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GOADBY'S TESTIMONY AGAINST MY PERSONAL EXISTENCE.
when I thus come forward and, through you, explode the whole as a pestiferous mass of human folly and fraud !
Had those who by profession are sons of the light" not loved their own darkness rather than God's light, come forward and swept these Augean stables with their own hand, I should have been content to retire silently into well-merited oblivion. But no! the example of the Rev. Dr. More shews how little there is to be expected from the priests. I make this qualification in acknowledgment of the just reported services rendered by the Rev. Balthassar Bekker. And I have taken up this tone in order to introduce to you a name which, when the true lights of the world shall find recognition, will shine as a star in the firmament.
Not long after the time when More was darkening counsel with words without knowledge in England, and Bekker was opening the eyes of thousands on the continent, there lived, worked and wrote at Sherborne, in Dorsetshire, a humble printer, by name R. Goadby, who put forth and widely circulated what he called "An Illustration of the Holy Scriptures," in four large folio volumes, containing above 3000 pages of matter, partly collected, partly original, in which are found the seeds of many of the most advanced ideas of the present day. Among other passages of similar tendency, the following, which bears directly on our theme, deserves respectful attention as the first free and emphatic utterance in England against this, the most prolific and baneful of superstitions:
"Another" (I quote Mr. Goadby's words, Preface to his "Illustration of the New Testament,"* p. 4)- "Another little less important and little less certain truth" (than that "the Almighty Father of the universe made heaven, and earth and sea, and all that in them is, without any coadjutor") "upon which true religion must be founded is, that God only reigneth supreme; that he hath prepared his throne in the heavens and his kingdom ruleth over all (Ps. ciii. 19); that THERE IS NO EVIL BEING in the universe, who vies in power with him, *Fourth edition. Baldwin London, 1770.
and is in declared opposition against him; that there is no being of superior order that can injure or draw to evil and bring to eternal misery the human nature; for this would degrade God from the character of a Father, a Master and a Sovereign; for how can he be a Father if he suffers his children to be injured or drawn to evil by any being of far superior power, who attacks them in a manner they know not how; who is about their paths and about their bed, and they know it not; whom on the left hand, where he doth work, they cannot behold; who hideth himself on the right hand that they cannot see him? And how is God a Master, if he suffers another, in declared opposition to him, to bring his servants into subjection, to turn them to his will, or to use them despitefully? How is he the all-powerful Sovereign, if another, in declared opposition to him, can harass and ruin. his subjects; can frustrate his intentions for their good, and introduce disorder and misery into his kingdom? Or where is his power, if he is under a necessity of using the power and malevolence of an evil being, and even his declared enemy, to punish his subjects? Does he who, as his prophet speaks of him, can 'smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and slay the wicked with the breath of his lips,' stand in need of the assistance of his enemy to punish his rebellious subjects? Or does he who knows all things from the beginning to the end, need his aid to try their fidelity by temptations? Will he who has declared by his prophets that he will not give his glory to another, enable a malevolent being to do as mighty acts as himself? for such and even mightier have men, and even the learned, attributed to the devil. How is it possible there should be concord between God and an evil being, between the most perfect and adorable goodness and the extremest and most detestable malignity? If it be said that God does not assist or enable this evil being to do what he is supposed to do in the world, but only permits it, then it must follow that he has the power in himself; and if so, then it may be asked, which is God since, as is supposed, they shew equal acts
of power. If it be said that all the good we experience comes from God, all the evil from the devil; what is this but to set up two gods-a good one and an evil one; and do we not by this contradict God himself, who has expressly declared by his prophets, I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil; I the Lord do all these things'? (Is. xlv. 7).
"Let us not deem so unworthily of the Great Father of the universe, the infinite, pure and perfect Spirit, as that he associates with himself, or employs in any manner, a malignant being, exercising a power superior to nature, and doing as God does. Let us not have so low conceptions of his almighty power and all-perfect wisdom, as to imagine that there is always existing any being throughout the whole universe in an open, declared opposition against him, and always endeavouring to injure and destroy his works. Let us have higher and more just thoughts of the Almighty's justice and goodness than to imagine he sets so vastly powerful and malignant a being, as is supposed, in competition against weak man, the potsherd of the earth; who is, as imagined, so greatly inferior to this evil being, that the famous Luther once said: 'Though I had with me a hundred thousand men such as myself, I could not resist one devil.' Let us ask ourselves how any such notions are consistent with the doxology Christ has taught us to address daily to the Father of the universe, Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.""
It is a fine illustration of the way in which a simple, rational and devout piety may rise in purity of religious conception to the altitude of the highest art, that is offered in Goadby's view of the temptation of Christ; which embodies in words the idea embodied by Schaeffer in one of the greatest of paintings (see the Cover). Denying a personal devil in what may be called an essay on the scriptural account of that most expressive and salutary mental process, this intelligent and most laborious tradesman declares that the spirit by which Jesus was led into the wilderness was the spirit of God, and
340 GOADBY EXPLAINS THE TEMPTATION OF CHRIST.
consequently that he was under God's influence and guidance. In this state of soul Jesus passed through certain pictures, or vivid states of thought, which represented as many trials which would beset him in his public ministry. Contemplating the forecast of these his coming perils, he learnt how, with God's aid and the aid of Scripture, to put away the inferior, though full of earthly promise, and to accept the superior, though full of earthly pain, contempt, and even death. He thus freely chose the better way. In the language of the day, he owned God and repelled Satan. In plain English, he in the greatest of all issues rejected evil and embraced good. To cite my author's own words: Why (it might have been suggested to him), instead of spending your life in affliction and then ending it upon the cross, will you not use your power for your own benefit, and make yourself master of the world? But this temptation did not at any time prevail over our Lord, notwithstanding the desire of honour, wealth and dominion, is natural to every human mind, and is with greater difficulty than any other subjected to the control of reason and conscience; and notwithstanding universal empire carries with it charms almost irresistible, especially to noble and heroic minds conscious of their superior wisdom and abilities, and an intention to employ their power to the true ends for which it was bestowed. If anything can heighten the virtue of despising worldly greatness when it comes in competition with our duty, it is the being practised in circumstances of indigence. And therefore to refuse, as our Saviour did, the offer of grandeur and royalty and universal empire, while he was struggling with poverty, reproach and persecution in the cause of God, was the highest act of virtue that humanity could exhibit. This account of the temptation of Christ obviates all the objections made to the common interpretation, and justifies the wisdom of God in this dispensation. It is not a series of external occurrences, some of them absurd and impossible, all of them useless and improbable, but an internal vision (like that of the apostle Peter, Acts xi.), and this is ascribed, not to a diabolical,
LESS DIFFICULTY IN SCRIPTURE, LESS SCEPTICISM.
but to a divine agency; agreeably to its instructive and beneficial design and tendency. The several scenes of which it is composed do each of them contain a real trial, such as occasioned a very bright display of the virtue and piety of Jesus. If, besides the probationary nature, we take into our account the symbolical design of this vision, it was a proper preparation for that important office with which Christ was now invested. With what divine skill are the scenes of this vision framed, so as to answer both these purposes! What just ground then do they afford for censure? The account which has been given serves to exalt the character of Christ and to confirm our faith in his divine mission."
Mr. Goadby also shews in the same connection how the removal of scriptural difficulties tends to lessen the prevalence of scepticism and unbelief. Most true and important are his words. Nine-tenths of existing doubt and disbelief in regard to Christianity are born and bred of an acceptance more or less real and vivid of my personality. Yes, the very men that ought in their teachings to exhibit the religion of Jesus in all its divine and human simplicity and acceptableness, obstruct and prevent its spread by old wives' fables begotten of ignorance and superstition. And yet Christ said of himself, "I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John viii. 12). How can such an averment be reconciled with popery as depicted by Pio Nono in his recently issued Syllabus, in which he pronounces a curse on modern civilization?-as if that culture were not a blessing from the hands of Divine Providence, bestowed in reward partly of opposition to Romanism, and chiefly in repayment of mental freedom, moral integrity, and personal energy and devotement such as have never before been witnessed on earth.