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Title: Is the Bible Indictable? - Being an Enquiry whether the Bible Comes within the Ruling - of the Lord Chief Justice as to Obscene Literature
Author: Besant, Annie, 1847-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [ Transcriber's Notes:

    Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully
    as possible, including inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation.
    Some corrections of spelling and punctuation have been made. They
    are listed at the end of the text.

    Italic text has been marked with _underscores_.
  ]



  IS THE BIBLE INDICTABLE?

  BY
  ANNIE BESANT.

  BEING AN ENQUIRY WHETHER THE BIBLE COMES
  WITHIN THE RULING OF THE LORD CHIEF
  JUSTICE AS TO OBSCENE LITERATURE.


  LONDON:
  FREETHOUGHT PUBLISHING COMPANY,
  28, Stonecutter Street, E.C.

  PRICE TWOPENCE.



  LONDON:
  PRINTED BY ANNIE BESANT AND CHARLES BRADLAUGH,
  28, STONECUTTER STREET, E.C.



IS THE BIBLE INDICTABLE?

AN ENQUIRY WHETHER THE BIBLE COMES WITHIN THE RULING OF THE LORD CHIEF
JUSTICE AS TO OBSCENE LITERATURE.


The ruling of Sir Alexander Cockburn in the late trial, the Queen
_against_ Bradlaugh and Besant, seems to involve wider issues than the
Lord Chief Justice intended, or than the legal ally of Nature and
Providence can desire. The question of motive is entirely set on one
side; the purest motives are valueless if the information conveyed is
such as is capable of being turned to bad purposes by the evil-minded
and the corrupt. This view of the law would not be enforced against
expensive medical works; provided that the price set on a book be such
as shall keep it out of reach of the "common people," its teaching may
be thoroughly immoral but it is not obscene. Dr. Fleetwood Churchill,
for instance, is not committing an indictable offence by giving
directions as to the simplest and easiest way of procuring abortion; he
is not committing a misdemeanour, although he points out means which any
woman could obtain and use for herself; he does not place himself within
reach of the law, although he recommends the practice of abortion in all
cases where previous experience proves that the birth of a living child
is impossible. A check to population which destroys life is thus passed
over as legal, perhaps because the destruction of life is the check so
largely employed by Nature and Providence, and would thus ensure the
approval of the Solicitor-General. But the real reason why Dr. Churchill
is left unmolested and Dr. Knowlton is assailed, lies in the difference
of the price at which the two are severally published. If Dr. Knowlton
was sold at 10s. 6d. and Dr. Churchill at 6d., then the vials of legal
wrath would have descended on the advocate of abortion and not on the
teacher of prevention. The obscenity lies, to a great extent, in the
price of the book sold. A vulgar little sixpence is obscene, a dainty
half-sovereign is respectable. Poor people must be content to remain
ignorant, or to buy the injurious quack treatises circulated in secret;
wealthier people, who want knowledge less, are to be protected by the
law in their purchases of medical works, but if poor people, in sore
need, finding "an undoubted physician" ready to aid them, venture to ask
for his work, written especially for them, the law strikes down those
who sell them health and happiness. They must not complain; Nature and
Providence have placed them in a state of poverty, and have mercifully
provided for them effectual, if painful, checks to population. The same
element of price rules the decency or the indecency of pictures. A
picture painted in oils, life size, of the naked human figure, such as
Venus disrobed for the bath, or Phryne before her judges, or Perseus and
Andromeda, exhibited to the upper classes, in a gallery, with a shilling
admission charge, is a perfectly decent and respectable work of art.
Photographs of those pictures, uncoloured, and reduced in size, are
obscene publications, and are seized as such by the police. Cheapness
is, therefore, an essential part of obscenity.

If a book be cheap, what constitutes it an obscene book? Lord Campbell,
advocating in Parliament the Act against obscene literature which bears
his name, laid down very clearly his view of what should, legally, be an
obscene work. It must be a work "written for the single purpose of
corrupting the morals of youth, and of a nature calculated to shock the
feelings of decency in any well-regulated mind" (Hansard, vol. 146,
No. 2, p. 329). The law, according to him, was never to be levelled even
against works which might be considered immoral and indecent, such as
some of those of Dryden, Congreve, or Rochester. "The keeping, or the
reading, or the delighting in such things must be left to taste, and was
not a subject for legal interference;" the law was only to interpose
where the motive of the seller was bad; "when there were people who
designedly and industriously manufactured books and prints with the
intention of corrupting the public morals, and when they succeeded in
their infamous purpose, he thought it was necessary for the legislature
to interpose" (Hansard, vol. 146, No. 4, p. 865).

The ruling of the present Lord Chief Justice in the late trial is in
direct opposition to the view taken by Lord Campbell. The chief says:
"Knowlton goes into physiological details connected with the functions
of the generation and procreation of children. The principles of this
pamphlet, with its details, are to be found in greater abundance and
distinctness in numerous works to which your attention has been
directed, and, having these details before you, you must judge for
yourselves whether there is anything in them which is calculated to
excite the passions of man and debase the public morals. If so, every
medical work is open to the same imputation" (Trial, p. 261). The Lord
Chief Justice then refers to the very species of book against which Lord
Campbell said that he directed his Act. "There are books," the chief
says, "which have for their purpose the exciting of libidinous thoughts,
and are intended to give to persons who take pleasure in that sort of
thing the impure gratification which the contemplation of such thoughts
is calculated to give." If the book were of that character it "would be
condemnable," and so far all are agreed as to the law. But Sir Alexander
Cockburn goes further, and here is the danger of his interpretation of
the law: "Though the intention is not unduly to convey this knowledge,
and gratify prurient and libidinous thoughts, still, if its effect is to
excite and create thoughts of so demoralising a character to the mind of
the reader, the work is open to the condemnation asked for at your
hands" (Trial, p. 261). Its effect on what reader? Suppose a person of
prurient mind buys Dr. Carpenter's "Human Physiology," and reads the
long chapter, containing over 100 pages, wholly devoted to a minute
description of generation; the effect of the reading will be "to excite
and create thoughts of" the "demoralising character" spoken of.
According to the Lord Chief Justice's ruling, Dr. Carpenter's would then
become an obscene book. The evil motive is transferred from the buyer to
the seller, and then the seller is punished for the buyer's bad intent;
vicarious punishment seems to have passed from the church into the law
court. There can be no doubt that every medical book now comes under the
head of "obscene literature," for they may all be read by impure people,
and will infallibly have the effect of arousing prurient thoughts; that
they are written for a good purpose, that they are written to cure
disease, is no excuse; the motive of the writer must not be considered;
the law has decided that books whose intention is to convey
physiological knowledge, and that not unduly, are obscene, if the
reader's passions chance to be aroused by them; "we must not listen to
arguments upon moral obligations arising out of any motive, or out of
any desire to benefit humanity, or to do good to your species" (Trial,
p. 237). The only protection of these, otherwise obscene, books lies in
their price; they are generally highly-priced, and they do thus lack one
essential element of obscenity. For the useful book that bad people make
harmful must be cheap in order to be practically obscene; it must be
within reach of the poor, and be "capable of being sold at the corners
of the streets, and at bookstalls, to every one who has sixpence to
spare" (Trial, p. 261).

The new ruling touches all the dramatists and writers that Lord Campbell
had no idea of attacking; no one can doubt that many of Congreve's
dramas are calculated to arouse sexual passion; these are sold at a very
low price, and they have not even the defence of conveying any useful
information; they come most distinctly within the ruling of the Lord
Chief Justice; why are they to be permitted free circulation? Sterne,
Fielding, Smollett, Swift, must all be flung into the dusthole after
Congreve, Wycherley, Jonson; Dryden, of course, follows these without
delay, and Spencer, with his "Faerie Queene," is the next victim.
Shakespeare can have no quarter shown him; not only are most gross
passages scattered through his works, but the motive of some of them is
directly calculated to arouse the passions; for how many youthful love
fevers is not "Romeo and Juliet" answerable; what of "Cymbeline,"
"Pericles," or "Titus Andronicus"? Can "Venus and Adonis" tend to
anything except to the rousing of passion? is "Lucrece" not obscene? Yet
Macmillan's Globe Edition of Shakespeare is regarded as one of the most
admirable publishing efforts made by that eminent firm to put English
masterpieces in the hands of the poor. Coming to our time, what is to be
done with Byron? "Don Juan" is surely calculated to corrupt, not to
speak of other poems, such as "Parisina." What of Shelley, with his
"Cenci?" Swinburne, must of course, be burned at once. Every one of
these great names is now branded as obscene, and, under the ruling of
the Lord Chief Justice every one of them must be condemned. Suppose some
one should follow Hetherington's example? Suppose that we should become
the prosecutors instead of the prosecuted? Suppose that we should drag
others to share our prison, and should bring the most honoured names of
authors into the same condemnation that has struck us? Why should we
show to others a consideration that has not been shown to us? If it is
said that we should not strike, we answer; "Then leave _us_ alone, and
calculate the consequences before you touch us again." The law has been
declared by the Lord Chief Justice of England; why is not that law as
binding on Macmillan as on us? The law has been narrowed in order to
enmesh Freethought: its net will catch other fishes as well, or else
break under the strain and let all go free. The Christians desire to
make two laws, and show their hands too plainly: one law is to be
strict, and is to apply wholly to Freethinkers; cheating Christians, who
sell even Knowlton, are to be winked at by the authorities, and are to
be let off scot free; but this is not all. Ritualists circulate a book
beside which Knowlton is said to be purity itself, and the law does not
touch them; no warrants are issued for their apprehension; no
prosecution is paid for by a hidden enemy; no law-officer of the Crown
is briefed against them. Why is this? because to attack Christians is to
draw attention to the foundation of Christianity; because to attack the
"Priest in Absolution" is to attack Moses. The Christian walls are made
out of Bible-glass, and they fear to throw stones lest they should break
their own house. Listen to Mr. Ridsdale, a brother of the Holy Cross: "I
wonder," he says, "why some one does not stand up in the House of Lords
and bring a charge against the Bible (especially Leviticus) as an
immoral book." The _Church Times_, the organ of the Ritualists, has a
letter which runs thus: "Suppose a patrician and a pontifex in old Rome
had with care and deliberation extracted sentences from Holy Writ,
separated them from their context, suppressed the general nature and
character of the book, and then accused the bishop and his clergy of
deliberately preparing an obscene book to contaminate the young (how
readily he might have made such extracts!), what should we have said of
such ruffians?" This, then, is the shield of the clergy; the Bible is
itself so obscene that Christians fear to prosecute priests who
circulate obscenity.

Does the Bible come within the ruling of the Lord Chief Justice as to
obscene literature? Most decidedly it does, and if prosecuted as an
obscene book, it must necessarily be condemned, if the law is justly
administered. Every Christian ought therefore to range himself on our
side, and demand a reversal of the present rule, for under it his own
sacred book is branded as obscene, and may be prosecuted as such by any
unbeliever.

First, the book is widely circulated at a low price. If the Bible were
restricted in its circulation by being sold at 10s. 6d. or a guinea, it
might escape being placed in the category of obscene literature under
the present ruling. But no such defence can be pleaded for it. It is
sold at 8d. a copy, printed on cheap paper, and strongly bound, for use
in schools; it is given away by thousands among the "common people,"
whose morals are now so carefully looked after in the matter of books;
it is presented to little children of both sexes, and they are told to
read it carefully. To such an extent is this carried, that some
thousands of children assembled together were actually told by Lord
Sandon, the Vice-President of the Committee of Council on Education, to
read the Bible right through from beginning to end, and were bidden not
to pick and choose. The element of price is clearly against the Bible if
it be proved to have in it anything which is of a nature calculated to
suggest impure thoughts.

As to the motives of the writers, we need not trouble about them. The
law now says that intention is nothing, and no desire to do good is any
excuse for obscenity (Trial, p. 257).

There remains the vital question: is the effect of some of its passages
to excite and create demoralising thoughts? (Trial, p. 261).

The difficulty of dealing with this question is that many of the
quotations necessary to prove that the Bible comes under the ruling of
the Lord Chief Justice are of such an extremely coarse and disgusting
character, that it is really impossible to reproduce them without
intensifying the evil which they are calculated to do. While I see no
indecency in a plain statement of physiological facts, written for
people's instruction, I do see indecency in coarse and indelicate
stories, the reading of which can do no good to any human being, and can
have no effect save that of corrupting the mind and suggesting unclean
ideas. I therefore refuse to soil my pages with quotations, and content
myself with giving the references, so that anyone who desires to use the
ruling of the Lord Chief Justice to suppress the Bible may see what
certainty of success awaits him if justice be done. I shall not trouble
about simple coarseness, such as Gen. iv. 1, 17, 25; Gen. vi. 4; or
Matt. i. 18-20, 25. If mere coarseness of expression were to be noted,
my task would be endless. But let the intending prosecutor read the
following passages. A little boy of 8 or 10 would scarcely be improved
by reading Gen. ix. 20-25; the drunkenness, indecency, and swearing in
these six verses is surely calculated to corrupt the boy's mind. The
teaching of Gen. xvi. 1-5 is scarcely elevating for the "common people,"
seeing the example set by the "friend of God." Gen. xvii. 10-14 and
23-27 is very coarse. Would Gen. xix. 4-9 improve a young maiden, or
would it not suggest the most impure thoughts, verse 5 dealing with an
idea that should surely never be put into a girl's mind? The same
chapter, 30-38, is revolting; and Deut. ii. 9 and 19 implies God's
approval of the unnatural crime. The ignorance of physiology which is
thought best for girls would receive a shock, when in reading the Bible
straight through, the day's portion comprised Gen. xxv., 21-26. Gen.
xxvi., 8 is not nice, nor is Gen. xxix., 21-35, and Gen. xxx. The story
of Dinah, Gen. xxxiv.; of Reuben, Gen. xxxv., 22; of Onan, Gen.
xxxviii., 8-10; of Judah and Tamar, xxxviii., 13-26; of the birth of
Tamar's children, xxxviii., 27-30, are all revolting in their foulness
of phraseology. Why the Bible should be allowed to tell the story of
Onan seems very strange, and the "righteousness" of Tamar (v. 26) wins
approval. Is this thought purifying teaching for the "common people"?
The story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, Gen. xxxix., 7-18, I have heard
read in church to the manifest discomfort of some of the congregation,
and the amusement of others, while Joseph flying from temptation and
leaving his garment with Potiphar's wife is a picture often seen in
Sunday schools. Thus twelve out of the fifty chapters of Genesis are
undeniably obscene, and if there is any justice in England, Genesis
ought to be suppressed. We pass to Exodus. Ex. i., 15-19 is surely
indecent. I am not dealing with immoral teaching, or God's blessing on
the falsehood of the midwives (20, 21) would need comment. Ex. iv.,
24-26, is very coarse; so also Ex. xxii., 16, 17, 19. Leviticus is
coarse throughout, but is especially so in chaps. v., 3; xii.; xv.;
xviii., 6-23; xx., 10-21; xxii., 3-5. The trial of jealousy is most
revolting in Numb. v., 12-29. Numb. xxv., 6-8 is hardly a nice story for
a child, nor is that of Numb. xxxi., 17, 18. Deut. xxi., 10-14 is not
pure teaching for soldiers. Deut. xxii., 13-21 is extremely coarse; the
remainder of the chapter comes also within the Chief's ruling, as do
also chaps. xxiii., 1, 10, 11; xxv., 11, 12; xxvii., 20, 22, 23;
xxviii., 57. The fault of the book of Joshua lies chiefly in its
exceeding brutality and bloodthirstiness, but it, also, does not quite
escape the charge of obscenity, as may be seen by referring to the
following passage: chap. v., 2-8. Judges is occasionally very foul, and
is utterly unfit for general reading, according to the late definition;
Ehud and Eglon, Judges, iii., 15-25, would not bear reading aloud, and
the story might have been told equally well in decent language. Or take
the horribly disgusting tale of the Levite and his concubine (Judges
xix.), and then judge whether a book containing such stories is fit for
use in schools. Dr. Carpenter's book may do good there, because, with
all its plain speaking, it conveys useful information; but what
good--mental, physical, or moral--can be done to a young girl by reading
Judges xix.? And the harm done is intensified by the fact that the
ignorance in which girls are kept surrounds such a story with
unwholesome interest, as giving a glimpse into what is, to them, the
great mystery of sex. The story of Ruth iii. 3-14 is one which we should
not like to see repeated by our daughters; for the virtue of a woman who
should wait until a man was drunk, and then go alone at night and lie
down at his feet, would, in our days, be regarded as problematical. 1
Sam. ii. 22, and v. 9 are both obscene; so are 1 Sam. xviii. 25-27 and
xxi. 4, 5. 1 Sam. xxv. 22, 34 are disgustingly coarse, and there are
many similar coarse passages to be found in "holy" writ. 2 Sam. vi. 14,
16, 20, is a little over-suggestive, as is also 2 Sam. x. 4. The story
of David dancing is told in 1 Chron. xv. 27-29 without anything
offensive in its tone. The story of David and Bathsheba is only too well
known, and as told in 2 Sam. xi. 2-13 is far more calculated to arouse
the passions than is anything in Knowlton. The prophecy in 2 Sam. xii.
11, 12, fulfilled in xvi. 21, 22, is repulsive in the extreme, more
especially when we are told that the shameful counsel was given by
Ahithophel, whose counsel, "which he counselled in those days, was as if
a man had inquired at the oracle of God." If God's oracles give such
counsel, the less they are resorted to the better for the welfare of the
state. We are next given the odious story of Amnon and Tamar (2 Sam.
xiii. 1-22), instructive for Lord Sandon's boys and girls to read
together, as they go through the Bible from beginning to end. 1 Kings i.
1-4 conveys an idea more worthy of George IV. than of the man after
God's own heart. In 1 Kings xiv. 10, the coarseness is inexcusable, and
verse 24 is only too intelligible after Judges xix. 2 Kings ix. 8,
xviii. 27, are thoroughly Biblical in their delicacy. 1 Chron. xix. 4
repeats the unpleasant story of 2 Sam. x. 4; but both 1 and 2 Chronicles
are, for the Bible, remarkably free from coarseness, and are a great
improvement on the books of Kings and Samuel. The same praise is
deserved by Ezra and Nehemiah. The tone of the story of Esther is
somewhat sensual throughout: the drunken king commanding Vashti to come
in and show her beauty, Esther i. 11; the search for the young virgins,
Esther ii. 2-4; the trial and choice, Esther ii. 12-17, these are
scarcely elevating reading; Esther vii. 8 is also coarse. To a girl
whose safety is in her ignorance, Job iii. 11 is very plain. Psalm
xxxviii. 5-7 gives a description of a certain class of disease in exact
terms. Proverbs v. 17-20 is good advice, but would be condemned by the
Lord Chief Justice; Proverbs vi. 24-32 is of the same character, as is
also Proverbs vii. 5-23. The allusion in Ecclesiastes xi. 5 would be
objected to as improper by the Solicitor-General.

The Song of Solomon is a marriage-song of the sensual and luxuriant
character: put Knowlton side by side with it, and then judge which is
most calculated to arouse the passions. It is almost impossible to
select, where all is of so extreme a character, but take i. 2, 13; ii.
4-6, 17; iii. 1, 4; iv. 5, 6, 11; v. 2-4, 8, 14-16; vii. 2, 3, 6-10, 12;
viii. 1-3, 8-10. Could any language be more alluring, more seductive,
more passion-rousing, than the languid, uxorious, "linked sweetness long
drawn out" of this Eastern marriage-ode? It is not vulgarly coarse and
offensive as is so much of the Bible, but it is, according to the ruling
of the Lord Chief Justice, a very obscene poem. One may add that, in
addition to the allusions and descriptions that lie on the surface,
there is a multitude of suggestions not so apparent, but which are
thoroughly open to all who know anything of Eastern imagery.

After the Song of Solomon, it is a shock to come to the prophets; it is
like plunging into cold water after being in a hothouse. Unfortunately,
with the more bracing atmosphere, we find the old brutality coming again
to repel us, and coarse denunciation shocks us, as in Isaiah iii. 17.
How would the Lord Chief Justice have dealt with Isaiah if he had lived
in his day, and acted as is recorded in Isaiah xx., 2-4? He clearly
would have put him in a lunatic asylum (Trial, p. 168). If it were not
that there are so many worse passages, one might complain of the taste
shown in the comparison of Isaiah xxvi. 17, 18; the same may be said of
Isaiah xxxii. 11, 12. In Isaiah xxxvi. 12 we have a repetition of 2
Kings xviii. 27, which we could well have spared. In Isaiah lvii. 8, 9,
we meet a favourite simile of the Jewish prophets, wherein God is
compared to a husband, and the people to an unfaithful wife, and the
relations between them are described with a minuteness which can only be
fitly designated by the Solicitor-General's favourite word. Isaiah lxvi.
7-12 would be regarded as somewhat coarse in an ordinary book. The
prophets get worse as they go on. Jeremiah i. 5 is the first verse we
meet in Jeremiah which the Solicitor-General would take exception to. We
next meet the simile of marriage, in Jeremiah ii., 20, iii. 1-3, 6-9,
verse 9 being especially offensive. Jer. v. 7, 8, is coarse, as are also
Jer. xi. 15 and xiii. 26, 27. Ought the girls' schools to read Jer. xx.
17, 18? But, perhaps, as Ezekiel is coming, it is hypercritical to
object to Jeremiah. Lamentations i. 8, 9, is revolting, and verse 17 of
the same chapter uses an extremely coarse simile. Ezekiel is the prophet
who ate a little book and found it disagree with him: it seems a pity
that he did not eat a large part of his own, and so prevent it from
poisoning other people. What can be more disgusting than Ez. iv. 12-15?
the whole chapter is absurd, but these verses are abominable. The
prophet seems, like the drawers of the indictment against us, to take
pleasure in piling up uncomfortable terms, as in Ez. vi. 9. We now come
to a chapter that is obscene from beginning to end, and may, I think,
almost claim the palm of foulness. Let any one read through Ez. xvi.,
marking especially verses 4-9, 15-17, 25, 26, 33, 34, 37, 39, and then
think of the absurdity of prosecuting Knowlton for corrupting the morals
of the young, who have this book of Ezekiel put into their hand. After
this, Ez. xviii. 6, 11, and 15 seem quite chaste and delicate; and no
one could object to Ez. xxii. 9-11. Ez. xxiii. is almost as bad as
chapter xvi., especially verses 6-9, 14-21, 29, 41-44. Surely if any
book be indictable for obscenity, the Bible should be the first to be
prosecuted. I know of no other book in which is to be found such utterly
unredeemed coarseness. The rest of Ezekiel is only bloodthirsty and
brutal, so may, fortunately, be passed over without further comment.
Daniel may be left unnoticed; and we now come to Hosea, a prophet whose
morals were, to speak gently, peculiar. The "beginning of the word of
the Lord by Hosea," was the Lord's command as to his marriage, related
in Hosea i. 2; we then hear of his children by the said wife in the
remainder of the chapter, and in the next chapter we are told, Hosea ii.
2, that the woman is not his wife, and from verse 2-13 we have an
extremely indecent speech of Hosea on the misdeeds of the unfortunate
creature he married, wherein, verse 4, he complains of the very fact
that God commanded in chap. i. 2. Hosea iii. 1-3 relates another
indecent proceeding on Hosea's part, and his purchase of another
mistress; whether girls' morals are improved by the contemplation of
such divine commands, is a question that might fairly be urged on Lord
Sandon before he next distributes Bibles to little children of both
sexes. The said girls must surely, as they study Hosea iv. 10-18, wonder
that God expresses his intention not to punish impurity in verse 14. It
is impossible, in reading Hosea, to escape from the prevailing tone of
obscenity; chaps. v. 3, 4, 7; vi. 9, 10; vii. 4; viii. 9; ix. 1, 10, 11,
14, 16; xii. 3; xiii. 13, every one of these has a thought in it that
all must regard as coarse, and which comes distinctly within the ruling
of the Lord Chief Justice as to obscenity; there is scarcely one chapter
in Hosea that does not, with offensive reiteration, dwell on the
coarsest form of wrongdoing of which women are capable. Joel iii. 3 is
objectionable in a comparatively slight degree. Amos, although
occasionally coarse, keeps clear of the gross obscenity of Hosea, as do
also Obadiah and Jonah. Micah i. 7, 8, 11, would scarcely be passed by
Sir Hardinge Giffard, nor would he approve Micah iv. 9, 10. Nahum iii.
4-6 is almost Hoseatic, and Habakkuk ii. 5, 16 runs it close. The
remaining four prophets are sometimes coarse, but have nothing in them
approaching the abominations of the others, and we close the Old
Testament with a sigh of relief.

The New Testament has in it nothing at all approaching the obscenity of
the Old, save two passages in Revelation. The story of Mary and Joseph
is somewhat coarse, especially as told in Matt. i. 18-25. Rom. i. 24-27
is distinctly obscene, and 1 Cor. v. 1, vi. 9, 15, 16, 18, would all be
judged indelicate by Her Majesty's Solicitor-General, who objected to
the warnings given by Knowlton against sexual sin. The whole of 1 Cor.
vii. might be thought calculated to arouse the passions, but the rest of
Paul's Epistles may pass, in spite of many coarse passages, such as 1
Thess. iv. 3-7. Heb. xiii. 4 and 2 Peter ii. 10-18 both come into the
same category, but it is useless to delay on simple coarseness.
Revelation slips into the old prophetic indecency; Rev. ii. 20-22 and
xvii. 1-4 are almost worthy of Ezekiel.

Can anyone go through all these passages and have any doubt that the
Bible--supposing it to be unprotected by statute--is indictable as an
obscene book under the ruling of the Lord Chief Justice? It is idle to
plead that the writers do not approve the evil deeds they chronicle, and
that it is only in two or three cases that God appears to endorse the
sin; no purity of motives on the writers' parts can be admitted in
excuse (Trial, p. 257). These sensuous stories and obscene parables come
directly under the censure of the Lord Chief Justice, and I invite our
police authorities to show their sense of justice by prosecuting the
people who circulate this indictable book, thereby doing all that in
them lies to vitiate and corrupt the morals of the young. If they will
not do this, in common decency they ought to drop the prosecution
against us for selling the "Fruits of Philosophy."

The right way would be to prosecute none of these books. All that I have
intended to do in drawing attention to the "obscene" passages in the
Bible, is to show that to deal with the sexual relations with a good
object--as is presumably that of the Bible--should not be an indictable
misdemeanour. I do not urge that the Bible should be prosecuted: I do
urge that it is indictable under the present ruling; and I plead,
further, that this very fact shows how the present ruling is against the
public weal. Nothing could be more unfortunate than to have a large crop
of prosecutions against the standard writers of old times and of the
present day, and yet this is what is likely to happen, unless some stop
is put to the stupid and malicious prosecution against ourselves. With
one voice, the press of the country--omitting the _Englishman_--has
condemned the "foolish" verdict and the "vindictive" sentence. When that
sentence is carried out, the real battle will begin, and the blame of
the loss and the trouble that will ensue must rest on those who started
this prosecution, and on those who shield the hidden prosecutor. The
Christians, at least, ought to join with us in reversing the ruling of
the Lord Chief Justice, since their own sacred book is one of those most
easily assailable. The purity that depends on ignorance is a fragile
purity; the chastity that depends on ignorance is a fragile chastity; to
buttress up ignorance with prison and fine is a fatal policy; and I call
on those who love freedom and desire knowledge, to join with us in
over-ruling by statute the new judge-made law.



  [ Transcriber's Note:

    The following is a list of corrections made to the original.
    The first line is the original line, the second the corrected one.

  description of generation; the affect of the reading will be "to excite
  description of generation; the effect of the reading will be "to excite

  Jer. xi. 15 and xiii. 26, 27. Ought the girl's schools to read Jer. xx.
  Jer. xi. 15 and xiii. 26, 27. Ought the girls' schools to read Jer. xx.

  who eat a little book and found it disagree with him: it seems a pity
  who ate a little book and found it disagree with him: it seems a pity

  over-ruling by statute the new judge-made law
  over-ruling by statute the new judge-made law.

  ]





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