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Title: The Book Of God - In The Light Of The Higher Criticism
Author: Foote, G. W. (George William), 1850-1915
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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THE BOOK OF GOD

IN THE LIGHT OF THE HIGHER CRITICISM

WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO DEAN FARRAR'S NEW APOLOGY

By G. W. Foote

London: R. Forder, 28 Stonecutter Street, E.C.



THE BOOK OF GOD.



I. INTRODUCTION.

During the fierce controversy between the divines of the Protestant
Reformation and those of the Roman Catholic Church, the latter asserted
that the former treated the Bible--and treated it quite naturally--as a
wax nose, which could be twisted into any shape and direction. Those
who championed the living voice of God in the Church, against the
dead letter of the written Bible, were always prone to deride the
consequences of private judgment when applied to such a large and
heterogeneous volume as the Christian Scriptures. They contended that
the Bible is a misleading book when read by itself in the mere light
of human reason; that any doctrine may be proved from it by a
judicious selection of texts; and that Christianity would break up into
innumerable sects unless the Church acted as the inspired interpreter of
the inspired revelation. They argued, further, that the Bible was really
not what the Protestants supposed it to be; and what they said on this
point was a curious anticipation of a good deal of the so-called Higher
Criticism.

Both sides were right, and both sides were wrong, in this dispute. The
Protestants were right against the Church; the Catholics were right
against the Bible. It was reserved for Rationalism to accept
and harmonise the double truth, and to wage war against both
infallibilities.

The Bible is said to be inspired, but the man who reads it is not. The
consequence is that he deduces from it a creed in harmony with his own
taste, temper, fancy, and intelligence. He lays emphasis on what fits in
with this creed, and slurs over all that is opposed to it. Every one of
the various and conflicting Protestant sects is founded upon one and
the same infallible book. "The Bible teaches this," says one; "The Bible
teaches that," says another. And they are both right. The Bible does
teach the doctrines of all the sects. But do they not contradict each
other? They do. What is the explanation, then? Why this--the Bible
contradicts itself.

The self-contradictions of the Bible have occasioned the writing of many
"Harmonies," in which it is sought to be proved that all the apparent
discrepancies are most admirable agreements when they are properly
understood. All that is requisite is to add a word here, and subtract a
word there; to regard one and the same word as having several different
meanings, and several different words as having one and the same
meaning; and, above all things, to apply this method with a strong and
earnest desire to find harmony everywhere, and a pious intention of
giving the Bible the benefit of the doubt in every case of perplexity.

This sort of jugglery, which would be derided and despised in the case
of any other book, is now falling into discredit. Most of the clergy are
ashamed of it. They frankly own, since it can no longer be denied,
that a more honest art of criticism is necessary to save the Bible from
general contempt.

But the "Harmony" game is not the only one that is played out. All the
"Reconciliations" of the Bible with science, history, morality, and
common sense, are sharing the same fate. The higher clergy leave
such exhibitions of perverted ingenuity to laymen like the late Mr.
Gladstone. Divines like Canon Driver see that this mental tight-rope
dancing may cause astonishment, but will never produce conviction. They
therefore recognise the difficulties, and seek for a more subtle and
plausible method of removing them. They admit that Moses and Darwin are
at variance with each other; that a great deal of Bible "history" is
legendary, and some of it distinctly false; that such stories as those
of Lot's wife and Jonah's whale are decidedly incredible; that some
passages of Scripture are vulgar and brutal, and others detestably
inhuman; and that it is positively useless to disguise the fact. Yet
they are naturally anxious to keep the Bible on its old pedestal;
and this can only be done by means of a new theory of inspiration.
Accordingly, these gentlemen tell us that the Bible is not the Word of
God, but it contains the Word of God. Its writers were inspired, but
their own natural faculties were not entirely suppressed by the
divine spirit. Sometimes the writer's spirit was predominant in the
combination, and the composition was mainly that of an unregenerate
son of Adam. At other times the divine spirit was predominant, and the
result was lofty religion and pure ethics. Moreover, the sacred writers
were only inspired in one direction. God gave them a lift, as it were,
in spiritual matters; but in science and sociology he let them blunder
along as they could.

The old wax nose is now receiving a decided new twist, and a
considerable number of accomplished and clever divines are engaged in
manipulating it. One of them is Dean Farrar, who has recently published
a bulky volume on _The Bible: its Meaning and Supremacy_, which we shall
subject to a very careful criticism.

Dean Farrar's book contains nothing that is new to fairly well-read
sceptics. It presents the commonplaces of modern Biblical criticism,
with a due regard to the interests of "the grand old book" and of "true"
and "fundamental" Christianity, which is probably no more than the
particular form of Christianity that is likely to weather the present
storm of controversy. But although this book contains no startling
novelties, it is of importance as the work of a dignitary of the Church
of England. It is also of value, inasmuch as it will be read by many
persons who would shrink from Strauss and Thomas Paine. It is well that
someone should tell Christians the truth, if not the _whole_ truth,
about the Bible, and tell it them from within the fold of faith. His
motive in doing so may be less a regard for truth itself than for the
immediate interests of his own Church; but the main thing is that he
does it, and Freethinkers may be glad even if they are not grateful.

Dr. Farrar's book has an Introduction, and we propose to examine it
first. He opens by telling the clergy that they ought not to pursue an
"ostrich policy" in regard to religious difficulties; that they
should not indulge in "vituperative phrases," nor assume a "disdainful
infallibility"; that they do wrong in denouncing as "wicked,"
"blasphemous," or "dangerous" every conviction which differs from their
own form of orthodoxy; and that they must not expect all that they
choose to assert to be "accepted with humble acquiescence." No doubt
this advice is quite necessary; and the fact that it is so shows
the value of Christianity, after eighteen centuries of trial, as a
training-school in the virtues of modesty and humility, to say nothing
of justice and temperance.

The clergy are also invited by Dr. Farrar to recognise the general
diffusion of scepticism:--

"In recent years much has been written under the assumption that
Christianity no longer deserves the dignity of a refutation; or that,
at any rate, the bases on which it rests have been seriously undermined.
The writings of freethinkers are widely disseminated among the working
classes. The Church of Christ has lost its hold on multitudes of men
in our great cities. Those of the clergy who are working in the crowded
centres of English life can hardly be unaware of the extent to which
scepticism exists among our artizans. Many of them have been persuaded
to believe that the Church is a hostile and organised hypocrisy."

This is a sad state of things, and how is it to be met?

Not by denouncing reason as a wild beast, nor yet by relying on emotion
and ceremonial, for "no religious system will be permanent which is
not based on the convictions of the intellect." Dr. Farrar recommends a
different policy. He has "frequently observed that the objections urged
against Christianity are aimed at dogmas which are no part of Christian
faith, or are in no wise essential to its integrity." Even men of
science have been led astray by objections "based on travesties of its
real tenets." One of these false opinions is that "which maintains
the supposed inerrancy and supernatural infallibility of every book,
sentence, and word of the Holy Bible." This is the principal point to be
dealt with; it is here that we must make an adjustment. Nine-tenths of
the case of sceptics "is made up of attacks on the Bible," and the only
way to answer them is to show that they misunderstand it, and that what
they demolish is not Christianity, but "a mummy elaborately painted in
its semblance," or "a scarecrow set up in its guise."

"It is no part of the Christian faith," Dr. Farrar says, "to maintain
that every word of the Bible was dictated supernaturally, or is equally
valuable, or free from all error, or on the loftiest levels of morality,
as finally revealed." Such a view of the Bible has been popularly
expressed by divines, but they really did not mean it, and it "never
formed any part of the Catholic creed of Christendom." The doctrine of
everlasting punishment is another of these delusions. There is such
a thing as future punishment, but it is not everlasting--it is only
eternal. In the same way, the Bible is the Word of God, but it is not
infallible--it is only inspired. And what _that_ means we shall see as
we proceed.



II. THE BIBLE CANON

The first chapter of Dean Farrar's book deals with the Bible Canon.
After another slap at the poor benighted Christians who still hold
that every word of Scripture is "supernaturally dictated and infallibly
true," Dr. Farrar remarks that the Bible is "not a single nor even a
homogeneous book." Strictly speaking, it is not a book, but a library;
and, as is pointed out later on, it is the remains of a much larger
collection which has mostly perished. The Canon of the Old Testament was
"arrived at by slow and uncertain degrees." The common assertion, that
it was fixed by Ezra and the so-called Great Synagogue in the fifth
century before Christ, is in direct opposition to the facts. It was not
really _settled_ until seventy years after the birth of Christ, when the
Rabbis met at Jamnia, and decided in favor of our present thirty-nine
books. According to Dr. Farrar, there was no special influence from
heaven in the determination of the Canon. It was a work which God left
to "the _ordinary_ influences of the Holy Ghost." Let us see then how
these influences operated on the last and most critical occasion. "The
gathering at Jamnia," says Dr. Farrar, "was a tumultuous assemblage, and
in the faction fights of the Rabbinic parties blood was shed by their
scholars. Hence the decision was regarded as irrevocable and sealed
by blood." Such are the _ordinary_ influences of the Holy Ghost. Its
_extraordinary_ influences may be easily imagined. Their history is
written in blood and fire in every country in Christendom.

Dr. Farrar allows that the Canon of the New Testament was formed "in the
same gradual and tentative way." Many Gospels, Epistles, and Apocalypses
were "current" in the "first two centuries." Some of them were "quoted
as sacred books" and read aloud in Christian churches. Seven, at least,
of the books which are now canonical were then "disputed"--namely, the
Second Epistle of St. Peter, the Second and Third Epistles of St. John,
the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, and
the Book of Revelation. The Canon was "formally and officially settled"
by the Council of Laodicea (a.d. 363), and the two Councils of Carthage
(a.d. 397 and 419), the decrees of which were sanctioned by the Trullian
Council (a.d. 692), nearly seven hundred years after Christ. Dr. Farrar
holds, however, that these Councils merely registered the general
agreement of the Christian Church. The real test of canonicity is not
the decision of Councils, which may and do err, but "the verifying
faculty of the Christian consciousness." Dr. Farrar's argument, if it
means anything at all, implies that while Councils may err, consisting
as they do of fallible men, this "Christian consciousness" is really
infallible. But as this Christian consciousness only exists, after
all, in individual Christians, however numerous they may be, or through
however many centuries they may be continued, it is difficult to see how
the greatest multitude of fallibilities can make up one infallibility.
And unless it can, it is also difficult to see how Dr. Farrar can have
an infallible Canon. He disclaims the authority of the Church, on which
Catholics rely; indeed, he says it can hardly be said that the "whole
Church" has pronounced any opinion on the Canon at all. What really
happened is perhaps unconsciously admitted by Dr. Farrar in a rather
simple footnote. "Books were judged," he says, "by the congruity of
their contents with the general Christian conviction." Precisely so; the
books did not decide the doctrine, but the doctrine decided the fate of
the books. And how was the doctrine decided? By fierce controversy, by
forgery and sophistication, by partisan struggles, and finally, after
the adhesion of Constantine, by faction fights that involved the loss of
myriads (some say millions) of lives.

Not the slightest attempt is made by Dr. Farrar to meet the difficulty
of his position; indeed, he seems unaware that the difficulty exists.
All he sees is the difficulty of the positions taken up by the Catholics
and the early Protestants. It never occurs to him that he has only
shifted from one difficulty to another. The Catholics rely upon the
living voice of God in the Church. That covers everything, like the
sky; and is perfectly satisfactory, if you can only accept it. The
early Protestants repudiated the authority of the Church, at least
as represented by the Pope and Councils; but they acknowledged the
authority of the _primitive_ Church. They were shrewd enough to see
that what cannot possibly rest on mere reason must rest somewhere on
authority; so they admitted as much as was sufficient to cover the
Scriptures and the Creeds, and refused to go a step farther. Dr. Farrar
breaks away from both parties, and what is the result? He talks
about the Canon of the New Testament being formed "by the exercise of
enlightened reason," but he lays down no criterion by which reason can
decide whether a book is inspired or not, or so specially inspired as
to require a place in the Canon. The "verifying faculty of the Christian
consciousness" is one of those comfortable phrases, like the blessed
word Mesopotamia, which are designed to save the pains of accuracy and
the trouble of definite thought. What light does it really shed upon
the following questions? Why is the Protestant Canon different from
the Catholic Canon? Is it owing to some inexplicable difference in the
"verifying faculty of the Christian consciousness" in the two cases; and
by what test shall we decide when the Christian consciousness delivers
two contradictory verdicts? Why is the book of Ecclesiastes in the
Canon, while the book of Ecclesiasticus is (by the Protestants)
relegated to the Apocrypha? Why is the book of Esther in the Canon, and
the book of Judith in the Apocrypha? Why is the book of Jonah in the
Canon, and the book of Tobit in the Apocrypha? Why is the book of
Proverbs in the Canon, and the book of the Wisdom of Solomon in the
Apocrypha? These are questions which the early Protestants answered in
their way, but we defy Dr. Farrar to answer them at all.

Let us follow Dr. Farrar into his second chapter. He states, truly
enough, that both the Old and the New Testaments represent "the selected
and fragmentary remains of an extensive literature." Many books referred
to in the Old Testament are lost. Some of the canonical books are
anonymous; we do not know who wrote them. Others bear the names of men
"by whom they could not have been composed." The Pentateuch is "a work
of composite structure," which has been "edited and re-edited several
times." The Psalms are a collection of sacred poems in "five separate
books of very various antiquity." The Proverbs consist of "four or
five different collections." The New Testament is a selection from the
voluminous Christian literature of the earliest centuries. Many Gospels
were already in existence when St. Luke prepared his own. "It is all but
certain," Dr. Farrar says, "that St. Paul, and probable that the other
Apostles, must have written many letters which are no longer preserved."
That is to say, some letters actually written by St. Paul were allowed
to perish, while others not written by him were allowed to bear his
name, and were placed as his in the New Testament Canon! There are
passages in the Gospels that are known to be interpolations; for
instance, the story of the Woman taken in Adultery. This story is
"exquisite and supremely valuable," but it is bracketed in the Revised
Version as of "doubtful genuineness." Such passages are eliminated
because they do not "meet the standard of modern critical requirements."
_O sancta simplicitas!_ Is there any reason, in the natural sense of
that word, for believing that John the Apostle wrote the rest of the
Fourth Gospel, any more than he wrote this rejected story? Dr. Farrar
strains at gnats and swallows camels, and prides himself on his
discrimination.

His references to Justin Martyr and Papias seem less than ingenuous.
It is not true that Justin Martyr "freely uses the Gospels." Dr. Farrar
admits that he "does not name them." Saying that he "used" them is
quietly assuming that they existed. All that Justin Martyr does, as a
matter of fact, is to cite sayings ascribed to Jesus, but not in one
single case does he cite a saying of Jesus in exactly the form in which
it appears in the Four Gospels. Supposing that he wrote freely, and
had ever so bad a memory, and never took the trouble to refer to the
originals, it is simply inconceivable that he should never be right. Now
and then he must have deviated into accuracy. And the fact that he never
does is plain proof that he had not our Gospels before him. Nor does
Papias mention "the Gospels." He mentions only two, Matthew and Mark,
and he says that Matthew was written in _Hebrew_, Now, the earliest date
at which Papias can be fixed is a.d. 140. This is chosen by Dr. Farrar,
and we will let it pass unchallenged. And what follows? Why this, that
no Christian writer before a.d. 140 betrays that he has so much as heard
of _any_ Gospel, and even then but _two_ are known instead of _four_,
and one of these is most certainly _not_ the Gospel which opens the New
Testament.

All this was proved a quarter of a century ago by the author of
_Supernatural Religion_--a work which is systematically ignored by
the so-called Higher Critics because its author was a pronounced
Rationalist. An excellent summary of this writer's demonstrations
appears in the late Matthew Arnold's _God and the Bible_:--

"He seems to have looked out and brought together, to the best of his
powers, every extant _passage_ in which, between the year 70 and the
year 170 of our era, a writer might be supposed to be quoting one of our
Four Gospels.

"And it turns out that there is constantly the same sort of variation
from our Gospels, a variation inexplicable in men quoting from a real
Canon, and quite unlike what is found in men quoting from our Four
Gospels later on. It may be said that the Old Testament, too, is often
quoted loosely. True; but it is also quoted exactly; and long passages
of it are thus quoted. It would be nothing that our canonical Gospels
were often quoted loosely, if long passages from them, or if passages,
say, of even two or three verses, were sometimes quoted exactly. But
from writers before Irenæus not one such passage can be produced so
quoted. And the author of _Supernatural Religion_ by bringing all the
alleged quotations forward, has proved it."*

Now what is the exact value of these demonstrations? We will give it in
Mr. Arnold's words: "There is no evidence of the establishment of our
Four Gospels as a Gospel-Canon, or even of their existence as they now
finally stand at all, before the last quarter of the second century."
Not only is there no evidence of the orthodox theory, but, as Mr. Arnold
says, the "great weight of evidence is against it."

Dr. Giles--another ignored writer, although a clergyman of the Church
of England--had said and proved the very same thing in his _Christian
Records_; and had appended the following significant declaration:--

"There is positive proof, in the writings of the first ages of
Christianity, that the same question as to the age and authorship of the
books of the New Testament was even then agitated, and if it was then
set at rest, this was done, not by a deliberate sentence of the judge,
but by burning all the evidence on which one side of the controversy was
supported,"**

     * Arnold, God and the Bible, pp. 222-3.

     ** Dr. Giles, Christian Records, p. 10.

It is probable that Dr. Farrar is well aware that our Four Gospels
cannot be traced beyond the second half of the second century--that is,
considerably more than a century after the alleged date of the death of
Christ. But he shrinks from a frank admission of the fact, and leaves
the reader to find it out for himself.

Instead of making this important and, as some think, damning admission,
Dr. Farrar continues his remarks on the Bible Canon. That thirty-six
books are accepted "on the authority of the Church" simply means,
he tells us, that they are accepted "by the general consensus of
Christians." The whole Church, as such, has hardly pronounced an
opinion on the subject. The Churchmen who voted at Laodicea and Carthage
"exercised no independent judgment," and their critical knowledge was
"elementary." Nor was the decision of the Council of Trent any real
improvement. Dr. Farrar approves the reply of the Reformed Churches,
that "any man may reject books claiming to be Holy Scripture if he do
not feel the evidence of their contents." But this is to make every man
a judge, not only of what the Bible means, but also of what it should
contain. Each unfettered Christian may therefore make up a Bible for
himself; which is simply chaos come again. What then is the way of
escape from this grotesque confusion? Dr. Farrar indicates it with a
crooked finger:--

"The decision as to what books are or are not to be regarded as true
Scripture, though we believe it to be wise and right, depends on no
infallible decision. It must satisfy the scientific and critical as well
as the spiritual requirements of each age."

This reduces the Bible Canon to a perpetual transformation scene. It is
a tacit confession that the Protestant Bible is an arbitrary collection
of questionable documents; that it has nothing to plead for itself but
common usage; that its very contents, as well as their interpretation,
are liable to change; in short, that if the Catholic stands upon the
rock of implicit faith, and defies all dangers by closing his eyes and
clutching the reassuring hand of his Holy Mother Church, the Protestant
flounders about with the poor little dark-lantern of private judgment
in a frightful mud-ocean--his old rock of faith in an infallible Bible
having been reduced to dust by the engines of criticism, and finally to
slush by a downflow from the lofty reservoir of pure reason.*

     * It would be a pity to omit an amusing instance of the
     contemptuous dogmatism of Christian divines when they had
     the field to themselves. Dr. William Whitaker, a famous
     learned writer on the side of the Reformation in England, in
     his Disputation with two of the foremost Jesuits, Bellarmine
     and Stapleton, wrote as follows:--"Jerome, in the Proem of
     his Commentaries on Daniel, relates that Porphyry the
     philosopher wrote a volume against the book of our prophet
     Daniel, and affirmed that what is now extant under the name
     of Daniel was not published by the ancient prophet, but by
     some later Daniel, who lived in the times of Antiochus
     Epiphanes. But we need not regard what the impious Porphyry
     may have written, who mocked at all the scriptures and
     religion itself." Well, this opinion of the blasphemous
     Porphyry, whose writings were burnt by the Christian Church,
     is now accepted by the Higher Critics. Canon Driver, for
     instance, admits that the Book of Daniel is not the work of
     Daniel, that it could not have been written earlier than 300
     B.C., and that "it is at least _probable_ that it was
     composed under the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, B.C.
     168 or 167" (Introduction to the Literature of the Old
     Testament, p. 467). This involves that the fulfilled
     prophecies of Daniel were written after the events.



III. THE BIBLE AND SCIENCE

Having examined Dean Farrar's observations on the Bible Canon, and seen
that it is a more or less arbitrary selection from Hebrew and early
Christian literature, many of the books being anonymous, while others
bear the names of authors who did not write them, and most of them being
much later compositions than orthodoxy supposes; we now take a leap
forward to his twelfth chapter to see what he has to say on the subject
of the Bible and Science. His first object is to drive home to his
co-religionists the mischief of adhering to the old doctrine of Bible
infallibility. Consequently he does not mince matters in dealing with
the difficulties of the literal theory of inspiration. Writers like
Gaussen contend that the Bible is a perfect authority in matters of
science. Mr. Gladstone argues that Moses supernaturally anticipated
the teachings of modern evolution, and that the inspired fishermen of
Galilee, notably St. Peter, no less supernaturally anticipated all that
modern astronomy teaches as to the final destiny of our planet. Dr.
Farrar declines to follow them in this perilous path. He does not walk
in the opposite direction, for that would lead him among the "infidels."
He strikes off at right angles, and takes the line that the Bible was
never intended to teach science, or anything else but religion.
He quotes with approval the saying of Archbishop Sumner, that "the
Scriptures have never revealed a scientific truth." He maintains that
the writers of Scripture had only a natural knowledge of exact science;
and that was precious little, and was indeed rather ignorance than
knowledge, as they belonged to "the most unscientific of all nations in
the most unscientific of all ages." "It is now understood by competent
inquirers," he says, "that geology is God's revelation to us of one set
of truths, and Genesis of quite another." "Nature," he says, "is a book
which contains a revelation of God in one sphere, and Scripture a book
which contains a revelation of him in another. Both books have often
been misread, but no _truth_ revealed in the one can be irreconcilable
with any truth revealed in the other." This, however, is a mere truism;
for one truth cannot be irreconcilable with another truth. Dr. Farrar's
statement sounds imposing and consolatory, but when you look into its
meaning you see it is only a pulpit platitude.

But before we proceed to criticise Dr. Farrar's position, let us glance
at his attack upon the literalists. He charges them with having opposed
and persecuted every modern science, and with having manufactured the
most absurd scientific theories from the text of the Bible; the said
theories being not only ludicrous, but irreconcilably opposed to each
other. Lactantius, with the Bible in his hand, ridiculed the rotundity
of the earth. Roger Bacon and Galileo were imprisoned and tortured for
teaching true science instead of the false science of the Church.
John Wesley declared the Copernican astronomy to be in opposition to
Scripture. Thomas Burnet's "Sacred Theory of the Earth," founded upon
the Bible, was assailed by William Whiston, who based a different
"Sacred Theory" upon the very same book. Buffon, the great French
scientist, was compelled by the Sorbonne to recant, and to abandon
everything in his writings that was "contrary to the narrative of
Moses." Even when God (that is to say Dr. Simpson) gave to the world the
priceless boon of anaesthetics, there were many Biblicists who declared
that the use of chloroform in cases of painful confinement was flying
in the face of God's curse upon the daughters of Eve. Catholic and
Protestant have alike pitted the Bible against Science, and both have
been ignominiously beaten.

But this is not all. The theologians have been disgraced as well as
defeated. With respect to the Buffon case, for instance, Dr. Farrar
writes as follows:--

"The line now taken by apologists is very different from that of
previous centuries, and less honest. It declares that Genesis and
geology are in exact accord. It no longer refuses to believe the facts
of nature, but instead of this it boldly sophisticates the facts of
Scripture."

John Stuart Mill said that every new truth passes through three phases
of reception. At first, it is declared to be false and dangerous;
secondly, it is discovered that there is something to be said for it;
lastly, its opponents turn round and declare "we said so all along."
Dr. Farrar dots all the "i's" in Mill's statement. He asserts that
"religious teachers" first say of every scientific discovery, "It is
blasphemous and contrary to Scripture." Next they say, "There is nothing
in Scripture which absolutely contradicts it." Finally they say, "It is
distinctly revealed in Scripture itself."

Dr. Farrar puts the historic case against "orthodoxy"--which, of course,
is not Christianity!--in the following fashion:--

"The history of most modern sciences has been as follows. Its
discoverers have been proscribed, anathematised, and, in every possible
instance, silenced or persecuted; yet before a generation has passed
the champions of a spurious orthodoxy have had to confess that their
interpretations were erroneous; and--for the most part without an
apology and without a blush--have complacently invented some new line
of exposition by which the phrases of Scripture can be squared into
semblable accordance with the now acknowledged facts."

Even in the comparatively recent case of Darwin this was perfectly true.
Dr. Farrar, who preached Darwin's funeral sermon in Westminster Abbey,
says that he "endured the fury of pulpits and Church Congresses." He
did so with quiet dignity; not an angry word escaped him. Yet before
Darwin's death not only was the scientific world converted, but leading
theologians said that, if Darwinism were proved to be true, there was
"nothing in it contrary to the creeds of the Catholic faith."

Darwin never answered the clergy. He had better work to do. All he did
was to smile at them. In one of his letters he said that when the men
of science are agreed about anything all the clergy have to do is to say
ditto. He understood that when science is victorious it will always have
clerical patronage. Had he been able to do it, he would have smiled, in
that beautiful benevolent way of his, at Dr. Farrar's funeral sermon.
The worthy Dean thought they had got Darwin at last; and the grand old
philosopher might have said, "Why yes, my _corpse!_"

So much for Dr. Farrar's impeachment of "orthodoxy" and its doctrine
of plenary inspiration. Let us now examine his own position, and see
whether it is logical as well as convenient.

Take the first chapter of Genesis. It is not a scientific revelation,
though it seems to be. Whoever wrote it had only the science of his
time. Nevertheless, it is of "transcendent value," according to Dr.
Farrar. "Its true and deep object," he says, "was to set right an erring
world in the supremely important knowledge that there was one God and
Father of us all, the Creator of heaven and earth, a God who saw all
things which he has made, and pronounced them to be very good."

This is very pretty in its way; but how absurd it is in the light of the
fact that the Hebrew creation story is all _borrowed!_ While the
Jews were desert nomads, long before the concoction of their sacred
scriptures the doctrine of a Creator of heaven and earth was known in
India and in Egypt, not to recite a list of other nations. If this is
all the first chapter of Genesis teaches, we may well exclaim, "Thank
you for nothing!" It is a curious "revelation" which only discloses
what is familiar. Had the Bible never been written, had the Jews never
existed, the "true and deep object" of the first chapter of Genesis
would have been quite as well subserved. Wherever the Christian
missionaries have gone they have found the creation story in front of
them. Wherever they took it they were carrying coals to Newcastle.

We venture to suggest that if Dr. Farrar thinks that all things God has
made are very good, there are many persons who do not share his opinion.
It would be idle to read that text to a sailor pursued by a shark. We
could multiply this instance a thousandfold; but why give a list of
all the predatory and parasitical creatures on this planet, from human
tyrants and despoilers down to cholera microbes? Dr. Farrar may reply
that everything ends in mystery, that we must have faith, that it is our
interest as well as our duty to believe. But that is exactly what the
Catholic Church says, and Dr. Farrar laughs it to scorn. The truth is,
that all theology is ultimately a matter of faith; and the quarrel about
more or less is a domestic difference. The greater difference is between
Faith and Reason. This was clearly seen by Cardinal Newman, who pointed
out that every mystery of the Roman Catholic faith is matched by a
mystery in Protestant theology.

Finally, we have to remark that Dr. Farrar overlooks a very important
point in this controversy. Having argued that the Bible was not intended
to teach science, and has not in fact helped the world to a single
scientific discovery; having also admitted that the Bible has all along
been used to hinder the progress of natural knowledge, and to justify
the persecution of honest investigators; he seems to imagine that there
is no more to be said. But there is _much_ more to be said. We forbear
to press the objection that Omniscience was very curiously employed in
entangling a religious revelation with scientific blunders, which would
necessarily retard the progress of scientific truth, and therefore of
human civilisation. What we wish to emphasise is less open to the retort
that Omniscience is beyond our finite judgment. We desire to urge that
the Bible is not simply non-scientific. It is anti-scientific. Let us
take, for instance, the story of the creation and fall of man. Even
if it be not taken literally, but allegorically, it is thoroughly
antagonistic to the teachings of Evolution. At the very least it implies
that man is something special and unique, whereas he is included in the
general scheme of biology, and is but "the paragon of animals." Get rid
of the actual garden and the actual tree of knowledge, as Dr. Farrar
does, and there still remains the fact that the fall of man is a
falsehood, and the ascent of man a verity. The allegory does not
correspond to the essential truth of man's history; and in spite of all
the flattering rhetoric with which Dr. Farrar invests it--a rhetoric
so inharmonious with its own consummate simplicity--there is something
inexpressibly childish to the modern mind in the awful heinousness which
is attributed to the mere eating of forbidden fruit. An act is really
not vicious because it is prohibited, or virtuous because it conforms to
the dictates of authority. When man attains to intellectual maturity
he smiles at the ethical trick which was played upon his youthful
ignorance. It is not sufficient to tell him that he must do this, and
must not do that. He requires a reason. His intelligence must go hand in
hand with his emotions. It is this union, indeed, which constitutes what
we call conscience.

The truth is that the Bible is steeped in superstition and
supernaturalism. Its cosmogony, its conception of man's origin and
position in the universe, its infantile legends, its miracles and magic,
its theory of madness and disease, its doctrine of the external efficacy
of prayer, its idea that man's words and wishes avail to change the
sweep of universal forces and the operation of their immutable laws: all
this is in direct opposition to the letter and spirit of Science. The
special pleading of clergymen like Dr. Farrar may afford a temporary
relief to trembling Christians, and keep them for a further term in
the fold of faith; but it will never make the slightest impression upon
sceptics, unless it fills them with contemptuous pity for a number of
clever men who are obliged, for personal reasons, to practise the lowest
arts of sophistry.



IV. MIRACLES AND WITCHCRAFT

Dr. Farrar, as we have seen, holds that the Bible is not a revelation
in science. The inspired writers were, in such matters, left to their
natural knowledge. The Holy Spirit taught them that God made the world
and all which it inhabits; but _how_ it was made they only conjectured.
The truth, in _this_ respect, was left to the discovery of later ages.

This is a pretty and convenient theory, but it does not provide for
every difficulty in the relationship between science and the Bible.
There still remain the questions of miracles and witchcraft.

Dr. Farrar does not discuss these questions thoroughly. He only ventures
a few observations. In his opinion, the two miracles of the Creation and
the Incarnation "include the credibility of _all_ other miracles."
We agree with him. Admit creation out of nothing, and you need not be
astonished at the transformation of water into wine. Admit the birth
of a boy from a virgin mother, and you need not raise physiological
objections to the story of a man being safely entertained for three
days in a whale's intestines. It is absurd to strain at gnats after
swallowing camels. For this reason we are unable to understand Dr.
Farrar's fastidiousness. He is ready to believe that some miracles are
mistaken metaphors, that some were due to the action of unnoticed
or ill-understood natural causes, and that others were providential
occurrences instead of supernatural events. All this, however, is but a
concession to the sceptical spirit. It is throwing out the children to
the wolves. It may stop their pursuit for a little while, but they will
come on again, and flesh their jaws upon the parents.

A mixed criterion of true miracles is laid down by Dr. Farrar. They must
be (1) adequately attested, and (2) wrought for adequate ends, and (3)
in accordance with the revealed laws of God's immediate dealings with
man. The second and third conditions are too fanciful for discussion.
They are, in fact, entirely subjective. The first condition is the only
one which can be applied with decisive accuracy. The miracles must be
_adequately attested_. But was it not David Hume who declared that "in
all history" there is not a single miracle attested in this manner? And
did not Professor Huxley say that Hume's assertion was "least likely"
to be challenged by those who are used to weighing evidence and giving
their decision with a due sense of moral responsibility?

It is easy enough to sneer at Hume. It is just as easy to answer what he
never said. What the apologists of Christianity have to do is to take
a single miracle of their faith and show that it rests upon adequate
evidence. Anything short of this is intellectual thimble-rigging.

Dr. Farrar does not face this dreadful task. He treats us, instead, to
some personal observations on the Fall, the Tower of Babel, Balaam's
ass, Joshua's arrest of the sun and moon, and Jonah's submarine
excursion. Let us examine these observations.

No Christian, says Dr. Farrar, is called upon to believe in an actual
Garden of Eden and an actual talking serpent. Christians have believed
in these things by the million. But that was before the clergy invented
"the Higher Criticism" to disarm "infidelity." They know better now.
The story of the Fall is false as a narrative. It is true as a "vivid
pictorial representation of the origin and growth of sin in the human
heart." All the literature of the world has failed to set forth anything
"comparable to it in insight." Therefore it is "inspired."

How hollow this sounds when we recollect that the Hebrew story of the
Fall was borrowed from the Persian mythology! How much hollower when we
consider it as it stands, stripped of the veil of fancy and divested of
the glamor of association! The "insight" of the inspired writer could
only represent God as the landlord of an orchard, and man as a being
with a taste for forbidden apples. The "philosopheme," as Dr. Farrar
grandiosely styles it, is so absurd in its native nakedness that Rabbis
and other divines have suspected a carnal mystery behind the apples, in
order to give the "sin" of Adam and Eve a darker vein of sensuality.*

     * We cannot elaborate this point in a publication which is
     intended for general reading. Suffice it to say that one
     famous commentator suggests that Eve was seduced by an ape.

Nor is this all. The very idea of a Fall is inconsistent with Evolution.
The true Garden of Eden lies not behind us, but before us. The true
Paradise is not the earth as God made it for man, but the earth as
man is making it for himself. The Bible teaches the _descent_ of man.
Science teaches the _ascent_ of man. And the two theories are the
antipodes of each other, not only in physical history, but in every
moral and spiritual implication.

With regard to the story of the tower of Babel, we must not regard it
as an inspired account of the origin of the diversity of human language.
That is what it appears to be upon the face of it. But philology has
exploded this childish legend, and a new meaning must be read into it.
According to Dr. Farrar, it is a "symbolic way of expressing the
truth that God breaks up into separate nationalities the tyrannous
organisation of cruel despotisms." Now we venture to say that there is
not a suggestion of this in the text. And the "truth" which Dr.
Farrar reads into it so arbitrarily is a phenomenon of modern times.
Nationality is a great force at present, but in ancient days the only
power that could bind tribes together in one polity was a military
despotism. From the point of view of evolution, both conquest and
slavery were inevitable steps in the progress of civilisation. It is
really nothing against the ancient Jews, for instance, that they fought
like devils and made slaves of their enemies. It was the fashion of the
time. The mischief comes in when we are told that their proceedings were
under the sanction and control of God.

Dr. Farrar next tackles the story of Balaam, which is "another theme for
ignorant ridicule." It is astonishing how sublime these Bible wonders
become in the light of the Higher Criticism. A talking ass sounds like
an echo of the Arabian Nights. But the author himself never intended
you to believe it. Dr. Farrar is quite sure of that. You must forget the
ass, and fix your attention on Balaam. Then you perceive that the story
is "rich in almost unrivalled elements of moral edification." That is to
say, you perceive it if you borrow Dr. Farrar's spectacles. But if you
look with your own naked eyes you see that ass in the foreground of
the picture, with outstretched neck and open jaws, holding forth to an
astonished universe.

With regard to Joshua's supreme miracle, Dr. Farrar avows his unbelief.
A battle ode got mistaken for actual history. "He who chooses," says Dr.
Farrar, "may believe that the most fundamental laws of the universe were
arrested to enable Joshua to slaughter a few more hundred fugitives; and
he who chooses may believe that nothing of the kind ever entered into
the mind of the narrator." You pay your money and take your choice.
Shape the old wax nose as you please. Believe what you like, and
disbelieve what you like--and swear the author disbelieved it too.

Nor must the story of Jonah be taken literally. Regard the moral, and
forget its fishy setting. Jesus Christ, indeed, referred to Jonah's
sojourn in the "whale's belly" as typical of his own sojourn in the
heart of the earth. But referring to a story is no proof of any belief
in its truth. Not in the Bible. Jesus Christ also said, "Remember Lot's
wife." But of course he did not believe the story literally. He used
it for his own purpose. For the rest, he did not wish to unsettle men's
minds by throwing doubt on such a time-honored narrative; besides, the
time had not arrived to explain the chemical composition of rock-salt.

Witchcraft is a more serious matter. The Bible plainly says, "Thou shalt
not suffer a witch to live." This text sealed the doom of millions of
old women. It is the bloodiest text in all literature. The Jews believed
in witchcraft, and the law against witches found its way into their
sacred Scriptures. Sir Matthew Hale, a great English judge and a good
man, sentenced witches to be burnt in 1665, and said that he made no
doubt at all that there were witches, for "the Scriptures had affirmed
so much." Wesley, a century later, said that to give up witchcraft was
to give up the Bible. Dr. Farrar sets down these facts honestly. He is
also eloquent in reprobation of the cruelty inflicted on millions
of "witches" in the Middle Ages. But he denies that the Bible is
responsible for those infamies. "Witches" in the Bible may not mean
witches, but "nefarious impostors." Good old wax nose again! Moreover,
that ancient Jewish law was not binding upon Christians, and to make
it so was "a gross misuse of the Bible." But how on earth could the
Christians use it in any other way? The time came when men outgrew the
superstition of witchcraft. Before that time they killed witches on
Bible authority. Dr. Farrar himself, had he lived then, would have
done the same. Living in a more enlightened age, he says that former
Christians acted wrongly, and in fact diabolically. But what of the book
which misled them? What of the book which, if it did not mislead them
by design, harmonised so completely with their ignorant prejudices, and
gave such a pious color to their unspeakable brutalities? Nor is this
by any means the last word upon the subject. The witchcraft of the Old
Testament has its counterpart in the demoniacal possession of the New
Testament. Both are aspects of one and the same superstition.

The Bible _is_ responsible for the cruel slaughter of millions of
alleged witches. It is also responsible for the prolonged treatment
of lunatics as possessed. The methods of science are now adopted in
civilised countries. Hysterical women are no longer tortured as witches.
Lunatics are no longer chained and beaten as persons inhabited by
devils. Kindness and common sense have taken the place of cruelty and
superstition. This change was brought about, not through the Bible, but
in spite of it.

Sir Matthew Hale and John Wesley were at least honest. They were too
sincere to deny the plain teaching of the Bible. Dr. Farrar represents
a more enlightened, but a more hypocritical, form of Christianity. He
sneers at "reconcilers" like Mr. Gladstone, who try to bolster up the
Creation story as a scientific revelation. But is he not a "reconciler"
himself in regard to miracles? And does he not play fast and loose
with truth and honesty in his attempt to clear the Bible of its guilty
responsibility in connection with that witch mania which is one of the
darkest episodes in Christian history?



V. THE BIBLE AND FREETHOUGHT

The Bible may well be called the persecutor's text-book. It is
difficult, if not impossible, to find in all its pages a single text
in favor of real freedom of thought. Dr. Farrar champions what he
calls "true Christianity," to which he declares that all persecution is
entirely "alien." This "true Christianity" appears to depend upon "the
spirit" of Christ, and seems to have little or no relation to the letter
of Scripture. But what is the actual fact, when we view it in the light
of history? In one of his lucid intervals of mere common sense, Dr.
Farrar makes an important admission with regard to the worse than
Armenian atrocities of the Jewish policy of extermination in Palestine.
Those atrocities of cruelty and lust are said to have been ordered by
God, but Dr. Farrar says that on this point the Jews were mistaken. They
thought they were doing God a service, but they thought so ignorantly.
And how was their ignorance corrected? Not by a special monition from
heaven, but by the ordinary progress and elevation of the human mind.
"It required," Dr. Farrar says, "but the softening influence of time
and civilisation to obliterate in the best minds those fierce
misconceptions." Precisely so. And is it anything but the softening
influence of time and civilisation that makes Christians like Dr. Farrar
ashamed of the bloody deeds of their co-religionists; which bloody
deeds, by the way, have always been justified by appeals to the
teachings of the Bible? Let there be no mistake on this point. Dr.
Farrar himself does not scruple to write of the "deep damnation of deeds
of deceit and sanguinary ferocity committed in the name of Holy Writ."
"In some of their deadliest sins against the human race," he further
says, "corrupted and cruel Churches have ever been most lavish in their
appeals to Scripture." He admits that "the days are not far distant
when it was regarded as a positive duty to put men to death for their
religious opinions," and that this was defended by Old Testament
examples, and also by some texts from the New Testament. And it was
"by virtue of texts like these" that enemies of the human race were
"enabled" to combine the "garb and language of priests with the temper
and trade of executioners."

Now, what has Dr. Farrar to urge _per contra?_ Simply this: that the
"early Christians" pleaded for toleration. "Force," they said, "is
hateful to God." "It is no part of religion," said Tertullian, "to
_compel_ religion." But suppose all this be admitted--and there is much
to be said by way of qualification--what does it amount to? The "early
Christians" were in a minority. They did not yet command the sword of
the magistrate. They could not persecute except by holding no fellowship
with unbelievers, by shaking off the dust of their feet against those
who rejected their Gospel, and by other harmless though detestable
exhibitions of bigotry. They had to plead for their own existence, and
in doing so they were obliged to appeal to the principle of general
toleration. But the moment they triumphed, under Constantine, they began
to flout the very principle to which they had formerly appealed. The
humility of their weakness was more than equalled by the pride of their
power. And what was the result? "From Augustine's days down to those
of Luther," Dr. Farrar says, "scarcely one voice was raised in favor,
I will not say of _tolerance_, but even of abstaining from fire and
bloodshed in support of enforced uniformity." Dr. Farrar denounces in
creditable language the frightful butcheries of Alva in the Netherlands,
for which the Pope presented him with a jewelled sword bearing a
pious inscription. He is properly horrified at the massacre of St.
Bartholomew, in honor of which Pope Gregory XIII. struck a triumphant
medal, and went in procession to sing a Te Deum to God, while the cannon
thundered from the Castle of St. Angelo and bonfires blazed in the
streets of Rome. He is bitter against the Church of Rome for its
vast shedding of innocent blood. He reminds us that the infamous Holy
Inquisition is still toasted by Catholic professors at Madrid; and that
intolerance, having lost its power, has not lost its virulence, nor
"ceased to justify its burning hatred by Scripture quotations." And
he cites Manning's successor at Westminster, the truculent Cardinal
Vaughan, as declaring with perfect approval that "the Catholic Church
has never spared the knife, when necessary, to cut off rebels against
her faith and authority."

But let it not be imagined that all the guilt of persecution rested upon
the Church of Rome. Protestantism persecuted as freely as the Papacy.
That heretics should be put down, and if necessary killed, was a
principle common to both Churches. The question in dispute was, Which
_were_ the heretics? This is so incontestable that we need not fortify
it with Protestant quotations and Protestant examples. It is not true,
as Dr. Farrar alleges, that Luther "boldly proclaimed that thoughts are
toll-free," if it is meant that he condemned persecution. Thoughts were
toll-free against Romish exactions; that was what Luther meant. He held
as strongly as any Papist that those who denied one essential doctrine
of Christianity should be punished by the magistrates. He declared that
reason always led to unbelief. He besought the Protestant princes to
uphold "the faith" by every means in their power. And when the serfs
rebelled, thinking that the "freedom" the Reformers talked about was
to become a reality, it was Luther who wrote against them with
unsurpassable ferocity, and advised that they should be "slaughtered
like mad dogs."

Dr. Farrar rather judiciously refrains from mentioning Calvin in this
connection, but in another part of the volume he refers to the great
Genevian "reformer" in a somewhat gingerly manner. When the sins of
Catholics have to be condemned he is quite dithyrambic; but when he
has to censure the sins of Protestants he displays a most touching
tenderness. Nothing could well be worse than the mixture of religious
bigotry, personal spleen, and low duplicity, with which Calvin hunted
Servetus to his fiery doom. Dr. Farrar sympathetically describes this
vile act as an "error." He tries to satisfy his conscience, afterwards,
by confessing that the Calvinists in general "were for the most part as
severe to all who differed from them as they imagined God to be severe
to the greater part of the human race."

Dr. Farrar's treatment of this subject is superficial. It is not a Bible
text here or there which is the real basis of persecution. We advise him
to read George Eliot's review of Lecky's _History of Rationalism_. He
will then see that persecution is founded upon the fatal doctrine of
salvation by faith. This doctrine makes the heretic more noxious than a
serpent. A serpent poisons the body, a heretic poisons the soul. If it
be true that his teaching may draw souls to hell, human welfare demands
his extermination. Dr. Farrar does not disclaim this doctrine, and if he
fails to act upon it he only betrays an amiable inconsistency. His heart
is better than his head.

Dr. Farrar, like other Protestants, talks about the right of private
judgment. But this is only fine and futile verbiage, unless he admits
the sinlessness of intellectual error. If judgment depends on the will,
it is through the will amenable to motives; consequently, the way
to pro-mote correct opinions is to promise rewards and threaten
punishments. But if judgment does not depend on the will; if it is
necessarily determined by the laws of reason and evidence; then it is
an absurdity to bribe and intimidate. Now there is no third alternative.
One of these two theories must be right, and the other must be wrong.
Dr. Farrar is logically bound to take his choice. If he believes that
judgment depends on the will, he has no right to denounce persecution.
If he believes that judgment does not depend on the will, he has no
right to censure the most absolute freethought.

There are but two camps--the camp of Faith and the camp of Reason.
Dr. Farrar belongs to the former. But he does not find his position
comfortable. He casts a longing eye on the other camp. He wants to be
in both. He therefore tries to form an alliance between them, if not to
amalgamate them under one banner.

Reason, said Bishop Butler, is the only faculty wherewith we can judge
of anything, even of revelation itself. Dr. Farrar quotes this statement
with approval. He quotes similar sentences from other Protestant
writers. Then he turns upon the Roman Church for keeping the Bible
out of the hands of the people, and denounces it for this with
ultra-Protestant vigor. He imagines that this is a vindication of
Protestantism, at any rate relatively, as a champion of reason in
opposition to blind faith and absolute authority. But _private_ judgment
and _free_ judgment are not identical. When the Protestant puts an open
Bible into your hands, and tells you to read it and judge of it for
yourself, he is acting like a Freethinker; but when he proceeds to say
that if you do not find it to be a divine book, and believe all its
teaching about God, and Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, and heaven
and hell, you will infallibly be damned, he is acting like a Papist.
His right of private judgment, at the finish, always means the right to
differ from him on trivial points, and the duty of agreeing with him on
every point which he chooses to regard as essential. If this is denied
by Dr. Farrar, let him honestly answer this question--Is a Freethinker
who has examined the Bible, and rejected it as a divine revelation,
liable to any sort of penalty for his disbelief? The answer to this
question will decide whether Dr. Farrar is really maintaining the rights
of reason, or is merely maintaining the Protestant theory of faith
against that of the Catholics, and standing up for the authority of the
Book instead of the authority of the Church.

Meanwhile we venture to suggest that the Bible texts referred to by Dr.
Farrar, as requiring us to exercise the right of private judgment, are
very little to the point. "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord"
is a pretty text, but it does not seem to have much bearing on the
issue. "Try the spirits" is all right in its way; but what if you find
that _all_ the spirits are illusions? "Prove all things" is good, but it
must be taken with the context. Jesus indeed is reported to have said,
"Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?" But he is also
reported to have said, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be
saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned."

By a judicious selection of texts you can prove anything from the Bible,
and disprove anything--as Catholics have often reminded Protestants. To
pick out passages that to some extent are favorable to a certain view,
and to ignore much stronger passages that are clearly opposed to it, may
be an exercise of private judgment, and may satisfy the conscience
of neo-Protestants of the school of Dr. Farrar; but it invites a
contemptuous smile from Freethinkers who believe that Reason ought not
to suffer such a prostitution.

We have to point out, finally, that Protestantism, with its open Bible,
has everywhere maintained laws against blasphemy and heresy. The laws
against heresy have fallen into desuetude in England, but while they
lasted they were simply ferocious. We heard the late Lord Coleridge say
from his seat in the Court of Queen's Bench, as Lord Chief Justice, that
the Protestant laws against Roman Catholics, particularly in Ireland,
where they were executed with remorseless ferocity, are without a
parallel in the history of the world. Catholicism, however, is no longer
under a ban. Even the Jews have been admitted to equal rights with their
fellow citizens. But laws still remain in existence, and are
occasionally put into operation, against "blasphemers." According to the
language of common law indictments, it is a crime to bring the Holy
Scripture or the Christian Religion into disbelief and contempt. It is
true that many Christians are ready to profess a certain aversion to
such laws, but they make no effort to repeal them. Many others contend
that "blasphemy" is a question of manner, that the feelings of
Christians should be protected, and that while men should not be
punished for being Freethinkers, they should be punished for wounding
orthodox susceptibilities. It is not proposed, however, that any
limitations of taste or temper should be imposed upon Christian
controversialists; and this contention may therefore be regarded as a
subterfuge of bigotry. On the whole, it may be said that Catholics
without the Bible, and Protestants with the Bible, persecute unbelief to
the full extent of their opportunities; and it is only as toleration
grows from other roots, and is nourished by other causes, that the
Bibliolaters find out subtle interpretations of simple texts in favor of
the prevailing tendency.



VI. MORALS AND MANNERS

Dr. Farrar takes the position that "the Bible is not homogeneous in its
morality." There is a higher and a lower; and, to adopt the fine but
paradoxical metaphor of Milton, within the lowest deep a lower deep
still opens its dreadful abyss of crime and brutality. The same
admission is made by Professor Bruce,* of the Free Church of Scotland;
but this gentleman is more subtle than Dr. Farrar, and tries to save
the reputation of the Bible by a notable piece of cauistical
special-pleading. He does not allow, though he does not expressly
deny, that the Bible contains any immorality. What he does is to draw
a distinction between high morality and low morality. Immorality is
sinning against your conscience. High morality is acting right up to its
noblest dictates. Low morality is conduct in honest conformity to the
low standard of a conscience but half-enlightened. When the prophetess
Deborah sings triumphantly over the infamous exploit of Jael, who
invited the fugitive Sisera into her tent, and assassinated him while he
slept in the confidence of her hospitality, we must not say that either
of these precious females was guilty of immorality. They were simply
carrying out a low morality. And the same applies to Deborah's
exclamation: "To every man a damsel or two"--meaning that the Jewish
soldiers slew their male enemies and dragged home a brace of maidens
each for themselves. Such conduct would be highly improper now, but it
was all right then; at least it was as right as they knew; and we must
not judge the actors by later ethical standards. So says Professor
Bruce, and it would be true enough if the Bible were not put forward as
a divine book, or if it ever reprehended the infamies of God's chosen
people. But it does nothing of the kind; it mentions Jael and Deborah in
terms of absolute approval.

     * Christian Apologetics, p. 309.

Dr. Farrar severely denounces the Jewish wars of extermination in
Palestine, regardless of the fact--which is as true as any other
religious fact in the Bible--that these atrocities were expressly
commanded by Jehovah. Divines have defended the massacre of the
Midianites, for instance, and the appropriation of their unmarried
women; but Dr. Farrar calls their arguments "miserable pleas," and adds
that if such "guilty and horrible" doings were "recorded without
blame," it only shows that "the moral views of the desert tribes on such
subjects were in this respect very rudimentary." These desert tribes
were the chosen people of God; their prophets spoke under divine
inspiration; yet even Jeremiah, in denouncing Moab, cries: "Cursed be he
that keepeth back his sword from blood." According to Dr. Farrar, this
proves how "slow" was the "development of the religious consciousness of
mankind." But how did it happen that the Jews, with all the advantage
of special inspiration, were just as slow in this respect as any other
nation in the world's history? What is the use of "inspiration" if
it does not appreciably quicken the natural development of the human
conscience?

Many of the Bible heroes are fit for a distinguished place in the
Newgate Calendar. Dr. Farrar himself cannot stomach "some details" in
the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Jephthah, and David. Still, he urges
that "the use made of them in the sceptical propaganda is often
illegitimate." These worthies were not "faultless." It is their "general
faithfulness" which is "rightly held up to admiration as our example."
Faithfulness to what? Simply to their own greed and ambition, first of
all, and secondly to the dominance of their tribal god Jehovah, who by
such instruments triumphed over his rival dieties, and became at last
the sole Lord God of Israel.

Dr. Farrar allows no palliating plea for the cursing Psalms. He cites
a few of the very worst passages, black with hatred and red with blood,
and asks: "Can the casuistry be anything but gross which would palm off
such passages as the very utterance of God?" Moses was "a great lawgiver
and a great prophet," but Dr. Farrar will not "defend the divinity of
passages so morally indefensible" as that, for instance, which gives the
slave-owner impunity in killing his slave, provided he does not slay
him on the spot, but beats him so that he dies "in a day or two." Nor
is there "divinity" in the order to the Jews to refrain from eating bad
meat, but to sell it to the Gentiles. Neither is there "divinity" in
the order (Deut. xxi. 10-14) to take a wife for a month on trial. These
things are parts of an ostensibly divine code, but lawgivers and people
were alike mistaken. Inspiration did not guide them aright, but somehow
or other it enables Dr. Farrar to correct their blunders three thousand
years afterwards; which is merely saying, after all, that inspiration
does not pioneer but follow the march of human progress.

During the reign of David a dreadful incident occurred. There had been
a three years' famine, and David "inquired of the Lord." The answer was,
"Blood upon Saul and upon his house!" Seven of Saul's sons were hung
up "unto the Lord," and the famine was stopped. Dr. Farrar tells of an
intelligent artisan who got up at a meeting and asked "whether it was
not meant to imply that God was pacified by the blood of innocent human
victims?" But he does not give the answer; and it either means this or
it means nothing at all. In the same way, the story of Jephthah, who
offered his daughter as a burnt-offering to the Lord, takes such an
immolation for granted as a religious act of perfect propriety. Jephthah
is mentioned as a hero of faith in the New Testament, and no hint is
given that he acted wrongly in sacrificing his daughter on the altar of
Jehovah.

We have said enough on this subject to give the reader a fair idea
of Dr. Farrar's position. Let us now pass from Bible morals to Bible
manners.

"The Bible," says Dr. Farrar, "is assailed on the ground that it
contains coarse and unedifying stories." Take the story of Lot and his
daughters, to say nothing of the bestial attempt on the angels in Sodom.
Could anything be more repulsive? Is there any excuse for putting such
abominable feculence into the hands of children? After a lot of talk
about it, and about, Dr. Farrar offers us the following most sapient
observation: "The story of Lot wears a very different complexion if we
regard it as an exhibition of unknown traditions about the connection
between the Israelites and the tribes of Moab and Ammon." But what does
this mean? The Moabites and Ammonites, according to the Bible, were
hereditary enemies of the Jews, and it was impossible to exterminate
them. They were evidently near of kin to the chosen people. Now, if
these two facts are put together, it is easy to see the purpose of this
story of Lot and his daughters. The Jews traced their own descent, in a
perfectly honorable way, from Abraham and his legitimate wife Sarah, who
are doubtless legendary characters. On the other hand, they traced
the descent of the Moabites and Ammonites, their cousins and enemies,
through the no less legendary Lot and his two daughters, thus throwing
the aspersion of incest upon the cradle of both those races. This is the
adequate and satisfactory explanation of the story. It is an exhibition
of dirty and unscrupulous hatred; and, as such, it is a curious fragment
of "the Word of God."

Take next what Dr. Farrar calls "the pathetic story of Hosea," the
prophet who was ordered by God to marry a prostitute--not to use the
more downright language of the English Bible. Dr. Farrar suggests that
there is some doubt as to the meaning of the original. Hosea's wife
may have turned out a baggage after the nuptials, instead of being one
before. "It was the anguish caused by her infidelity," he says, "that
first woke Hosea to the sense of Israel's infidelity to Jehovah." And
read in the light of this "modern criticism" the story of Hosea is "in
the highest degree pure and noble." How pretty! All that remains for Dr.
Farrar to do is to explain away as equally "pure and noble" the imagery
of Ezekiel in reference to Aholah and Aholibah. There is no reason why
"modern criticism" in the hands of gentlemen like Dr. Farrar should not
transform Priapus into a Sunday-school teacher.

Not only are there very gross stories in the Bible, many of which
are too beastly to dwell upon, but its language is often gratuitously
disgusting. And every scholar knows that the Hebrew text is sometimes
far more "purple" than our English version. Dr. Farrar admits that if
the "exact meaning" of certain passages were understood, they "could not
be read without a blush." "Happily," he says, they are "disguised by the
euphemisms of translations." That is to say, the inspired Bible writers,
or penmen of the Holy Ghost, as old divines called them, were often
indecent and sometimes positively obscene. Dr. Farrar's explanation is,
that "ancient and Eastern readers" were not easily shocked, and that our
modern "sensibility" is of "recent growth." But this proves again
that "inspiration" is in no sense the cause of progress, and does not
anticipate it in the slightest degree.



VII. POLITICAL AND SOCIAL PROGRESS

"The Bible," Dr. Farrar says, "is inextricably mingled with all that is
greatest in human history." This is a fair specimen of his roystering
style. We presume he has contracted it through long years of preaching
from the coward's castle of the pulpit, where a man can exaggerate as
much as he pleases without the slightest fear of contradiction. Dr.
Farrar does not say that the Bible is mixed up with _much_ of the
greatest in human history; no, it must be mixed up with _all_ the
greatest--which is a transparent falsehood and a no less transparent
absurdity. What did Greece and Rome owe to the Bible? Absolutely
nothing. There is no evidence that they were acquainted with any part
of the Old Testament, and Greece had become a mere name before a line of
the New Testament was written. Some of the greatest things in the world
were done and said by the "heathen." Greek philosophy, Greek literature,
Greek art, are imperishable. Roman jurisprudence and Roman government
are the basis of every civilised polity. Plutarch's heroes are all
Pagans, and let Dr. Farrar match them if he can in the history of
Christendom.

Dr. Farrar calls the Bible "the statesman's manual," but he judiciously
refrains from showing that statesmen ever act upon its teaching; indeed,
he spends a great deal of time in showing that they ought _not_ to act
upon its teaching, unless they carefully avoid the obvious "letter,"
and allow themselves to be influenced by the recondite "spirit." For
instance, it is perfectly clear that the Bible does not contain a single
word against slavery; it is also perfectly clear to all who possess
a tincture of scholarship that many of its references to slavery are
fraudulently translated. "Servants obey your masters" really means
"Slaves obey your owners." Moreover, the Bible contains precise
regulations of slavery. God did not tell the Jews that holding slaves
was infamous, that man could never have honest property in human flesh
and blood. He allowed them to buy and sell Gentiles at their pleasure.
He permitted them to enslave their own countrymen for a period of seven
years, and in certain cases "for ever." Even in the New Testament we
find St Paul sending back a runaway slave to his master. True, he sent
with the slave a touching letter to the slave-owner, but sending him
back at all was giving a sanction to the institution. Dr. Farrar admits
that American pulpits "rang with incessant Scriptural defences of
slavery." He quotes from a Southern bishop, who described slavery as "a
curse and a blight," yet declared it to be "recognised by the Bible,"
so that "every man has a right to his own slaves, provided they are not
treated with unnecessary cruelty." Dr. Farrar asks whether there was
ever "a stranger utterance on the lips of a Christian bishop." He calls
this "distorting the Bible." But he does not prove the distortion. He
calmly assumes it. He cannot deny the existence of all those slavery
texts in the Bible. All he can do is to say that what was "relatively
excusable" among the Jews is at present "execrable," and is now
"absolutely and for ever wrong." Very good; but how was that discovered?
Not by reading the Bible. The Jews read the Bible, the early Christians
read the Bible, just as well as Dr. Farrar, but they did not find that
it condemned slavery. Dr. Farrar lives in a later age, in the light of
a higher civilisation. He therefore _reads into_ the Bible whatever it
_ought to_ contain as the word of God. He does not scruple to override
explicit texts by more or less arbitrary deductions from vague maxims
and ejaculations. He pretends that the "spirit" of the Bible in some
way wrought the abolition of slavery. But every well-informed student is
aware that the abolition of slavery depended upon economical conditions.
We _outgrow_ slavery by advancing beyond it in the process of
industrial development, and when we _have_ outgrown it we regard it with
abhorrence. When the institution is in the way of being supplanted by
a higher form of productive labor, the moral revolt against it begins,
growing in strength and intensity as the economical change approaches
its climax. It was natural that the anti-slavery movement in America
should take place in the Northern States, where the conditions
favourable to slavery did not exist as they did in the Southern States.
We may be pardoned for supposing that if Dr. Farrar's lot had been
cast in a Southern State he would have defended slavery as a Bible
institution. He is preaching now after its abolition, when denunciation
of it is cheap and easy, and is no particular credit to the preacher's
religion. While slavery existed in America, it was at first justified
by the Bible in all parts of the Union. Northern abolitionists at last
found that the Bible did not teach slavery after all; but this did not
alter the view of the Southern slaveholders and the Southern Churches.
Here again we see the force of the Catholic taunt that Protestants can
prove anything, and disprove anything, by appealing to texts in such a
composite book as the Bible. Here again we also see that the Bible never
_instigates_ any step in the march of human improvement.

Dr. Farrar waxes eloquent, after his special fashion, over the glories
of England in the age of Elizabeth. He attributes them all to the "open
Bible," which was then placed in the hands of the people. Of course they
had nothing to do with the new astronomy, the discovery of America, and
the invention of printing! Such paltry causes as these cannot enter
into competition with the might and majesty of the Bible! Still, we may
venture to remind Dr. Farrar that these Englishmen of the Elizabethan
age, with the "open Bible" in their hands, went and started the African
slave trade. Evidently they did not read in it then, as Dr. Farrar does
now, any condemnation of that horrible business. They worked it for all
it was worth. England, with the "open Bible" in its hand, continued to
do so for another two hundred years. One of the chief centres of
the slave trade was the pious city of Bristol. It grew rich on the
abominable traffic. Slavery has been abolished, but the old odor of
piety still clings to the city of Bristol. Its merchants fattened on the
slave trade with the "open Bible" in their hands. They now subscribe to
missionary societies to convert the blacks, and they still stick to the
"open Bible." It was good for upholding black slavery, and it is still
good for upholding white slavery.

All that we have said about slavery applies in its degree to polygamy.
Both institutions are sanctioned by the Bible, and the pleas of the
"Higher Criticism" in relation to the one are just as hollow as they are
in relation to the other. We may go farther and say that the Bible is
very far from being woman's best friend, as it is often represented. It
starts by making her the Devil's first customer, and the introducer of
sin and death; it continues to hold her as inferior and subject to man,
lumping her in the tenth commandment with the house, the ox, and the
ass, as the man's property; and, finally, in the New Testament, it
expressly tells her that her duty is to be silent and submissive, for
the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church.

We need not follow Dr. Farrar in his rhapsodical references to the
various achievements of the Bible. We may remark, however, that his
reference to Japan is singularly unhappy. That country _has_ accepted
the leading ideas of Western civilisation, but it has _not_ accepted
Christianity. Nor is Dr. Farrar well advised in laying so much stress on
the Pilgrim Fathers. He says that they had a preference for the "pure,
unadulterated lessons of the Bible." Perhaps they had. But what were
those lessons as illustrated by their actions? Certainly intolerance was
one of them. They had no conception of religious liberty. "The Pilgrim
Fathers," as Sir Walter Besant remarks in his little book on _The Rise
of the Empire_, "believed that everybody should think as they themselves
thought. Had they achieved their own way, they would have sent Laud
himself, and all who thought like him, across the ocean with the
greatest alacrity." They also believed in witchcraft, probably because
Dr. Farrar was not at hand to explain that the Bible did not mean what
it said; and they tortured and burnt witches with remarkable gusto.

It would also be a waste of time to correct all Dr. Farrar's statements
about the influence of the Bible in other directions. We will take a
single illustration of his fantastical method. He tells us that the
Bible "inspired the pictures of Fra Angelico and Raphael, the music of
Handel and Mendelssohn." Perhaps he will tell us whether it inspired
Raphael's picture of the Fornarina, and why it did not inspire the music
of Beethoven and Wagner. Both those great composers, as a matter of
fact, were "infidels."

Nothing could be more absurd than orthodox talk about the Bible
"inspiring" great poets, artists, and musicians. Men of genius are
inspired by nature. Their inspiration is born with them. It cannot be
made; it can only be utilised. All that religions have done is to employ
the genius they could not create. Every religion has done this in turn.
The genius was there always as a natural endowment. It existed before
all the world's religions, and it will outlive them.



VIII. INSPIRATION

The Higher Criticism, as expounded by Dr. Farrar, admits nearly all
the Bible difficulties that have been advanced by "infidels." Let us
recapitulate the most important. The Bible is hopelessly at variance
with science. It sometimes contradicts well-established history. Many of
its stories, taken literally, are obviously absurd. Some of the actions
it records with apparent approval are wicked or disgusting. A good deal
of its language sins against common decency. Several books were not
written by the authors whose names they bear. Others are, and must for
ever remain, anonymous. The dates of composition of the various
books are not what has been generally supposed. Occasionally the true
chronology differs from the received chronology by many centuries. To
the great majority of readers the Bible has never been known, and never
can be known, except in translations. No translation can possibly be
perfect. Every translation of the Bible is known to contain grave and
numerous errors. Even in the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts there
are thousands of various readings. In some cases the text is uncertain,
in some cases interpolated, and in others irrecoverably impaired. The
vowel points by which Hebrew is now read are demonstrably a modern
invention. Even the discourses of Jesus Christ, in the New Testament,
are not reported with accuracy. The New Testament writers seldom quote
from the Old Testament exactly, but generally rely upon the Greek
translation called the Septuagint.

Sometimes they quote passages which are not in Scripture at all. "Out of
288 passages quoted from the Old Testament in the New," says Dr. Farrar,
"there are but 53 which agree accurately with the original Hebrew. In 76
the New Testament differs both from the Greek and the Hebrew; and in 99
the New Testament, the Greek, and the Hebrew are all variant."

On the face of it, then, the Bible is doomed. A book of which all these
things can be said, without the slightest fear of contradiction, must
sooner or later be dropped as the Word of God. It will be recognised as
a human composition.

Meanwhile, those who live by the Bible, and are professionally
interested in its "supremacy," as Dr. Farrar calls it, cast about a
for means of giving it a fresh reputation. The old conception of it is
fatally discredited; a new one may give it a fresh lease of life.

Evidently there is only one direction open to the theological trimmers.
They must start another theory of inspiration--one that will conserve
the "sacred" character of the Bible in spite of every difficulty that
has been, or can be discovered.

The Bible is no longer to be called _the_ Word of God. Ruskin says, and
Dr. Farrar seems to quote it approvingly, that "it is a grave heresy (or
wilful source of division) to call any book, or collection of books, the
Word of God." Ten pages later, however, we are told that the Bible, as a
whole, _may_ be spoken of as the Word of God, because it "contains words
and messages of God to the human soul." This word "contains" is the
magical spell by which Dr. Farrar seeks to dissipate all difficulties.
He finds the expression in the Church Articles, in the Book of Homilies,
and in the Shorter Catechism. But in order to see how illegitimate is
Dr. Farrar's use of these authorities, let us take his extract from the
last of them: "The Word of God which is _contained_ in the Scriptures of
the Old and New Testament is the only rule to direct us how we may enjoy
and glorify Him." Is it not clear that the word "_contained_" is used
here in its primary meaning? Did not the writers mean that the Word of
God is included or comprehended in the Old and New Testament only, and
is not to be found elsewhere? Would they not have been shocked to hear a
clergyman of the Church of England say that some parts of the Bible were
_not_ the Word of God? If so, their use of the word "contain" lends no
countenance to the use made of it by Dr. Farrar. And is it not a shallow
trick upon our intelligence to argue that different persons, using
the same word, necessarily mean the same thing? Words are the money of
fools, as Hobbes said, but only the counters of wise men. We must get at
the actual value of the thing which is symbolised. And the moment we do
this, we see that Dr. Farrar's theory of the Word of God is _not_ the
same as that of the gentlemen who drew up the Shorter Catechism. They
would indeed have laughed at his "contains," and excommunicated and
imprisoned him, and perhaps burnt him at the stake. It is not by
torturing one poor word ten thousand ways that such wide differences can
be reconciled.

Passing by this ridiculous legerdemain, let us take Dr. Farrar's theory
for what it is worth. The Bible _contains_ the Word of God. But how are
we to find it? What is the criterion by which we are to separate God's
word from man's word? Dr. Farrar bids us use "the ordinary means of
criticism and spiritual discernment." But such a vague generality is
nothing but verbiage. What we want is the _criterion_. Now the nearest
approach to it in all Dr. Farrar's pages is the following:--

"Is it not a plain and simple rule that anything in the Bible which
teaches, or is misinterpreted to teach, anything which is not in
accordance with the love, the gentleness, the truthfulness of Christ's
Gospel, is _not_ God's word to us, however clearly it stands on the page
of Scripture?"

This is at best a _negative_ criterion; and, on close examination, it
turns out to be no criterion at all. The criterion, to be valid, must be
_external_ to the book itself. Dr. Farrar's criterion is _internal_.
He picks out one part of the Bible as the standard for judging all
the rest. This is entirely arbitrary. Moreover, it would soon be found
impossible in practice. Dr. Farrar's criterion may be "plain," but it
is not so "simple," except in the uncomplimentary sense of the word.
For "Christ's Gospel," by which the rest of the Bible is to be tried,
is itself a very composite and self-contradictory thing. Further, if
all that agrees with Christ's Gospel is the Word of God, is it not
superfluous as being a mere repetition? Dr. Farrar would therefore bring
the actual, valid Word of God within the compass of the Four Gospels;
dismissing all the rest, like the Arabian Caliph who commanded a whole
library to be burnt on the ground that if the books differed from
the Koran they were pernicious, and if they agreed with it they were
useless. Nor is this all. Dr. Farrar admits that the discourses of
Jesus Christ are not reported with accuracy. Therefore, having made the
Gospels the criterion of the Word of God in the rest of the Bible, he
would be obliged to select some special passages as the criterion of the
Word of God in the rest of the Gospels. This is what Shakespeare would
call a world-without-end process.

Candidly, it seems to us that if the Bible _is_ not the Word of God, but
only _contains_ the Word of God--that is to say, if it is partly God's
word and partly man's word--the clergy of all denominations should unite
in publishing a Bible with the divine and human parts clearly specified
by being printed in different types. And surely, if the Bible is in
any sense inspired, it should be possible, by a new and final act of
inspiration, to settle this distinction for ever.

Allowing the clergy to meditate this holy enterprise, we proceed to
consider Dr. Farrar's theory of inspiration. Of course he discards
the old theory of verbal dictation; indeed, he calls it "irreverent,"
because it attributes to God what modern men of intelligence and good
manners would be ashamed to own. He even quarrels with the very term
inspiration as "vague," and says it would be "a boon if some less
ambiguous word could be adopted." Four theories, he says, have been
entertained in the Christian Church. The first is the _mechanical_
theory, which implies that the Holy Ghost dictated, and the inspired
penmen were merely his amanuenses. The second is the _dynamic_, which
recognises "the indefeasible guidance of the Holy Spirit." The third is
that of _illumination_, which confines the divine guidance to matters of
faith and doctrine. The fourth is that of _general_ inspiration, which
regards the Holy Spirit as influencing the writers in the same way as it
influences "other noble and holy souls." This fourth theory is the one
which Dr. Farrar himself affects. Every pure and sweet influence upon
the human soul, he says, is a heavenly inspiration. We owe to it "all
that is best and greatest in philosophy, eloquence, and song." Haydn
said of his grandest chorus in the "Creation": "Not from me but from
above it all has come!" "There is inspiration," says Dr. Farrar,
"whenever the spirit of God makes itself heard in the heart of man."
Apparently--for we can never be quite sure of Dr. Farrar--the only
superiority of the Bible lies in the fact that "the voice of God" speaks
to us "far more intensely" out of it than out of "any [other?] form of
human speech."

Such a theory of inspiration is too vague and universal. Sooner than
give up inspiration altogether Dr. Farrar is prepared to share it all
round. But is not proving too much as bad as proving too little? If the
Bible is only inspired--where it _is_ inspired--in the same sense as
other books are inspired; if the difference is not one of kind, but
simply of degree; then it is really idle to talk about its inspiration
any longer. The word _inspiration_ loses all its original meaning. It
becomes a poetical expression, implying nothing supernatural, but merely
the exaltation of natural powers and faculties. God is then behind the
Bible only as God is behind everything; and Christianity, ceasing to be
a special revelation, becomes only a certain form of Theism.

This loose theory of _general_ inspiration will doubtless serve the
present turn of the clergy, who have to face a general and growing
dissatisfaction with the Bible. But it cannot live very long in a
scientific age. It will be found out in time, like all the Bible
theories that preceded it. The first Protestant dogma was the
infallibility of Scripture. That was exploded by modern science and
textual criticism. Then came the dogma of plenary inspiration, which had
a comparatively short-lived existence, as it was only the old dogma of
infallibility in disguise. Next came the dogma of illumination, which
may be said to have begun with Coleridge and ended with Maurice.
Finally, we have the dogma of general inspiration, which began nowhere
and ends nowhere, which means anything or nothing, and which is a sort
of "heads we win, tails you lose" theory in the hands of the clever
expounders of the Higher Criticism.

Behind the last, as well as the first, of all these theories
of inspiration stands the fatal objection of Thomas Paine, that
inspiration, to be real, must be personal. A man may be sure that God
speaks to him, but how can he be sure that God has spoken to another
man? He may think it possible or probable, but he can never be certain.
What is revelation at first-hand, said Paine, is only hearsay at
second-hand. Real inspiration, therefore, eventuates in mysticism.
The inner light shines, the inner voice speaks; God holds personal
communication with the individual soul. Each believer carries what the
author of _Hudibras_ calls "the dark lanthorn of the spirit," which
"none see by but those who bear it." And the very multiplicity and
diversity of the oracle's deliverances are a proof that in all of them
man is speaking to himself. He questions his gods, and hears only the
echo of his own voice.



IX. THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS

Some of the teaching of the Higher Criticism as to the authorship and
credibility of the Old Testament is, on the face of it, contrary to
the plain language of Jesus Christ himself in the Gospels. Moses, for
instance, is no longer considered as the author of the Pentateuch. Canon
Driver, who is perhaps the chief scholar of this movement in the Church
of England, as Dean Farrar is perhaps its chief rhetorician, locates the
composition of the book of Deuteronomy in the period between Isaiah and
Jeremiah. Throughout the book, he observes, the writer introduces Moses
in the third person, and puts speeches in his mouth which of course
he never uttered. But in "framing discourses appropriate to Moses'
situation!" he was not guilty of "forgery," for he was "doing nothing
inconsistent with the literary usages of his age and people." That is
to say, everybody did it, and this writer was no worse than his
contemporaries--which is probably true. But passing by the question of
casuistry here involved, we repeat that the Mosaic authorship of the
Pentateuch is entirely abandoned. Dr. Farrar is quite as emphatic as
Dr. Driver on this point. He denies that there is "any proof of the
existence of a _collected_ Pentateuch earlier than the days of Ezra
(b.c. 444 )"--a thousand years after the time of Moses. He points out
that the salient features of the so-called Mosaic Law, such as the
Passover, the Sabbatical year, and the Day of Atonement, are not to be
traced in the old historical books or in the earlier prophets. Nor
does he scruple to assert that the Pentateuch is "a work of composite
structure," which has been "edited and re-edited several times," and
"contains successive strata of legislation." In the New Testament,
however, Moses is repeatedly spoken of as the author of the Pentateuch.*
Not to multiply texts, for in such a case one is as good as a thousand,
we will take a decisive passage in the fourth Gospel:--

     * Matthew xix. 7, 8; Mark x. 3, 4; xii. 26; Luke xvi. 29-31;
     Luke xx. 37; John v. 45, 46; vii. 19, 22, 23.

"Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one that
accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses,
ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his
writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John v. 45-47).

The speaker in this instance is Christ himself. It is he, and not the
evangelist, who speaks of the writings of Moses, and declares that Moses
"wrote of me."

Now let us turn to the book of Psalms, which has been well called the
Hymn Book of the Second Temple. According to Dr. Farrar, they are
"a collection of sacred poems in five separate books of very various
antiquity." Canon Driver points out that they are mostly posterior to
the prophetical writings. "When the Psalms," he says, "are compared
with the prophets, the latter seem to show, on the whole, the greater
originality; the psalmists, in other words, _follow_ the prophets,
appropriating and applying the truths which the prophets proclaimed."
Very few of the Psalms are earlier than the seventh century before
Christ. Dr. Driver affirms this with "tolerable confidence." Dr. Farrar
says that "some may mount to an epoch earlier than David's," but this
is mere conjecture. The more cautious Dr. Driver will not commit himself
further than "a verdict of _non liquet_"; that is to say, there is no
proof that David did not write one or two of the Psalms, and no evidence
that he did. His name was associated with the collection, in the
same way as the name of Solomon was associated with the Proverbs.
Nevertheless it is David who is referred to by Jesus as the author of
the hundred-and-tenth Psalm.* But this Psalm is one of those which are
allowed to belong to a much later period. Jesus quoted it as David's,
but Professor Sanday says "it seems difficult to believe it really came
from him"**--which is as strong an expression as a Christian divine
could be expected to permit himself in a case of such delicacy.

     * Matthew xxii. 43-45; Mark xii. 36, 37; Luke xx. 42-44.

     ** Professor W. Sanday, Bampton Lectures on Inspiration, p.
     409. Canon Gore, with this utterance of Jesus right before
     him, still more emphatically denies that this Psalm was, or
     could have been, composed by David. See his Bampton Lectures
     on The Incarnation of the Son of God, p. 197.

We have already seen that the book of Daniel was not written by the
prophet Daniel, but by some unknown author hundreds of years later,
probably in the second century before Christ. Upon this subject
Professor Sanday takes precisely the same view as Canon Driver. He says
that this is "the critical view" and has "won the day." All the facts
support the "supposition that the book was written in the second century
b.c.," and not "in the sixth." "The real author," he says, "is unknown,"
and "the name of Daniel is only assumed." He was writing, not a history,
but a homily, to encourage his brethren at the time of the Maccabean
struggle. "To this purpose of his," Professor Sanday says, "there were
features in the traditional story of Daniel which appeared to lend
themselves; and so he took that story and worked it up in the way which
seemed to him most effective." Jesus Christ, however, held the orthodox
view of his own time, and spoke of Daniel as the actual author of this
book (Matthew xxiv. 15). "But this," Professor Sanday observes, "it is
right to say, is only in one Gospel, where the mention of Daniel may be
an insertion of the Evangelist's." Such conjectural shifts are Christian
critics reduced to in their effort to minimise difficulties; as though
_reducing_ the mistakes of Jesus in any way saved his _infallibility_.

We will now turn to some portions of the Old Testament narrative which
the Higher Criticism regards as legendary, but which Jesus regarded as
strictly historical. One of these is the story of the Flood. No one of
any standing is now prepared to defend this story, at least as we find
it in the book of Genesis. A few orthodox scientists, like Sir James
W. Dawson, pour out copious talk about tremendous floods in former
geological ages; but what has this to do with the Bible narrative of a
universal deluge which occurred some four thousand five hundred years
ago? The Higher Critics have the impatience of Freethinkers with such
intellectual charlatanry. They regard the story of the Flood as a Jewish
legend, which was not even original, but borrowed from the superstitions
of Babylon. Yet the opinion of Jesus Christ seems to have been very
different. Here are his own words:--

"But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man
be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating
and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe
entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them
all away, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matthew xxiv.
37-39).

Jesus Christ appears to have believed, like the disciples he was
addressing, like all the rest of his countrymen, and like nearly
all Christians until very recently, that the Flood was an historical
occurrence, that Noah and his family were saved in the ark, and that all
the other inhabitants of the world were drowned.

Another story which the Higher Criticism dismisses as legendary is that
of Jonah. The book in which it is related was, of course, not written by
Jonah, the son of Amittai, of whom we read in 2 Kings xiv. 25, and who
lived in the reign of Jeroboam II. "It cannot," as Dr. Driver says,
"have been written until long after the lifetime of Jonah himself." Its
probable date is the fifth century before Christ. Dr. Driver says it is
"not strictly historical "--that is to say, the events recorded in it
never happened. Jonah was not really entertained for three days in a
whale's belly, nor did his preaching convert the whole city of Nineveh.
The writer's purpose was didactic; he wished to rebuke the exclusiveness
of his own people, and to teach them that God's care extended, at least
occasionally, to other nations as well as the Jews. Some critics, such
as Cheyne and Wright, regard the story as allegorical; Jonah standing
for Israel, the whale for Babylon, and the vomiting up of the prophet
for the return of the Jews from exile. Dr. Farrar draws attention to the
"remarkable" fact that in the book of Kings "no allusion is made to any
mission or adventure of the historic Jonah." He adds that there is not
"the faintest trace of his mission or its results amid the masses of
Assyrian inscriptions." Even the writer of the book of Jonah, according
to Dr. Farrar, attached "no importance" to its "supernatural incidents,"
which "only belong to the allegorical form of the story." So much for
the Higher Critics; and now let us hear Jesus Christ:--

"An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall
no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas
was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son
of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The
men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall
condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold
a greater than Jonas is here" (Matthew xii. 39-41).

This utterance of Jesus is also reported in Luke (xi. 29-32), but with
an important variation, the reference to Jonah in the whale's belly
being entirely omitted. This variation is seized upon by Dr. Farrar.
The fishy reference, he says, occurs in Matthew _alone_, and it may
"represent a comment or marginal note by the Evangelist, or of some
other Christian teacher." This, however, is an arbitrary supposition,
which everyone is free to repudiate; and Dr. Farrar feels obliged to add
that "even if our Lord did allude to the whale" it does not follow that
we should regard it as "literal history." But this is not the question
at issue. The real question is, did Jesus Christ believe the story of
Jonah and the whale? If he did not, it must be admitted that he had a
most unfortunate way of expressing himself.

No educated Christian in the present age believes the story of Lot's
wife being changed into a pillar of rock salt, although Josephus
pretended that he had seen it, and many travellers and pilgrims have
searched for it as a sacred relic. Jesus Christ, however, gave great
prominence to this salted lady. "Remember Lot's wife" is a verse by
itself in the Protestant Bible (Luke xvii. 32). Jesus also refers to the
rain of fire and brimstone by which Sodom was destroyed.

Here then, upon the face of it, we have Jesus Christ's testimony to
three documents as having been written by men who did not write them,
and to the historical character of three incidents which are purely
fabulous. Now the Higher Criticism must be wrong, or else Jesus Christ
was mistaken; in other words, he was not infallible, and therefore not
God. But the Higher Critics declare that they are not wrong; they also
declare that Jesus Christ was not mistaken. Let us see how they try to
save their own accuracy and his infallibility.

We must remark, in passing, that some of these critics hint, without
exactly asserting, that Jesus _may_ have been mistaken. Dr. Farrar bids
us remember that "by the very fact of taking our nature upon him Christ
voluntarily submitted himself to human limitations." There were some
things which, as a man, he did not know. Yes, but he was also God; and
the conjunction of "knowledge" and "ignorance" in one person, and with
respect to a single subject, would dissolve the unity of the God-man,
which is a dogma of Christian theology. Moreover, as Canon Liddon
argued, it is not so much a question of Christ's omniscience as a
question of his infallibility. Supposing there were some matters, such
as the date of the day of judgment, of which he was ignorant; he might
confess his ignorance or remain silent, and no harm would accrue to
anyone; but if he spoke upon any matter, and was mistaken through want
of knowledge, he would become a propagator of error; and this would not
only destroy the doctrine of his deity, but very seriously impair his
authority as a teacher, and cause everything he said to be open to
the gravest suspicion. No less dangerous is it to fall back upon the
explanation that "the discourses of Christ are not reproduced by the
Evangelists with verbal identity"--to use Dr. Farrar's own language. Dr.
Sanday seems a little attracted by this explanation. He reminds us that,
whatever views Jesus himself entertained as to the Scriptures of the Old
Testament, his views have come down to us through the medium of persons
who shared the erroneous ideas that were then current on the subject. We
must be prepared, he says, for the possibility that Christ's sayings in
regard to it "have not been reported with absolute accuracy." But
after all "not much allowance" should be made for this; which means, we
suspect, that the worthy Professor saw the dreadful peril of pursuing
this vein of observation, and desisted from it before he had said enough
to cause serious mischief.

The more astute Higher Critics avoid such dangers. They resort to a
theory that combines mystery and plausibility, by which they hope to
satisfy believers on both sides of their natures. Dr. Farrar tells us
that Christ, to become a man, emptied himself of his glory; and that
this "examination" involved the necessity of speaking as a man to men.
This position is perhaps best expressed by Canon Gore:--

"It is contrary to his whole method to reveal his Godhead by any
anticipations of natural knowledge. The Incarnation was a self-emptying
of God to reveal himself under conditions of human nature, and from the
human point of view. We are able to draw a distinction between what he
revealed and what he used......Now when he speaks of the 'sun rising' he
is using ordinary human knowledge. Thus he does not reveal his eternity
by statements as to what had happened in the past, or was to happen in
the future, outside the ken of existing history. He made his Godhead
gradually manifest by his attitude towards men and things about him, by
his moral and spiritual claims, by his expressed relation to his father,
not by any miraculous exemptions of himself from the conditions of
natural knowledge in its own proper province. Thus the utterances of
Christ about the Old Testament do not seem to be nearly definite or
clear enough to allow of our supposing that in this case he is departing
from the general method of the Incarnation, by bringing to bear the
unveiled omniscience of the Godhead, to anticipate or foreclose a
development of natural knowledge."*

This would perhaps be sublime if it were only intelligible. We are not
surprised at Dr. Driver's turning away from the metaphysics of this
theory. His mind is cast in a more sober and practical mould. It is
enough for him that the aim of Christ's teaching was a religious one;
that he naturally accepted, as the basis of his teaching, the opinions
respecting the Old Testament that were current around him; that he did
not raise "issues for which the time was not yet ripe, and which, had
they been raised, would have interfered seriously with the paramount
purpose of his life."**

     * Rev. Charles Gore, Lux Mundi (seventh edition), pp. 360,
     361.

     ** Introduction, Preface, xix.


This is excellently said. It is just what Paley might have written in
present-day circumstances. But it contains no note of the supernatural.
It deals with Jesus as a mere man, who did not disclose all the
information he possessed, but sometimes veiled his knowledge for
temporary reasons. It leaves his Godhead in the background. It does not
recognise how easy it was for Omnipotence to act differently. And when
the Higher Criticism points out that the human mind could, in the course
of time, free itself from errors as to the authorship and credibility
of the Old Testament, it forgets that Jesus Christ, by accommodating
himself to those errors, _perpetuated_ them. His authority was appealed
to for centuries--it is appealed to now--in favor of falsehood. Nor is
this falsehood trivial and innocuous. It has been extremely harmful. It
has fostered a wrong view of the Bible, it has prolonged the reign of
superstition, and thus hindered the growth of true civilisation. This is
an impeachment of the moral character of Jesus. It is a confession that
he served a temporary object at the expense of the permanent interests
of humanity. We feel constrained, therefore, to admit the force of the
words of Canon Liddon:--

"We have lived to hear men proclaim the legendary and immoral character
of considerable portions of those Old Testament scriptures, upon which
our Lord has set the seal of his infallible authority. And yet, side
by side with this rejection of Scriptures so deliberately sanctioned
by Christ, there is an unwillingness which, illogical as it is, we must
sincerely welcome, to profess any explicit rejection of the Church's
belief in Christ's divinity. Hence arises the endeavour to intercept
a conclusion, which might otherwise have seemed so plain as to make
arguments in its favor an intellectual impertinence. Hence a series of
singular refinements, by which Christ is presented to the modern world
as really Divine, yet as subject to fatal error; as Founder of the true
religion, yet as the credulous patron of a volume replete with worthless
legends; as the highest Teacher and Leader of humanity, yet withal as
the ignorant victim of the prejudices and follies of an unenlightened
age."*

     * Canon H. P. Liddon, The Divinity of Christ (fourteenth
     edition), p. 462.

Canon Gore devotes several pages of his Bampton Lectures to this
subject, but he does not fairly answer the straightforward objections
raised by Canon Liddon. Dealing with the references of Jesus to
the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and to Jonah's three days'
entombment in the whale's belly, and with the argument that this
endorsement by Jesus "binds us to receive these narratives as simple
history," he blandly declares, "To this argument I do not think that we
need yield." Of course not. There is no need to yield to anything you do
not like; for this is a free country, at least to Christians. But what
is the logical conclusion? That is the point to be decided. Canon
Gore does not face it; he merely expresses a personal disinclination.
Subsequently he pleads that "a heavy burden" should not be laid on
"sensitive consciences," and that men should not be asked "to accept as
matter of revelation what seems to them an improbable literary theory."
But this again is a personal appeal. These men must be left to attend
to their own consciences. They have no right to demand a suppression of
truth, or a perversion of logic, for their particular advantage.

When a candid reader has finished all that the Higher Criticism has to
say on this matter, we believe he will be filled with a sense of its
insincerity. It never strikes a note of triumph, or even a note of
conviction. It is timid, furtive, and apologetic; and shelters
itself against reason by plunging into mystery. In place of all
the difficulties it removes it sets up a colossal one of its own
manufacture; the difficulty, to wit, of conceiving that God himself lent
a sanction to grave and far-reaching error as to his own Word; or what
would inevitably be regarded as a sanction, and would necessarily delay
for many hundreds of years the discovery and reception of the truth.
The Higher Criticism, in short, has supplied a new argument against the
deity of Jesus Christ.



X. THE BIBLE AND THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

Dr. Farrar's book has naturally given offence to the more orthodox
Christians. Clergymen like "Father" Ignatius stigmatise him, and indeed
all clerical exponents of the Higher Criticism, as wolves in sheeps'
clothing, who eat the Church's meat and do the work of "infidelity."
We are not surprised, therefore, that some reassurance has been
deemed necessary; nor astonished that it took the form of a popular
announcement in the newspapers. Some months ago--to be accurate, it was
in September--the following paragraph went the round of the press:--

"Dean Farrar and the Scriptures.--A correspondent called the attention
of Dean Farrar to the fact that Atheistic lecturers are in the habit of
affirming that he does not believe in the Bible (referring to his works
as a confirmation of the statement), and observed that, if such a grave
assertion were allowed to be propagated without contradiction, the young
and the ignorant might be deceived by it. The Dean, who is at present
staying in Yorkshire, replied as follows: 'The statement to which you
refer is ignorant nonsense. The doctrine of the Church of England about
Holy Scripture is stated in her Sixth and Seventh. Articles, and that
doctrine I most heartily accept."

This strikes us as a rather paltry evasion. The Sixth and Seventh
Articles of the Church of England do not state the full Christian belief
as to the Bible, but only the Protestant belief as against that of the
Church of Rome. They emphasise two points, and two points only: first,
that the Scriptures contain all that is necessary to salvation, so
that no man is at the Pope's mercy for a seat in heaven; second, that
fourteen books of the Roman Catholic Bible are apocryphal, and cannot be
used to establish any doctrine. The general Christian view of the Bible,
common to Catholics and Protestants, is taken for granted, as it had
not then been brought into controversy. There is one word in the Sixth
Article, however, which may be commended to Dr. Farrar's attention.
The last clause explains what is meant by "Holy Scripture," and runs
as follows:--"In the name of the holy Scripture we do understand those
Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was
never any doubt in the Church." Now, unless Dr. Farrar means to juggle
with the word "authority"--and we do not doubt his capacity for doing
so--it is idle for him to say that he believes in the Bible according to
these terms. He does _not_ believe, for instance, in the "authority" of
the book of Jonah; on the contrary, he believes that Jonah did not write
it, and that it is not history, but romance, from beginning to end. If
_this_ is believing in the Bible, then Atheistic lecturers believe in it
as well as Dr. Farrar. He does not believe that Jonah spent three
days in a whale's belly--nor do they; he does not believe that
Jonah's deep-sea adventure was a prefigurement of the burial of Jesus
Christ--nor do they; he does not believe that the Jonah story is any
the truer because Jesus Christ really or apparently believed it--nor do
they; he simply believes that the story's moral is a good one, as far as
it represents people who are not Jews as entitled to consideration--and
so do they. Substantially there is not the smallest difference between
them. The only discernible difference is a hypothetical one. Dr. Farrar
claims that the book of Jonah is inspired. But he also claims that
everything good and true--that is, everything worth reading--is
inspired. "Very well then," the Atheist may reply, "I agree with you
still, in substance. The only point in dispute between us is whether
there is a God who interferes with the natural course of things, either
in the external world or in the human mind. But on your definition of
the word _inspired_, this makes no particular difference to any one book
or collection of books. And unless you alter (and narrow) your theory of
inspiration, our difference begins outside, not inside, the library--and
is, in brief, not practical, but metaphysical."

But let us return to Dr. Farrar's method of proving his sufficient
orthodoxy; and let us tell him that if he will only pursue it far
enough, he may get rid of the Bible altogether.

Suppose we take Pearson's classic _Exposition of the Creed_, and open
it at his address "to the Reader." In the second paragraph he writes as
follows:--"The Creed, without controversy, is a brief comprehension of
the objects of our Christian faith, and is generally taken to contain
all things necessary to be believed." Now this Creed does not mention
the Bible at all. A heathen might read it, and never infer from it that
there was such a thing as the Scriptures in existence. What then is to
prevent Dr. Farrar, or some more audacious clergyman, from saying
that he does not believe in the Bible, as it is nowhere laid down
as necessary to be believed; but that his orthodoxy is nevertheless
unimpeachable, because he "most heartily accepts" the Catholic and
Apostolic Creed which is "without controversy" an accurate compendium of
the Christian faith, and which, being prescribed in the Prayer Book,
is of course binding--and is _alone_ binding--on every loyal son of the
Church of England?

Dr. Farrar claims, as a clergyman, what he calls a "Christian liberty"
in dealing with the Bible; although, if God has indeed spoken in the
Bible, it is difficult to see what liberty a Christian can have but that
of absolute belief and obedience. In a lengthy footnote of his volume
which we have been criticising, he refers to the famous "Essays and
Reviews Case," and the decisions of the judges in the Court of Arches
and in the Privy Council. Dr. Lushington laid it down that: "Provided
the Articles and Formularies are not contravened, the law lays down no
limits of construction, no rule of interpretation, of the Scriptures."
Lord Westbury declared that the Sixth Article of the Church of England
was based upon "the revelations of the Holy Spirit," and therefore the
Bible might be denominated "holy" and be said to be "the Word of
God"; but this was not "distinctly predicated of every statement and
representation contained in every part of the Old and New Testaments."
"The framers of the Articles," Lord Westbury added, "have not used the
word 'inspiration' as applied to the Holy Scriptures, nor have they laid
down anything as to the nature, extent, or limits of that operation of
the Holy Spirit."

According to this sapient judgment, which perhaps is very good law, and
covers all possible developments of the Higher Criticism, every member
of the Church of England is bound to regard the Bible as containing "the
revelations of the Holy Spirit," but is not bound to regard it as a work
of "inspiration." A judge, with his legal spectacles on, is notoriously
able to discriminate subtleties where laymen see only what is plain;
and clergymen may take advantage of his preternatural sagacity, without
being able in the long run to impose upon the common sense of the
people, who will always look upon "revelation" and "inspiration" as
interchangeable terms.

It is quite natural that Dr. Farrar should wish to get rid of this word
"inspiration," since it can no longer be defined without danger. But we
must remind him that, if it does not occur in the Church Articles, it
certainly does occur in the Bible. "All scripture," Paul said, "is given
by inspiration of God."*

     * Timothy iii. 16.


And as the New Testament was not then in existence, Paul of course
referred to the Old Testament. This was the "holy scriptures" which
Timothy had "known from a child." And Peter is, if possible, more
definite than Paul. He speaks of the "more sure word of prophecy,"
surer than the very voice heard by the three disciples on the mount
of transfiguration. This "prophecy of the scripture" he declares to be
never of "any private interpretation"--which means, according to the
commentators, that it did not spring from any knowledge or personal
conjecture in the prophet. Finally, he clinches his exposition by
affirming that "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy
Ghost."*

     * 2 Peter i. 19-21. We quote this epistle as Peter's,
     because it passes as his in the New Testament, not because
     it was really his writing.

According to the Sixth Article of the Church of England, both these
epistles, bearing the names of Paul and Peter, are among the books
"of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church." Dr. Farrar is
therefore bound by them in logic and honor. He is not free to cast aside
the Biblical term of _inspiration_ nor free to minimise as he pleases
the "moving" influence of the Holy Ghost in either the New or the
Old Testament. As a clergyman of the Church of England, he assumes an
unwarrantable freedom; a freedom which is no more sanctioned by her
Articles than it is by the letter or spirit of the Scriptures. He
departs entirely from the primitive and real position of Protestantism;
namely, that the Bible is the absolute standard of faith and practice,
and that, wherever it is dark or dubious, it must be interpreted by
itself. He treads the _via media_ of compromise and irrationality;
neither going over to Rome, which claims to be inspired, like the Bible,
and to be the vehicle of the living voice of God for the infallible
interpretation of the written revelation--nor going over to Rationalism,
which regards the Catholic Church as but a human institution, and the
Bible as but a human composition. Believe that God has spoken, according
to the words of Paul and Peter, and the Catholic theory is the only
satisfactory one; disbelieve it, and there is no logical alternative but
the most thoroughgoing Rationalism.



XI. AN ORIENTAL BOOK

Dr. Farrar stumbles, on one occasion, against the true theory of the
Bible. Having to furnish an excuse, if not a justification, for the
outrageous crudity of a good deal of its language, he reminds us that
decorum changes with time and place. "The rigid external modesty and
propriety of modern and English literature," he observes, "is disgusted
and offended by statements which gave no such shock to ancient and
Eastern readers." And he adds that "The plain-spokenness of Orientals
involved no necessary offence against abstract morality." This is
true enough, but the argument should be developed. What is urged in
extenuation of the grossness of the Scripture is really applicable all
round--to its mythology, its legends, its religion, its philosophy,
its ethics, and its poetry. The Bible is an oriental book. And this
one statement, when properly understood, gives us the true key to
its interpretation, the real criterion of its character, and the just
measure of its value.

It has been well remarked that the ordinary Christian in this part of
the world appears to imagine that the Bible dropped down from heaven--in
English. Even the expounders of the Higher Criticism, in our own
country, read it first in their mother tongue; and although they
afterwards read it in the original Greek, and sometimes in the original
Hebrew, they are under the witchery of early impressions, and their
apologetics are almost entirely founded upon the vernacular Bible.
Thus they lose sight, and their readers never catch a glimpse, of the
predominant element, the governing factor, of the problem.

All the Bibles in the world, like all the religions in the world, came
from the East. "Not one of them," as Max Müller remarks, "has been
conceived, composed, or written down in Europe."*

     * Max Müller, Natural Religion, p. 538.

He classes the _Pilgrim's Progress_ among the "many books which have
exercised a far greater influence on religious faith and moral conduct
than the Bibles of the world"; but Bunyan's originality was artistic and
not religious; he absorbed the Puritanism of his age, and reproduced it
in the form of a magnificent allegory. Religious originality does not
belong to the Western mind, which is too scientific and practical. Every
one of the fashionable crazes that spring up from time to time, and have
their day and give place to a successor, is merely a garment from the
old wardrobe of superstition. This is true of Theosophy, for instance;
all its doctrines, ideas, and jargon being borrowed from India.
"There are five countries only," Max Müller says, "which have been
the birthplace of Sacred Books: (1) India, (2) Persia, (3) China, (4)
Palestine, (5) Arabia." All come from the East, and all have a generic
and historic resemblance. Not one of them was written by the founder of
its religion. Moses did not write the Pentateuch, Christ did not write
a line of the New Testament, Mohammed did not write the Koran, Zoroaster
did not write the Avesta, the Buddhist Scriptures were not written by
Buddha, and the Vedic hymns are far more ancient than writing in India.
All these Sacred Books embody the accepted beliefs of whole peoples; all
of them are canonical and authoritative; all contain very much the same
ethical groundwork, in the form of elementary moral prohibitions; all
of them are held to be of divine character; all of them become a kind of
fetish, which is worshipped and obeyed at the expense of the free spirit
of man, who is told not to be wise above what is written. Ecclesiastical
or kingly authority has generally given these books their final form and
character. Their establishment takes place in open daylight, but their
origin is more or less shrouded in mystery. "It is curious," Max Müller
says, "that wherever we have sacred books, they represent to us the
oldest language of the country. It is so in India, it is the same
in Persia, in China, in Palestine, and very nearly so in Arabia."*
According to Max Müller, the Veda was referred to in India fifteen
hundred years before Christ. Consequently it precedes by many centuries
even the earliest parts of the Bible:--

"The Vedic hymns come to us as a collection of sacred poetry, belonging
to certain ancient families, and afterwards united in one collection,
called the Rig-veda-sa_m_hitâ. The names of the poets, handed down by
tradition, are in most cases purely imaginary names. What is really
important is that in the hymns themselves the poets speak of their
thoughts and words as _God-given_--this we can understand--while at a
later time the theory came in that not the thoughts and words only, but
every syllable, every letter, every accent, had been communicated to
half-divine and half-human prophets by Brahma, so that the slightest
mistake in pronunciation, even to the pronunciation of an accent, would
destroy the charm and efficacy of these ancient prayers."**

     * Natural Religion, p. 295.

     ** Max Müller, ibid, p. 558.

With a slight variation of language, to suit the special circumstances,
nearly all this would apply to the Bible.

Christianity, like Brahmanism, like Buddhism, like Mohammedanism, is a
book religion. It is "God-given," or revealed, and its Bible has been
elevated to a position of infallibility, above the reach of human
reason, precisely like the Bibles of other oriental faiths. This
sanctification of every thought and word and letter is declared by
Max Müller to have been "the death-blow given to the Vedic religion,"
destroying its power of growth and change. A similar observation is made
by Sir William Muir respecting the petrified gospel of the Koran:--

"From the stiff and rigid shroud in which it is thus swathed, the
religion of Mohammed cannot emerge. It has no plastic power beyond
that exercised in its earliest days. Hardened now and inelastic, it can
neither adapt itself nor yet shape its votaries, nor even suffer them
to shape themselves, to the varying circumstances, the wants and
developments of mankind."*

How curious it is, after reading this strong passage, to come across a
diametrically opposite one in the work of another eminent writer on
the same subject. Professor Arnold closes his important book on the
propagation of the Muslim faith with a reference to "the power of this
religion to adapt itself to the peculiar characteristics and the stage
of development of the people whose allegiance it seeks to win."**
Historically, it is perfectly certain that Mohammedanism _has_ been
found compatible with a high degree of civilisation. Many instances
might be given, but a single one is sufficient. The Mohammedan
civilisation in Spain was far superior to the Christian civilisation
which, after terrible bloodshed and enormous destruction, was
established upon its ruins. The truth is, that religions always change
when they must change, and never otherwise. When the necessity
arises, learned divines will always be found to make the requisite
accommodations. This, indeed, is the explanation of the labors of Dr.
Farrar and other exponents of the Higher Criticism. They are simply
accommodating Christianity, and the Bible with it, to the serious
changes that have taken place in educated opinion and sentiment, in
consequence of the development of physical science, the progress of
historical criticism, and the growth of moral culture. All the truth in
Sir William Muir's impeachment of Mohammedanism is no less applicable
to Christianity. The Bible, like the Koran, and like every other
revelation, stereotyped old ideas, and gave them a factitious longevity.
Dr. Farrar himself not only admits, but contends, that the Bible has
been invoked against every advance in science, politics, and sociology.
What more could be said of the Koran or any other sacred book?

     * Sir William Muir, Rise and Decline of Islam, pp. 40, 41.

     ** T. W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam.

Bring any oriental religion into Europe, and it must change or perish.
Christianity is not true, as Mr. Gladstone and so many orthodox
apologists have argued, because the Christian nations are at the top
of civilisation. The Caucasian mind led the world before the advent of
Christianity, and it is doing the same now. Christians are apt to forget
that Greece and Italy are in Europe, and that Athens and Rome--two
imperishable names in the world's history--were far-shining cities
before a good deal of the Old Testament was written.

Keep any oriental religion in the East, however, and there is no
saying how long it will last unaltered. Do not travellers talk of
the unchanging East? The civilisation of China is almost what it was
thousands of years ago. Syrian life to-day is like a picture from the
Bible. And the old Orient, as Flaubert said, is the land of religions;
and where Asia looks upon Europe, and the communication between them
began of yore, you may sample all the faiths of antiquity. Flaubert
remarked that the assemblage of all the old religions in Syria was
something incredible; it was enough to study for centuries.*

     * Flaubert, Correspondence, vol. i., p. 344.

Asia spawned forth all the great religions, and produced all the great
revelations. Arabia is in Africa, but the Arabs are not Africans; they
belong to the Semitic race, like the Jews, and the Koran embodies Jewish
and other Semitic traditions.

The Bible, then, is an oriental book, an Asiatic book, in spite of the
Greek elements which are incorporated in the New Testament, notably in
the fourth Gospel. It has never been in harmony with the real life of
the West. When it has dominated the life of a particular locality, for a
certain period, the result has been something typically non-European; as
in the case of Scotland under the despotism of the Kirk, whose spiritual
slaves prompted Heine's epigram that the Presbyterian Scotchman was a
Jew, born in the north, who ate pork. Modern civilisation is mainly a
return to the spirit of secular progress which inspired the immortal
achievements of Greece and Rome.

"The revival of learning and the Renaissance are memorable as the first
sturdy breasting by humanity of the hither slope of the great hollow
which lies between us and the ancient world. The modern man, reformed
and regenerated by knowledge, looks across it, and recognises on the
opposite ridge, in the far-shining cities and stately porticoes, in the
art, politics, and science of antiquity, many more ties of kinship and
sympathy than in the mighty concave between, wherein dwell his Christian
ancestry, in the dim light of scholasticism and theology."*

     * James Cotter Morison, The Service of Man, p. 178.

Well, if we once fully recognise the Bible as an oriental book, we are
on the road to its complete comprehension. Its grossness of speech, its
gratuitous reference to animal functions, its designation of males
by their sexual attributes even on the most serious occasions, its
religious observances in connection with pregnancy and birth, its
very rite of circumcision; all this, and much more, becomes perfectly
intelligible. It is in keeping with all we know of the ideas, practices,
and language of the East. Moreover, we perceive why it is that
similarities to the theology, the poetry, and the ethics of the Bible
have been so liberally disclosed by the progress of oriental studies.
The Bible, being brought from the East, has to be carried back there to
be properly understood. It is true that Christian divines have offered
their own explanation of these similarities. At first they declared them
to be Satanic anticipations, devilish pre-mockeries, of God's own truth.
Then they declared them to be confused echoes of the oracles of Jehovah.
Finally, they declare them to be evidences of the fact that, although
God chose the Jewish race as the medium of his special revelation, he
also revealed himself partially to other nations. But these explanations
are alike fantastic. They rest upon no ground of history or evolution.
The real explanation is that the Bible is one of the many sacred books
of the East. Its differences from the rest are not of kind, but of
degree; and any superiority that may be claimed for it must henceforth
be argued upon this basis.

This oriental Bible is at utter variance with the vital beliefs, the
political and social tendencies, and the ethical aspirations, of the
present age. Science has destroyed its naive supernaturalism; reason
has placed its personal God--the magnified, non-natural man--in his own
niche in the world's Pantheon; philosophy has carried us far beyond its
primitive conceptions of human society; our morality has outgrown its
hardness and insularity, however we may still appreciate its finer
ejaculations; even the most pious Christians, with the exception of a
few "peculiar" people, only pay a hypocritical homage to its clearest
injunctions; and the higher development of decency and propriety makes
us turn from its crude expressions with a growing sense of disgust,
while the progress of humanity fills us more and more with a loathing
of its frightful wars and ruthless massacres, its tales of barbaric
cruelty, and its crowning infamy of an everlasting hell.



XII. FICTITIOUS SUPREMACY

There are two remarkable characteristics of present-day apologies for
Christianity: one is extravagant laudation of Jesus as man and
teacher, the other is extravagant laudation of the Bible as ethics and
literature. Both these characteristics are really signs of the decadence
of positive faith. Anyone who sincerely believed in the deity of Jesus
would shrink from praising his human virtues. To such a person it would
savor strongly of impertinence. Nor would anyone who really believed the
Bible to be the Word of God make it the subject of meaner panegyrics.
It seems ridiculous to argue that God wrote with unusual power and
sublimity, and is actually the very first of known authors. But this
is what Dr. Farrar does, essentially, in the last six chapters of
his volume. No wonder, therefore, that all the vices of his style are
displayed in the accomplishment of this extraordinary task. He has to
make several quotations from great or distinguished writers, but he
catches no literary infection from them. One of these quotations is from
brave old George Fox. "I saw," the great Quaker wrote, "that there was
an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of Light and Love
flowed over the ocean of Darkness; and in that I saw the infinite
love of God." This is magnificent writing. It has vision, force, and
simplicity. In its way it could hardly be beaten. And how poor in
comparison is the turgid pulpit rhetoric of Dr. Farrar!

We are told by this wordy defender of the faith that the Christian
Scriptures are "the Supreme Bible of Humanity"--as though, if it be the
Word of God, it could be anything less. Our attention is called to
its "unique transcendence"--which is a penny-a-lining pleonasm. We
are informed that it has "triumphed with ease over the assaults of its
enemies"--which is a remarkably modest assertion, especially in view
of the fact that the "enemies" of the Bible were, for fifteen hundred
years, generally subdued by persecution, imprisonment, torture,
assassination, and the burning of their writings. We are further
informed that the Bible commands the reverence, guides the thoughts,
educates the souls, and kindles the moral aspirations of men "through
all the world"--which is an extremely sober statement in view of the
fact that all the _nominal_ Christians, not to be too precise about
the _real_ ones, do not amount to more than a fourth of the world's
inhabitants. So wonderful a book is the Bible that "the Lord Jesus
Christ himself did not disdain to quote from the Old Testament"--which
was his own word, in the sense that it was (professedly) written under
divine inspiration. This is absurd enough, but it is nothing to the
rapturous eulogy of the Bible which follows it. "All the best and
brightest English verse [not _some_, mark, but _all!_], from the poems of
Chaucer to the plays of Shakespeare in their noblest parts, are echoes
of its lessons; and from Cowper to Wordsworth," Dr. Farrar says, "from
Coleridge to Tennyson, the greatest of our poets have drawn from its
pages their loftiest wisdom." Really, one is tempted to ask whether such
stuff as this is possible in any other country than England, or perhaps
America; and whether, even in England or America, it is possible outside
churches, chapels, and Sunday-schools. Sixty pages later--Dr. Farrar
could not sober down in that long interval--he declares that "It was the
Bible which created the prose literature of England." Now if this were
true it would not serve Dr. Farrar's ostensible purpose. It would not
prove that the Bible is a divine revelation. It would only prove the
historical--that is to say, the largely accidental--importance of
the Authorised Version of the Bible in the development of English
literature. But this declaration of Dr. Farrar's is _not_ true. The
Authorised Version did not initiate, it rather closed, a period of our
literary history. The English of the translators in their Preface is
vastly different from the English of their translation. Indeed, they
were rather collators than translators. They took the older versions
as the basis of their work, they altered as little as possible, and the
alterations they did make were strictly in harmony with the time-honored
style of those older versions, a style which was even then very archaic.
Dr. Marsh, himself a devout Christian, contends that "the dialect of
this translation was not, at the time of the revision, or, indeed, at
any other period, the actual current book-language nor the colloquial
speech of the English people." He maintains that it was "a consecrated
diction" which had been "gradually built up" from the time of Wycliffe.*
Its language was not the language of Chaucer's prose, nor even of
Wycliffe's own prose, any more than it was the language of Bacon's
or Shakespeare's, or even that of divines like Hooker. The Authorised
Version is indeed a monument of English, but of special English. It has
always stood aside from the main development of English prose. Of course
it has exercised a considerable influence, but that influence has been
chiefly indirect. From the young naive prose of Malory to the mature and
calculated prose of Swift--not to come farther--there is a clear stream
of development, to which the language and style of the English Bible
have contributed infinitely less than is generally assumed. With the
single exception of Bunyan's masterpiece, which stands apart and alone,
it is difficult to name a first-class prose competition that was greatly
indebted to our Authorised Version. Even the divines disregarded it as
a literary model, and perhaps most conspicuously so in the seventeenth
century, immediately after its publication.

     * George P. Marsh, Lectures on the English Language
     (Murray), pp. 441, 445.

Dr. Farrar is entirely wrong in declaring that the Bible created the
prose literature of England. Even if he only means that English prose
was vastly profited by the religious literature which followed upon the
heels of the Reformation, it is easy to reply that this literature was
mainly controversial and never remarkable for the higher graces and
dexterities. For those virtues, prior to the time of Taylor and South,
we must turn to secular and even to "profane" compositions; a fact which
is well known to every real student of English literature.

The next device of Dr. Farrar's advocacy would be astounding if one
did not know the muddle-headed public for whom he writes. He devotes a
monstrous number of pages to the citing of a "cloud of witnesses to the
glory and supremacy of the Holy Scriptures," beginning with the
great John Henry Newman and winding up with the notorious Hall Caine.
Sandwiched between these dissimilar "witnesses" are Heine, Goethe,
Rousseau, Wesley, Emerson, Carlyle, Huxley, Arnold, Ruskin, and a host
of others. Most of them were Christians, and afford a partisan testimony
which is not very valuable. In any case, there is no real argument in
a list of names. When a man is being tried on a definite charge, it is
idle to recite a catalogue of his distinguished friends. Witnesses to
character are only heard in mitigation of sentence after the jury has
returned a verdict of Guilty. Perhaps this fact had its influence on Dr.
Farrar's mind; at any rate, he calls his "cloud of witnesses" when he
has ended all he had to say in the form of argument.

These witnesses, moreover, are jumbled together without the slightest
discrimination. Let us take a few illustrations to show the futility of
Dr. Farrar's method.

John Wesley cried "Give me the book of God! Here is knowledge enough
for me. Let me be a man of one book." Yes, and John Wesley believed in
witchcraft, and honestly declared that to throw over witchcraft was to
throw over the Bible. He had, also, his own way of proving "the divine
inspiration of the Holy Scriptures." He wrote a "Clear and Concise
Demonstration," from which we take the following extract:--

"I beg leave to propose a short, clear, and strong argument to prove the
divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.

"The Bible must be the invention either of good men or angels, bad men
or devils, or of God.

"(1) It could not be the invention of good men or angels; for they
neither would nor could make a book, and tell lies all the time they
were writing it, saying, 'Thus saith the Lord,' when it was their own
invention.

"(2) It could not be the invention of bad men or devils; for they would
not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns
their souls to hell to all eternity.

"(3) Therefore, I draw this conclusion, that the Bible must be given by
divine inspiration."*

     * John Wesley's Works (1865), vol. xi., pp. 464-465.

Could anything be more childish than this ridiculous play upon the word
"invention," and this absurd supposition that "good men" and "bad men"
are two sharp divisions of the human species? We know that all men
are mixtures, and that honest men may be mistaken, and tell falsehoods
without lying. We are therefore able to measure the value of John
Wesley's "demonstration" that the Bible is inspired.

John Ruskin thanks his mother for daily reading the Bible with him in
his childhood, and daily making him learn a part of it by heart. This is
seized upon by Dr. Farrar, who places it in his list of testimonies. But
it might have been wise--it would certainly have been honest--to tell
the reader how Ruskin views the Bible. This great writer has formulated
four theories of the Bible, the third of which he has declared to be
"for the last half-century the theory of the soundest scholars and
thinkers in Europe." And what is this theory? Here it is in Ruskin's own
words:--

"That the mass of religious Scripture contains merely the best efforts
which we hitherto know to have been made by any of the races of men
towards the discovery of some relations with the spiritual world; that
they are only trustworthy as expressions of the enthusiastic visions or
beliefs of earnest men oppressed by the world's darkness, and have no
more authoritative claim on our faith than the religious speculations
and histories of the Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, and Indians; but are,
in common with all these, to be reverently studied, as containing
a portion, divinely appointed, of the best wisdom which the human
intellect, earnestly seeking for help from God, has hitherto been able
to gather between birth and death."*

     * Time and Tide, pp. 48, 49. It should be noted that the
     Letters in this pregnant little volume were written by
     Ruskin as far back as 1867.

Surely this is a very different view of the Bible from the one which is
presented by Dr. Farrar. Setting aside a little religious phraseology,
a Freethinker might endorse Ruskin's theory of the Bible. Everything is
substantially granted to the Freethinker when it is admitted that the
Bible has "no authoritative claim on our faith." Whatever truth and
beauty it contains may then be thankfully accepted.

Professor Huxley's famous eulogy of the Bible, as a book to be read in
Board Schools, is made the most of by Dr. Farrar. He must have winced,
however, at Huxley's reference to what a sensible teacher would
"eliminate" as "not desirable for children to occupy themselves with."
He was not sensitive enough to wince at the statement that "even the
noble Stoic, Marcus Antoninus, is too high and refined for an ordinary
child"--which is virtually a testimonial in his favor for grown-up
men and women. Dr. Farrar crows lustily over what he calls "Professor
Huxley's testimony to the unique glory of the Scriptures." It is
perhaps well for him that Huxley is incapable of resenting this
misrepresentation. Still, it must be admitted that on this occasion, as
on one or two others, Huxley did gratuitously play into the hands of
the enemy. He might have known the kind of use they would make of his
"graceful concessions."

Dr. Farrar had not the honesty to tell his readers that Huxley had
the most sovereign contempt for _his_ theory of the Bible. The great
Agnostic held, for instance, that "belief in a demonic world" is
inculcated throughout the New Testament, and that this belief is
"totally devoid of foundation." He declared that Inspiration, in the
school of the Higher Criticism, is "deprived of its old intelligible
sense," and is "watered down into a mystification." He laughed at
the miracles of the Gospels, and made great fun of the story of the
bedevilled Gadarean swine. He held that religion and morality
have really no necessary connection, and sneered at the
"supernaturalists"--gentlemen like Dr. Farrar--who took to patronising
morality when they saw its importance, and "have ever since tried to
persuade mankind that the existence of ethics is bound up with that of
supernaturalism."*

To accept a testimonial from such a writer is abject on the part of a
clergyman defending the inspiration of the Bible; and to parade it is
simply contemptible. More than fifty years ago, when this petty trick of
Christian apologetics was coming into vogue, it was rebuked by Newman,
who disdained as "unworthy" the practice of "boasting of the admissions
of infidels concerning the beauty or utility of the Christian system, as
though," he added with fine sarcasm, "it were a great thing for a divine
gift to obtain praise for human excellence."**

     * Huxley, Science and Christian Tradition, pp. xv., 25, 54,
     etc.

     ** John Henry Newman, University Sermons, p. 71.

Dr. Farrar's citation of Matthew Arnold is open to the same kind of
criticism. "He retained but little faith in the miraculous," we are
told, and "his creed was anything but orthodox." But is it fair to
suggest that Arnold had any creed at all? He rejected the idea of a
personal God, he regarded Jesus as a merely human teacher, and it is
evident from his books and his published correspondence that he had no
belief in personal immortality. As for his "faith in the miraculous," it
was not "little," with or without the "but"; it was a minus quantity.
He positively disbelieved in the miraculous. It was a part of his plain
message to the Churches that the reign of the Bible miracles was doomed,
that they were all fairy tales, and that, if the fate of the Bible was
bound up with theirs, the Bible was doomed too. Arnold said all this
when he was living, and it is useless for Dr. Farrar to disguise
the fact, or to minimise it by artful phrases. We commend to his
attention--would that we could commend it to the attention of his
readers!--the following passage from a letter of Arnold's to Sir
Mountstuart Grant Duff, dated July 22, 1882:--

"The central fact of the situation always remains to me this: that
whereas the basis of things amidst all chance and change has even in
Europe generally been for ever so long supernatural Christianity, and
far more so in England than in Europe generally, this basis is certainly
going--going amidst the full consciousness of the continentals that it
is going, and amidst the provincial unconsciousness of the English that
it is going."*

     * Matthew Arnold, Letters, vol. ii., p. 201.

Considering what Arnold's views really were, is it of any use to make
the statement of rather doubtful accuracy that the Bible was his "chief
and constant study"? Is it not misleading to talk of his "intense
reverence and admiration for the Sacred Books"? He did not regard them
as _sacred_. He studied and valued the Bible as literature, not as
revelation; and it is monstrous to cite him as a witness in favor of the
Bible as it is represented in the school of Dr. Farrar.

We need not waste time over Dr. Farrar's _banal_ remark that
Livingstone, Stanley, and the Bible together have caused "the extension
of the British protectorate over 170,000 square miles" in a certain
part of Africa. We may treat with the same indifference his boast of the
millions of copies of the "Sacred Books" distributed by the British
and American Bible Societies. Such "evidences" are only fit for the
street-corner. Only a low-minded, commercial-sodden Christian could
imagine that the multiplication of copies of a book is any sort of
testimony to its intrinsic truth and value; and in this particular case
the demand is a forced one, depending on the incessant stimulus of the
supply.

Another argument of Dr. Farrar's for the "supremacy" of the Bible
is based upon the history of Christian martyrdoms. He gives several
instances of Christians, old and young, rich and poor, high-placed and
humble, who have died for their faith, and entered "the dark river and
its still waters with a smile upon their faces." He attributes their
fortitude to trust in the promises of the Bible. But he does not tell us
how it proves the truth of the Bible either as history or as revelation.
Millions of Jews have died at the hands of Christian bigots, and their
heroism amidst torture and massacre has never been exceeded in human
annals. Does this prove that the New Testament is not a revelation, and
that Jesus Christ was not God? Men of other faiths have faced death
with sublime courage. Does this prove that their beliefs were accurate?
Mohammedans are notoriously ready to die for their religion; the
Mohammedan dervishes in the Soudan never quailed before the most
murderous storm of shell and bullets; they fell in thousands at
Omdurman, and the Khalifa's standard-bearer, when all around him were
slain, stood upright under the holy flag, with a smile of defiance on
his face, which never left it until he sank shot-riddled upon the heap
of his dead comrades. Does this prove that the Koran is the Word of God?

The orthodox argument seems to be this: if a Christian dies for the
Bible, that proves it to be a divine book; if a devotee of any other
faith dies for his Sacred Scripture. That proves nothing--unless it be
the obstinacy of wrong opinions.

There is something intensely comical in the seriousness with which Dr.
Farrar relates the martyrdom of Christians who were put to death by
other Christians. He does not see that all he gains on one side is lost
on the other, that Christian persecution balances Christian fortitude,
and that nothing is left to the credit of his account. He devotes a
whole page to the murder of Margaret Lachlan and Margaret Wilson by
"brutal and tyrannous bigots" at Wigton in 1677. These two women
were Covenanting Christians, and their murderers were Episcopalian
Christians. They died singing psalms which their murderers believed
to be the word of God. It is difficult to see what advantage the Bible
derives from this incident.

One may be interested by the reminder that Oliver Cromwell quoted two
verses from the hundred and seventeenth Psalm after his victory at
Dunbar; but one may remember on one's own account that David Leslie, the
defeated Scots general, was as devout a Christian and Bible-reader as
Oliver Cromwell, and that his piety was stimulated by the presence in
his camp of a whole congregation of Presbyterian ministers. Altogether
it is a pity that Dr. Farrar picks his illustrations in this one-eyed
fashion. He forgets that other people may have two eyes, and see on both
sides of them. He almost invites the sarcasm that the one-eyed man is
only a leader amongst the blind.

The real secret of whatever supremacy belongs to the Bible is to be
sought in a different direction. It was long ago remarked by a French
Freethinker, in a work attributed to Boulanger, but really written by
D'Holbach, that education and authority were the two great pillars of
the Christian revelation.

"If a body of men in possession of power, and able to like advantage of
the credulity of mankind, were to find their interest concerned in doing
so, they would make men believe at the end of a few centuries that the
adventures of Don Quixote are perfectly true, and that the prophecies
of Nostrodamus have been inspired by God himself. By dint of glosses,
of commentaries, and of allegories, it is easy to discover and to prove
what one pleases; however glaring an imposture may be, it can be made at
last, by the aid of time, cunning, and power, to pass for truth which
no one must doubt. Deceivers who are obstinate, and who are supported
by public authority, can make ignorant people, who are always credulous,
believe anything, especially if they can persuade them that there is
merit in not noticing inconsistencies, contradictions, and palpable
absurdities, and that there is danger in making use of their reason."*

     * Examen Critique de St. Paul, c. 3.

Abolish all the Churches that exist for the purpose of preaching up the
Bible as a divine revelation; destroy all the clerical corporations
that live and operate upon this basis; take away, at least, the
public revenues and special privileges they enjoy; deprive them of
the patronage of the legislature and the government; remove their Holy
Scriptures from the public schools, where they are retained in defiance
of the principles of civil and religious liberty; let little children
no longer be suborned in favor of the supernatural claims of this book
before they are able to judge for themselves; let the Bible take its own
chance with the rest of the world's literature; and then, and not till
then, can its natural supremacy be established. But the clergy know that
such an experiment would be absolutely fatal to their pretensions. They
dare not accept a fair field and no favor. They know in their heart
of hearts that they are serving a lie. Their dishonesty is apparent at
every turn. Dr. Farrar calls upon England to "cling to her open Bible."
Well, the Peculiar People do so. They read the open Bible, they follow
its teaching as closely as possible, they obey the commandments of Jesus
Christ. And what is the result? They are cast into prison like felons.
One of them is suffering that pain and indignity at the present moment.

A good husband, a good father, a good neighbor, a good citizen, he has
committed the crime of practically believing what Dr. Farrar and the
rest of the clergy facetiously preach--namely, that the Bible is the
Book of God, and the divine rule of faith and conduct. For this crime he
is imprisoned under the verdict of a Christian jury and the sentence of
a Christian judge; and not a single Christian minister raises his voice
against this infamous spectacle. Christianity is now only an organised
hypocrisy. It subsists upon an inherited fund of power, wealth, and
reputation. Even the clergy have no vital belief in the inspiration
of the Bible. It is merely the charter under which they trade. It is a
source of oracular texts for their ambiguous sermons. It is lauded
and adored, and neglected and defied. To bring it into disbelief and
contempt by argument and ridicule is a misdemeanor; to bring it into
disbelief and contempt by acting upon it is a felony. The only safe
course is that adopted by the clergy, who neither believe it nor
disbelieve it, but use it as it serves their occasions; and as long as
it answers their ends it will remain the Book of God.

Let us not be misunderstood. We are far from desiring to engage in a
crusade against the Bible as a collection of ancient literature. We are
neither called upon nor disposed to deny its real merits, however they
are exaggerated in religious circles. It undoubtedly contains some fine
poetry, occasional pathos, and more frequent sublimity. Its style has
nearly always the charm of simplicity. All this may be allowed without
playing into the hands of the super-naturalists. Further than this we
need not go. In our opinion, it is absurd to place the Bible at the
top of human compositions. More than sixty writers are alleged to have
contributed to its production, but the whole mass of them do not rival
the magnificent and fecund genius of Shakespeare. Above all, they have
no wit or humour, in which Shakespeare abounds; and wit and humor belong
to the higher development of intellect and emotion. No, the Bible is
not the unapproachable masterpiece which it is declared to be by its
fanatical devotees. But whatever its intrinsic merits may prove to be,
in the light of long and free appreciation, the Bible cannot be accepted
as a revelation from God without wilful self-delusion on the part of
educated men and women. If God had a message for his children, he would
at least make it clear; but this revelation needs another revelation
to explain it, and creeds and commentaries are the symbols of its
obscurity. God's message would tell us what we could not otherwise
learn, but there is no such information in the Bible. God would apprise
us of what he specially desired us to remember, and would not mix it
confusedly with a tremendous mass of alien matter. God would not puzzle
us; he would enlighten us. He would make his communication so clear that
a wayfaring man, though a fool, could understand it; whereas, if the
Bible be his communication, no wayfaring man, unless he _is_ a fool,
pretends to understand it. God would not clog his message with myths,
legends, mysteries, absurdities, falsehoods, and filth; and leave us to
extricate it with endless labor and perpetual uncertainty. The so-called
Higher Criticism is therefore as absurd as the old Orthodoxy in calling
the Bible a work of inspiration. Its exponents affirm that God has left
us to our own knowledge and reason in regard to every other subject but
religion and morality. They are Evolutionists in part. But the principle
of Evolution must be applied over the whole field. Everything is
natural, and happens under the universal law of causation. There are no
miracles, and there never were any except in ignorant imaginations.
But the death of miracles is the death of inspiration. The triumph of
science involves the ruin of every supernatural system. Revelation is
necessarily miraculous, and when the belief in miracles expires the
death-knell rings for every Book of God. We are then left to the
discipline of culture.

And what is culture? It is steeping our minds in the wisest and
loveliest thoughts of all the ages. And each of us may thus make his own
Bible for himself--a true Bible of Humanity.





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