The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8
The Bible, the Whole Bible, and Nothing but the Bible
The Bible, the Whole Bible, and Nothing but the Bible.
Again has the editor of the Protestant Standard been induced to do battle for the Bible, and to charge with all his chivalry its page 292 pestilent rejectors; in which class, without the slightest hesitation or apology, he ventures to place our esteemed friend the editor of the Australian Free Religious Press.
We have been long enough acquainted with the Standard to know that its editor is favored with a very fair share of assurance; but till we had read his recent article on the Bible and its Rejectors, we were not aware, that occasionally he could be as impertinent as he is arrogant. For the first time in our lives, we learn that before we can decide as to the force of an opponent's arguments, it is necessary to know whether or not he has paid his printer. And should he happen to be a preacher who discourses on Sunday evenings, it is equally desirable, it appears, that, either before he announces the text, or shortly after, he should make it manifest to the congregation that the bill for the gas has been duly liquidated. As it is scarcely credible that any one within range of the amenities of civilised society could possibly be so grossly impertinent, we submit the paragraph to which we refer verbatim et literatim:—"We suppose such a man as Pillars must find readers enough of his 'More Light' lucubrations to pay his printer, and hearers enough of his Sunday evening harangues to pay for his gas, and keep him in countenance, or else he would give up his trade." Of course, much will not be expected in the way of reasoning, from one, who, with such admirable taste, discharges the functions of a genuine Paul Pry; but on this point, all that we have to advance is, "Blessed are they that expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed."
It is admitted on all hands that the Bible is pregnant with difficulties that defy solution, and with contradictions that are at once decided and palpable. From this cause it often becomes the fertile source of serious differences that too frequently degenerate into discreditable quarrels. But why should it be so? The instructor seriously intent on correcting what he may honestly deem erroneous, will, if he be wise, adopt a conciliatory tone, the very opposite of that which characterises the bearing of our pugnacious Contemporary. He has no doubt whatever of the correctness of his own opinion, and is equally certain that we are wrong; but surely difference of opinion does not justify the exhibition of an arrogant spirit.
But he is not merely arrogant; his blind zeal forbids him the exercise of even the vulgar virtue of common fairness. He has thought proper to place Hume and Mr. Pillars in the same category, as respects their estimate of the Bible; showing that other he is wholly unacquainted with the writings that he condemns, or that his power of reckless assertion can only be the result of unflagging practice. But so it is. Only venture to deal with any one of the many questionable passages of Scripture, and forthwith are we assailed with a senseless accusation of Atheism, or some other ism equally combustible. We are told, ex cathedra, that, at our peril, we must believe the whole of the Bible—all or page 293 none. We concede that if the Bible be altogether the result of divine inspiration, it would not be too much to claim implicit belief for every part of it. But this is the very point at issue; and we are not only prepared to take the negative side of the question, but to show as well, that if the rejection of certain portions of the Scriptures be criminal, the editor of the Standard is either partieeps criminis, or entitled to a billet at Tarban Creek, or some other institution open to the reception of harmless lunatics.
But above measure should we be gratified could we but induce our Contemporary to deal with one of the indisputable contradictions of Scripture. Let him try his hand at the utrum horum if he dare. Let him but inform us which branch of the alternative he accepts and which he rejects, and at once we claim him as one of us. Let him do just what he likes with it, so that he moves in it at all, and our purpose is answered: our position will be fully vindicated.
But we are too well acquainted with the modus operandi of our censor to expect that he will ever venture to come to close quarters. He may pretend to answer us, and tell us what we are or what we are not, all of which is foreign to the point; or he may indulge in a little innocent egotism, illustrative of his many commanding excellencies, which is just-as pertinent to the matter in hand; but as to grappling with the subject, it is out of the question: he knows a trick worth two of that. But to proceed to our task.
We need not give chapter and verso for the scriptural declarations of God's invisibility. This is set forth in various passages, and will not, we presume, be controverted. We do not know if it will be any satisfaction to the editor of the Standard to be informed that we as firmly believe in God's invisibility as he does; yet such is the fact. But supposing this point settled and mutually agreed upon, what becomes of the unutterable nonsense of boxing up Moses in the cleft of a rock, lest he should see the face of an invisible God. Now, which account is the true one? Is God visible, or invisible, or is he both? Our contemporary has a fair chance of stultifying himself will he but avail himself of it? We are told, however, and with a gravity that fairly capsizes our own, that Moses did see the back parts of the Deity, and we can only regret that the Lawgiver was not an artist. A photograph of an invisible God, although it only represented the back part of the Deity, would have been a curiosity for the ingenious of the first order. The quasi inspired penman tells us that no man can see God's face and live. But we cannot help thinking that the clever fellow that could see the face of an invisible God is entitled to a premium rather than be subject to punishment. But who fails to see that the whole fabrication instead of being an emanation from the Deity is an unmistakable exemplification of the thin pabulum—the pap—prepared by page 294 designing or grossly superstitious men for the baby-hood of humanity? That God Almighty should come all the way from Heaven for the express purpose of exhibiting his back parts to Moses—his back parts, like all the rest of him, being invisible—is a morsel that we prefer handing over for the delectation of the credulous, whose faith, we trust, may meet with adequate reward.*
But proceed we to another specimen of these biblical absurdities. Inspiration, so called, declares that no man can see God's face and live. But Jacob declared that he had seen God face to face—that is, God's face—yet his life was preserved. Contradiction again. In one case, the sight of God's invisible face would be fatal to the beholder; but the other side of the picture shows that Jacob was blessed with a pair of eyes that could grasp the Invisible, whilst he himself was preserved. Is there anything in Dr. Smith's Mythological Dictionary more absurd than the account of Jacob's wrestling with the Almighty all night long, till the mortal was touched in the hollow of the thigh (wherever that may be); when, it appears, he confessed himself vanquished, and gave in like a man. Jacob, it is evident, was under the impression that his antagonist was the Deity himself; but it must be admitted that opinion is not uniform on this point. Hosea styles the celestial wrestler an Angel at first, but afterwards Jehovah. The celebrated commentator Brown is of opinion that he was none other than the Son of God. In the first place, then, we read of the Son of God wrestling with Jacob; centuries after we find him in the lap of the Virgin Mary, as a babe; and lastly, according to Torquati, a Catholic priest, holding forth at Rome a short time since, Pope Pius the IX is none other than Jesus Christ in the flesh again. When, in the name of common sense, shall we ever get to the end of this long chapter of absurdity.
Reverting, however, to the contradiction which the Bible offers to itself in respect of God's risibility, we now invite the Standard to make his election, and tell us which is the true account. We know very well that he will demur, for it is evident that the rejection of either the visible or the invisible will entitle him to row in our boat, a position that, we are aware, he eschews with horror.
But in spite of its blemishes, we hold the Scriptures to be the page 295 faithful record of the labours of good men, devoted to the improvement of their species by circulating a sound morality. Some months ago, we ventured to criticise a portion of Scripture in the Free Press, when we were at once charged with asserting what we never dreamt of. "We never said," to repeat our remark, "that the Bible was nothing but old wives' fables; and if we ever refer to the improbable and ridiculous therein contained, it is only with the view of showing that the Bible is not entitled to be considered a work of plenary inspiration."
* The fact that, in the opinion of the best biblical scholars, the original of me back parts should be translated me afterwards, diminish as it may the grossness of the old Hebrew conccption of the Deity, as set forth in this passage, in nowise lessens the general force of our contributor's argument. Othodox Christians affirm that the Bible, being the Word of God, is wholly free, necessarily so, from self-contradictions. Yet. we are expected to overlook the glaring self-contradiction, among many others, that God, "whom no man had seen nor can see" (1 Tim. vi. 16), and "whom no man hath seen at any tine" (John i. 18), visibly and tangibly revealed himself to men on various ocasions.—Ed.