Imagens das páginas

sons and daughters, taught by the books of Confucius, are most exemplary in the conduct towards their parents. Their filial piety surpasses that of any other race ; but does that prove the books to have been given by God? The play of “ George Barnwell” has converted many from thieving. Gambling has been cured by “The Gamester,” and men who had resolved to commit a murder have been reclaimed by “Hamlet” and “Macbeth”-shall we say the cure proves the dramas to be the work of God? And if there are some good things in a book, must it follow that learned professors are wrong who say that geology, the known word of God, contradicts Genesis, which some men suppose to be the word of God? If the Noble Earl would condescend to join a "logic class ” in one of the mechanic's institutes, the sharp boys, after taking the shine out of his speeches, would teach him to discriminate with more clearness and precision between cause, effect, and primal origin. One year given to such study would be of infinite value to him, and would preserve him from falling into such stupid errors. And as to “science,” we earnestly advise him to read even a small book upon its conquests. He is evidently ignorant of the fact that science, besides bringing about cheap Bible printing, has cured the plague, and achieved a thousand victories by means of which our progress out of savagery into semi-civilisation has been secured. He who speaks so contemptuously of science reminds us of the poor Red Indian, trying to strangle the surgeon who was endeavouring to tie up the wounded artery through which the red savage was bleeding to death. We can pity the savage, but we have a right to expect a superior knowledge of facts in a “Noble Earl.”

The climax of absurdity was achieved in the following passage :-" How “ were the tens and hundreds of thousands of working men in this country “ to get time to learn Greek and Hebrew and natural science, without which “ they were given to understand by the Essayists that they were not qualified

to give an opinion as to the meaning of the Bible ? Why, it would be a “ greater sacerdotal tyranny than had ever been exercised even by the Church “ of Rome, to say that none but those living in learned leisure could be able “ to comprehend in what degree the book should be received, and when re“ ceived, in what degree its tenets were to be believed."

Now, we beg to ask, does this great actor mean to say that a man is competent to speak of a translation with greater certainty than of the original ? The present Dean of Canterbury told the young men in Exeter Hall the truth when he said that “ without a knowledge of Greek they could not properly “ understand the New Testament.” He has edited an edition which differs from all its predecessors, as all their editions do from each other. But if there cannot be a certainty about the original, how is it to be gained about a translation ? But the “ Noble Earl” has said it ; down among the men of coal and iron he has said it. We are not sure that he himself believes it, but we don't believe it. Nay, we are sure that if he were called upon to speak among scholars he would no more dare to repeat that sophism than he dared to repeat his Exeter Hall speech in the House of Lords. He is said to be a clever actor who can “vamp” so as to meet the tastes of his audience, and in vamping the “ Noble Earl ” stands unrivalled. He, too, will play out his part, but in some other sphere. His darkness will be enlightened ; for, as sure as night follows the day, a time must come when the soul of Astley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, will be demonstrated to be plebeian and not noble, to be that of a windbag and no real man.

P. W. P.

JOSEPH BARKER AND THE SECULARISTS. DOUBTLESS, our readers are aware, that the “ Secularists,” as a body of Freethinkers, are threatened by the spirit of division; it being highly probable that before long one portion of them will be known by another name. Occasionally we have been informed of its being our duty to take a side in the dispute, and, because of our silence, not merely a few persons, but many, have concluded that we took no interest in the matter. Such was not really the case ; but, independently of the fact that other matters occupied our attention, we had no desire to rush into a fray when advice was not likely to be taken, and if, at this late hour, we venture upon making a few observations, it is merely to the end that the gist of the matter may be placed fairly before the subscribers to this Journal.

At the present moment, the two giants of the ultra-freethought platform are Mr. Chas. Bradlaugh and Mr. Joseph Barker. The former is comparatively a young man, but remarkable alike for the intensity of the hatred he bears to the Bible, and the earnestness with which he hunts down those of its defenders with whom he is publicly brought into contact. From him they are neither to expect mercy nor even justice. Probably he has been a formal believer – one of those Bible Christians who said, “ Yes, it is true,” merely because they heard others saying so, but when he bad entered through the portals of Doubt into the world of Absolute Denial, he vaulted at the conclusion that all who hold his former faith do so upon the same terms and foundations that himself held it. Had he ever thoroughly believed he would now be more just in his judgments. Whether, as years grow upon him, and his experience widens, he will do them more justice we shall not here undertake to pronounce; but they deserve it. Moreover, until ample justice be done unto the very weakest, the blindest, and even the most stubborn among them, they will not be healed of their orthodox malady. When the man of Freethought fights his battles upon the territory of his enemy-when he fights modern theology with Biblical weapons, and fights in the spirit of one who wishes only to save that which is noble, he partially disarms his opponent before a blow is struck, and completely so when it is shown that it is the advantage of his foe, not a mere selfish victory, which constitutes the true end and aim of his reasoning. So far as honesty of purpose, combined with courage, perseverance, and energy are concerned, we consider Mr. Bradlaugh to be worthy of the praise of men, but, unfortunately, he has not sufficiently mastered the questions he undertakes to discuss-he is unconscious of the difficulties which beset the better-read and deeper thinker, and hence came the unfortunate mistakes, the unfair condemnations, and self-contradictions into which, in debates, he has so frequently fallen.

Mr. Barker is a man of another stamp; he is mature as a thinker, logical as a debater, earnest, persevering, dauntless, powerful in argument, and filled with that better and thoroughly practical sort of wisdom which every intellectual man possesses, who has fought his way through the various sloughs of religious creedism which swallow up and destroy so many generous men. If he debates with a bigoted Methodist, not only does he foresee every argument to be used by his antagonist, but he can do him justice, because in all honesty he once occupied his opponent's position; and so it is with the various degrees of Orthodoxy and Freethought, for having gradually passed through them all, he fully appreciates the various difficulties which impede the progress of the believer. There is not in England a man who

is more competent to debate, upon a public platform, the Biblical and theological questions of the age than he is. And, in doing him that justice, we cannot omit the sincere expression of our regret that he does not belong to the school of Theists. Probably he is nearer to it than he imagines ; certainly, far nearer than he is to that of Atheism. But whether he joins the former or not, it is certain that he will do considerably more than his part toward destroying the Bibliolatry of the nineteenth century. And, now that he stands alone, his power will be far greater than it was when he was working in the traces with others.

The immediate cause of his standing alone is very easily stated. Some time back a book was published, in which occurred what purports to be a complete physiological discussion of the sexual question, “Is it better to “ marry than burn ? ” or, shall we say that marriage is a great curse which all are to shun? The author is stated to be a physiologist. If that be true, then his book is a mockery-written in a mad frolic; but, having carefully read every page, and it was a painful infliction, we are sure such scientific attainments cannot be predicated of the writer. Frequently he sets forth propositions as established truths, which no physiologist can read without being convulsed with laughter, unless his sorrow and indignation happen to conquer the risible tendency. His theory of observing the laws of nature is based upon the assumption that we are first to call Passion to our aid to show us what those laws really are. He does not in so many words say so, yet, practically, he enforces that it is from the self-indulgent man he would learn the true end of life, and the proper course of human conduct; but they who know anything of the power of habit will tell another tale. Self-restraint is the source of strength. Indulge to day, and self-control is weaker on the morrow. He who would conquer the world must begin with conquering himself. He who has the fewest wants is in the best position to dare the hatred of men, while he who indulges, physically, soon becomes so thoroughly a slave that his intellect bows before the dictates of passion, and his birthright is given for the means of indulgence.

This book was noticed and praised by Mr. Bradlaugh in those columns of the National Reformer which were edited by himself, but, in charity we hope, without his having fully comprehended its purport, Naturally, many who knew its real nature were alarmed at this, for it is unusual with Freethinkers to countenance gross immorality. With his usual tact, Mr. Holyoake had previously declined to promote its circulation, and, naturally, Mr. Barker reasonably felt himself compromised by the favourable notice having appeared in a paper of which he was joint-editor. He has obtained, even among the orthodox, a good moral reputation, which, were it only out of respect for his family, he dared not imperil; and, very properly, he protested against both the book and the review. This protest led to a deal of bickering in the Secularist ranks, finally, to his rupture with the “National Reformer” party, and the establishment of a new weekly Journal, called, “ Barker's Review," in which, with great clearness, he now defines his own cause, and promulgates his particular opinions. We wish him success in his undertaking, and cannot doubt that the best-hearted, the purest-minded, and the most intellectual members of the Secular party will render him all the support which is in their power.

But why are not all the Secularists with him? He stood upon a moral platform to protest against immorality - why, then, should he have been opposed ? Does Secularism wed itself with vice, and the abominable doctrines of the book in question ? For if not, how could there have been a division ? The answer to these questions is very simple. In the ranks of Secularism there are three parties, two of which are fundamentally opposed to each other. The first is composed of men who make unceasing war upon the entire circle of theological systems, as taught in the several schools. As a body, they repudiate Inspiration and its cognates, but uphold Morality with all its bonds and issues. As a rule, they are good, earnest, honourable men, alike incapable of lauding vice as they are of bowing the knee when the heart refuses its adoration. We have spent many pleasant hours with members of this party-hours which will always be looked back upon with satisfaction, for, both in heart and intellect, they with whom we spent them were desirable companions. Such men shrink from the book in question as from a moral pest; to them there is pollution even in its touch, and were all England polled none of its people would be found more earnest than these in repudiating its immoral and physically injurious lessons. These men are all on the side of Mr. Barker.

The opposite class to these is composed of low-browed, coarse, uneducated, and sensual men; beings who live to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in the lowest haunts of pollution. We pity but cannot love them, nor is it possible to spend a peaceful hour in their society. Their tastes are as low as their brows, and if they do not fight cocks or draw badgers, it is not that their tastes are improved, but that the law is too strong against them. Prompted to their unbelief by a kind of brute instinct, they are most violent in their denunciations of the Bible and Priestcraft, not because of having risen above them, but because of their incapacity to understand the nature of what they curse. As Reformers we do not speak of them, nor do we expect them to render any assistance, for it would be as absurd as if we were to call upon the Red Indians to reform the Astronomical Calendars. They are Secularists in name, and they are members of the Society, but their patronage damages the Secularist cause in the esteem of all reasonable and respectable nien, and drives away all those of purer tastes and higher morals, whose presence and influence would operate in its favour. These men are all with Mr. Bradlaugh, although in spirit and in moral life he is not with them.

Between these two classes there is yet a third, composed of those who are prepared to tolerate all deficiencies in those who belong to the Society. They are neither given to vice nor desirous of having it advocated, but they are so wedded to Secularism, that they slavishly tolerate movements which their consciences cannot approve; and so ardent in their hatred of modern religious theories that they cannot pardon the man who publicly questions the propriety of any Secularist's conduct. They are nervously alive to every breath of dissent, and Mr. Barker, because of his boldness and honesty, has incurred their displeasure. Had the book been denounced at first by Mr. Bradlaugh, they would have been delighted ; had it been written by an orthodox man, and favourably reviewed in a Christian journal, they would have been intoxicated with delight with Mr. Barker's exposure of its foulness. That which made his words a sin unto them, was the fact that a Secularist denounced his brother. But, fortunately for his own reputation and influence, Joseph Barker is not subject to the fears which overwhelm and fill them with terror, lest a word spoken in earnest against a brother-worker should destroy a great principle; neither is he in fear lest a truth should destroy freedom. Having a wider experience to fall back upon, he knows that the only way in which any measure of reform can be securely gained, is that of dealing equally with all who violate the moral laws. We accept the boldness with which he met the difficulty, as furnishing another proof of his moral integrity and fitness to stand forth before the world to represent the feelings and desires of intelligent Secularists. And although his road diverges from ours, we cordially wish him success in his new undertaking. For many years he has battled bravely in the world of Freethought, and now that old age is coming on we trust he will receive that support to which his talents, energy, and moral purpose so justly entitle him.

P. W. P.


“EVANGELICAL" THEORIES AND PARODIES OF HISTORY. The Philosophy of History, as it is written out in the works of those writers who are accepted as Oracles on this subject by our Churches and Chapels, becomes a gross libel on the Omniscience, the Power, and Goodness of the Deity. In order to support certain foregone conclusions necessitated by their acceptance of the popular theological teaching, with reference to the character and acts of God, these men assume things, and lay down principles, the only logical inference from which is, that the Creator in His Moral Government of the Universe has been guilty of immense injustice towards His creature man, and has committed mistake after mistake in His dealings with him. The entire Jewish History, and the so-called Mosaic history of Creation and the Patriarchal Ages, are a continued series of mistakes committed by an All-Wise and All-Powerful God, as expounded from the orthodox point of view. The story of the Fall, for instance, assumes either that God could not or would not prevent it. If He could not, then His Power is called in question; if He would not, His Goodness is denied. What greater libel on His Omniscience can be conceived than the theologian's account of the Deluge? Or, if His Omniscience must be conserved, then, again, His Goodness suffers. Either He knew, or did not know, that the world would relapse into sin; if He knew not, what becomes of His Omniscience ? if He knew, where is the Goodness of a Being who uselessly drowned a whole world ? Then, again, we are told by these writers, that the hand of God is seen in the entire of history, and so all the misery, all the evils and injustice, caused by the acts of men are saddled on the Deity.

Those who are curious to see the "evangelical ” argument, as applied to history, variously worked out, may consult Miller's “ Philosophy of History,” Reed's “ Hand of God in History," and D’Aubigné's “ History of the Re“ formation," with various other works of a similar class. By these writers the whole of history is said to be subsidiary to the one great aim of redeeming humanity from the effects of the Fall. The coming of Christ and teaching of Christianity are represented in the works of these men as constituting the first Act in the great Drama; but no attempt is made to show how the Justice of God can be consistent with delaying the means of salvation for men until so late a period of the world's history, or how a Good God could have left so many millions of men in ignorance of their only chance of redemption. Reed traces “the footsteps of Providence in the extension and “establishment of the Church.” Thus, all the bloodshed and anarchy, all the persecution and human misery, with the records whereof the pages of Church History are full, must be attributed to God. The Papacy and the Inquisition, the Crusades and the wholesale murder of Waldenses, Albigenses,

« AnteriorContinuar »