, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children," when he comes
to read other parts of the Bible it will be well to put side by side
with this declaration, Ezekiel xviii. 19, 20: "Yet say ye, why? doth
not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that
which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done
them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth it shall die. The son
shall not bear the iniquity of the father." The fourth commandment is
disregarded on all sides; from the prince who has his fish on the Sunday
from the fishmonger down to the costermonger who sells cockles in the
street, all nominal Christians forget and disobey this command; they
keep their servants at work, although they ought to "do no manner of
work," and drive in carriage, cab, and omnibus as though God had not
said that the cattle also should be idle on the Sabbath day. Although
the New Testament is, on this point, in direct conflict with the
Old,--Paul commanding the Colossians not to trouble themselves about
Sabbaths, yet Christians read and teach this commandment, while in
their lives they carry out the injunction of Paul. To complete the
demoralising effect of this fourth commandment on the child, he is
taught that "in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and
all that in them is," while, in his day-school he is instructed in
exactly the opposite sense, and is told of the long and countless
ages of evolution through which the world passed, and the marvellous
creatures that inhabited it before the coming of man. The fifth
commandment is also evil in its effect on the child's mind from that
same fault of unreality which runs throughout the teaching of the
Established Church. "Honour thy father and thy mother _that thy days may
be long in the land._" He will know perfectly well that good children
die as well as bad, and that, therefore, there is no truth in the
promise he recites. The rest of the commandments enjoin simple moral
duties, and would be useful if taught without the preceding ones; as it
is, the unreality of the first five injures the force of the later ones,
and the good and bad, being mixed up together, are not likely to be
carefully distinguished and thus they lose all compelling moral power.

The commandments recited, the child is asked--"What dost thou chiefly
learn by these commandments?" and he answers that--"I learn two things:
my duty towards God and my duty towards my neighbour." We would urge
here that man's duty to man should be the point most pressed upon
the young. Supposing that any "duty to God" were possible--a question
outside the present subject--it is clear that the duty to man is the
nearest, the most obvious, the easiest to understand, and therefore the
first to be inculcated. Surely, it is only by discharge of the immediate
and the plain duty that any discharge becomes possible of one less near
and less plain. Besides, the duty to God taught in the Catechism is of
so wide and engrossing a nature that to discharge it fully would take up
the whole time and thoughts. For in answer to the question, "What is thy
duty towards God?" the child says:--"My duty towards God is to believe
in him, to fear him, and to love him with all my heart, with all my
mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength; to worship him, to
give him thanks, to put my whole trust in him, to call upon him, to
honour his holy name and his word, and to serve him truly all the days
of my life." First, "to believe in him;" but how can the child believe
in him until evidence be offered of his existence? But to examine such
evidence is beyond the still weak intellectual powers of the child, and
therefore belief in God is beyond him, for belief based on authority is
utterly valueless. Besides, it can never be a "duty" to believe; if the
evidence of a fact be convincing, belief in that fact naturally follows,
and non-belief would be very stupid; but the word "duty" is out of place
in connection with belief. "To fear him:" that the child will naturally
do, after learning that God was angry with him for being born, and that
another God, Jesus Christ, was obliged to die to save him from the angry
God. "To love him;" not so easy, under the circumstances, nor is love
compatible with fear; "perfect love casteth out fear... he that feareth
is not made perfect in love." "With all my heart, with all my mind, with
all my soul, and with all my strength." Four different things the
child is to love God with: What does each mean? How is heart to be
distinguished from mind, soul, and strength? In human love, love of the
heart might, perhaps, be distinguished from love of the mind, if by love
of the heart alone a purely physical passion were intended; but this
cannot explain any sort of love to God, to whom such love would be
clearly impossible. Once more, we say that the Church of England should
publish an explanation of the Catechism, so that we may know what we
ought to do and believe for our soul's health. Bentham urges that to put
the "whole trust" in God would prevent the child from putting "any part
of his trust" in second causes, and that disregard of these would not be
compatible with personal safety and with the preservation of health and
life; and that further, as all these services are "unprofitable" to God,
they might "with more profit be directed to the service of those weak
creatures, whose need of all the service that can be rendered to them
is at all times so urgent and so abundant." The duty to God being thus
acknowledged, there follows the duty to the neighbour, for which there
seems no room when the love, trust, and service due to God have been
fully rendered. "_Ques_. What is thy duty toward thy neighbour? _Ans_.
My duty towards my neighbour is to love him as myself, and to do to all
men as I would they should do unto me. To love, honour, and succour my
father and mother. To honour and obey the king, and all that are put
in authority under him. To submit myself to all my governors, teachers,
spiritual pastors, and masters. To order myself lowly and reverently to
all my betters. To hurt nobody by word or deed. To be true and just in
all my dealings. To bear no malice nor hatred in my heart. To keep
my hands from picking and stealing, and my tongue from evil-speaking,
lying, and slandering. To keep my body in temperance, soberness, and
chastity. Not to covet nor desire other men's goods; but to learn and
labour truly to get mine own living, and to do my duty in that state
of life unto which it shall please God to call me." The first phase
reproduces the morality which is as old as successful social life. "What
word will serve as a rule for the whole life?" asked one of Confucius.
"Is not reciprocity such a word?" answered the sage. "What thou dost
not desire done to thyself, do not to others. When you are labouring
for others, let it be with the same zeal as if for yourself." The second
phrase is true and right; the next is often foolish and impossible. Who
could honour such a king as George IV.? while to "obey" James II.
would have been the destruction of England. Honour and obedience to
constituted authorities is a duty only when those authorities discharge
the duties that they are placed in power to execute; the moment they
fail in doing this, to* honour and to obey them is to become partners in
their treason to the nation. The doctrine of divine right was believed
in when the Catechism was written, and then the voice of the king was
a divine one, and to resist him was to resist God. The two following
phrases breathe the same cringing spirit, as though the main duty
towards one's neighbour were to submit to him. Reverence to any one
better than one's-self is an instinct, but "my betters" is simply a
cant expression for those higher in the social scale, and those have no
right to any lowlier ordering than the simple respect and courtesy that
every man should show towards every other. This kind of teaching saps a
child's mental strength and self-respect, and is fatal to his manliness
of character if it makes any impression upon him. The remainder of the
answer is thoroughly good and wholesome, save the last few words about
"that state of life unto which it shall please God to call me." A
child should be taught that his "state of life" depends upon his own
exertions, and not upon any "calling" of God, and that if the state be
unsatisfactory, it is his duty to set diligently to work to mend it; not
to be content with it when bad, not to throw on God the responsibility
of having placed him there, but so to labour with all hearty diligence
as to make it worthy of himself, honourable, respectable, and
comfortable. At this point the child is informed: "Thou art not able to
do these things of thyself, nor to walk in the commandments of God, and
to serve him, without his special grace; which thou must learn at all
times to call for by diligent prayer." But if the child cannot do these
things without God's "special grace," then the responsibility of his not
doing them must of necessity fall upon God; for the child cannot pray
unless God gives him grace; and without prayer he can't get special
grace, and without special grace he can't "do these things;" so that
clearly the child is helpless until God sends him his grace, and
therefore the whole responsibility lies upon God alone, and he can never
blame the child for not doing that which he himself has prevented him
from beginning. Diligent prayer for special grace being thus wanted,
the child is taught to recite the Lord's Prayer, in which grace is not
mentioned at all, and he is then asked--"What desirest thou of God in
this prayer?" "I desire my Lord God, our Heavenly Father, who is the
giver of all goodness, to send his grace to me and to all people; that
we may worship him, serve him, and obey him, as we ought to do." We rub
our eyes; not one word of all this is discoverable in the Lord's Prayer!
"Send his grace to me and to all people"? not a syllable conveying any
such meaning: "that we may worship him, serve him, and obey him "? not
the shadow of such a request. Is it supposed to train a child in the
habit of truthfulness to make him recite as a religious lesson what is
utterly and thoroughly untrue? "And I pray unto God that he will send
us all things that be needful both for our souls and bodies, and that he
will be merciful unto to us, and forgive us our sins." "All things that
be needful both for our souls and bodies" is, we presume, summed up
in "our daily bread." Simple people would scarcely imagine that "daily
bread" was all they wanted both for their souls and bodies; perhaps the
souls want nothing, not being discoverable by any real needs which
they express. "And that it will please him to save and defend us in all
dangers, ghostly and bodily; and that he will keep us from all sin and
wickedness, and from our ghostly enemy, and from everlasting death."
Here, again, nothing in the prayer can be translated into these phrases;
there is nothing about saving and defending from all dangers, ghostly
and bodily, nor a syllable as to defence from our ghostly enemy, by whom
a child will probably understand a ghost in a white sheet, and will
go to bed in terror after saying the Catechism which thus recognises
ghosts--nor from everlasting death. The prayer is of the simplest, but
the translation of it of the hardest. "And this I trust he will do of
his mercy and goodness, through our Lord Jesus Christ; And therefore I
say Amen, so be it." Why should the child trust God's mercy and goodness
to protect him? There would be no dangers, ghostly and bodily, no
ghostly enemy, and no everlasting death, unless God had invented them
all, and the person who places us in the midst of dangers is scarcely
the one to whom to turn for deliverance from them. Mercy and goodness
would not have surrounded us with such dangers; mercy and goodness would
not have encompassed us with such foes; mercy and goodness would have
created beings whose glad lives would have been one long hymn of praise
to the Creator, and would have ever blessed him that he had called them
into existence.

The child is now to be led further into the Christian mysteries, and
is to be instructed in the doctrine of the sacraments, curious
double-natured things of which we have to believe in what we don't see,
and see that which we are not to believe in. "How many sacraments hath
Christ ordained in his Church?" "Two only as generally necessary
to salvation, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord."
"Generally necessary"; the word "generally" is explained by commentators
as "universally," so that the phrase should run, "universally necessary
to salvation." The theory of the Church being that all are by nature the
children of wrath, and that "_none_ are regenerate," except they be born
of water and of the Holy Ghost, it follows that baptism is universally
necessary to salvation; and since Jesus has said, "Except ye eat the
flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you"
(John vi. 53), it equally follows that the Lord's Supper is universally
necessary to salvation. Seeing that the vast majority of mankind are not
baptized Christians at all, and that of baptized Christians the majority
never eat the Lord's supper, the heirs of salvation will be extremely
limited in number, and will not be inconveniently crowded in the many
mansions above. "What meanest thou by this word _sacrament?_ I mean an
outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us,
ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and
as a pledge to assure us thereof." If this be a true definition of a
sacrament, no such thing as a sacrament can fairly be said to be in
existence. What is the inward and spiritual grace given unto the baby in
baptism? If it be given, it must be seen in its effects, or else it is
a gift of nothing at all. A baby after baptism is exactly the same as
it was before; cries as much, kicks as much, fidgets as much; clearly
it has received no inward and spiritual sanctifying grace; it behaves as
well or as badly as any unbaptized baby, and is neither worse nor better
than its contemporaries. Manifestly the inward grace is wanting, and
therefore no true sacrament is here, for a sacrament must have the grace
as well as the sign, The same thing may be said of the Lord's Supper;
people do-not seem any the better for it after its reception; a hungry
man is satisfied after his supper, and so shows that he has really
received something, but the spirit suffers as much from the hunger of
envy and the thirst of bad temper after the Lord's Supper as it did
before. But why should the grace be "inward," and why is the soul
thought of as _inside_ the body, instead of all through and over it?
There are few convenient hollows inside where it can dwell, but people
speak as though man were an empty box, and the soul might live in it.
The sacrament is "a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to
assure us thereof." God's grace, then, can be conveyed in the vehicles
of water, bread, and wine; it must surely, then, be something material,
else how can material things transmit it? And God becomes dependent on
man to decide for him on whom the grace shall be bestowed. Two infants
are born into the world; one of them is brought to church and is
baptized; God may give that child his grace: the other is left without
baptism; it is a child of wrath, and God may not bless it. Thus is God
governed by the neglect of a poor, and very likely drunken, nurse,
and the recipients of his grace are chosen for him at the caprice or
carelessness of men. Strange, too, that Christians who received God's
grace need "a pledge to assure" them that they have really got it; how
curious that the recipient should not know that so precious a gift has
been bestowed upon him until he has also been given a little bit of
bread and a tiny sip of wine. It is as though a queen's messenger put
into one's hand a hundred £1000 notes, and then said solemnly: "Here is
a farthing as a pledge to assure you that you have really received the
notes." Would not the notes themselves be the best assurance that we had
received them, and would not the grace of God consciously possessed
be its own best proof that God had given it to us? "How many parts are
there in a sacrament? Two; the outward visible sign, and the inward
spiritual grace." This is simply a repetition of the previous question
and answer, and is entirely unnecessary. "What is the outward visible
sign, or form, in baptism? Water; _wherein_ the person is baptized _in
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost_."
This answer raises the interesting question as to whether English
Christians--save the Baptists--are really baptized. They are not
baptized "in," but only "with" water. The rubric directs that the
minister "shall _dip it in_ the water discreetly and warily," and that
only where "the child is weak it shall suffice to pour water upon it" It
appears possible that the salvation of nearly all the English people
is in peril, since their baptism is imperfect. The formula of baptism
reminds us of a curious difference in the baptism of the apostles from
the baptism in the triune name of God; although Jesus had, according to
Matthew, solemnly commanded them to baptize with this formula, we
find, from the Acts, that they utterly disregarded his injunction,
and baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ," instead of in the name of
"Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." (See Acts ii. 38, viii. 16, x 48, xix. 5,
etc.) The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is, that if the
Acts be historical, Jesus never gave the command put into his mouth in
Matthew, but that it was inserted later when such a formula became usual
in the Church. "What is the inward and spiritual grace? A death unto
sin, and a new birth unto righteousness; for being by nature born in
sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of
grace." What? a baby die unto sin? how can it, when it is unconscious of
sin, and therefore cannot sin? "A new birth unto righteousness?" but it
is only just born, surely there can be no need that it should be born
over again so soon? And if it be true that this is the inward grace
given, would it not be well--as did many in the early Church--to put off
the ceremony of baptism until the last moment, so that the dying man,
being baptized, may die to all the sins he has committed during life,
and be born again into spiritual babyhood, fit to go straight into
heaven? It seems a needless cruelty to baptize infants, and so deprive
them of the chance of getting rid of all their life sins in a lump later
on. This is not the only objection to baptism. Bentham powerfully urges
what has often been pressed:--

"Note well the sort of story that is here told. The Almighty God,--maker
of all things, visible and 'invisible,'--'of heaven and earth, and all
that therein is.'--makes, amongst other things, a child: and no sooner
has he made it, than he is 'wrath' with it for being made. He determines
accordingly to consign it to a state of endless torture. Meantime
comes somebody,--and pronouncing certain words, applies the child to a
quantity of water, or a quantity of water to the child. Moved by these
words, the all-wise Being changes his design; and, though he is not
so far appeased as to give the child its pardon, vouchsafes to it a
_chance_,--no one can say _what_ chance,--of ultimate escape. And this
is what the child gets by being 'made'--and we see in what way made--'a
child of grace.'"

"What is required of persons to be baptised? Repentance, whereby they
forsake sin; and Faith, whereby they steadfastly believe the promises of
God made to them in that Sacrament. Why then are infants baptised when
by reason of their tender age they cannot perform them? [Why, indeed!]
Because they promise them both by their sureties, which promise, when
they come of age, themselves are bound to perform." Surely it would be
better if these things are "required" before baptism, to put off baptism
until repentance and faith become possible, instead of going through it
like a play, where people act their parts and represent somebody else.
For suppose the child for whom repentance and faith are promised does
not, when he comes to full age, either repent of his sins or believe
God's promises, what becomes of the inward and spiritual grace? It
must either have been given, or not have been given; if the former,
the unrepentant and unbelieving person has got it on the faith of his
sureties' promises for him; if the latter, God has not given the grace
promised in Holy Baptism, and his promises are therefore unreliable in
all cases.

"Why was the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper ordained? For the continual
remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits
which we receive thereby." What very bad memories Christians must have!
God has come down from heaven on purpose to die for them, and they
cannot remember it without eating and drinking in memory of it. The
child is then taught that the outward part in the Lord's Supper is bread
and wine, and that the inward part is "The Body and Blood of Christ,
which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the
Lord's Supper," the body and blood nourishing the soul, as the bread
and wine do the body. If the body and blood convey as infinitesimal an
amount of nourishment to the soul as the small portions of bread and
wine do to the body, the soul must suffer much from spiritual hunger.
But how do they nourish the soul? The body and blood must be somehow in
the bread and wine, and how is it managed that one part shall nourish
the soul while the rest goes to the body? "verily and indeed taken and
received." From the eager protestation one would imagine that there
must be some doubt about it, and that there might be some question as to
whether the invisible and intangible thing were really and truly taken.
It needs but little insight to see how woefully confusing it must be to
an intelligent child to teach him that bread and wine are only bread
and wine one minute and the next are Christ's body and blood as well,
although none of his senses can distinguish the smallest change in them.
Such instruction will, if it has any effect on his mind, incline him to
take every assertion on trust, without, and even contrary to, reason and
experiment; it lays the basis of all superstition, by teaching belief in
what is not susceptible of proof.

"What is required of them who come to the Lord's supper? To examine
themselves, whether they repent them truly of their former sins,
steadfastly purposing to lead a new life; have a lively faith in God's
mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death; and be
in charity with all men." It is the custom in many churches now to have
weekly, and in some to have daily, communion; can the communicants who
attend these steadfastly purpose to lead a new life every time? and how
many "former sins" are they as continually repenting of? Here we find
the overstrained piety which throughout disfigures the Prayer-Book;
people are moaning about their sins, and crying over their falls, and
resolving to mend their ways, and vowing they will lead new lives, and
the next time one sees them they are once more proclaiming themselves
to be as miserable sinners as ever. How weary the Holy Ghost must get of
sanctifying them!

Such is the Catechism that "The curate of every parish shall diligently
upon Sundays and Holy Days, after the second lesson at evening prayer,
openly in the Church" teach to the children sent to him, and which
"all fathers, mothers, masters, and dames shall cause their children,
servants, and apprentices (which have not learned their Catechism) to
come to the Church at the time appointed," in order to learn; such
is the nourishment provided by the Church for her lambs: such is the
teaching she offers to the rising generation. Thus, before they are able
to think, she moulds the thinking-machine; thus, before they are able
to judge, she biases the judgment; thus, from children puzzled and
bewildered, she hopes to make men and women supple to her teaching, and
out of the Catechism she winds round the children's brains, she forges
the chain of creeds which fetters the intellect of the full-grown
members of her communion.

London: Printed by Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh, 28, Stonecutter
Street, E.C

February, 1885.





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