The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8
Prove all Things
Prove all Things.
The Church of Rome has a great deal to say of Peter and but very little of Paul; and for this reason: the name of Peter is made the poor apology for papal pretension, whilst Paul opposes to it an emphatic and determined antagonism.
Addressing the Thessalonians, and through them the whole family of man, the Apostle Paul exhorts them to "prove all things and this is the grand charter of humanity, "more precious than rubies," worthy to be maintained against all comers, at all times, and at any cost. "Prove all things!" says the Apostle, thereby clearly snowing that God in his goodness has favoured us with intelligence equal to the occasion. "Prove all things!" It is your right, therefore boldly exercise it, maugre popes and priests and tyrants of any and of every description. It is your duty, therefore fearlessly and honestly discharge it, regardless of the mumblings and grumblings of a few superannuated old women of both sexes.
But what is the language of the Holy See? How does that harmonise with Paul's teaching? Let that very modest son of the Church, Boniface the Eighth, answer in his letter to Philip the Fair of France:—"Scire to volumus, quod in spiritualibus et temporalibus nobis subes." "We wish you to know that in all things spiritual and temporal, you must knock under to us. Body, soul and spirit, you are at the mercy of our dictation, and freedom of opinion is not to be tolerated or even thought of. The same modest Churchman had the assurance to declare, "that it is an article of faith, necessary to salvation, to believe that every human creature is subject to the Roman Pontiff."
And this pretension is based on a saying of Jesus to Peter:—"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church." Never was play upon words followed by such disastrous sequents. There is nothing to show that Peter was ever at Rome, although it must be admitted that Rome has proved to be a rock—a rock on which common sense has split and foundered, to the serious damage of all concerned.page 102
A feeble-minded high churchman, operating against education through the papers, fears that Rationalism will be one of the calamitous results of the modern system; and we sincerely hope that his fears may prove to be well founded. If Rationalism means anything at all, it means the exercise of our reasoning faculties; and, if so, we should like to know how the objector arrived at the conclusion that Rationalism was objectionable without using his rational powers, such as they are. Paul says, "Prove all things;" but this irrational says, "Eyes you have, therefore be sure that you always keep them shut. Ears you have, but hear not! Follow me!" A rare chance, it must be admitted, had we happened to have been frogs; but as we are not amphibious, the humid state of our ditches just now is not at all to our taste; and having learnt that the inevitable goal of such blind guidance as that kindly proffered is much more aqueous and muddy than agreeable, we beg to decline the invitation with thanks.
Rationalism, at any rate, was not one of the sins of the times when the Papacy had reached its palmiest era. Under the influence of a tyrannical priesthood, intellect was as torpid, as inactive and as unreasoning as our high churchman could well desire. And what was the consequence? Why, that the Pope of the day succeeded in enforcing all his claims, unwarrantable and monstrous though they were. Not content with being the head of the Church, not content with ranking as a temporal prince in his own dominions, the Pope must lord it over all the princes of the earth, and Pope Pius the Fifth, in his bull, In cæna Domini, of the year 1567, declares that all princes who shall introduce into their dominions any new taxes of what nature soever they be, or shall increase the ancient ones without having first obtained the approbation of the Holy See, are, ipso facto, excommunicated. This is pretty well; but another modest son of the Church ventures a step further even than Pius the Fifth, and declares "tantum sacerdos præstat regi quantum homo bestiæ"—that a priest is as much above a king as a man is above a beast.
And how much misery would the world have been spared had the unwarrantable assumptions of the Holy See been tested by reason, and resisted as they ought to have been in limine. But they were not, and the consequence was that eventually the majority of the reigning Sovereigns of Europe found it convenient to acknowledge the priestly usurper as "Sovereign Lord of all the Earth." The acknowledged Lord and Master of the Pope had declared that his Kingdom was not of this world, and this is the way the Pope made it manifest.
It must be admitted, however, that if the exactions of the Pope were enormous, he was not always ungrateful. Royal submission did not always pass unrewarded, and the exemplary generosity of the Pope to the Spanish Monarchy on the discovery of the New World is worthy of passing notice. The page 103 Pope had doubtless as much right to South America as he had to the moon, and no more; nevertheless, generous with what did not belong to him, he did not hesitate to hand over to Spain an amount of territory that exceeded the vast regions possessed by the Russian Empire, or the British possessions in Asia. We all know the horrible sequents to this nefarious transaction-how fatal it was to the unhappy inhabitants of these vast territories, who, though void of offence, were slaughtered to the verge of extermination in the name of the Lord. Under pretence of converting the heathen, kings and princes were slaughtered right and left, their subjects sharing their cruel fate till the vast country was all but depopulated, a remnant only being saved to operate as Gibeonites—as hewers of wood and drawers of water—for the benefit of their conquerors, the amiable and Christian-like nominees of the Pope. But it is an old and often-told story and we dismiss it, remarking that since God made man a fouler iniquity never invited the wrath of Heaven; an iniquity, too, perpetrated with the sanction and under the auspices of a Church which still, as ever, is plotting and conspiring against the liberties of mankind.
The last despotic dodge of this domineering Church is the attempt to secure the assent of the Council to the dogma that asserts the infallibility of the Pope. In a very few words we shall attempt to expose this ridiculous pretension, and show that it is not proof against the test of rational examination. We do not know whether the members of the Council discuss the infallibility of the Pope with their backs to the sun or not, but certain it is they ought to be ashamed to look that luminary in the face, as we shall presently make manifest.
It is pretended that the Pope represents two distinct powers—Temporal and Spiritual sovereignty. In the exercise of the former, as a man, he may err; but as a Spiritual Sovereign, representing God, who thinks and acts and determines through him, he is necessarily infallible. Very well. But when the Pope in 1638 sent Galileo to the prison of the Inquisition, he determined beyond a doubt that the question at issue between Galileo and himself was a spiritual one, and one, therefore, no which he was necessarily infallible. Hid he on that occasion prove himself infallible, or will Pius the Ninth venture to maintain that Urban the Eighth was the mouth-piece of the Almighty when he declared that Galileo was pestilently wrong, and that the doctrine that taught that the Earth went round the Sun was a damnable heresy? Galileo, it is true, was obliged to eat humble pie, and to subscribe that which he knew to be untrue in obedience to the tyrannical dictation of the Pope; but time has vindicated Galileo and the Copernican system which he advocate!. and has incontestably proved that the Pope, in spite of his infallibility, was egregiously wrong. To be candid, however, we will admit that Urban in spite of his tyranny was not page 104 altogether useless in his day and generation. He certainly made the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope about as contemptible as he was himself, a point, such as it is, decidedly in his favour.
But leaving the Pope to the enjoyment of his infallibility, let us again turn to the test possessed by every natural being, and in virtue of which he is solemnly adjured to "prove all things." When God created the lower animals he provided them with instincts calculated to assist in their preservation and well-being; but to man he gave intelligence of a higher order. He made him a rational being. But he not only made him rational, he also provided that his reason should be exercised only on invariable data so far as related to the laws of nature; and we may be certain that whenever God interferes in mundane matters it will always be in strict accordance with the laws of nature. The supernatural and the antinatural will never, at the instance of the Almighty, be allowed to bewilder human intellect; and we therefore insist that the supernatural and the antinatural shall not be allowed to sustain and bolster any historical narrative that we deem it expedient to test. Nor do we claim more than our Courts of Justice demand. Miracles cannot be proved because they are based on the supernatural, which will not pass muster with the gentlemen of the long robe. The last woman that was tried in England for witchcraft was sent about her business, because the judge declined the antinatural. When the prosecutor was asked how he know that the accused was a witch, he replied that he had seen her travelling with her heels up in the air. "A singular taste, truly," remarked the judge, "but she had violated no law that he was aware of, and the witness was at liberty to indulge in the same strange mode of locomotion if he thought fit and proper, and with perfect impunity so far as the law was concerned." In short the judge laughed at the bumpkin, and declined to accept evidence that was based on the supernatural.
But admitting the supernatural, how is imposture to be detected? How is the liar to be checkmated and exposed if we concede all that is required to secure him against detection and exposure? Eliminate the supernatural, however, and how many solemn facts paraded in all the pomp and dignity of genuine history degenerate into palpable fiction of the most contemptible order?
We shall briefly allude to one of those historical facts, for we may as well confess that we have not left ourselves room enough to deal with the subject that we proposed to ourselves when we initiated the present paper. It was our intention to show that the biblical narrative of the origin of the Universe is nothing but fiction from beginning to end; and that so far from our first parents involving the whole race in ruin by sin the narrative is pregnant with data warranting the conclusion that they committed no sin whatever. It is rather late in the day to move an page 105 arrest of judgment; but it is some satisfaction to find that our very respectable and much respected originators have been condemned in error.
We must, however, abandon that subject, however tempting, for the present, and deal with another requiring fewer words and less room. The Pope with his usual rapacity has run away with most of our space, so we must hasten briefly to crave attention to the narrative connected with the standing still of the Sun upon Gibeon, with a view of showing that it is a fiction of the utterly impossible order. On referring to the Book of Joshua, it will be seen that the historian's notion of the sun was the same as that of Pope Urban and Ptolemy, the astronomer of Alexandria, namely, that the Sun went round the Earth; and consistently with this view of the matter it is recorded, "So the Sun stood still in the midst of heaven and hasted not to go down about a whole day." The historian then goes on to say with captivating simplicity, "And there was no day like that before it or after it." We are happy to say that we are in perfect accord with the historian with regard to his last statement. Our opinion is that there never was nor ever could be such a day as described, except in the fertile imagination of the historian himself, and for the following reasons:—To present the appearance, gravely recorded, of the Sun not going down, the Earth must have stood stock still. But the consequence of the earth declining to rotate on its axis as usual, would be that every building on the face of the earth would be prostrated with not one stone left upon another; and to mend matters, this universal dilapidation would be accompanied by a wind that would have out-chaosed chaos—a wind blowing at the rate of hundreds of miles an hour. The earth rotates on its axis at the rate of a thousand miles per hour; but suddenly arrested in its rotation, the accompanying atmosphere would rush over the surface with a velocity easier imagined than described, but certainly to the destruction of all created beings within its influence.
But to effect the sudden stoppage of the earth's diurnal rotation, the earth itself must be suddenly brought within the influence of some enormous mass of foreign matter; and then again to persuade the earth into its usual rotation, another enormous mass must be called upon to operate in a contrary direction to the other attraction named. The moon, too, would necessarily be thrown out of gear, and would probably be absorbed by one of the two extraneous masses of matter that are to produce such astounding effects. In short, the Solar System is to be deranged, and it is all brought about because a handful of Jews are in full chase of a few Syrians with the view of exterminating them.
As the story relates to the Hebrews, we commend it to the acceptance of our old friend Apella. He may possibly believe it. We cannot. "Credat Judæus Apella, non ego."