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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

The Godless

The Godless.

A generation has passed away since the Reform Bill became law. A reference to some events which were the immediate offspring of this great measure may supply us with a little daylight by which we may arrive at a more correct estimate of the antics of our Ritualistic and Puseyite parsonry, and show what Puseyism really is in contrast to what it appears to be, and what it hypocritically pretends to be. At the same time, we purpose paying our respects to those gentlemen, reverend and lay, catholic and protestant, who perpetrate longwinded letters in the papers with the view of extinguishing, what they are pleased to style "godless education." We associate the ritualists and the antagonists of "the godless," because they are all of them tarred with the same brush—purpose to compass the same ends by similar means, and are all of them, without exception, nothing more nor less than wholesale dealers in unmitigated pretence.

Very often the papers treat us to a paragraph apprising us that on a certain Sabbath the Rev. Mr. Blank, of Blanktown, comported himself to the great indignation of his congregation—bowing here—scraping there—jumping Jim Crow in a corner—now exhibiting choice and unexceptionable millinery, and finally throwing a light upon the whole performance by the radiance of candle something thicker than his leg. Again, the papers let us know that the Right Reverend Bishop Bunkum, assisted by the Rev. Mr. Greenhorn, has been astonishing the natives and everybody else, at Softtown, by doing Noodle and Doodle to the same ritualistic tune that the Rev. Mr. Blank discoursed so page 75 sweetly to his astonished flock at Blanktown, a few days before.

With these ridiculous exhibitions the public, very generally, are fairly taken aback. They are surprised that the Church of England should have produced anything so monstrous, and still more astonished at the symptoms of weakness that the Church betrays in her inability to eliminate the evil that is at once her disgrace and bane. To do the Church justice, however, it must be admitted, that the majority of the clergy are opposed to the innovation tooth and nail. They know the nature of the nuisance, and regarding it as a genuine upas, have made many attempts to uproot it, but hitherto without success. Outside the church, however, the public estimate ritualism as a religious craze, and wash their hands of it altogether by abandoning its unfortunate victims to find their way either to heaven or to Tarban as the ease may be. But this is a grand mistake, and it will be our business to show that there is no more religion in ritualism than there is milk in a male tiger.

Mr. Brougham's impertinent inquiry into the way in which the trustees of sundry charitable and school institutions were discharging their duties, led to the exposure of incredible dishonesty on the part of the clergy. The public were robbed right and left; the large pay set apart for the purposes of education being appropriated by clergymen, whose consciences allowed them to pocket the pay of the schoolmaster, whilst they, at the same time, shirked his irksome duties. One highly principled gentleman had for years received twelve hundred per annum, without so much as a single scholar to serve as a poor apology for the plunder. Another, with eight hundred a year had the grace to have at least one scholar, but that scholar, was his own son. But these and a hundred other instances of clerical misappropriation are duly recorded in the chronicles of the times to which we need not more particularly refer. Suffice it to say, that the reverend brethren of the plunderers were abominably shocked and annoyed; not, however, by the plunderers, but by those who sacriligiously spoilt their little game. If such impertinence as this were to be tolerated where would it end? But they were doomed, with but a brief interval, to still further annoyance, and from a similar cause, namely, the popular determination to recover their long-lost rights. Their first disgust was scarcely digested when it was succeeded by another of still more formidable proportions, namely, the Reform Bill; and then their cup of tribulation was full to overflowing. Tooth and nail did they oppose this measure. Immense was the hole and comer business that they carried on, and unnumbered were the lying petitions concocted with the view of thwarting the popular will. But all was in vain, Revolution had clearly set in. The Church was in danger! What was to be done? This rattling amongst the dry bones was not to be page 76 endured. If the swinish multitude imagined that they had souls of their own (and such a sentiment was unmistakeably indicated in the universal and emphatic cry for reform), they were to be undeceived. They must be taught that the Church was everything—themselves nothing and something less; and for this ridiculously vain purpose have a few imbeciles zealously set themselves to work to whistle back the birds that have escaped their nets. With this purpose in view they have Romanised the services of the Church of England where they had the chance, and have boldly taught the beauty and desirableness of a blind and unquestioning obedience to Church and State. Thus ritualism in its origin was plainly nothing more than a political dodge, kindred to that of the antigodless educationalists; and they, believing that ignorance is the mother of devotion, have determined to secure devotees as ignorant as need be, with the view of retaining their spiritual hold upon the poor ignoramuses.

The education provided by the State is objected to because it is godless. Believe the objectors, and the quality of the education that they would dispense, had they but the chance, would be vastly superior to the authorised article. But pardon us, gentlemen, if we decline to extend a ready credence to the vaunted superiority of your teachings. The educational feats of the church to which many of you belong are chronicled in blood, and in characters that will be legible, to the horror of mankind, till time shall be no more. We know, as well as you do, that you are bound to teach whatever the Church has taught, however execrable that may be. What novelties dare you venture in regard to dogma? The dogmas of the Church bear the Vatican stamp "semper eadem:" we therefore gather with certainty what the present teachings are from what has gone before; and a precious teaching it is: worthy at the very best of the detestation and execration of mankind.

A liberal age has extended to the lay catholic the benefit of the saying "tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis," and so far as it relates to our catholic acquaintance it is true enough. My very good catholic neighbour Smith has, I am sure, no more idea of roasting me than I have of discharging the same friendly office to him. But we are talking about teaching, and we know that the catholic objectors to "the godless" are bound to teach what the Church has always taught, teaches now, and always will teach, namely, the right and the duty of the Church to annihilate the heresy and the heretic together by roasting the latter alive.

And now let us see what the Church has been teaching for ages, and what are the felicitous results of that teaching on the taught. There was no godless education, it is worth while to remember, in either Italy or Spain. Difference of opinion was not tolerated in those blessed countries where the Church was all-powerful. Freedom of thought was stamped out there by the iron heel of oppression in blood and flames. It was easier to page 77 dispose of the objector than to answer his objections, and not the ghost of a scruple stood in the way of issuing the fatal mittimus that sent both him and his objections out of this world into the next. The Church had it all its own way, without let or hindrance, and what did it teach?

"Honour all men," is a Christian command; but the Church that criticises and condemns our teachings, now teaches, and has always taught, that the way to honour man is to make a bonfire of him. The advent of Christ and Christianity was triumphantly heralded as the earnest of high heaven's kindly intentions to mankind. It was the guarantee of "Peace and Goodwill to man." Hut the peace of the Church is a very different affair to the peace of God. The peace of the Church implies wholesale death to mankind, and the earth has already been soaked to saturation with the blood of its inhabitants inhumanly spilt by the Church in the name of the Lord. In one respect, however, the peace of God and the peace of the Church are alike. The former "passeth all understanding," and if any of our readers can understand how it was that such inhumanity was for a moment tolerated, we will cheerfully yield to him the palm of intelligence.

History has many a cruel page that excites our horror, and extorts our tears; but the accumulated atrocities of a cruel world are reduced to a bagatelle when contrasted with the wholesale slaughter of this merciless Church.

Such were, such are, such always will be the teachers; and now what of the taught? What are Italians now? The foremost of mankind when Pagan, now, the very last on the roll of civilised and Christian nations—an ignorant, vile, immoral, cutthroat generation. Or if there be another people to dispute her pre-eminence in infamy, it is one that, like herself, has ever played reptile to the Church, offering her the homage of a senseless, unquestioning allegiance.

Let any one read Mr. Moss's recent publication touching his capture and detention by bandits in Italy only two or three years ago, and he will find that there is an utter unconsciousness amongst the lower strata of the Italian community, of anything seriously wrong in going out for the express purpose of robbing and, if need be, of murdering the unoffending traveller, whoever he may be. Indeed, they talk of it with the same nonchalance as their brother cut-throats of the Malayan archipelago discuss the question of piracy. If they are caught they suffer as a matter-of-course, and there is an end of it; but what it has to do with religion they cannot imagine. "Do they not say their prayers, and manœuvre their beads with exemplary assiduity? Are they not true sons of the Church? Do they not swear by the pope, and are they not ready at all times and at all seasons to defend the Church against all comers?" Not a doubt of it; and equally certain it is, that every cut-throat expedition can page 78 and does secure the services of some pious priest to sanctify the murder and to share the chivalrously-won plunder.

These, these are the glorious results not of a godless education, but of an education prescribed by the Church without let or hindrance, or opposition of any kind, the Church having, as we have said before, disposed of all opposition in its own peculiarly amiable way. We will not dwell upon the horrible picture of innocent people burnt to cinders, but we may ask what sort of a community could it be that permitted the Inquisition, with all its horrors, to initiate and mature in its midst, without opposing to it so much as even a weak remonstrance? Remonstrance! Why, such a thing was never thought of. On the contrary, the mob could not only stand by and contemplate the horrid scene unmoved, could not only maintain their equanimity—felt not the slightest temptation to throw the officiating priests into the flames after their victims; but, in the distortions of the agonised sufferers, could find the apology for unbounded fun and uproarious merriment. The demons!

The fires of the Inquisition, it is true, burn no longer; and we should willingly accept the fact as an indication of a more pacific feeling on the part of the Church if we could; but we can do nothing of the sort. The potent threat of Oliver Cromwell was effectual in arresting the persecutions and burnings of the Protestant Waldenses by their Catholic ruler, the Duke of Savoy; and the execrations of outside humanity may have taught the Church the possibility of an undignified knuckling down to Protestant commination, were these atrocities continued much longer. As to any improvement in the Church of a pacific tendency, the recent blasphemous importations from the (Ecumenical Council are decisive on that point. The same growl and the same roar indicate the same ferocity as ever; but just now, thank heaven, it is associated with so much impotence as to be entitled to no more consideration than is usually extended to a howling idiot or a braying jackass.

The godless education of the day, we are told, will inevitably issue in atheism; just as if the Church itself did not supply the atheist with the most efficient shaft in his whole quiver—the most destructive ammunition in all his arsenal. Suppose we were under the miserable necessity of disposing, one way or the other, of this alternative, which the atheist may not unfairly submit: "Either believe that there is no God, or believe that he sympathises with the atrocities of the Church of Home in the slaughter of heretics." We sincerely believe in the existence of the Deity; but still we should prefer the former branch of the alternative, and, certainly, if we must subscribe, will underwrite it in preference to stultifying ourselves by admitting for a moment the possibility of anything so derogatory to "our father which is in heaven," as is implied in the latter portion of the utrum horum. page 79 Annihilation, ten to one, before heaven under the autocracy of such a monster!

Rampant in France, as in Italy and Spain and Portugal, the Church of Rome, till toward the latter end of the last century, tolerated no rival faith in France, and cleared it of heretics by the same process that had been effectual for that purpose elsewhere. So that when revolutionised France had to choose between Rome and atheism, the latter was almost universally preferred, insomuch that when Hume, dining at Paris with Baron D'Olbach, casually remarked that he had never seen an atheist, was assured by his entertainer that he then had the honor of dining with seventeen.

But let us now turn to another field of the Church militant's operations, where her horn has been exalted to her soul's content. Her laurels here, as elsewhere, have been won through blood and flame : let her felicitate herself on their acquisition if she can. We can contemplate her accumulated honour with equanimity and entertain not the slightest apprehension that by so doing we shall burst with envy. "God made man upright," but the Church, under the impression that he was much more manageable in the quadrupedal form, has brought him down on all fours, and now, educated under the auspices of the Church, with none of your godless pabulum, "ecce homo!"—behold the man—a sneaking, contemptible reptile. A devoted son of the Church, he believes what the Church believes, and the Church believes what he believes, but what they both believe he knows no more than the post to which the poor Jew is fastened preparatory to his immolation, and to whom we beg to introduce the reader.

Moses is a Jew. He is about to be reduced to a cinder, because, by no fault of his, he happens to be one of God's chosen people. We need not say more plainly than we have said, that we are now in Spain, in a land of as good Christians as the Church can boast. They believe the Bible, and therefore must believe that Moses is one of that race that commanded the preference of the Almighty. Nevertheless for the good of his soul the Church is about to burn his body. And now we claim the reader's attention to the evidence of the brutalising effect of the education dispensed amongst a Catholic community composed of the most humble servants of the Church.

The last moments of Moses are rapidly approaching. The spectators are uneasy, impatient and excited, and from a thousand throats ascends the self-same cry, "Sta fa Mosé!" The wretches are afraid that Moses will recant, and thus cheat them of the ineffable pleasure of seeing a human being burnt to death. "Sta fa Mosé!" Your shrieks will be sweeter music to our refined ears than the choicest music of the opera, and your agonised writhing will afford us more genuine merriment than the efforts of the most accomplished buffo. "Sta fa Mosé!" Burn, my good fellow! burn, like a man, and do not, on any page 80 consideration, be so unreasonable as to cheat us out of our holiday. These, these, are the choice specimens resulting from an education that is not godless : let the Church be proud of them if it knows how. And this is an "Auto da fé," too, an act of faith. A precious faith it must be truly. But we have gone far enough in this direction. The atmosphere is becoming suffocating. Surely we must be approaching the meridian of the infernal regions: let us turn, then, to notice the operations of another state-paid institution.

The clergy of the Church of England rarely trouble themselves relative to the education of the people: never, indeed, unless some rival system suggests the expediency of some little exertion in opposition. When the quaker Lancaster, aided by his friends, first floated the Lancasterian system, the clergy merely laughed at it as the nostrum of some restless imbecile; but when it rapidly grew into respectable proportions, and was extensively patronised by members of their own flock, it became worthy of opposition, and accordingly Mr. Bell and Bell's system appeared with all the patronage that the Church could command in its favour, in rivalry to the Quaker and his system. The progress of education amongst the people is due principally to exertions outside the Church. The commencement of the present century found the working classes and the peasantry of England very little better than a mob of ignorant clodhoppers. The howling idiots that pulled down Dr. Priestley's house, destroying his library and choice philosophical apparatus, and forcing him to find a grave in another country, were a fair specimen of England's lower orders at that time. Not one in a hundred was able to read, but they were, nevertheless, devoted members of the Church, and that virtue, like charity, covered a multitude of sins. Church and State was their war cry, and under its influence they expelled from house and home and country one of the most celebrated men of the day to the eternal disgrace of the country that had the honour of his birth.

But the Church of England agrees with her mother in denouncing the national school system as "godless," and therefore is she opposed to it, which merely means that state-paid churches are opposed to the education of the people in any form. Ignorance is the mother of devotion, and the best friend, therefore, of state-paid churches. And truly they are wise in their day and generation. The absurdities that disgrace the modern pulpit are doomed to be laughed at by the matured pupils of the national schools, and we confess that we are not indisposed to join in the cachinnation. It will not do for Dean Cowper to tell them much longer that Science confirms the cosmogony of the Book of Genesis, or they will most assuredly take the liberty of thinking the old gentleman's assurance is only exceeded by his ignorance. And when the clergy venture to explain, with the view of making the cock-and-bull affair at all intelligible, that by page 81 a day we must understand an age, a million years perhaps, we hold our sides under the pressure of the absurdity suggested relative to the Maker of all things resting for a million years. What a nap! Shade of Rip Van Winkel, hide your diminished head! The parson has fairly cut you out, and has become the first favourite of the poppied god.

That an Omnipotent, Eternal God, should require rest at all, is a joke of very respectable dimensions; but there is, nevertheless, something suggestive in his possible long sleep that may be of service to us in this discussion. Perhaps this will account for the long-continued affliction of the world under a rampant and sanguinary Church. That the thunderbolts of offended Heaven should not long ago have terminated its mild career has been a difficulty with us for some time past; but thanks to the Dean, he contributes a little daylight which helps to a solution of the difficulty.

The doctrine of the Trinity is the offspring of the Church of Home, and was one of the choice morceaux which the Church of England brought with her on quitting her venerable parent. As if this doctrine was not already sufficiently absurd, the Jesuitical supporters of the Pope in connection with the (Ecumenical Council have succeeded in making it still more so if possible: but, at any rate, they have afforded us the pleasure of contemplating a trinitarian novelty; and perhaps those who experienced no difficulty with the old doctrine will be equally facile with the new. We extract from the London Times, and can assure our readers that they will find it a pill of no ordinary manipulation.

"He (the Pope) wishes to be held the sole depositary of the words of eternal truth," and the Ultramontane papers devoted to him blasphemously described him as "the Son of God," adding that "when the Pope thinks it is God who thinks in him." And further, "the Church of God," they say, "is made in the semblance of the Holy Trinity. As the Father begot the Son, and from Father and Son proceeds the Holy Ghost, so the Pope begets the Bishops, and from the Pope and Bishops proceeds the Holy Ghost."

The Holy Ghost is God; so then it amounts to this, that God made man in the first place, and now man (that is if the Pope and his bishops are men), returns the compliment by making his maker. When and where will these pitiable fooleries end?

But monstrous as these profanely absurd doctrines are, they are associated with another absurdity of equal calibre, namely, the invocation of the power of the Church to force them down the unwilling throats of outside unbelievers, and by the old method of persecution, where that can be safely ventured. But the days of persecution on the score of religion are numbered. Persecution for religious opinion is clearly as foolish as it is wicked, and the persecuting aspect recently assumed by Rome only serves to show the low intellectual stature of the Head of page 82 the Church and his Jesuitical prompters. It may be clearly and readily shown that belief is not dependent on the will. We cannot believe if we would when the evidence forbids any such conclusion, nor can we resist believing when the evidence excludes all possible doubt. But the progress of education will determine these questions in spite of the Holy Father and the (Ecumenical Council, an aggregation of intellectual General Tom Thumbs with the Pope as generalissimo of the Lilliputian host.