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Title: Satires And Profanities
Author: Thomson, James, 1834-1882, Foote, G. W. (George William), 1850-1915
Language: English
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                       *SATIRES AND PROFANITIES*


                                  _By_

                            *James Thomson*

                    _With a Preface by G. W. Foote_

                                _London_

                                 _1884_



CONTENTS


    PREFACE
    THE DEVIL IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
    RELIGION IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
    THE STORY OF A FAMOUS OLD JEWISH FIRM
    CHRISTMAS EVE IN THE UPPER CIRCLES
    HEINE ON AN ILLUSTRIOUS EXILE WITH SOMETHING ABOUT WHALES
    THE DAILY NEWS
    JESUS: AS GOD; AS A MAN
    THE ONE THING NEEDFUL
    THE SWINBURNE CONTROVERSY
    GREAT CHRIST IS DEAD
    RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION OF JESUS
    SOME MUSLIM LAWS AND BELIEFS
    THE CHRISTIAN WORLD AND THE SECULARIST
    THE ATHANASIAN CREED
    OUR OBSTRUCTIONS
    MR. KINGSLEY’S CONVERTITES
    THE PRIMATE ON THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD
    SPIRITISM IN THE POLICE COURT
    A COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON ROYALTY
    Draft
    A BIBLE LESSON ON MONARCHY
    PRINCIPAL TULLOCH ON PERSONAL IMMORTALITY
    THE ESTABLISHED CHURCH



PREFACE


Believing as I do that James Thomson is, since Shelley, the most
brilliant genius who has wielded a pen in the service of Freethought, I
take a natural pride and pleasure in rescuing the following articles
from burial in the great mausoleum of the periodical press. There will
doubtless be a diversity of opinion as to their value. One critic, for
instance, has called “The Story of a Famous Old Jewish Firm” a witless
squib; but, on the other hand, the late Professor Clifford considered it
a piece of exquisite mordant satire worthy of Swift. Such differences
are inevitable from the very nature of the subject. Satire, more than
any other form of composition, rouses antipathy where it does not
command applause; and the greater the satire, the more intense are the
feelings it excites.

But which side, it may be inquired, is likely to be the best judge?
Surely the friendly one. Sympathy is requisite to insight, as Carlyle
says; while hostility blinds us to a thousand virtues and beauties. I am
aware that many will take objection to the employment of satire at all,
whether good or bad, on religious topics; but this seems to me
preposterous, and I should readily answer it, if Thomson had not done so
himself in the most vigorous and triumphant manner.

Nearly all the pieces in this volume appeared originally in the National
Reformer or the Secularist. I have attempted no arrangement of them, not
even a chronological one; the compositor has shuffled them at his own
sweet will. All I have done, besides collecting them and carefully
reading the proofs, is to indicate in each case the year of first
publication; and I think the reader will approve this plan as both
modest and sensible.

I am much mistaken if this volume does not become a well-prized treasure
to many Freethinkers; that it will ever be valued by the general public
I dare not hope. Yet the number of its admirers will increase with the
growth of a healthy scepticism. It will not fall like a bombshell among
ordinary readers, who serenely ignore the most terrible mental
explosives, and render them comparatively innocuous by mere force of
neglect; but it will startle and stimulate some minds, and in time its
influence will extend to many more.

What value Thomson placed on these pieces it is difficult to decide.
“Working off the talent,” he once remarked when I mentioned them. But
the fact remains that he allowed one or two of them to be reprinted as
pamphlets before any of his poems were collected in a volume. He
naturally cared more for his poems than for his prose. What poet ever
did the contrary? But even for these he cared little, except “The City
of Dreadful Night” and a few others, which expressed his profoundest
convictions.

There were several articles in his “Essays and Phantasies” that proved
Thomson to be a born satirist as well as a born poet; notably “Proposals
for the Speedy Extinction of Evil and Misery,” a tremendous display of
sustained irony, to my mind unsurpassed even by Swift at his greatest,
and with a poetic grandeur quite beyond him. The contents of this volume
show marks of the same strong hand. There is never, perhaps, so
continuous an exertion of power; but there is more versatility, more
freedom, and often more abandon. I fancy, too, there is more rapidity
and suppleness, and I am sure there is more mirth.

Thomson’s satire was always bitterest, or at any rate most trenchant,
when it dealt with Religion, which he considered a disease of the mind,
engendered by folly and fostered by ignorance and vanity. He saw that
spiritual superstition not only diverts men from Truth, but induces a
slavish stupidity of mind, and prepares the way for every form of
political and social injustice. He was an Atheist first and a Republican
afterwards. He derided the idea of making a true Republic of a
population besotted with religion, paralysed by creeds cringing to the
agents of their servitude, and clinging to the chains that enthral them.

A few words only as to Thomson’s life. Outwardly it was singularly
uneventful, although inwardly it was intense and exciting. He was bom at
Port Glasgow, on the 23rd of November, 1834; and he died in London, on
the 1st of June 1882. His father was a merchant captain, and his mother
a zealous Irvingite. Left parentless in his infancy, he was educated at
the Caledonian Orphan Asylum. For some years he served as a schoolmaster
in the army, during which time he contracted an intimate friendship with
Mr. Bradlaugh, with whom he subsequently worked and lived in London.
Soon after leaving Mr. Bradlaugh he devoted himself to journalism, to
which he brought a well-practised pen; contributing to the _National
Reformer, the Secularist, the Liberal, Cope’s Tobacco Plant_, and other
periodicals. Shortly before his death he gained access to the _Weekly
Dispatch_ and the _Fortnightly Review_. His poems and essays were mostly
written before he tried to live by his pen. Four volumes of these have
been published by Reeves and Turner, under the generous editorship of
Mr. Bertram Dobell, who has prefixed a memoir to the last, entitled “A
Voice from the Nile and Other Poems.” Besides the five volumes of
Thomson’s writings now before the public, there are many essays and
articles and a few poems still uncollected, some of them of high value;
and many poems in manuscript, unknown to all but a few privileged
friends. Mr. Dobell hopes to publish them all in time. Thomson’s
poetical reputation is, however, already established. The best judges
give him the highest praise. My own judgment assigns him the next place
to Robert Browning. Of course it is no blasphemy to dispute my estimate;
but what prospect is there of reversing the common verdict of George
Eliot, George Meredith, Swinburne, and Rossetti?

Mr. Dobell refers to the charm of Thomson’s manner in social
intercourse. His personal appearance told in his favor. He was of the
medium height, well-built, and active. He possessed that striking
characteristic sometimes found in mixed races—black hair and beard, and
grey-blue eyes. The eyes were fine and wonderfully expressive. They were
full of shifting light, soft grey in some moods and deep blue in others.
They contained depth within depth; and when he was moved by strong
passion they widened and flashed with magnetic power. When not suffering
from depression he was the life of the company. He was the most
brilliant talker I ever met, and at home in all societies; a fine
companion in a day’s walk, and a shining figure at the festive table or
in the social drawing-room. But you enjoyed his conversation most when
you sat with him alone, taking occasional draughts of our national
beverage, and constantly burning “the divine weed.”

Thomson’s sympathy with radical and revolutionary causes is not much
noticed by Mr. Dobell, but it was very strong. He was secretary for some
time to the Polish Committee in London, and his glorious lines on “A
Polish Insurgent” which I for one can never read without tears, proves
that he might have written the noble songs that George Eliot hoped he
would compose. He sympathised with all self-sacrifice, all lofty
aspiration, and in particular with all suffering. This last emotion was
often betrayed by a look rather than expressed in words. I vividly
remember being with him once on a popular holiday at the Alexandra
Palace. We were seated on the grass, watching the shifting groups of
happy forms, and exchanging appreciative or satirical remarks. Suddenly
I observed my companion’s gaze fixed on a youth who limped by with a
pleasant smile on his face, but too obviously beyond hope of ever
sharing in the full enjoyment of life. Thomson’s eyes followed him until
he passed out of sight, and the next moment our eyes met. I shall never
forget the gentle sadness of that look, its beautiful sympathy that
transcended speech, and made all words poor.

Thomson’s life was a long tragedy. He inherited from his father a fatal
curse, and in his youth he lost the beautiful girl to whom he was
engaged. She was the object of his passionate adoration, and allusions
to her often occur in his poems. Her image mingled with all the sombre
panoramas of Love and Death and Grief that passed before the eyes of his
imagination. Yet I do not agree with Mr. Dobell in regarding this
bereavement as the _cause_ of his life-long misery. She was, I hold,
merely the peg on which he hung his raiment of sorrow; without her,
another object might have served the same purpose. He carried within him
his proper curse, constitutional melancholia. From long and careful
observation I formed this conclusion, and it explains Thomson’s life and
philosophy. I would not dogmatise, however; for the profundities and
subtleties of the human heart baffle all calculation. Certitude is now
impossible. The seal of eternal silence is set on Thomson’s lips—“after
life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.” He is buried at Highgate, and his
darling lies, I suspect, in an unknown grave. Death has at last united
them, but their love survives in the glory of immortal song.



THE DEVIL IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND


(1876.)

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has delivered judgment in
the case of Jenkins v. Cook. Many of the highest personages in the
realm, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the great law-lords,
were present to give weight and solemnity to the decision, which was
read by the Lord Chancellor. It was reported at full length in the
_Times_ of the following day, Feb. 17, 1876, the length being two
columns of small print.

I must try to indicate briefly the main facts of the case, before
hazarding any comments on it. Mr. Jenkins, of Christ Church, Clifton,
brought an action against his vicar, the Kev. Flavel S. Cook, for
refusing him the Sacrament of the Holy Communion. Mr. Cook justified the
refusal on the ground that Mr. Jenkins did not believe in the Devil, all
passages relating to the Devil and evil spirits having been excluded
from a bulky volume published by Mr. Jenkins, entitled “Selections from
the Old and New Testaments.” By the evidence of Mrs. Jenkins, who
attempted an amicable arrangement, it appears that Mr. Cook said to her:
“Let Mr. Jenkins write me a calm letter, and say he believes in the
Devil, and I will give him the Sacrament.” Whereupon Mr. Jenkins wrote
on July 20, 1874: “With regard to my book, ‘Selections from the Old and
New Testaments,’ the parts I have omitted, and which has enabled me
[meaning, doubtless, and the omission of which has enabled me] to use
the book morning and evening in my family are, in their present
generally received sense, quite incompatible with region or decency (in
my opinion). How such ideas have become connected with a book containing
everything that is necessary for a man to know, I really cannot say; I
can only sincerely regret it.” Mr. Cook replied in effect: “Then you
cannot be received at the Lord’s table in my church.” Mr. Jenkins, a
regular communicant, and admittedly a man of exemplary and devout life,
answered: “Thinking as you do, I do not see what other course you could
consistently have taken. I shall, nevertheless, come to the Lord’s table
as usual at ‘your’ church, which is also mine.” Accordingly he presented
himself, and was repelled, whereupon he brought an action against Mr.
Cook.

The case was first tried in the Court of Arches, and the dean dismissed
the suit and condemned Mr. Jenkins in costs, saying, “I am of opinion
that the avowed and persistent denial of the existence and personality
of the Devil did, according to the law of the Church, as expressed in
her canons and rubrics, constitute the promoter [Mr. Jenkins] ‘an evil
liver,’ and ‘a depraver of the Book of Common Prayer and Administration
of the Sacraments,’ in such sense as to warrant the defendant in
refusing to administer the Holy Communion to him until he disavowed or
withdrew his avowal of the heretical opinion, and that the same
consideration applies to the absolute denial by the promoter of the
doctrine of the eternity of punishment, and, of course, still more to
the denial of all punishment for sin in a future state, which is the
legitimate consequence of his deliberate exclusion of the passages of
scripture referring to such punishment.”

So far, so well; the Church of England was assured of the Devil and the
eternal punishment it has always held so dear. But Mr. Jenkins appealed
to the highest court, and this has reversed the decision of the lower,
admonished Mr. Cook for his conduct in the past, monished him to refrain
from the like offence in future, and condemned him in the costs of both
suits. Do you think, then, that the Church of England is authoritatively
deprived of her dear Devil and her beloved eternal punishment? Not at
all; the really important problem is evaded with consummate lawyerlike
wariness; the points in dispute are most shiftily shifted like slides of
a magic lantern; we have a new decision essentially unrelated to that
which it cancels; we have a judgment which concerns not the Devil—except
that he would chuckle over the too clever unwisdom which fancies it can
extinguish “burning questions” with legal wigs.

Their most learned lordships in the first place observe that the learned
judge of the Court of Arches appears to have considered that the canon
and the rubric severally warrant the repulsion from the Lord’s table of
“an evil liver,” and “a depraver of the Book of Common Prayer,” whereas
the terms are “an open and notorious evil liver,” and “common and
notorious depravers.” This is a most pregnant distinction, teaching us
that an evil liver and a depraver of the said book, as long as he is not
notoriously such, is fully entitled to the Holy Communion, fully
entitled to the privilege of “eating and drinking damnation to himself?”
a privilege from which the notorious evil liver and depraver is
righteously debarred.

Now, their most learned lordships find that there is absolutely no
evidence that the appellant was an evil liver, much less an open and
notorious evil liver. The Question follows, Was he a common and
notorious depraver of the Book of Common Prayer? It was contended that
the Selections, coupled with the letter of July 20, proved him to be
this. But the letter was not written spontaneously. He was invited by
the respondent, Mr. Cook, to write it. It was a friendly and private, as
well as a solicited, communication. Therefore, whatever be the
construction of the letter, and even if there be in it a depravation of
the Book of Common Prayer, still it would be impossible to hold that the
writing of such a letter in such circumstances could make the appellant
“a common and notorious depraver.” Whence it is clear that a man may
deprave the Book of Common Prayer as much as he pleases in private
conversation and letters, yet retain the precious privilege of “eating
and drinking damnation to himself” in the Holy Communion; he can only
forfeit this by common and notorious depravation of that blessed
book—for instance, by a depravation repeatedly published in a newspaper,
or persistently proclaimed by the town-crier.

So far the law seems most clear, and the judgment quite incontestible.
But leaving the strait limits of the law, and looking at the facts in
evidence, there is one part of the judgment which to the common lay mind
is simply astonishing. Their most learned lordships “_desire to state in
the most emphatic manner that there is not before them any evidence that
the appellant entertains the doctrines attributed to him by the Dean of
Arches_;” wherefore their most learned and subtle lordships “do not mean
to decide that those doctrines are otherwise than inconsistent with the
formularies of the Church of England.” Nor, of course, do they mean to
decide that those doctrines _are_ inconsistent with, those formularies.
No, “This is not the subject for their lordships’ present
consideration.” Indeed, “If they were [had been] called upon to decide
that [whether] those opinions, or any of them, could be entertained or
expressed by a member of the Church, whether layman or clergyman,
consistently with the law and with his remaining in communion with the
Church, they would have looked upon this case with much greater anxiety
than they now feel in its decision.”

Mr. Jenkins compiles and publishes a book of “Selections from the
Bible,” carefully excluding all passages relating to the Devil and evil
spirits. The book is bulky; and, in fact, though this is not expressly
stated, seems to contain pretty well all the Bible except such passages.
He further exhibits in the case a book of selections from the liturgy of
the Church of England, apparently compiled on the same principle of
exclusion.. Mr. Cook sends through Mrs. J. a message: “Let Mr. J. write
me a calm letter, and say he believes in the Devil, and I will give him
the Sacrament.” Mr. J. replies, as we have seen, that the parts he has
omitted are, in his opinion, quite incompatible with religion or
decency, _in their generally received sense_; such generally received
sense being evidently (to all of us save their most learned and subtle
lordships) that in which the Church of England receives them. Mr. C.
replies, “Then I must refuse you the Communion.” Mr. J. answers,
“Thinking as you do, I do not see what other course you could con-.
sistently have taken;” and resolves to test the question of legality.
With these facts staring them in the face, their most learned and most
subtle lordships can, with the utmost solemnity, and in the most
emphatic manner, declare that there is not any evidence before them that
Mr. Jenkins does not believe in the Devil in the common Church of
England sense! What the eyes of laymen, however purblind, cannot help
seeing clearly, their far-sighted lordships, putting on legal
spectacles, dim with the dust of many ages, manage not to discern at
all.

The question cannot be left thus undecided. As matters stand, the poor
Church does not know whether, legally, it has a Devil or not. Its Devil,
its dear and precious old Devil, is in a state of suspended animation,
neither dead nor alive; a most inefficient and burdensome Devil. He must
either be restored to full health and vigor, or buried away decently for
ever; decently and solemnly, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the
presence of all their lordships of the Judicial Committee of the Privy
Council, reading the appropriate Church service over his grave. That
would be touching and impressive!—“Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty
God (with the sanction and authority of the Judicial Committee of the
Privy Council) of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our
dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground;
earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope
of the resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” At
present it appears that every clergyman and layman in the Church has the
legal right to sing as a solo in private, especially if solicited,
Beranger’s refrain, “_The Devil is dead! The Devil is dead!_” while it
is doubtful whether he is at liberty to chant it publicly and in
chorus—a state of things anomalous beyond even the normal anomalism of
all things in this our happy England. It is urgent that some one, lay or
cleric, should compel the decision which the suit of Mr. Jenkins has
failed to obtain.

In considering the question whether disbelief in the Devil would
“deprave” the Prayer Book, we must refer to this book itself. It
contains three creeds—the Apostles’, the Nicene, and that called of
Athanasius. Of these the Nicene (the creed in the Communion Service, by
the way) mentions neither the Devil nor Hell; the Apostles’ and the
so-called Athanasian mention hell but not the Devil. In No. III. of the
Thirty-nine Articles hell is solidly established, but again there is no
mention of the Devil. It may be argued that hell implies the Devil, as a
fox-hole implies a fox; but his existence is not authoritatively
averred. Strangely enough, the only personage who, according to the
creeds and articles, has certainly been in hell, is Jesus Christ
himself: “He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the
dead; he ascended into heaven.” What took _him_ to hell? The Prayer Book
does not inform us. But we learn from the Epistle called 1 Peter, chap.
iii., 19, 20, and chap. iv., 6: “By which also he went and preached unto
the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when once the
long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a
preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls, were saved by water.... For
this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they
might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God
in the spirit.” Whence it appears that the spirits in prison were not
the Devil and his angels, but the spirits of those who were drowned in
the Flood for disobedience; and it furthermore appears that these
spirits were saved by the preaching of Christ; so that in this famous
harrying of hell, he seems to have left it as empty as the mosstroopers
in their forays left farmsteads. It is true that No. VI. of the Articles
settles the canon of the Old and New Testaments, and that anyone daring
to exclude from belief anything in this canon might be convicted of
depraving the Prayer Book. But in that case all the best scholars and
divines of the Church are guilty of this dreadful sin; and not only
guilty, but openly, commonly and notoriously guilty: and therefore all
merit repulsion from the Lord’s table. Let the truly faithful clergy,
those who believe all without question or distinction, do their duty to
the Articles of religion of their Church (the Creeds, as I have pointed
out, are neutral), and they will shut out from their Communion nearly
all the intelligent piety and learning which lend it whatever dignity it
still retains. Granted the canon in its integrity, and the existence of
a personal Devil, and the doctrine of eternal punishment cannot be
fairly disputed. Without multiplying texts, I may refer to Revelation,
chap. xx., as decisive on these points.

From these considerations it follows that if the Church of England is
bound by her own articles she will hold fast to the Devil and hell, and
deny the privilege of her Communion to any one who depraves the
Prayer-Book by common and notorious disbelief in them. And for my own
part, I do not see how the Church could get on at all without a Devil
and hell, especially in competition with the other Christian sects,
which make unlimited use of both. The Devil is in fact as essential to
the Christian schemes as a leader of the opposition to that great
political blessing, government by party. If he were to die, or be
deposed, it would be necessary to elect another to the vacant dignity.
You cannot put the leadership in commission as the unfortunate Liberals
were taunted with doing, in their demoralisation after their disasters
of the General Election and Mr. Gladstone’s sudden retirement. Just as
Mr. Disraeli lamented the withdrawal of Mr. Gladstone, complaining of
the embarrassment caused to the Government by having no responsible
leader opposed to it, so we can imagine dear God lamenting the absence
of a Devil, and declaring that the Christian scheme could not work well
without one. His utter loss would make the government of the world
retrograde from an admirably balanced constitutional monarchy to a mere
Oriental absolute despotism. You must choose some one to lead, if only
in name and for the time, as the Whigs chose Lord Hartington. But though
Lord Hartington is still tolerated by us English, a Lord Hartington of a
Devil, be it said with all respect to both his lordship and his
Devil-ship, would scarcely be tolerated by either the celestial or the
infernal benches.

In Beranger’s authentic record, already alluded to, of “The Death of the
Devil”—which, however, relates only to the Church of Rome—we read how,
on learning the catastrophe:—

    “The conclave shook with mortal fear;
    Power and cash−box, adieu! they said;
    We have lost our father dear,
    The Devil is dead! the Devil is dead!”

But while they they were in this passion of grief and despair, St.
Ignatius offered to take the place of the dead Devil; and none could
doubt that he with his Jesuits for imps would prove a most efficient
substitute. Wherefore the Church threw off its sorrow and welcomed his
offer with most holy rapture:—

    “Noble fellow! cried all the court,
    We bless thee for thy malice and hate.
    And at once his Order, Rome’s support,
    Saw its robe flutter Heaven’s gate.
    From the angel’s tears of pity fell:
    Poor man will have cause to rue, they said;
    St. Ignatius inherits Hell.
    The Devil is dead! the Devil is dead!”

Thus matters continued well for the Church of Rome, and, in fact, became
even better than before. But if the Devil should die in the Church of
England, whom has she that could efficiently take his place? She has no
saints except the disciples and apostles of the New Testament, and these
have long since gone to glory. Would Mr. Gladstone undertake the office?
or Mr. Beresford Hope, with the _Saturday Review_ for his infernal
gazette? or the editor of the _Rock?_ or he of the _Church Times?_ or
the man who does religion for the _Daily Telegraph?_ Each of these
distinguished gentlemen might well eagerly accept the candidature or a
post so lofty: but I fear that none of them could be considered equal to
its functions. Perhaps Mr. Disraeli has the requisite genius, and
probably he would be very glad to exchange the Premiership of little
England for that of large hell: but unfortunately he has already
committed himself to the side of the angels, meaning by angels the
humdrum Tory angels of heaven—for, as Dr. Johnson said, the Devil was
the first Whig. On the whole, the Church of England had better keep
loyal to its ancient and venerable Devil, being too impoverished in
intellect and character to supply a worthy successor.

I have ventured to compare the government of the world in the Christian
scheme, by a God and a Devil, with our own felicitous government by
party. There is, however, or rather there appears to be, a striking
difference between the two. In our government, when the Prime Minister
finds himself decidedly in a minority, he goes out of office, and the
Leader of the Opposition goes in; in the Government of the World the
Leader of the Opposition seems to have always had an immense majority
(and his majority in these days is probably larger than ever before,
seeing that sceptics and infidels have multiplied exceedingly), yet the
other side is supposed to retain permanent possession of office. I say
“supposed,” because the Bible itself suggests that this popular opinion
is a mistake, the Devil (if there be a Devil) being entitled by it the
prince of this world, which surely implies his accession to power.

Although the Godhead or governing power of the world, according to the
Christian scheme, is usually spoken and written of as a trinity, it is,
in fact, quarterary or fourfold for Protestants, and quinary or fivefold
for Roman Catholics. The former have God the Father, God the Son, God
the Holy Ghost, and God the Devil; the latter supplement these with
Goddess the Virgin Mary. Both formally acknowledge the first three as
collectively and severally almighty, but Protestants implicitly
acknowledge the fourth, and Roman Catholics the fifth, as more almighty
still (these solecisms of dogma cannot be expressed without solecisms of
language). With the Roman Catholics I am not concerned here. With regard
to the Protestants, and those especially professing the Protestantism of
the Church of England, I may safely affirm that the Devil is not less
essential to their theology than is any person of the Trinity, or, in
fact, than are the three persons together. Indeed, the Father and the
Holy Ghost have been practically dispensed with, leaving Christ and
Satan to fight the battle out between themselves.

As this is a gloriously scientific age, nobly enamored of the exact
sciences, I will endeavor to expound this sublime subject of the
divinity of the Church of England mathematically, even after the manner
of the divine Plato in Book VIII. of “The Republic,” treating of divine
and human generation; and in the “Timæus,” treating of the creation of
the universal soul. His demonstrations, indeed, are so divinely obscure
as to confound all the scholiasts; my demonstration, however, shall be
so translucent that even the most learned and subtle lords of the
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, with their legal spectacles on,
shall not be able to help seeing through it. And whereas the figures,
which are shapes, are more intelligible to most people than the figures
which are numbers, let the exposition be geometrical. We will say, then,
that the Church of old conceived the divinity in the form of an
equilateral triangle, whereof the base was Christ as the whole system
was founded on belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Father and the
Holy Ghost were the two sides, leaning each on the other; and the Devil
was the apex, as opposed to, and farthest from, our blessed Savior. But
in course of time the theologians (perhaps merely wanting some
occupation for their vigorous talents, perhaps deeming it undignified to
have two persons of the godhead supporting each other obliquely like a
couple of tipsy men, perhaps simply in order to make matters square) set
to work, and pushed up the two sides, so that each might stand firm and
perpendicular by itself. This process had two unforeseen results; it
expanded the apex, which was a very elastic point, so that it became the
crowning side of the square, and it so unhinged the sides that after a
brief upright existence they lost their balance, and were carried to
Limbo by the first wind of strange doctrine which blew that way; and the
Devil and Christ, or Christ and the Devil (arrange the precedence as you
please), were left alone confronting each other. These two are of course
equal and parallel, the main distinction between them being that Christ
is below, and the Devil above, or, in other words, that the Devil is
superior and Christ inferior (the Devil seems entitled to the
precedence). Thus matters have continued even to the present time, the
divinity showing itself, as we may say, without form and void; and we
are free to speculate on the momentous questions: Will the crown (which
is the Devil) fall into the base (which is Christ)? Will the base float
up into the crown? Will the two coalesce half way? Will they both,
unknit from their sides, be carried away to Limbo by some blast of
strange doctrine? One thing is certain, they cannot long remain as they
are. Rare Ben Jonson chanted the Trinity, or Equilateral Triangle; rare
Walt Whitman has chanted the Square Deific (with Satan for the fourth
side); no poet can care to chant the two straight lines which, in the
language of Euclid, and in the region of intelligence, cannot enclose a
space, but are as a magnified symbol of equal—to nothing.

P. S.—It may be appropriately added that the books of Euclid are really
symbolic and prophetic expositions of most sublime and sacrosanct
mysteries, though in these days few persons seem aware of the fact. Thus
the very first definition, “A point is position without magnitude,”
exactly defines every point of difference between the theologians. So a
line, which is as the prolongation of a point, or length without
breadth, represents in one sense (for each symbol has manifold meanings)
the history of any theological system. An acute angle is, say, Professor
Clifford; an obtuse angle, Mr. Whalley; a right angle, the present
writer: _non angeli sed Angli_. The first proposition, “To erect an
equilateral triangle upon a given finite straight line,” indicates the
problem solved by Christianity, when it erected the Trinity on the basis
of the man we call Jesus. This pregnant subject should be worked out in
detail through the whole eight books.



RELIGION IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS


Top of Pike’s Peak, March 4th, 1873.

Honored with your special commission, I at once hurried across to
Denver, and thence still westward until I found myself among the big
vertebrae of this longish backbone of America. I have wandered to and
fro among the new cities, the advanced camps of civilisation, always
carefully reticent as to my mission, always carefully inquiring into the
state of religion both in doctrine and practice. You were so hopeful
that high Freethought would be found revelling triumphant in these high
free regions, that I fear you will be acutely pained by this my true
report. Churches and chapels of all kinds abound—Episcopalian, Methodist
Episcopal (for the Methodists here have bishops), Presbyterian, Baptist,
Congregational, Roman Catholic, etc. Zeal inflaming my courage, three
and even four times have I ventured into a church, each time enduring
the whole service; and if I have not ventured oftener, certainly I had
more than sufficient cause to abstain. For as I suffered in my few
visits to churches in your England, so I suffered here; and such
sufferings are too dreadful to be frequently encountered, even by the
bravest of the brave. Whether my sensations in church are similar to
those of others, or are peculiar to myself, I cannot be sure; but I am
quite sure that they are excruciating. On first entering I may feel
calm, wakeful, sane, and not uncomfortable, except that here I rather
regret being shut in from the pure air and splendid sky, and in England
rather regret having come out through the raw, damp murk, and in both
regret that civilisation has not yet established smoking-pews; but the
Church is always behind the age. It is pleasant for awhile to note the
well-dressed people seated or entering; the men with unctuous hair and
somewhat wooden decorum; the women floating more at ease, suavely
conscious of their fine inward and outward adornments. It is pleasant to
keep a hopeful look-out for some one of more than common beauty or
grace, and to watch such a one if discovered. As the service begins, and
the old, old words and phrases come floating around me, I am lulled into
quaint dream-memories of childhood; the long unthought-of school-mates,
the surreptitious sweetstuff, the manifold tricks and smothered
laughter, by whose aid (together with total inattention to the service,
except to mark and learn the text) one managed to survive the ordeal.
The singing also is pleasant, and lulls me into vaguer dreams.
Gradually, as the service proceeds, I become more drowsy; my small
faculties are drugged into quiet slumber, they feel themselves off duty,
there is nothing for which they need keep awake. But, with the
commencement of the sermon, new and alarming symptoms arise within me,
growing ever worse and worse until the close. Pleasure departs with
tranquility, the irritation of revolt and passive helplessness is acute.
I cannot find relief in toffy, or in fun with my neighbors, as when I
was a happy child. The old stereotyped phrases, the immemorial
platitudes, the often-killed sophistries that never die, come buzzing
and droning about me like a sluggish swarm of wasps, whose slow
deliberate stinging is more hard to bear than the quick keen stinging of
anger. Then the wasps, penetrating through my ears, swarm inside me;
there is a horrid buzzing in my brain, a portentous humming in my
breast; my small faculties are speedily routed, and disperse in blind
anguish, the implacable wasps droning out and away after them, and I am
left void, void; with hollow skull, empty heart, and a mortal sinking of
stomach; my whole being is but a thin shell charged with vacuity and
desperate craving; I expect every instant to collapse or explode. It is
but too certain that if anyone should then come to lead me off to an
asylum for idiots, or a Young Men’s Christian Association, or any
similar institution, I could not utter a single rational word to save
myself. And though all my faculties have left me, I cannot attempt to
leave the church; decorum, rigid and frigid, freezes me to my seat; I
stare stonily in unimaginable torture, feebly wondering whether the
sermon will outlast my sanity, or my sanity outlast the sermon. When at
length released, I am so utterly demoralised that I can but smoke
furiously, pour much beer and cram much dinner into my hollowness, and
so with swinish dozing hope to feel better by tea-time. Now, though in
order to fulfil the great duties you entrust to me, I have cheerfully
dared the Atlantic, and spent long days and perilous nights in railroad
cars, and would of course (were it indeed necessary) face unappalled
mere physical death and destruction, I really could not go on risking,
with the certainty of ere long losing, my whole small stock of brains;
especially as the loss of these would probably rather hinder than
further the performance of the said duties. For suppose me reduced to
permanent idiocy by church-going, become a mere brazen hollowness with a
riotous tongue like Cowper’s church-going bell; is it not most likely
that I would then turn true believer, renouncing and denouncing your
noble commission, even as you would renounce and denounce your imbecile
commissioner?

Finding that I could not pursue my inquiries in the churches and
chapels, I was much grieved and perplexed, until one of those thoughts
occurred to me which are always welcome and persuasive, because in exact
agreement with our own desires or necessities. I thought of what I had
remarked when visiting your England: how the churches and chapels and
lecture-halls, each sect thundering more or less terribly against all
the others, made one guess that the people were more disputatious than
pious; how one became convinced, in spite of his infidel reluctance,
that the people were indeed, as a rule, thoroughly and genuinely
religious, by mingling freely with them in their common daily and
nightly life. I asked myself, What really proved to me the pervading
Christianity of England? the sermons, the tracts, the clerical lectures,
the missionary meetings? the cathedrals and other theatres and
music-halls crowded with worshippers on Sunday, while the museums and
other public-houses were empty and shut? No, scarcely these things; but
the grand princeliness of the princes, the true nobleness of the nobles,
the lowliness of the bishops, the sanctity of the clergy, the honesty of
the merchants, the veracity of the shopkeepers, the sobriety and thrift
of the artisans, the independence and intelligence of the rustics; the
general faith and hope and love which brightened the sunless days, the
general temperance and chastity which made beautiful the sombre nights;
the almost universal abhorrence of the world, the flesh, and the Devil;
the almost universal devotion to heaven, the spirit, and God.

I thereupon determined to study the religion out here, even as I had
studied it in England, in the ordinary public and private life of the
people; and you will doubtless be sorely afflicted to learn that I have
found everywhere much the same signs of genuine, practical Christianity
as are so common and patent in the old country. The ranchmen have sown
the good seed, and shall reap the harvest of heavenly felicity; the
stockmen will surely be corraled with the sheep, and not among the
goats, at the last day; not to gain the whole world would the
storekeepers lose their own souls; the pioneers have found the narrow
way which leadeth unto life; the fishermen are true disciples, the
trappers catch Satan in his own snares, the hunters are mighty before
the Lord; bright are the celestial prospects of the prospectors, ana the
miners are all stoping-out that hidden treasure which is richer than
silver and much fine gold. As compared with the English, these Western
men are perchance inferior in two important points of Christian
sentiment: they probably do not fear God, being little given to fear
anyone; they certainly do not honor the king, perhaps because they
unfortunately have none to honor. On the other hand, as I have been
assured by many persons from the States and the old country, they are
even superior to the English in one important point of Christian
conduct. Christ has promised that in discharging the damned to hell at
the day of judgment, he will fling at them this among other reproaches,
“I was a stranger, and ye took me not in,” and this particular rebuke
seems to have wrought a peculiarly deep impression in these men, perhaps
because they have much more to do with strangers than have people in old
settled countries, so much, indeed, that the word “stranger” is
continually in their mouths. The result is (as the said persons from
England and the States have often solemnly assured me) that any and
every stranger arriving in these regions is most thoroughly, most
beautifully, most religiously taken in. So that should any of these fine
fellows by evil hap be among the accursed multitude whom Christ thus
addresses, they will undoubtedly retort in their frank fashion of
speech: “Wall, boss, it may be right to give us hell on other counts,
but you say you was a stranger and we didn’t take you in. What we want
to know is, Did you ever come to our parts to trade in mines or stock or
sich? If you _didn’t_, how the Devil _could_ we take you in? if you
_did_, it’s a darned lie, and an insult to our understanding to say we
_didn’t_.”

But though the practical life out here is so veritably Christian, you
still hope that at any rate the creeds and doctrines are considerably
heterodox. I am sincerely sorry to be obliged to destroy this hope. In
the ordinary talk of the men continually recur the same or almost the
same expressions and implications of orthodox belief, as are so common
in your England, and throughout Christendom. Why such formulas are
generally used by men only, I have often been puzzled to explain: it may
be that the women, who in all lands attend divine service much more than
do the men, find ample expression of their faith in the set times and
places of public worship and private prayer; while the men, less
methodical, and demanding liberal scope, give it robust utterance
whenever and wherever they choose. These formulas, as you must have
often remarked, are most weighty and energetic; they avouch and avow the
supreme personages and mysteries and dogmas of their religion; they are
usually but brief ejaculations, in strong contrast to those long prayers
of the Pharisees which Jesus laughed to scorn; and they are often so
superfluous as regards the mere worldly meaning of the sentences in
which they appear, that it is evident they have been interjected simply
to satisfy the pious ardor of the speaker, burning to proclaim in season
and out of season the cardinal principles of his faith. I say speaker,
and not writer, because writing, being comparatively cold and
deliberate, seldom flames out in these sharp swift flashes, that leap
from living lips touched with coals of fire from the altar.(1)

    1. Is it not time that we wrote such words as this damn at full
    length, as did Emily Brontë, the Titaness, whom Charlotte justly
    indicates in this as in other respects; instead of putting only
    initial and final letters, with a hypocritical fig-leaf dash in
    the middle, drawing particular attention to what it affects to
    conceal? These words are in all men’s mouths, and many of them
    are emphatically the leading words of the Bible.

I am aware that these fervid ejaculations are apt to be regarded by the
light-minded as trivial, by the cold-hearted as indecorous, by the
sanctimonious as even profane; but to the true philosopher, whether he
be religious or not, they are pregnant with grave significance. For do
not these irrepressible utterances burst forth from the very depths of
the profound heart of the people? Are they not just as spontaneous and
universal as is the belief in God itself? Are they not among the most
genuine and impassioned words of mankind? Have they not a primordial
vigor and vitality? Are they not supremely of that voice of the people
which has been well called the voice of God? Thus when your Englishman
instead of “Strange!” says “The Devil!” instead of “Wonderful!” cries
“Good Heavens!” instead of “How startling!” exclaims “O Christ!” he does
more than merely express his emotions, his surprise, his wonder, his
amaze; he hallows it to the assertion of his belief in Satan, in the
good kingdom of God, in Jesus; and, moreover, by the emotional gradation
ranks with perfect accuracy the Devil lowest in the scale, the heavens
higher, Christ the loftiest. When another shouts “God damn you!”(1) he
not only condemns the evil of the person addressed; he also takes
occasion to avow his own strong faith in God and God’s judgment of
sinners. Similarly “God bless you!” implies that there is a God, and
that from him all blessings flow. How vividly does the vulgar hyperbole
“Infernally hot,” prove the general belief in hell-fire! And the phrase
“God knows!” not merely declares that the subject is beyond human
knowledge, but also that an all-wise God exists. Here in the West, as
before stated, such brief expressions of faith, which are so much more
sincere than long formularies repeated by rote in church, are quite as
common as in your England. When one has sharply rebuked or punished
another, he says “I gave him hell.” And that this belief in future
punishment pervades all classes is proved by the fact that even a
profane editor speaks of it as a matter of course. For the thermometer
having been stolen from his sanctum, the said worthy editor announced
that the mean cuss who took it might as well bring or send it back (no
questions asked) for it could not be of any use to him in the place he
was going to, as it only registered up to 212 degrees. The old notion
that hell or Hades is located in the middle of the earth (which may have
a scientific solution in the Plutonic theory that we dwell on the crust
of a baked dumpling full of fusion and confusion) is obviously tallied
by the miner’s assertion that his vein was true-fissure, reaching from
the grass-roots down to hell. The frequent phrase “A God-damned liar,”
“A God-damned thief,” recognise God as the punisher of the wicked. I
have heard a man complain of an ungodly headache, implying first, the
existence of God, and secondly, the fact that the Godhead does not ache,
or in other words is perfect. Countless other phrases of this kind might
be alleged, a few of them astonishingly vigorous and racy, for new
countries breed lusty new forms of speech; but the few already given
suffice for my present purpose. One remarkable comparison, however, I
cannot pass over without a word: it is common to say of a man who has
too much self-esteem, He thinks himself a little tin Jesus on wheels. It
is clear that some profound suggestion, some sacrosanct mystery, must
underlie this bold locution; but what I have been hitherto unable to
find out. The connexion between Jesus and tin may seem obvious to such
as know anything of bishops and pluralists, pious bankers and traders.
But what about the wheels? Have they any relation to the opening chapter
of Ezekiel? It is much to be wished that Max Müller, and all other such
great scholars, who (as I am informed, for it’s not I that would presume
to study them myself) manage to extract whatever noble mythological
meanings they want, from unintelligible Oriental metaphors and broken
phrases many thousand years old, would give a few years of their
superfluous time to the interpretation of this holy riddle. Do not,
gentleman, do not by all that is mysterious, leave it to the scholars of
millenniums to come; proceed to probe and analyse and turn it inside out
at once, while it is still young and flourishing, while the genius who
invented it is still probably alive, if he deceased not in his boots, as
decease so many gallant pioneers.

And here, before afflicting you further, O much-enduring editor, let me
soothe you a little by stating that some particles of heresy, some few
heretics, are to be found even here. I have learned that into a very
good and respectable bookstore in a city of these regions, certain
copies of Taylor’s “Diegesis” have penetrated, who can say how? and that
some of these have been sold. A living judge has been heard to declare
that he couldn’t believe at all in the Holy Ghost outfit. It has also
been told me of a man who must have held strange opinions as to the
offspring of God the Father, though certainly this man was not a
representative pioneer, being but a German miner, fresh from the States.
This Dutchman (all Germans here are Dutch, doubtless from _Deutsche_,
the special claims of the Hollanders being ignored) was asked solemnly
by a clergyman, “Who died to save sinners?” and answered “Gott.” “What,”
said the pained and pious pastor, “don’t you know that it was Jesus the
_Son_ of God?” “Ah,” returned placidly the Dutchman, “it vass one of te
boys, vass it? I always dought it vass te olt man himselben.” This good
German may have been misled by the mention of the sons of God early in
Genesis, yet it is strange that he knew not that Jesus is the only son
of God, and our savior. A story is moreover told of two persons, of whom
the one boasted rather too often that he was a self-made man, and the
other at length quietly remarked that he was quite glad to hear it, as
it cleared God from the responsibility of a darned mean bit of work.
Whence some have inferred the heresy that God is the creator of only a
part of the universe; but I frankly confess that in my own opinion the
reply was merely a playful sarcasm.

The most decided heresy which has come under my own observation was
developed in the course of a chat between two miners in a lager-beer
saloon and billiard-hall; into the which, it need scarcely be remarked,
I was myself solely driven by the fierce determination to carry out my
inquiries thoroughly. Bill was smoking, Dick was chewing; and they stood
up together, at rather rapidly decreasing intervals, for drinks of such
“fine old Bourbon” rye whiskey as bears the honorable popular title of
rot-gut. The frequency with which the drinking of alcoholic liquors
leads to impassioned and elevated discussion of great problems in
politics, history, dog-breeding, horse-racing, moral philosophy,
religion, and kindred important subjects, seems to furnish a strong and
hitherto neglected argument against tee-totalism. There are countless
men who can only be stimulated to a lively and outspoken interest in
intellectual questions by a series of convivial glasses and meditative
whiffs. If such men really take any interest in such questions at other
times, it remains deplorably latent, not exercising its legitimate
influence on the public opinion of the world. Our two boys were
discussing theology; and having had many drinks, grappled with the
doctrine of the triune God. “Wall,” said Bill, “I can’t make out that
trinity consam, that three’s one and one’s three outfit.” Whereto Dick:
“Is that so? Then you wam’t rigged out for a philosopher, Bill. Look
here,” pulling forth his revolver, an action which caused a slight stir
in the saloon, till the other boys saw that he didn’t mean business;
“look here, I’ll soon fix it up for you. Here’s six chambers, but it’s
only one pistol, with one heft and one barrel; the heft for us to catch
hold of, the barrel to kill our enemy. Wall, God a’mighty’s jest made
hisself a three-shooter, while he remains one God; but the Devil, he’s
only a single-shot deringer: so God can have three fires at the Devil
for one the Devil can have at him. Now can’t you figure it out?” “Wall,”
said Bill, evidently staggered by the revolver, and feeling, if
possible, increased respect for that instrument on finding it could be
brought to bear toward settlement of even such a difficulty as the
present; “Wall, that pans out better than I thought it could: but to
come down to the bedrock, either God’s a poor mean shot or his piece
carries darned light; for I reckon the Devil makes better play with his
one chamber than God with his three.” “Maybe,” replied Dick, with calm
candor, strangely indifferent to the appalling prospects this theory
held out for our universe; “some of them pesky little things jest shoot
peas that rile the other fellow without much hurting him, and then, by
thunder, he lets daylight through you with one good ball. Besides, it’s
likely enough the Devil’s the best shot, for he’s been consarned in a
devilish heap of shooting more than God has; at any rate”—perchance
vaguely remembering to have heard of such things as “religious wars”—“of
late years, between here and ’Frisco. Wall, I guess I don’t run the
creation. Let’s liquor;” manifestly deriving much comfort from the
consciousness that he had no hand in conducting this world. Bill
acquiesced with a brief “Ja,” and they stood up for another drink. I am
bound to attest that, in spite or because of the drinks, they had argued
throughout with the utmost deliberation and gravity, with a dignified
demeanour which Bishops and D.Ds. might envy, and ought to emulate.

Having thus comforted you with what little of heresy and infidelity I
have been able to gather, it is now my painful duty to advance another
class of proofs of the general religiousness here; a class of which you
have very few current specimens in England, unless it be among the Roman
Catholics. All comparative mythologists—indeed, all students of
history—are said to agree that the popular legends and myths of any race
at any time are of the utmost value, as showing what the race then
believed, and thus determining its moral and intellectual condition at
that period; this value being quite irrespective of the truth or untruth
to fact of the said legends. Hence in modern times collections of old
traditions and fairy tales have been excellently well received, whether
from the infantile literature of ancient peoples, as the Oriental and
Norse, or from the senile and anile lips of secluded members of tribes
whose nationality is fast dying out, as the Gaelic and Welsh. And truly
such collections commend themselves alike to the grave and the frivolous
for the scientific scholar finds in them rich materials for serious
study, and the mere novel-reader can flatter himself that he is studying
while simply enjoying strange stories become new by extreme old age. All
primitive peoples, who read and write little, have their most popular
beliefs fluidly embodied in oral legends and myths; and in this respect
the settlers of a new region, though they may come from the oldest
countries, resemble the primitive peoples. They are too busy with the
tough work of subduing the earth to give much time to writing or reading
anything beyond their local newspapers; they love to chat together when
not working, and chat, much more than writing, runs into stories. Thus
religious legends in great numbers circulate out here, all charged and
surcharged with faith in the mythology of the Bible. Of these it has
been my sad privilege to listen to not a few. As this letter is already
too long for your paper, though very brief for the importance of its
theme, I will subjoin but a couple of them, which I doubt not will be
quite enough to indicate what measureless superstition prevails in these
youngest territories of the free and enlightened Republic.

It is told—on what authority no one asks, the legend being universally
accepted on its intrinsic merits, as Protestants would have us accept
the Bible, and Papists their copious hagiology—that St. Joseph, the
putative father of our Lord, fell into bad habits, slipping almost daily
out of Heaven into evil society, coming home very late at night and
always more or less intoxicated. It is suggested that he may have been
driven into these courses by unhappiness in his connubial and parental
relations, his wife and her child being ranked so much above himself by
the Christian world, and the latter being quite openly attributed to
another father. Peter, though very irascible, put up with his misconduct
for a long time, not liking to be harsh to one of the Royal Family; and
it is believed that God the Father sympathised with this poor old
Joseph, and protected him, being himself jealous of the vastly superior
popularity of Mary and Jesus. But at length, after catching a violent
cold through getting out of bed at a preposterous hour to let the
staggering Joseph in, Peter told him roundly that if he didn’t come home
sober and in good time, he must just stay out all night. Joseph, feeling
sick and having lost his pile, promised amendment, and for a time kept
his word. Then he relapsed; the heavenly life proved too slow for him,
the continual howling of “all the menagerie of the Apocalypse” shattered
his nerves, he was disgusted at his own insignificance, the memory of
the _liaison_ between his betrothed and the Holy Ghost filled him with
gall and wormwood, and perhaps he suspected that it was still kept up.
So, late one night or early one morning Peter was roused from sleep by
an irregular knocking and fumbling at the gate, as if some stupid dumb
animal were seeking admittance. “Who’s there?” growled Peter. “It’s
me—Joseph,” hiccoughed the unfortunate. “You’re drunk,” said Peter,
savagely.

“You’re on the tear again; you’re having another bender.” “Yes,”
answered Joseph, meekly. “Wall,” said Peter, “you jest go back to where
you come from, and spend the night there; get.” “I can’t,” said Joseph.
“They’re all shut up; they’ve turned me out.” “Then sleep outside in the
open air; it’s wholesome, and will bring you round,” said Peter. After
much vain coaxing and supplicating, old Joe got quite mad, and roared
out, “If you don’t get up and let me in at once, by God I’ll take my son
out of the outfit and bust up the whole consarn!” Peter, terrified by
this threat, which, if carried out, would ruin his prospects in eternal
life by abolishing his office of celestial porter, caved in, getting up
and admitting Joseph, who ever since has had a latch-key that he may go
and come when he pleases. It is to be hoped that he will never when
tight let this latch-key be stolen by one of the little devils who are
always lurking about the haunts of dissipation he frequents; for in that
case the consequences might be awful, as can be readily imagined.

Again it is told that a certain miner, a tough cuss, who could whip his
weight in wild cats and give points to a grizzle, seemed uncommonly
moody and low-spirited one morning, and on being questioned by his chum,
at length confessed that he was bothered by a very queer dream. “I
dreamt that I was dead,” he explained; “and a smart spry pretty little
angel took me up to heaven.” “Dreams go by contraries,” suggested the
chum, by way of comfort. “Let that slide,” answered the dreamer; “the
point isn’t there. Wall, St. Peter wasn’t at the gate, and the angel
critter led me on to pay my respects to the boss, and after travelling
considerable we found him as thus. God the Father, God the Son, God the
Holy Ghost and Peter, all as large as life, were playing a high-toned
game of poker, and there was four heavy piles on the table—gold, not
shinplasters, you bet. I was kinder glad to see that they played poker
up in heaven, so as to make life there not on-bearable; for it would be
but poor fun singing psalms all day; I was never much of a hand at
singing, more particularly when the songs is psalms. Wall, we waited,
not liking to disturb their game, and I watched the play. I soon found
that Jesus Christ was going through the rest, cheating worse than the
heathen Chinee at euchre; but of course I didn’t say nothing, not being
in the game. After a while Peter showed that he began to guess it too,
if he wasn’t quite sure; or p’r’aps he was skeared at up and telling
Christ to his face. At last, however, what does Christ do, after a bully
bluff which ran Pete almost to his bottom dollar, but up and show five
aces to Pete’s call; and ‘What’s that for high?’ says he, quite cool.
‘Now look you, Christ,’ shouts Pete, jumping up as mad as thunder, and
not caring a cent or a continental what he said to anybody; ‘look you,
Christ, that’s too thin; we don’t want any of your darned miracles
here!’ and with that he grabbed up his pile and all his stakes, and went
off in a mighty huff. Christ looked pretty mean, I tell you, and the
game was up. Now you see,” said the dreamer, sadly and thoughtfully,
“it’s a hard rock to drill and darned poor pay at that, if when you have
a quiet hand at poker up there, the bosses are allowed to cheat and a
man can’t use his deringer or put a head on ’em; I don’t know but I’d
rather go to the other place on those terms.” Not yet to be read in
books, as I have intimated, but circulating orally, and in versions that
vary with the various rhapsodists, such are the legends you may hear
when a ring is formed round the hotel-office stove at night, in shanties
and shebangs of ranchmen and miners, in the shingled offices of judge
and doctor, in railroad cars and steamboats, or when bumming around the
stores; whenever and wherever, in short, men are gathered with nothing
particular to do. The very _naïveté_ of such stories surely testifies to
the child-like sincerity of the faith they express and nourish. It is
the simple unbounded faith of the Middle Ages, such as we find in the
old European legends and poems and mysteries, such as your poetess Mrs.
Browning well marks in Chaucer.

Many of the so-called liberal clergy complain of the gulf which yawns in
this age of materialistic science between religion and every-day life,
in this world and the things are treated as mere thin abstractions, they
say; and only the lower things are recognised as real. These pious
pioneers, in the freshness and wonderfulness of their new life, overleap
this gulf without an effort, realising heaven as thoroughly as earth.
How could the communion and the human nature of saints be better
exhibited than in St. Joseph falling into dissipation and St. Peter
playing poker? How could the manhood as well as the Godhead of Jesus
Christ be more familiarly brought home to us than by his taking a hand
at this game and then miraculously cheating When generations have passed
away, if not earlier, such next, heaven

    “the infantine Familiar clasp of things divine.”

The higher legends as these will assuredly be gathered by earnest and
reverent students as quite invaluable historical relics. They must fill
the Christian soul with delight; they must harrow the heart of him who
hath said in his heart, There is no God.

In conclusion, I must again express my deep regret at being forced by
the spirit of truth to give you so favorable an account of the state of
religion out here, both in creed and practice. I trust that you will
lose no time and spare no exertion in attacking and, if possible,
routing out the Christianity now entrenched in these great natural
fortresses. Be your war-cry that of the first pioneers, “Pike’s Peak or
bust”; and be not like unto him found teamless half-way across the
plains, with the confession on his waggon-tilt, “Busted, by thunder.”
For you can come right out here by railroad now. As for myself, I
climbed wearily and with mortal pantings unto the top of this great
mountain, thinking it one of the best coigns of vantage whence to
command a comprehensive view of the sphere of my inquiries, and also a
spot where one might write without being interrupted or overlooked by
loafers. Unfortunately I have not been able to discover any special
religious or irreligious phænomena; for, though the prospect is indeed
ample where not intercepted by clouds or mist, very few of the people
and still fewer of their characteristics can be made out distinctly even
with a good glass. How I am to get down and post this letter puzzles me.
The descent will be difficult, dangerous, perhaps deadly. Would that I
had not come up. After all there is some truth in the Gospel narrative
of the Temptation: for by studying the general course of ecclesiastical
promotion and the characters of the most eminent churchmen, I was long
since led to recognise that it is indeed Satan who sets people on
pinnacles of the temple; and I am now moreover thoroughly convinced that
it is the Devil and the Devil only that takes any one to the top of an
exceeding high mountain.



THE STORY OF A FAMOUS OLD JEWISH FIRM


(1866.)

Many thousand years ago, when the Jews first started in business, the
chief of their merchants was a venerable and irascible old gentleman
named Jah. The Jews have always been excellent traders, keen to scent
wealth, subtle to track it, unweary to pursue it, strong to seize it,
tenacious to hold it; and the most keen, subtle, untiring, strong,
tenacious of them all, was this Jah. The patriarchs of his people paid
him full measure of the homage which Jews have always eagerly paid to
wealth and power, and all their most important transactions were carried
out through him. In those antique times people lived to a very great
age, and Jah is supposed to have lived so many thousands of years that
one may as well not try to count them. Perhaps it was not one Jah that
existed all this while, but the house of Jah: the family, both for pride
and profit, preserving through successive generations the name of its
founder. Certain books have been treasured by the Jews as containing
exact records of the dealings of this lordly merchant (or house) both
with the Jews themselves and with strangers. Many people in our times,
however, have ventured to doubt the accuracy of these records, arguing
that some of the transactions therein recorded it would have been
impossible to transact, that others must have totally ruined the richest
of merchants, that the accounts often contradict each other, and that
the system of book-keeping generally is quite unworthy of a dealer so
truthful and clear-headed as Jah is affirmed to have been. The records
are so ancient in themselves, and they treat of matters so much more
ancient still, that it is not easy to find other records of any sort
with which to check their accounts. Strangely enough the most recent
researches have impugned the accuracy of the most ancient of these
records; certain leaves of a volume called the “Great Stone Book,”
having been brought forward to contradict the very first folio of the
ledger in which the dealings of Jah have been posted up according to the
Jews. It may be that the first few folios, like the early pages of most
annals, are somewhat mythical; and the present humble compiler (who is
not deep in the affairs of the primaeval world, and who, like the late
lamented Captain Cuttle with his large volume, is utterly knocked up at
any time by four or five lines of the “Great Stone Book”) will prudently
not begin at the beginning, but skip it with great comfort and pleasure,
especially as many and learned men are now earnest students of this
beginning. We will, therefore, if you please, take for granted the facts
that at some time, in some manner, Jah created his wonderful business,
and that early in his career he met with a great misfortune, being
compelled, by the villainy of all those with whom he had dealings to
resort to a wholesale liquidation, which left him so poor, that for some
time he had not a house in the world, and his establishment was reduced
to four male and as many female servants.

He must have pretty well recovered from this severe shock when he
entered into the famous covenant or contract with Abraham and his heirs,
by which he bound himself to deliver over to them at a certain, then
distant, period, the whole of the valuable landed property called
Canaan, on condition that they should appoint him the sole agent for the
management of their affairs. In pursuance of this contract, he conducted
that little business of the flocks and herds for Jacob against one
Laban; and afterwards, when the children of Abraham were grown very
numerous, he managed for them that other little affair, by which they
spoiled the Egyptians of jewels of silver and jewels of gold; and it is
even asserted that he fed and clothed the family for no less than forty
years in a country where the commissariat was a service of extreme
difficulty.

At length the time came when he was to make over to them the Land of
Canaan, for this purpose evicting the several families then in
possession thereof. The whole of the covenanted estate he never did make
over to them, but the Jews freely admit that this was through their own
fault. They held this land as mortgaged to him, he pledging himself not
to foreclose while they dealt with him faithfully and fulfilled all the
conditions of the covenant. They were to pay him ten per cent, per annum
interest, with sundry other charges, to put all their affairs into his
hands, to have no dealings whatsoever with any rival merchants, etc.,
etc. Under this covenant the Jews continued in possession of the fine
little property of Canaan for several hundred years, and they assert
that this same Jah lived and conducted his business throughout the whole
period. But, as I have ventured to suggest, the long existence of the
house of Jah may have been the sum total of the lives of a series of
individual Jahs. The Jews could not have distinguished the one from the
other; for it is a strange fact that Jah himself, they admit, was never
seen. Perhaps he did not affect close contact with Jews. Perhaps he
calculated that his power over them would be increased by mystery; this
is certain, that he kept himself wholly apart from them in his private
office, so that no one was admitted even on business. It is indeed
related that one Moses (the witness to the execution of the covenant)
caught a glimpse of him from behind, but this glimpse could scarcely
have sufficed for identification; and it is said, also, that at certain
periods the chief of the priesthood was admitted to consultation with
him; but although his voice was then heard, he did not appear in
person—only the shadow of him was seen, and everyone will allow that a
shadow is not the best means of identification. And in further support
of my humble suggestion it may be noted that in many and important
respects the later proceedings attributed to Jah differ extremely in
character from the earlier; and this difference cannot be explained as
the common difference between the youth and maturity and senility of one
and the same man, for we are expressly assured that Jah was without
change—by which we are not to understand that either through
thoughtlessness or parsimony he never had small cash in his pocket for
the minor occasions of life; but that he was stubborn in his will,
unalterable in his ideas, persistent in his projects and plans.

The records of his dealings at home with the Jews, and abroad with the
Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Philistines, the Babylonians, the
Persians, the Edomites, and other nations, as kept by the Jews
themselves, are among the strangest accounts of a large general business
which have ever been put down in black on white. And in nothing are they
more strange than in the unsullied candor with which the Jews always
admit and proclaim that it was their fault, and by no means the fault of
Jah, whenever the joint business went badly, and narrate against
themselves the most astonishing series of frauds and falsehoods, showing
how they broke the covenant, and attempted to cheat the other party in
every imaginable way, and, in order to ruin his credit, conspired with
foreign adventurers of the worst character—such as MM. Baal, Ashtaroth,
and Moloch. Jah, who gave many proofs of a violent and jealous temper,
and who was wont to sell up other debtors in the most heartless way,
appears to have been very patient and lenient with these flagitious
Jews. Yet with all his kindness and long-suffering he was again and
again forced to put executions into their houses, and throw themselves
into prison; and at length, before our year One, having, as it would
seem, given up all hope of making them deal honestly with him, he had
put certain strict Romans in possession of the property to enforce his
mortgage and other rights.

And now comes a sudden and wonderful change in the history of this
mysterious Jah. Whether it was the original Jah, who felt himself too
old to conduct the immense business alone, or whether it was some
successor of his, who had not the same self-reliance and imperious will,
one cannot venture to decide; but we all know that it was publicly
announced, and soon came to be extensively believed, that Jah had taken
unto himself two partners, and that the business was thenceforth to be
carried on by a firm, under the style of Father, Son, and Co. It is
commonly thought that history has more of certainty as it becomes more
recent; but unfortunately in the life of Jah, uncertainty grows ten
times more uncertain when we attain the period of this alleged
partnership, for the Jews deny it altogether; and of those who believe
in it not one is able to define its character, or even to state its
possibility in intelligible language. The Jews assert roundly that the
alleged partners are a couple of vile impostors, that Jah still conducts
his world-wide business alone, that he has good reasons (known only to
himself) for delaying the exposure of these pretenders; and that,
however sternly he has been dealing with the Jews for a long time past,
and however little they may seem to have improved so as to deserve
better treatment, he will yet be reconciled to them, and restore them to
possession of their old land, and exalt them above all their rivals and
enemies, and of his own free will and absolute pleasure burn and destroy
every bond of their indebtedness now in his hands. And in support of
these modest expectations they can produce a bundle of documents which
they assert to be his promissory notes, undoubtedly for very large
amounts; but which, being carefully examined, turn out to be all framed
on this model: “I, the above-mentioned A. B.” (an obscure or utterly
unknown Jew, supposed to have lived about three thousand years ago),
“hereby promise in the name of Jah, that the said Jah shall in some
future year unknown, pay unto the house of Israel the following amount,
that is to say, etc.” If we ask, Where is the power of attorney
authorising this dubious A. B. to promise this amount in the name of
Jah? the Jews retort: “If you believe in the partnership, you must
believe in such power, for you have accepted all the obligations of the
old house, and have never refused to discount its paper: if you believe
neither in Jah nor in the partnership, you are a wretch utterly without
faith, a commercial outlaw.” In addition, however, to these remarkable
promissory notes, the Jews rely upon the fact that Jah, in the midst of
his terrible anger, has still preserved some kindness for them. He
threatened many pains and penalties upon them for breach of the
covenant, and many of these threats he has carried out; but the most
cruel and horrific of all he has not had the heart to fulfil: they have
been oppressed and crushed, strangers have come into their landed
property, they have been scattered among all peoples, a proverb and a
by-word of scorn among the nations, their religion has been accursed,
their holy places are defiled, but the crowning woe has been spared them
(Deut. xxviii., 44); never yet has it come to pass that the stranger
should lend to them, and they should not lend to the stranger. There is
yet balm in Gilead, a rose of beauty in Sharon, and a cedar of majesty
on Lebanon; the Jew still lends to the stranger, and does not borrow
from him, except as he “borrowed” from the Egygtian—and the interest on
money lent is still capable, with judicious treatment, of surpassing the
noble standard of “shent per shent.”

And even among the Gentiles there are some who believe that Jah is still
the sole head of the house, and that the pair who are commonly accounted
junior partners are in fact only superior servants, the one a sort of
manager, the other general superintendent and agent, though Jah may
allow them a liberal commission on the profits, as well as a fixed
salary.

—But the commercial world of Europe, in general, professes to believe
that there is a _bona fide_ partnership, and that the three partners
have exactly equal authority and interest in the concern; that, in fact,
there is such thorough identity in every respect that the three may, and
ought to be, for all purposes of business, considered as one. The second
partner, they say, is really the son of Jah; though Jah, with that
eccentricity which has ever abundantly characterised his proceedings,
had this son brought up as a poor Jewish youth, apparently the child of
a carpenter called Joseph, and his wife Mary. Joseph has little or no
influence with the firm, and we scarcely hear of a transaction done
through him, but Mary has made the most profitable use of her old
_liaison_ with Jah, and the majority of those who do business with the
firm seek her good offices, and pay her very liberal commissions. Those
who do not think so highly of her influence, deal with the house chiefly
through the son, and thus it has come to pass that poor Jah is virtually
ousted from his own business. He and the third partner are little more
than sleeping partners, while his mistress and her son manage every
affair of importance.

This state of things seems somewhat unfair to Jah; yet one must own that
there are good reasons for it. Jah was a most haughty and humorous
gentleman, extremely difficult to deal with, liable to sudden fits of
rage, wherein he maltreated friends and foes alike, implacable when once
offended, a desperately sharp shaver in the bargain, a terrible fellow
for going to law. The son was a much more kindly personage, very affable
and pleasant in conversation, willing and eager to do a favor to any
one, liberal in promises even beyond his powers of performance, fond of
strangers, and good to the poor; and his mother, with or without reason,
is credited with a similar character. Moreover, Jah always kept himself
invisible, while the son and mother were possibly seen, during some
years, by a large number of persons; and among those who have never seen
them their portraits are almost as popular as photographs of the Prince
and Princess of Wales.

With the real or pretended establishment of the Firm, a great change
took place in the business of Jah. This business had been chiefly with
the Jews, and even when it extended to foreign transactions, these were
all subordinate to the Jewish trade. But the Firm lost no time in
proclaiming that it would deal with the whole world on equal terms: no
wonder the Jews abhor the alleged partners! And the nature of the
contracts, the principal articles of trade, the mode of keeping the
accounts, the commission and interest charged and allowed, the salaries
of the agents and clerks, the advantages offered to clients, were all
changed too. The head establishment was removed from Jerusalem to Rome,
and branch establishments were gradually opened in nearly all the towns
and villages of Europe, besides many in Asia and Africa, and afterwards
in America and Australia. It is worth noting that in Asia and Africa
(although the firm arose in the former) the business has never been
carried on very successfully; Messrs. Brahma, Vishnu, Seeva, and Co.,
the great houses of Buddha and Mumbo Jumbo, various Parsee firms, and
other opposition houses, having among them almost monopolised the trade.

The novel, distinctive, and most useful article which the Firm engaged
to supply was a bread called _par excellence_ the Bread of Life. The
Prospectus (which was first drafted, apparently in perfect good faith,
by the Son; but which has since been so altered and expanded by
successive agents that we cannot learn what the original, no longer
extant, exactly stated) sets forth that the House of Jah, Son and Co.
has sole possession of the districts yielding the corn whereof this
bread is made, the sole patents of the mills for grinding and ovens for
baking, and that it alone has the secret of the proper process for
kneading. The Firm admits that many other houses have pretended to
supply this invaluable bread, but accuses them all of imposture or
poisonous adulteration. For itself, it commands the genuine supply in
such quantities that it can under take to feed the whole world, and at
so cheap a rate that the poorest will be able to purchase as much as he
needs; and, moreover, as the firm differs essentially from all other
firms in having no object in view save the benefit of its customers, the
partners being already so rich that no profits could add to their
wealth, it will supply the bread for mere love to those who have not
money!

This fair and beautiful prospectus, you will easily believe, brought
vast multitudes eager to deal with the firm, and especially large
multitudes of the poor, ravished with the announcement that love should
be henceforth current coin of the realm; and the business spread
amazingly. But at the very outset a sad mischance occurred. The Son, by
far the best of the partners, was suddenly seized and murdered and
buried by certain agents of the old Jewish business (furious at the
prospect of losing all their rich trade), with the connivance of the
Roman installed as inspector. At least, these wretches thought they had
murdered the poor man, and it is admitted on every side that they buried
him: but the dependants of the Firm have a strange story that he was not
really killed, but arose out of his tomb after lying there for three
days, and slipped away to keep company with his father, the invisible
Jah, in his exceedingly private office; and they assert that he is still
alive along with Jah, mollifying the old man when he gets into one of
his furious passions, pleading for insolvent debtors, and in all things
by act and counsel doing good for all the clients of the house. They,
moreover, assert that the third partner, who as the consoling substitute
for the absent Son is commonly called the Comforter, and who is very
energetic, though mysteriously invisible in his operations, superintends
all the details of the business in every one of the establishments. But
this third partner is so difficult to catch, that, as stated before, the
majority of the customers deal with the venerable mother, as the most
accessible and humane personage belonging to the house.

Despite the death or disappearance of the Son, the firm prospered for a
considerable time. After severe competition, in which neither side
showed itself very scrupulous, the great firm of Jupiter and Co., the
old Greek house, which had been strengthened by the amalgamation of the
wealthiest Roman firms, was utterly beaten from the field, sold up and
extinguished. In the sale of the effects many of the properties in most
demand were bought in by the new firm, which also took many of the
clerks and agents into its employment, and it is even said adopted in
several important respects the mode of carrying on business and the
system of book-keeping. But while the firm was thus conquering its most
formidable competitor, innumerable dissensions were arising between its
own branch establishments; every one accusing every other of dealing on
principles quite hostile to the regulations instituted by the head of
the house, of falsifying the accounts, and of selling an article which
was anything but the genuine unadulterated bread. There were also
interminable quarrels among them as to relative rank and importance.

And whether the wheat, as delivered to the various establishments, was
or was not the genuine article which the firm had contracted to supply,
it was soon discovered that it issued from the licensed shops
adulterated in the most audacious manner. And, although the prospectus
had stated most positively that the bread should be delivered to the
poor customers of the firm without money and without price (and such
seems really to have been the good Son’s intention), it was found, in
fact, that the loaves, when they reached the consumer, were at least as
costly as ever loaves of any kind of bread had been. It mattered little
that the wheat was not reckoned in the price, when agents’,
commissioners’, messengers’ fees, bakers’ charges, and a hundred items,
made the price total so enormous. When, at length, the business was
flourishing all over Europe, it was the most bewildering confusion of
contradictions that, perhaps, was ever known in the commercial world.
For in all the establishments the agents professed and very solemnly
swore that they dealt on principles opposed and infinitely superior to
the old principles of trade; yet their proceedings (save that they
christened old things with new names) were identical with those which
had brought to shameful ruin the most villainous old firms. The
sub-managers, who were specially ordered to remain poor while in the
business, and for obedience were promised the most splendid pensions
when superannuated, all became rich as princes by their exactions from
the clients of the house; the agents, who were especially commanded to
keep the peace, were ever stirring up quarrels and fighting ferociously,
not only with opposition agents but with one another. The accounts,
which were to be regulated by the most honest and simple rules, were
complicated in a lawless system, which no man could understand, and
falsified to incredible amounts, to the loss of the customers, without
being to the gain of the firm. In brief, each establishment was like one
of those Chinese shops where the most beautiful and noble maxims of
justice and generosity are painted in gilt letters outside, while the
most unblushing fraud and extortion are practised inside. When poor
customers complained of these things, they were told that the system was
perfect, that the evils were all from the evil men who conducted the
business! but the good people did not further explain how the perfection
of the system could ever be realised, since it must always be worked by
imperfect men. Complainants thus mildly and vaguely answered were very
fortunate; others, in places where the firm was very powerful, were
answered by imprisonment or false accusations, or by being pelted and
even murdered by mobs. Many who thought the bread badly baked were
themselves thrust into the fire.

Yet so intense is the need of poor men for some bread of life, so
willing are simple men to believe fair promises, that, in spite of the
monstrous injustice and falsehood and cruelty and licentiousness of the
managers and submanagers and agents of the firm, the business continued
to flourish, and all the wealth of Europe flowed into its coffers. And
generations passed ere some persons bethought them to think seriously of
the original Deed of Partnership and the fundamental principles of the
Firm. These documents, which had been carefully confined in certain old
dead languages which few of the customers could read, were translated
into vulgar tongues, which all could read or understand when read, and
everyone began studying them for himself. This thinking of essentials,
which is so rare a thought among mankind, has already produced
remarkable effects, ana promises to produce effects yet more remarkable
in a short time.

Behold a few of the questions which this study of the first documents
has raised.—The Father, whom no one has seen, is there indeed such a
personage? The Son, whom certainly no one has seen for eighteen hundred
years, did he really come to life again after being brutally murdered?
The junior partner, whom no one has ever seen, the Comforter, is he a
comforter made of the wool of a sheep that never was fleeced? The
business, as we see it, merely uses the names, and would be precisely
the same business if these names covered no personages. Do the managers
and submanagers really carry it on for their own profit, using these
high names to give dignity to their rascality, and to make poor people
believe that they have unbounded capital at their back? One is punished
for defamation of character if he denies the existence of the partners,
yet not the very chief of all the managers pretends to have seen any of
the three!

And the vaunted Bread of Life, wherein does it differ from the old
corn-of-Ceres bread, from the baking of the wheat of Mother Hertha?
Chiefly in this, that it creates much more wind on the stomach. It is
not more wholesome, nor more nourishing, and certainly not more cheap:
and it does us little good to be told that it would be if the accredited
agents were honest and supplied it pure, when we are told, at the same
time, that we must get it through these agents. It is indeed affirmed
that, in an utterly unknown region beyond the Black Sea, the genuine
wheat may be seen growing by any one who discovers the place; but, as no
one who ever crossed the sea on a voyage of discovery ever returned, the
assertion rests on the bare word of people who have never seen the
corn-land any more than they have seen the partners of the firm; and
their word is bare indeed, for it has been stripped to shame in a
thousand affairs wherein it could be brought to the test. They tell us
also that we shall all in time cross the Black Sea, and if we have been
good customers shall dwell evermore in that delightful land, with
unlimited supplies of the bread gratis. This may be true, but how do
they know? It may be true that in the sea we shall all get drowned for
ever.

These and similar doubts which, in many minds, have hardened into
positive disbelief, are beginning to affect seriously the trade of the
firm. But its interests are now so inextricably bound up with the
interests of thousands and millions of well-to-do and respectable
people, and on its solvency or apparent solvency depends that of so
large a number of esteemed merchants, that we may expect the most
desperate struggles to postpone its final bankruptcy. In the great Roman
establishment the manager has been supported for many years by
charitable contributions from every one whom he could persuade to give
or lend, and now he wants to borrow much more. The superintendent of the
shops in London is in these days begging for ten hundred thousand pounds
to assist the poor firm in its difficulties.

It seems a good sum of money; but, bless you, it is but a drop in the
sea compared with what the business has already absorbed, and is still
absorbing. Scattered shops in the most distant countries have only been
sustained for many years by alms from customers here. The barbarians
won’t eat the bread, but the bakers sent out must have their salaries. A
million of pounds are being begged here; and people (who would prosecute
a mendicant of halfpence) will give it no doubt! Yet, O worthy manager
of the London Shops, one proved loaf of the real Bread would be
infinitely more valuable, and would infinitely more benefit your firm!
The villainy of the agents was monstrous, generation after generation,
the cost of that which was promised without money and without price was
ruinous for centuries; but not all the villainy and extortion multiplied
a hundredfold could drive away the poor hungry customers while they had
faith in the genuineness of the bread. It was the emptiness and the wind
on the stomach after much eating, which raised the fatal doubts as to
the _bona fides_ of the whole concern. The great English managers had
better ponder this; for at present they grope in the dark delusion that
more and better bakers salaried with alms, and new shops opened with
eleemosynary funds will bring customers to buy their bran cakes as
wheaten loaves. A very dark delusion, indeed! If the pure promised bread
cannot be supplied, no amount of money will keep the business going very
long. Consider what millions on millions of pounds have been subscribed
already, what royal revenues are pouring in still; all meant for
investment in wholesome and nourishing food, but nearly all realised in
hunger and emptiness, heartburn and flatulence. The old Roman shrewdly
calculated that the House of Olympus would prove miserably insolvent if
its affairs were wound up, if it tried honestly to pay back all the
deposits of its customers. As for this more modern firm, one suspects
that, in like case, it would prove so insolvent that it could not pay a
farthing in the pound. For Olympus was a house that dealt largely in
common worldly goods, and of these things really did give a considerable
quantity to its clients for their money; but the new firm professed to
sell things infinitely more valuable, and of these it cannot prove the
delivery of a single parcel during the eighteen hundred years it has
been receiving purchase-money unlimited.

The humble compiler of this rapid and imperfect summary ought, perhaps,
to give his own opinion of the firm and the partners, although he
suffers under the disadvantage of caring very little for the business,
and thinks that far too much time is wasted by both the friends and the
enemies of the house in investigation of every line and figure in its
books. He believes that Jah, the grand Jewish dealer, was a succession
of several distinct personages; and will probably continue to believe
thus until he learns that there was but one Pharaoh King of Egypt, but
one Bourbon King of France, and that the House of Rothschild has always
been one and the same man. He believes that the Son was by no means the
child of the Father, that he was a much better character than the
Father, that he was really and truly murdered, that his prospectus and
business plans were very much more wise and honest and good than the
prospectus as we have it now, and the system as it has actually been
worked. He believes that the Comforter has really had a share in this as
in every other business not wholly bad in the world, that he has never
identified his interests with those of any firm, that specially he never
committed himself to a partnership of unlimited liability with the
Hebrew Jah, that he undoubtedly had extensive dealings with the Son, and
placed implicit confidence in him while a living man, and that he will
continue to deal profitably and bountifully with men long after the firm
has become bankrupt and extinct. He believes that the corn of the true
bread of life is sown and grown, reaped, ground, kneaded, baked and
eaten on this side of the Black Sea. He believes that no firm or company
whatever, with limited or unlimited liability, has the monopoly for the
purveyance of this bread, that no charters can confer such monopoly,
that the bread is only to be got pure by each individual for himself,
and that no two individuals of judgment really like it prepared in
exactly the same fashion, but that unfortunately (as his experience
compels him to believe) the bulk of mankind will always in the future no
less than in the past persist in endeavoring to procure it through great
chartered companies, finally, he believes that the worthy chief baker in
London with his million of money is extremely like the worthy Mrs.
Partington with her mop against the Atlantic.



CHRISTMAS EVE IN THE UPPER CIRCLES


(1866.)

Poor dear God sat alone in his private chamber, moody, melancholy,
miserable, sulky, sullen, weary, dejected, supenally hipped. It was the
evening of Sunday, the 24th of December, 1865. Waters continually
dripping wear away the hardest stone; year falling after year will at
length overcome the strongest god: an oak-tree outlasts many generations
of men; a mountain or a river outlasts many celestial dynasties. A cold
like a thick fog in his head, rheum in his eyes, and rheumatism in his
limbs and shoulders, his back bent, his chin peaked, his poll bald, his
teeth decayed, his body all shivering, his brain all muddle, his heart
all black care; no wonder the old gentleman looked poorly as he cowered
there, dolefully sipping his Lachryma Christi. “I wish the other party
would lend me some of his fire,” he muttered, “for it is horribly frigid
up here.” The table was crowded and the floor littered with books and
documents, all most unreadable reading: missionary reports,
controversial divinity, bishops’ charges, religious periodicals, papal
allocutions and encyclical letters, minutes of Exeter Hall meetings,
ponderous blue books from the angelic bureaux—dreary as the humor of
_Punch_, silly as the critiques of the _Times_, idiotic as the poetry of
_All the Year Round_. When now and then he eyed them askance he
shuddered more shockingly, and looked at his desk with loathing despair.
For he had gone through a hard day’s work, with extra services
appropriate to the sacred season; and for the ten-thousandth time he had
been utterly knocked up and bewildered by the Athanasian Creed.

While he sat thus, came a formal tap at the door, and his son entered,
looking sublimely good and respectable, pensive with a pensiveness on
which one grows comfortably fat. “Ah, my boy,” said the old gentleman,
“you seem to get on well enough in these sad times: come to ask my
blessing for your birthday _fête_?” “I fear that you are not well, my
dear father; do not give way to dejection, there was once a man—

“O, dash your parables! keep them for your disciples; they are not too
amusing. Alack for the good old times!” “The wicked old times you mean,
my father; the times when we were poor, and scorned, and oppressed; the
times when heathenism and vain philosophy ruled everywhere in the world.
Now, all civilised realms are subject to us, and worship us.” “And
disobey us. You are very wise, much wiser than your old worn-out father;
yet perchance a truth or two comes to me in solitude, when it can’t
reach you through the press of your saints, and the noise of your
everlasting preaching and singing and glorification. You know how I
began life, the petty chief of a villainous tribe. But I was passionate
and ambitious, subtle and strong-willed, and, in spite of itself, I made
my tribe a nation; and I fought desperately against all the surrounding
chiefs, and with pith of arm and wile of brain I managed to keep my head
above water. But I lived all alone, a stern and solitary existence. None
other of the gods was so friendless as I; and it is hard to live alone
when memory is a sea of blood. I hated and despised the Greek Zeus and
his shameless court; yet I could not but envy him, for a joyous life the
rogue led. So I, like an old fool, must have my amour; and a pretty
intrigue I got into with the prim damsel Mary! Then a great thought
arose in me: men cannot be loyal to utter aliens; their gods must be
human on one side, divine on the other; my own people were always
deserting me to pay homage to bastard deities. I would adopt you as my
own son (between ourselves, I have never been sure of the paternity),
and admit you to a share in the government. Those infernal Jews killed
you, but the son of a God could not die; you came up hither to dwell
with me; I the old absolute king, you the modern tribune of the people.
Here you have been ever since; and I don’t mind telling you that you
were a much more loveable character below there as the man Jesus than
you have proved above here as the Lord Christ. As some one was needed on
earth to superintend the executive, we created the Comforter, prince
royal and plenipotentiary; and behold us a divine triumvirate! The new
blood was, I must own, beneficial. We lost Jerusalem, but we won Rome;
Jove, Neptune, Apollo, Bacchus, and the rest, were conquered and slain;
our leader of the opposition ejected Pluto and Pan. Only I did not
bargain that my mistress should more than succeed to Juno, who was, at
any rate, a lawful wife. You announced that our empire was peace; you
announced likewise that it was war; both have served us. Our power
extended, our glory rose; the chief of a miserable tribe has become
emperor of Europe. But our empire was to be the whole world; yet instead
of signs of more dominion, I see signs that what we have is falling to
pieces. From my youth up I have been a man of war; and now that I am old
and weary and wealthy, and want peace, peace flies from me. Have we not
shed enough blood? Have we not caused enough tears? Have we not kindled
enough fires? And in my empire what am I? Yourself and my mistress share
all the power between you; I am but a name at the head of our
proclamations. I have been a man of war, I am setting old and worn out,
evil days are at hand, and I have never enjoyed life; therefore is my
soul vexed within me. And my own subjects are as strangers. Your darling
saints I cannot bear. The whimpering, simpering, canting, chanting
blockheads! You were always happy in a pious miserableness, and you do
not foresee the end. Do you know that in spite of our vast possessions
we are as near bankruptcy as Spain or Austria? Do you know that our
innumerable armies are a Chinese rabble of cowards and traitors? Do you
know that our legitimacy (even if yours were certain) will soon avail us
as little as that of the Bourbons has availed them? Of these things you
are ignorant: you are so deafened with shouts and songs in your own
praise that you never catch a whisper of doom. I would not quail if I
had youth to cope with circumstance; none can say honestly that I ever
feared a foe; but I am so weak that often I could not walk without
leaning on you. Why did I draw out my life to this ignominious end? Why
did I not fall fighting like the enemies I overcame? Why the devil did
you get born at all, and then murdered by those rascally Jews, that I
who was a warrior should turn into a snivelling saint? The heroes of
Asgard have sunk into a deeper twilight than they foresaw; but their
sunset, fervent and crimson with blood and with wine, made splendid that
dawnless gloaming. The joyous Olympians have perished, but they all had
lived and loved. For me, I have subsisted and hated. What of time is
left to me I will spend in another fashion. Let us eat and drink, for
to-morrow we die.” And he swallowed hastily a bumper of the wine, which
threw him into convulsions of coughing.

Serene and superior the son had let the old man run on. “Do not, I
entreat you, take to drink in your old age, dear father. You say that
our enemies lived and loved; but think how unworthy of divine rulers was
their mode of life, how immoral, how imprudent, how disreputable, how
savage, how lustful, how un-Chris-tian! What a bad example for poor
human souls!” “Human souls be blessed! Are they so much improved now?...
Would that at least I had conserved Jove’s barmaid; the prettiest,
pleasantest girl they say (we know you are a Joseph, though you always
had three or four women dangling about you); fair-ankled was the wench,
bright-limbed; she might be unto me even as was Abishag, the Shunammite,
unto my old friend David.” “Let us speak seriously, my father, of the
great celebration to-morrow.” “And suppose I _am_ speaking very
seriously, you solemn prig; not a drop of my blood is there in you.”

Here came a hurried knocking at the door, and the angelic ministers of
state crawled in, with super-elaborate oriental cringings, to deliver
their daily reports. “Messages from Brahma, Ormuzd, etc., to
congratulate on the son’s birthday.” “The infidels! the mockers!”
muttered the son. “Good words,” said the father; “they belong to older
families than ours, my lad, and were once much more powerful. You are
always trying to win over the parvenus.” “A riot in the holy city. The
black angels organised to look after the souls of converted negroes
having a free fight with some of the white ones. My poor lambs!” sighed
the son. “Black sheep,” growled the father; “what is the row?” “They
have plumed themselves brighter than peacocks, and scream louder than
parrots; claim precedence over the angels of the mean whites; insist on
having some of their own hymns and tunes in the programme of to-morrow’s
concert.” “Lock’em all up, white and black, especially the black, till
Tuesday morning; they can fight it out then—it’s Boxing Day. Well have
quite enough noise to-morrow without ’em. Never understood the nigger
question, for my part: was a slave-holder myself, and cursed Ham as much
as pork.” “New saints grumbling about lack of civilised accommodation:
want underground railways, steamers for the crystal sea, telegraph wires
to every mansion, morning and evening newspapers, etc., etc,; have had a
public meeting with a Yankee saint in the chair, and resolved that
heaven is altogether behind the age.” “Confound it, my son, have I not
charged you again and again to get some saints of ability up here? For
years past every batch has been full of good-for-nothing noodles. Have
we no engineers, no editors at all.” “One or two engineers, we believe,
sire, but we can’t find a single editor.” “Give one of the _Record_
fellows the measles, and an old _l’Univers_ hand the cholera, and bring
them up into glory at once, and we’ll have two daily papers. And while
you are about it, see whether you can discover three or four pious
engineers—not muffs, mind—and blow them up hither with their own
boilers, or in any other handy way. Haste, haste, post haste!”
“Deplorable catastrophe in the temple of the New Jerusalem: a large part
of the foundation given way, main wall fallen, several hundred workmen
bruised.” “Stop that fellow who just left; countermand the measles, the
cholera will be enough; we will only have one journal, and that must be
strictly official. If we have two, one will be opposition. Hush up the
accident. It is strange that Pandemonium was built so much better and
more quickly than our New Jerusalem!” “All our best architects and other
artists have deserted into Elysium, my lord; so fond of the company of
the old Greeks.”

When these and many other sad reports had been heard, and the various
ministers and secretaries savagely dismissed, the father turned to the
son and said: “Did I not tell you of the evil state we are in?” “By hope
and faith and charity, and the sublime doctrine of self-renunciation,
all will yet come right, my father.” “Humph! let hope fill my treasury,
and faith finish the New Jerusalem, and charity give us peace and
quietness, and self-renunciation lead three-quarters of your new-fangled
saints out of heaven; and then I shall look to have a little comfort.”
“Will you settle to-morrow’s programme, sire? or shall I do my best to
spare you the trouble?” “You do your best to spare me the trouble of
reigning altogether, I think. What programme can there be but the old
rehearsal for the eternal life (I wish you may get it)? O, that horrible
slippery sea of glass, that bedevilled throne vomiting thunders and
lightning, those stupid senile elders in white nightgowns, those four
hideous beasts full of eyes, that impossible lamb with seven horns and
one eye to each horn! O, the terrific shoutings and harpings and
stifling incense! A pretty set-out for my time of life I And to think
that you hope some time or other to begin this sort of thing as a daily
amusement, and to carry it on for ever and ever! Not much appearance of
its beginning soon, thank goodness—that is to say,, thank badness. Why
can’t you have a play of Aristophanes, or Shakespeare, or Molière? Why
should I meddle with the programme? I had nothing to do with first
framing it. Besides, it is all in your honor, not in mine. You like
playing the part of the Lamb; I’m much more like an old wolf. You are
ravished when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks; as for me,
I am utterly sick of them. Behold what I will do; I must countenance the
affair, but I can do so without disturbing myself. I’ll not go
thundering and roaring in my state-carriage of the whirlwind; I’ll slip
there in a quiet cloud. You can’t do without my glory, but it really is
too heavy for my aged shoulders; you may lay it upon the throne; it will
look just as well. As for my speech, here it is all ready written out;
let Mercury, I mean Raphael or Uriel, read it; I can’t speak plainly
since I lost so many teeth. And now I consider the matter, what need is
there for my actual presence at all? Have me there in effigy; a noble
and handsome dummy can wear the glory with grace* Mind you have a
handsome one; I wish all the artists had not deserted us. Your pious
fellows make sad work of us, my son. But then their usual models are so
ugly; your saints have good reason to speak of their vile bodies. How is
it that all the pretty girls slip away to the other place, poor
darlings? By the bye, who are going on this occasion to represent the
twelve times twelve thousand of the tribes of Israel? Is the boy Mortara
dead yet? He will make one real Jew.” “We are converting them, sire.”
“Not the whole gross of thousands yet, I trust? Faugh! what a greasy
stench there would be—what a blazing of Jew jewelry!

“Hand me the latest bluebook, with the reports....

“Ah, I see; great success! Power of the Lord Christ! (always you, of
course). Society flourishing. Eighty-two thousand pounds four shillings
and twopence three-farthings last year from Christians aroused to the
claims of the lost sheep of the House of Israel. (Very good.) Five
conversions!! Three others have already been persuaded to eat pork
sausages. (Better and better.) One, who drank most fervently of the
communion wine suffered himself to be treated to an oyster supper.
Another, being greatly moved, was heard to ejaculate, ‘O, Christ!’...
Hum, who are the five? Moses Isaacs: wasn’t he a Christian ten years ago
in Italy, and afterwards a Mahommedan in Salonica, and afterwards a Jew
in Marseilles? This Mussulman is your oyster-man, I presume? You will
soon get the one hundred and forty-four thousand at this rate, my son!
and cheap too!”

He chuckled, and poured out another glass of Lachryma Christi; drank it,
made a wry face, and then began coughing furiously. “Poor drink this for
a god in his old age. Odin and Jupiter fared better. Though decent for a
human tipple, for a divinity it is but _ambrosie stygiale_, as my dear
old favorite chaplain would call it. I have his devotional works under
lock and key there in my desk. _Apropos_, where is he? Left us again for
a scurry through the more jovial regions? I have not seen him for a long
time.” “My father! really, the words he used, the life he led; so
corrupting for the young saints! We were forced to invite him to travel
a little for the benefit of his health. The court _must_ be kept pure,
you know.” “Send for him instantly, sir. He is out of favor because he
likes the old man and laughs at your saints, because he can’t cant and
loves to humbug the humbugs. Many a fit of the blues has he cured for
me, while you only make them bluer. Have him fetched at once. O, I know
you never liked him; you always thought him laughing at your sweet pale
face and woebegone airs, laughing ‘_en horrible sarcasm et sanglante
derision_’ (what a style the rogue has! what makes that of your favorite
parsons and holy ones so flaccid and flabby and hectic?) ‘Physician,
heal thyself!’ So, in plain words, you have banished him; the only jolly
soul left amongst us, my pearl and diamond and red ruby of Chaplains,
abstracter of the quintessence of pantagruelism! The words he used! I
musn’t speak freely myself now, and the old books I wrote are a great
deal too coarse for you Michael and Gabriel told me the other day that
they had just been severely lectured on the earnestness of life by one
of your new _protégés_; they had to kick him howling into limbo. A fine
set of solemn prigs we are getting!” “My father, the holiness of sorrow,
the infiniteness of suffering!” “Yes, yes, I know all about it. That
long-winded poet of yours (he does an ode for you to-morrow?) began to
sermonise me thereon. By Jupiter, he wanted to arouse me to a sense of
my inner being and responsibilities and so forth. I very soon packed him
off to the infant school where he teaches the alphabet and catechism to
the babies and sucklings. Have you sent for my jovial, joyous, jolly
Curé of Meudon?” “I have; but I deeply regret that your Majesty thinks
it fitting to be intimate with such a free-liver, such a glutton and
wine-bibber and mocker and buffoon.” “Bah! you patronised the publicans
and sinners yourself in your younger and better days. The strict ones
blamed you for going about eating and drinking so much. I hear that some
of your newest favorites object to the wine in your last supper, and are
going to insist on vinegar-and-water in future.”

Whereupon entered a man of a noble and courtly presence, lively-eyed and
golden bearded, ruddy complexioned, clear-browed, thoughtful, yet
joyous, serene and unabashed. “Welcome, thrice welcome, my beloved
Alcofribas!” cried the old monarch; “very long is it since last I saw
you.” “I have been exiled since then, your Majesty.” “And I knew nothing
of it!” “And thought nothing of it or of me until you wanted me. No one
expects the King to have knowledge of what is passing under his eyes.”
“And how did you manage to exist in exile, my poor chaplain?” “Much
better than here at court, sire. If your Majesty wants a little
pleasure, I advise you to get banished yourself. Your parasites and
sycophants and courtiers are a most morose, miserable, ugly, detestable,
intolerable swarm of blind beetles and wasps; the devils are beyond
comparison better company.” “What! you have been mixing with traitors?”
“Oh, I spent a few years in Elysium, but didn’t this time go into the
lower circles. But while I sojourned as a country gentleman on the
heavenly borders, I met a few contrabandists. I need not tell you that
large, yea, enormous quantities of beatitude are smuggled out of your
dominions.” “But what is smuggled in?” “Sire, I am not an informer; I
never received anything out of the secret-service money. The poor angels
are glad to run a venture at odd times, to relieve the tedium of
everlasting Te Deum. By the bye, I saw _the_ Devil himself.” “The Devil
in my kingdom! What is Uriel about? he’ll have to be superannuated.”
“Bah! your Majesty knows very well that Satan comes in and returns as
and when he likes. The passport system never stops the really dangerous
fellows. When he honored me with a call he looked the demurest young
saint, and I laughed till I got the lockjaw at his earnest and spiritual
discourse. He would have taken yourself in, much more Uriel. You really
ought to get him on the list of court chaplains. He and I were always
good friends, so if anything happens.... It may be well for you if you
can disguise yourself as cleverly as he. A revolution is not quite
impossible, you know.” The Son threw up his hands in pious horror; the
old King, in one of his spasms of rage, hurled the blue-book at the
speaker’s head, which it missed, but knocked down and broke his favorite
crucifix. “Jewcy fiction _versus_ crucifixion, sire; _magna est veritas
et prevalebit!_ Thank Heaven, all that folly is _out*side my brains; it
is not the first book full of cant and lies and stupidity that has been
flung at me. Why did you not let me finish? The Devil is no fonder than
your sacred self of the new opinions; in spite of the proverb, he loves
and dotes upon holy water. If you cease to be head of the ministry, he
ceases to be head of the opposition; he wouldn’t mind a change, an
innings for him and an outings for you; but these latest radicals want
to crush both Whigs and Tories. He was on his way to confer with some of
your Privy Council, to organise joint action for the suppression of new
ideas. You had better be frank and friendly with him. Public opposition
and private amity are perfectly consistent and praiseworthy. He has done
you good service before now; and you and your Son have always been of
the greatest assistance to him.” “By the temptation of Job! I must see
to it. And now no more business. I am hipped, my Rabelais; we must have
a spree. The cestus of Venus, the lute of Apollo, we never could find;
but there was sweeter loot in the sack of Olympus, and our cellars are
not yet quite empty. We will have a *petit souper_ of ambrosia and
nectar.” “My father! my father! did you not sign the pledge to abstain
from these heathen stimulants?” “My beloved Son, with whom I am not at
all well pleased, go and swill water till you get the dropsy, and permit
me to do as I like. No wonder people think that I am failing when my
child and my mistress rule for me!”

The Son went out, shaking his head, beating his breast, scrubbing his
eyes, wringing his hands, sobbing and murmuring piteously. “The poor old
God! my dear old father! Ah, how he is breaking! Alack, he will not last
long! Verily, his wits are leaving him! Many misfortunes and disasters
would be spared us were he to abdicate prudently at once. Or a regency
might do. But the evil speakers and slanderers would say that I am
ambitious. I must get the matter judiciously insinuated to the Privy
Council. Alack! alack!”

“Let him go and try on his suit of lamb’s wool for to-morrow,” said the
old monarch. “I have got out of the rehearsal, my friend; I shall be
conspicuous by my absence; there will be a dummy in my stead.” “Rather
perilous innovation, my Lord; the people may think that the dummy does
just as well, that there is no need to support the original.” “Shut up,
shut up, O, my Curé; no more politics, confound our politics! It is
Sunday, so we must have none but chaplains here. You may fetch Friar
John and sweet Dean Swift and the amiable parson Sterne, and any other
godly and devout and spiritual ministers you can lay hold of; but don’t
bring more than a pleiad.” “With Swift for the lost one; he is cooling
his ‘sæva indignatio’ in the Devil’s kitchen-furnace just now,
comforting poor Addison, who hasn’t got quit for his death-bed brandy
yet.” “A night of devotion will we have, and of inextinguishable
laughter; and with the old liquor we will pour out the old libations.
Yea, Gargantuan shall be the feast; and this night, and to-morrow, and
all next week, and twelve days into the new year the hours shall reel
and roar with Pantagruelism. Quick, for the guests, and I will order the
banquet!” “With all my heart, sire, will I do this very thing. Parsons
and pastors, pious and devout, will I lead back, choice and most elect
souls worthy of the old drink delectable. And I will lock and double
bolt the door, and first warm the chamber by burning all these devilish
books; and will leave word with the angel on guard that we are not to be
called for three times seven days, when all these Christmas fooleries
and mummeries are long over. Amen. Selah. _Au revoir_. Tarry till I
come.”



A WORD ON BLASPHEMY.

(1867.)

This is one of our few and far-between outbursts of Rabelasian laughter,
irresistibly provoked by the aggressive absurdities of theology; and as
such I consider it thoroughly defensible. In all seriousness I affirm
that its mockery is far less “blasphemous” than the solemn outrage on
reason, the infernal damnation of all mankind who are sensible and sane
or who are even mad otherwise than the author, the cold-blooded
dissection of the infinite and eternal God as a superior surgeon may
dissect an inferior corpse, perpetrated by its prototype the so-called
Athanasian Creed. I do not see in what the statement that an old monkey
of the tribe once saw the tail of this great big monkey is more
irreverent than that other statement how Moses of the tribe of Levi once
saw the back parts of the Lord; whom the Church believes to be a Spirit
infinite, without parts, a sort of omnipresent æther or supersubtle gas.
Nor do I see that the monkey, who is at least a natural animal, is a
more outrageous symbol or emblem than the utterly unnatural Lamb as it
had been slain, with seven horns and seven eyes, encompassed by all “the
menagerie of the Apocalypse.” It would be easy to produce, I think,
mockeries far more insulting, buffooneries far more bitter and
malignant, lavished upon Paganism, Socinianism, Atheism, and many
another _ism_, in the works of the most saintly divines. The hierarchy
of Olympus is more venerable than the triune Lord of the New Jerusalem;
yet how is it treated in our most popular burlesques? I go to a theatre
and find a Christian audience, very tenderly sensitive as to their own
religious feelings rolling with laughter and thundering applause at the
representation of a ballet-girl Jupiter ascending in a car like a
monstrous coal-scuttle, with a deboshed mechanical eagle nodding its
head tipsily to the pit; a male Minerva, spectacles on nose, who takes
sly gulps from a gin bottle and dances a fish-fag carmagnole; a Bacchus
sprawling about drunken and brutish as Caliban; all uttering idiotic
puns and singing idiotic songs. And if other mythologies were equally
familiar, they would doubtless be maltreated with equal contempt. You
thus deliver over to your dismal comic writers, to your clowns and
merry-andrews and bayaderes, the gods of Homer and Æschylus, of
Herodotus, Pindar and Phidias, you the sanctimonious and reverent modern
Britons; and you cry out aghast against “atrocious blasphemy” touching a
Divinity, who was first the anthropomorphic clan-god of a petty Syrian
tribe, who grew afterwards into a vague Ormuzd with the devil for
Ahriman when this tribe had been captive in Babylonia, whom you have
filched from this tribe which you still detest and disdain, with whom
you have associated two colleagues declared by this tribe (which surely
ought to know best) utterly spurious, whom you worship with rites
borrowed from old pagans you decry, and discuss in divinity borrowed
from old philosophers and schoolmen you sneer at; who gave to his tribe
some millenniums back laws which you preserve in the filched book of
your idolatry, but which not one of you dare read to his wife and
children; whose son and colleague gave you laws which are certainly
readable enough, but which you are so far from obeying that you would
assuredly consign to Bedlam any one seeking to act upon them perfectly.

But mockery of the Olympians hurts no one’s feelings, while mockery of
the Tri-unity hurts the feelings of nearly all who hear or see it? I
know that there are here and there a few pious and tender hearts, with
whom habitude has become nature; people who, having less intellectual
than cordial energy, more affection and reverence than curiosity and
self-reliance, pour their whole melted nature into whatever religious
moulds chance to be nearest, and harden to the exact shape and size of
the mould, so that any blow struck upon it jars and wounds them; and the
feelings of these I should be very loth to hurt. I care not for
propagandism in general, and in such cases above all propagandism is
certainly useless. Why seek to convert women to a struggling faith? Let
the women be always on the victorious side, let the men do the fighting
and endure the hardships. When their struggling faith has conquered such
triumph as it merits, they will find the women all at once in agreement
with them, converted not by ideas (for which women care not an
apple-dumpling) but by feminine love and loyalty to manhood. One must
always be very loth, I say, to wound the feelings of the pious and
tender hearts, of the beautiful feminine souls; and fortunately these
love to seclude themselves in tranquillity, avoiding debates and
controversies. Whose religious feelings, then, are likely to be wounded
by “atrocious blasphemies,” by “blasphemous indecencies”? The feelings
of “the gentle spirit of our meek Review,” the benign and holy
_Saturday!_ The feelings of tract distributors, scripture-readers,
polemical parsons, all those in general who violate every courtesy of
life to thrust their narrowminded dogmas upon others, and who preach
everlasting damnation against people too sensible to care for their
ranting! They outrage our reason, they vilify our human nature, they
blaspheme our world, they pollute our flesh, and they wind up by dooming
us to eternal torture because we differ from them: these trifles are, of
course, not supposed to hurt _our_ feelings. We endeavor to enthrone
human reason, to ennoble human nature, to restore the human body to its
pure dignity, to develop the beauty and glory of the world; and we wind
up, not by retorting upon them their fiendish curses, not even by
laughing at the idea of an almighty and all-good God, but by laughing at
their notions of an almighty and all-good God, who has a Hell ready for
the vast majority of us: this horrible laugh lacerates their pious
sensibilities, and we hear the venomous whine of “atrocious blasphemy.”
After condemning us to death they commit us for contempt of court, which
surely is an anomalous procedure!

You can mock the Grecian mythology, you can burlesque Shakespeare,
without wounding any pious heart? No: Olympus is as sacred to many as
Mount Sion is to you; our own Shakespeare is as venerable and dear to us
as to you that bundle of dissimilar anonymous treatises which you have
made coherent by help of the bookbinder and called the Book of Books.
And mark this; the Grecian mythology is dead, is no longer aggressive in
its absurdities; the priestcraft and the foul rites have long since
perished, the beauty and the grace and the splendor remain. But your
composite theology is still alive, is insolently aggressive, its lust
for tyrannical dominion is unbounded; therefore we must attack it if we
would not be enslaved by it. The cross is a sublime symbol; I would no
more think of treating it with disrespect while it held itself aloft in
the serene heaven of poetry than of insulting the bow of Phoebus Apollo
or the thunderbolts of Zeus; but if coarse hands will insist on pulling
it down upon my back as a ponderous wooden reality, what can I do but
fling it off as a confounded burden not to be borne?

And now let us consider for a moment the meaning of this word
“blasphemy,” which is the burden of the _S. R.’s_ slanderous song; not
the legal meaning, but the philosophic, the sense in which it would be
used by enlightened and fair controversialists. The most Christian _S.
R._ says to the Atheistic Iconoclast, You blaspheme. Whom? The Christian
God! And the _S, R._ does not appear to see that it is assuming the very
existence of God which is in dispute between itself and Iconoclast! For
the Atheist, God is a figment, nothing; in blaspheming God he therefore
blasphemes nothing. A man really blasphemes when he mocks, insults,
pollutes, vilifies that which he really believes to be holy and awful.
Thus a Christian who really believes in the Christian God (and there
_may_ be a hundred such Christians in England) can be guilty of
blasphemy against that God, whether that God really subsists or not; for
such a Christian in mocking or vilifying God would really be violating
the most sacred convictions of his own nature. Speaking philosophically,
an honest Atheist can no more blaspheme God than an honest Republican
can be disloyal to a King, than an unmarried man can be guilty of
conjugal infidelity.

    [This “Word on Blasphemy,” as I have ventured to call it, is
    from a long article on the _Saturday Review_ and the _National
    Reformer_, the rest of which was of merely temporary interest,
    and that only to the readers of those two journals. The
    “outburst of Rabelasian laughter” which so provoked the
    _Saturday Review_, was a short satire on Christian theology and
    priestcraft, entitled “The Fanatical Monkeys,” ascribed to
    Charles Southwell, and just then published in the _National
    Reformer_.—Editor.]



HEINE ON AN ILLUSTRIOUS EXILE WITH SOMETHING ABOUT WHALES


(From the “De l’Allemagne.”) (1867.)

Neptune is still the monarch of the empire of the seas, and Pluto
(although metamorphosed into the Devil) has retained the throne of
Tartarus. They have both been more lucky than their brother Jupiter, who
had to suffer specially the vicissitudes of fortune. This third son of
Saturn, who after the fall of his sire assumed the sovereignty of the
heavens, reigned for a long series of years on the summit of Olympus,
surrounded by a jovial court of high and of most high gods and demigods,
as well as on high and of most high goddesses and nymphs—their celestial
ladies of the bedchamber and maids of honor, who all led a joyous life,
replete with ambrosia and nectar, despising the clowns attached to the
soil down here, and taking no thought of the morrow. Alas, when the
reign of the Cross, the empire of suffering, was proclaimed, the supreme
Chronide emigrated and disappeared amidst the tumult of the barbarian
tribes which invaded the Roman world. All traces of the ex-God were
lost, and I have questioned in vain old chronicles and old women; no one
has been able to furnish me with any information as to his destiny. I
have burrowed in many a library, where I made them bring me the most
magnificent _codex_ enriched with gold and jewels, veritable odalisques
in the harem of science; and as is the custom, I here render my public
thanks to the erudite eunuchs who, without too much grumbling and
sometimes even with affability, have given me access to these luminous
treasures confided to their care. I am now convinced that the middle
ages have not bequeathed to us any traditions concerning the fate of
Jupiter after the fall of Paganism. All that I have been able to
discover in connection with this subject is the history told me long ago
by my friend Niels Andersen.

I have just mentioned Niels Andersen, and this good figure, at once so
droll and so lovable, emerges all riant in my memory. I must devote a
few lines to him here. For the rest, I like to indicate my authorities
and to show their good or bad qualities, in order that the reader may be
in a position to judge himself how far these authorities deserve to be
trusted.

Niels Andersen, born at Drontheim, in Norway, was one of the most
skilful and intrepid whalers I have ever known. It is to him that I am
indebted for what knowledge I have of the whale fishery. He taught me
all the subtleties of the art; he made me acquainted with all the
stratagems and dodges which the intelligent animal employs to baffle
these subtle snares and make its escape. It was Niels Andersen who
taught me the management of the harpoon; he showed me how you should fix
the knee of the right leg against the gun-whale of the boat when
launching the harpoon, and how with the left leg you launch a vigorous
kick at the imbecile sailor who don’t pay out quickly enough the rope
attached to the harpoon. To him I owe all, and if I have not become a
famous whaler the fault rests neither with Niels Andersen nor with
myself, but with my evil star, which has never allowed me in the course
of my life to encounter any whale with which I might have engaged in
honorable combat. I have only encountered vulgar stockfish and miserable
herrings. Of what use is the best harpoon when you have to deal with a
herring? Now that my limbs are paralysed I must renounce for ever the
hope of pursuing whales. When at Ritzebuttel, near Cuxhaven, I made the
acquaintance of Niels Andersen. He was scarcely more nimble himself, for
off the coast of Senegal a young shark, which no doubt took his right
leg for a stick of barley sugar, had snapped it off with a snap of his
teeth. Since then poor Niels Andersen went limping upon an artificial
leg manufactured from one of the firs of his country, and which he
extolled as a masterpiece of Norwegian carpentry. His greatest pleasure
at this period was to perch himself on the top of a large empty barrel,
on the belly of which he drummed away with his wooden leg. I often
helped him to climb upon this barrel; but sometimes, when he wished to
get down again, I would not give him my help except on the condition
that he told me one of his curious traditions of the Arctic Sea.

As Mahomet-Ebn-Mansour commences all his poems with a eulogy of the
horse, so Niels Andersen prefaced all his narratives with a panegyrical
enumeration of the qualities of the whale. He of course commenced with
such a panegyric the legend we give here.

“The whale,” he said, “is not only the largest, but also the most
magnificent of animals; the two jets of water leaping from his nostrils,
placed at the top of his head, give him the appearance of a fountain,
and produce a magical effect, above all at night, in the moonshine.
Moreover, this beast is sympathetic. He has a good character and much
taste for conjugal life. It is a touching sight,” he added, “to see a
family of whales grouped around its venerable patriarch, and couched
upon an enormous mass of ice, basking in the sun. Sometimes the young
ones begin to frisk and romp, and at length all plunge into the sea to
play at hide-and-seek among the immense ice-blocks. The purity of
manners and the chastity of the whales should be attributed less to
moral principles than to the iciness of the water wherein they
continually sport. Nor can it, unhappily, be denied,” went on Niels
Anderson, “that they have not any pious sentiment, that they are totally
devoid of religion....”

“I believe this is an error,” I cried, interrupting my friend. “I have
lately read the report of a Dutch missionary, wherein he describes the
magnificence of the creation, which, according to him, reveals itself
even in the polar regions at the hour of sunrise, and when the teams of
day, transfiguring the gigantic rocks of ice, make them resemble those
castles of diamonds we read of in fairy tales. All this beauty of the
creation, in the judgment of the good _dominie_, is a proof of the power
of God which influences every living creature, so that not only man, but
likewise a great brute of a fish, ravished by this spectacle, adores the
Creator and addresses to him its prayers. The _dominie_ assures us that
he has seen with his own eyes a whale which held itself erect against
the wall of a block of ice, and swayed the upper part of its body as men
do in prayer.”

Niels Andersen admitted that he had himself seen whales which, propping
themselves against a cliff of ice, indulged in movements very similar to
those we remark in the oratories of the various religious sects, but he
maintained that devotion has nothing to do with this phænomenon. He
explained it on physiological grounds; he called my attention to the
fact that the whale, this Chimborazo of animals, has beneath its skin
strata of fat of a depth so prodigious that a single whale often
furnishes a hundred to a hundred and fifty barrels of tallow and oil.
These layers of fat are so thick that while the colossus sleeps,
stretched at its full length upon an icefield, hundreds of water rats
can come and settle in it. These _convives_ immensely larger and more
voracious than the rats of the mainland, lead joyous life under the skin
of the whale, where day and night they gorge themselves with the most
delicious fat without being obliged to quit their holes. These banquets
of vermin at length trouble their involuntary host and even cause him
excessive sufferings. Not having hands as we have, who, God be thanked,
can scratch ourselves when we feel an itching, the whale tries to
mitigate his pangs by placing himself against the protruding and sharp
angles of a rock of ice, and by there rasping his back with a real
fervor and with vigorous movements up and down, as we see the dogs
rasping their skin against a bed-post when the fleas bite them overmuch.
Now in these movements the good _dominie_ thought he saw the edifying
act of prayer, and he attributed to devotion the jerkings occasioned by
the orgies of the rats. Enormous as is the quantity of oil in the whale,
it has not the least religious sentiment. It is only among animals of
mediocre stature that we find any religion; the very great, the
creatures gigantic like the whale are not endowed with it. What can be
the reason? Is it that they cannot find a church sufficiently spacious
to afford them entrance into its pale? Nor have the whales any taste for
the prophets, and the one which swallowed Jonah was not able to digest
that great preacher; seized with nausea, it vomited him after three
days. Most certainly that proves the absence of all religious sentiment
in these monsters. The whale, therefore, would never choose an ice-block
for prayer-cushion, and sway itself in attitudes of devotion. It adores
as little the true God who resides above there in heaven, as the false
pagan god who dwells near the arctic pole, in the Isle of the Rabbits,
where the dear beast goes sometimes to pay him a visit.

“What is this _Isle of Rabbits_?” I asked Niels Andersen. Drumming on
the barrel with his wooden leg, he answered, “It is exactly in this isle
that the events took place of which I am going to tell you. I am not
able to give you its precise geographical position. Since its first
discovery no one has been able to visit it again; the enormous mountains
of ice accumulated around it bar the approach. Once only has it been
visited, by the crew of a Russian whaler driven by-tempests into those
northern latitudes, and that was more than a hundred years ago. When
these sailors, reached it with their ship they found it deserted and
uncultivated. Sickly stalks of broom swayed sadly upon the quicksands;
here and there were scattered some dwarf shrubs and stunted firs
crouching on the sterile soil. Rabbits ran about everywhere in great
numbers; and this is the reason the sailors call the islet the _Isle of
Rabbits_. A cabin, the only one they discovered, announced the presence
of a human being. When the mariners had entered the hut they saw an old
man, arrived at the most extreme decrepitude and miserably muffled in
rabbit skins. He was seated upon a stone settle, and warmed his thin
hands and trembling knees at the grate where some brushwood was burning.
At his right hand stood a monstrously large bird, which seemed to be an
eagle; but the moulting of time had so cruelly stripped it that only the
great stiff main-plumes of its wings were left, so that the aspect of
this naked animal was at once ludicrous and horribly ugly. On the left
of the old man was couched upon the ground an aged bald-skinned she-got,
yet with a gentle look, and which, in spite of its great age, had the
dugs swollen with milk and the teats fresh and rosy.

“Among the sailors who had landed on the Isle of Rabbits there were some
Greeks, and one of these, thinking that the man of the hut could not
understand his tongue, said to his comrades in Greek, ‘This queer old
fellow must be either a ghost or an evil spirit.’ At these words the old
man trembled and rose suddenly from his seat, and the sailors, to their
great astonishment, saw a lofty and imposing figure, which, with
imperious and even majestic dignity, held itself erect in spite of the
weight of years, so that the head reached the rafters of the roof. His
lineaments, though worn and ravaged, conserved traces of beauty; they
were noble and perfectly regular. Thin locks of silver hair fell upon
the forehead wrinkled by pride and by age; his eyes, though glazed and
lustreless, darted keen regards, and his finely-curved lips pronounced
in the Greek language, mingled with many archaisms, these words resonant
and harmonious:—‘You are mistaken, young man, I am neither a spectre nor
an evil spirit; I am an unfortunate who has seen better days. But
you—what are you.’

“At this demand the seamen acquainted their host with the accident which
had driven them out of their course, and they begged him to tell them
all about the isle. But the old man could give them but scant
information. He told them that from immemorial times he had dwelt in
this isle, of which the ramparts of ice offered him a sure refuge
against his implacable enemies, who had usurped his legitimate rights;
that his main subsistence was derived from the rabbits with which the
isle abounded; that every year, at the season when the floating
ice-blocks formed a compact mass, troops of savages in sledges visited
him, who, in exchange for his rabbit skins, gave him all sorts of
articles most necessary to life. The whales, he said, which now and then
approached his isle, were his favorite society. Nevertheless, he added
that he felt much pleasure at this moment in speaking his native
language, being Greek by birth. He begged his compatriots to inform him
as to the then state of Greece. He learnt with a malicious joy, badly
dissimulated, that the Cross once surmounting the towers of the Hellenic
cities had been shattered; he showed less satisfaction when they told
him that this Christian symbol had been replaced by the Crescent. The
most singular thing was that none of the seamen knew the names of the
towns concerning which he questioned them, and which, according to him,
had been flourishing cities in his time. On the other hand, the names by
which the seamen designated the towns and villages of modern Greece were
completely unknown to him; and the old man shook his head often, as if
quite overwhelmed, and the sailors looked at each other with wonder.
They saw well that he knew perfectly the localities of the country, even
to the minutest details; for he described clearly and exactly the gulfs,
the peninsulas, the capes, often even, the most insignificant hills and
isolated groups of rocks. His ignorance of the commonest typographical
names, therefore astonished them all the more.

“The old man asked, with the most lively interest, and even with a
certain anxiety, about an ancient temple, which, he said, had been of
old the grandest in all Greece. None of his hearers recognised the
name,, which he pronounced with tender emotion. At last,, when he had
minutely described the place where this, monument stood, a young seaman
suddenly recognised the spot. ‘The village where I was born,’ he
exclaimed, ‘is situated precisely there. During my childhood I have long
watched there the pigs of my father. On this site there are, in fact,
the ruins of very ancient constructions, which must have been incredibly
magnificent. Here and there you see some columns still erect; they are
isolated or connected by fragments of roofing, whence hang tendrils of
honeysuckle and red bind-weeds. Other columns, some of them red marble,
lie fractured on the grass. The ivy has invaded their superb capitals,
formed of flowers and foliage delicately chiselled. Great slabs of
marble, squared fragments of wall and triangular pieces of roofing, are
scattered about, half-buried in the earth. I have often, continued the
young man, ‘passed hours at a time in examining the combats and the
games, the dances and the processions, the beautiful and ludicrous
figures which are sculptured there. Unfortunately these sculptures are
much injured by time, and are covered with moss and creepers. My father,
whom I once asked what these ruins were, told me that they were the
remnants of an ancient temple, of old inhabited by a Pagan God, who not
only indulged in the most gross debaucheries, but who was, moreover,
guilty of incest and other infamous vices; that in their blindness the
idolators had, nevertheless, immolated oxen, often by hundreds, at the
foot of his altar. My father assured me that we still saw the marble
basin wherein they had gathered the blood of the victims, and that it
was precisely the trough to which I frequently led my swine to drink the
rain-water, and in which I also preserved the refuse which my animals
devoured with so much appetite.’

“When the young sailor had thus spoken, the old man gave a deep sigh of
the most bitter anguish; he sank nerveless upon the stone seat, and
hiding his visage in his hands, wept like a child. The bird at his side
emitted terrible cries, spread its enormous wings, and menaced the
strangers with talons and beak. The she-goat moaned and licked the hands
of her master, whose sorrows she seemed trying to comfort by her humble
caresses. At this sight a strange trouble swelled in the hearts of the
seamen; they hastily quitted the hut, and did not feel at ease until
they could no more hear the sobbings of the old man, the croakings of
the hideous bird, and the bleatings of the goat. When they got on board
their vessel again they related their adventures. Among the crew there
chanced to be a scholar, who declared that it was an event of the
highest importance. Applying with a sagacious air his right forefinger
to his nose, he assured the seamen that the old man of the Isle of
Rabbits was beyond all doubt the ancient god Jupiter, son of Saturn and
Rhea, once sovereign lord of the gods; that the bird which they had seen
at his side was evidently the famous eagle which used to bear the
thunderbolts in its talons; and that, in all probability, the goat was
the old nurse Amalthea, which had of old suckled the god in the isle of
Crete, and which now continued to nourish him with its milk in the Isle
of Rabbits.”

Such was the history of Niels Andersen, and it made my heart bleed. I
will not dissemble; already his revelations concerning the secret
sufferings of the whale had profoundly saddened me. Poor animal! against
this vile mob of rats, which house themselves in your body and gnaw you
incessantly, no remedy avails, and you carry them about with you to the
end of your days; rush as you will to the north and to the south, rasp
yourself against the ice-rocks of the two poles, you can never get rid
of these villainous rats? But pained as I had been by the outrage
wreaked upon the poor whales, my soul was infinitely more troubled by
the tragical fate of this old man who, according to the mythological
theory of the learned Russian, was the heretofore King of the gods,
Jupiter the _Chronide_. Yes, he, even he, was subject to the fatality of
Destiny, from which not the immortals themselves can escape; and the
spectacle of such calamities horrifies us, in filling us with pity and
indignation. Be Jupiter, be the sovereign lord of the world, the frown
of whose brows made tremble the universe! be chanted by Homer, and
sculptured by Phidias in gold and ivory; be adored by a hundred nations
during long centuries; be the lover of Semele, of Danae, of Europa, of
Alcmena, of Io, of Leda, of Calisto! and after all, nothing will remain
at the end but a decrepit old man, who to gain his miserable livelihood
has to turn dealer in rabbit skins, like any poor Savoyard. Such a
spectacle will no doubt give pleasure to the vile multitude, which
insults to-day that which it adored yesterday. Perhaps among these
worthy people are to be found some of the descendants of those unlucky
bulls which were of old immolated in hecatombs upon the altar of
Jupiter; let such rejoice in his fall, and mock him at their ease, in
revenge for the blood of their ancestors, victims of idolatry; as for
me, my soul is singularly moved, and I am seized with dolorous
commiseration at the view of this august misfortune.



THE DAILY NEWS


(1874.)

::    “Ich hab’ mein Sach auf Nichts gestellt,
       Juchhe! Drum ist’s so wohl mir in der Welt; Juchhe!”—Gôthe.

       “He got so subtle that to be Nothing was all his glory.” Shelley,
       “Peter Bell the Third”

It is now some time since the _Daily News_, which, perhaps with more
honor than profit, and not seldom at great risk of its life, had been
for many years a really leading Liberal journal, fighting gallantly
always in the van, often in forlorn hopes, took to heart a certain
very-obvious truth. It awoke fully to the fact that while a captain in
the forlorn hope or vanguard is constantly in great peril, and has but
few supporters, one with the main body is much less exposed and has many
more to help him. Weary and discouraged, it resolved to fall back from
the front and join the mass of the army, the myriads of the commonplace
and the timorous, the legions of the rich and respectable, the countless
hosts of the snobbery of Bumbledom. But in making this “strategic
movement,” it is well aware that honor equal to the danger is attached
to the forlorn hope and the vanguard, and it clung to the honor while
renouncing the danger, and continued to call itself a leading Liberal
journal when it had quite given up the lead—nay, continues thus to vaunt
itself still. This is how some malicious people explain the altered
position of the Daily News and its growing number of supporters, or, in
the language of periodicals, its increasing circulation. Now, say these
impatient and intemperate persons, a paper is free to serve Bumble (as
nearly all papers do), or to serve Progress, the enemy of Bumble; but it
has no right, while serving the one, to claim the merit of serving the
other. This _Daily News_, they go on, which still dares to call itself
Liberal, is now just as liberal as the jester’s Garrick, who used to set
out with generous intentions, and was scared back at the corner of the
street by the ghost of a ha’penny. In its case it is the ghost of a
penny, the ghost of the representative penny of all the pennies ready to
buy vapid twaddle, but not earnest thought.

For my own part, however, I find the _Daily News_ still really liberal,
and, in fact, extremely liberal. It is liberal in long special telegrams
and interminable Jenkins letters about the most insignificant movements
and actions of royal personages. It is equally liberal in reticence,
slightly tempered by sneers, as to all advanced movements, all unpopular
principles and their champions. It is liberal in the space it gives to
all fashionable frivolities, sports and pastimes, to all the bagatelles
of life. If it has not a paragraph to spare for a Radical meeting, it
has always columns at the command of boat races, yacht races, horse
races, cricket and polo matches, and the like important events, as well
as other columns for the gossip of clubs and the babble of society. It
is liberal in hopefulness that wrong may be right, falsehood truth, evil
good. It is very liberal in soft phrases, and in “passages that lead to
nothing.” Nothing, indeed, is the great end of its endeavor; for what
alteration can be needed by a world in which the circulation of the
_Daily News_ is continually increasing? Unless, perchance, as the
circulation is already “world-wide,” the world will have to be extended
in order to accommodate it. But this concerns Father God or Mother
Nature, not mere mortals. All these liberalities I could amply
illustrate did space permit; as it is, I can give but an instance each
to the first two. The Prince of Wales being in France, amusing himself
like any other man who has money and leisure, “The Prince of Wales in
France—Special,” heads its placards in the largest letters. On the other
hand, I heard one of our three or four greatest writers, Garth
Wilkinson, declare at a public meeting that he had written several
letters to it on a subject then agitating the public mind, but that he
could as easily get a letter into the moon as into the _Daily News_. Yet
the subject was medical; and Garth Wilkinson is not only one of our
greatest writers and thinkers, but also an M.D. and F.R.S., who has
practised for I know not how much more than a quarter of a century. To
refuse his letters on that matter was like refusing to hear Carlyle on
Cromwell or Darwin on Natural Selection. Why, then, did the _Daily News_
reject them? For the simply sufficient reason that they advocated the
unpopular side of the question.

Yes, it is still liberal and beyond measure liberal in these and many
other respects. It has still great care of the people—to keep aloof from
them; it loves them more than ever—at a distance. It still belongs to
the Left—in the rear. It is still of the Mountain, only it has descended
to provision itself; as the sage rhyme runs,

    “The mountain sheep were sweeter,
    But the valley sheep were fatter;
    We therefore deemed it meeter
    To carry off the latter.”

It is still Radical, having a rooted love of ease and hatred of
disturbance. It is still revolutionary, but has resolved that henceforth
revolutions shall be made with rose-water, and omelettes without
breaking of....

While thus freely acknowledging that in many things the _Daily News_ is
now more liberal than ever it was, I must also record my admiration for
its strenuous endeavors to assume an air of aristocratic refinement and
repose. From its serene indifference to the troubles of vulgar humanity,
from the languid lisp and drawl of its voice, from its perpetual
allusions to the luxuries and enjoyments of the wealthy and noble, one
readily divines that its staff, like the staff of my Lord Chamberlain or
other court lackey, can move only in the highest circles; but whether
its members are admitted into these as gentlemen or as gentlemen’s
gentlemen, I must leave for those familiar with such circles to declare.
This is certain, that they flit about amidst a lordly festival in the
gay and careless fashion of men who have no thought save of enjoying
themselves; not like poor devils who have duties which, though better
paid, are as onerous and strictly subservient to the gathering as those
of the waiters or the footmen. It must surely be by a mere afterthought,
and purely for their own amusement, that they throw off a description of
the scene and an account of what occurred there. By the bye, it is
rumored that the staff has been thoroughly changed of late years. The
old members were able enough, but they were too coarse, too loud, too
violent, too opiniative, too much given to discussing important
questions as if they really cared for the same. Their manners especially
could not be endured One entered the Editor’s sanctum (which had then
just been refurnished under the supervision of the Count of Monte
Cristo) in his wet boots, although embroidered slippers were provided at
the foot of the stairs. Another exploded with a “Damned old idiot!” on
reading the charge of one of our Right Reverend Fathers in God. Another
was caught smoking a clay pipe over a pint of beer, although narghilés
and hookahs and the choicest cigarettes, with unlimited supplies of the
most costly wines and liqueurs, are always set out for the staff and
such visitors as are admitted to the inner offices. The _Daily News_
wrote to my Lord Chief Justice demanding that this fellow should be sent
without trial to keep company with Arthur Orton, and for all I know the
Chief Justice humbly obeyed. Another was seen walking arm-in-arm with
the Editor of the _Times_, and was of course instantly dismissed, the
_Daily News_ writing to warn the man of the other journal.

This, I am assured, is historical fact, to which the Editor of the
_Times_ will bear witness, if he be not ashamed to avow what may seem to
hurt his dignity. For these and the like offences the old members have
been all dismissed.

It is said to be a peculiarity of the _Daily News_ that all the leading
articles are manufactured on the premises, if I may venture on a shop
phrase in such a connection. I have spoken of the luxury of the Editor’s
sanctum, which is a large and noble apartment. The leader-writers are
borne to the office in closed carriages, with double or triple windows
and india-rubber tires, lest some rude oath, or nasty smell, or even the
loud noise of the streets should shock them into hysterics, or at least
so unstring their nerves as to render writing impossible for the day. In
the sumptuous boudoir-sanctum, lounging, smoking, and sipping, they
receive on silver salvers telegrams from all parts of the rolling globe,
with innumerable communications and documents, written and printed; and
such of these as they are pleased to look at tin Epicurean gods:

    “For they lie beside their nectar,
    and the bolts are hurled
    Far below them in the valleys.”

They lie a good deal beside their nectar; but their bolts are anything
but thunderbolts. Thunderbolts! The mere word would make these gasp and
shudder. They are not thunderbolts, they are not rockets, they are not
even squibs; they are bonbons and genuine _confetti_, not your
_confetti_ of the Carnival.

    “*There* they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
    Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,
    Clanging fights and flaming towns, and sinking ships and praying hands.

    But they smile, they find a music centered in a doleful song
    Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong,
    Like a tale of little meaning, tho the words are strong;

    Chanted from an ill−used race of men that cleave the soil,
    Sow the seed and reap the harvest with enduring toil,
    Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil.”

Naturally these lofty beings smile; for what have they to do with the
cares and woes, the hopes and fears of ordinary mortals? Besides,
battles and shipwrecks, disasters and convulsions, make the best of
copy; and the music centred in the doleful song is a hymn of triumph,
with the glorious refrain, “Our circulation is still increasing! Our
world-wide circulation continues to increase!” And surely the ill-used
race of men that till the soil should be appeased and amply satisfied by
the showers of bonbons and sweetmeats the _Daily News_ is always
flinging down. It has more important duties to attend to than fighting
the battles and righting the wrongs of an ignorant, passionate,
unreasonable, wretched rabble, considerably addicted to dirt,
drunkenness, and vice. For thirty hours at least in every twenty-four it
is in attendance on some Royalty or another, or at the sports and
entertainments of “Society, with a capital S.” It is said that the
“copy” of these superlative writers, who always wear kid gloves while
writing, is written with golden pens and tinted and perfumed ink, on
perfumed and tinted paper. It is moreover said that the journal itself
is soon to be printed on vellum, in the illuminated style, with
arabesque borders. It is also rumored that the _Court Journal_ and the
_Morning Post_, finding themselves quite outdone by the _Daily News_,
and their occupation gone, will shortly cease to appear.

I must not omit to mention that I have been told on authority, which I
incline to consider good, that in the said gorgeous sanctum is
conspicuous a table of commandments, wrought in letters of fine gold,
which commandments are these:

I. Thou shalt never be in earnest about anything, and shalt abhor
enthusiasm.

     II. Thou shalt not have a decided opinion on any subject.

III. Thou shalt never write an unqualified sentence, or risk an
unmodified statement.

IV. Thy style shall be always in the tone of a sweet murmur or soft
whisper; a lullaby of peace for drowsy-headed Bumbledom.

V. Thou shalt write with an air of assured superiority to everybody, and
everything.

VI. Thou shalt ever bear in mind that there is no joy but calm, and that
the supreme moral excellence is good taste, which may be quite
compatible with meanness, servility, and cowardice, but cannot be
compatible with the foolish fervor of zeal.

VII. Thou shalt always mention and allude to as many persons, places,
and luxuries of high life as possible.

VIII. Thou shalt drag into every article three or four literary
citations or allusions, whether relevant or irrelevant, in order to show
to the world thy culture.

IX. Thou shalt carefully avoid mention of all ardent reformers and
unpopular thinkers, and their doings, save to lightly banter or coldly
rebuke them.

X. Thou shalt treat with profound respect and tenderness all the powers
that be, and all popular opinions, social, political and religious,
however thou mayest contemn them in thy heart; for great Bumble is the
sole lord of large circulations, and only through his continued grace
can our circulation continue to increase.

It is by assiduously conforming themselves to this most wise and holy
decalogue, that the members of the staff of the _Daily News_ have become
such rare flowers of sweetness and light; worthy of that serene
Professor of Haughty-culture, Matthew Arnold himself, ere he had
perpetrated “Literature and Dogma.”

But while, in common with all the other worshippers of the _Daily News_,
I exult in its world-wide and ever-increasing circulation, I am haunted
by a horrible fear, which I cannot conceal, but will hint and whisper as
gently as possible. When a stone falls into a pond—but no, pond is
vulgar—when a stone falls into a still lake, the first small rings are
clearly defined, but the circlings as they enlarge grow fainter and
fainter, until at length they can no more be perceived. Now, as all the
world knows, our beloved and revered Daily News, in its ever-increasing
circulation, has hitherto followed precisely the same law; and my dread
is that it will continue to do so unto the utmost extremity, becoming
ever more and more faint and undefined as the circulation increases,
until it shall altogether vanish away. It is getting so refined that I
fear it will soon be fined away to nothing; so delicate and dainty, that
it is already unfit for this rough world, whose slightest shock may kill
it; so ethereal that its complete evaporation seems imminent; so
supernal that it must surely soon disappear, absorbed into the Empyrean.
May that good God, who we have been told “will think twice before
damning a person of quality,” think many, many times before condemning
our fashionable world to such an irreparable loss!



JESUS: AS GOD; AS A MAN


(1866.)

    “These hereditary enemies of the Truth... have even had the
    heart to degrade this first preacher of the Mountain, the purest
    hero of Liberty; for, unable to deny that he was earth’s
    greatest man, they have made of him heaven’s smallest
    god.”—Heine: Reisébilder.

The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus, which, in whatever relation
regarded, is full of self-contradictions and absurdities, is, above all,
pernicious in its moral and spiritual results. Most myths have a certain
justification in their beauty, in their symbolism of high truth. This
one distorts the beauty, degrades the sublimity, stultifies the meaning
of the facts and the character wherein it has been founded, taking away
all true grandeur from Jesus, benumbing our love and reverence.

Jesus, as a man, commands my heart’s best homage. His words, as reported
by the Evangelists, are ever-flowing fountains of spiritual
refreshments; and I feel that he was in himself even far more wise and
good than he appears in the gospel. What disciple could be expected to
report perfectly the words of a teacher so mystically sublime? The
disciple intends and endeavors to report faithfully; but when he hears
words which to him are without sense, because they express some truth
whose sphere is beyond the reach of his vision, he makes sense of them
by some slight change—slight as to the letter, immense as to the spirit;
for the sense is a truth or truism of his own lower sphere. And when the
reports are not put into writing until many years after the words were
first uttered, the changes will be important even as to the letter; for
a narrative from a man’s mouth always alters year after year as much as
the man himself alters, for he continues grafting his own sense (which
may be deplorable nonsense) upon words which have been spoken. When we
find sentences of the purest beauty and wisdom in the records of a man’s
conversation, we may safely proportion the whole philosophical character
of the speaker to such sentences. They mark the altitude at which his
spirit loved to dwell. We are but completing the circle from the
clearest fragment-arc left. Sentences of wisdom less exalted, or of
apparent unwisdom, have perhaps been degraded by the reporter, or have
been relative to circumstances which we cannot now learn thoroughly.

Jesus as a man, whose words have been recorded by fallible men, is not
lowered in my esteem by such contradictions as I find between his
various speeches. Every proverb has its antagonist proverb, each being
true to a certain extent, or in certain relations. Could we conceive an
abstract intellect, we might conceive it dwelling continually in the
sphere of abstract and absolute truth; but no man, however wise, dwells
continually in this sphere. As a man living in the world, his intellect
no less than his body lives in the relative and the conditioned, and
naturally reflects the character of this sphere. The wise man finds
himself surrounded and obstructed by certain concrete errors, and he
attacks these errors with relative truths. Were the errors of another
sort, the truths commonly in his mouth would be of another sort too.
Many wise men of different ages and countries are pitted against each
other as if their doctrines were fundamentally antagonistic, while, in
truth, their doctrines are essentially in unison, and either would have
spoken or written much the same as the other had he lived in the same
circumstances. For a wise man only attacks the errors that are in his
way; things which he never meets he can scarcely think of as
obstructions. Hannibal, whose business it is to get into Italy from
Gaul, sets about blasting the Alps. Stephenson, whose business it is to
get from Manchester to Liverpool, sets about filling up Chat Moss. The
same man, who muffles himself in as many furs as he can get in
Greenland, will strip himself to a linen robe in Jamaica. Luther said
that the human mind is like a drunken peasant on horseback: he is
rolling off on the right, you push him up, he then rolls over on the
left. Exactly so; and because one sage, seeing him roll down to the
right, has pushed him up on the right, while another sage, seeing him
roll down to the left, has pushed him up on the left, are the two sages
to be accounted antagonists? Now as a wise man in the course of his
existence meets errors of many sorts, some of a quite opposite tendency
to others, and as he proves his wisdom by applying to each error its
relative or pertinent truth, the rule is almost rigidly exact: that the
wiser the man the more of apparent contradictions can be found in his
writings or conversation treating of actual life.

But deity is beyond the sphere of the relative and conditioned. When
deity speaks and deity reports the speeches, all should be absolute
truth transparently self-consistent, else what advantage or gain have we
by the substitution of God for Man? Why bring in God to utter and record
what could have been as well uttered and recorded by man?

Everything for which we love and venerate the man Jesus becomes a bitter
and absurd mockery when attributed to the Lord Christ. The full heart is
praising the man; you turn him into God, a ruinous salvo is added to the
praise.

He went about doing good: if God, why did he not do all good at once? He
cured many sick: if God, why did he not give the whole world health? He
associated with publicans and sinners: if God, why did he make publicans
and sinners at all? He preached the kingdom of heaven: if God, why did
he not bring the kingdom with him and make all mankind fit for it? He
loved the poor, he taught the ignorant: if God, why did he let any
remain poor and ignorant? He rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees: it
God, why did he not wholly purify them from formalism, hypocrisy, and
unbelief? He died for love of mankind: if God, why did he not restore
mankind to himself without dying? and what great thing was it to seem to
die for three days? He sent apostles to preach salvation to all men: if
God, why did he not reveal it at once to all men, and so reveal it that
doubt had been impossible? He lived an example of holiness to us all: if
God, how can our humanity imitate Deity? And finally, a question
trampling down every assertion in his favor: why did he ever let the
world get evil?

One is ashamed of repeating these things for the ten-thousandth time,
but they will have to be repeated occasionally, so long as a vast
ecclesiastical system continues to rest on the foundations of the
absurdities they oppugn. And while one is grinding such chaff in the
theological mill, he may as well have a turn at the Atonement, which is,
in fact, the essence of the dogma of the Incarnation. No wonder this
poor Atonement has been attacked on all sides; it invites attack; one
may say that in every aspect it piteously implores us to attack it and
relieve it from the misery of its spectral existence. It is so full of
breaches that one does not know where to storm.

I am content to note one aspect of this unfortunate mystery which, so
far as I am aware, has been seldom studied. The whole scheme of the
Atonement, as planned by God, is based upon a crime—a crime infinitely
atrocious, the crime of murder and deicide, is essential to its success:
if Judas had not betrayed, if the Jews had not insisted, if Pilate had
not surrendered, if all these turpitudes had not been secured, the
Atonement could not have been consummated. Need one say more? Sometimes,
when musing upon this doctrine, I have a vision of the God-man getting
old upon the earth, horribly anxious and wretched, because no one will
murder him. Judas has succeeded to a large property, and would not be
tempted to betray him by three hundred pieces of silver; the chief
priests and elders think him insane, and, therefore, as Orientals, hold
him in a certain reverence; Pilate is henpecked and superstitious,
accounts the wife’s dreams oracular, and will have nothing to do with
him; even Peter won’t deny him, although he has restored Peter’s
mother-in-law to life. The situation is desperate; he has again and
again prayed his Father to despatch a special murderer to despatch him,
yet none appears: shall he have to perish by old age or disease? may he
be compelled to commit suicide? must he go back to Heaven unsacrificed,
foiled for want of an assassin?

Benjamin Disraeli attained the cynical sublime when he suggested a
monument of gratitude to Judas. In fact, Christendom ought to have
erected hundreds of years ago three grand monuments to the sub-trinity
of Christianity, to the three men without whose devoted assistance the
heavenly trinity would not have triumphed in the scheme of Salvation by
Atonement; Judas, Caiaphas and Pilate; and as these three men could not
have done what they did in furtherance of the glorious work without a
well-known inspiration, a fourth memorial—the grandest of all—should
have been erected to the Devil. But the world, even the religious world,
has always been ungrateful to its most generous benefactors.

Is it not the worst of sacrilege, a foul profanation of our human
nature, which for us, at least, should be holy and awful, when the
heroic and saintly martyrdom of a true Man is thus falsified into the
self-schemed sham sacrifice, ineffectual, of a God? The people who
profess belief in this are shocked at the outrage offered to our
humanity by the Development Theory, while they themselves commit this
outrage more flagitious. Little matters whence we sprang; we are what we
are. But much matters to what we may attain. If the Development Theory
plants our feet in the slime, the Christian Theory bows our head to the
dust. It asserts that human nature could not possibly be so good as
Jesus, that human genius could not possibly write the books which tell
of him; it denies us our noblest prerogatives, and declares us bastards
when we claim a crown. It climbs to God by trampling on Man, it builds
Heaven in contempt of Earth, its soul is a phosphorescence from the
slain and rotting Body; its fervent faith vilifies us worse than the
coldest sneer of Mephistopheles. Yet the orthodox shudder and moan,
outraged in their pious sensibilities, when one dares to speak with
manly plainness of their doctrines, which commence by polluting our
common nature, continue by insulting our reason, and conclude by damning
the large majority of us!



THE ONE THING NEEDFUL


(1866.)

When I survey with pious joy the present world of Christendom, finding
everywhere that the true believers love their neighbors as themselves
and are specially enamored of their enemies; that no one of them takes
thought for the morrow, what he shall eat or what he shall drink, or
wherewithal he or she shall be clothed; that all the pastors and flocks
endeavor to outstrip each other in laying not up for themselves
treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves
break through and steal; and all are so intensely eager to quit this
earthly tabernacle and become freeholders of mansions in the skies; when
I find faith as universal as the air, and charity as common as cold
water; I sometimes wonder how it is that any misbelievers and
unbelievers are left, and feel astonished that the New Jerusalem has not
yet descended, and hope that the next morning’s _Times_ (rechristened
_The Eternities_) will announce the inauguration of the Millennium.

What delayeth the end? Can there indeed be any general hindering sin or
imperfection among the pure saints, the holy, unselfish, aspiring,
devout, peaceful, loving men and women who make up the population of
every Christian land? Can any error infect the teachings of the
innumerable divines and theologians, who all agree together in every
particular, drawing all the same doctrines from the same texts of the
one unvaried Word of God? I would fain believe that no such sin or error
exists, not a single inky spot in the universal dazzling whiteness; but
then why have we to deplore the continued existence of heathens and
infidels? why is the New Jerusalem so long a-building? why is the
Millennium so long a-coming? why have we a mere Sardowa instead of
Armageddon?

After long and painful thought, after the most serious and reverent
study, I think I have found the rock on which the ship of the Church has
been wrecked; and I hasten to communicate its extreme latitude and
interminable longitude, that all Christian voyagers may evade and
circumvent it from this time forward.

The error which I point out, and the correction which I propose, have
been to a certain extent, in a vague manner, pointed out and proposed
before. A clergyman named Malthus, not in his clerical capacity, but
condescending to the menial study of mundane science, is usually
considered the first discoverer. But mundane science is conditioned,
limited, vague, its precepts are full of hesitation; while celestial
science is absolute, unlimited, clear as the noonday sun, and its
precepts are imperiously forthright.

It seems to me that the one fatal error which has lurked in our
otherwise consummate Christianity, and which demands immediate
correction is this, that the propagation of children is reconcileable
with the propagation of the faith—an error which while it lasts adjourns
_sine die_ the day of judgment, and begins the Millennium with the Greek
Kalends.

One need not quote the numerous texts throughout the New Testament (let
Matthew xix., 12, suffice) proving that Jesus and the epistolary
apostles accounted celibacy essential to the _highest_ Christian life.
One only of the disciples, so far as we know, was married; and he it was
who denied his master; and most of the more profound divines consider
that Peter was justly punished for marrying, when Christ cured his
mother-in-law of that fever which might else have carried her off.

But many modest people may be content with a respectable Christian life
which is not of the very highest kind. They may think that as husbands
and wives they will make very decent middle-class saints in heaven,
after a comfortable existence on earth, leaving the nobler crowns of
holiness for more daring spirits. Humility is one of the fairest graces,
and we revere it; but there is a consideration, most momentous for the
kind Christian heart, which such good people must have overlooked—very
naturally, since it is very obvious.

Jesus tells us that many are called but few are chosen; that few enter
the strait gate and travel the narrow way, while many take the broad way
that leadeth to destruction. In other words, the large majority of
mankind, the large majority of even those who have the gospel preached
to them must be damned. When a human soul is born into the world, the
odds are at least ten to one that the Devil will get it. Can any pious
member of the Church who has thought of this take the responsibility of
becoming a parent? I thoroughly believe not. I am convinced that we have
so many Christian parents only because this very conspicuous aspect of
the case has not caught their view. If the parents could have any
assurance that the piety of their offspring would be in proportion to
their own, they would be justified in wedding in holiness. But alas! we
all know that some of the most religious parents have had some of the
most wicked children. Dearly beloved brethren and sisters pause and
calculate that for every little saint you give to heaven, you beget and
bear at least nine sinners who will eventually go to hell.

The remedy proposed is plain and simple as a gospel precept: let no
Christian have any child at all—a rule which, in the grandeur of its
absoluteness makes the poor timid and tentative Malthusianism very
ridiculous indeed. For this rule is drawn immediately from the New
Testament and cannot but be perfect as its source.

Let us think of a few of the advantages which would flow from its
practice. The profane have sometimes sneered that Jesus and his
disciples manifestly thought that the world would come to an end, the
millennium be inaugurated, within a very few years from the public
ministry of Jesus. Luckily the profane are always ignorant or shallow,
or both. For, as the New Jerusalem is to come down while Christians are
alive, and as Christians in the highest sense or Christians without
offspring must have come to an end with the first generation, it is
plain that the belief which has been sneered at was thoroughly well
founded; and that it has been disappointed only because the vast
majority of Christians have not been Christians in the highest sense at
all, but in their ignorance have continued to propagate like so many
heathen proletarians.

Now, supposing the very likely case that all Christians now living
reflect upon the truth herein expounded, and see that it is true, and,
therefore, always act upon it, it follows that, with the end of our now
young generation, the whole of Christendom will be translated into the
kingdom of heaven. Either the mere scum of non-Christians left upon the
earth will be wholly or in great part converted by an example so
splendid and attractive, and thus translate all Christendom in the
second edition in a couple of generations more; or else the world, being
without any Christianity, will, as a matter of course, be so utterly
vile and evil that the promised fire must destroy it at once, and so
bring in the New Heavens and New Earth.

Roman Catholic Christians may indeed answer that, although the above
argument is irresistible to the Protestants, who have no mean in the
next life between Heaven and Hell, yet that it is not so formidable to
them, seeing that they believe in the ultimate salvation of nearly every
one born and reared in their communion, and only give a temporary
purgatory to the worst of their own sinners. And I admit that such reply
is very cogent. Yet, strangely enough, the Catholics, even more than the
Protestants, recognise and cultivate the supreme beatitude of celibacy;
their legions of unwedded priests, and monks, and nuns and saints are so
many legions of concessions to the truth of my main (arguement).

I am aware that one of the most illustrious dignitaries of our own
National Church, the very reverend and reverent Dr. Swift, Dean of St.
Patrick’s, has advocated on various grounds, and with impressive force
of reasoning, the general eating of babies: and I anticipate that some
prudent Christians may, therefore, argue that it is better to get babies
and eat them than to have none at all, since the souls of the sweet
innocents would surely go to heaven, while their bodies would be very
nourishing on earth. Unfortunately, however, the doctrine of Original
Sin, as expounded and illustrated by many very thoughtful theologians,
and specially theologians of the most determined Protestant type, makes
it very doubtful whether the souls of infants are not damned. It will
surely be better, then, for good Protestants to have no infants at all:
Q. E. D.



THE SWINBURNE CONTROVERSY


(1866.)

Not having read Mr. Swinburne’s “Poems and Ballads,” I have nothing to
say on the special case in which they are involved. A few of the adverse
critiques I have chanced to see, and these almost avail to convince one
that Mr. Swinburne is a true poet. The _Saturday Review_, shocked out of
the complacency of its stark peevishness, cried, “Pretty verses these to
read aloud to young ladies in the drawing-room!” As if there were any
great book in existence proper to read aloud to young ladies in
drawing-rooms! and as if young ladies in drawing-rooms were the fit and
proper judges of any great book! I should like to watch the smuggest and
most conceited of Saturday Reviewers attempting to read aloud to young
ladies in a drawingroom certain chapters in the Bible, certain scenes of
Shakespere, certain of the very best passages in Chaucer, Spenser,
Dryden, Pope, Swift, Fielding, Sterne, Smollett, Burns, Byron, Shelley.
When Mr. Swinburne answers that he writes for full-grown men and women,
the acute _Fun_ affirms that men have read his book and have condemned
it. As if our present brood of periodical critics were men! At home in
private life, some of them probably are; but in their critical capacity,
that is to say incapacity, how many of them have any virility? The
_Athenaeum_ squashes the detestable book by proclaiming that it contains
such and such things in the style of Alfred de Musset, George Sand,
Victor Hugo, Ovid, etc.; that is to say, in the style of some of the
best Latin and modern French writers! As for _Punch_, he makes a joke
worthy of his present lively condition (were it not for Mr. C. H.
Bennett, one would say that there was no blood at all left in Mr. Punch
when the great Leech dropped off), suggesting that the author should
take the appropriate name of Swine-born. But the mass of our present
critics are so far beneath contempt that we will waste no more time upon
them.

I have just one remark to make, however, before saying a few words on
the general issue raised by this particular process. A large number of
highly respectable elderly personages in gowns, for the most part
belonging to the priesthood of our very dear National Church, and who by
themselves and by good Bumbledom in general are accounted the real
clerisy of England, have devoted all, or nearly all, the years of their
maturity to what is termed the classical instruction of ingenuous youth.
The ingenuous youth thus magnificently instructed comprise young men of
the highest rank, with the most money and leisure and the reddest blood
in the nation. Is it not rather ludicrous to see the said begowned
elderly personages all wringing their hands and smiting their breasts,
weeping and lamenting in sore astonishment and perplexity and terror,
when one of these young men dares to give sign that he has actually in
some degree _assimilated_ such classical instruction, instead of merely
gulping it down hastily and then vomiting it all crude at the
examinations?

As to the general questions, I will start by avowing frankly my
conviction, that, in the present state of England, every thoughtful man
who loves literature should rejoice in the advent of any really able
book which outrages propriety and shocks Bumbledom, should rejoice in
its advent simply and exactly because it does outrage propriety and
shock Bumbledom, even if this book be nauseous to his own taste and bad
in his own judgment. For the condition of our literature in these days
is disgraceful to a nation of men: Bumble has drugged all its higher
powers, and only the rudest shocks can arouse them from their torpor. We
have still, indeed, by the inscrutable bounty of nature, three or four
great writers, the peers of the greatest in Europe; out they stand like
so many forest-trees, antique oaks of Old England, in a boundless flat
of kitchen-gardens—cabbage and lettuce, radishes and onions, and all the
many-leaved “pot-boilers,” fit only to be soddened and seethed in a pot,
and “to pot,” thank goodness, they all quickly go.

Our literature should be the clear and faithful mirror of our whole
world of life, but at present there are vast realms of thought and
imagination and passion and action, of which it is not allowed to give
any reflex at all, or is allowed only to give a reflex so obscure and
distorted as to be worse than none. But, it may be objected, suppose
Satyrs come leering into your mirror and Bacchantes whirl before it? I
answer that the business of a mirror is clear reflection: if it does not
faithfully image the Satyr, how can it faithfully image Hyperion? And do
you dread that the Satyr will be preferred to Hyperion, when both stand
imaged in clear light before us? It is only when the windows are
curtained, when the mirror is a black gulph and its portraitures are
vague dark shadows, that the beautiful and the noble can pass
undistinguished from the hideous and the vile.

If, indeed, the realities not reflected became unrealities, were
annihilated, then there would be some sense in veiling those portions of
the mirror in front of which certain features of our life are exposed.
And if that which sees not could not be seen, it would be very sensible
of the hunted ostrich to hide its head in the sand. But we all know that
in darkness what is filthy and vile grows ever filthier and viler, what
is pure and sweet sickens and decays.

“We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we
have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no
health in us.”

We have suppressed mention of all facts which Bumble would fain ignore,
and utterance of all opinions likely to disturb his sacred peace; we
have canted enough to nauseate the angels, and have continually lied for
God as for a man to pleasure him; so our popular books are fit for
emasculated imbeciles, the _Times_ is our leading journal, and the
_Daily Telegraph_ boasts the largest circulation in the world! And in
the meanwhile the police-reports are full of putrid flesh, all the
blue-books are crammed with statistical dry bones; flesh from the
carcases and bones from the skeletons in that mass of death and
corruption under our imperial whited sepulchre.

I do not complain of the kitchen-garden literature; many of the
vegetables are very wholesome and savory in their season, very good for
eating to-day and forgetting to-morrow; I complain that in the interest
of kitchen-gardens the rearing of all grander and loftier vegetation,
the growth of secular forest-kings has become almost impossible in
England. The stupidest popular book would not be popular did it not find
a large number of people still more stupid than itself, to whom it is
really entertaining and instructive. These stupid people one does not
blame, one can only pity or envy them according to one’s mood. But what
shall one say of that large number of educated people who are not
stupid, who are familiar with continental literature; who yet, if an
English book appears advocating ideas such as they have been delighted
with in a French or German dress, feign astonishment and horror, and
join with all the poor little curs of Bumbledom in yelping and snarling
at it? These men who know well what they are doing are the accomplices
of Bumble who does not know what he is doing, who fondly fancies that he
is doing something very different, in starving on thin diet and
stupifying with narcotic drugs the intellect of our nation once so
robust and active; and assuredly if the process goes on much longer we
shall come to rank mentally as a third-rate Power in Europe.

No intelligent man in England, without (which is a contradiction in
terms) his ideas are exactly coincident with the non-ideas of Bumble, or
without he is rich and independent, can afford to devote himself to
honest treatment of any great religious or social, moral or
philosophical question. If treated in a book, he must himself pay the
expense of publication; if treated in an article, not even by payment
could he get the portals of any popular periodical to open unto him. For
periodicals—newspapers, magazines, reviews—are the Fools’ Paradise of
the commonplace, the mediocre, the orthodox, the respectable. As the
strength of a chain must be measured by its weakest link, so the thought
of a periodical must be measured by the thought of its most imbecile
subscribers. A periodical to live must be a commercial success; the
faintest thrill of new ideas would affect its circulation by shocking
off some of its regular readers; it must suit its articles to the size
of its customers—a very little hat for a very little head, a very little
thought for a very little brain. Thus, though in thinking of their
criticisms I spoke so contemptuously of our critics, I do not doubt that
many of them are much wiser than their articles. The most honest of them
must live by their pen, so they do not attempt to tell the whole truth
though they will not tell a lie; many, however, undoubtedly are as apt
for the sin of commission as for the sin of omission.

A noteworthy instance occurs to me as I write. An eminent English
author, in some respects even a great author, complained that in our
country no one since _Fielding_ had dared to attempt the full and
faithful portraiture of a man, and he set himself to the task in a work
published by instalments. As he entered upon certain phases of common
virile life, the circulation of the serial began to decrease. This
author was eminent, well-off, much more honest and wise and brave than
ninety-nine authors in a hundred: of course, having begun his work he
would honestly finish it, he would not only tell the truth and nothing
but the truth, he would also tell the whole truth?—he quietly left off
painting the features objected to, finished such as were agreeable to
the public, and said with a cynical scorn (flavored perhaps with some
bitterness of self-scorn), “_So you don’t want to see and hear the whole
truth? Very well!” This author was revered by the great and
noble-hearted Charlotte Brontë; this author was *Thackeray_, strong with
all the prestige of _Vanity Fair_; he could not think of continuing a
course injurious to his “circulation,” so “Pendennis” is not almost
worthy (as it might, else have been) to stand beside “Un Grande Homme de
Province à Paris” of Balzac.

When such is Thackeray, what must be Gigadibs?

If I write this rather strongly it is because I feel that I am writing
in the interest of strength and health and purity and freedom, at a time
when the mass of our literature is infected with servile weakness and
disease and that “obscenity, which is ever blasphemy against the divine
beauty in life.” For all obscene things batten on darkness, and light is
fatal to them. But for the Bumble who rules over us, the naked beauty is
obscene and the naked truth is blasphemous; he thinks that the Venus de
Medici came out of Holywell Street, and is inclined to believe that all
the fossil records of geology were forged by the Devil to throw
discredit upon the book of Genesis. One cannot without a keen pang of
shame and rage think of what we are when one remembers what we were,
when one recalls our old and glorious literature, in the wide world
unsurpassed; our literature noble and renowned, ever most glorious when
most manly and daring.



GREAT CHRIST IS DEAD


(1875.)

We have all heard the wonderful story, recounted by Plutarch in his
treatise on the Cessation of the Oracles, how, in the reign of Tiberius
Cæsar, a ship sailing from Greece to Italy was becalmed for the night at
the islet-rock of Paxus in the Ionian Sea, between the Echinades and
Ithaca, when a loud and terrible voice from the land called Thamous the
pilot. And he having responded at the third appeal, “I am here; what
would you with me?” the voice, grown yet louder and more terrible,
commanded him to announce on arriving at Palodes that Pan the Great was
dead. Accordingly, when the vessel reached this place, whose site I
believe the learned have not yet fixed, Thamous stood on the prow and
lifting his voice shoreward cried, “Pan the Great is dead!”—whereon were
heard great moanings and lamentations, mysterious and multitudinous. Not
having Plutarch at hand, I have refreshed my memory from Rabelais, who
repeats this well-authenticated story by the mouth of Pantagruel, in the
twenty-eighth chapter of the fourth book of his inestimable work,
following soon on that tempest of all tempests wherein Friar John and
Panurge so variously distinguished themselves. The good Pantagruel goes
on to expound the story after his own manner, thinking that it referred
not to the heathen god Pan, but to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
“ignominiously put to death by the envy and iniquity of the pontiffs,
doctors, presbyters, and monks of the Mosaic dispensation....”

For with good right may he in the Greek tongue be called Pan, seeing
that he is our All; all we are, all we live, all we have, all we hope,
is him, in him, of him, by him. He is the good Pan, the great
Shepherd.... at whose death were moanings, sighs, trepidations and
lamentations in all the machine of the universe, heavens, earth, sea,
hells. With this my interpretation the time agrees. For that most good,
most great Pan, our only Savior, died at Jerusalem, reigning in Rome
Tiberius Caesar.—Pantagruel, these words said, rested in silence and
profound contemplation. A little while after we saw the tears rolling
from his eyes, large as ostrich eggs. I give myself to God if I lie in a
single word.” Notwithstanding the thrilling pathos of this close, and my
deep reverence for Rabelais, with whom no commentator in holy orders
known to me can be compared, except Dean Swift, I am inclined on this
point to follow the ordinary opinion that Pan the great god whose death
was thus miraculously announced was the Pan of the heathen Greeks.
Christ had died, but only _pro tem_; had descended into Hell, but with a
return ticket, and simply to harry that realm of Old Harry; in three
days he had risen from the dead, in forty more ascended into Heaven; his
reign had begun and the reign of the old gods was ended; the spirit was
exalted ana the flesh brought low, this world and life were contemned
for the life and world to come; Nature, the All, the great Pan, was
annulled, and the Supernatural Nothing throned supreme. The poets have
chanted this momentous revolution according to their religion, their
phantasy, or their mood. Milton in his Hymn on the Nativity shouts harsh
Puritanical scorn on the oracles stricken dumb, and the deities
overthrown. Shelley in a magnificent chorus of “Hellas,” “Worlds on
worlds are rolling ever,” contests not the justice of their doom, while
in the final chorus he predicts the same doom for their conqueror in his
turn, In our own day Mr. Swinburne in the “Hymn to Proserpine,” and
elsewhere, has bewailed the dead immortals, with nothing but aversion
and contempt for the pale Galilean, the “ghastly glories of saints, dead
limbs of gibbeted gods.” Leopardi an early poem “To Spring,” beautiful
but not of his deepest, regrets the banished divinities, and since the
halls of Olympus are void, appeals to Nature to restore to his spirit
its first fire, if she indeed lives. Schiller in his “Gods of Greece”
passionately laments them; and Mrs. Browning more passionately answers
him, crying, “God himself is the best Poet, and the Real is his song and
the Real we accept perforce in its fulness, but discern not how it can
derive from an unreal God. Novalis in his “Hymns to the Night” laments
with Schiller the unsouling of Nature, “bound in iron chains by arid
number and rigorous rule;” but goes on to celebrate the resurrection of
Humanity in Christ. Heine in his. “Gods of Greece,” after declaring in
his wild way that he has never loved the old deities, that to him the
Greek are repugnant, and the Romans thoroughly hateful, yet avows that
when he considers how dastardly and windy are the gods who overcame
them, the new reigning sorrowful gods, malignant in their sheep’s,
clothing of humility, he feels ready to fight for the former against
these. This change of the celestial dynasty is indeed a favorite theme
with him. Elsewhere he pictures the Olympians holding high revelry, with
nectar and ambrosia, with Apollonian music and inextinguishable
laughter, when suddenly a wretched Jew staggers in, his brow bleeding
from a crown of thorns, trailing on his shoulder a heavy cross, which he
heaves upon the banquet table; and forthwith the revel is no more, the
divine feast disappears, the everburning lights are quenched, the
triumphant gods and goddesses vanish terror-smitten, dethroned for ever
and ever. And again, in his incomparable “Gods in Exile,” he tells us
what became of these dispersed Olympians during the Dark Ages, in the
thick night of the noontide of Christianity; how they were transformed
from celestial to infernal by the monstrous superstition of that baleful
era; as we find the hoofs and horns of Pan transferred to the Devil
himself; as we find Venus in that legend of Tannhauser which has
fascinated so many poets, as well as great Wagner,—

    Vénus, ma belle déesse,
    Vous êtes diablesse!

More than eighteen hundred years have passed since the death of the
great god Pan was proclaimed; and now it is full time to proclaim the
death of the great god Christ. Eighteen hundred years make a fairly long
period even for a celestial dynasty; but this one in its perishing must
differ from all that have perished before it, seeing that no other can
succeed it; the throne shall remain void for ever, the royalty of the
Heavens be abolished. Fate, in the form of Science, has decreed the
extinction of the gods. Mary and her babe must join Venus and Love, Isis
and Horus; living with them only in the world of art. Jesus on his cross
must dwindle to a point, even in the realms of legend under Prometheus
on Caucasus. For ages already the Father has been as spectral as
Jupiter; for ages already the Holy Ghost has been but the shadow of a
shade. And the last, not least, member of the Divine Royal Family, Satan
the Prince of Darkness, Prince of this World, and Prince of the Powers
of the Air, is no more alive than Pluto, who also was born brother to
the Monarch of Heaven. The Hebrew dynasty of the gods is no more; it has
done much evil in its long sovranty, which we will try to forget now it
ceases to reign; it has done some little good, whose remembrance we will
cherish when it is sepulchred, Christ the Great is dead, but Pan the
Great lives again, as Mr. Maccall told us in some lines published in
this paper several years ago. Pan lives, not as a God, but as the All,
Nature, now that the oppression of the Supernatural is removed. I may be
told that Christianity is yet alive and flourishing, that its priesthood
and its churches hold possession of Europe and America and Australia. So
the priesthood and the shrines of the Olympians kept possession of the
Roman Empire centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus. When the spirit
of a faith has departed, that faith is dead, and its burial is only a
question of time. When the noblest hearts worship not at its altars,
when the most vigorous intellects abandon its creeds, the knell of its
doom has rung. At the risk of being thought bigoted or prejudiced, I
must avow that to my mind the decomposition of Christianity is so
offensively manifest and advanced, that, with the exception of a very
few persons whose transcendent genius could throw a glamor of glory over
any creed however crude and mean, and whom I recognise as far above my
judgment, I can no longer give my esteem to any educated man who has
investigated and still professes this, religion, without grave deduction
at the expense of his heart, his intellect, or his conscience, if not of
all three. Miraculous voices are not heard in these days; but everywhere
myriads of natural voices are continually announcing to us, and
enjoining us to announce to others, Great Christ is dead!



RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION OF JESUS


(1876.)

In reviewing Mr. R. H. Hutton’s Essay on “Christian Evidences, Popular
and Critical,” I was obliged to follow his lead, joining issue on such
pleas as he put forward. Thus with regard to the resurrection of Jesus,
as Mr. Hutton adduced what he thought confirmatory evidence only from
the New Testament itself, I confined myself to showing or attempting to
show that such evidence is unsubstantial. But I could not consider this
argument adequate or conclusive, for there are large general
considerations of incomparably greater importance which it leaves out
altogether. It is as if a case ruled by broad principles of equity were
to be decided on the narrowest technical grounds. Therefore, while
confident that even on these grounds the case must go against the
Christian believer, I wish to add a few words on its wider relations, in
order that the decision may be established, not merely by the letter of
the law, but also by the spirit of justice.

We leave thus the torturing of texts in the dim cells of the theological
Inquisition, a process by which almost any confession required can be
and has been wrung from the unfortunate victims, and emerge into the
open daylight of common-sense and reason. And here I venture to assert
that if the story of the resurrection and ascension were recorded of any
other than Jesus in any other sacred book than the Bible, Mr. Hutton and
all other intelligent Christians would not only disbelieve it, but would
not even condescend to investigate it, condemning it offhand as too
preposterous to be worthy of serious attention. Thus, what Christian has
ever deigned to examine critically the marvels affirmed in the Koran,
such as Mohammed’s visit to heaven; although the Koran can be traced far
more surely to the Prophet of Islam than can the Gospels to their
reputed authors, and this Prophet bears a far higher character for
truthfulness than do the early Christians? Nay, what Bibliolater has
ever seriously weighed the evidence for the miracles of his fellow
Christian the great St. Bernard; such as those which are minutely
related and solemnly attested by ten eye-witnesses, men well known and
of unimpeached veracity, and which are thus infinitely better attested
than any miracle in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation?

Your enlightened Protestant simply shrugs his shoulders at all such
stories, and says with a superior smile: “Of course, mere imposture and
collusion, or superstition and delusion; no sensible man can afford to
waste his time in weighing that sort of stuff; we don’t think twice
before determining whether the impossible ever really occurred.” How,
then, can this enlightened Protestant receive without question the
miracles of the Jewish books while rejecting without question all
others? We have seen that it cannot be because of any superiority of
evidence for the former, since the evidence for the latter is in many
cases infinitely greater and better authenticated, and since he does not
attempt to weigh evidence before either accepting or rejecting, though
he may seek evidence and argument to confirm what he has already given
himself to believe. He accepts the Jewish miracles simply because they
have come down to him, through many generations of his forefathers,
invested with a glamor of sanctity, and he regards them with the eye of
faith which sees, and sees not, just what it wishes; he rejects miracles
not in the Bible because they come to him without any hallowed
associations, and he regards them with the eye of reason which beholds
the plain facts before it, and neither wishes nor is able to avoid
beholding them.

It is worth noting that while our Christian advocates insist with all
their might, such as it is, upon the resurrection of Jesus, they
willingly pass over as lightly as possible, if they do not altogether
ignore, a similar miracle guaranteed by the very same authority. In
Matt, xxvii., 52, 53, it stands recorded among the marvels following the
death of Jesus: “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the
saints which slept arose, and came out of their graves after his
resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” The
reader of Shakespeare will remember the prodigies anterior to the death
of Julius Cæsar when—

                  “The sheeted dead
    Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.”

This prodigal multiplicity and superfluity of resurrections seems to
have been not a little embarrassing to modern Christian champions,
though doubtless it did not in the least trouble the primitive
non-scientific believers, to whom nothing was more natural than the
unnatural, including the supernatural and the infranatural. An apologist
of our days who _must_ affirm the one resurrection, seeing that his
whole religion is based upon it, and who, though valiantly defying
science, seeks to conciliate historical possibility, finds his task
quite heavy enough in accounting for the facts that the risen Jesus “was
seen of above five hundred brethren at once,” and yet that no record of
his rising can be found beyond the limits of the New Testament. But the
difficulties of the poor apologist are enormously increased if he must
further contend that many bodies of the saints came out of their graves,
and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many, and still there is
no external evidence. We are surely at the utmost limits of the possible
in conceiving that Jesus could appear unto five hundred of the brethren
at once (there is no hint elsewhere that he had so many permanent
followers in his lifetime; in Acts i., 15, we find that there were about
one hundred and twenty gathered after the ascension), without the
priests and the Roman officials hearing of the apparition and
investigating it. But if many others rose from their graves and appeared
to many, it is absolutely impossible that anyone in Jerusalem could be
ignorant of the miracle; equally impossible that Pilate and his officers
did not investigate it, and equally impossible that finding it real he
did not report it with the evidence to Rome, for the Empire was a
thoroughly organised State, and the Romans were a thoroughly practical
and business-like people. Once in the imperial archives, the record of
the miracle would have spread everywhere; all subsequent historians
would have related it, all subsequent writers referred to it. So it is
no wonder that, recoiling from these manifold impossibilities, the
Christian advocates prefer to dwell on the one resurrection as if it
were unique, and avoid dwelling on the others that by the very same
testimony immediately followed it. It is very significant that neither
in the Acts nor in the Epistles is there any allusion to these
resurrections. When Peter and the others were preaching the resurrection
of Christ, why did they not adduce and produce some of these many, risen
saints, whose visible, tangible, living and speaking evidence would have
been irresistible?

Just as the resurrection of Jesus could be accepted without misgiving by
the non-scientific early Christians, to whom miracles appeared among the
most frequent occurrences of life, so could the ascension. Their earth
was a plane, vaulted by the sky, lamped by the little sun and moon and
stars; above this vault was Heaven, where their God dwelt enthroned;
they knew nothing of the law of gravitation; their Christ, standing in
the flesh on the Mount of Olives, floated up through this vault to sit
enthroned beside his Father in the most natural supernatural manner. We
can conceive and sympathise with this simple faith; but it is hard to
conceive and sympathise with the blind faith, which seems wilfully
blind, of the modem educated Christians. It has been often remarked that
Copernicus and Kepler and Newton have destroyed all the old mythologies,
including of course the mythology of both the Old and New Testaments.
With the earth no longer the universe of mortal life, between a Heaven
above its domed firmament and a Hades like a vast dungeon beneath, but a
quite infinitesimal grain of sand involved by an infinitesimal drop of
dew, floating and revolving in an ocean of space boundless in heighth
and depth and breadth, amidst innumerable other spherules, most of which
visible are very much greater than itself, and at inconceivable
distances from it; with man no longer the lord of the creation, for
whose service all things were made, but an animalcule inexpressibly
small, living for a moment inexpressibly brief, with limitless time
before his beginning and limitless time beyond his end; the Christian
mythology and system, among others, because ineffably absurd. Where is
the Heaven for its God? where the Hell for its Devil? Where is above?
Where beneath? Whence came the winged angels, with their wrings which
would not enable them to fly?

If Jesus had ascended and continued to ascend with the speed of light,
he might be ascending now and go 011 ascending for millions and millions
of years, and still not reach a heavenly region beyond the range of our
telescopes I And think of the scheme of the Atonement in the system of
the universe, as we are learning to know it now—try to conceive an
infinite and eternal God of this infinite and eternal Whole sacrificing
his only son for the salvation of us most insignificant insects on our
most insignificant earth! The immense conceptions of science dwarf these
petty conceptions of mythology to a littleness which reduces them
beneath consideration, which in our days reduces them even beneath
contempt.

Naturally the churches have always hated and resisted science, and the
theologians have seldom dared to face its conclusions. They ignore the
immensities, and confine their vision to the pages of a single book, to
a history whose chronology counts not six thousand years. But, as I have
remarked, even this minute field they cannot hold against the sceptic,
who has made them abandon all the rest of the universe. Why did their
risen Lord only slink about among his own disciples, appearing to these
but at flying instants: why did he not, with his well-known features and
with the wounds of the nails and the spear in his body, confront the
chief priests and Pilate and the whole of Jerusalem, and compel them to
acknowledge and bear enduring witness to his resurrection? Why did he
not summon all the people from the highest to the lowest to the solemn
spectacle of his ascension, securing multitudinous and permanently
recorded evidence such as none of us could doubt? We might go on asking
Why? and Why? and Why? in this fashion on a hundred points, confident
that to not one of our questions could the Christian apologist give a
straightforward and satisfactory answer. As the scheme of the Atonement
is presented to us, God sacrificed his only son that all mankind might
be saved through belief in him; yet not merely neglected to secure
trustworthy evidence and certain record of this supreme fact and the
miracles attesting it, but adopted every means possible to make the
evidence untrustworthy, the record uncertain, the miracles and the
sacrifice incredible.



SOME MUSLIM LAWS AND BELIEFS


(1876.)

The following notes are drawn from E. W. Lane’s charming and instructive
“Manners and Customs of the Modem Egyptians” (fifth and standard ed.,
1860), a worthy companion to Sir Gardner Wilkinson’s book on the Ancient
Egyptians, and written about forty years since, before
steam-communication had materially changed that people. The muédoins,
whose summons to prayer is one of the few audible charms of the East to
a western, are generally chosen from the blind, in order that the harems
and terraces of houses may not be overlooked from the minarets. _Our_
callers to prayer are generally blind also; but this is because few
clearsighted men will in these days accept the office. The imams or
priests and other religious officials are all paid from the funds of
their respective mosques, and not by any contributions exacted from the
people: a lesson to us with our State Church. The imâms have no
authority above other persons, and enjoy no respect save for reputed
learning and piety; they are not a distinct order of men set apart for
the ministry, but may resign or be displaced, losing with the office the
title of imâm; they chiefly obtain their living by other means than
service in the mosque (for which their salaries are as a rule only about
a shilling a month), many of them being tradesmen: here surely are
several good lessons for us. The mosques are open all day, and the great
mosque El-Azhar all night; the Muslims have great reverence for them,
yet in many of the larger ones persons lounge, chat, eat, sleep, spit,
sew, etc.: another lesson to us with our churches nearly always closed
and useless. The Muslim does not abstain from business on the Friday,
his Sabbath, except during the time of prayer, and for this he has the
authority of the Kur-ân: when will our bigoted Sabbatarians learn so
much liberal wisdom from him? The Prophet did not forbid women to attend
public prayers in the mosques, but pronounced it better for them to pray
in private; in Cairo they are not admitted to the public prayers, it
being thought that their presence would inspire a wrong sort of
devotion. The result is that few women in Egypt pray at all. If ours
were in like case, how many churches and chapels would attract large
congregations? The Egyptians, like the modern Arabs, are not a truthful
people, but there are some oaths which few would falsely take; such as
swearing three times by “God the Great,” or on a copy of the Kur-ân “By
what this contains of the word of God!”—I wonder whether the Christian
Englishmen are few who falsely swear by God and on the Bible. Mr. Lane
witnessed many instances of forbearance in persons of the middle and
lower classes when grossly insulted; and often heard an Egyptian say on
receiving a blow from an equal, “God bless thee,” “God requite thee
good,” “Beat me again”: how many of the Christians obey in like manner
one of the plainest precepts of Christ? In general a quarrel terminates
by one or both of them saying “Justice is against me”; often after this
they recite together the first chapter of the Kur-ân; and then,
sometimes, embrace and kiss one another. If a similar custom prevailed
here there would be little serious quarrelling; for the men would all
avoid disputes save with pretty girls and charming women, and would
always make it up very quickly with them. The Muslim believes that there
have been six great Prophets and Apostles—Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses,
Jesus, Mohammed; each of whom received a revealed law or system of
religion and morality, each of the first five abrogated and superseded
by the next, though all were the same in essentials. Thus the Jews from
the time of Moses to that of Christ, and the Christians (if they did not
accept the corrupt and idolatrous doctrine of the divinity of Jesus)
from the time of Christianity to that of Mohammed, were true believers.
Of course the last is the greatest Prophet, and since his revelation the
Muslims only have been the faithful. The Pentateuch, Psalms and Gospels,
though of divine origin, have been so much altered as to contain very
little of the true Word of God; but the Kur-ân is supposed to have
suffered no essential change whatever. Jesus was born of a pure virgin
by the miraculous operation of God, without any father human or divine.
When he had fulfilled the object of his mission, he was taken up to God
from the Jews who sought to slay him, and another man, on whom God had
stamped the likeness of Jesus, was crucified in his stead. He will come
again upon earth, to establish the Muslim religion and perfect peace and
security, after having killed Anti-Christ, and to be a sign of the
approach of the last day. In all these doctrines the Muslims are
decidedly more consistent and liberal, as well as somewhat less
superstitious than the Christians, with their God-man and trinity in
unity, their damnation of Mohammed as a mere impostor and of his
religion, El Islam, as a vile fabrication of stolen materials. “The
Egyptians pay a superstitious reverence not to imaginary beings alone:
they extend it to certain individuals of their own species; and often to
those who are justly the least entitled to such respect. An _idiot_ or a
_fool_ is vulgarly regarded by them as a being whose mind is in heaven,
while his grosser part mingles among ordinary mortals; consequently, he
is considered an especial favorite of heaven. Whatever enormities a
reputed saint may commit (and there are many who are constantly
infringing precepts of their religion) such acts do not affect his fame
for sanctity: for they are considered as the results of the abstraction
of his mind from worldly things; his soul, or reasoning faculties, being
wholly absorbed in devotion, so that his passions are left without
control. Lunatics who are dangerous to society are kept in confinement;
but those who are harmless are generally regarded as saints. _Most of
the reputed saints of Egypt are either lunatics, or idiots, or
impostors._” wonder whether this applies at all, and if it does, to what
extent, to the countless saints of our Most Holy Catholic Church of
Christendom. In Egypt, as in other countries of the East, Muslims,
Christians, and Jews adopt each other’s superstitions, while they abhor
the leading doctrines of each other’s faith. “In sickness, the Muslim
sometimes employs Christian and Jewish priests to pray for him: the
Christians and Jews, in the same predicament, often call in Muslim
saints for the like purpose!” So much human nature is there in man, not
to speak of woman. The Muslims profoundly reverence the Kur-ân, yet will
quote it on the most trivial occasions in jest as well as on the most
important in earnest. They are generally fond of conversing on religion
among themselves; and the most prevalent mode of entertaining a party of
guests among the higher middle classes, in Cairo, is the recital of the
whole of the Kur-ân, which is chanted by special persons hired for the
purpose, or other religious exercises. This chanting of the Kur-ân takes
up about nine hours. When will our fashionable Bibliolaters issue
invitations for the treat of hearing poor curates or scripture readers
intone the whole of the Bible, or even so much of it at a time as might
be got through in nine hours? When, oh when?

Ladies will learn with approval that it is thought improper, and even
disreputable, for a man to be single. Mr. Lane was a bachelor during his
first two visits to Egypt; and in the former of these, having to change
his residence, engaged another house. The lease was duly signed and some
money paid in advance, but the inhabitants of the neighborhood (who were
mostly descendants of the Prophet) would not have an unmarried man in
their midst. The agent said they would gladly admit him if he would but
purchase a female slave, thus redeeming himself from the opprobrium of
not possessing a wife of some sort. He managed to secure a house in a
less scrupulous quarter, but had to engage that no creature wearing a
hat should visit him. The Sheykh or chief of this quarter often urged
him to marry; Lane objected that he intended to live in Egypt only a
year or two longer. The Sheykh answered, with great moral force and
earnestness, that a handsome young widow a few doors off would be glad
to marry him, on the express understanding that he should divorce her on
going away; while of course he could do so earlier if she did not suit
him. Now this young widow, in spite of her religion and veil, had
several times contrived (the Sage saith that there is nothing a woman
cannot contrive, except to refrain from contriving) to let our Oriental
Englishman catch a glimpse of her very pretty face; and the miserable
bachelor was reduced to plead that she was the very last woman he would
like to marry _pro tempore_, for he felt sure that once wed he could
never make up his mind to part with her. Doubtless all our single men,
and especially our Christian young men, would much rather be deemed
disreputable and denied decent lodgings than establish their character
for virtue and respectability by buying female slaves, however cheap, or
marrying nice young widows divorcible at pleasure!

As to polygamy, Mr. Lane remarks that it can only be defended as
preventing a greater immorality than it occasions; and that Mohammed,
like Moses, did not introduce but limited and regulated it. The ancient
Egyptians had but one wife each, though they might have slave
concubines. Polygamy, however, is rare, and rarer among the upper and
middle classes than the lower; “I believe that not more than one husband
in twenty has two wives.” The mere sentence, “I give myself up to thee,”
uttered by a female to a man who proposes to become her husband (even
without the presence of witnesses, if none can easily be procured)
renders her his legal wife if arrived at puberty. A man may divorce his
wife twice, and each time take her back without any ceremony, unless she
has paid for it by resigning the reserved third of the dowry, furniture,
etc.; but if he divorces her the third time, or puts her away by a
triple divorce conveyed in one sentence, he cannot receive her again
until she has been, married and divorced by another husband, who must
have consummated his marriage with her. To divorce her, he simply has to
say, “Thou art divorced,” or “I divorce thee”; but the woman cannot
separate herself from her husband against his will, unless it be for
some considerable fault on his side, such as cruel treatment or neglect.
The facility of divorce has depraving effects, upon both sexes. Many men
in the course of ten years have married twenty, thirty, or more wives;
and women not far advanced in age have been wives to a dozen or more
successively. “I have heard of men who have been in the habit of
marrying a new wife almost every month.” But such conduct is generally
regarded as very disgraceful; and few persons in the upper or middle
classes would give a daughter in marriage to a person who had divorced
many wives.

The women deem it more incumbent to cover the upper and back part of the
head than the face; and more requisite to conceal the face than most
parts of the person. Many among the lower classes never conceal their
faces; women may often be seen with nothing but a narrow strip of rag
round the hips. The face-veils have the advantage of leaving the eyes
visible, which are generally the most beautiful of the features; fine
figures being more common than altogether handsome faces; though some
faces are of a beauty distinguished by such sweetness of expression that
they seem the perfection of female loveliness, “and impressed me at the
time with the idea that their equal could not be found in any other
country.” The women of Cairo are less strictly guarded than in most
Eastern lands; wives are proud of the restraint as showing that the
husbands value them highly, looking upon themselves as hidden treasures.
To such an absurd extent do Muslims carry their feeling of the
sacredness of women that entrance into the tombs of some women is
forbidden to men; and a man and woman are never buried in the same
vault, without a wall between them—as if their very corpses might get up
to mischief. For adultery on the part of the woman the Kur-ân prescribes
death by stoning, but drowning is generally substituted. Unless detected
by an officer of justice _four eye-witnesses are required_; failing
these, the accuser is to be scourged with eighty stripes. This
extraordinary law is traced to an accusation of adultery against the
Prophet’s favorite wife “Aïsheh,” who was thus absolved from punishment,
and subsequent revelations established her innocence. If we had a
similar law here we might close our Divorce Court. If a husband without
any witnesses accuses his wife of adultery, he must swear four times by
God that he speaks the truth, and the fifth time imprecate God’s curse
on himself if he is a liar; but the wife can counterbalance this by
swearing four times by God that he is a liar, and the fifth time
imprecating God’s wrath on herself if he speaks the truth. The
commentators and lawyers have agreed that in this dilemma the marriage
must be dissolved. When a peasant woman is found to have been unfaithful
to her husband, in general he or her brother throws her into the Nile,
with a stone tied to her neck; or cuts her to pieces and then throws
these into the river. In most instances a father or brother punishes in
the same manner an unmarried daughter or sister who has been guilty of
incontinence. These relatives are considered more disgraced than the
husband by the crime of the woman; and are often despised if they do not
thus punish her. Women in easy circumstances are put to bed for from
three to six days after childbirth; but poor women in the same case
seldom take to bed at all, and after a day or two resume their ordinary
occupations, if these do not require great exertion.

The law of inheritance is remarkable in two respects; primogeniture is
not privileged, and in most cases the share of a female is half that of
a male in the same degree of relationship. A debtor is only kept
imprisoned for debt if he cannot prove himself insolvent; but if able,
he may be made work out what he owes. Apostacy from the faith is death
if not recanted on three warnings. Blasphemy against God or any of the
Great Prophets, whether repented or not, is instant death: on the ground
that apostacy or infidelity is but ignorance and misjudgment, while
blasphemy shows utter depravity. If Christians blaspheming Mohammed were
punished as are Muslims blaspheming Christians, what a number of our
enlightened clerical teachers would have died the death of malefactors!

The Copts, or descendants of the ancient Egyptians, said to number about
150,000, are Christians, but scarcely a credit to that religion whose
votaries boast of its civilising and elevating character. The fact is
that in advanced countries the Christianity has been civilised by the
Secularism, not the Secularism by the Christianity; in countries where
the sciences and arts are stationary or retrograde, Christianity proves
that it has in itself no motive-power, and is generally even more
degraded than the other superstitions around it. Mr. Lane almost
despaired of learning anything about these Copts, until he had the good
fortune to become acquainted with a character of which he had doubted
the existence—a Copt of a liberal as well as an intelligent mind. They
hate the Greeks and all other Christians not of their own sect much
worse than they hate the Muslims themselves. The priests are supported
only by alms or by their own industry. Their language is a dead one.
They pray seven times a day, in the course of these reciting the whole
Book of Psalms, as well as chapters of the Bible, prayers, etc.: a fine
example to their lax co-religionists here. They have long and arduous
fasts. In spite or because of all this, they bear a very bad character
as sullen, avaricious, abominable dissemblers, cringing or domineering
according to circumstances. The one respectable Copt discovered by Lane
admitted that they are generally ignorant, faithless, worldly, sensual,
and drunken; he declared that the Patriarch was a tyrant and suborner of
false witnesses; that the monks and priests in Cairo are seen every
evening begging and asking the loan of money, which they never repay, at
the houses of their parishioners and other acquaintances, and procuring
brandy if possible wherever they call. So much for our esteemed
fellow-Christians in Egypt, descendants of what in heathen times was
long the foremost nation in the world.

“Women are not to be excluded from paradise, according to the faith of
El Islam; though it has been asserted by many Christians, that the
Muslims believe women to have no soul. In several places in the Kur-ân,
Paradise is promised to all true believers.” They will be admitted by
God’s mercy on account of their faith, not of their good works; but
their felicity there will be proportioned to their good works. The very
meanest male in Paradise is promised eighty thousand beautiful youths as
servants, and seventy-two wives of the daughters of Paradise. These
celestial virgins we commonly call houris, but learned and accurate
Mr-Lane terms them hooreeyehs, vividly suggesting that the Muslim saints
burst into rapturous and prolonged hoorays on first perceiving them. He
may also have the wives he had here below, if he wants them; and
doubtless the good will desire the good. On behalf of the earthly fair
sex, I must emphatically protest against this part of the heavenly
arrangements. How do we know that the good husband will desire the good
wife, however good, when he has two-and-seventy maidens of Paradise all
to himself? The trust that he will, cannot be trusted; it is a
perfidious consolation to poor women. No wonder Muslim wives are
obsequious, when it depends on the will, pleasure or caprice of their
husbands whether they shall be re-married in the other world or not.
Mrs. Caudle herself would scarcely hazard a curtain lecture with this
atrocious alternative in prospect. Try to fancy being an old-maid or
grass-widow for ever and ever where all the men are very much married,
having six dozen wives each at the very lowest! Such a heaven to a good
woman were ten times crueller than hell. When the Muslim women have been
aroused to a sense of their rights, they will insist on being treated in
the next world on equal terms with the men: the meanest woman of the
faithful (supposing any woman can be mean) shall have her eighty
thousand beautiful servants, and her seventy-two husbands of the youths
of Paradise, resplendent, adoring, ever obedient. This settled first, it
will be a question for consideration between herself and her terrene
spouse whether they shall combine their several establishments, or agree
to be divorced by death. But I digress; women always lead us into
digressions, only these are usually much more interesting than the dusty
high-road along which it is our business to trudge. The meanest of
Muslims will further have a very large tent bejewelled with pearls,
jacinths and emeralds. He will be waited on by three hundred attendants
while he eats, and served in dishes of gold, whereof three hundred shall
be set before him at once, each containing a different kind of food,
“the last morsel of which will be as grateful as the first.” This
absence of satiety, this ever-fresh vigor, I believe, is to mark all his
enjoyments, however freely he may indulge in them. Though wine is
forbidden in this life, he may drink of it _ad libitum_ in the next, and
the wine of Paradise doth not inebriate. He shall have perpetual youth,
and as many children as he may desire. He shall be ravished with the
songs of the angel Israfeel, “whose heart-strings are a lute, and who
has the sweetest voice of all God’s creatures.” I really cannot go on;
my feelings are too much for me. I remember when young being taught to
sing (or rather to squall; for my voice could never have been mistaken
for that of the angel Isrâfeel, even by a frequenter of revival meetings
or music halls):

    “I thank the goodness and the grace (grays?)
            Which on my birth have smiled,
    And made me in these Christian days (dace?)
            A happy English child.’*

But now that I am a man, this same consideration fills me with bitterest
sorrow and anguish, so that I am ready to bellow:

    I curse the evil and disgrace
         Which have my birth defiled,
    Who would have been in other case
         A happy Muslim child!

Yea, when I contrast these glowing and glorious prospects held out to
the faithful by the Kur-ân, with the everlasting singing in white
night-gowns, amidst the howling of elders and composite beasts all over
eyes (what our Heine terms “all the menagerie of the Apocalypse”), in
adoration of a God like a jasper and sardine stone to look upon, and of
a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes; then do I wring my hands and
beat my breast and tear my hair, sighing and sobbing, moaning and
groaning, weeping and lamenting most piteously—Alas! and alas! and alas!
why was I bom in a Christian land and reared for the Christian Heaven?
Would that I had been born among the Muslims and brought up in the faith
of El Islâm! So should I be now looking forward (for from such a
generous faith never, never would I have lapsed) unto a Paradise worthy
of the name; revelling in anticipations of four-score thousand servants,
uncloying courses of three hundred dishes, unlimited strong wine without
inebriation, six-dozen wives of the refulgent celestial virgins, aging
not themselves, aging not me; perpetual youth, unsating and unexhausting
raptures, for ever, and ever, and ever; and instead of having to sing my
own throat hoarse, I should have the angel Isrâfeel to sing for me. Ah,
dear God! Thou most Compassionate! Thou most Bountiful! Thou to whom all
things are possible! grant that I may even yet be converted from a
doleful Christian infidel into a blessed Muslim true believer! O God the
All-merciful, save me from the terrors and tortures of our Sankey and
Moody Christian heaven! O God the All-gracious, let me lie secure in the
arms of six-dozen hooreeyehs of Paradise of El Islam! Amen, and Amen.



THE CHRISTIAN WORLD AND THE SECULARIST


(1876.)

The _Christian World_ of the 1st inst. has another note on the article
on “Some Muslim Laws and Beliefs.” As Mr. Foote responded to the first
note on behalf of the _Secularist_, I, as the author of the obnoxious
article, which was mainly mere compilation from the work of a Christian
scholar and gentleman, may say a few words on my own behalf in reply to
the second, which is as follows:—

“A correspondent writes:—In your ‘Notes by the Way’ last week there is a
painful, though not unseasonable, quotation from a writer on ‘Muslim
Laws and Beliefs.’ This, as coming from a Secularist, is deplorable
enough. It is very much more so that the late Viscount Amberley, a son
of a veteran statesman, should in his ‘Analysis of Religious Belief,’
which might indeed more justly be termed ‘A Panegyric of all Heathen
Beliefs, and a Travesty of that of the Christian,’ have given a like
description of the paradise of the Koran, and should have sneeringly
told us that the Christian Scriptures, in their pictures of the heavenly
life, ‘_strangely overlook this enjoyment_’ of ‘ever virgins’ never
growing old, who are to ‘supply the faithful with the pleasure of love’
(vide Vol. II., p. 200). This is but a specimen of the disdainful and
derisive tone with which this writer, who at length leaves himself
stranded in a region of the dreariest Atheism, continually speaks of
that Book which what he terms ‘the illusions of our younger days’ might
have taught him o respect.”

I do not doubt that the quotation was painful to the Christian
correspondent, since it is always painful to have our lifelong
prejudices shocked by those who have never shared them, or who have
attained freedom from their yoke. One might give not a few quotations
from any number of the _Christian World_ which would be very painful to
a pious Muslim. Nor do I doubt that the quotation was not unseasonable,
for quotations from the _Secularist_ must always be seasonable in an
influential Christian periodical, when they tend to expand the Christian
narrowness, and show that there is much to be said in favor of other
beliefs. And I admit that, like many other things coming from a
Secularist, it must have been deplorable enough to a Christian suckled
on the Bible, and assured in his unreflecting ignorance that it is the
one true word of the three-in-one true god. But the correspondent finds
it very much more deplorable that a son of a veteran statesman should
agree with the Secularist—as if the sons of veteran statesmen were
naturally expected to be sunk deeper than other persons in the
prevailing superstition. The correspondent who, we may presume, has
always been taught, and has never doubted, that all heathen beliefs are
wholly devilish, and that the Christian belief is wholly divine, thinks
that Viscount Amberley’s book is a panegyric of the former and a
travesty of the latter. If the unfortunate correspondent had the courage
and intelligence to enter upon a real analysis of religious belief, he
would soon discover that he and his co-religionists have been all along
travestying every form of what they call heathenism. With amusing
simplicity he is astonished that Lord Amberley gives a like description
of the paradise of the Kur-ân to that which I gave in the _Secularist_,
as if he could have been accurate in giving any other, when mine was
drawn from one of the most careful and accurate of writers, the Oriental
Englishman, unequalled in his knowledge of Arabic literature and life!
Why, in the very week following the attack on the _Secularist_, the
_Christian World’s_ twin sister, the _Literary World_ (perhaps incited
thereto by its study of our vilified paper), showed that it had been
reading or dipping into Lane, by an article on him under the queer title
of “A Man of One Book,” he being distinguished for three—“The Manners
and Customs of the Modem Egyptians,” the translation of the “Arabian
Nights,” with its peerless notes, and the monumental “Arabic Lexicon”;
and the said queerly-named article echoed the general praise of his
thoroughness and accuracy, and repeated the statement of those who knew
him, that he was a deeply pious man. I am not concerned with the defence
of Lord Amberley, and shall therefore not follow further the
correspondent’s remarks on his book, save to note that a man who says
that any such writer “leaves himself stranded in a region of the
dreariest Atheism,” proves himself by this one phrase utterly
incompetent to study that word or understand its subject matter; and, as
ignorant and incapable, had better confine himself to the Sunday-school,
the Young Men’s Christian Association, the religious tea-meeting, and
street-corner raving.

It may be as well to say something on my own account, in addition to the
vigorous remarks of Mr. Foote, in reply to the first note of the
_Christian World_, and vindication of the passage it impugned. And
first, as to the Book of Revelation, which claims to be prophetic, and
stands in our Bible as the work of St. John the Divine. Luther, indeed,
who was not afraid to pass an independent judgment, said, “I look upon
the revelation as neither apostolic nor prophetic;” but it is received
as both by our English Protestants, and continually referred to by them
as the record of a genuine and authentic vision. But I assert, without
fear of contradiction, that if they had never known it, and some
missionary brought home an account of its marvels as belonging to the
faith of some Polynesian islanders, they would be filled with wonder and
compassion at the monstrous superstitions of those poor heathen
barbarians. Yes, Exeter Hall and the readers and writers of the
_Christian World_ itself, would assuredly invoke help to enlighten the
degraded idolaters who believed in a heaven whose God was to look upon
like a jasper and a sardine; in the midst of whose throne, and round
about whose throne, were four beasts—a lion, a calf, a man-faced
monster, an eagle—each with six wings, and full of eyes before and
behind and within; which beasts never rested day nor night from saying,
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty;” and which, moreover, worshipped a
lamb with seven horns and seven eyes—a figment more extravagant than the
many-headed and many-armed idols of India. And so with the other
enormities of the Apocalypse. Our civilised gentlemen of the _Christian
World_ can only believe that they believe these things, because hallowed
associations and unreflecting faith blind their judgment to the obvious
absurdity of the imagery and the conspicuous non-fulfilment of the
prophecy, which again and again claims to announce events then at hand,
to come quickly.

In the next place I assert that the everlasting monotonous singing of
the praises of the lamb, the interminable senseless routine, is not a
whit more spiritual, while infinitely less alluring, than the
occupations of the Mohammedan Paradise. If it be answered that
enlightened Christians have nobler ideas of heaven, I reply that such
anticipations are not warranted by the New Testament, and that
magnanimous Muslims have also nobler anticipations of paradise, for
which there is warrant in the Kur-ân. And while on the subject of
spirituality, I may remark that the pure monotheism of the Muslim and
the Jew is immensely more spiritual, as well as more rational, than the
monotritheism of the Christian, which not only deifies a man, but
juggles with a so-called mystery that cannot be expressed in words
without self-contradiction, cannot be conceived in thought, and, by the
confession of its own apologists, defies reason.

As to the “hysterical buffoonery,” I have yet to learn that there is
anything hysterical in a jolly burst of Rabelaisian laughter. And as to
the “poor hollow mockery,” I can assure the writer in the _Christian
World_ that the mockery was quite rich, sound and genuine in relation to
the Apocalypse of his idolised book and the popular Protestant Moody and
Sankey heaven. (By the bye, can anyone inform us whether Mr. Sankey is
really a Jew, and not a Christian Jew, as I have heard positively
asserted on Hebrew authority?) As to the “blasphemous irreverence” and
the “horrible and blasphemous invocation,” I deny the possibility of
blasphemy where there is no belief. A man may blaspheme that which he
accounts worthy of reverence, because in speaking evil of it he violates
his own convictions and holiest feelings. But if for me there is no God,
how can I blaspheme him? Speaking contemptuously of him, I but contemn
nothing. If the writer in the _Christian World_ were accused of
blasphemy for reviling Jupiter and Venus, Brahma and Vishnu, Baal and
Moloch, the Goddess of Reason and Mumbo Jumbo, he would reply, I cannot
blaspheme false gods, meaning simply gods in whom he has no faith. Just
so,

I say that I cannot blaspheme the trinity-in-unity of the Christian,
which to me is non-existent, absurd, impossible. It would be well for
the writers and readers of the _Christian World_ to ponder these things.



THE ATHANASIAN CREED


(1865.)

On Christmas day, as on all other chief holidays of the year, the
ministers and congregations of our National Church have had the noble
privilege and pleasure of standing up and reciting the creed commonly
called of St. Athanasius. The question of the authorship does not
concern us here, but a note of Gibbon (chapter 37) is so brief and
comprehensive that we may as well cite it:—“But the three following
truths, however strange they may seem, are _now_ universally
acknowledged. 1. St. Athanasius is not the author of the creed which is
so frequently read in our churches. 2. It does not appear to have
existed within a century after his death. 3. It was originally composed
in the Latin tongue, and consequently in the western provinces.
Gennadius, patriarch of Constantinople, was so much amazed by this
extraordinary composition, that he frankly pronounced it to be the work
of a drunken man.” (This Gennadius, by the bye, is the same whom Gibbon
mentions two or three times afterwards in the account of the siege and
conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, a.d. 1453).

Whoever elaborated the Creed, and whether he did it drunk or sober, the
Church of England has made it thoroughly her own by adoption.

Yet it must be admitted that many good churchmen, and perhaps even a few
churchwomen, have not loved this adopted child of their Holy Mother as
warmly as their duty commanded. The intelligently pious

Tillotson wishes Mother Church well rid of the bantling; and poor George
the Third himself, with all his immense genius for orthodoxy, could not
take kindly to it. He was willing enough to repeat all its expressions
of theological faith—in fact, their perfect nonsense, their obstinate
irrationality, must have been exquisitely delightful to a brain such as
his; but he was not without a sort of vulgar manhood, even when
worshipping in the Chapel Royal, and so rather choked at its
denunciations—“for it do curse dreadful.” He could keep the faith whole
and undefiled by reason, yet did not like to assert that all who had
been and were and should in future be in this particular less happy than
himself, must without doubt perish everlastingly.

On the other hand one of our most liberal Churchmen, Mr. Maurice, has
argued that this creed is essentially merciful, and that its retention
in the Book of Common Prayer is a real benefit. Mr. Maurice, however, as
we all know, interprets “perish everlastingly” into a meaning very
different from that which most members of the Church accept. And his
opinions lose considerably in weight from the fact that no man save
himself can infer any one of them from any other. For example, if you
are cheered up a bit by his notions as to “Eternal” and “Everlasting,”
you are soon depressed again by his pervading woefulness. Of all the
rulers we hear of—the ex-king of Naples, the king of Prussia, the
Elector of Hesse-Cassel, Abraham Lincoln, and the Pope included—the poor
God of Mr. Maurice is the most to be pitied: a God whose world is in so
deplorable a state that the good man who owns Him lives in a perpetual
fever of anxiety and misery in endeavoring to improve it for Him.

What part of this creed shocks the pious who are shocked at all by it?
Simply the comprehensive damnation it deals out to unbelievers,
half-believers, and all except whole believers. For we do not hear that
the pious are shocked by the confession of theological or theoillogical
faith itself. Their reverence bows and kisses the rod, which we cool
outsiders might fairly have expected to be broken up and flung out of
doors in a fury of indignation. Their sinful human nature is shocked on
account of their fellow-men; their divine religious nature is not
shocked on account of their God: yet does not the creed use God as badly
as man?

A chemist secures some air, and analyses it into its ultimate
constituents, and states with precise numerals the proportions of
oxygen, nitrogen, and carbonic acid therein. Just so the author of this
creed secures the Divinity and analyses it into Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost, and just as precisely he reports the relations of these. A
mathematician makes you a problem of a certain number divided into three
parts in certain ratios to each other and to the sum, from which ratios
you are to deduce the sum and the parts. Just so the author of this
creed makes a riddle of his God, dividing him into three persons, from
whose inter-relations you are to deduce the Deity. An anatomist gets
hold of a dead body and dissects it exposing the structure and functions
of the brain, the lungs, the heart, etc. Just so the author of this
creed gets possession of the corpse of God (He died of starvation doing
slop-work for Abstraction and Company; and the dead body was purveyed by
the well-known resurrectionist Priestcraft), and cuts it open and
expounds the generation and functions of its three principal organs. But
the chemist does not tell us that oxygen, nitrogen, and carbonic acid
are three gases and yet one gas, that each of them is and is not common
air, that they have each peculiar and yet wholly identical properties;
the mathematician does not tell us that each of the three parts of his
whole number is equal to the whole, and equal to each of the others, and
yet less than the whole and unequal to either of the others; the
anatomist does not tell us that brain and lungs and heart are each
distinct and yet all the same in substance, structure, and function, and
that each is in itself the whole body and at the same time is not: while
the author of this creed does tell us analogous contradictions of the
three members and the whole of his God. And the chemist, the
mathematician, and the anatomist do not damn us (except, perhaps, by way
of expletive at our stupidity) if we fail to understand and believe
their enunciations; but the author of this creed very seriously and
solemnly damns to everlasting perdition all who cannot put faith in his.
In other words, the chemist, the mathematician and the anatomist try to
be as reasonable and tolerant as human nature can hope to be; while the
author of this creed aims at and manages to reach an almost superhuman
unreason and intolerance.

Giving him the full benefit of this difference, the fact remains that in
other respects he treats his subject just as they treat theirs. He, a
pious Christian, professing unbounded adoration and awe of his Divinity,
coolly analyses and makes riddles of and dissects this Divinity as if it
were a sample of air, a certain number, a dead body. This humble-minded
devotee, who knows so well that he is finite and that God is infinite,
and that the finite cannot conceive, much less comprehend, much less
express the infinite, yet expounds this Infinite with the most complete
and complacent knowledge, turns it inside out and upside down, tells us
all about it, cuts it up into three parts, and then glues it together
again with a glue that has the tenacity of atrocious wrongheadeduess
instead of the coherence of logic, puts his mark upon it, and says,
“This is the only genuine thing in the God line. If you are taken in by
any other, why, go and be damned;” and having done all this, finishes by
chanting “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy
Ghost!” And the pious are not shocked by what they should abhor as
horrible sacrilege and blasphemy; they are shocked only by the “Go, and
be damned,” which is the prologue and epilogue of the blasphemy. Were
the damnatory clauses omitted, it appears that even the most devout
worshippers could comfortably chant the “Glory be to the Father, and to
the Son, and to the Holy Ghost” immediately after they had been thus
degrading Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to the level and beneath the level
of their low human understanding. And these very people are horrified by
the lack of veneration in Atheists and infidels! What infidel ever dealt
with God more contemptuously and blasphemously than this creed has dealt
with him? Can it be expected that sane and sensible men, who have
out-grown the prejudices sucked in with their mothers’ milk, will be
reconverted to reverence a Deity whom his votaries dare to treat in this
fashion?

Ere we conclude, it may be as well to anticipate a probable objection.
It may likely enough be urged that the author and reciters cf the creed
do not pretend to know the Deity so thoroughly as we have assumed, since
they avouch very early in the creed that the three persons of the
Godhead are one and all incomprehensible. If the word incomprehensible,
thus used, means (what it apparently meant in the author’s mind)
unlimited as to extension, just as the word eternal means unlimited as
to time, the objection is altogether wide of the mark.. But even if the
word incomprehensible be taken to mean (what it apparently means in the
minds of most people who use the creed) beyond the comprehension or
capacity of the human intellect, still the objection is without force.
For in the same sense a tuft of grass, a stone, anything and everything
in the world is beyond the capacity of the human intellect: the roots of
a tuft of grass strike as deeply into the incomprehensible as the
mysteries of the Deity. Relatively this creed tells us quite as much
about God as ever the profoundest botanist can tell us about the grass;
in fact, it tells relatively more, for it implies a knowledge of the
_Final Cause_ of the subsistence of God, which no future botanist can
tell or imply of the grass.



OUR OBSTRUCTIONS


(1877.)

Walking along the Strand and Fleet Street and through the heart of the
City, noting the churches on the way—high St. Martin’s, St.
Mary-le-Strand, St. Clement Danes, the Cathedral, and the many still
left wedged in by offices in the narrowest and busiest streets, or lanes
of London—I am always reminded of the old wooden ships laid up “in
ordinary,” as one sees them at Plymouth and Portsmouth, and elsewhere.
The churches, like the ships, though not so surely, may have done good
service in their time; but their day is past, never to return. When we
reflect on the subject, however, we find manifold differences between
the state of the churches and that of the ships. These are dismantled,
unrigged and dismasted, passive white hulls ghostly on the waters, as it
were the phantoms of the old swift-winged and thunder-striking eagles of
battle. But the churches remain in all their pride, complete in
equipment from lowest vault to topmost spire, even those which are shut
silent all the week, without the least pretence of use, and in which on
Sunday the droning and drowsy worship of a meagre congregation “rattles
like a withered kernel in a large shell.” Again, the crews of the ships
were discharged as soon as these were put out of commission, while the
full crews of the churches, rectors, vicars, ushers, beadles, are kept
on at full pay, and saunter through the old exercises and parades as if
they were valiant effectives instead of dummies and shams. And this
death-in-life of the churches is more dreary and doleful than the naked
death of the ships.

These churches officially and effetely represent what is called the
English Reformation, the most ignoble in Europe; which, as Macaulay
remarks, merely transferred the full cup from the hand of the Pope to
the hand of the King, spilling as little,as possible by the way. It is
true that the State Church thus established, in spite of its illogical
position, boasted great men in its early days, inspired by patriotism as
against Rome, with abounding faith for the mysteries, with firm belief
in the Bible, with full confidence in metaphysical divinity. But now
Rome is formidable no longer, the mysteries are seen to be not only
incomprehensible but self-contradictory, the Bible has been torn asunder
by criticism, metaphysical divinity has been proved baseless; all the
best thought of the age abandons the Church and disregards its dogmas;
it has great men no more, nor ever again will have. Its general
character is well hit off by Ruskin, himself a devoted Christian, in the
phrase “the smooth proprieties of lowland Protestantism.”’ It may be
worth while to quote a little more from him on this subject (“Modern
Painters,” part v., chap. 20, “The Mountain Glory”)—“But still the large
aspect of the matter is always, among Protestants, that formalism,
respectability, orthodoxy, caution and propriety, live by the slow
stream that encircles the lowland abbey or cathedral; and that
enthusiasm, poverty, vital faith and audacity of conduct, characterise
the pastor dwelling by the torrent side.” And again: “Among the fair
arable lands of England and Belgium extends an orthodox Protestantism or
Catholicism—prosperous, creditable and drowsy; but it is among the
purple moors of the highland border, the ravines of Mount Genévre, and
the crags of the Tyrol, that we shall find the simplest evangelical
faith and the purest Romanist practice.” In other words, in religion the
highlander is enthusiastic and superstitious, the low-lander lukewarm
and worldly. Thus our fat English Church still keeps to the text, “By
grace ye are saved;” but its grace now is chiefly of deportment. It
boasts that its clergy are gentlemen; and they may be, as a rule, in
society, though we unbelievers seldom find them so in controversy; and
it seems to be persuaded that we should continue to allow it several
million pounds a year to keep up this supply of gentlemen, when every
profession, every trade shows gentlemen quite as good, with the
advantages of more intellect, more experience of life, more courage and
more sincerity.

There is indeed a section of the clergy full of zeal—to restore the
priesthood. How some of these gentlemen compound with their consciences
in taking English pay and position for doing Romish work, is a standing
puzzle to honest laymen untrained in casuistry. But as they do rank
themselves among the parsons of our State Church, their ecclesiastical
pretensions are even more ludicrous than they are outrageously arrogant.
For ever preaching up the authority and discipline of the Church, they
are the first to rebel against it when it does not suit their whims.
Thus Mr. Tooth, of Hatcham, not only defies an Act of Parliament, but
also defies his bishop, and has plenty of abettors in doing both. I read
in the _Daily News_: “Two of Mr. Tooth’s supporters, whose letters we
have published, insist that the Public Worship Regulation Act is not law
and is not binding on Churchmen, because it has never received the
sanction of Convocation”—the said Convocation having about as much
influence and authority in the country as a tavern discussion society.

Again: “One writer talks of the Church having been declared to be free
from all civil jurisdiction in spiritual affairs by many successive
Sovereigns. We did not know that our Sovereigns had a right to make laws
by Royal declarations, [and] not merely for their own time, but for all
time. According to these principles of constitutional government we have
three rival law-making powers in England—the Parliament, with the
Sovereign for one; the Declaration of the Sovereign for another; and
Convocation for a third. Of these Parliament would seem to be the
weakest, for it cannot negative the proceedings of the other two; but
either of these two can declare invalid what it has done.” Can anything
be more absurd? Here is a State Church established by Parliament with
the sanction of the monarch, endowed with national endowments, liable to
be disestablished and disendowed by Parliament with the sanction of the
monarch; yet many of its ministers claim to be free from the authority
of the State and Parliament to which it owes its existence and
subsistence! If they really desire such freedom, they can easily obtain
it. They have but to sever their adulterous connexion with the State,
restoring to the nation the endowments they have so long misused, and
they will then be emancipated from all control, at liberty to teach what
doctrines and practise what ritual they please. But these
super-spiritual clergy keep a desperate clutch on the revenues. If
anything could be more absurd than the defiance of Parliament, it would
be the defiance of their ecclesiastical superiors by these champions of
absolute ecclesiastical subordination. His bishop inhibits Mr. Tooth,
Mr. Tooth coolly disregards the inhibition, and one who sympathises with
him calmly writes to the _Daily News_? “Considering how bishops have
been appointed since the Reformation, it is hard to see why Mr. Tooth
and your correspondents should even pretend to obey them.” This is
frightful, and may well make even the hardened sceptic shudder. What! a
genuine successor of the Apostles (else the English Church has no
genuine priesthood) chosen by the Holy Ghost itself (in obedience to the
recommendation of the King or Queen) against his own humble wish (for he
declared _Nolo Episcopari_); and English Churchmen need not even pretend
to obey him! Such is the subordination of those who maintain the extreme
authority of the Church!

Jesus has told us that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and
the house of our State Church is divided against itself most savagely.
But as the factions, while opposed to each other in all else, thoroughly
agree in adhering to their endowments and privileges, and with this
object shore up and buttress the edifice whose fall would be otherwise
imminent, it behoves us to exert ourselves in bringing to the ground as
speedily as possible the unsure and dangerous building, and diverting
the immense funds misemployed in sustaining its uselessness to the real
edification of the people. For as materially the Church of St. Mary is
planted silent, void and death-like in the midst of the living currents
of the Strand, obstructing and breaking the broad stream into two narrow
arms, so intellectually and morally, in whatever channel our active life
may flow, we find a similar obstacle, and in all directions we meet one
cry—“The Church stops the way.”

But when we have removed the obstacle, when we have blasted it as the
Americans recently blasted that other rock of Hell-gate, clearing the
entrance to New York’s noble harbor, we shall find another and a more
inveterate obstacle fronting us—a Book. A book seems but a slight thing
to bar the way; but multiplied by millions and millions, and desperately
defended as divine and infallible by legions of zealots, it constitutes
a far more formidable barricade than the stoutest church of stone. The
various sects of Nonconformists, who all join with us in attacking the
State Church, will all join the Churchmen to maintain against us their
common fetish, the Bible. Regarding this as a human production, there is
much of it which we highly esteem; but regarded as the word of God, it
works far more evil than good, and the evil is ever increasing while the
good decreases; for the revelations of science grow ever more clear, and
men must more and more strain their consciences and sophisticate their
intellects in order to believe that they believe in the super-human
character of the book which reason and science show to be so thoroughly
human. We are told by men whom we respect that, considered historically,
Christianity and the other great religions merit better treatment than
we are wont to accord them. Certainly they merit better treatment than
is accorded them by those who crudely brand them all alike, in all their
doctrines and legends and ritual, as the mere inventions of priestcraft
fostered by kingcraft and statecraft. But we are far from committing
ourselves to such an impeachment, not less monstrous than the most
monstrous superstition it assails. We freely recognise the naturalness
of these religions in the past, their genuine consonance with the
communities wherein they arose and prevailed; the sincerity and truth
and nobleness formulated, however erroneously, in many of their dogmas,
embodied, however imperfectly, in many of their myths; but we see that
their day is gone by; we cannot allow the past, which was the real
childhood and youth of mankind, to dominate the present, which is its
riper age; we discern that the errors of the dogmas and the fiction of
the myths are now so obvious and incontestable that to revere them as
faultless and authentic is a gross self-delusion. When we say—“The tree
is dead; cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?” we do not imply that
it never bore good fruit. On the other hand, when we admit that it once
bore good fruit, we do not imply that it is not now dead and an
encumbrance to the ground. It is precisely because we do consider these
old faiths historically, because we fully recognise their early
efficiency and vigor, that we can thoroughly realise their decrepitude
and dissolution. And taking western Christianity in particular, both the
Roman embodied in Mary and the Protestant embodied in Jesus, we affirm
that it has no longer real life, but only the “ghastly affectation of
life.” Reason and science have disembowelled it, have removed its heart
and its brain. It is ready for the historical embalmer. Its great part
in the drama of human life is played out; it is still kept above ground,
its life still asserted, because large numbers would lose much by the
frank acknowledgement of its decease, and other large numbers who cannot
bring themselves to face the fact of its death, persist in hoping
against hope that the lifelessness is hut a swoon or a cataleptic fit,
from which it will yet awaken with renewed strength. We, however, dare
to see what we cannot help seeing, we venture to avow the fact which is
beyond fair dispute. Doubtless the living man did brave work in his
time; but shall we therefore bow down worshipping his mummy, and keep it
from its sepulchre, and continue to allot immense revenues to his army
of servitors who have now no service to render? No; the sooner we bury
the corpse and send the servitors about their business the better for us
and for them.

Thus far I think all Secularists will go with me. But for many, perhaps
the majority of us, who are not only Secularists, but Republicans, there
is a third great obstacle, the Throne, which is now little else than a
costly sham. Yet, sham as it is, it is still strong to obstruct, being
encompassed and fortified by the power of the nobles, the power of the
clergy, the power of the wealthy, the degraded and degrading
snobbishness of the middle and lower middle classes. The artisans and
laborers generally, as we know, care nothing for it or are distinctly
hostile. We have had some great monarchs, though the greatest we ever
had was crown-less, and we can yield to monarchy in the past something
of such historical respect as we yield to Christianity. But who that is
not a very serf by nature can feel any genuine respect for monarchy as
we have it in these days? when the main duty of the King or Queen is to
countersign the decrees of Parliament; a duty which the Lord Chancellor
or the Speaker could perform just as well and with more promptitude. One
need not dwell on the character of the reigning house, which, brought
ignobly to the throne, has been consistently ignoble from the first
until the accession of her present Most Gracious Majesty. A much nobler
royal family would be just as superfluous now as the present we have
outgrown the need of a paternal or guardian king. Nor is the question of
principle really affected by the fact that this ignoble family, like
other species of the lower animals, is excessively prolific, and that
every prince or princess born of it, costs us several thousands a year.
We should not grudge the money for service rendered; the gravamen of our
impeachment is that no monarch now can render service of value. The
effective energy of our monarchy in these days is well symbolised in the
procedure at the opening of Parliament—royal carriages without royal
occupants; royal life-guards with no royal life to guard; a royal robe
spread on a vacant throne; the Lord Chancellor reading a royal speech
composed by responsible ministers. Her Majesty during fourteen long
years has been doing her best to teach us how well we can get on without
a monarch, and how stupid we are therefore to keep one at a great
expense. We may find something venerable in the throne when put aside
and conserved simply as a curious relic of the past; we find it merely
absurd while retained for useless use, a pretentious seat with no one to
sit in it. As Théophile says: “_Si rien nest plus beau que l’antique,
est plus laid que le suranné._”



MR. KINGSLEY’S CONVERTITES


(1865.)

Readers can scarcely have forgotten the amusing “turn-up” between the
Rev. Mr. Kingsley and the Rev. Dr. Newman, in which the latter got the
former “into Chancery,” and punished him so pitilessly. While reading
the “Apologia pro Vitâ Sua,” one naturally reflected now and then upon
the opinions, as stated in the books, of Dr. Newman’s antagonist; and
the fight grew more and more comically exquisite as one gradually learnt
the thorough agreement at bottom of the two who were struggling so
fiercely at top. When I speak of Mr. Kingsley’s books, I mean his novels
and romances, all of which (except the one not yet completely published)
I have duly read and enjoyed. As for certain collections of sermons, a
dialogue for loose thinkers, a _jeu d’esprit_ on the Pentateuch,
together with various trifles by way of lectures on history and
philosophy, I confess that none of these have I ever even attempted to
peruse. To palliate this sin of omission I can only urge the high
probability that a man of Mr. Kingsley’s character must find much more
vigorous and ample expression in a free and easy novel than in any
didactic or argumentative treatise, with its wearisome requirements of
consecutiveness and cramping limitations of logic. I now ask the leaders
of the _National Reformer_ to accompany me in a general review of his
romances, because I think that such a review will develop two or three
facts seldom noticed in the critiques—whether friendly or adverse—that
abound upon his writings. Especially, I think that it will be found that
the popular phrases, “Muscular Christianity” and “Broad Church,” by no
means sufficiently characterise his religious tendency; and that, with
all the superficial unlikeness, almost amounting to perfect contrast
between him and Dr. Newman, the opponents as religious men are
fundamentally alike in this—that their respective creeds satisfy, or
appear to satisfy, in the same manner the same peculiarly intense want
in their several natures.

In every one of Mr. Kingsley’s romances there is a chief personage, more
or less naturally good but decidedly godless at the beginning,
god-fearing and saintly at the end. Some of the romances have each two
or three of these convertites, the throes of whose regeneration are the
principal “motives” of the most striking scenes, and may be thus fairly
said to furnish the plot and passion of the book. My present object is
not aesthetic, and I therefore need not argue the question whether
narratives thus constructed can have any claim to rank as genuine works
of art. With the melancholy Jaques in “As You Like It,” I believe:

    Out of these Convertites
    There is much matter to be heard and learned—

so will stay “to see no pastime, I,” but run through the stories of
these conversions, touching only the most salient points.

Alton Locke, when adolescent, is a very poor tailor, a poet whose verses
are far more vigorous than his character, a chartist, a sceptic. He
madly falls in love with a Dean’s daughter, and through the patronage of
the Dean himself, gets a volume of poems published. As the fiercest of
the rhymes have been soothed out of this volume by the decorous Dean,
Radical friends forward to young Locke a pair of plush-breeches—fitting
testimonial to the flunkeyism conspicuous in the omissions. He is
imprisoned for inciting a rustic mob to a Chartist outbreak, confounds
the prison chaplain by sporting the latest novelties in heresy direct
from Germany, shares when released in the delirium of the memorable
tenth of April, finds that the lady of his love is to be married to his
cousin, and consummates the long orgy of excitement with a desperate
fever. The Dean had directed his attention to the study of natural
history; hence the frenzy of the fever takes a zoological turn, and he
undergoes therein marvellous transmigrations through a series of
antediluvian monsters; awaking at last to sane consciousness (_sane
comparatively, he is never quite in his right senses, poor fellow_) to
find himself nursed by a young widow, the dean’s elder daughter, who
soothes him with ladings from Tennyson. She has very recently lost her
husband, who was merely a brilliant nobleman, and she herself a
Convertite; in a few days the modest Alton is hinting at a declaration
to her. She will not marry him, nor indeed any other man, but she sends
him out to South America on a special poetical mission. On the voyage
thither he dies, a believer, regenerate, leaving as legacy to his
friends and the world at large a war-song of the Church (ferociously)
Militant. What has converted him?—the plush breeches? the crash of the
tenth of April? the loss of his first lady love? the reading of the
“Lotus-eaters?” the delirious Fugue of Fossils? Some or all of these it
must be supposed; for weak though he was, he surely could not have been
seriously influenced by the comical caricatures of Socratic dialectics,
which the Dean sometimes played with him in lieu of chess or backgammon.

Next comes Yeast, whose great Convertite is Lancelot Smith. He is
introduced to us as fresh from Cambridge, a stalwart gallant fellow of
great abilities, rather debauched, but discontented with his debauchery,
and utterly without fixed creed. An accident confines him long to the
house of the Squire whom he is visiting. During his convalescence he
becomes a lover of one of the Squire’s daughters—a young lady whose
vernacular name is Argemone, and who is herself rapidly growing a
perfect saint. He also becomes the friend of a gamekeeper who reads
Carlyle, writes poetry, and has experienced special religious
illumination. Lancelot then loses all his fortune by the failure of his
uncle’s bank, and loses his sweetheart by the sulphuretted-hydrogen
fever; turns street-porter for the nonce to earn a bit of bread, and
finally goes off one knows not whither; an excellent fervid Christian,
after playing through several bewildering pages a wild burlesque of the
Platonic dialogue with a personage so mysterious that I prefer not to
attempt a description of him. What has converted Lancelot? The loss of
his money and the death of his sweetheart seem to have been the main
influences. For although he was stunned with calamity, I will not deem
him so stupefied as to think that he was made a believer by the
unintelligible dialogue.

Then follows Hypatia. And here I may remark that I am unable to concur
in what seems the general opinion—namely, that Mr. Kingsley intended his
heroine to represent the character of the Hypatia of history. Although
living in the same city at the same period, both lecturing on
philosophy, and both ultimately murdered by Christian mobs; it appears
to me that, as women, the two Hypatias differed so much from each other
that no one having heard them talk for five minutes could have the
slightest doubt as to which was which. History and Mr. Kingsley have
each composed an acrostic on this lovely name, and with the same _bouts
rimes_; but the body (and the spirit) of the one poem is extremely
unlike the body (and the spirit) of the other. Mr. Kingsley proffers us
an ancient cup and a flask, Greek-lettered “Wine of Cyprus”; we commence
to drink solemnly and devoutly, but—O most miserable mockery! it is
indubitable brandy and water. Well may he call this an old foe with a
new face! The Kingsley Hypatia is not altogether, but is very nearly a
Convertite; so nearly that he would certainly have made her altogether
one, had not the _bouts rime’s_ been too well known for alteration. Her
best pupil (of whom more anon) abandons her, she begins to love a
beautiful young Greek monk, and yet (that philosophy may have the help
of worldly power in its mortal duel with Christianity) consents to marry
the Prefect of Alexandria, whom she very justly despises. While
miserable with the consciousness of how low she is stooping to conquer,
she is fascinated or mesmerised by an old Jewish hag, and crouches in a
sort of fetish worship to what she thinks a statue of Apollo, said
statue being represented by the handsome monk. In the agony of shame
which follows her discovery of this cheat she performs a short parody of
the Socratic dialogue in concert with the pupil who had left her and who
has returned a Christian, and at last, when going to the lecture hall
(where murder shall prevent her from ever lecturing more) she confesses
to a certain longing for Christianity. Why? She was wretched,
humiliated, defeated, weary; she had staked all on the red, and had
lost—what more natural than a yearning to try the black? And this
character is published and generally received for the Hypatia of
history!

But the great Convertite of this romance is the pupil already mentioned,
the renegade Jew, Raphael Ben Ezra. In the prime of life, wealthy, the
favorite comrade of the Prefect, superlatively gifted with that subtle
Hebrew clearness, which, swayed by a strong will and intense self-love,
can scarcely be distinguished from genius, we find him in the opening
chapters already as used up as the old King Solomon of Ecclesiastes,
having exhausted all excitements of wine, women, and philosophy, all
voluptuousness, physical and intellectual. Desperate with _ennui_, he
abandons Hypatia, casts away his wealth (how many Jews do the same!),
barters clothes with a beggar, and sets out to wander the world with an
amiable British bull-bitch (afterwards the happy mother of nine sweet
infants) for his sole guide, philosopher and friend. The chapter wherein
his Pyrrhonism disported itself “on the floor of the bottomless” seems
to have been, in great measure, borrowed from the talk of one Babbalanja
in Herman Melville’s “Mardi;” perhaps, however, both were borrowed
direct from Jean Paul’s gigantic grotesque, “Titan.” Becoming involved
in the meshes of the great war in Africa—that revolt of Heraclian
against Honorius which Gibbon treats with such contemptuous brevity in
his thirty-first chapter—he is nearly killed himself, saves an old
officer from death and soon falls in love with this officer’s daughter.
He reads about this time certain epistles, and infers therefrom that
Saul of Tarsus was one of the finest gentlemen that ever lived. Also,
while the guest of good Bishop Synesius, he hears Saint Augustine
preach, and engages with him in long discussions, fortunately
unreported. Returning to Alexandria, he almost converts Hypatia, sees
her murdered, sharpens his tongue on Cyril the primate, and leaves again
to marry his saintly sweetheart, and end his lire as quite a model
Christian. What has converted him? His love for the young Christian? the
gentlemanly character of Paul’s Epistles? the bull-bitch with her
ninefold litter, like Shakespere’s nightmare? the murder of Hypatia by
the Christians, who rent, and tore and shred her living body to
fragments? Or was it mere satiety and weariness of thinking—the
weariness which leads so many who thought freely when young to find a
resting-place in the bosom of the Church as they get old?

In “Westward, Ho!” the great conversion is of Ayacanorah. But as this is
a conversion not merely religious but also moral, social and
intellectual, a conversion from barbarism to civilisation, it does not
come fairly into the class I am describing. Two incidents in the
romance, however, must not be passed over. The first occurs in the
Lotus-eating chapter. Will Para-combe tired, as well he may be, of
wandering about savage America in search of El Dorado, blindly refuses
to see that it is his chief end as man to continue wandering until El
Dorado is found and the captain has glutted his heart with vengeance on
the Spaniards; and Will gives such excellent reasons for staying in the
beautiful spot where he is, with the beautiful and affectionate native
woman whom he is willing and anxious to marry in the most legal mode
attainable, that Captain Amyas Leigh, who has been urging him onward
with true Kingsleyan diffidence and mildness, finds himself dumbfounded.
But valuable logical assistance is at hand. A jaguar like a bar of iron
plunges on poor Will, and he and his arguments are settled on the spot.
Amyas thanks God for this special interposition of providence in his
favor. And the man who wrote the adventure of Amyas can sneer at the
faith of a Catholic like Dr. Newman! The other incident is the
conversion of Amyas from his diabolical hatred of the Spaniards in
general, and of the Don with whom Rose had eloped in particular. A
lightning-flash strikes him blind, and he thereupon repents him of his
hatred and desire of revenge, and, moreover, has a vision of the Don
drowned with his sunken galleon, who assures him that his hatred was
without just cause. These are the true Kingsleyan dialectics; these, and
not those burlesques of what Plato wrote and Socrates spoke, and Mr.
Kingsley is no more able to conduct than I am to lead on the violin like
Herr Joachim, a great concerted composition of Beethoven. Let a jaguar
loose into your opponent’s syllogistic premises, blind him with a
lightning-flash that he may see the truth and have clear vision of the
right way. Yet Mr. Kingsley has undoubtedly read about a tower in Siloam
that fell, and what Joshua Bar-Joseph said of the people killed by this
accident.

Lastly, we have “Two Years Ago,” whose great Convertite is Tom Thumal.
Tom is one of the jolliest of characters, true as steel, tough as oak,
quick and deft for all emergencies, a compact mass of common sense, and
courage, and energy, living in the most godless state, He is not a
heathen—he is more godless yet; for a heathen has something of wood or
stone which serves him for a deity. In the Saga of Saint Olaf (in that
great and glorious work “The Heims-kringla”) we read how this pious and
terrible king going to his last battle was asked by two brothers, who
were freebooters, for permission to fight in his ranks. But although
these and their followers were “tall” men, and the king was in sore need
of recruits, he would not accept their services unless they believed in
Christ. Whereupon they answered that they saw no special need of the
help of the “White Christ”; that they had been hitherto wont to believe
in themselves and their own luck, and with this belief had managed to
pull through very well, and thought they could do the same for the
future. Ultimately, these excellent fellows did consent to be baptised
and called Christians—not from any religious motive, alas! but only
because of a “shtrong wakeness” they had for taking part in a set
battle. Tom Thurnal has just as much, and as little, religion as these
had. After wandering all over the world in all sorts of capacities, he
comes back to be shipwrecked on the Cornish coast, and is the only one
on board saved. While he is being dragged up the beach senseless, his
belt of money—the fruit of a season at the Australian
diggings—disappears; and he resolves to settle in the village, in order
to discover it or the thief. Here he falls in love with the village
schoolmistress, a sweet mystical devotee, whom he rather suspects of
stealing his gold, and whom he defends from one ruffian in order to
grossly insult her himself. In the village Tom is doctor, and, when the
cholera comes, he is assisted in bringing the village through it by this
saintly schoolmistress, and a pious Major, and a fervid High Church
parson. At the breaking out of the Crimean War, Tom gets charged with a
secret mission to the East. Somewhere in Turkey, in Asia, an imbecile
Sheikh or Pasha whom he is endeavoring to serve, mistakes his manœuvres,
and keeps him in captivity for a year or two. From this imprisonment he
comes home crushed and abject, “afraid in passing a house that it would
fall and smother him,” etc., marries his sweetheart and ends a model
Christian. What has converted him? Simply, it appears, the year or two
of solitary confinement—which took all the pith and manhood out of him.
This last case, the work of Mr. Kingsley in the full maturity of his
powers, is the most flagrant of all.

If I have not summed up these cases fairly, the novels and romances in
question are in everybody’s hands to convict me of the unfairness. I
have simply sketched the leading points as they remain in my memory, not
referring to the books again to pick out what would best serve my
purpose. It is not my fault if the personages, who looked so great and
grandiose in the flowing and ample draperies of romance, do not strip
well for anatomy.

Now, what is common to all these cases of conversion? This: that the
characters become religious, not when healthy, but when diseased; the
religion in every case is exhibited as a drug for the sick, not as
wholesome food for the healthy. While you are sane, well and hearty,
doing your work in the world deftly, sound in mind, and wind, and limb,
and fairly prosperous, you have no need of this religion—you can get
through the world very well without it. But when your fortune is lost,
your sweetheart dead or married to another, your courage cowed, your
heart broken, your mind diseased, your self-respect humiliated, then you
long for and embrace Christianity (or whatever religion is dominant
around you): it is a soft pillow for the aching head, a tender couch for
the bruised body, a flattering nurse for the desolate invalid. I can
scarcely add that it is a medicine for the sickness, for its medicinal
virtues are hardly shown; but it is, at any rate, as we read of its
effects in these books, a narcotic and an anodyne for restlessness and
pain. It is a religion to die with, not to live with. All these things,
so soothing and beneficial to the invalid, are nauseous and noxious to
the healthy.

A man could no more live vigorous life on such religion than he could
live vigorous life couched tenderly, pillowed softly, nursed
assiduously, and drugged with narcotics and anodyne all the days of his
life.

Is the religious world willing to accept this view of religion? It would
seem so by the remarkable popularity of these books. This view may be
correct or incorrect, wise or foolish; at any rate, it is strangely at
variance with the view commonly ascribed to “Muscular Christians,” and
strangely identical with that which Dr. Newman explicitly avows in the
most eloquent pages of his “Apologia.” People generally consider
“Muscular Christianity” as a clever and cheerful improvement on the old
solemn ascetic Christianity, as a doctrine which fully recognises the
goodness of the common world and common worldly life, as a liberal
cultus which does not sacrifice body to soul any more than soul to body,
but is at once gymnastic and spiritualistic in its “exercises”; a vague
notion is abroad that, whereas the early religion of Christ and his
apostles was of sorrow and suffering, this, its latest development, is a
religion of happiness and health; in short, it is believed that
“Muscular Christianity” has added the Gospel(1) of the body and this
life to the primitive Gospel of the soul and the next life: and yet the
most popular and vigorous writer of this new school, after exhausting a
very fertile imagination in the suggestion of methods and modes by which
godless sinners may be converted to godliness, has absolutely found no
other process effectual than this of showering upon them misfortunes,
humiliations, afflictions, calamities (such as do not in real life fall
upon one human being in a thousand, and working results such as they
would not work in one real human being out of ten thousand); until
health and hope, self-respect and the capacity for sane joy are
altogether destroyed in them, the manhood and womanhood overwhelmed and
crushed out of them; after which he brings in these miserable wrecks and
relics of what were once men and women as all that he can contribute to
the extension of the Church, which ought to be the cheerful congregation
of wholesome men and women throughout the world, the richest flower and
ripest fruit of humanity. If the Church of the future is to be composed
of creatures like Mr. Kingsley’s Convertites, Westminster Abbey must be
turned into a Grand Chartreuse, and St. Paul’s into an Hospital for
Incurables, and the metropolitan Cathedral of England must be Bedlam.

    1. The Gospel of the body and this life has been powerfully
    preached in the most explicit terms on the Continent. In England
    we have been too prudish to advocate it so clearly, although it
    is, of course, essential to the most enlightened Positivism and
    Secularism. That much-abused book the “Elements of Social
    Science” preaches it with more thoroughness, knowledge and
    ability than any other English work I have met with. I do not
    pretend to be wise enough to judge this book, and so far as I
    can judge it, I differ from it in many respects; but on the
    broad question of the spirit in which it is written, I do not
    fear to assert that no honest and intelligent man can find
    pruriency and impurity in it, without he brings the pruriency
    and impurity in his own heart and mind to the study of it. I can
    understand ascetic Christians abhorring it, I can understand
    timid Freethinkers being frightened by it because they are
    timid; but I cannot understand men who claim to be bold and
    honest Freethinkers avoiding it as an unholy thing merely
    because of the subjects it treats, without reference to the mode
    of treatment, and without sympathy for the admirable motives
    which manifestly incited the author. He may well say with the
    most brilliant and daring of all who have preached this Gospel
    of the body in our age (this Gospel which is so sorely needed to
    complement and modify the exclusive Gospel of the soul—this
    Gospel which Plato preached along with the other, while Jesus
    preached the other only), he may well say with Heine

    Doch die Castraten Klagten,
    Aïs ich meine Stimm’ erhob;
    Sie Klagten und sie sagten;
    Ich sange veil zu grob.



THE PRIMATE ON THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD


(1876.)

The Archbishop of Canterbury is making his second quadrennial visitation
to his diocese, and delivering an elaborate Charge to the clergy, in
seven instalments. Of these the first two are reported at considerable
length in the _Times_ of the 27th and 28th inst., a couple of columns of
small print being given to each. The _Times_ has moreover generously
vouchsafed a leading article of encouragement and approval on each; and
surely the State Church ought to be proud of such lofty patronage, and
Lambeth Palace ought to be very grateful to Printing House Square. The
_Daily News_ could only spare half a column for the first; and the
_Daily Telegraph_, whose exuberant Christianity, hot and strong as
boiling rancid oil, amazes the world on every great festival of the
Church, showed its estimate of the importance of our Primate’s manifesto
by allotting to it eight or nine lines of small print at the foot of a
column—a pickpocket in a police-court gets as much notice.

Let us glance down the _Times_’ reports, pausing at anything worth a
note if not by its intrinsic value yet on account of the position of the
speaker:—

“I wish to set before you some thoughts as to the particular duties,
which at this time devolve upon the Established Church as the National
Church of this country. In the days in which we live some even hesitate
to assign to us the position of a National Church. A National Church is
a national protest for God and for Christ, for goodness and for truth;
and if we of this National Church are not making this national protest,
no one else certainly makes one. No other body in this country can claim
that commanding influence over the thought of the age, which by God’s
blessing is assigned to us. No other religious body in the country has
either that connection with the State, or if that be thought a small
matter, that power of influencing the whole nation which, thank God, is
still reserved to us.”

It will be noticed that the Archbishop in his definition of a National
Church has humbly copied the unorthodox Matthew Arnold, who in his
address to London clergymen at Sion College, (reviewed in the
_Secularist_ of April 8) declared with an exquisitely humorous gravity
that he regarded the Church of England as _a great national society for
the promotion of goodness!_ But the Archbishop is really too loose in
his imitation of this charitable definition bestowed by a man of
letters. He says: “A National Church is a national protest for God and
for Christ;” according to which, Mohammedanism, Brahmanism, and
Buddhism, as the national churches of several countries, are so many
national protests for God and Christ. We do not expect a mere Primate in
these days to write with the precision of an accomplished literary man,
but we do think that he ought to be somewhat less inaccurate than this.
However, it is to the last two sentences quoted that I would
particularly call attention. The Church of England has a commanding
influence over the thought of the age! It has the power of influencing
the whole nation! Here be truly astonishing announcements. The thought
of the age in our country is embodied in such persons as Spencer and
Darwin, Huxley and Tyndall, Carlyle and Browning, George Eliot and
George Meredith; and what a commanding influence the State Church has
over these! As for its influence over the whole nation, is it not the
fact that a large portion of the educated classes, and the great bulk 01
the artisans, are either sceptical or indifferent, and that more than a
half of the shopkeepers are Nonconformists bent on Disestablishment and
Disendowment? The Archbishop has made a most unlucky start.

Passing over some commonplace and common-sense remarks on the duties of
the clergy, we come to the following:—

“This is an age in which there is a great deal of uneasy thought
seething throughout the nation. It is a time when, more than any other,
serious and earnest learning is required to meet the wants of those
among whom we live. Let us be thankful that the arrangements of
cathedral bodies do provide quiet places where men may follow a studious
course, and cause their light to be seen throughout the land, guiding
the thought of those who are in need of guidance in this anxious age.”

Admitting the truth of the opening sentences we may add that in every
age since the supremacy of the Church was first shaken by the invention
of printing, the recovery of the Greek and Latin classics, and the
revival of science, there has been a great deal of uneasy thought
seething throughout this nation and every other nation in Christendom,
and that age by age this seething has scalded more and more pitilessly
the dogmas, the Scriptures, and the authority of the Church, whose
Hebrew old clothes, as Carlyle fitly calls them, must soon be literally
boiled to rags. We may also freely admit that the arrangements of
Cathedral bodies do provide quiet places where men may follow a studious
course; but we ask, how many of them really pursue it? How many of them
cause their light to shine throughout the land? How many guide the
thought of those who need guidance in this anxious age? Is it not as
notorious as it is disgraceful to the Church, that, with few exceptions,
the canons and other dignitaries make scarcely any contribution to the
thought, or scholarship, or science of the age, in return for the large
leisure and ample stipends with which they are endowed? These stalled
canons may ruminate much, even like stalled oxen, but what nourishment
do we get from the rumination of the former? Look through lists of
standard works, of really important works, published during the last
quarter of a century, and see how few of them, even in theology and
kindred departments, have come from the “learned leasure” of our rich
cathedrals.

If there is one thing more closely connected than any other with true
religion, that thing is money. Always the most spiritual exhortations
and speculations end in very practical appeals to the pockets—of course
the pockets of the laity. We are reminded what Paul Louis Courier said
of the clergy in his day: “They have need of good examples and will find
them amongst us. But if we are stronger than they as to the commandments
of God, they in their turn have the advantage of us in respect to the
commandments of the Church, which they remember better than we, and of
which the principal is, I believe, to give all we have for heaven. ‘You
ask me,’ said that worthy preacher Barlette, ‘how to get to Paradise?
The bells of the convent tell you: Giving, giving, giving,’ The Latin of
the monk is charming: “Vos quœritis a me, fratres carissimi, quomodo
itur ad paradisupi? Hoc dicunt vobis campance monasterii, dando, dando,
dando” Very early in his discourse does our Primate ring this favorite
chime of all church bells, but with a noble disinterestedness, a
magnanimous depreciation:—

“We may think lightly of the vast sums of money which of late years have
been poured into the treasury of the Established Church for the
re-edification of our buildings; we may think lightly even of the vast
sums which have been contributed by the members of our Church for the
instruction of our poorer brethren, thinking that, after all, it is not
the silver and the gold, but the precious doctrine of the Lord Jesus
Christ, and the purity and holiness which attend the true profession of
that doctrine on which we have to rest our claims. But still even the
outward signs of the influence which God has given us are not to be
despised.”

“We may think lightly of the vast sums of money!” we, the archbishop
with £15,000 a year and a palace rent-free, and the members of the
Cathedral body of Canterbury each with our several hundreds a year and
our snug residences! Very lightly, no doubt! But “still even the outward
signs of the influence which God has given us are not to be despised.”
How unworldly, how humble, is our right reverend father in God; it is a
pity that his voice here has such a twang of Pecksniff and Uriah Heap. I
really believe that he is too much of a gentleman to speak in this tone
with his natural voice; it is that fatal falsetto of the pulpit. Well,
in sober truth, these Churchmen had better not despise the outward signs
of their influence, for there is an abundant lack of inward ones. And
discreetly do they boast of the re-edification of their buildings, for
edification or re-edification of their congregations, alas, there is
little or none whereof to boast. Having rang this preliminary diffident
chime of Dando dando, dando, the Archbishop revels in riotous peals to
the same words before concluding:—

“Depend upon it a country that produces in a short time £30,000,000 [sic
in _Times; Daily News_, ‘three millions’] to restore the outward fabric
of our churches, will not fail to respond to any appeal when made for
the funds which may be wanted to assist those who otherwise cannot
provide themselves with a due education that they may be fitted for the
ministry. Another matter which I think presses upon us is this. Is it
not desirable something should be done to provide the means of passing
their last days in comfort, for those worn out in the service of Christ?
Here again I feel confident that an appeal to the wealthy of this
country would be answered at once if those who have the leisure—none
more fit than the dignitaries of our cathedral churches—were to take up
this question, and to our existing charities might well be added some
means of supplementing the resources and meeting the wants of the poorer
clergy. I visited yesterday the Clergy Orphan School. I was informed
that that school was perfectly full—more full than it had ever been
before—and still there were twice as many applicants for admission as
there were places to admit them to. Does not this show it is very
desirable we should all of us direct our efforts to see that the charity
of our fellow-Churchmen should be appealed to, to assist in the
education of the orphan children of our clergy, and not only the orphan
children?”

Our fellow Christians, the laymen, having laid for us three million
golden eggs in a short time (the lavish geese!) will not fail to give us
more to educate young men for the ministry; and more yet to pension our
worn-out clergy; and more yet again to educate the children, orphan and
not orphan, of our clergy. We archbishop and bishops, dean and chapter,
are so poor, so poor, so very very poor, that we can do nothing at all
for any of these miserable clerical critters; the whole revenues of our
State Church are so insignificant that they are quite inadequate to
provide decently for its ministers! But we know well that our dear,
good, stupid, unedified lay brethren and sisters will give all the
out-door relief we have the impudence to ask; will educate our young and
pension our old; marching ever briskly heavenwards to that cheerfulest
church chime: Giving, giving, giving; Dando, dando, dando! Does not our
Archbishop rival or outrival that worthy preaching monk, Barlette? Here
I must pause, but shall have to return again to the Charge, which
threatens to be a heavy charge indeed to the purses of the richer and
more foolish members of our impoverished State Church.



SPIRITISM IN THE POLICE COURT


(1876.)

We have just had a couple of professional “mediums” in the police
courts, and it is to be heartily hoped that all their colleagues of any
notoriety will soon be submitted to the same searching test, and duly
rewarded according to their merits. At Huddersfield the Rev. Francis
Ward Monck, formerly a minister at Bristol, was cleverly caught out by
Mr. Lodge, a woollen merchant and amateur conjurer, who at the close of
a private seance offered to do all the “Doctor” had done, and insisted
on seeing his “paraphernalia.” The Doctor protested with profuse
virtuous indignation, but his detecter was firm. At length this reverend
medium took refuge in his own bedroom and locked himself in, and while
the profane sceptics were besieging the door he managed to escape from
the window by the help of a sheet. In his sore haste he left behind him
some of the “paraphernalia,” whose existence he had so indignantly
denied, including “spirit hands” and prepared musical boxes. He took out
a warrant against Mr. Lodge for the recovery of these precious articles,
and was met by a counter-warrant issued by the chief constable under the
Vagrant Act, for using subtle craft means and devices to deceive and
impose on certain of her Majesty’s subjects; he being charged with thus
defrauding one person of £20, while Mr. Heppleston, a general dealer, in
whose house the exposure took place, had paid him £4 for two séances,
the prisoner assuring him that the manifestations were genuine, and were
produced by spiritual agency. The prisoner’s solicitor said that the
Vagrant Act did not apply to a gentleman in the position of Dr. Monck,
who kept his carriage and yacht at Bristol. We may admit that the
application of the Vagrant Act is an awkward and round-about mode of
dealing with such cases, and the sooner Parliament in its great wisdom
provides a more direct and effectual remedy, the better; nor could a
stronger argument for its provisions be adduced than the fact, if fact
it be, that this reverend medium by the illicit production of spirits
very much below proof, has been getting money enough to keep a carriage
and yacht. When the Huddersfield magistrates remanded him for a week at
the request of the chief constable, offering to accept bail, himself in
£250, and two sureties in £100 each, the bail was not forthcoming; and
the prisoner made a high-minded and pathetic appeal to the bench,
“asking them not to make him suffer the indignity of incarceration in
the police-cells; he said he had forsaken everything to follow this
calling, believing in his inmost soul that it was right.” So far as I
can see, a convicted burglar or manufacturer of counterfeit coin, might
with as good reason make just such an appeal; pleading pathetically that
he had forsaken everything to follow this calling, affirming nobly that
he believed in his inmost soul that it was right; while as to the jemmy
and the skeleton keys, or the moulds and the battery, which had been
seized in his possession, they were manifestly for purely scientific
experimental investigations—exactly as were the spirit-hands affixed to
wires and the musical boxes of the Rev. “Doctor” Monck.

The London case of “Doctor” Slade, is too well known to require being
detailed here. As his fee was a sovereign, well-off people having much
time to kill with any excitement, and empty heads to fill with any
nonsense (much the same sort of silly people as those for whom some
West-end High Church is the half-way house to the Pro-Cathedral), must
have been his most numerous visitors. Thus Society with a capital S took
great interest in him, and our penny daily press, always ready to pander
to Society, and to the snobbery of its readers who are not in Society
but ever on their knees worshipping it—our penny daily press furnished
full reports of the proceedings. Mr. Flowers, the magistrate at Bow
Street Police Court gave a written judgment on the case, sentencing the
“Doctor” to three months’ imprisonment with hard labor in the House of
Correction; which sentence to the credit of our common sense, sadly
discredited by much that came out on the trial, was received with some
applause, and Mr. Lewis the prosecuting solicitor was cheered by a large
crowd on leaving the court. Of course, there being money to back the
“medium,” notice of appeal was given, and bail accepted—the defendant in
£200, and two sureties of £100 each.

In the course of the defence there was read from the _Spiritualist_ an
account of a sitting with Slade by Mr. Serjeant Cox, who, as Mr. Flowers
observed, would, if an appeal were raised, be one of the judges of that
appeal. The said account, after relating various wonders, concludes
thus: “I offer no opinion on the causes of the phenomena, for I have
formed none. If they be genuine, it is impossible to exaggerate their
interest and importance. If they be an imposture it is equally important
that the trick should be exposed in the only way in which trickery can
be explained—by doing the same thing, and showing how it is done.” Now
this, at any rate, seems to show judicial fairness if not judicial
sagacity; and is beyond blame, as having been written before the learned
Serjeant (unless warned by the spirits) could have had any expectation
of being called upon to deliver a legal judgment on the matter. But
after Mr. Flowers had passed sentence, and the appeal had been raised,
this same Serjeant Cox, having become a prospective judge of the case,
opened the third session of the Psychological Society of Great Britain,
whereof he is president, and which, under such a president, will
doubtless do a vast deal for the science of psychology. According to the
report of the _Standard_ of Friday the 3rd inst., much of the address of
this admirable judge and philosophical president “was an indictment of
materialist scientists for their attitude towards psycho-logy, and on
this point he said the most important event of the year in relation to
psychology had been the recent prosecution. Of the true motive for that
proceeding there could be no doubt. The pretence of public interests was
transparent.” To a mere layman the words of this judicial Serjeant read
very much like a reckless libel. Perhaps only a lawyer can properly
appreciate them. “The object really sought was plain enough. It was not
to punish Dr. Slade, but to discredit through him all psychological
phenomena, the proof of whose existence was destruction to the doctrines
of materialism.... Whether Dr. Slade was or was not guilty, the trial
had had the unlooked-for effect [!] of directing the attention of the
whole public to the fact that phenomena were asserted to exist... which
swept away now and for ever _the dark and debasing doctrines of the
materialists_.” After which, according to the same report, a Mr. Dunlop,
with admirable gravity, whether sincere or ironical, expressed a high
opinion of the judicial mind of the president! and said that he felt
sure that if the appeal in the Slade case came before Mr. Serjeant Cox,
he would give as dispassionate a decision as if he had had no previous
knowledge of the circumstances!! For myself, as a mere unlearned layman,
I can only ask in astonishment, Is this Serjeant Cox, with his indecent
partizanship and wild personal imputations, fit to sit in judgment—I
will not say on this Slade business—but on any case at all which
requires impartiality and discretion?

“The dark and debasing doctrines of the materialists”! Can anything be
darker and more debasing in a so-called civilised time and country than
this Spiritism has proved itself from the beginning until bow? I have
yet to learn that the whole of its world of spirits, now for many years
at the beck and call of countless mediums, professional and private, has
ever dictated or written a single great sentence, revealed a single
great truth—discovered a single important fact. Nothing but the
dreamiest drivel, or delirium, the most wretched and imbecile juggling
tricks, with all sorts of evasions, and deceptions and lies! Mr. Wallace
himself, one of the few good men it has got hold of by some weak place
in their minds, in his evidence for Slade said “that he attached no
importance to the subject-matter of a message, but only to its being
written intelligibly, the subject-matter seldom being of any value.” And
for seldom he might fairly have said never. The truth is the truth,
whether dark or bright, debasing or ennobling; but if we are called upon
to consider a theory in these aspects, what, I ask again, can be more
dark and debasing than this, that we live after death to rap and turn
tables, play villainous snatches on light musical instruments, write
badly-spelt balderdash, dictate ungrammatical imbecilities or lies,
grasp hands and jog knees—all for the profit of showmen and the
hysterical wonder of fools? Who would not prefer annihilation to such a
degraded and idiotic immortality? Shakespeare, Bacon, Byron, Shelley,
and countless others who on earth were splendid geniuses, have been
called from their spheres by knaves or dupes, for what?—to show
themselves reduced to the hideous state of Swift’s Struldbrugs. The only
famous character I have heard of, not intellectually degraded since
death, was Bucephalus (see _Secularist_, number 40), who told the
company that he still took great interest in literary pursuits,
particularly in connection with education; Bucephalus, whose name
doubtless suggested an ancient philosopher to the shrewd medium, having
been the war-horse of Alexander the Great!

We are compelled to accuse the religion which has been so long dominant
among us, of fostering the state of mind which welcomes these miserable
marvels instead of rejecting them with scorn. The Bible with its Witch
of Endor, its recognition of witchcraft, its magicians, its angels
releasing the Apostles, its doctrines of the supernatural, its abounding
miracles, has saturated the people with superstitiousness, whose evil
effects Science can but slowly counteract. And of those who have ceased
to submit themselves to the Bible, the larger number are still infected
with its non-natural spirit; having renounced one set of irrational
marvels, they yearn more or less consciously for another to replace it.
In this connection, the point on which Mr. Flower’s judgment turned is
very significant, and its significance is increased by the approval of
our most Christian press: “_I must decide according to the well-known
course of nature._” This is exactly what Science demands. Carry out
honestly and thoroughly the application of this rule to the miracles of
the Bible, from the speaking serpent, to the birth, resurrection and
ascension of Jesus, and what sentence must be passed upon them? The Bow
Street Magistrate has given us a really excellent, concise, practical
maxim of rethought. When a Christian comes with his supernatural dogmas
and non-natural occurrences, one has but to answer on the judicial
authority of Mr. Flowers: “I must decide according to the well-known
course of nature.”



A COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON ROYALTY


(1876.)

The subjects for our solemn consideration are the seclusion of her Most
Gracious Majesty, and the complaints thereanent published in several
respectable journals. In order to investigate the matter thoroughly, we
constituted ourselves (the unknown number x) into a special Commission
of Inquiry. We are happy to state that the said Commission has concluded
its arduous labors, and now presents its report within a week of its
appointment; surely the most prompt and rapid of commissions. The cause
of this celerity we take to be the fact that the Commissioners were
unsalaried; we being unanimously of opinion that had we received good
pay for the inquiry throughout the period of our session, we could have
prolonged it with certain benefit, if not to the public yet to
ourselves, for a great number of years. If, therefore, you want a
Commission to do its work rapidly vote no money for it. And do not fear
that the most headlong haste in gathering evidence and composing the
report will diminish the value of such report; for when a Commission has
lasted for years or months it generally rises in a quite different state
of the subject matter from that in which it first sat, and the report
must be partly obsolete, partly a jumble of anachronisms. In brief, it
may be fairly affirmed as a general rule that no Commission of Inquiry
is of any value at all; the appointment of one being merely a dodge by
which people who don’t want to act on what they and everybody else see
quite well with their naked eyes, set a number of elderly gentlemen to
pore upon it with spectacles and magnifying glasses until dazed and
stupid with poring, in the hope that this process will last so long that
ere it is finished the public will have forgotten the matter altogether.
And now for the result of our inquiries on this subject, which is not
only immensely important, but is even sacred to our loyal hearts.

A West-end tradesman complains bitterly that through the absence of the
Court from Buckingham Palace, and the diminished number and splendor of
royal pomps and entertainments, the “Season” is for him a very poor
season indeed. The Commissioners, find that the said tradesman (whose
knowledge seems-limited to a knowledge of his business, supposing he
knows that) is remarkably well off; and consider that West-end tradesmen
have no valid vested interest in Royalty and the Civil List, that at the
worst they do-a capital trade with the aristocracy and wealthy classes
(taking good care that the punctual and honest shall amply overpay their
losses by the unpunctual and dishonest); that if they are not satisfied
with the West-end, they had better try the East-end, and see how that
will suit them; and, in short, that this tradesman is not worth
listening to.

Numerous fashionable and noble people (principally ladies) complain that
they have no Court to shine, in. The Commissioners think that they shine
a great deal too much already, and in the most wasteful manner, gathered
together by hundreds, light glittering on light; and that if they really
want to shine beneficially in a court there are very many very dark
courts in London where the light of their presence would be most
welcome.

It is complained on behalf of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and
Princess of Wales that they have to perform many of the duties of
royalty without getting a share of the royal allowance. The
Commissioners think that if the necessary expenses of the heir to the
throne are really too heavy for his modest, income, and are increased by
the performance of royal duties, he had better send in yearly a bill to
his Mamma for expenses incurred on her account, and a duplicate of the
same to the Chancellor to the Exchequer; so that in every Budget the
amount of the Civil List shall be equitably divided between her Majesty
and her Majesty’s eldest son, doubtless to their common satisfaction.

It is complained on behalf of various foreign royal or ruling personages
that while they in their homes treat generously the visiting members of
our royal family, they are treated very shabbily when visiting here. The
Commissioners think that Buckingham Palace, being seldom or never wanted
by the Queen, and very seldom wanted for the reception of the English
Court, should be at all times open for such royal or ruling visitors;
that a Lord Chamberlain, or other such noble domestic servant should be
detailed to attend on them, and see to their hospitable treatment in all
respects; and that to cover the expenditure on their account a fair
deduction should be made from her Majesty’s share of the Civil List,
which deduction, being equitable her Majesty would no doubt view with
extreme pleasure.

It is complained on the part of her Majesty’s. Ministers, that when they
want the royal assent and signature to important Acts of Parliament,
they have to lose a day or two and undergo great fatigue (which is
peculiarly hard on men who are mostly aged, and all overworked) in
travelling to and from Osborne or Balmoral. The Commissioners think the
remedy plain and easy, as in the two preceding cases. Let a law be
passed assuming that absence, like silence, gives, consent; so that
whenever her Majesty is not in town, the Speaker of the Commons or the
Lord Chancellor, or other great officer of State, be empowered to seal
and sign in her name, and generally to perform any of her real and royal
duties, on the formal demand of the Ministry, who always (and not the
Queen) are responsible to Parliament and the country for all public
acts.

A taxpayer complains that for fourteen years her Majesty has been
punctually drawing all moneys allotted to support the royal dignity,
while studiously abstaining from all, or nearly all, the hospitalities
and other expensive functions incident to the support of the said
dignity. The Commissioners consider that her Majesty is perchance
benefiting the country more (and may be well aware of the fact) by
taking her money for doing nothing than if she did something for it;
that if she didn’t take the said money, somebody else would (as for
instance, were she to abdicate, the Prince of Wales, become King, would
want and get at least as much); so that while our Government remains as
it is, the complaint of the said taxpayer is foolish.

Another Taxpayer, who must be a most mean-minded fellow, a stranger to
all sacred sympathies and hallowed emotions, says: “If a washerwoman,
being stupified by the death of her husband, neglected her business for
more than a week or two, she would certainly lose her custom or
employment, and not all the sanctity of conjugal grief (about which
reverential journalists gush) would make people go on paying her for
doing nothing; and if this washerwoman had money enough of her own to
live on comfortably, people would call her shameless and miserly if she
asked for or accepted payment while doing nothing; and if this
washerwoman had a large family of boys and girls around her, and shut
herself up to brood upon her husband’s death for even three or four
months, people would reckon her mad with selfish misery. The
Commissioners (as soon as they recover from the stupefaction of horror
into which this blasphemy has thrown them) consider and reply that there
can be no proper comparison of a Queen and a washerwoman, and that
nobody would think of instituting one, except a brute, a Republican, an
Atheist, a Communist, a, fiend in human form; that anyhow if, as this
wretch says, a washerwoman would be paid for a week or two without
working, in consideration of her conjugal affliction, it is plain that a
Queen, who (it will be universally allowed) is at least a hundred
thousand times as good as a washerwoman, is therefore entitled to at
least a hundred thousand times the “week or two” of salary without
performance of duty—that is, to at least 1,923 or 3,846 years, whereas
this heartless and ribald reprobate himself only complains that our
beloved Sovereign has done nothing for her wage throughout “fourteen
years.” The Commissioners therefore eject this complainant with
ineffable scorn; and only wish they knew his name and address, that they
might denounce him for prosecution to the Attorney-General.

A Malthusian (whatever kind of creature that may be) complains that her
Majesty has set an example of uncontrolled fecundity to the nation and
the royal family, which, besides being generally immoral, is likely, at
the modest estimate of £6,000 per annum per royal baby, to lead to the
utter ruin of the realm in a few generations. The Commissioners, after
profound and prolonged consideration, can only remark that they do not
understand the complaint any better than the name (which they do not
understand at all) of the “Malthusian;” that they have always been led
to believe that a large family is a great honor to a legitimately united
man and woman; and that, finally, they beg to refer the Malthusian to
the late Prince Consort.

A devotedly loyal Royalist (who unfortunately does not give the name and
address of his curator) complains that her Majesty, by doing nothing
except receive her Civil List, is teaching the country that it can get
on quite as well without a monarch as with one, and might therefore just
as well, and indeed very much better, put the amount of the Civil List
into its own pocket and call itself a Republic. The Commissioners remark
that this person seems the most rational of the whole lot of
complainants (most rational, not for his loyalty, but most rational as
to the grounds of his complaint, from his own point of view; in
accordance with the dictum, “A madman reasons rightly from wrong
premises; a fool wrongly from right ones,”) and that his surmise is very
probably correct—namely, that her Majesty is really a Republican in
principle, but not liking (as is perfectly natural in her position) to
publicly profess and advocate opinions so opposed to the worldly
interests of all her friends and relatives, has been content to further
these opinions practically for fourteen years past by her conduct,
without saying a word on the subject. The Commissioners, however, find
one serious objection to this surmise in the fact that if her Majesty is
really a Republican at heart, she must wish to exclude the Prince of
Wales from the Throne; while it seems to them that the intimate
knowledge she must have of his wisdom and virtues (not to speak of her
motherly affection) cannot but make her feel that no greater blessing
could come to the nation after her death than his reigning over it. As
this is the only complaint which the Commissioners find at once
well-founded and not easy to remedy, they are happy to know that it is
confined to the very insignificant class of persons who are “devotedly
loyal Royalists.”

The Commissioners thus feel themselves bound to report that all the
complaints they have heard against our beloved and gracious Sovereign
(except the one last cited, which is of no importance) are without
foundation, or frivolous, or easily remedied, and that our beloved and
gracious Sovereign (whom may Heaven long preserve!) could not do better
than she is now doing, in doing nothing.

But in order to obviate such complaints, which do much harm, whether ill
or well founded, and which especially pain the delicate susceptibilities
of all respectable men and women, the Commissioners have thought it
their duty to draw up the following project of a Constitution, not to
come into force until the death of our present beloved and gracious
Sovereign (which may God, if so it please Him, long avert!), and to be
modified in its details according to the best wisdom of our national
House of Palaver.



Draft


Whereas it is treasonable to talk of dethroning a monarch, but there can
be no disloyalty in preventing a person not yet a monarch from becoming
one:

And whereas it is considered by very many, and seems proved by the
experience of the last ---- years that the country can do quite well
without a monarch, and may therefore save the extra expense of monarchy:

And whereas it is calculated that from the accession of George I. of
blessed memory until the decease of the most beloved of Queens,
Victoria, a period of upwards of a century and a half, the Royal Family
of the House of Guelph have received full and fair payment in every
respect for their generous and heroic conduct in coming to occupy the
throne and other high places of this kingdom, and in saving us from the
unconstitutional Stuarts:

And whereas the said Stuarts may now be considered extinct, and thus no
longer dangerous to this realm: And whereas the said Royal Family of the
House of Guelph is so prolific that the nation cannot hope to support
all the members thereof for a long period to come in a royal manner:

And whereas the Dukes of this realm are accounted liberal and courteous
gentlemen:

And whereas the constitution of our country is so far Venetian that it
cannot but be improved in harmony and consistency by being made more
Venetian still:

Be it enacted, etc., That the Throne now vacant through the
ever-to-be-deplored death of her late most gracious Majesty shall remain
vacant. That the mem-ers of what has been hitherto the Royal Family keep
all the property they have accumulated, the nation resuming from them
all grants of sinecures and other salaried appointments. That no member
of the said Family be eligible for any public appointment whatever for
at least one hundred years. That the Dukes in the order of their
seniority shall act as Doges (with whatever title be considered the
best) year and year about, under penalty of large fines in cases of
refusal, save when such refusal is supported by clear proof of poverty
(being revenue under a settled minimum), imbecility, brutality, or other
serious disqualification. That no members of a ducal family within a
certain degree of relationship to the head of the house be eligible for
any public appointment whatever; the head of the house being eligible
for the Dogeship only. That the duties of the Doge be simply to seal and
sign Acts of Parliament, proclamations, etc., when requested to do so by
the Ministry; and to exercise hospitality to royal or ruling and other
representatives of foreign countries, as well as to distinguished
natives. That a fair and even excessive allowance be made to the Doge
for the expenses of his year of office. That the royal palaces be
official residences of the Doge. That the Doge be free from all
political responsibility as from all political power; but be responsible
for performing liberally and courteously the duties of hospitality, so
that Buckingham Palace shall not contrast painfully with the Mansion
House. Etc., etc.

God preserve the Doge!

The Commission of Inquiry having thus triumphantly vindicated our
beloved and gracious Sovereign against the cruel aspersions of people in
general, and having moreover drafted a plan for obviating such
aspersions against any British King or Queen in future, ends its Report,
and dissolves itself, with humble thankfulness to God Almighty whose
grace alone has empowered it to conclude its arduous labors so speedily,
and with results so incalculably beneficial.

P. S.—Since the above report was drawn up, that ardent English patriot
and loyalist, Benjamin Disraeli, being by the grace of God and the late
Earl of Derby Prime Minister of this realm, has proposed that Parliament
shall enable her Most Gracious Majesty to assume the additional title of
Empress of India, and Parliament has so far humbly assented. Being sore
pressed by many cantankerous persons to give valid reasons for this
change, he has given reasons many and weighty; such as the earnest
desire of the princes and people of India, which desire has been so
abundantly expressed that the expressions thereof cannot be produced
lest they should overwhelm Parliament and destroy the balance of the
world in general; then the imposing authority of “Whitaker’s Almanack,”
a dissenting minister and a school-girl aged twelve: and lastly the
necessity of such a title for scaring all the Russias from India. But I
believe that in deference to the well-known modesty of her Most Gracious
Majesty he has not produced the most cogent reason of all, which is that
for her wonderful and continual goodness during the past fourteen years
in abstaining from the active functions of royalty, thus not only doing
no mischief but preparing us for a Republic de jure by habituating us to
a Republic _de facto_, she merits a great reward; and that, as she has
already more money than she knows what to do with, this reward of royal
virtue can most fittingly be rendered by her grateful subjects promoting
her to the rank of Empress. And it should be noted that whereas the old
title of Queen has a certain strength and stability in the habitudes if
not in the affections of the people, the new fangled title of Empress
has no such support, so that in assuming it our beloved monarch is but
working consistently and resolutely toward the great end of her reign,
the speedy abolition of monarchy and establishment of a Republic.



A BIBLE LESSON ON MONARCHY


(1876.)

The old theory of “The right divine of kings to govern wrong,” and the
much-quoted text, “Fear God and honor the king,” seem to have impressed
many good people with the notion that the Bible is in favor of monarchy.
But “king” in the text plainly has the general meaning of “ruler,” and
would be equally applicable to the President of a Republic. In Romans
xiii. 1—3, we read: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.
For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of
God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of
God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For
rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.” Without
stopping to discuss the bold assertion in the last sentence, we may
remark that the real teaching of this passage is that Christians ought
to be indifferent to politics, quietly accepting whatever government
they find in power; for if the powers that be are ordained of God, or in
other words, if might is right, all forms of government are equally
entitled to obedience so long as they actually exist. Of course
Christians are not now, and for the most part have not been for
centuries, really indifferent to politics, because for the most part
they now are and long have been Christians only in name; but it is easy
to understand from the New Testament itself why the first Christians
naturally were thus indifferent, and why Christianity has never afforded
any political inspiration. Nothing can be clearer to one who reads the
New Testament honestly and without prejudice than the fact that Christ
and his apostles believed that the end of the world was at hand. Thus in
Matt, xxiv., Jesus after foretelling the coming to judgment of the son
of man in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, when the
angels shall gather the elect from the four winds, adds, v. 34, “Verily
I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be
fulfilled.” This is repeated in almost the same words in Mark xiii., and
Luke xxi., and a careful reading of the Epistles shows that their
writers were profoundly influenced by this prophecy. But with the world
coming to an end so soon, it would be as absurd to take any interest in
its politics as for a traveller stopping two or three days in an inn to
concern himself self with schemes for rebuilding it, when about to leave
for a far country where he intends settling for life. If therefore we
want any political guidance from the Holy Scriptures, we must go to the
Old Testament, not to the New.

Now the first lesson on Monarchy, which we remember made us think even
in childhood, is the fable of the trees electing a king, told by Jotham,
the son of Gideon, in Judges ix. The trees in the process of this
election showed a judgment much superior to that which men usually show
in such a business. It is true that they did not select first the most
strong and stalwart of trees, the cedar or the oak, but they had the
good sense to choose the most sweet-natured and bountiful, the olive,
then the fig, then the vine. But the bountiful trees thus chosen had
good sense too, and would not forsake the fatness and the sweetness and
the wine which cheereth God and man, to rule over their fellow trees.
Then the poor trees, like a jilted girl who marries in spleen the first
scamp she comes across, asked the bramble to be their king; and that
barren good-for-nothing of course accepted eagerly the crown which the
noble and generous had refused, and called upon the trees to put their
trust in its scraggy shadow, “and if not, let fire come out of the
bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.” Young as we were when this
fable first caught our attention, we mused a good deal over it, and even
then began to learn that those most eager for supremacy, the most
forward candidates in elections, are nearly always brambles, not olives
or fig-trees or vines; and that the first thought of a bramble, when
made ruler over its betters, is naturally to destroy with fire the
cedars of Lebanon.

But God himself in the case of the Israelites has vouchsafed to us a
very clear judgment on the question of Monarchy. In the remarkable
constitution for that people which he gave to Moses, he did not include
a king, and Israel remained without a king for more years than it is
worth while endeavoring to count here. We read, 1 Samuel viii., how “All
the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel
unto Hamah, and said unto him, Behold thou art old, and thy sons walk
not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge
us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel,
Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for
they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should
not reign over them.

“... Now therefore hearken unto their voice: how-beit yet protest
solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall
reign over them.” Some students of the Bible may have thought that God’s
severe condemnation of the Israelites for wanting a king arose chiefly
from wounded pride, from the fact that they had rejected him, and we
cannot affirm that this feeling did not inflame his anger, for he
himself has said that he is a jealous God; but the protest which he
orders Samuel to make, and the exposition of the common evils of
kingship, prove clearly that God did not (and therefore, of course, does
not) approve this form of government. And, indeed, it is plain that if
he had approved it, he would have given it to his chosen people at
first. For although divines have termed the form of government under
which the Jews lived before the kings a theocracy, God did not then rule
immediately, but always through the medium of a high-priest or judge,
and could have governed through the medium of a king had he thought it
well so to do. And he who reads the history of the Jews under the
Judges, as contained in the Book of Judges, and especially the
narratives in chapters xvii. to xxi. which illustrate the condition of
Jewish society in those days when “there was no king in Israel: every
man did that which was right in his own eyes,” will see that God must
have thought a Monarchy very vile and odious indeed when he was angry at
the request for it, and implied that it was actually worse than that
government by Judges alternated with bondage under neighboring tribes
which the theologians call a theocracy. Samuel warned the people of what
a king would do, and doubtless thought he was warning them of the worst,
but kings have far outstripped all that the prophet could foresee. The
king, he said, will take your sons to be his warriors and servants; and
will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and cooks, and bakers.
This was the truth, and nothing but the truth, but it was not the whole
truth; for the sons have been taken to be far worse than mere warriors
and servants, and the daughters for much viler purposes than cooking and
baking. Samuel goes on: “And he will take your fields, and your
vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to
his servants”—when he does not keep them for himself might have been
added. “And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards,
and give to his officers, and to his servants.” Surely much more than a
tenth, O Samuel! We will not quote the remainder of this wise warning.
Like most wise warnings it was ineffectual; the foolish people insisted
on having a king, and in the following chapters we read how Saul the Son
of Kish, going forth to seek his father’s asses, found his own subjects.

The condemnation of Monarchy by God, as we read it in this instance, is
so thorough and general that we feel bound to add a few words on an
exceptional case in which a king is highly extolled in the Scriptures,
without any actions being recorded of him, as in the instances of David
and Solomon, to nullify the praise. The king in question was
Melchizedek, King of Salem, and priest of the most high God, who met
Abram returning from the defeat of the four kings and blessed him, and
to whom Abram gave tithes of all, as we read in Genesis xiv. But this
short notice of Melchizedek in Genesis does not by any means suggest to
us the full wonderfulness of his character, though we naturally conclude
from it that he was indeed an important personage to whom Abram gave
tithes of all. The New Testament, however, comes to our aid, and for
once gives us a most valuable political lesson, though the inspired
writer was far from thinking of political instruction when he wrote the
passage. In Hebrews vi., 20, and vii., 1 to 3, we read: “Jesus, made an
High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For this
Melchisedec, King of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham
returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; to whom also
Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of
righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is King of
peace; without father, without mother, without descent, having neither
beginning of days nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God;
abideth a priest continually.” Now he to whom Jesus is compared, and who
is like the Son of God, is clearly the noblest of characters; and
therefore, as the history in the first book of Samuel teaches us that
Monarchy is generally to be avoided, these fine verses from the Epistle
to the Hebrews delineate for us the exceptional king whose reign is to
be desired.

The delineation is quite masterly, for a few lines give us
characteristics which cannot be overlooked or mistaken. This model
monarch must be a priest of the most high God—a king of righteousness
and king of peace; without father, without mother, without descent,
having neither beginning of days nor end of life; but made like unto the
Son of God. Whenever and wherever such a gentleman is met with, we would
advise even the most zealous Republicans to put him forthwith upon the
throne. But in the absence of such a gentleman we can hardly do wrong if
we follow the good advice of Samuel dictated by God Almighty, and manage
without any Monarch.



PRINCIPAL TULLOCH ON PERSONAL IMMORTALITY


[two excerpts.]

(1877.)

Dr. Tulloch has the sense to perceive and the candor to acknowledge that
even to those who have not any faith in God or Immortality, death need
not be terrible, and often is not; that they may be resigned or
peaceful, and meet the inevitable with a calm front; that they may be
even glad to be done with the struggle of existence. Of course this is
no news to us who have stood at the bedside of dying Materialists and
Atheists, or are familiar with trustworthy well-authenticated accounts
of the last hours of such persons. Still it is encouraging to find a
distinguished and influential minister openly recognising the facts,
instead of distorting them with the old contemptible pious fictions,
again and again repeated after being again and again refuted. But Dr.
Tulloch considers that only the light of the higher life in Christ can
glorify death. It would have been well had he been more specific as to
this higher life and the glory it casts on death. If they are as
described at length in the only authoritative Christian Scripture on the
subject, the Book of Revelation, it seems to me that the life is
anything but high, and radiates anything but glory. However, tastes
differ, and man is a queer fellow; and there may actually exist many
people who would prefer to annihilation a sort of everlasting Moody and
Sankey meeting, and would even regard this as celestial beatitude.
Concerning such I will only say with Goethe, I hope I shan’t go to
heaven with that lot! Yet these are not quite the lowest of the low in
our civilised Christendom; or are there not many who look forward with
complacency and even enthusiasm to a life beyond death, wherein they
shall be largely employed in rapping tables, jogging arms and scrawling
illiterate nonsense? Dr. Tulloch, in quoting St. Paul, seems to forget
that he was writing of himself and his fellow Christians, to whom his
words were thoroughly applicable; not of mankind in general, to whom
they were not, and by the construction of the sentence could not be. “If
in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most
miserable;” we, the Christians. And why would they be of all men the
most miserable? Clearly because, in obedience to the injunctions of
their Master, they had cut themselves off from this world that they
might secure the next; had renounced wealth, honor, society, enjoyment,
all interest in art, science, literature, all political and national
aspirations, and had courted obloquy and persecution; so that if the
next life should turn out to be a mockery, a delusion and a snare, they
were of all men the most miserable, being the most miserably deluded.
Those poor simple early Christians (on the showing, true or false, of
the books all Christians revere as sacred and divine), having only Jesus
and his apostles to instruct them, had not reached that lofty mercantile
wisdom which made the late Mr. Binney one of the most popular preachers
in our pious and mercantile country, when he solved the problem of _How
to Make the Best of Both Worlds_. Of other-worldliness they indeed had
enough and to spare; but they lacked the large modern grasp which
combines and intermingles it with an equal measure of this worldliness.
“They didn’t know everything down in Judee;” and St. Paul, though fairly
intelligent and cultivated for his benighted time, was in a deplorable
need of some lessons from Weigh-house Chapel.

When the worthy Principal says that men cannot find strength or comfort
in what has been called the Religion of Humanity, and that they crave a
personal life, is he aware that he has descended from the highlands of
morality and truth to the lowest lowlands of Paley and Binney
expediency? Is he aware that he is moreover begging the question, making
the monstrous assumption that men must get what they crave? I call this
the childish lollipop attraction of religion, so absurd as to be really
beneath the contempt of full-grown men and women. Just as young ones
would look forward to having the free range as long as they liked (which
they would interpret for ever and ever) of shops full of sweeties, so
those big babies, our dear simple Christian brethren, look forward to
their Lubberland of eternal bliss, in singing Glory! Glory! Glory! Their
claim to it is purely the infant’s, because they would like it. Their
mouths water, they lick their lips, they gurgle luxuriously with the
foretaste: “Oh, we shall be so ’ap-’ap-’appy! Canaan is a happy place;
we’ll go to the land of Canaan!” And usually these beatific adult babies
are creatures such as an intelligent man would be ashamed to bring into
the world, much more a God. You can’t endure an hour of their society
here, and they pester you to come and spend eternity with them! I am
really sorry to find Dr. Tulloch in such company.

In conclusion, I ask the reader to note especially the preacher’s avowal
that his faith in personal immortality has no warrant from Nature, no
warrant from Science; nay, more, that the suggestions of scientific
analysis “mockingly sift the sources of life only to hint our
mortality.” There is indeed no temper of mockery in Science, but its
soberest deductions may well seem to mock with a terrible derision the
inordinate greed and self-conceit of men, who, because they profess an
unscientific and unnatural faith, have lost all sense of proportion
between their infinitesimal selves and the infinite Universe.



THE ESTABLISHED CHURCH


Its Real As Distinguished From Its Apparent Strength

(1862.)

In discussions with “Infidels,” Churchmen are very ready with the taunt,
“You are but a handful of’ fanatics. Nearly the whole intellect of the
nation is for us and against you.” In general the taunt is merely
parried by a “What matter, if _we_ are right?” whereas it should also be
retorted by a counter-thrust of denial. For, in truth, but a very small
part of the intellect of the nation—_i.e._, intellect in the only sense
in which it is of importance—_active_ intellect, is devoted to the
Establishment or even to the Establishment and the so-called Dissenters
combined. If they only are the true soldiers of the Church militant whom
she spiritually feeds and equips for the warfare of life, and who are
loyal to her with their whole heart and mind, how many legions must be
deducted from the armies gathered round her banners before we can fairly
estimate her actual power in the field! Should Jesus come to eliminate
his true followers from the multitudes of professing Christians, as
Gideon selected his, three hundred from the two and thirty thousand
Israelites, let us consider whom he would reject.

_First_, all the cowards and hypocrites who simply cling to what appears
the dominant party, and who would therefore call themselves Atheists
were Atheism in the ascendant; a vile brood, the incumbrance and
disgrace of every cause they adopt; “hateful to God and to the enemies
of God”; of whom even to write is not pleasant.

_Secondly_, the indifferent through lack of vitality; men of tepid heart
and inert brain, who are incapable of any strong sane affection. I use
the word _sane_ because these creatures have intense self-love, which in
its essence is insane; and because also they may be frenzied by the
drunkenness of fanaticism, in which state they can die as devotedly as
they can murder atrociously. The adhesion of these also I count no gain
to any cause.

_Thirdly_, the indifferent through excess of vitality, including the
most eminent “practical” men, soldiers, sailors, lawyers, engineers,
statesmen. These, applying their whole energies to their several
professions, rarely trouble themselves with theological any more than
with other extraneous matters, but passively acquiesce in whatever creed
may be prevalent around them. Their real church is the world; their real
worship is labor; and they no more add to the strength of their nominal
church than did the _savants_ to that of Napoleon’s army in Egypt—those
_savants_ whom the wise Napoleon always ordered (with the donkeys) to
the centre whenever an attack was expected. To these must be added all
the men whom we call fine animals, who enjoy such a red-blooded life in
this world that they are not subject to bilious forebodings of another.
Some classes of the most famous men—the poets, philosophers, doctors,
physicists, mathematicians—are commanded by their very vocations to
think seriously on some of the great theological questions, and
therefore, whether ranged for or against the Church, count for
something. The reader must ask his memory whether their weight in the
balance has preponderated for orthodoxy or for heterodoxy. The statesmen
I have counted among the indifferent, because their support of religion,
in whatever form, has been almost universally no more than political.

_Fourthly_, the supersubtle, including laymen and divines of first-rate
talent; who cannot help delighting in the exercise of their skill of
fence, and who instinctively feel that it is much harder to champion any
existing institution than to attack it, and naturally (like all
unconquerable knights-errant) prefer the most difficult _devoir_. Their
adhesion to the Church, therefore, though seeming to strengthen it,
really proclaims its weakness. Macaulay tells us how Halifax, the
Trimmer, always joined the losing side.

_Fifthly_, the supremely reverential, including the very best of the
laymen and divines; men whose lofty reason is drowned in a yet deeper
faith, as mountain-peaks high as the highest in air are said to be
submerged in the abysses of the Atlantic. In many cases these might be
ranked in the preceding class; for it is a general rule that the more
reverence, the more subtlety. They see—how clearly!—the flaws and
imperfections of their Church, they even realise the danger of its total
fall; but they cannot tear themselves away from the venerable building
wherein all their forefathers worshipped, in whose consecrated precincts
all their forefathers were buried in hopes of a happy resurrection;
whose chants were the rapturous music and whose windows were the
heavenly glories of their pure childhood; whose prayers they repeated
night after night and morning after morning at their mother’s knee. Can
they leave this, with all its treasured holiness of antiquity for some
new bold glaring erection, wherein men certainly congregate ta talk
about God, but which might just as well be used as a warehouse or a
manufactory? No; rather than leave it they will believe, they will force
themselves to believe, that some miraculous renovation is at hand, or
that (as the structure was certainly raised by God) God will uphold it
in spite of the law of gravitation. These are the men who keep the
Church from falling into insignificance, but they are not essentially
hers. It is not she alone whom they could thus worship. Had they been
brought up idolators, idolatry must have retained almost the same
influence over spirits so reverentially humble, so loving and pure.

And here it may be remarked that one can scarcely conceive a Church so
frail and gloomy and even vile, but that a fervent soul and a strong
intellect could fortify it with argument, adorn it with the gold and
jewels of imagination, illustrate its dark altars and vivify its dead
idols with the burning fire of spirituality, until it should be far more
noble and mighty and splendid than ever was aspired to by the majority
of men. But mark, such men as these of whom I speak do not derive their
religiousness from, but really bestow it upon the Church in which they
pray. She is subject and indebted to them, not they to her. She does not
nourish them, they nourish her. She is the statue, they are Pygmalion.
And they are indeed idolators, for they worship a creation of their own
souls. Perhaps Pygmalion himself fell down and adored his flushed and
breathing statue, thinking her, with artist-reverence, nothing less than
a transformation of Venus Urania. When one thinks of certain noble men
and women—as Maurice and Kingsley, Ruskin and the Browning—devoting
themselves in spite of themselves to an effete faith, one is sadly
reminded of poor Abishag the Shunammite wasting and withering her
healthful youth to cherish old worn-out David, “who knew her not,” who
could fill her with no new life, and who was, despite her cherishing, so
certainly near death. He had been a great king in his time, but now his
time was past, and as it was now the maiden’s spring-time, he should
have left her to live her proper life.

But when all these are separated from the host, who are left to whom we
may point in answer to Emerson’s question, “In Christendom, where is the
Christian?” Strictly speaking there has never been but one Christian—the
man Christ Jesus. But I would give the title to those who thoroughly
believe the Bible after having investigated it to the best of their
power, who find its doctrines completely satisfy them, and who sincerely
endeavor to act up to those doctrines. How many of such are there? I
have known perhaps half a dozen. Has any reader known many more? Will
any one dare assert that they are more numerous in England than the
equally sincere Secularists or Atheists? I scarcely think any honest and
thoughtful person will.

FINIS.



                                  ————



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