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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

The Prostration of Reason

The Prostration of Reason.

Sir,—In a recent number of the Spectator I find a letter containing a very remarkable statement as to the religious belief of the late Professor Faraday. According to the writer, that eminent philosopher being asked how he, being such a man as he was, could still retain the creed which he professed to believe, replied in the following terms: "I prostrate my reason in these matters; if I were to reason on these questions as I do on scientific subjects, I should become an unbeliever." Now, Sir, I have no quarrel with the truthfulness of this assert ion; so far from it, I think these few words of the illustrious professor contain the only and sufficient explanation of the fact, that in this year of grace, 1870, the old-established creeds are able to boast of some remains of life and strength even amongst educated people. But it seems to me very strange that forms of belief which require the prostration of reason, should pretend to be based to a great extent upon the writings of a man so singularly argumentative as the Apostle Paul. May not this be explained by the fact that students of theology are taught to pick out texts which are in favour of their foregone conclusions, and to ignore all that make on the other side? There is, however, one question to which I should like to have an answer from the champions of orthodoxy: What is the use of all the vast expenditure of money by the Society for the propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts, by the various Missionary Societies, and the Society for the Conversion of the Jews, in order to extend the influence of creeds which require a prostration of reason? Why, Sir, if I prostrate my body on the ground, I would as soon be run over by a baker's cart as by a gentleman's buggy. And if my reason is to be prostrate, it may as well be so before Mahomet as before the Pope, before Buddha as before Calvin. And with what face can missionaries call upon Hindoos, Chinese, Malays and Maories to give up their so-called false gods? How can missionaries prove them to be false? They may call them stocks and stones, but what then? If reason is prostrate, why should not men worship stocks and stones? The savage man (if he were but a reader of the Spectator) might look the missionary in the face and say: "You call me foolish for worshipping this image. Well; page 120 but your great Christian medicine-man owned himself a fool in his worship; he prostrated his reason, and why should not I? So in worship we are all fools together; as your father worshipped, so do you; as my father worshipped, so do I—say no more." Can the orthodox Christian answer this savage? I think not. It is easier to call names than to answer arguments; and perhaps the use of vituperation instead of argument is a striking characteristic of the prostration of reason.


You look upon the gospel as it stands as the divinest truth; but an audible voice, from heaven would not convince me, that water burns and fire quenches and that a dead man comes to life; on the contrary, I hold this to be blaspheming against the great God and his revelation in nature. To you, nothing is more beautiful than the gospel; to me, a thousand written pages of ancient and modern men are equally beautiful, as well as useful and indispensable to mankind.—Goethe.

I cannot call it anything else than an injustice and a robbery, that you pluck out every precious feather from the whole winged creation under heaven, as if they had been usurped, for the purpose of adorning your bird of Paradise exclusively. This is a proceeding which must necessarily offend and appear insufferable to us who are devoted scholars of every utterance of wisdom revealed by and to man, to us who, as sons of God, adore Him in ourselves and in all his children.—Goethe.

Piety leaves false things standing, and, therefore, I hate it.—Goethe.

So long as Christianity is considered as something given from without, its Author as literally heaven-descended, the Church as a machinery for procuring the expiation of human offences through His blood, Christianity, though claiming to be the religion of the Spirit, must remain unspiritual, and in fact Jewish. Only when it is seen that in Christianity man did but become more deeply conscious of his own true nature, that Jesus was the individual in whom the deeper consciousness first became a supreme all-pervading influence, that redemption means but the advent of such a disposition and its inward adoption as our very life-blood, then only is Christianity really and thoroughly understood.—Strauss.

With all his doubts he never doubted God;
But from doubt gathered truth, like snow from cloud,
The most, and whitest, from the darkest.

P. J. Bailey.