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Title: English Secularism - A Confession Of Belief
Author: Holyoake, George Jacob, 1817-1906
Language: English
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By George Jacob Holyoake



THE OPEN COURT, in which the series of articles constituting this
work originally appeared, has given account of many forms of faith,
supplementary or confirmatory of its own, and sometimes of forms of
opinions dissimilar where there appeared to be instruction in them. It
will be an advantage to the reader should its editor state objections,
or make comments, as he may deem necessary and useful. English
Secularism is as little known in America as American and Canadian
Secularisation is understood in Great Britain. The new form of free
thought known as English Secularism does not include either Theism or
Atheism. Whether Monism, which I can conceive as a nobler and scientific
form of Theism, might be a logical addition to the theory of Secularism,
as set forth in the following pages, the editor of The Open Court may
be able to show. If this be so, every open-minded reader will better see
the truth by comparison. Contrast is the incandescent light of argument.

 George Jacob Holyoake.
 Eastern Lodge,
 Brighton, England, February, 1896.


AMONG the representative freethinkers of the world Mr. George J.
Holyoake takes a most prominent position. He is a leader of leaders,
he is the brain of the Secularist party in England, he is a hero and a
martyr of their cause.

Judged as a man, Mr. Holyoake is of sterling character; he was not
afraid of prison, nor of unpopularity and ostracism, nor of persecution
of any kind. If he ever feared anything, it was being not true to
himself and committing himself to something that was not right. He was
an agitator all his life, and as an agitator he was--whether or not
we agree with his views--an ideal man. He is the originator of the
Secularist movement that was started in England; he invented the name
Secularism, and he was the backbone of the Secularist propaganda ever
since it began. Mr. Holyoake left his mark in the history of thought,
and the influence which he exercised will for good or evil remain an
indelible heirloom of the future.

Secularism is not the cause which The Open Court Publishing Co. upholds,
but it is a movement which on account of its importance ought not to be
overlooked. Whatever our religious views may be, we must reckon with
the conditions that exist, and Secularism is powerful enough to deserve
general attention.

What is Secularism?

Secularism espouses the cause of the world versus theology; of the
secular and temporal versus the sacred and ecclesiastical. Secularism
claims that religion ought never to be anything but a private affair; it
denies the right of any kind of church to be associated with the public
life of a nation, and proposes to supersede the official influence which
religious institutions still exercise in both hemispheres.

Rather than abolish religion or paralyse its influence, The Open Court
Publishing Co. would advocate on the one hand to let the religious
spirit pervade the whole body politic, together with all public
institutions, and also the private life of every single individual; and
on the other hand to carry all secular interests into the church, which
would make the church subservient to the real needs of mankind.

Thus we publish Mr. Holyoake's Confession of Faith, which is y an
exposition of Secularism, not because we are Secularists, which we are
not, but because we believe that Mr. Holyoake is entitled to a hearing.
Mr. Holyoake is a man of unusually great common sense, of keen reasoning
faculty, and of indubitable sincerity. What he says he means, and what
he believes he lives up to, what he recognises to be right he will do,
even though the whole world would stand up against him. In a word, he is
a man who according to our conception of religion proves by his love of
truth that, however he himself may disclaim it, he is actually a deeply
religious man. His religious earnestness is rare, and our churches would
be a good deal better off if all the pulpits were filled with men of his

We publish Mr. Holyoake's Confession of Faith not for Secularists only,
but also and especially for the benefit of religious people, of
his adversaries, of his antagonists; for they ought to know him and
understand him; they ought to appreciate his motives for dissenting from
church views; and ought to learn why so many earnest and honest
people are leaving the church and will have nothing to do with church

Why is it that Christianity is losing its bold on mankind? Is it because
the Christian doctrines have become antiquated, and does the church no
longer adapt herself to the requirements of the present age? Is it that
the representative Christian thinkers are lacking in intellectuality and
moral strength? Or is it that the world at large has outgrown religion
and refuses to be guided by the spiritual counsel of popes and pastors?

Whatever the reason may be, the fact itself cannot be doubted, and the
question is only, What will become of religion in the future? Will the
future of mankind be irreligious (as for instance Mr. Lecky and M. Guyau
prophesy); or will religion regain its former importance and become
again the leading power in life, dominating both public and private

The first condition of a reconciliation between religion and the
masses of mankind would be for religious men patiently to listen to
the complaints that are made by the adversaries of Christianity, and to
understand the position which honest and sensible freethinkers, such as
Mr. Holyoake, take. Religious leaders are too little acquainted with the
world at large; they avoid their antagonists like outcasts, and
rarely, if ever, try to comprehend their arguments. In the same way,
freethinkers as a rule despise clergymen as hypocrites who for the sake
of a living sell their souls and preach doctrines which they cannot
honestly believe. In order to arrive at a mutual understanding, it
would be necessary first of all that both parties should discontinue
ostracising one another and become mutually acquainted. They should lay
aside for a while the weapons with which they are wont to combat one
another in the public press and in tract literature; they should cease
scolding and ridiculing one another and simply present their own case in
terse terms.

This Mr. Holyoake has done. His Confession of Faith is as concise as any
book of the kind can be; and he, being the originator of Secularism and
its standard-bearer, is the man who speaks with authority.

For the sake of religion, therefore, and for promoting the mutual
understanding of men of a different turn of mind, we present his book to
the public and recommend its careful perusal especially to the clergy,
who will learn from this book some of the most important reasons why
Christianity has become unacceptable to a large class of truth-loving
men, who alone for the sake of truth find it best to stay out of the

The preface of a book is as a rule not deemed the right place to
criticise an author, but such is the frankness and impartiality of Mr.
Holyoake that he has kindly permitted the manager of The Open
Court Publishing Co. to criticise his book freely and to state the
disagreements that might obtain between publishers and author in the
very preface of the book. There is no need of making an extensive use of
this permission, as a few remarks will be sufficient to render clear the
difference between Secularism and the views of The Open Court Publishing
Co., which we briefly characterise as "the Religion of Science."

Secularism divides life into what is secular and what is religious,
and would consign all matters of religion to the sphere of private
interests. The Religion of Science would not divide life into a secular
and a religious part, but would have both the secular and the religious
united. It would carry religion into all secular affairs so as to
sanctify and transfigure them; and for this purpose it would make
religion practical, so as to be suited to the various needs of life; it
would make religion scientifically sound, so as to be in agreement with
the best and most scientific thought of the age; it would reform church
doctrines and raise them from their dogmatic arbitrariness upon the
higher plain of objective truth.

In emphasising our differences we should, however, not fail to recognise
the one main point of agreement, which is our belief in science. Mr.
Holyoake would settle all questions of doubt by the usual method of
scientific investigation. But there is a difference even here, which
is a different conception of science. While science to Mr. Holyoake
is secular, we insist on the holiness and religious significance of
science. If there is any revelation of God, it is truth; and what is
science but truth ascertained? Therefore we would advise all preachers
and all those to whose charge souls of men are committed, to take off
their shoes when science speaks to them, for science is the voice of

The statement is sometimes made by those who belittle science in the
vain hope of exalting religion, that the science of yesterday has been
upset by the science of to-day, and that the science of today may again
be upset by the science of to-morrow. Nothing can be more untrue.

Of course, science must not be identified with the opinion of
scientists. Science is the systematic statement of facts, and not the
theories which are tentatively proposed to fill out the gaps of our
knowledge. What has once been proved to be a fact has never been
overthrown, and the actual stock of science has grown slowly but surely.
The discovery of new facts or the proposition of a new and reliable
hypothesis has often shown the old facts of science in a new light, but
it has never upset or disproved them. There are fashions in the opinions
of scientists, but science itself is above fashion, above change,
above human opinion. Science partakes of that stern immutability, it is
endowed with that eternality and that omnipresent universality which
have since olden times been regarded as the main attribute of Godhood.

There appears in all religions, at a certain stage of the religious
development, a party of dogmatists. They are people who, in their zeal,
insist on the exclusiveness of their own religion, as if truth were a
commodity which, if possessed by one, cannot be possessed by anybody
else. They know little of the spirit that quickens, but believe blindly
in the letter of the dogma. It is not faith in their opinion that saves,
but the blindness of faith. They interpret Christ's words and declare
that he who has another interpretation must be condemned.

The dogmatic phase in the development of religion is as natural as
boyhood in a human life and as immaturity in the growth of fruit; it
is natural and necessary, but it is a phase only which will pass as
inevitably by as boyhood changes into manhood, and as the prescientific
stage in the evolution of civilisation gives way to a better and deeper
knowledge of nature.

The dogmatist is in the habit of identifying his dogmatism with
religion; and that is the reason why his definitions of religion and
morality will unfailingly come in conflict with the common sense of
the people. The dogmatist makes religion exclusive. In the attempt
of exalting religion he relegates it to supernatural spheres, thus
excluding it from the world and creating a contrast between the sacred
and the profane, between the divine and the secular, between religion
and life. Thus it happens that religion becomes something beyond,
something extraneous, something foreign to man's sphere of being. And
yet religion has developed for the sake of sanctifying the daily walks
of man, of making the secular sacred, of filling life with meaning and
consecrating even the most trivial duties of existence.

Secularism is the reaction against dogmatism, but secularism still
accepts the views of the dogmatist on religion; for it is upon the
dogmatist's valuations and definitions that the secularist rejects
religion as worthless.

* * *

The religious movement, of which The Open Court Publishing Co. is an
exponent, represents one further step in the evolution of religious
aspirations. As alchemy develops into chemistry, and astrology into
astronomy, as blind faith changes into seeing face to face, as belief
changes into knowledge, so the religion of miracles, the religion of
a salvation by magic, the religion of the dogmatist, ripens into the
religion of pure and ascertainable truth. The old dogmas, which in their
literal acceptance appear as nonsensical errors, are now recognised
as allegories which symbolise deeper truths, and the old ideals are
preserved not with less, but with more, significance than before.

God is not smaller but greater since we know more about Him, as to what
He is and what He is not, just as the universe is not smaller but larger
since Copernicus and Kepler opened our eyes and showed us what the
relation of our earth in the solar system is and what it is not.

Secularism is one of the signs of the times. It represents the unbelief
in a religious alchemy; but its antagonism to the religion of dogmatism
does not bode destruction but advance. It represents the transition to
a purer conception of religion. It has not the power to abolish the
church, but only indicates the need of its reformation.

It is this reformation of religion and of religious institutions which
is the sole aim of all the publications of The Open Court Publishing
Co., and we see in Secularism one of those agencies that are at work
preparing the way for a higher and nobler comprehension of the truth.

Mr. Holyoake's aspirations, in our opinion, go beyond the aims which he
himself points out, and thus his Confession of Faith, although nominally
purely secular, will finally, even by churchmen, be recognised in its
religious importance. It will help to purify the confession of faith of
the dogmatist.

In offering Mr. Holyoake's best and maturest thoughts to the public, we
hope that both the secularists and the believers in religion will by
and by learn to understand that Secularism as much as dogmatism is a
phase--both are natural and necessary phases--in the religious evolution
of mankind. There is no use in scolding either the dogmatist or the
secularist, or in denouncing the one on account of his credulity and
superstition, and the other on account of his dissent; but there is a
use in--nay, there is need of--understanding the aspirations of both.

There is a need of mutual exchange of thought on the basis of mutual
esteem and good-will. Above all, there is a need of opening the church
doors to the secularist.

The church, if it has any right of existence at all, is for the
world, and not for believers alone. Church members can learn from the
secularist many things which many believers seem to have forgotten, and,
on the other hand, they can teach the unbeliever what he has overlooked
in his sincere attempts at finding the truth, May Mr. Holyoake's
confession of faith be received in the spirit in which the author wrote
it, which is a candid love of truth, and also in the spirit in which
the publishers undertook its publication, with the irenic endeavor
of letting every honest aspiration be rightly understood and rightly

Paul Carus, Manager of The Open Court Publishing Co.


     "It is not prudent to be in the right too soon, nor to be in
     the right against everybody else. And yet it sometimes
     happens that after a certain lapse of time, greater or
     lesser, you will find that one of those truths which you had
     kept to yourself as premature, but which has got abroad in
     spite of your teeth, has become the most commonplace thing

     --Alphonse Karr.

ONE purpose of these chapters is to explain how unfounded are the
objections of many excellent Christians to Secular instruction in State,
public, or board schools. The Secular is distinct from theology, which
it neither ignores, assails, nor denies. Things Secular are as separate
from the Church as land from the ocean. And what nobody seems to discern
is that things Secular are in themselves quite distinct from Secularism.
The Secular is a mode of instruction; Secularism is a code of conduct.
Secularism does conflict with theology; Secularist teaching would, but
Secular instruction does not.

Persuaded as I am that lack of consideration for the convictions of
the reader creates an impediment in the way of his agreement with the
writer, and even disinclines him to examine what is put before him; yet
some of these pages may be open to this objection. If so, it is owing
to want of thought or want of art in statement, and is no part of the
intention of the author.

He would have diffidence in expressing, as he does in these pages,
his dissent from the opinions of many Christian advocates--for whose
character and convictions he has great respect, and for some even
affection--did he not perceive that few have any diffidence or
reservation (save in one or two exalted instances)* in maintaining their
views and dissenting from his.

Open thought, which in this chapter is brought under the reader's notice
is sometimes called "self-thought," or "free thought," or "original
thought"--the opposite of conventional second-hand thought--which is all
that the custom-ridden mass of mankind is addicted to.

Open thought has three stages:

The first stage is that in which the right to think independently is
insisted on; and the free action of opinion--so formed--is maintained.
Conscious power thus acquired satisfies the pride of some; others limit
its exercise from prudence. Interests, which would be jeopardised by
applying independent thought to received opinion, keep more persons
silent, and thus many never pass from this stage.

     *  Of whom the greatest is Mr. Gladstone.

The second stage is that in which the right of self-thought is applied
to the criticism of theology, with a view to clear the way for life
according to reason. This is not the work of a day or year, but is so
prolonged that clearing the way becomes as it were a profession, and is
at length pursued as an end instead of a means. Disputation becomes
a passion and the higher state of life, of which criticism is the
necessary precursor, is lost sight of, and many remain at this stage
when it is reached and go no further.

The third stage is that where ethical motives of conduct apart
from Christianity are vindicated for the guidance of those who are
indifferent about theology, or who reject it altogether. Supplying to
such persons Secular reasons for duty is Secularism, the range of
which is illimitable. It begins where free thought usually ends, and
constitutes a new form of constructive thought, the principles and
policy of which are quite different from those acted upon in the
preceding stages. Controversy concerns itself with what is; Secularism
with what ought to be.

It is pertinent here to say that Christianity does not permit
eclecticism--that is, it does not tolerate others selecting portions of
Christian Scriptures possessing the mark of intrinsic truth, to which
many could cheerfully conform in their lives. This rule compels all who
cannot accept the entire Scriptures to deal with its teachings as
they find them expressed, and for which Christianity makes itself

All the while it is quite evident that Christians do permit eclecticism
among themselves. The great Congress of the Free Churches, recently held
in Nottingham, representing the personal and vital form of Christianity,
had a humanness and tolerance un manifested by Christianity before,
showing that humanity is stronger than historical integrity. If any one,
therefore, should draw up, as might be done, a theory of Christianity
solely from such doctrines as are represented in the elliptical
preaching, practice, and social life of Christians of to-day, a very
different estimate of the Christian system would have to be given from
that with which the author deals in the subsequent chapters. In them
Christianity is represented as Free-thought has found it, and as it
exists in the Scriptures, in the law, in the pulpit, and in the school,
which constitute its total force in the respects in which it represses
and discourages independent thought. Science, truth, and criticism have
engrafted themselves on historic Christianity. It has now new articles
of belief. When it avows them it will win larger concurrence and respect
than it can now command.


     "Look forward--not backward; Look up--not down; Look around;
     Lend a hand."*

     --Edward Everett Hale, D. D.

Where a monarchy is master, inquiry is apt to be a disturbing element;
and though exercised in the interest of the commonwealth it is none the
less resented. Where the priest is master inquiry is sharply prohibited.
The priest represents a spiritual monarchy in which the tenets of belief
are fixed, assumed to be infallible, and to be prescribed by deity. Thus
the priest regards inquiry as proceeding from an impertinent distrust,
to which he is not reconciled on being assured that it is undertaken in
the interest of truth. Thus the king denounces inquiry as sedition, and
the priest as sin. In the end the inquirer finds himself an alien in
State and Church, and laws are made against his life, his liberty,
property, and veracity.**

     * Dr. Hale did not popularise these energetic maxims of
     earnestness in the connexion in which they are here used;
     but their wisdom is of general application.

     **When martyrdoms and imprisonments ceased, disabling laws
     remained which imposed the Christian oath on all who
     appealed to the courts, and any who had the pride of
     veracity and declined to to swear, were denied protection
     for property, or credence of their word.

Thus from the time when monarch and priest first set up their
pretensions in the world, the inquiring mind has had small
encouragement. When Protestantism came it merely conceded inquiry _under
direction_, and only so far as it tended to confirm its own anti-papal
tenets. But when inquiry claimed to be independent, unfettered,
uncontrolled,--in fact to be _free_ inquiry,--then Papist, Lutheran, and
Dissenter, alike regarded it as dangerous, and stigmatised it by every
term calculated to deter or dissuade people from it.

But though this combined defamation of inquiry set many against it, it
did not intimidate men entirely. There arose independent thinkers who
held that unfettered investigation was the discoverer of truth and
dangerous to error only, and that the freer it was the more effective it
must be.

Still timorous-minded persons remained suspicious of _free_ thought.
At its best they found it involved conflict with false opinion, and
conflict, to those without aspiration or conscience, is disquieting; and
where impartial investigation interfered with personal interests it was
opposed. No one could enter on the search for truth without finding his
path obstructed by theological errors and interdictions. Having taken
the side of truth, all who were loyal to it, were bound like Bunyan's

Pilgrim to withstand the Apollyons who opposed it, and a combat began
which lasted for centuries, and is not yet ended. But though theology
was always in power, men of courage at length established the right of
free inquiry, and established also a free press for the publication of
the results arrived at. These rights were so indispensable for progress
and were so long resisted, that generations fought for them as ends in
themselves. Thus there grew up, as in military affairs, a class whose
profession was destruction, and free thinkers came to be regarded as
negationists. When I came into the field the combat was raging. Richard
Carlile had not long been liberated from successive imprisonments of
more than nine years duration in all. Charles Southwell was in Bristol
gaol. Before his sentence had half expired I was in Gloucester gaol.
George Adams was there; Mrs. Harriet Adams was committed for trial from
Cheltenham. Matilda Roalfe, Thomas Finlay, Thomas Paterson, and others
were incarcerated in Scotland. Robert Buchanan and Lloyd Jones, two
social missionaries--colleagues of my own--only escaped imprisonment by
swearing they believed what they did not believe,--an act I refused to
imitate, and no mean inconvenience has resulted to me from it. I took
part in the vindication of the free publicity of opinion until it was
practically conceded. At the time when I was arrested in 1842, the
Cheltenham magistrates who were angered at defiant remarks I made, had
the power (and used it) of committing me to the Quarter Sessions as a
"felon," where the same justices could resent, by penalties, what I had
said to them. On representations I made to Parliament--through my friend
John Arthur Roebuck and others--Sir James Graham caused a Bill to be
passed which removed trials for opinion to the Assizes. I was the first
person tried under this act. Thus for the first time heresy was ensured
a dispassionate trial and was no longer subject to the jurisdiction of
local prejudice and personal magisterial resentment.

When overt acts of outrage were no longer possible against the adherents
of free thought, Christians, some from fairness, and others from
necessity, began to reason with them and asked: "Now you have
established your claim to be heard. What have you to say?" The reply
I proposed was: "Secularism--a form of opinion relating to the duty of
this life which substituted the piety of useful men for the usefulness
of piety."


     "He who cannot reason is defenceless; he who fears to reason
     has a coward mind; he who will not reason is willing to be
     deceived and will deceive all who listen to him."

     --Maxim of Free Thought.

FREE THOUGHT is founded upon reason. It is the exercise of reason,
without which free thought is free foolishness. Free thought being
the precursor of Secularism, it is necessary first to describe its
principles and their limitation. Free thought means independent
self-thinking. Some say all thought is free since a man can think what
he pleases and no one can prevent him, which is not true. Unfortunately
thinking can be prevented by subtle spiritual intimidation, in earlier
and even in later life.

When a police agent found young Mazzini in the fields of Genoa,
apparently meditating, his father's attention was called to the
youth. His father was told that the Austrian Government did not permit
thinking. The Inquisition intimidated nations from thinking. The priests
by preventing instruction and prohibiting books, limited thinking.
Archbishop Whately shows that no one can reason without words, and since
speech can be, and is, disallowed and made penal, the highway of
thought can be closed. No one can think to any purpose without inquiry
concerning his subject, and inquiry can be made impossible. It is of
little use that any one thinks who cannot verify his ideas by comparison
with those of his compeers. To prevent this is to discourage thought. In
fact thousands are prevented thinking by denying them the means and the
facilities of thinking.

Free thought means fearless thought. It is not deterred by legal
penalties, nor by spiritual consequences. Dissent from the Bible does
not alarm the true investigator, who takes truth for authority not
authority for truth. The thinker who is really free, is independent; he
is under no dread; he yields to no menace; he is not dismayed by law,
nor custom, nor pulpits, nor society--whose opinion appals so many. He
who has the manly passion of free thought, has no fear of anything, save
the fear of error.

Fearlessness is the essential condition of effective thought. If Satan
sits at the top of the Bible with perdition open underneath it, into
which its readers will be pushed who may doubt what they find in its
pages, the right of private judgment is a snare. A man is a fool who
inquires at this risk. He had better accept at once the superstition of
the first priest he meets. It is not conceivable how a Christian can be
a _free_ thinker.

He who is afraid to know both sides of a question cannot think upon
it. Christians do not, as a rule, want to know what can be said against
their views, and they keep out of libraries all books which would inform
others. Thus such Christians cannot think freely, and are against others
doing it. Doubt comes of thinking; the Christian commonly regards doubt
as sin. How can he be a free thinker who thinks thinking is a sin?

Free thought implies three things as conditions of truth:

1. Free inquiry, which is the pathway to truth.

2. Free publicity to the ideas acquired, in order to learn whether they
are useful--which is the encouragement of truth.

3. The free discussion of convictions without which it is not possible
to know whether they are true or false, which is the verification of

A man is not a man unless he is a thinker; he is a fool having no ideas
of his own. If he happens to live among men who do think, he browses
like an animal on their ideas. He is a sort of kept man being supported
by the thoughts of others. He is what in England is called a pauper, who
subsists upon "outdoor relief," allowed him by men of intellect.

Without the right of publicity, individual thought, however praiseworthy
and however perfect, would be barren to the community. Algernon Sidney
said: "The best legacy I can leave my children is free speech and the
example of using it."

The clergy of every denomination are unfriendly to its use. The soldiers
of the cross do not fight adversaries in the open. Mr. Gladstone alone
among eminent men of piety has insisted upon the duty of the Church to
prove its claims in discussion. In his Introduction to his address at
the Liverpool College (1872 or 1873) he said: "I wish to place on record
my conviction that belief cannot now be defended by reticence any more
than by railing, or by any privileges or assumption." Since the day of
Milton there has been no greater authority on the religious wisdom of

Thought, even theological, is often useless, ill-informed, foolish,
mischievous, or even wicked; and he alone who submits it to free
criticism gives guarantees that he means well, and is self-convinced. By
criticism alone comes exposure, correction, or confirmation. The right
of criticism is the sole protection of the community against error
of custom, ignorance, prejudice, or incompetence. It is not until a
proposition has been generally accepted after open and fair examination,
that it can be considered as established and can safely be made a ground
of action or belief.*

     * See Formation of Opinions, by Samuel Bailey.

These are the implementary rights of thought. They are what grammar is
to the writer, which teaches him how to express himself, but not what
to say. These rights are as the rules of navigation to the mariner. They
teach him how to steer a ship but do not instruct him where to steer to.

The full exercise of these rights of mental freedom is what training
in the principles of jurisprudence is to the pleader, but it does not
provide him with a brief. It is conceivable that a man may come to be a
master of independent thinking and never put his powers to use; just as
a man may know every rule of grammar and yet never write a book. In
the same way a man may pass an examination in the art of navigation and
never take command of a vessel; or he may qualify for a Barrister, be
called to the Bar and never plead in any court. We know from experience
that many persons join in the combat for the right of intellectual
freedom for its own sake, without intending or caring to use the right
when won. Some are generous enough to claim and contend for these rights
from the belief that they may be useful to others. This is the first
stage of free thought, and, as has been said, many never pass beyond it.

Independent thinking is concerned primarily with removing obstacles to
its own action, and in contests for liberty of speech by tongue and
pen. The free mind fights mainly for its own freedom. It may begin in
curiosity and may end in intellectual pride--unless conscience takes
care of it. Its nature is iconoclastic and it may exist without ideas of

Though a man goes no further, he is a better man than he who never went
as far. He has acquired a new power, and is sure of his own mind.
Just as one who has learned to fence, or to shoot, has a confidence in
encountering an adversary, which is seldom felt by one who never had
a sword in hand, or practised at a target. The sea is an element of
recreation to one who has learned to swim; it is an element of death to
one ignorant of the art. Besides, the thinker has attained a courage
and confidence unknown to the man of orthodox mind. Since God (we are
assured) is the God of truth, the honest searcher after truth has God on
his side, and has no dread of the King of Perdition--the terror of all
Christian people--since the business of Satan is with those who are
content with false ideas; not with those who seek the true. If it be a
duty to seek the truth and to live the truth, honest discussion, which
discerns it, identifies it, clears it, and establishes it, is a form
of worship of real honor to God and of true service to man. If the
clergyman's speech on behalf of God is rendered exact by criticism, the
criticism is a tribute, and no mean tribute to heaven. Thus the free
exercise of the rights of thought involve no risk hereafter.

Moreover, so far as a man thinks he gains. Thought implies enterprise
and exertion of mind, and the result is wealth of understanding, to
be acquired in no other way. This intellectual property like other
property, has its rights and duties. The thinker's right is to be left
in undisturbed possession of what he has earned; and his duty is
to share his discoveries of truth with mankind, to whom he owes his
opportunities of acquiring it.

Free expression involves consideration for others, on principle.
Democracy without personal deference becomes a nuisance; so free speech
without courtesy is repulsive, as free publicity would be, if not mainly
limited to reasoned truth. Otherwise every blatant impulse would have
the same right of utterance as verified ideas. Even truth can only claim
priority of utterance, when its utility is manifest. As the number and
length of hairs on a man's head is less important to know, than the
number and quality of the ideas in his brain.

True free thought requires special qualities to insure itself
acceptance. It must be owned that the thinker is a disturber. He is a
truth-hunter, and there is no telling what he will find. Truth is an
exile which has been kept out of her kingdom, and Error is a usurper in
possession of it; and the moment Truth comes into her right, Error has
to give up its occupancy of her territory; and as everybody consciously,
or unconsciously harbors some of the emissaries of the usurper, they
do not like owning the fact, and they dispute the warrant of truth
to search their premises, though to be relieved of such deceitful and
costly inmates would be an advantage to them.

An inalienable attribute of free thought, which no theology possesses,
is absolute toleration of all ideas put forward in the interests of
public truth, and submitted to public discussion. The true free thinker
is in favor of the free action of all opinion which injures no one else,
and of putting the best construction he can on the acts of others, not
only because he has thereby less to tolerate, but from perceiving that
he who lacks tolerance towards the ideas of others has no claim for
the tolerance of his own. The defender of toleration must himself be
tolerant. Condemning the coercion of ideas, he is pledged to combat
error only by reason. Vindictiveness towards the erring is not only
inconsistency, it is persecution. Thus free thought is not only
self-defence against error but, by the toleration it imposes, is itself
security for respectfulness in controversy.


     "Better wild ideas than no ideas at all."

     --Professor Nichol at Horsham.

THE emancipation of the understanding from intimidation and penal
restraint soon incited thinkers of enterprise to put their new powers
to use. Theology being especially a forbidden subject and the greatest
repressive force, inquiry into its pretensions first attracted critical

In every century forlorn hopes of truth had set out to storm one or
other of the ramparts of theology. Forces had been marshalled by
great leaders and battle often given in the open field; and unforeseen
victories are recorded, in the annals of the wars of infantine
rationalism, against the full-grown powers of superstition and darkness.
In every age valiant thinkers, scholars, philosophers, and critics, even
priests in defiance of power, ecclesiastical and civil, have, at their
own peril, explored the regions of forbidden truth.

In Great Britain it was the courage of insurgent thinkers among the
working class--whom no imprisonment could intimidate--who caused the
right of free speech and free publicity to be finally conceded. Thus
rulers came round to the conclusion of Caballero, that "tolerance is as
necessary in ideas as in social relations."

As soon as opinion was known to be emancipated, men began to think who
never thought before. The thinker no longer had to obtain a "Ticket
of Leave" from the Churches before he could inquire; he was free to
investigate where he would and what he would. Power is, as a rule, never
imparted nor acquired in vain, and honest men felt they owed it to those
who had won freedom for them, that they should extend it. Thus it
came to pass that independence was an inspiration to action in men
of intrepid minds. Professor Tyndall in the last words he wrote for
publication said, "I choose the nobler part of Emerson when, after
various disenchantments, he exclaims, 'I covet truth!'" On printing
these words the _Westminster Gazette_ added: "The gladness of true
heroism visits the heart of him who is really competent to say this."
The energies of intellectual intrepidity had doubtless been devoted to
science and social progress; but as philosophers have found, down
to Huxley's day, all exploration was impossible in that direction.
Murchison, Brewster, Buckland, and other pioneers of science were
intimidated. Lyell held back his book, on the Antiquity of Man, twenty
years. Tyndall, Huxley, and Spencer were waiting to be heard. As
Huxley has justly said: "there was no Thoroughfare into the Kingdom
of Nature--By Order--Moses." Hence, to examine theology, to discover
whether its authority was absolute, became a necessity. It was soon seen
that there was ground for scepticism. The priests resented criticism
by representing the sceptic of their pretensions, as being sceptical of
everything, whereas they were only sceptics of clerical infallibility.
They indeed did aver that branches of human knowledge, received as well
established, were really open to question, in order to show that if men
could not be confident of things of which they had experience, how could
the Churches be confident of things of which no man had experience--and
which contradicted experience? So far from disbelieving everything,
scepticism went everywhere in search of truth and certainty. Since the
Church could not be absolutely certain of the truth of its tenets,
its duty was to be tolerant. But being intolerant it became as Julian
Hibbert put it--"well-understood self-defence" to assail it. The Church
fought for power, the thinker fought for truth. Free thought among the
people may be likened to a good ship manned by adventurous mariners,
who, cruising about in the ocean of theology came upon sirens, as other
mariners had done before--dangerous to be followed by navigators
bound to ports of progress. Many were thereby decoyed to their own
destruction. The sirens of the Churches sang alluring songs whose
refrains were:

1. The Bible the guide of God.

2. The origin of the universe disclosed.

3. The care of Providence assured.

4. Deliverance from peril by prayer dependable.

5. Original sin effaceable by grace.

6. Perdition avoidable by faith in crucifixion.

7. Future life revealed.

These propositions were subjects of resonant hymns, sermons, and tracts,
and were not, and are not, disowned, but still defended in discussion by
orthodox and clerical advocates. Save salvation by the blood of Christ
(a painful idea to entertain), the other ideas might well fascinate the
uninquiring. They had enchanted many believers, but the explorers of
whom we speak had acquired the questioning spirit, and had learned
prudently to look at both sides of familiar subjects and soon discovered
that the fair-seeming propositions which had formerly imposed on their
imagination were unsound, unsightly, and unsafe. The Syracusans of
old kept a school in which slaves were taught the ways of bondage.
Christianity has kept such a school in which subjection of the
understanding was inculcated, and the pupils, now free to investigate,
resolved to see whether such things were true.

Then began the reign of refutation of theological error, by some from
indignation at having been imposed upon, by others from zeal that
misconception should end; by more from enthusiasm for facts; by the
bolder sort from resentment at the intimidation and cruelty with which
inquiry had been suppressed so long; and by not a few from the love
of disputation which has for some the delight men have for chess or
cricket, or other pursuit which has conflict and conquest in it.

Self-determined thought is a condition of the progress of nations. Where
would science be but for open thought, the nursing mother of enterprise,
of discovery, of invention, of new conditions of human betterment?

A modern Hindu writer* tells us that: "The Hindu is sorely handicapped
by customs which are prescribed by his religious books. Hedged in by
minute rules and restrictions the various classes forming the Hindu
community have had but little room for expansion and progress. The
result has been stagnation. Caste has prevented the Hindus from sinking,
but it has also preventing them from rising."

     *  Pramatha Nath Bose.

The old miracle-bubbles which the Jews blew into the air of wonder two
thousand years ago, delight churches still in their childhood. The sea
of theology would have been stagnant centuries ago, had not insurgent
thinkers, at the peril of their lives, created commotion in it. Morals
would have been poisoned on the shores of theology had not free thought
purified the waters by putting the salt of reason into that sea,
freshening it year by year.


     "The secret of Genius is to suffer no fiction to live."


THEOLOGIANS had so choked the human mind with a dense undergrowth of
dogmas that it was like cutting through an African forest, such as
Stanley encountered, to find the paths of truth.

On that path, when found, many things unforeseen before, became plain.
The siren songs of orthodoxy were discovered to have strange discords of
sense in them.

1. The Guide of God seemed to be very human--not authentic, not
consistent--containing things not readable nor explainable in the
family; pagan fictions, such as the Incarnation reluctantly believable
as the device of a moral deity. Men of genius and of noble ethical
sympathy do however deem it defensible. In any human book the paternal
exaction of such suffering as fell to Christ, would be regarded with
alarm and repugnance. Wonder was felt that Scripture, purporting to
contain the will of deity, should not be expressed so unmistakably that
ignorance could not misunderstand it, nor perversity misconstrue it. The
gods know how to write.

2. The origin of all things has excited and disappointed the curiosity
of the greatest exploring minds of every age. That the secret of the
universe is undisclosed, is manifest from the different and differing
conjectures concerning it. The origin of the universe remains
unknowable. What awe fills or rather takes possession of the mind which
comprehends this! Why existence exists is the cardinal wonder.

3. Pleasant and free from anxiety, life would be were it true, that
Providence is a present help in the day of need. Alas, to the poor it is
evident that Providence does not interfere, either to befriend the good
in their distress, or arrest the bad in the act of crime.

4. The power of prayer has been the hope of the helpless and the
oppressed in every age. Every man wishes it was true that help could be
had that way. Then every just man could protect himself at will against
his adversaries. But experience shows that all entreaty is futile to
induce Providence to change its universal habit of non-intervention.
Prayer beguiles the poor but provides no dinner. Mr. Spurgeon said at
the Tabernacle that prayer filled his meal barrel when empty. I asked
that he should publish the recipe in the interests of the hungry. But he
made no reply.

5. There is reason to think that original sin is not anything more than
original ignorance. The belief in natural depravity discourages all
efforts of progress. The primal imperfection of human nature is only
effaceable by knowledge and persistent endeavor. Even in things lawful
to do, excess is sin, judged by human standards. There may be error
without depravity.

6. Eternal perdition for conscientious belief, whether erroneous or
not, is humanly incredible. The devisors of this doctrine must have
been unaware that belief is an affair of ignorance, prejudice, custom,
education, or evidence. The liability of the human race to eternal
punishment is the foundation on which all Christianity (except
Unitarianism) rests. This awful belief, if acted upon with the sincerity
that Christianity declares it should be, would terminate all enjoyment,
and all enterprise would cease in the world. None would ever marry. No
persons, with any humanity in their hearts would take upon themselves
the awful responsibility of increasing the number of the damned. The
registrar of births would be the most fiendish clerk conceivable. He
would be practically the secretary of hell.

The theory that all the world was lost through a curious and
enterprising lady, eating an apricot or an apple, and that three
thousand or more years after, mankind had to be redeemed by the murder
of an innocent Jew, is of a nature to make men afraid to believe in a
deity accused of contriving so dreadful a scheme.

Though this reasoning will seem to many an argument against the
existence of God whereas it is merely against the attributes of deity,
as ascribed to him by Christianity. If God be not moral, in the human
sense of the term, he may as well be not moral at all. It is only he
whose principles of justice, men can understand, that men can
trust. Prof. T. H. Huxley, conspicuous for his clearness of view and
dispassionateness of judgment, was of this opinion, and said: "The
suggestion arises, if God is the cause of all things he is responsible
for evil as well as for good, and it appears utterly irreconcilable with
our notions of justice that he should punish another for that which he
has in fact done himself." The poet concurs with the philosopher when he

     "The loving worm within its clod,
     Were diviner than a loveless God Amid his worlds."*

     * Browning.

Christianity indeed speaks of the _love_ of God in sending his son
to die for the security of others. But not less is the heart of the
intelligent and humane believer torn with fear, as he thinks what
must be the character of that God who could only be thus appeased.
The example of self-sacrifice is noble--but is it noble in any one
who deliberately creates the necessity for it? The better side of
Christianity seems overshadowed by the worse.

7. Future life is uncertain, being unprovable and seemingly improbable,
judging from the dependence of life on material conditions. Christians
themselves do not seem confident of another existence. If they were
_sure_ of it, who of them would linger here when those they love and
honor have gone before? Ere we reach the middle of our days, the joy of
every heart lies in some tomb. If the Christian actually believed that
the future was real, would he hang black plumes over the hearse, and
speak of death as darkness? No! the cemeteries would be hung with joyful
lights, the grave would be the gate of Paradise. Every one would find
justifiable excuse for leaving this for the happier world. All tenets
which are contradicted by reason had better not be.

Many preachers now disown, in controversy, these doctrines, but until
they carry the professions of the platform into the statute book,
the rubric, and the pulpit, such doctrines remain operative, and the
Churches remain answerable for them. Nonconformists do not protest
against a State Church on account of its doctrines herein enumerated.
When the doctrines which conflict with reason and humanity are disowned
by authority, ecclesiastical and legal, in all denominations, the duty
of controverting them as impediments to progress will cease.

It may be said in reply to what is here set forth as tenets of Christian
Scripture, that the writer follows the letter and not the spirit of the
word. Yes, that is what he does. He is well aware of the new practice of
seeking refuge in the "spirit," of "expanding" the letter and taking a
"new range of view." He however holds that to drop the "letter" is to
drop the doctrine. To "expand" the "letter" is to change it. New "range
of view" is the term under which desertion of the text is disguised.
But "new range" means new thought, which in this insidious way is put
forward to supersede the old. The frank way is to say so, and admit
that the "letter" is obsolete--is gone, is disproved, and that new views
which are truer constitute the new letter of progress. The best thing to
do with the "dead hand" is to bury it. To try to expand dissolution is
but galvanising the corpse and tying the dead to the living.


     "Zeal without knowledge is like expedition to a man in the

     --John Newton.

CRITICISM in theology, as in literature, is with many an intoxication.
Zest in showing what is wrong is apt to blunt the taste for what is
right, which it is the true end of criticism to discover. Lord Byron
said critics disliked Pope because he afforded them so few chances
of objection. They found fault with him because he had no faults. The
criticism of theology begets complacency in many. There is a natural
satisfaction in being free from the superstition of the vulgar, in the
Church as well as out of it. No wonder many find abiding pleasure in the
intellectual refutation of the errors of supernaturalism and in putting
its priests to confusion. Absorbed in the antagonism of theology, many
lose sight of ultimate utility, and regard error, not as a misfortune
to be alleviated, so much as a fault to be exposed. Like the theologian
whose color they take, they do not much consider whether their method
causes men to dislike the truth through its manner of being offered
to them. Their ambition is to make those in error look foolish. Free
thinkers of zeal are apt to become intense, and like Jules Ferry (a late
French premier), care less for power, than for conflict, and the lover
of conflict is not easily induced to regard the disproof of theology
as a means to an end* higher than itself. It is difficult to impart to
uncalculating zealots a sense of proportion. They dash along the warpath
by their own momentum. Railway engineers find that it takes twice as
much power to stop an express train as it does to start it.

     * Buckle truly says, "Liberty is not a means, it is an end
     in itself," But the uses of liberty are means to ends
     Else why do we want liberty?

When I first knew free thought societies they were engaged in
Church-fighting--which is still popular among them, and which has led
the public to confuse criticism with Secularism, an entirely different

Insurgent thought exclusively directed, breeds, as is said elsewhere,
a distinguished class of men--among scholars as well as among the
uninformed--who have a passion for disputation, which like other
passions "grows by what it feeds upon." Yet a limited number of such
paladins of investigation are not without uses in the economy of
civilisations. They resemble the mighty hunters of old, they extirpate
beasts of prey which roam the theological forests, and thus they render
life more safe to dwellers in cities, open to the voracious incursions
of supernaturalism.

Without the class of combatants described, in whom discussion is
irrepressible, and whose courage neither odium nor danger abates,
many castles of superstition would never be stormed. But mere
intellectual-ism generates a different and less useful species of
thinkers, who neither hunt in the jungles of theology nor storm
strongholds. We all know hundreds in every great town who have freed
themselves, or have been freed by others, from ecclesiastical error, who
remain supine. Content with their own superiority (which they owe to
the pioneers who went before them more generous than they) they speak no
word, and lend no aid towards conferring the same advantages upon such
as are still enslaved. They affect to despise the ignorance they ought
to be foremost to dissipate. They exclaim in the words of Goethe's
Coptic song:

     "Fools from their folly 'tis hopeless to stay,
     Mules will be mules by the laws of their mulishness,
     Then be advised and leave fools to their foolishness,
     What from an ass can be got but a bray."

These Coptic philosophers overlook that they would have been "asses"
also, had those who vindicated freedom before their day, and raised it
to a power, been as indifferent and as contemptuous as believers in
the fool-theory are. Coptic thinkers forget that every man is a fool
in respect of any question on which he gives an opinion without having
thought independently upon it. With patience you can make a thinker out
of a fool; and the first step from the fool stage is accomplished by a
little thinking. It is well to remember the exclamation of Thackeray:
"If thou hast never been a fool, be sure thou wilt never be a wise man."

It is, however, but justice to some who join the stationariness, to
own that they have fared badly on the warpath against error, and are
entitled to the sympathy we extend to the battered soldier who falls
out of the ranks on the march. Grote indicates what the severity of
the service is, in the following passage from his _Mischiefs of Natural
Religion_:--"Of all human antipathies that which the believer in a God
bears to the unbeliever, is the fullest, the most unqualified, and
the most universal. The mere circumstance of dissent involves a tacit
imputation of error and incapacity on the part of the priest, who
discerns that his persuasive power is not rated so highly by others
as it is by himself. This invariably begets dislike towards his

Nevertheless it is a reproach to those whom militant thought has made
free, if they remain unmindful of the fate of their inferiors. Yet
Christian churches, with all self-complacent superiority to which
many of them are prone, are not free from the sins of indifference and
superfineness. This was conspicuously shown by Southey in a letter to
Sir Henry Taylor, in which he says:--"Have you seen the strange
book which Anastasius Hope left for publication and which his
representatives, in spite of all dissuasion, have published? His notion
of immortality and heaven is that at the consummation of all things he,
and you, and I, and John Murray, and Nebuchadnezzar, and Lambert the fat
man, and the Living Skeleton, and Queen Elizabeth, and the Hottentot,
Venus, and Thutell, and Probert, and the Twelve Apostles, and the noble
army of martyrs, and Genghis Khan and all his armies, and Noah with all
his ancestors and all his posterity,--yea, all men, and all women, and
all children that have ever been, or ever shall be, saints and sinners
alike, are all to be put together and made into one great celestial,
eternal human being.... I do not like the scheme. I don't like the
notion of being mixed up with Hume, and Hunt, and Whittle Harvey, and
Philpotts, and Lord Althorp, and the Huns, and the Hottentots, and the
Jews, and the Philistines, and the Scotch, and the Irish. God forbid! I
hope to be I, myself, in an English heaven, with you yourself,--you and
some others without whom heaven would be no heaven to me."

Most of these persons would have the same dislike to be mixed up with
Mr. Southey. Lord Byron would not have been enthusiastic about it. The
Comtists have done something to preach a doctrine of humanity, and
to put an end to this pitiful contempt of a few men for their
fellows,--fellows who in many respects are often superior to those who
despise them.

All superiority is apt to be contemptuous of inferiors, unless
conscience and generosity takes care of it, and incites it to instruct
inferior natures. The prayer of Browning is one of noble discernment:--

     "Make no more giants, God--
     But elevate the race at once."

Even free thought, so far as it confines itself to itself, becomes
stationary. Like the squirrel in its cage:

     "Whether it turns by wood or wire,
     Never gets one hair's breadth higher."

If any doubt whether stationariness of thought is possible, let them
think of Protestantism which climbed on to the ledge of private judgment
three centuries ago--and has remained there. Instead of mounting higher
and overrunning all the plateaus of error above them, it has done its
best to prevent any who would do it, from ascending. There is now,
however, a new order of insurgent thought of the excelsior caste which
seeks to climb the heights. Distinguished writers against theology in
the past have regarded destructive criticism as preparing the way to
higher conceptions of life and duty. If so little has been done in this
direction among working class thinkers, it is because destructiveness
is more easy. It needs only indignation to perfect it, and indignation
requires no effort. The faculty of constructiveness is more arduous in
exercise, and is later in germination. More men are able to take a state
than to make a state. Hence Secularism, though inevitable as the next
stage of militant progress, more slowly wins adherents and appreciation.


     "Nothing is destroyed until it has been replaced."

     --Madame de Staël.

SEEING this wise maxim in a paper by Auguste Comte, I asked my friend
Wm. de Fonvielle, who was in communication with Comte, to learn for me
the authorship of the phrase. Comte answered that it was the Emperor's
(Napoleon III.). It first appeared, as I afterwards found, in the
writings of Madame de Staël, and more fully expressed by her.

Self-regarding criticism having discovered the insufficiency of theology
for the guidance of man, next sought to ascertain what rules human
reason may supply for the independent conduct of life, which is the
object of Secularism.

At first, the term was taken to be a "mask" concealing sinister
features--a "new name for an old thing"--or as a substitute term for
scepticism or atheism. If impressions were always knowledge, men would
be wise without inquiry, and explanations would be unnecessary. The
term Secularism was chosen to express the extension of free thought to
ethics. Free thinkers commonly go no further than saying, "We search for
truth"*; Secularists say we have found it--at least, so much as replaces
the chief errors and uncertainties of theology.

Harriet Martineau, the most intrepid thinker among the women of her day,
wrote to Lloyd Garrison a letter (inserted in the _Liberator_, 1853)
approving "the term Secularism as including a large number of persons
who are not atheists and uniting them for action, which has Secularism
for its object. By the adoption of the new term a vast amount of
prejudice is got rid of." At length it was seen that the "new term"
designated a new conception.

Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life, founded on
considerations purely human, and intended mainly for those who find
theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable.

Its essential principles are three:

1. The improvement of this life by _material_ means.

2. That science is the available** Providence of man.

3. That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the
good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good.

     * M. Aurelius Antoninus said, "I seek the truth by which no
     man was ever injured." It would be true had he said mankind.
     Men are continually injured by the truth, or how do martyrs
     come, or why do we honor them?

     **This phrase was a suggestion of my friend the Rev. Dr. H.
     T. Crosskey about 1854. I afterwards used the word
     "available" which does not deny, nor challenge, nor affirm
     the belief in a theological Providence by others, who,
     therefore, are not incited to assail the effectual
     proposition that material resources are an available
     Providence where a spiritual Providence is inactive.

Individual good attained by methods conducive to the good of others, is
the highest aim of man, whether regard be had to human welfare in this
life or personal fitness for another. Precedence is therefore given to
the duties of this life.

Being asked to send to the International Congress of Liberal Thinkers,
(1886), an account of the tenets of the English party known as
Secularists, I gave the following explanation to them.

"The Secular is that, the issues of which can be tested by the
experience of this life.

"The ground common to all self-determined thinkers is that of
independency of opinion, known as free thought, which though but an
impulse of intellectual courage in the search for truth, or an impulse
of aggression against hurtful or irritating error, or the caprice of
a restless mind, is to be encouraged. It is necessary to promote
independent thought--whatever its manner of manifestation--since
there can be no progress without it. A Secularist is intended to be
a reasoner, that is as Coleridge defined him, one who inquires what a
thing is, and not only what it is, but _why_ it is what it is.

"One of two great forces of opinion created in this age, is what is
known as atheism,* which deprives superstition of its standing-ground
and compels theism to reason for its existence. The other force is
materialism which shows the physical consequences of error, supplying,
as it were, beacon lights to morality.

     * Huxley's term agnosticism implies a different thing--
     unknowingness without denial.

"Though respecting the right of the atheist and theist to their theories
of the origin of nature, the Secularist regards them as belonging to the
debatable ground of speculation. Secularism neither asks nor gives any
opinion upon them, confining itself to the entirely independent field of
study--the order of the universe. Neither asserting nor denying theism
or a future life, having no sufficient reason to give if called upon;
the fact remains that material influences exist, vast and available for
good, as men have the will and wit to employ them. Whatever may be the
value of metaphysical or theological theories of morals, utility in
conduct is a daily test of common sense, and is capable of deciding
intelligently more questions of practical duty than any other rule.
Considerations which pertain to the general welfare, operate without the
machinery of theological creeds, and over masses of men in every land to
whom Christian incentives are alien, or disregarded."


     "Be wisely worldly, but not worldly wise."

     --Francis Quarles.

FIRST PRINCIPLE: _Of material means as conditions of welfare in this
world_.--Theology works by "spiritual" means, Secularism by _material_
means. Christians and Secularists both intend raising the character of
the people, but their methods are very different. Christians are now
beginning to employ material agencies for the elevation of life, which
science, and not theology, has brought under their notice. But the
Christian does not trust these agencies; the Secularist does, and in his
mind the Secular is sacred. Spiritual means can never be depended upon
for food, raiment, art, or national defence.

The Archbishop of York (Dr. Magee), a clearheaded and candid prelate,
surprised his contemporaries (at the Diocesan Conference, Leicester,
October 19, 1889) by declaring that "Christianity made no claim to
rearrange the economic relations of man in the State, or in society. He
hoped he would be understood when he said plainly that it was his firm
belief that any Christian State, carrying out in all its relations, the
Sermon on the Mount, could not exist for a week. It was perfectly clear
that a State could not continue to exist upon what were commonly called
Christian principles."

From the first, Secularism had based its claims to be regarded on the
fact that only the rich could afford to be Christians, and the poor must
look to other principles for deliverance.

Material means are those which are calculable, which are under the
control and command of man, and can be tested by human experience.
No definition of Secularism shows its distinctiveness which omits to
specify _material_ means as its method of procedure.

But for the theological blasphemy of nature, representing it as the
unintelligent tool of God, the Secular would have ennobled common life
long ago. Sir Godfrey Kneller said, "He never looked on a bad picture
but he carried away in his mind a dirty tint." Secularism would efface
the dirty tints of life which Christianity has prayed over, but not

Second Principle: _Of the providence of science_.--Men are limited
in power, and are oft in peril, and those who are taught to trust to
supernatural aid are betrayed to their own destruction. We are told we
should work as though there were no help in heaven, and pray as though
there were no help in ourselves. Since, however, praying saves no ship,
arrests no disease, and does not pay the tax-gatherer, it is better to
work at once and without the digression of sinking prayer-buckets
into empty wells, and spending life in drawing nothing up. The word
illuminating secular life is _self-help_. The Secularist vexes not the
ear of heaven by mendicant supplications. His is the only religion that
gives heaven no trouble.

Third Principle: _Of goodness as fitness for this world or
another_.--Goodness is the service of others with a view to their
advantage. There is no higher human merit. Human welfare is the sanction
of morality. The measure of a good action is its conducive-ness to
progress. The utilitarian test of generous rightness in motive may be
open to objection,--there is no test which is not,--but the utilitarian
rule is one comprehensible by every mind. It is the only rule which
makes knowledge necessary, and becomes more luminous as knowledge
increases. A fool may be a believer,* but not a utilitarian who seeks
his ground of action in the largest field of relevant facts his mind is
able to survey.

     * The Guardian told as about 1887 that the Bishop of Exeter
     confirmed five idiots.

Utility in morals is measuring the good of one by its agreement with the
good of many. Large ideas are when a man measures the good of his parish
by the good of the town, the good of the town by the good of the county,
the good of the county by the good of the country, the good of the
country by the good of the continent, the good of the continent by the
cosmopolitanism of the world.

Truth and solicitude for the social welfare of others are the proper
concern of a soul worth saving. Only minds with goodness in them have
the desert of future existence. Minds without veracity and generosity
die. The elements of death are in the selfish already. They could not
live in a better world if they were admitted.

In a noble passage in his sermon on "Citizenship" the Rev. Stopford
Brooks said: "There are thousands of my fellow-citizens, men, and women,
and children, who are living in conditions in which they have no true
means of becoming healthy in body, trained in mind, or comforted by
beauty. Life is as hard for them as it is easy for me. I cannot help
them by giving them money, one by one, but I can help them by making the
condition of their life easier by a good government of the city in
which they live. And even if the charge on my property for this purpose
increases for a time, year by year, till the work is done, that charge I
will gladly pay. It shall be my ethics, _my religion_, my patriotism, my
citizenship to do it."* The great preacher whose words are here cited,
like Theodore Parker, the Jupiter of the pulpit in his day, as Wendell
Phillips described him to me, is not a Secularist; but he expresses here
the religion of the Secularist, if such a person can be supposed to have
a religion.

     * Preached in reference to the London County Council
     election, March, 1892.

A theological creed which the base may hold, and usually do, has none
of the merit of deeds of service to humanity, which only the good
intentionally perform. Conscience is the sense of right with regard
to others, it is a sense of duty towards others which tells us that we
should do justice to them; and if not able to do it individually, to
endeavor to get it done by others. At St. Peter's Gate there can be no
passport so safe as this. He was not far wrong who, when asked where
heaven lay, answered: "On the other side of a good action."

If, as Dr. James Martineau says, "there is a thought of God in the thing
that is true, and a will of God in that which is right," Secularism,
caring for truth and duty, cannot be far wrong. Thus, it has a
reasonable regard for the contingencies of another life should it
supervene. Reasoned opinions rely for justification upon intelligent
conviction, and a well informed sincerity.

The Secularist, is without presumption of an infallible creed, is
without the timorous indefiniteness of a creedless believer. He does
not disown a creed because theologians have promulgated Jew bound,
unalterable articles of faith. The Secularist has a creed as definite as
science, and as flexible as progress, increasing as the horizon of truth
is enlarged. His creed is a confession of his belief. There is more
unity of opinion among self-thinkers than is supposed. They all maintain
the necessity of independent opinion, for they all exercise it. They all
believe in the moral rightfulness of independent thought, or they are
guilty for propagating it. They all agree as to the right of publishing
well-considered thought, otherwise thinking would be of little use. They
all approve of free criticism, for there could be no reliance on thought
which did not use, or could not bear that. All agree as to the equal
action of opinion, without which opinion would be fruitless and action
a monopoly. All agree that truth is the object of free thought, for many
have died to gain it. All agree that scrutiny is the pathway to truth,
for they have all passed along it. They all attach importance to the
good of this life, teaching this as the first service to humanity. All
are of one opinion as to the efficacy of material means in promoting
human improvement, for they alone are distinguished by vindicating their
use. All hold that morals are effectively commended by reason, for all
self-thinkers have taught so. All believe that God, if he exists, is the
God of the honest, and that he respects conscience more than creeds,
for all free thinkers have died in this faith. Independent thinkers from
Socrates to Herbert Spencer and Huxley* have all agreed:

     * See Biographical Dictionary of Free Thinkers of all Ages
     and Nations, by J. M. Wheeler, and Four Hundred Years of
     Free Thought from Columbus to Ingersoll, by Samuel Porter
     Putnam, containing upwards of 1,000 biographies.

In the necessity of free thought.

In the rightfulness of it.

In the adequacy of it.

In the considerate publicity of it.

In the fair criticism of it.

In the equal action of conviction.

In the recognition of this life, and

In the material control of it.

The Secularist, like Karpos the gardener, may say of his creed, "Its
points are few and simple. They are: to be a good citizen, a good
husband, a good father, and a good workman. I go no further," said
Karpos, "but pray God to take it all in good part and have mercy on my

     * Dialogue between Karpos the gardener and Bashiew Tucton,
     by Voltaire.


     "We must neither lead nor leave men to mistake falsehood for
     truth. Not to undeceive is to deceive."

     --Archbishop Whately.

BEING one of the social missionaries in the propaganda of Robert Owen,
I was, like H. Viewssiew, a writer of those days, a "student of
realities." It soon became clear to me, as to others, that men are much
influenced for good or evil, by their environments. The word was unused
then, "circumstances" was the term employed. Then as now there were
numerous persons everywhere to be met with who explained everything on
supernatural principles with all the confidence of infinite knowledge.
Not having this advantage, I profited as well as I could by such
observation as was in my power to make. I could see that material laws
counted for something in the world. This led me to the conclusion that
the duty of watching the ways of nature was incumbent on all who
would find true conditions of human betterment, or new reasons for
morality--both very much needed. To this end the name of Secularism was
given to certain principles which had for their object human improvement
by material means, regarding science as the providence of man and
justifying morality by considerations which pertain to this life alone.

The rise and development (if I may use so fine a term) of these views
may be traced in the following records.

1. "Materialism will be advanced as the only sound basis of rational
thought and practice." (Prospectus of the _Movement_, 1843, written by

2. Five prizes awarded to me, for lectures to the Manchester Order of
Odd-fellows. These Degree Addresses (1846) were written on the principle
that morality, apart from theology, could be based on human reason and

3. The _Reasoner_ restricts itself to the known, to the present, and
seeks to realise the life that is. (Preface to the _Reasoner_, 1846.)

4. A series of papers was commenced in the _Reasoner_ entitled "The
Moral Remains of the Bible," one object of which was to show that those
who no longer held the Bible as an infallible book, might still value
it wherein it was ethically excellent. (_Reasoner_, Vol. V., No. 106, p.
17, 1848.)

5. "To teach men to see that the sum of all knowledge and duty is
_Secular_ and that it pertains to this world alone." (_Reasoner_, Nov.
19, 1851. Article, "Truths to Teach," p. 1.)

This was the first time the word "Secular" was applied as a general test
of principles of conduct apart from spiritual considerations.

6. "Giving an account of ourselves in the whole extent of opinion, we
should use the word _Secularist_ as best indicating that province of
human duty which belongs to this life." (_Reasoner_, Dec. 3, 1851, p.

This was the first time the word "Secularist" appeared in literature as
descriptive of a new way of thinking.

7. "Mr. Holyoake, editor of the _Reasoner_, will lay before the meeting
[then proposed] the present position of Secularism in the provinces."
(_Reasoner_, Dec. 10, 1851, p. 62.)

This was the first time the word "Secularism" appeared in the press.

The meeting above mentioned was held December 29, 1851, at which
the statement made might be taken as an epitome of this book. (See
_Reasoner_, No. 294, Vol. 12, p. 129. 1852.)

8. A letter on the "Future of Secularism" appeared in the _Reasoner_,
(_Reasoner_, Feb. 4, 1852, p. 187.)

This was the first time Secularism was written upon as a movement. The
term was the heading of a letter by Charles Frederick Nicholls.

9. "One public purpose is to obtain the repeal of all acts of Parliament
which interfere with Secular practice." (Article, "Nature of Secular
Societies," (Reasoner), No. 325, p. 146, Aug. 18, 1852.)

This is exactly the attitude Secularism takes with regard to the Bible
and to Christianity. It rejects such parts of the Scriptures, or of
Christianism, or Acts of Parliament, as conflict with or obstruct
ethical truth. We do not seek the repeal of all Acts of Parliament, but
only of such as interfere with Secular progress.

10. "The friends of 'Secular Education' [the Manchester Association was
then so known] are not Secularists. They do not pretend to be so, they
do not even wish to be so regarded, they merely use the word Secular as
an adjective, as applied to a mode of instruction. We apply it to the
_nature_ of all knowledge." We use the noun Secularism. No one else has
done it. With others the term Secular is merely a descriptive; with us
the term is used as a subject. With others it is a branch of knowledge;
with us it is the primary business of life,--the name of the province of
speculation to which we confine ourselves.* When so used in these
pages the word "Secularism" or "Secularist" is employed to mark the

     * See article "The Seculars--the Propriety of Their Name,"
     by G.J. Holyoake.   Reasoner, p. 177, Sep. 1, 1852.

A Bolton clergyman reported in the _Bolton Guardian_ that Mr. Holyoake
had announced as the first subject of his Lectures, "Why do the Clergy
Avoid Discussion and the Secularists Seek it?" (_Reasoner_, No. 328, p.
294, Vol. 12, 1852.)

These citations from my own writings are sufficient to show the origin
and nature of Secularism. Such views were widely accepted by liberal
thinkers of the day, as an improvement and extension of free thought
advocacy. Societies were formed, halls were given a Secular name, and
conferences were held to organise adherents of the new opinion. The
first was held in the Secular Institute, Manchester (Oct. 3, 1852).
Delegates were sent from Societies in Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton,
Blackburn, Bradford, Burnley, Bury, Glasgow, Keighley, Leigh, London,
Manchester, Miles Platting, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Oldham, Over Darwen,
Owen's Journal, Paisley, Preston, Rochdale, Stafford, Sheffield,
Stockport, Todmorden.

Among the delegates were many well known, long known, and some still
known--James Charlton (now the famous manager of the Chicago and Alton
Railway), Abram Greenwood (now the cashier of the Cooperative Wholesale
Bank of Manchester), William Mallalieu of Todmorden (familiarly known as
the "Millionaire" of the original Rochdale Pioneers), Dr. Hiram Uttley
of Burnley, John Crank of Stockport, Thomas Hayes, then of Miles
Platting, now manager of the Crumpsall Biscuit Works of the Cooperative
Wholesale Society, Joseph Place of Nottingham, James Motherwell of
Paisley, Dr. Henry Travis (socialist writer on Owen's system), Samuel
Ingham of Manchester, J. R. Cooper of Manchester, and the present


     "Only by varied iteration can alien conceptions be forced on
     reluctant minds."

     --Herbert Spencer.

IN 1853 the Six-Night Discussion took place in Cowper Street School
Rooms, London, with the Rev. Brewin Grant, B. A. A report was published
by Partridge and Oakley at 2s. 6d, of which 45,900 were sold, which
widely diffused a knowledge of Secularistic views.

Our adversary had been appointed with clerical ceremony, on a "Three
years' mission" against us. He had wit, readiness, and an electric
velocity of speech, boasting that he could speak three times faster than
any one else. But he proved to be of use to us without intending it,

                  "His acrid words
     Turned the sweet milk of kindness into curds."

whereby he set many against the cause he represented. He had the
cleverness to see that there ought to be a "Christian Secularism," which
raised Secularism to the level of Christian curiosity. In Glasgow, in
1854, I met Mr. Grant again during several nights' discussion in the
City Hall. This debate also was published, as was one of three nights
with the Rev. J. H. Rutherford (afterwards Dr. Rutherford) in Newcastle
on Tyne, who aimed to prove that Christianity contained the better
Secularism. Thus that new form of free thought came to have public

The lease of a house, 147 Fleet Street, was bought (1852), where was
established a Secular Institute, connected with printing, book-selling,
and liberal publishing. Further conferences were held in July, 1854, one
at Stockport. At an adjourned conference Mr. Joseph Barker (whom we had
converted) presided.* We had a London Secular Society which met at the
Hall of Science, City Road, and held its Council meetings in Mr. Le
Blond's handsome house in London Wall. This work, and much more, was
done before and while Mr. Bradlaugh (who afterwards was conspicuously
identified with the movement) was in the army.

     * Reasoner, No. 428, Vol. XVII.. p. 87.

It was in 1854 that I published the first pamphlet on _Secularism
the Practical Philosophy of the People_. It commenced by showing the
necessity of independent, self-helping, self-extricating opinions. Its
opening passage was as follows:

"In a state of society in which every inch of land, every blade of
grass, every spray of water, every bird and flower has an owner,
what has the poor man to do with orthodox religion which begins by
proclaiming him a miserable sinner, and ends by leaving him a miserable
slave, as far as unrequited toil goes?

"The poor man finds himself in an _armed_ world where might is God,
and poverty is fettered. Abroad the hired soldier blocks up the path
of freedom, and the priest the path of progress. Every penniless man,
woman, and child is virtually the property of the capitalist, no less
in England than is the slave in New Orleans.* Society blockades poverty,
leaving it scarce escape. The artisan is engaged in an imminent struggle
against wrong and injustice; then what has he the struggler, to do with
doctrines which brand him with inherited guilt, which paralyse him by an
arbitrary faith, which deny saving power to good works, which menace him
with eternal perdition?"

The two first works of importance, controverting Secularist principles,
were by the Rev. Joseph Parker and Dr. J. A. Langford; Dr. Parker was
ingenious, Dr. Langford eloquent. I had discussed with Dr. Parker in
Banbury. In his _Six Chapters on Secularism_** which was the title of
his book, he makes pleasant references to that debate. The _Christian
Weekly News_ of that day said: "These Six Chapters have been written
by a young provincial minister of great power and promise, of whom the
world has not yet heard, but of whom it will hear pleasing things some

     * Not entirely so.   The English slave can run away--at his
     own peril.

     **  Published by my, then, neighbour, William Freeman, of 69
     Fleet Street, himself an energetic, pleasant-minded

This prediction has come true. I had told Mr. Freeman that the "young
preacher" had given me that impression in the discussion with him. Dr.
Parker said in his first Chapter that, "If the New Testament teachings
oppose our own consciousness, violate our moral sense, lead us out of
sympathy with humanity, then we shall abandon them." This was exactly
the case of Secularism which he undertook to confute. Dr. Langford held
a more rational religion than Dr. Parker. His _Answer_, which reached
a second thousand, had passages of courtesy and friendship, yet he
contended with graceful vigor against opinions--three-fourths of which
justified his own.

In an address delivered Sept. 29, 1851, I had said that, "There were
three classes of persons opposed to Christianity:--

"1. The dissolute.

"2. The indifferent.

"3. The intellectually independent.

"The dissolute are against Christianity because they regard it as a foe
to sensuality. The indifferent reject it through being ignorant of it,
or not having time to attend to it, or not caring to attend to it, or
not being able to attend to it, through constitutional insensibility
to its appeals. The intellectually independent avoid it as opposed to
freedom, morality and progress." It was to these classes, and not to
Christians, that Secularism was addressed. Neither Dr. Parker nor Dr.
Langford took notice that it was intended to furnish ethical guidance
where Christianity, whatever might be its quality, or pretensions, or
merit, was inoperative.*

     * In 1857 Dr. Joseph Parker published a maturer and more
     important volume, Helps to Truth Seekers, or, Christianity
     and Scepticism, containing "The Secularist Theory--A
     Critique." At a distance of more than thirty-five years it
     seems to me an abler book, from the Christian point of view,
     than I thought it on its appearance.

The new form of free thought under the title of the "Principles of
Secularism" was submitted to John Stuart Mill, to whose friendship and
criticism I had often been indebted, and he approved the statement as
one likely to be useful to those outside the pale of Christianity.

A remarkable thing occurred in 1854. A prize of £100 was offered by
the Evangelical Alliance for the best book on the "Aspects, Causes, and
Agencies" of what they called by the odious apostolic defamatory name
of "Infidelity."* The Rev. Thomas Pearson of Eyemouth won the prize by
a brilliant book, which I praised for its many relevant quotations, its
instruction and fairness, but I represented that its price (10s. 6d.)
prevented numerous humble readers from possessing it. The Evangelical
Alliance inferred that the "relevancy" was on their side, altogether,
whereas I meant relevant to the argument and to those supposed to be
confuted by it. They resolved to issue twenty-thousand copies at
one shilling a volume. The most eminent Evangelical ministers and
congregations of the day subscribed to the project. Four persons put
down their names for one thousand copies each, and a strong list of
subscribers was sent out. Unfortunately I published another article
intending to induce readers of the _Reasoner_ to procure copies, as they
would find in its candid pages a wealth of quotations of free-thought
opinion with which very few were acquainted. The number of eminent
writers, dissentients from Christianity, and the force and felicity
of their objections to it, as cited by Mr. Pearson, would astonish
and instruct Christians who were quite unfamiliar with the historic
literature of heretical thought. This unwise article stopped the
project. The "Shilling Edition" never appeared, and the public lost the
most useful and informing book written against us in my time. The Rev.
Mr. Pearson died not long after; all too soon, for he was a minister who
commanded respect. He had research, good faith, candor, and courtesy,
qualities rare in his day.

     * A term of intentional offence as here used. Infidelity
     meant treachery to the truth, whereas the heretic has often
     sacrificed his life from fidelity to it.


     "A mariner must have his eye on the rock and the sand as
     well as upon the North Star."

     --Maxim of the Sea.

IT IS time now to point out, what many never seem to understand, that
Secular instruction is entirely distinct from Secularism. In my earlier
days the term "scientific" was the distressing word in connexion with
education, but the trouble of later years is with the word "Secular."
Theological critics run on the "rock" there.

Many persons regard Secular teaching with distrust, thinking it to be
the same as Secularism. Secular instruction is known by the sign of
separateness. It means knowledge given apart from theology. Secular
instruction comprises a set of rules for the guidance of industry,
commerce, science, and art. Secular teaching is as distinct from
theology as a poem from a sermon. A man may be a mathematician, an
architect, a lawyer, a musician, or a surgeon, and be a

Christian all the same; as Faraday was both a chemist and a devout
Sandemanian; as Buckland was a geologist as well as a Dean. But
if theology be mixed up with professional knowledge, there will be
muddle-headedness.* At a separate time, theology can be taught, and
any learner will have a clearer and more commanding knowledge of
Christianity by its being distinctive in his mind. Secular instruction
neither assails Christianity nor prejudices the learner against it; any
more than sculpture assails jurisprudence, or than geometry prejudices
the mind against music. If the Secular instructor made it a point, as he
ought to do, to inculcate elementary ideas of morality, he would
confine himself to explaining how far truth and duty have sanctions
in considerations purely human--leaving it to teachers of religion to
supplement at another time and place, what they believe to be further
and higher sanctions.

     * Edward Baines (afterwards Sir Edward) was the greatest
     opponent in his day, of national schools and Secular
     instruction, sent his sou to a Secular school, because he
     wanted him to be clever as well as Christian. He was both as
     I well know.

Secular instruction implies that the proper business of the
school-teacher is to impart a knowledge of the duties of this world;
and the proper business of chapel and church is to explain the duties
relevant to another world, which can only be done in a secondhand way
by the school-teacher. The wonder is that the pride of the minister does
not incite him to keep his own proper work in his own hands, and protest
against the school-teacher meddling with it. By doing so he would
augment his own dignity and the distinctiveness of his office.

By keeping each kind of knowledge apart, a man learns both, more easily
and more effectually. Secular training is better for the scholar and
safer for the State; and better for the priest if he has a faith that
can stand by itself.

If the reader does not distrust it as a paradox, he will assent that the
Secular is distinct from Secularism, as distinct as an act is
distinct from its motive. Secular teaching comprises a set of rules of
instruction in trade, business, and professional knowledge. Secularism
furnishes a set of principles for the ethical conduct of life. Secular
instruction is far more limited in its range than Secularism which
defends secular pursuits against theology, where theology attacks them
or obstructs them. But pure Secular knowledge is confined to its own
pursuit, and does not come in contact with theology any more than
architecture comes in contact with preaching.

A man may be a shareholder in a gas company or a waterworks, a house
owner, a landlord, a farmer, or a workman. All these are secular
pursuits, and he who follows them may consult only his own interest. But
if he be a Secularist, he will consider not only his own interest, but,
as far as he can, the welfare of the community or the world, as his
action or example may tell for the good of universal society. He will do
"his best," not as Mr. Ruskin says, "the best of an ass," but "the best
of an intelligent man." In every act he will put his conscience and
character with a view so to discharge the duties of this life as to
merit another, if there be one. Just as a Christian seeks to serve God,
a Secularist seeks to serve man. This it is to be a Secularist. The
idea of this service is what Secularism puts into his mind. Professor
Clifford exclaimed: "The Kingdom of God has come--when comes the Kingdom
of man?" A Secularist is one who hastens the coming of this kingdom:
which must be agreeable to heaven if the people of this world are to
occupy the mansions there.


     "The cry that so-called secular education is Atheistic is
     hardly worth notice. Cricket is not theological; at the same
     time, it is not Atheistic."

     --Rev. Joseph Parker, D. D., Times, October 11, 1894.

NOR is Secularism atheism. The laws of the universe are quite distinct
from the question of the origin of the universe. The study of the laws
of nature, which Secularism selects, is quite different from speculation
as to the authorship of nature. We may judge and prize the beauty
and uses of an ancient edifice, though we may never know the builder.
Secularism is a form of opinion which concerns itself only with
questions the issues of which can be tested by the experience of this
life. It is clear that the existence of deity and the actuality of
another life, are questions excluded from Secularism, which exacts no
denial of deity or immortality, from members of Secularist societies.
During their day only two persons of public distinction--the Bishop
of Peterborough and Charles Bradlaugh--maintained that the Secular was
atheistic. Yet Mr. Bradlaugh never put a profession of atheism as one of
the tenets of any Secularist Society. Atheism may be a personal
tenet, but it cannot be a Secularist tenet, from which it is wholly

No one would confuse the Secular with the atheistic who understood that
the Secular is separate. Mr. Hodgson Pratt, a Christian, writing
in _Concord_ (October, 1894), a description of the burial of Angelo
Mazzoleni, said "the funeral was entirely Secular," meaning the ceremony
was distinct from that of the Church, being based on considerations
pertaining to duty in this world.

In the indefiniteness of colloquial speech we constantly hear the
phrase, "School Board education." Yet School Boards cannot give
education. It is beyond their reach. Most persons confuse instruction
with education. Instruction relates to industrial, commercial,
agricultural, and scientific knowledge and like subjects. Education
implies the complete training and "drawing out of the whole powers of
the mind."* Thus instruction is different from education. Instruction is
departmental knowledge. Education includes all the influences of life;
instruction gives skill, education forms character.

     *  Henry Drummond gave this definition in the House of
     Commons, and it was adopted by W. J. Fox and other leaders
     of opinion in that day.

The Rev. Dr. Parker is the first Nonconformist preacher of distinction
who has avowed his concurrence with Secular instruction in Board
Schools. When Mr. W. E. Forster was framing his Education Act, I
besought him to raise English educational policy to the level of the
much smoking, much-pondering Dutch. "The system of education in Holland
dates from 1857. It is a Secular system, meaning by Secular that
the Bible is not allowed to be read in schools, nor is any religious
instruction allowed to be given. The use of the school-room is, however,
granted to ministers of all denominations for the purpose of teaching
religion out of school-hours. The schoolmaster is not allowed to give
religious instruction, or even to read the Bible in school at any

     *  Report from the Hague, by Mr. (now Right Hon.) Jesse
     Collings, M. P., May, 1870.

No State rears better citizens or better Christians than the Dutch.
Mr. Gladstone, with his customary discernment, has said that "Secular
instruction does not involve denial of religious teaching, but merely
separation in point of time." It seems incredible that Christian
ministers, generally, do not see the advantage of this. I should
probably have become a Christian preacher myself, had it not been for
the incessantness with which religion was obtruded on me in childhood
and youth. Even now my mind aches when I think of it. For myself, I
respect the individuality of piety. It is always picturesque. Looking
at religion from the outside, I can see that concrete sectarianism is a
source of religious strength. A man is only master of his own faith
when he sees it clearly, distinctly, and separately. Rather than permit
Secular instruction and religious education to be imparted separately,
Christian ministers permit the great doctrines they profess to maintain
to be whittled down to a School Board average, in which, when done
honestly towards all opinions, no man can discern Christianity without
the aid of a microscope. And this passes, in these days, for good
ecclesiastical policy. In a recent letter (November, 1894) Mr. Gladstone
has re-affirmed his objection to "an undenominational system of religion
framed by, or under the authority of, the State." He says: "It would,
I think, be better for the State to limit itself to giving Secular
instruction, which, of course, is no complete education." Mr. Gladstone
does not confound Secular instruction with education, but is of the
way of thinking of Miltou, who says: "I call a complete and generous
education that which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully, and
magnanimously all the offices, both private and public, of peace and
war." Secular instruction touches no doctrine, menaces no creed, raises
no scepticism in the mind. But an average of belief introduces the
aggressive hand of heresy into every school, tampering with tenets
rooted in the conscience, wantonly alarming religious convictions, and
substituting for a clear, frank, and manly issue a disastrous, blind,
and timid policy, wriggling along like a serpent instead of walking with
self-dependent erectness. This manly erect-ness would be the rule
were the formula of the great preacher accepted who has said: "Secular
education by the State, and Christian education by the Christian Church
is my motto."* Uniformity of truth is desirable, and it will come, not
by contrivance, but by conviction.

     * The Rev. Joseph Parker, D. D.

Some one quoted lately in the _Daily News_ (September 19, 1895) the
following sentences I wrote in 1870:

"With secular instruction only in the day school, religion will acquire
freshness and new force. The clergyman and the minister will exercise
a new influence, because their ministrations will have dignity and
definiteness. They will no longer delegate things declared by them to
be sacred to be taught second-hand by the harassed, overworked, and
oft-reluctant schoolmaster and schoolmistress, who must contradict
the gentleness of religion by the peremptoriness of the pedagogue, and
efface the precept that 'God is love' by an incontinent application of
the birch.... It is not secular instruction which breeds irreverence,
but this ill-timed familiarity with the reputed things of God which robs
divinity of its divineness."

The Bible in the school-room will not always be to the advantage of
clericalism, as it is thought to be now.

Mr. Forster's Education Act created what Mr. Disraeli contemptuously
described as a new "sacerdotal caste,"--a body of second-hand preachers,
who are to be paid by the money of the State to do the work which
the minister and the clergyman avow they are called by heaven to
perform,--namely, to save the souls of the people. According to this
Act, the clergy are really no longer necessary; their work can be done
by a commoner and cheaper order of artificer. Mr. Forster insisted
that the Bible be introduced into the school-room, which gives great
advantage to the Freethinker, as it makes a critical agitation against
its character and pretensions a matter of self-defence for every family.
Another eminent preacher, Mr. C. H. Spurgeon, wrote, not openly in
the _Times_ as Dr. Parker did, but in _The Sword and Trowel_ thus: "We
should like to see established a system of universal application,
which would give a sound Secular education to children, and leave
the religious training to the home and the agencies of the Church of
Christ." It is worthy of the radiant common sense of the famous orator
of the Tabernacle that he should have said this anywhere.


     "What suits the gods above
     Only the gods can know;
     What we want is
     This World's sense
     How to live below."

BY its nature, Secularism is tolerant with regard to religions. I once
drew up a code of rules for an atheistic school. One rule was that the
children should be taught the tenets of the Christian, Catholic, Moslem,
Jewish, and the leading theological systems of the world, as well as
Secularistic and atheistic forms of thought; so that when the pupil
came to years of discretion he might be able, intelligently, to choose
a faith for himself. Less than this would be a fraud upon the
understanding of a man. In matters which concern himself alone, he must
be free to choose for himself, and know what he is choosing from.
That form of belief which has misgivings as to whether it can stand by
itself, is to be distrusted.

It is the scandal of Christianity that, for twenty-five years, it has
paralysed School Board instruction by its discord of opinion as to
the religious tenets to be imparted; while in Secularity there is no
disunity. Everybody is agreed upon the rules of arithmetic. The laws
of grammar command general assent. There are no rival schools upon the
interpretation of geometrical problems. It is only in divinity that
irreconcilable diversity exists. When Secular instruction is conceded,
denominational differences will be respected, as aspects of the
integrity of conscience, which no longer obstruct the intellectual
progress of the people.

But there are graver issues than the pride and preference of the
preacher; namely, the welfare of the children of the people. What the
working classes want is an industrial education. Poverty is a battle,
and the poor are always in a conflict--a conflict in which the most
ignorant ever go to the wall. The accepted policy of the State leaves
the increase of population to chance. It suffers none to be killed; it
compels people to be kept alive, and abandons their subsistence to the
accident of capitalists requiring to hire their services. Thus our great
towns are crowded with families, impelled there by the wild forces of
hunger and of passion. From the workingman thus situated, the governing
class exacts four duties:

1. That he shall give the parish no disquietude by asking it to maintain
his family.

2. That he shall pay whatever taxes are levied upon him.

3. That he shall give no trouble to the police.

4. That he shall fight generally whomsoever the Government may see fit
to involve the nation in war with.

Whatever knowledge is necessary to enable the future workman to do these
things, is his right, and should be given to him in his youth in the
speediest manner; and any other inculcation which shall delay this
knowledge on its way, or confuse the learner in acquiring it, is a
cruelty to him and a peril to the community which permits it; and the
State, were it discerning and just, would forbid it.

In April, 1870, in a letter which appeared in the _Spectator_; I wrote
as follows:

"In the speech of the Bishop of Peterborough, delivered at the
Educational Conference at Leicester, and published in a separate form by
the National Education Union, his Lordship quotes from a recent letter
of mine to the _Daily News_ some words in which I explained that
'unsectarian education amounts to a new species of parliamentary piety.'
It is a satisfaction to find that the Bishop of Peterborough is able
to 'entirely endorse these words.' The Bishop asks: 'Whose words do you
suppose they are? They are the words of that reactionary maintainer of
creeds and dogmas--Mr. Holyoake.' So far from being a 'reactionary'
in this matter, I have always maintained that every form of sincere
opinion, religious or secular, should have free play and fair play. I
have never varied in advocating the right of free utterance and free
action of all earnest conviction. The State requires a self-supporting
and tax-paying population. But the State cannot insure this, except by
imparting _productive_ knowledge to the people. It is necessary for the
people to receive, it is the interest of the State to give, _productive_
instruction in national schools."

If people realised how much extended secular instruction is needed,
they would be impatient with the obstruction of it by contending
sects. Children want industrial education to fit them for emigrants. A
knowledge of soils, of cattle, of climate, and crops, and how to nail
up a wigwam and grow pork and corn, is what they need. For want of such
knowledge Clerkenwell watchmakers, Northampton shoemakers, Lancashire
weavers, and Durham miners perish as emigrants, and their bones
bleach the prairies. Yet all orthodox teaching turns out its pupils
uninstructed, for, as Tillottson has said, "He that does not know
those things which are of use and necessity for him to know, is but an
ignorant man, whatever he may know beside." To know this world, and the
Secular conditions of prosperity in it, is indispensable to the people.

Christianity is entirely futile in industry. If a workman cannot pay
his taxes, the most devout Chancellor of the Exchequer will not abate
sixpence in consideration of the defaulter's piety. The poor man may
believe in the Thirty-nine Articles, be able to recite all the Collects;
he may spend his Sundays at church, and his evenings at prayer-meeting;
but the reverend magistrate, who has confirmed him and preached to him,
will send him to gaol if he does not pay. The sooner workmen understand
that Christianity has no commercial value, the better for them.

Why should purely Secular instruction be regarded with distrust, when
purely religious education does not answer? It does not appear in human
experience that purely religious teaching, even when dispensed in a
clergyman's family, is a security for good conduct. It is matter of
common remark that the sons of clergymen turn out worse than the sons of
parents in other professions.

We want no whining or puling population. The elements of science and
morality will give children the use of their minds, and minds to
use, and teach justice and kindness, self-direction, self-reliance,
fortitude, and truth. There is piety in this instruction,--piety to
mankind,--exactly that sort of piety for the want of which society

The principles for which during two centuries Nonconformity in England
has contended are, that the State should forbid no religion, impose no
religion, teach no religion, pay no religion. In 1870, the year in which
Mr. Forster's Act came into operation, I was the only person who
issued a public address to the "School Board Electors" in favor of free
compulsory, and Secular instruction. Two of the proposals, the least
likely to be favorably received, have since been adopted. The turn of
the third must be near, unless fools are always at the polls.


     "False ideas can be confuted by argument, but it is only by
     true ideas they can be expelled."

     --Cardinal Newman.

ERROR will live wherever vermin of the mind may burrow; and error,
if expelled, will return to its accustomed haunt, unless its place be
otherwise occupied by some tenant of truth. Suppose that criticism has

1. That God is unknown.

2. That a future life is unprovable.

3. That the Bible is not a practical guide.

4. That Providence sleeps.

5. That prayer is futile.

6. That original sin is untrue.

7. That eternal perdition is unreal.

What is free thought going to do? All these theological ideas, however
untrue, are forces of opinion on the side of error. After taking these
doctrines out of the minds of men, as far as reasoning criticism may do
it, what is proposed to be put in their place? When we call out to men
that they are going down a wrong road, we are more likely to arrest
their attention if we can point out the right road to take.

No mind is ever entirely empty. The objection to ignorance is not that
it has no ideas, but that it has wrong ones. Its ideas are narrow,
cramped, vicious. It likes without reason, hates without cause, and is
suspicious of what it might trust. It is not enough to tell a man who is
eating injurious food that it will harm him. If he has no other aliment,
he must go on feeding upon what he has. If you cannot supply better, you
cannot reproach him who takes the bad. But if you have true principles,
they should be offered as substitutes for the false. Secularist truth
should tread close upon the heels of theological error.

1. For the study of the origin of the universe Secularism substitutes
the study of the laws and uses of the universe, which, Cardinal Newman
admitted, might be regarded as consonant to the will of its author.

2. For a future state Secularism proposes the wise use of this, as
he who fails in this "duty nearest hand" has no moral fitness for any

3. For revelation it offers the guidance of observation, investigation,
and experience. Instead of taking authority for truth, it takes truth
for authority.

4. For the providence of Scripture, Secularism directs men to the
providence of science, which provides against peril, or brings
deliverance when peril comes.

5. For prayer it proposes self-help and the employment of all the
resources of manliness and industry. Jupiter himself rebuked the
waggoner who cried for aid, instead of putting his own shoulder to the

6. For original depravity, which infuses hopelessness into all effort
for personal excellence, Secularism counsels the creation of those
conditions, so far as human prevision can provide them, in which it
shall be "impossible for a man to be depraved or poor." The aim
of Secularism is to promote the moralisation of this world, which
Christianity has proved ineffectual to accomplish.

7. For eternal perdition, which appals every human heart, Secularism
substitutes the warnings and penalties of causation attending the
violation of the laws of nature, or the laws of truth--penalties
inexorable and unevadable in their consequences. Though they extend to
the individual no farther than this life, they are without the
terrible element of divine vindictive-ness, yet, being near and
inevitable--following the offender close as the shadow of the
offence--are more deterrent than future punishment, which "faith" may
evade without merit.

The aim of Secularism is to educate the conscience in the service of
man. It puts duty into free thought. Men inquired, for self-protection,
and from dislike of error. But if a man was in no danger himself, and
was indifferent whether an error--which no longer harmed him--prevailed
or not, Secularism holds that it is still a duty to aid in ending it for
the sake of others. It was W. J. Fox, the most heretical preacher of his
day, who said (1824): "I believe in the right of religion and the
_duty_ of free inquiry." He is a very exceptional person--as we know
in political as well as in questions of mental freedom--who cares for a
right he does not need himself. A man is generally of opinion, as I have
seen in many agitations, that nobody need care for a form of liberty he
does not want himself. It is as though a man on the bank should think
that a man in the water does not want a rope. Duty is devotion to the
right. Right in morals is that which is morally expedient. That is
morally expedient which is conducive to the happiness of the greatest
numbers. The service of others is the practical form of duty. "He,"
says Buddha, "who was formerly heedless, and afterwards becomes earnest,
lights up the world like the moon escaped from a cloud."

Constructiveness is an education which attains success but slowly. Some
men have no distinctive notion whatever of truth. It seems never to have
occurred to them that there is anything intrinsic in it, and they only
fall into it by accident. Others have a wholesome idea that truth is
essential, and that, as a rule, you ought to tell it, and some do it.
This is a small conception of truth, but it is good as far as it goes,
and ought to be valued, as it is scarce. If any one asks such a person
whether what he says is what he _thinks_, or what he _knows_, to be
true, he is perplexed. The difference between the two things has not
occurred to him. He has been under the impression that what he believes
is the same thing as what he knows, and when he finds the two things are
very different, his idea of truth is doubled and is twice as large as it
was before.

There is yet a larger view, to which many never attain. To them all
truth is truth of equal value. All geese are geese, but all are not
equally tender. Though all horses are horses, all are not equally swift.
Yet many never observe that all facts are not equally succulent or
swift, nor all truth of equal value or usefulness.

Social truth has three marks,--it must be explicit, relevant to the
question in hand, and of use for the purpose in hand. But it requires
some intelligence to observe this, and judgment to act upon it.


     "Religion, as dealing with the confessedly incomprehensible,
     is not the basis for human union, in social, or industrial,
     or political circles, but only that portion of old religion
     which is now called moral."

     --Professor Francis William Newman.

BISHOP ELLICOTT was the first prelate whom I heard admit (in a sermon to
the members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science)
that men might be moral from other motives than those furnished by
Christianity. Renan says that Justin Martyr "in his _Apology_, never
attacks the principle of the empire. He wants the empire to examine the
Christian doctrines." A Secularist would have attacked the principle,
regarding freedom as of more consequence to progress than any doctrine
without it. Those who seek to guide life by reason are not without a
standard of appeal. "Secularism accepts no authority but that of nature,
adopts no methods but those of science and philosophy, and respects in
practice no rule but that of the conscience, illustrated by the common
sense of mankind. It values the lessons of the past, and looks to
tradition as presenting a storehouse of raw materials for thought, and
in many cases results of high wisdom for our reverence; but it
utterly disowns tradition as a ground of belief, whether miracles
and supernaturalism be claimed or not claimed on its side. No sacred
Scripture or ancient Church can be made a basis of belief, for the
obvious reason that their claims always need to be proved, and cannot
without absurdity be assumed. The association leaves to its individual
members to yield whatever respects their own good sense judges to be due
to the opinions of great men, living or dead, spoken or written; as also
to the practice of ancient communities, national or ecclesiastical. But
it disowns all appeal to such authorities as final tests of truth."*

     *  I owe the expression of this passage, whose
     comprehensiveness and felicity of phrase exceed the reach of
     my pen, to Professor Francis William Newman.

Morality can be inspired and confirmed by perception of the
consequences of conduct. Theology regards free will as the foundation of
responsibility. But free will saves no man from material consequences,
and diverts attention from material causes of evil and good. Under the
free will doctrine the wonder is that any morality is left in the world.
It is a doctrine which gives scoundrels the same chance as a saint. When
a man is assured that he can be saved when he believes, and that, having
free will, he can believe when he pleases, he, as a rule, never does
please until he has had his fill of vice, or is about to die,--either of
disease or by the hangman. If by the hangman, he is told that, provided
he repents before eight o'clock in the morning, he may find himself
nestling in Abraham's bosom before nine. Free will is the doctrine of
rascalism. It is time morality had other foundation than theology. The
relations of life can be made as impressive as ideas of supernaturalism.
But in this Christians not only lend no help, they disparage the attempt
to control life by reason. When Secularism was first talked of, the
President of the Congregational Union, the Rev. Dr. Harris, commended to
the Union the words of Bishop Lavington of a century earlier (1750): "My
brethren, I beg you will rise up with me against mere moral preaching."*
A writer of distinction, R. H. Hutton, writing on "Secularism" in the
_Expositor_ so late as 1881, argues strenuously that moral government is
impossible without supernatural convictions. The egotism of Christianity
is as conspicuous as that of politics. No ethic is genuine unless it
bears the hall-mark of the Church. Secularism does not deny the efficacy
of other theories of life upon those who accept them, and only claims
to be of use as commending morality on considerations purely human,
to those who reject theories purely spiritual. Any one familiar with
controversy knows that Christianity is advertised like a patent medicine
which will cure all the maladies of mankind. Everybody who tries
reasoned morality is encouraged to condemn it, and is denounced if he
commends it.

     * British Banner, October 27, 1852.

It is a maxim of Secularism that, wherever there is a rightful object at
which men should aim, there is a Secular path to it.

Nearly all inferior natures are susceptible of moral and physical
improvability, which improvability can be indefinitely advanced by
supplying proper material conditions.

Since it is not capable of demonstration whether the inequalities of
human condition will be compensated for in another life, it is the
business of intelligence to rectify them in this world. The speculative
worship of superior beings, who cannot need it, seems a lesser duty
than the patient service of known inferior natures and the mitigation
of harsh destiny, so that the ignorant may be enlightened and the low

Christians often promote projects beneficial to men; but are they not
mainly incited thereto by the hope of inclining the hearts of those they
aid to their cause? Is not their motive proselytism? Is it not a higher
morality to do good for its own sake, careless whether those benefited
become adherents or not?

Going to a distant town to mitigate some calamity there, will illustrate
the principle of Secularism. One man will go on this errand from pure
sympathy with the unfortunate; this is goodness. Another goes because
the priest bids him; this is obedience. Another goes because the
twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew tells him that all such persons will
pass to the right hand of the Father; this is calculation. Another goes
because he believes God commands him; this is theological piety. Another
goes because he is aware that the neglect of suffering will not answer;
this is utilitarianism. But another goes on the errand of mercy
because it is an immediate service to humanity, knowing that material
deliverance is piety and better than spiritual consolation; this is

One whose reputation for spirituality is in all the Churches says:
"Properly speaking, all true work is religion, and whatsoever religion
is not work may go and dwell among the Brahmins, the Antinomians,
Spinning Dervishes, or where it will. Admirable was that maxim of the
old monks, _Laborare est orare_ (Work is worship)".* In his article on
Auguste Comte, Mr. J. S. Mill says he "uses religion in its modern sense
as signifying that which binds the convictions, whether to deity or to
duty,--deity in the theological sense, or duty in the moral sense." This
is the only sense in which a Secularist would employ the term. Religious
moralism is a term I might use, since it binds a man to humanity, which
religion does not. "Without God," said Mazzini to the Italian workingmen
forty years ago,--"without God you may compel, but not persuade. You may
become tyrants in your turn; you cannot be educators or apostles."
One night, when Mazzini was speaking in this way, in the hearing of
Garibaldi, arguing that there was no ground of duty unless based on the
idea of God, the General turned round and said: "I am an Atheist. Am I
deficient in the sense of duty?" "Ah," replied Mazzini, "you imbibed it
with your mother's milk." All around smiled at the quick-witted evasion.

     * Carlyle, Past and Present.

In one sense Mazzini was as atheistic in mind as orthodox Christians. He
disbelieved that truth, duty, or humanity could have any vitality unless
derived from belief in God. Devout as few men are, in the Church or out
of it, yet Mazzini believed alone in God. Dogmas of the Churches were
to him as though they were not; yet there were times when he seemed to
admit that other motives than the one which inspired him might operate
for good in other minds. In a letter he once addressed to me there
occurred this splendid passage:--

"We pursue the same end,--progressive improvement, association,
transformation of the corrupted medium in which we are now living, the
overthrow of all idolatries, shams, lies, and conventionalities. We
both want man to be, not the poor, passive, cowardly, phantasmagoric
unreality of the actual time, thinking in one way and acting in another;
bending to power which he hates and despises; carrying empty popish
or Thirty-nine Article formulas on his brow, and none within; but
a fragment of the living truth, a real individual being linked to
collective humanity,--the bold seeker of things to come; the gentle,
mild, loving, yet firm, uncompromising, inexorable apostle of all that
is just and heroic,--the Priest, the Poet, and the Prophet."

Mazzini saw in the conception of God the great "Indicator" of duty, and
that the one figure, "the most deeply inspired of God, men have seen on
the earth was Jesus." Mazzini's impassioned protest against unbelief was
itself a form of unbelief. He believed only in one God, not in three.
If Jesus was inspired of God, he was not God, or he would have been
self-inspired. But, apart from this repellent heresy, if Theism and
Christianism are essential to those who would serve humanity, all
propaganda of freedom must be delayed until converts are made to this
new faith.

The question will be put, Has independent morality ever been seen in

Voltaire, at the peril of his liberty and life, rescued a friendless
family from the fire and the wheel the priests had prepared for them.
Paine inspired the independence of America, and Lloyd Garrison
gave liberty to the slaves whose bondage the clergy defended. The
Christianity of three nations produced no three men in their day who
did anything comparable to the achievement of these three sceptics,
who wrought this splendid good, not only without Christianity, but in
opposition to it. Save for Christian obstruction, they had accomplished
still greater good without the peril they had to brave.

None of the earlier critics of Secularism, as has been said (and
not many in the later years), realised that it was addressed, not
to Christians, but to those who rejected Christianity, or who were
indifferent to it, and were outside it. Christians cannot do anything
to inspire _them_ with ethical principles, since they do not believe in
morality unless based on their supernatural tenets. They have to convert
men to Theism, to miracles, prophecy, inspiration of the Scriptures, the
Trinity, and other soul-wearying doctrines, before they can inculcate
morality they can trust. We do not rush in where they fear to tread.
Secularism moves where they do not tread at all.


     "You can tell more about a man's character by trading horses
     with him once than you can by hearing him talk for a year in
     prayer meeting."

     --American Maxim.

A FORM of thought which has no certitude can command no intelligent
trust. Unless capable of verification, no opinion can claim attention,
nor retain attention, if it obtains it.

If a sum in arithmetic be wrong, it can be discovered by a new way of
working; if a medical recipe is wrong, the effect is manifest in the
health; if a political law is wrong, it is sooner or later apparent in
the mischief it produces; if a theorem in navigation is erroneous, delay
or disaster warns the mariner of his mistake; if an insane moralist
teaches that adherence to truth is wrong, men can try the effects
of lying, when distrust and disgrace soon undeceive them. But if a
theological belief is wrong, we must die to find it out. Secularism,
therefore, is safer. It is best to follow the double lights of reason
and experience than the dark lantern of faith. "In all but religion,"
exclaims a famous preacher,* "men know their true interests and use
their own understanding. Nobody takes anything on trust at market, nor
would anybody do so at church if there were but a hundredth part the
care for truth which there is for money."

     * W. J. Fox.

Mr. Rathbone Greg has shown, in a memorable passage, that "the lot of
man--not perhaps altogether of the individual, but certainly of the
race--is in his own hands, from his being surrounded by _fixed laws_, on
knowledge of which, and conformity to which, his well-being depends. The
study of these and obedience to them form, therefore, the great aim of
public instruction. Men must be taught:

"1. The physical laws on which health depends.

"2. The moral laws on which happiness depends.

"3. The intellectual laws on which knowledge depends.

"4. The social and political laws on which national prosperity and
advancement depend.

"5. The economic laws on which wealth depends."

Mr. Spurgeon had flashes of Secularistic inspiration, as when engaging
a servant, who professed to have taken religion, he asked "whether she
swept under the mats." It was judging piety by a material test.

There is no trust surer than the conclusions of reason and science. What
is incapable of proof is usually decided by desire, and is without the
conditions of uniformity or certitude.

Duty consists in doing the right because it is just to others, and
because we must set the example of doing right to others, or we have no
claim that others shall do right to us. Certitude is best obtained by
the employment of material means, because we can better calculate them,
and because they are less likely to evade us, or betray us, than any
other means available to us.

Orthodox religions are pale in the face now. They still keep the word
of material promise to the ear, and break it to the heart; and a great
number of people now know it, and many of the clergy know that they know
it. The poor need material aid, and prayer is the way not to get
it; while science, more provident than faith, has brought the people
generous gifts, and inspired them with just expectations. What men need
is a guide which stands on a business footing. The Churches administer
a system of foreign affairs in a very loose way, quite inconsistent with
sound commercial principles. For instance, a firm giving checks on
a bank in some distant country--not to be found in any gazetteer of
ascertained places, nor laid down in any chart, and from which
no persons who ever set out in search of it were ever known to
return--would do very little business among prudent men. Yet this is
precisely the nature of the business engaged in by orthodox firms.

On the other hand, Secularism proposes to transact the business of
life on purely mercantile principles. It engages only in that class of
transactions the issue of which can be tested by the experience of this
life. Its checks, if I may so speak, are drawn upon duty, good sense,
and material effort, and are to be cashed from proceeds arising in our
midst--under our own eyes--subject to ordinary commercial tests. Nature
is the banker who pays all notes held by those who observe its laws. To
use the words of Macbeth, it is here, "on this bank and shoal of time"
upon which we are cast, that nature pays its checks, and not elsewhere;
which are honored now, and not in an unknown world, in some unknown
time, and in an entirely unknown way. By lack of judgment, or sense, the
Secularist may transact bad business; but he gives good security. His
surety is experience. His references are to the facts of the present
time. He puts all who have dealings with him on their guard. Secularism
tells men that they must look out for themselves, act for themselves,
within the limits of neither injuring nor harming others. Secularism
does not profess to be infallible, but it acts on honest principles. It
seeks to put progress on the business footing of good faith.* Adherents
who accept the theory of this life for this life dwell in a land of
their own--the land of certitude. Science and utilitarian morality are
kings in that country, and rule there by right of conquest over error
and superstition. In the kingdom of Thought there is no conquest
over men, but over foolishness only. Outside the world of science and
morality lies the great Debatable Ground of the existence of Deity and
a Future State. The Ruler of the Debatable Ground is named Probability,
and his two ministers are Curiosity and Speculation. Over that mighty
plain, which is as wide as the universe and as old as time, no voice of
the gods has ever been heard, and no footsteps of theirs have ever been
traced. Philosophers have explored the field with telescopes of a longer
range than the eyes of a thousand saints, and have recognised nothing
save the silent and distant horizon. Priests have denounced them for
not perceiving what was invisible. Sectaries have clamored, and the
most ignorant have howled--as the most ignorant always do--that there
is something there, because they want to see it. All the while the white
mystery is still unpenetrated in this life.

     * See Secularism a Religion which Gives Heaven no Trouble.

But a future being undisclosed is no proof that there is no future.
Those who reason through their desires will believe there is; those who
reason through their understanding may yet hope that there is. In the
meantime, all stand before the portals of the untrodden world in equal
unknowingness. If faith can be piety, work is more so. To bring new
beauty out of common life--is not that piety? To change blank stupidity
into intelligent admiration of any work of nature--is not that piety? If
our towns and streets be made to give gladness and cheerfulness to all
who live or walk therein--is not that piety? If the prayer of innocence
ascend to heaven through a pure atmosphere, instead of through the
noisome and polluted air of uncleanness common in the purlieus of towns
and of churches, and even cathedrals--is not that piety? Can we, in
these days, conceive of religious persons being ignorant and dirty?
Yet they abound. If, therefore, we send to heaven clean, intelligent,
bright-minded saints--is not that piety? It is no bad religion--as
religions go--to believe in the good God of knowledge and cleanliness
and cheerfulness and beauty, and offer at his altar the daily sacrifice
of intelligent sincerity and material service.

We leave to others their own way of faith and worship. We ask only
leave to take our own. Carlyle has told us that only two men are to be
honored, and no third--the mechanic and the thinker: he who works with
honest hand, making the world habitable; and he who works with his
brain, making thought artistic and true. "All the rest," he adds with
noble scorn, "are chaff, which the wind may blow whither it list-eth."
The certainty of heaven is for the useful alone. Mere belief is the
easiest, the poorest, the shabbiest device by which conscientious men
ever attempted to scale the walls of Paradise.


     "It was one of the secrets of my craft in the old days, when
     I wanted to weld iron or work steel to a fine purpose, to
     begin gently. If I began, as all learners do, to strike my
     heaviest blows at the start, the iron would crumble instead
     of welding, or the steel would suffer under my hammer, so
     that when it came to be tempered it would 'fly,' as we used
     to say, and rob the thing I had made of its finest quality."

     --Robert Coliyer, D. D.

"THEY who believe that they have truth ask no favor, save that of being
heard; they dare the judgment of mankind; refused co-operation, they
invoke opposition, for opposition is their opportunity." This was the
maxim I wrote at the beginning of the Secularistic movement, to show
that we were willing to accept ourselves the controversy, which we
contended was the sole means of establishing truth. No proposition, as
Samuel Bailey showed, is to be trusted until it has been tested by very
wide discussion. We soon found that the free and open field of Milton
was not sufficient. It needed a "fair" as well as a "free and open
encounter." Disputants require to be equally matched in debate as in

The Secularist policy is to accept the purely moral teaching of
the Bible, and to controvert its theology, in such respects as it
contradicts and discourages ethical effort. Yet theological questions
are always sought to be forced upon us. The Rev. Henry Townley followed
me to the _Leader_ office (1853-1854) to induce me to discuss the
question of the "existence of God." I never had done so, and objected
that it would give the impression that Secularism was atheistic. He was
so insistent and importunate that I consented to discuss the question
with him. Never after did I do so with any one. The Rev. Brewin Grant
endeavored to get my acceptance of propositions which pledged me to a
wild opposition to Christianity. Mr. Samuel Morley, honorable in all
things, admitted I had objected to it, but in the end I assented to
it, that the discussion might not be broken off. Thomas Cooper was
persistent that I should discuss with him the authenticity of the
Scriptures. What I proposed was the proposition that the authenticity of
the Scripture, its miracles, and prophecies are quite apart from moral

The discussion took place in the city of York, lasting five nights.
Canon Robinson and Canon Hey presided alternately. Mr. Cooper was an
able man in dealing with the stock propositions of Christianity; but
their relevance as tests of morality was an entirely new subject to him.
He protested rather than reasoned, and declared he would never discuss
the question of the ethical test of the truth of Scriptures; nor have I
ever found any responsible minister willing to do so down to this
day. Thus Christians should condemn with reservation the tendency in
Secularists to debate theology, seeing how reluctant they are to do
otherwise themselves. Christians seem incapable of understanding how
much the objection to their cause arises in the revolt of the moral
sense against it.

On first meeting Richard Carlile in 1842, some years before Secularism
took a distinctive form, he invited me to hear him lecture upon the
principles of the _Christian Warrior_,* of which he was editor, and to
give my opinion thereon. In doing so I explained the ideas from which
I have never departed; namely, that no theologic, astronomic, or
miraculous mode of proving Scriptural doctrine could ever be made even
intelligible, except to students of very considerable research.
Such theories, I contended, must rest, more or less, on critical and
conjectural interpretation, and could never enable a workingman to dare
the understanding of others in argument. Scientific interpretation laid
entirely outside Christian requirements, and seemed to Christians
as disingenuous evasion of what they took to be obvious truths. My
contention was that the people have no historic or critical knowledge
enabling them to determine the divine origin of Christianity.

     * The last periodical Mr. Carlile edited.

On the platform he who has most knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin
will always be able to silence any dissentient who has not equal
information. If by accident a controversialist happen to possess this
knowledge, it goes for nothing unless he has credit for classical
competency. In controversy of this nature it is not enough for a man
to know; he must be known to know before his conclusions can command
attention. To myself it was not of moment whether the Scriptures were
authentic or inspired. My sole inquiry was, Did they contain clear moral
guidance? If they did, I accepted that guidance with gratitude. If I
found maxims obviously useful and true, judged by human experience, I
adopted them, whether given by inspiration or not. If precepts did not
answer to this test, they were not acceptable, though all the apostles
in session had signed them. To miracles I did not object, nor did I see
any sense in endeavoring to explain them away. We all have reason to
regret that no one performs them now. It was our misfortune that the
power, delegated with so much pomp of promise to the saints, had not
descended to these days. If any preacher or deacon could, in our day,
feed five thousand men on a few loaves and a few small fishes, and leave
as many baskets of fragments as would run a workhouse for a month, the
Poor Law Commissioners would make a king of that saint. But if a precept
enjoined me to believe what was not true, it would be a base precept,
and all the miracles in the Scriptures could not alter its character;
while, if a precept be honest and just, no miracle is wanted to attest
it; indeed, a miracle to allure credence in it would only cast suspicion
on its genuineness. The moral test of the Scriptures was sufficient,
since it had the commanding advantage of appealing to the common sense
of all sorts and conditions of men, of Christian or of Pagan persuasion.
Ethical criticism has this further merit, that on the platform of
discussion the miner, the weaver, or farm-laborer is on the same level
as the priest. A man goes to heaven upon his own judgment; whereas,
if his belief is based on the learning of others, he goes to heaven

When Mr. J. A. Froude wrote for John Henry Newman the Life of St.
Belletin, he ended with the words: "And this is all that is known, _and
more than all_, of the life of a servant of God." In the Bible there
appears to be a great deal more than was ever known. This does not
concern the Secularist, though it does the scholar. If there be moral
maxims in the Scripture, what does it matter how they got there?


     "There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight"


IN 1847 I commenced in the _Reasoner_ what I entitled "The Moral Remains
of the Bible,"--a selection of some splendid moral stories, incidents,
and sentences having ethical characteristics such as I doubted not would
"remain" when the Bible came to be regarded as a human book. I wrote
a "Logic of Life."* My _Trial of Theism_ was only "as accused of
obstructing Secular life," as stated on the title-page. The object was
to show how much useful criticism could be entered upon without touching
the questions of authenticity, or miracles, or the existence of deity.
Thus it was left to opponents to declare that things morally incredible
were inspired by God. In this case it was not I, but _they_, who

     * Companion to the "Logic of Death," both contained in The
     Trial of Theism.

Take the case of Samson's famous engagement with the Philistines at
Ramath,--Lehi surrounded by a band of warlike Philistines (though,
as the text implies, 3,000 of his own armed countrymen were at hand).
Samson, who had no weapon, was not given one by them, but had to look
about for a "new jawbone of an ass." With this singular instrument he
killed, one after the other, a thousand Philistine soldiers, who were
big, strong men, and, unless every blow was fatal, it must have taken
several blows to kill some of them.

Are there three places in the human body where a single blow will be
sure to kill a man? Did Samson know those places? And was he always
able to direct his blow with unerring precision to one or other of those
particular spots? If the thousand Philistines "surrounded" him, how did
he keep the others off while he struggled with the one he was killing?
It is not conceivable that the Philistines stood there to be killed, and
meekly submitted to ignoble blows, death, and degradation. The jawbone
must have been of strange texture to have crashed through armor,
and have turned aside spears and swords of stalwart warriors without
chipping, splitting, or breaking in two. What time it must have taken
Samson to pursue each man, beat off his comrades, drag him from their
midst, give him the asinine _coup de grâce_, drag and cast his dead body
upon the "heaps" of slain he was piling up! What struggling, scuffling,
and turmoil of blood and blows Samson must have gone through! Spurted
all over with blood, Barnum would have bought him for a Dime Museum
as the deepest-colored Red Indian known. No Deerfoot could have been
nimbler than Samson must have been on this mighty day. When this
Herculean fight was over, which, with the utmost expedition, must have
occupied Samson six days,--which would give 166 killed single-handed per
day,--the only effect produced upon Samson appears to have been that he
was "sore athirst." Even after this extraordinary use of the jawbone it
was in such good condition that, a hollow place being "clave" in it, a
fount of water gushed forth for refreshing this remarkable warrior. Were
it not recorded in the Bible, it would be said that the writer intended
to imply that the jawbone of the ass is to be found only in the mouth of
the reader.

Can it need miracle or prophecy, authenticity, or inspiration, to attest
this story of the Jewish Jack-the-Giant-killer? What moral good can
arise from a narration which it is reverence to reject? By leaving it to
the Christian to say it is given by "inspiration" of God, it is he
who blasphemes. But if the question of authenticity were raised, the
character of the narrative would be lost sight of, and would not
come into question; while the test of moral probability decides the
invalidity of the story within the compass of the knowledge of an
ordinary audience.

In the same manner, keeping to the policy of affirmation, he who
maintains the self-existence, the self-action, and eternity of the
universe can be met only by those who defame nature as a second-hand
tool of God. Such are atheists towards nature, the author of their
existence, and God must so regard them.

A single precept of Christ's, "Take no thought for the morrow," has
bred swarms of mendicants in every age since this day; but a far more
dangerous precept is "Resist not evil," which has made Christianity
welcome to so many tyrants. Christ, whatever other sentiments he had,
had a slave heart. Every friend of freedom knows that "resistance is the
backbone of the world." The patriot poet* exclaims:

     "Land of our Fathers--in their hour of need
     God help them, guarded by the passive creed."

     * Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes.

No miracle could make these precepts true, and he who proved their
authenticity would be the enemy of mankind.

Whether Christ existed or not affects in no way what excellence and
inimitableness there was in his delineated character. His offer of
palpable materialistic evidence to Thomas showed that he recognised the
right of scepticism to relevant satisfaction. His concession of proof in
this case needed no supernatural testimony to render it admirable.

The reader will now see what the policy of Secularist advocacy
is,--mainly to test theology by its ethical import. To many all policy
is restraint; they cry down policy, and erect blundering into a virtue.

Whereas policy is guidance to a chosen end. Mathematics is but the
policy of measurement; grammar but the policy of speech; logic but the
policy of reason; arithmetic but the policy of calculation; temperance
but the policy of health; trigonometry but the policy of navigation;
roads but the policy of transit; music but the policy of controlling
sound; art but the policy of beauty; law but the policy of protection;
discipline but the policy of strength; love but the policy of affection.
An enemy may object to an adversary having a policy, because he is
futile without one. The policy adopted may be bad, but no policy at all
is idiocy, and commits a cause to the providence of Bedlam.


     "What is written by Moses can only be read by God."

     --Bikar Proverb.

SECULARISM differs from Christianism in so far as it accepts only the
teachings which pertain to man, and which are consonant with reason and

Parts of the Bible have moral splendor in them, but no Christian will
allow any one to take the parts he deems true, and reject as untrue
those he deems false. He who ventured to be thus eclectic would be
defamed as Paine was. Thus Christians compel those who would stand by
reason to stand apart from them.

To accept a part, and put that forward as the whole--to pretend or even
to assume it to be the whole--is dishonest. To retain a portion, and
reject what you leave, and not say so, is deceiving. To contend that
what you accept as the spirit of Christianity is in accordance with
all that contradicts it, is to spend your days in harmonising opposite
statements--a pursuit demoralising to the understanding. The Secularist
has, therefore, to choose between dishonesty, the deception of
others and deception of himself, or ethical principles independent of
Christianity--and this is what he does:

The Bible being a bundle of Hebrew tracts on tribal life and tribal
spite, its assumed infallibility is a burden, contradicting and
misleading to all who accept it as a divine handbook of duty.

In papers issued by religious societies upon the Bible it is declared to
be "so complete a system that nothing can be added to it, or taken from
it," and that "it contains everything needful to be known or done." This
is so false that no one, perceiving it, could be honest and not protest
against it in the interest of others. Recently the Bishop of Worcester
said: "It was of no use resisting the Higher Criticism. God had not been
pleased to give us what might be called a perfect Bible."* Then it is
prudence to seek a more trustworthy guide.

     * Midland Evening News, 1893.

If money were bequeathed to maintain the eclectic criticism of the
Scripture, it would be confiscated by Christian law. So to stand apart
is indispensable self-defence. Individual Christians, as I well know,
devote themselves with a noble earnestness to the service of man, as
they understand his interests; but so long as Christianity retains the
power of fraud, and uses it, Christianism as a system, or as a cause,
remains outside the pale of respect. Prayer, in which the oppressed and
poor are taught to trust, is of no avail for protection or food, and the
poor ought to know it. The Bishop of Manchester declared, in my hearing,
that the Lord's Prayer will not bring us "daily bread," but that "it
is an exercise of faith to ask for what we shall not receive." But if
prayer will not bring "daily bread," it is a dangerous deception to keep
up the belief that it will. The eyes of forethought are closed by trust
in such aid, thrift is an affront to the generosity of heaven, and
labor is foolishness. But, alas! aid does not come by supplication. The
prayer-maker dies in mendicancy. It is not reverence 'to pour into
the ears of God praise for protection never accorded. Dean Stanley,
admirable as a man as well as a saint, was killed in the Deanery,
Westminster, by a bad drain, in spite of all his Collects. Dean Farrar
has been driven from St. Margaret's Rectory, in Dean's Yard, by another
drain, which poisons in spite of the Thirty-nine Articles; and Canon
Eyton refuses to take up his residence until the sanitary engineers have
overhauled* the place, which, notwithstanding the invocations of
the Church, Providence does not see to. To keep silence on the
non-intervention of Providence would be to connive at the fate of those
who come to destruction by such dependence.

     "O mother, praying God will save
     Thy sailor!
     While thy head is bowed,
     His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud
     Drops in his vast and wandering grave!"

     * See Westminister Gazette London Letter, November 19, 1895.

True respect would treat God as though at the least he is a gentlemen.
Christianity does not do this. No gentleman would accept thanks for
benefits he had not conferred, nor would he exact thanks daily and
hourly for gifts he had really made, nor have the vanity to covet
perpetual thanksgivings. He who would respect God, or respect himself,
must seek a faith apart from such Christianity.

A divine, who excelled in good sense, said: "Dangerous it were for the
feeble brain of man to wade far into the doings of the Most High. Our
soundest knowledge is, to know that we know him not; _and our safest
eloquence concerning Him is our silence_; therefore it be-hoveth our
words to be wary and few."*

Mrs. Barbauld may have borrowed from Richard Hooker her fine line:

     "Silence is our least injurious praise."**

     * Ecclesiastical Polity, book I., | 2.

     ** Charles Lamb was of this opinion when he remarked: "Had I
     to say grace, I would rather say it over a good book than
     over a mutton chop." Christians say grace over an
     indigestible meal. But perhaps they are right, since they
     need supernatural aid to assimilate it.

An earnest Christian, not a religious man (for all Christians are not
religious), assuming the professional familiarity with the mind of God,
said to me: "Should the Lord call you to-day, are you prepared to meet
Him?" I answered: Certainly; for the service of man in some form is
seldom absent from my thoughts, and must be consonant with his will.
Were I to pray, I should pray God to spare me from the presumption of
expecting to meet him, and from the vanity and conceit of thinking that
the God of the universe will take an opportunity of meeting me.

Who can have moral longing for a religion which represents God as
hanging over York Castle to receive the soul of Dove, the debauchee, who
slowly poisoned his wife, and whose final spiritual progress was posted
day by day on the Castle gates until the hour of the hangman came?
Dove's confession was as appalling as instructive. It ran thus:

     "I know that the Eternal One,
     Upon His throne divine,
     Gorged with the blood of His own Son,
     No longer thirsts for mine.

     "Many a man has passed his life
     In doing naught but good,
     Who has not half the confidence I have
     In Jesus Christ, His blood."*

     * From a volume of verse privately circulated in Liverpool
     at the time, by W. H. Rathbone.

By quoting these lines, which Burns might have written, the writer is
sorry to portray, in their naked form, principles which so many cherish.
But the anatomy of creeds can no more be explained, with the garments
of tradition and sentiment upon them, than a surgeon can demonstrate
the structure of the body with the clothes on. Divine perdition is an
ethical impossibility.

Christianism is too often but a sour influence on life. It tolerates
nature, but does not enjoy it. Instead of giving men two Sundays, as it
might,--one for recreation and one for contemplation,--it converts the
only day of the poor into a penal infliction. It is always more or less
against art, parks, clubs, sanitation, equity to labor, freedom, and
many other things. If any Christians eventually accept these material
ideas, they mostly dislike them. Art takes attention from the Gospel.
In parks many delight to walk, when they might be at chapel or
church. Clubs teach men toleration, and toleration is thought to
beget indifference. Sanitation is a form of blasphemy. Every Christian

     "Diseases are Thy servants, Lord;
     They come at Thy command."

But sanitation assassinates these "servants of the Lord." In every
hospital they are tried, condemned, and executed as the enemies of
mankind. If labor had justice, it would be independent, and no longer
hopeless, as the poor always are. Freedom renders men defiant of
subjection, which all priests are prone to exercise. Secularism has
none of this distrust and fear. It elects to be on the side of human
progress, and takes that side, withstand it who may. Thus, those who
care for the improvement of mankind must act on principles dissociated
from doctrines repellent to humanity and deterrent of ameliorative


     "Mankind is an ass, who kicks those who endeavor to take off
     his panniers."

     --Spanish Proverb.

NO ONE need go to Spain to meet with animals who kick you if you serve
them. Spanish asses are to be found in every land. Could we see the legs
of truth, we should find them black and blue with the kicks received in
unloosening the panniers of error, strapped by priests on the backs of
the people. Even philosophers kick as well as the ignorant, when new
ideas are brought before them. No improvement would ever be attempted if
friends of truth were afraid of the asses' hoofs in the air.

He who maintains that mankind can be largely improved by material means,
imposes on himself the responsibility of employing such means, and
of promoting their use as far as he can, and trusting to their
efficacy,--not being discouraged because he is but one, and mankind are
many. No man can read all the books, or do all the work, of the world.
It is enough that each reads what he needs, and, in matter of moral
action, does all he can. He who does less, fails in his duty to himself
and to others.

Christian doctrine has none of the responsibility which Secularism
imposes. If there be vice or rapine, oppression or murder, the purely
Christian conscience is absolved. It is the Lord's world, and nothing
could occur unless he permitted it. If any Christian heart is moved to
compassion, it commonly exudes in prayer. He "puts the matter before the
Lord and leaves it in His hands." The Secularist takes it into his own.
What are his hands for? The Christian can sit still and see children
grow up with rickets in their body and rickets in their soul. He will
see them die in a foul atmosphere, where no angel could come to receive
their spirit without first stopping his nose with his handkerchief, as
I have seen Lord Palmerston do on entering Harrow on Speech Day. The
Christian can make money out of unrequited labor. When he dies, he makes
no reparation to those who earned his wealth, but leaves it to build a
church, as though he thought God was blind, not knowing (if Christ spake
truly) that the Devil is sitting in the fender in his room, ready to
carry his soul up the chimney to bear Dives company. Why should he be
anxious to mitigate inequality of human condition? It is the Lord's
will, or it would not be. When it was seen that I was ceasing to believe
this, Christians in the church to which I belonged knelt around me, and
prayed that I might be influenced not to go out into the world to see
if these things could be improved. It was no light duty I imposed on

A Secularist is mindful of Carlyle's saying, "No man is a saint in his
sleep." Indeed, if any one takes upon himself the responsibility of
bettering by reason the state of things, he will be kept pretty well
awake with his understanding.

Many persons think their own superiority sufficient for mankind, and do
not wish their exclusiveness to be encroached upon. Their plea is that
they distrust the effect of setting the multitude free from mental
tyranny, and they distrust democracy, which would sooner or later end
political tyranny.

These men of dainty distrust have a crowd of imitators, in whom nobody
recognises any superiority to justify their misgivings as to others. The
distrust of independence in the hands of the people arises mainly from
the dislike of the trouble it takes to educate the ignorant in its use
and limit. The Secularist undertakes this trouble as far as his means
permit. As an advocate of open thought and the free action of opinion,
he counts the responsibility of trust in the people as a duty.

It will be asked, What are the deterrent influences upon which
Secularism relies for rendering vice, of the major or minor kind,
repellent? It relies upon making it clear that in the order of nature
retribution treads upon the heels of transgression, and, if tardy in
doing it, its steps should be hastened.

The mark of error of life is--disease. Science can take the body to
pieces, and display mischief palpable to the eyes, when the results of
vice startle, like an apparition, those who discern that:

     "Their acts their angels are,--if good; if ill,
     Their fatal shadows that walk by them still."

A man is not so ready to break the laws of nature when he sees he will
break himself in doing it. He may not fear God, but he fears fever
and consumption. He may have a gay heart, but he will not like the
occupation of being his own sexton and digging his own grave. When he
sees that death lurks in the frequent glass, for instance, that spoils
the flavor of the wine. He takes less pride in the beeswing who sees
the shroud in the bottle. He may hope that God will forgive him, but he
knows that death will not. He who holds the scythe is accustomed to cut
down fools, whether they be peers or sweeps. Death knows the fool at a
glance. To prevent any mistake, Disease has marked him with her broad
arrow. The young man who once has his eyes well open to this state
of the case, will be considerate as to the quality of his pleasures,
especially when he knows that alluring but unwholesome pleasure is in
the pay of death. Temperance advocates made more converts by exhibiting
the biological effects of alcohol than by all their exhortations.

The moral nature of man is as palpable as the physical to those who look
for its signs. There is a moral squint in the judgment, as plain to be
seen as a cast in the eyes. The voice is not honest; it has the accent
of a previous conviction in it. The speech has contortions of meaning in
it. The sense is limp and flaccid, showing that the mind is flabby.
Such a one has the backbone of a fish; he does not stand upright. As the
Americans say, he does not "stand square" to anything. There is no moral
pulse in his heart. If you could take hold of his soul, it would feel
like a dead oyster, and would slip through your fingers. Everybody knows
these people. You don't consult them; you don't trust them. You would
rather have no business transactions with them. If they are in a
political movement, you know they will shuffle when the pinch of
principle comes.

Crime has its consequences, and criminals, little and great, know it.
When Alaric A. Watts wrote of the last Emperor of the French:--

     "Safe art thou, Louis!--for a time;
     But tremble!--never yet was crime,
     Beyond one little space, secure.
     The coward and the brave alike
     Can wait and watch, can rush and strike.
     Which marks thee?   One of them, be rare,--"

few thought the bold prediction true; but it came to pass, and the
Napoleonic name and race became extinct, to the relief of Europe.

Trouble comes from avowing unpopular ideas. Diderot well saw this when
he said: "There is less inconvenience in being mad with the mad than
in being wise by oneself." One who regards truth as duty will accept
responsibilities. It is the American idea

     "To make a man and leave him be."

But we must be sure we have made him a man,--self-acting, guided by
reasoned proof, and one who, as Archbishop Whately said, "believes the
principles he maintains, and maintains them because he believes them."

A man is not a man while under superstition, nor is he a man when free
from it, unless his mind is built on principles conducive and incentive
to the service of man.


     "So many gods, so many creeds--
     So many paths that wind and wind,
     While just the art of being kind
     Is all the sad world needs."

     --Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

LADY HESTER STANHOPE said she knew "Lord Byron must be a bad man, for he
was always _intending_ something." Any improvement in the method of
life is "intending something," and society ought to be tolerant of those
whose badness takes no worse form. The rules Secularism prescribes
for human conduct are few, and no intelligent preacher would say they
indicate a dangerous form of "badness." They are:

1. Truth in speech.

2. Honesty in transaction.

3. Industry in business.

4. Equity in according the gain among those whose diligence and
vigilance help to produce it.

     "Though this world be but a bubble,
     Two things stand like stone--
     Kindness in another's trouble,
     Courage in your own."

Learning and fortune do but illuminate these virtues. They cannot
supersede them. The germs of these qualities are in every human heart.
It is only necessary that we cultivate them. Men are like billiard
balls--they would all go into the right pockets in a few generations, if
rightly propelled. Yet these principles, simple and unpretending as
they are, being founded on considerations apart from modes of orthodox
thought, have had a militant career. The Spanish proverb has been in
request: "Beware of an ox before, of a mule behind, and of a monk
on every side." The monk, tonsured and untonsured, is found in every

In Glasgow I sometimes delivered lectures on the Sunday in a quaint old
hall situated up a wynd in Candleriggs. On the Saturday night I gave a
woman half-a-crown to wash and whiten the stairs leading to the hall,
and the passage leading to the street and across the causeway, so
that the entrance to the hall should be clean and sweet. Sermons were
preached in the same hall when the stairs were repulsively dirty. The
woman remarked to a neighbor that "Mr. Holyoake's views were wrang, but
he seemed to have clean principles." He who believes in the influence
of material conditions will do what he can to have them pure, not
only where he speaks, but where he frequents and where he resides. The
theological reader, who by accident or curiosity looks over these pages,
will find much from which he will dissent; but I hope he will be able
to regard this book as one of "clean principles," as far as the limited
light of the author goes. Accepting the "golden rule" of Huxley--"Give
unqualified assent to no propositions but those the truth of which is so
clear and distinct that they cannot be doubted"--causes the Secularist
to credit less than his neighbors, and that goes against him; being, as
it were, a reproach of their avidity of belief. One reason for writing
this book is to explain--to as many of the new generation as may
happen to read it--the discrimination of Secularism. Newspapers and the
clerical class, who ought to be well informed, continually speak of mere
free-thinking as Secularism. How this has been caused has already been
indicated. Two or three remarkable and conspicuous representatives of
free thought, who found iconoclasticism easier, less responsible,
and more popular, have given to many erroneous impressions. When
Mr. Bradlaugh, Mrs. Besant, and Mr. Foote came into the Secularistic
movement, which preceded their day, they gave proof that they understood
its principles, which they afterwards disregarded or postponed. I cite
their opinions lest the reader should think that this book gives an
account of a form of thought not previously known. One wrote:

"From very necessity, Secularism is affirmative and constructive; it
is impossible to thoroughly negate any falsehood without making more or
less clear the opposing truth."*

     *  "Secularism: What Is It?"   National Secular Society's
     Tracts--No. 7. By Charles Bradlaugh.


"Secularism conflicts with theology in this: that the Secularist teaches
the improvability of humanity by human means; while the theologian
not only denies this, but rather teaches that the Secular effort is
blasphemous and unavailing unless preceded and accompanied by reliance
on divine aid."*

Mrs. Besant said:

"Still we have won a plot of ground--men's and women's hearts. To them
Secularism has a message; to them it brings a rule of conduct; to them
it gives a test of morality, and a guide through the difficulties of
life. Our morality is tested only--be it noted--by utility in this life
and in this world."**

Mr. Foote was not less discerning and usefully explicit, saying:

"Secularism is founded upon the distinction between the things of time
and the things of eternity.... The good of others Secularism declares
to be the law of morality; and although certain theologies secondarily
teach the same doctrine, yet they differ from Secularism in founding
it upon the supposed will of God, thus admitting the possibility of its
being set aside in obedience to some other equally or more imperative
divine injunction."***

     * "Why Are We Secularists?" National Secular Society's
     Tracts--No. 8. By Charles Bradlaugh.

     ** "Secular Morality." National Secular Society's Tracts--
     No. 3. By Annie Besant.

     *** Secularism and Its Misrepresentation, by G. W. Foote,
     who subsequently succeeded Mr. Bradlaugh as President of the
     National Secular Society.

For several years the _National Reformer_ bore the subtitle of "Secular

We could not expect early concurrence with the policy of preferring
ethical to theological questions of theism and unprovable immortality.
We accepted the maxim of Sir Philip Sydney--namely, that "Reason cannot
show itself more reasonable than to leave reasoning on things above
reason." We are not in the land of the real yet, common sense is not
half so romantic to the average man as the transcendental, and an
atheistical advocacy got the preference with the impetuous. The
Secularistic proposal to consult the instruction of an adversary proved
less exciting than his destruction. The patience and resource it implies
to work by reason alone are not to the taste of those to whom a kick is
easier than a kindness, and less troublesome than explanation. Those who
have the refutatory passion intense say you must clear the ground before
you can build upon it. Granted; nevertheless, the signs of the times
show that a good deal of ground has been cleared. The instinct of
progress renders the minority, who reflect, more interested in the
builder than the undertaker. What would be thought of a general who
delayed occupying a country he had conquered until he had extirpated all
the inhabitants in it? So, in the kingdom of error, he who will go on
breaking images, without setting statues up in their place, will give
superstition a long life. The savage man does not desert his idols
because you call them ugly. It is only by slow degrees, and under the
influence of better-carved gods, that his taste is changed and his
worship improved. The reader will see that Secularism leaves the mystery
of deity to the chartered imagination of man, and does not attempt
to close the door of the future, but holds that the desert of another
existence belongs only to those who engage in the service of man in this
life. Prof. F. W. Newman says: "The conditions of a future life being
unknown, there is no imaginable means of benefiting ourselves and others
in it, except by aiming after present goodness."*

Men have a right to look beyond this world, but not to overlook it.
Men, if they can, may connect themselves with eternity, but they cannot
disconnect themselves from humanity without sacrificing duty. The
purport of Secularism is not far from the tenor of the famous sermon by
the Rev. James Caird, of which the Queen said:

"He explained in the most simple manner what real religion is--not a
thing to drive us from the world, not a perpetual moping over 'good'
books; but being and doing good."**

     * Prof. P. W. Newman, who is always clear beyond all
     scholars, and candid beyond all theologians, has published a
     Palinode retracting former conclusions he had published, and
     admitting the uncertainty of the evidence in favor of after-

     ** The Queen on the Rev. J. Caird's sermon, Leaves from the
     Journal of Our Life in the Highlands.

This end we reach not by a theological, but by a Secular, path.


     "Prodigious actions may as well be done
     By weaver's issue as by prince's son."


SO FAR as Secularism is reasonable, it must be self-extending among all
who think. Adherents of that class are slowly acquired. Accessions begin
in criticism, though that, as we have seen, is apt to stop there. In
all movements the most critical persons are the least suggestive of
improvements. Constructiveness only excites enthusiasm in fertile
minds. After the Cowper Street Discussion with the Rev. Brewin Grant in
1853, see Chapter X, page 50, societies, halls, and newspapers adopted
the Secular name. In 1863 appeared the _Christian Reasoner_, edited by
the Rev. Dr. Rylance, a really reasoning clergyman, whom I afterwards
had the pleasure to know in New York. His publication was intended to be
a substitute for the _Reasoner_, which I had then edited for seventeen
years. But when the _Reasoner_ commenced, in 1846, Christian believing
was far more thought of than Christian reasoning. One line in Dr.
Rylance's _Christian Reasoner_ was remarkable, which charged us with
"forgetfulness of the necessary incompleteness of Re-velation."

So far from forgetting it, it was one of the grounds on which Secularism
was founded. However, it is to the credit of Dr. Rylance that he should
have preceded, by thirty years, the Bishop of Worcester in discerning
the shortcomings of Revelation, as cited in Chapter XIX, page 101.

In 1869 we obtained the first Act of Secular affirmation, which Mr. J.
S. Mill said was mainly due to my exertions, and to my example of never
taking an oath. In obtaining the Act, I had no help from Mr. Bradlaugh,
he being an ostentatious oath-taker at that time. It was owing to Mr.
G. W. Hastings (then, or afterwards, M. P.), the founder of the Social
Science Association, that the Affirmation clause was added to the Act of
1869. One of the objects we avowed was "to procure a law of affirmation
for persons who objected to take the oath."*

Another of our aims was stated to be: "To convert churches and chapels
into temples of instruction for the people.... to solicit priests to
be teachers of useful knowledge."** We strove to promote these ends
by holding in honor all who gave effect to such human precepts as were
contained in Christianity. This fairness and justice has led many to
suppose that I accepted the theological as well as the ethical passages
in the Scriptures. But how can a Christian preacher be inclined to risk
the suspicion of the narrower-minded members of his congregation, if no
one gives him credit for doing right when he does it?

     * Secularism the Practical Philosophy of the People, p. 13;
     1854. Fifteen years before the first Act was passed.

     ** Secularism the Practical Philosophy of the People, by G.
     J. Holyoake, p. 12; 1854.

With our limited means and newness of doctrine, we could not hope to
rival an opulent hierarchy and occupy its temples; but we knew that the
truth, if we had it, and could diffuse it in a reasonable manner, would
make its way and gradually change the convictions of a theological
caste. The very nature of Free-thought makes it impossible for a long
time yet, that we should have many wealthy or well-placed supporters.
Where the platform is open to every subject likely to be of public
service--subjects suppressed everywhere else, and open to the discussion
of the wise or foolish present who may arise to speak, outrages of good
taste will occur. Persons who forget that abuse does not destroy use,
and that freedom is more precious than propriety, cease to support a
free-speaking Society. The advocacy of slave emancipation was once an
outrage in America. It is now regarded as the glory of the nation. In
an eloquent passage it has been pointed out what society owes to the
unfriended efforts of those who established and have maintained the
right of free speech.

"Theology of the old stamp, so far from encouraging us to love nature,
teaches us that it is under a curse. It teaches us to look upon the
animal creation with shuddering disgust; upon the whole race of man,
outside our narrow sect, as delivered over to the Devil; and upon the
laws of nature at large as a temporary mechanism, in which we have been
caught, but from which we are to anticipate a joyful deliverance. It is
science, not theology, which has changed all this; it is the atheists,
infidels, and rationalists, as they are kindly called, who have taught
us to take fresh interest in our poor fellow denizens of the world, and
not to despise them because Almighty Benevolence could not be expected
to admit them to Heaven. To the same teaching we owe the recognition
of the noble aspirations embodied in every form of religion, and the
destruction of the ancient monopoly of divine influences."*

     * Leslie Stephens's Freetkinking and Plain Speaking.

Those who, in storm and stress, bring truth into the world may not be
able to complete its triumph, but it makes its own way, and finally
conquers the understanding of mankind.

Priestley, without fortune, with only the slender income of a Unitarian
minister, created and kept up a chemical laboratory. There alone he
discovered oxygen. Few regarded him, few applauded him; only a few
Parisian philosophers thanked him. He had no disciples to spread his new
truth. He was not even tolerated in the town which he endowed with
the fame of his priceless discovery. His house was burnt by a
Church-and-King mob; his instruments, books, and manuscripts destroyed;
and he had to seek his fortune in a foreign land.

Yet what has come out of his discovery? It has become part of the
civilisation of the world, and mankind owe more to him than they yet

When a young man, he forsook the Calvinism in which he was reared. "I
came," he said, "to embrace what is called heterodox views on every
question."* He cared for this world as well as for another, and hence
was distrusted by all "true believers." Though he had "spiritual hopes,"
he agreed that he should be called a materialist.

We have now had (1895) a London Reform Sunday, more than two hundred and
fifty (one list gave four hundred) preachers of all denominations
taking for their unprecedented text, "The Duties and Responsibilities
of Citizenship,"--a thing the most sanguine deemed incredible when
suggested by me in 1854.** Within twenty years Dr. Felix Adler has
founded noble Ethical Societies. Dr. Stanton Coit is extending them
in Great Britain. They are Secularist societies in their nature. South
Place Chapel now has taken the name of Ethical Society. Since the days
of W. J. Fox, who first made it famous, it has been the only successor
in London of the Moral Church opened by Thomas Holcroft.

     * See Chambers's Encyclopaedia (1888); article: Priestley.

     ** We have now a Museum Sunday. Even twenty years ago those
     who advocated the Sunday opening of museums were counted
     irreverent and beyond the pale of grace.   Their opening is
     now legalised (1896).

Though modern Secular societies, to which these pages relate, have
been anti-theological mainly, the Secular Society of Leicester is a
distinguished exception. It has long had a noble hall of its own, and
from the earliest inception of Secularism it has been consistent and
persistent in its principles. As stated elsewhere,* the "Principles of
Secularism" were submitted to John Stuart Mill in 1854, and his approval
was of importance in the eyes of their advocates. In the first issue of
_Chambers's Encyclopaedia_ a special article appeared upon these views,
and in the later issue of that work in 1888 a new article was written
on Secularism. In the Rev. Dr. Molesworth's _History of England_ a very
clear account was given of the rise of Secularist opinions. This will be
sufficient information for readers unacquainted with the subject.

     * Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life, Chap. CX.

The cause of reason has had more to confront than the cause of
Christianity, which has always been on the side of power since the days
of Christ. The two most influential ideas which, in every age since
Christianity arose, have given it currency among the ignorant and the
credulous, have been the ideas of Hell and prayer. Hell has been the
terror, and prayer the bribe, which have won the allegiance of the
timid and the needy. These two master passions of alarm and despair have
brought the unfortunate portions of mankind to the foot of the Cross.

The cause of reason has no advantages of this nature, and only the
intelligent have confidence in its progress. If we have expected to do
more than we have, we are not the only party who have been prematurely
sanguine. The Rev. David Bogue, preaching in Whitfield's Tabernacle,
Tottenham-Court Road, at the foundation of the Foreign Missionary
Society (1790) of the Congregational denomination, exclaimed amid almost
unequalled enthusiasm: "We are called together this evening to the
funeral of bigotry." Judging from what has happened since, bigotry
was not dead when its funeral was prepared, or it was not effectually
buried, as it has been seen much about since that day.

Bigotry, like Charles II., takes an unconscionable time in dying.
Down to Sir Charles Lyell's days, so harmless a study as geology was
distrusted, and Lyell, like Priestley, had to seek auditors in America.
While he lectured at Boston to 1,500 persons, 2,000 more were unable to
obtain tickets, which were bought at a guinea each extra. At our
great ancient seat of learning, Oxford, Buckland lectured on the same
interesting subject to an audience of three.

Secularism keeps the lamp of free thought burning by aiding and honoring
all who would infuse an ethical passion into those who lead the growing
army of independent thinkers. Our lamp is not yet a large one, and its
supply of oil is limited by Christian law; but, like the fire in the
Temple of Montezuma, we keep it burning. In all the centuries since the
torch of free thought was first lighted, though often threatened, often
assailed, often dimned, it has never been extinguished. We could not
hope to captivate society by splendid edifices, nor many cultivated
advocates; but truth of principle will penetrate where those who
maintain it will never be seen and never heard. The day cometh when
other torches will be lighted at the obscure fire, which, borne aloft by
other and stronger hands, will shed lasting illumination where otherwise
darkness would permanently prevail. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning has
said: "Truth is like sacramental bread,--we must pass it on."


     "Death is the decisive test of the value of the education
     and morality of society; Secular funerals are the symbol of
     the social renovation."

     --J. P. Proudhon.

CERTAIN ceremonies are common to all human society, and should be
consistent with the opinions of those in whose name the ceremonies take
place. The marriage service of the Church contains things no bride could
hear without a blush, if she understood them; and the Burial Service
includes statements the minister ought to know to be untrue, and by
which the sadness of death is desecrated. The Secularist naturally seeks
other forms of speech. It being a principle of Secularism to endeavor to
replace what it deems bad by something better--or more consistent with
its profession--the following addresses are given. Other hands may
supply happier examples; but, in the meantime, these which follow may
meet with the needs of those who have no one at hand to speak for them,
and are not accustomed to speak for themselves.


Marriage involves several things of which few persons think beforehand,
and which it is useful to call their attention to at this time. The
bridegroom, by the act of marriage, professes that he has chosen out
of all the women of the world, known to him, the one to whom he will
be faithful while life shall last. He declares the bride to be his
preference, and, whoever he may see hereafter, or like, or love, the
door of association shall be shut upon them in his heart for ever. The
bride, on her part, declares and promises the same things. The belief
in each other's perfection is the most beautiful illusion of love.
Sometimes the illusion happily continues during life. It may happen--it
does happen sometimes--that each discovers that the other is not
perfect. The Quaker's advice was: "Open your eyes wide before marriage,
but shut them afterwards." Those who have neglected the first part of
this counsel will still profit by observing the second. Let those who
will look about, and put tormenting constructions on innocent acts:
beware of jealousy, which kills more happiness than ever Love created.

The result of marriage is usually offspring, when society will have
imposed upon it an addition to its number. It is necessary for the
credit of the parents, as well as for the welfare of the children, that
they should be born healthy, reared healthy, and be well educated; so
that they may be strong and intelligent when the time comes for them to
encounter, for themselves, the vicissitudes of life. Those who marry
are considered to foreknow and to foresee these duties, and to pledge
themselves to do the best in their power to discharge them.

In the meantime, and ever afterwards, let love reign between you.
And remember the minister of Love is deference towards each other.
Ceremonial manners are conducive to affection. Love is not a business,
but the permanence of love is a business.

Unless there are good humor, patience, pleasantness, discretion, and
forbearance, love will cease. Those who expect perfection will lose
happiness. A wise tolerance is the sunshine of love, and they who
maintain the sentiment will come to count their marriage the beginning
of the brightness of life.


In naming children it is well to avoid names whose associations pledge
the child, without its consent, to some line of action it may have no
mind to, or capacity for, when grown up. A child called "Brutus" would
be expected to stab Cæsar--and the Cæsars are always about. The name
"Washington" destroyed a politician of promise who bore it. He could
never live up to it. A name should be a pleasant mark to be known by,
not a badge to be borne.

In formally naming a child it is the parents alone to whom useful words
can be addressed.

Heredity, which means qualities derived from parentage, is a prophecy of
life. Therefore let parents render themselves as perfect in health, as
wise in mind, and as self-respecting in manners as they can; for their
qualities in some degree will appear in their offspring. One advantage
of children is that they contribute unconsciously to the education
of parents. No parents of sense can fail to see that children are as
imitative as monkeys, and have better memories. Not only do they imitate
actions, but repeat forms of expression, and will remember them ever
after. The manners of parents become more or less part of the manners
and mind of the child. Sensible parents, seeing this, will put a guard
upon their conduct and speech, so that their example in act and word may
be a store-house of manners and taste from which their children may draw
wisdom in conduct and speech. The minds of children are as photographic
plates on which parents are always printing something which will
be indelibly visible in future days. Therefore the society, the
surroundings, the teachers of the child, so far as the parents can
control them, should be well chosen, in order that the name borne by the
young shall command respect when their time comes to play a part in the
drama of life. To this end a child should be taught to take care what he
promises, and that when he has given his promise he has to keep it, for
he whose word is not to be trusted is always suspected, and his opinion
is not sought by others, or is disregarded when uttered. A child should
early learn that debt is dependence, and the habit of it is the meanness
of living upon loans. There can be no independence, no reliance upon the
character of any one, who will buy without the means of payment, or who
lives beyond his income. Such persons intend to live on the income of
some one else, and do it whether they intend it or not. He alone can be
independent who trusts to himself for advancement. No one ought to be
helped forward who does not possess this quality, or will not put his
hand to any honest work open to him. Beware of the child who has too
much pride to do what he can for his own support, but has not too much
pride to live upon his parents, or upon friends. Such pride is idleness,
or thoughtlessness, or both, unless illness causes the inability.

Since offspring have to be trained in health and educated in the
understanding, there must not be many in the family unless the parents
have property. The poor cannot afford to have many children if they
intend to do their duty by them. It is immoral in the rich to have
many because the example is bad, and because they are sooner or later
quartered upon the people to keep them; or, if they are provided for
by their parents, they are under no obligation to do anything for
themselves, which is neither good for them nor good for the community,
to which they contribute nothing.

Believing this child will be trained by its parents to be an honor to
them, and a welcome addition to the family of humanity, it is publicly
named with pleasure.



Esdras and Uriel,

[An argument in which the Prophet speaks as a Secularist.]

And the angel that was sent unto me, whose name was Uriel, said:--I am
sent to show thee three ways, and to set forth three similitudes before
thee: whereof, if thou canst declare me one, I will show thee also the
way that thou desirest to see....

And I said, Tell on, my Lord.

Then said he unto me, Go thy way; weigh me the weight of the fire, or
measure me the blast of the wind, or call me again the day that is past.

Then answered I and said, What man is able to do that, that thou
shouldest ask such things of me?

And he said unto me, If I should ask thee how great dwellings are in the
midst of the sea, or how many springs are in the beginning of the deep,
or how many springs are above the firmament, or which are the outgoings
of Paradise, peradventure thou wouldst say unto me, I never went down
into the deep, nor as yet into Hell, neither did I ever climb up into

Nevertheless, now have I asked thee but only of the fire, and wind, and
of the day wherethrough thou hast passed, and of things from which thou
canst not be separated, and yet canst thou give me no answer of them.

He said, moreover, unto me, Thine own things, and such as are grown up
with thee, canst thou not know? How should thy vessel, then, be able to
comprehend the way of the Highest?....

Then said I unto him, It were better that we were not at all than
that we should live still in wickedness and to suffer, and not to know

He answered me and said, I went into a forest, into a plain, and the
trees took counsel, and said, Come, let us go and make war against the
sea, that it may depart away before us, and that we may make us more

The floods of the sea also in like manner took counsel, and said, Come,
let us go up and subdue the woods of the plain: that there also we may
make us another country.

The thought of the wood was in vain, for the fire came and consumed it.
The thought of the floods of the sea came likewise to nought, for the
sand stood up and stopped them.

If thou wert judge now betwixt these two, whom wouldest thou begin to
justify? or whom wouldest thou condemn?

I answered, and said, Verily it is a foolish thought that they both have
devised; for the ground is given unto the wood, and the sea also hath
his place to bear his floods.

Then answered he me and said, Thou hast given a right judgment; but why
judgest thou not thyself also? For like as the ground is given unto the
woods, and the sea to his floods, even so they that dwell upon the earth
may understand nothing but that which is upon the earth: and he that
dwelleth upon the heavens may only understand the things that are above
the height of the heavens.

Then answered I and said, I beseech thee, O Lord, let me have

For it was not my mind to be curious of the high things y but of such as
pass by us daily.

Harriet Martineau's Hymn.*

     * Which may be sung where it can be so arranged.

[The only hymn known to me in which a Supreme Cause is implied without
being asserted or denied, or the reader committed to belief in it.]

     Beneath this starry arch
     Nought resteth or is still,
     But all things hold their march
     As if by one great will:
     Moves one, move all:
     Hark to the footfall!
     On, on, for ever!

     Yon sheaves were once but seed;
     Will ripens into deed.
     As eave-drops swell the streams,
     Day-thoughts feed nightly dreams;
     And sorrow tracketh wrong,
     As echo follows song,
     On, on, for ever!

     By night, like stars on high,
     The hours reveal their train;
     They whisper and go by;
     I never watch in vain:
     Moves one, move all:
     Hark to the footfall!
     On, on, for ever!

     They pass the cradle-head,
     And there a promise shed;
     They pass the moist new grave,
     And bid bright verdure wave;
     They bear through every clime,
     The harvests of all time,
     On, on, for ever!


The death of a child is alone its parents' sorrow. Too young to know,
too innocent to fear, its life is a smile and its death a sleep. As the
sun goes down before our eyes, so a mother's love vanishes from the
gaze of infancy, and death, like evening, comes to it with quietness,
gentleness, and rest. We measure the loss of a child by the grief we
feel. When its love is gone, its promise over, and its prattle silent,
its fate excites the parents' tears; but we forget that infancy, like
the rose, is unconscious of the sweetness it sheds, and it parts without
pain from the pleasure it was too young to comprehend, though engaging
enough to give to others. The death of a child is like the death of a
day, of which George Herbert sings:

     "Sweet day, so clear, so calm, so bright
     Bridal of the earth and sky;
     The dew shall weep thy fall to-night--
     For thou must die."

It is no consolation to say, "When a child dies it is taken from the
sorrows of life." Yes! it is taken from the sorrows of life, and from
its joys also. When the young die they are taken away from the evil, and
from good as well. What parents' love does not include the happiness of
its offspring? No! we will not cheat ourselves. Death is a real loss to
those who mourn, and the world is never the same again to those who have
wept by the grave of a child. Argument does not, in that hour, reach the
heart. It is human to weep, and sympathy is the only medicine of great
grief. The sight of the empty shoe in the corner will efface the most
relevant logic. Not all the preaching since Adam has made death other
than death. Yet, though sorrow cannot be checked at once by reason, it
may be chastened by it. Wisdom teaches that all human passions must
be subordinate to the higher purposes of life. We must no more abandon
ourselves to grief than to vice. The condition of life is the liability
to vicissitude, and, while it is human to feel, it is duty to endure.
The flowers fade, and the stars go down, and youth and loveliness vanish
in the eternal change. Though we cannot but regret a vital loss, it is
wisdom to love all that is good for its own sake; to enjoy its presence
fully, but not to build on its continuance, doing what we can to insure
its continuance, and bearing with fortitude its loss when it comes. If
the death of infancy teaches us this lesson, the past may be a charmed
memory, with courage and dignity in it.


The science of life teaches us that while there is pain there is life.
It would seem, therefore, that death, with silent and courteous step,
never comes save to the unconscious. A niece of Franklin's, known for
her wit and consideration for others, arrived at her last hour at the
age of ninety-eight. In her composure a friend gently touched her. "Ah,"
murmured the old lady, "I was dying so beautifully when you brought
me back! But never mind, my dear; I shall try it again." This bright
resignation, worthy of the niece of a philosopher, is making its way in
popular affection.

Lord Tennyson, when death came near to him, wrote:

     "Sunset and evening star,
     And one clear call for me!
     And may there be no moaning of the bar
     When I put out to sea.

     "Twilight and evening bell,
     And after that the dark,
     And may there be no sadness of farewell
     When I embark."

There is just a touch of superstition in these genial lines. He writes:
"After death the dark." How did he know that? What evidence is there
that the unknown land is "dark"? Why not light? The unknown has no
determinate or ascertained color.

Where we know nothing, neither priest nor poet has any right to speak
as though he had knowledge. Improbability does not imply impossibility.
That which invests death with romantic interest is, that it may be a
venture on untried existence. If a future state be true, it will befall
those who do not expect it as well as those who do. Another world, if
such there be, will come most benefitingly and most agreeably to those who
have qualified themselves for it, by having made the best use in their
power of this. By best use is meant the service of man. Desert consists
alone in the service of others. Kindness and cheerfulness are the two
virtues which most brighten human life.

Wide-eyed philanthropy is not merely money-giving goodness, but the
wider kindness which aids the ascendancy of the right and minimises
misery everywhere.

Death teaches, as nothing else does, one useful lesson. Whatever
affection or friendship we may have shown to one we have lost,
Death brings to our memory countless acts of tenderness which we had
neglected. Conscience makes us sensible of these omissions now it is too
late to repair them. But we can pay to the living what we think we owe
to the dead; whereby we transmute the dead we honor into benefactors of
those they leave behind. This is a useful form of consolation, of which
all survivors may avail themselves.

Mrs. Ernestine Rose--a brave advocate of unfriended right--when age and
infirmity brought her near to death, recalled the perils and triumphs
in which she had shared, the slave she had helped to set free from the
bondage of ownership, and the slave minds she had set free from the
bondage of authority; she was cheered, and exclaimed: "But I have

The day will come when all around this grave shall meet death; but it
will be a proud hour if, looking back upon a useful and generous past,
we each can say: "I have _lived_."


In reasoning upon death no one has surpassed the argument of Socrates,
who said: "Death is one of two things: either the dead may be nothing
and have no feeling--well, then, if there be no feeling, but it be like
sleep, when the sleeper has no dream, surely death would be a marvellous
gain, for thus all futurity appears to be nothing more than one night.
If, on the other hand, death be a removal hence to another place, and
what is said be true, that all the dead are there, what greater blessing
can there be than this?"

Sir Edwin Arnold, in his _Secret of Death_, writes:

     "Nay, but as when one layeth
     His worn-out robes away,
     And, taking new ones, sayeth,
     'These will I wear to-day!'

     So putteth by the spirit
     Lightly its garb of flesh,
     And passeth to inherit
     A residence afresh."

This may be true, and there is no objection to it if it is. But the pity
is, nobody seems to be sure about it. At death we may mourn, but duty
ceaseth not. If we desist in endeavors for the right because a combatant
falls at our side, no battle will ever be won. "Life," Mazzini used
to say, "is a battle and a march." Those who serve others at their own
peril are always in

"battle." Let us honor them as they pass. Some of them have believed:

     "Though love repine and reason chafe,
     There came a voice without reply--
     'Tis man's perdition to be safe,
     When for the truth he ought to die.'"

They are of those who, as another poet has said, "are not to be mourned,
but to be imitated."* The mystery of death is no greater than
the mystery of life. All that precedes our existence was unseen,
unimaginable, and unknown to us. What may succeed in the future is
unprovable by philosopher or priest:

     "A flower above and the mould below:
     And this is all that the mourners know."**

The ideal of life which gives calmness and confidence in death is
the same in the mind of the wise Christian as in the mind of the
philosopher. Sydney Smith says: "Add to the power of discovering truth
the desire of using it for the promotion of human happiness, and
you have the great end and object of our existence."*** Putting just
intention into action, a man fulfils the supreme duty of life, which
casts out all fear of the future.

     * W. J. Linton.

     ** Barry Cornwall.

     ***  Moral Philosophy.

A poet who thought to reconcile to their loss those whose lines have not
fallen to them in pleasant places wrote:

     "A little rule, a little sway,
     A sunbeam on a winter's day,
     Is all the proud and mighty have
     Between the cradle and the grave."

This is not true; the proud and mighty have rest at choice, and play at
will. The "sunbeam" is on them all their days. Between the cradle and
the grave is the whole existence of man. The splendid inheritance of
the "proud and mighty" ought to be shared by all whose labor creates and
makes possible the good fortune of those who "toil not, neither do they
spin"*, and whoever has sought to endow the industrious with liberty and
intelligence, with competence and leisure, we may commit to the earth in
the sure and certain hope that they deserve well, and will fare well, in
any "land of the leal" to which mankind may go.

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