The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8
At a time when every English homo mourns the loss of Charles Dickens, Sydney, we regret to say, has acquired an unenviable singularity by the fact that her Anglican Bishop has, at a public meeting, thought fit to cast a sneer at the name of a man whom his queen desired to honour, whose memory is enshrined in the loving hearts of thousands, and whose mortal remains have, with the universal approval of his countrymen, been entombed in Westminster Abbey. Humiliating ourselves, as we must and do, under the disgrace which has thus befallen the community, we should yet make an effort "to look our children in the face" if only to remind them, from the proceeding we allude to, of the danger there exists of the heart becoming chilled, and the spirit of true Christianity extinguished, under the blighting influence of a sanctimonious but cold and narrow-minded bigotry. In our deep regard for the moral and religious influence diffused throughout the civilised world by the writings of Charles Dickens as sanctifying his intellect and his creed alike, we, therefore, take the liberty of informing Dr. Barker that in alluding to the great litterateur as a man of "unconsecrated intellect," he showed his ignorance of what truly constitutes a consecrated intellect, and committed himself to a statement which, he may rest assured, will neither consecrate nor render attractive the source from which it emanated. Our Bishop, in truth, would like us to believe that consecration of intellect, or the direction of the faculties of the intellect to high and sacred ends, is achievable by none but reputed saints, especially those who belong to the religious sect of which his lordship happens to be a titled representative. A miserable conceit, we must say, in any man, but provokingly so in one whose claim to consecration is promptly and even contemptuously disallowed by the largest and most influential section (the Roman Catholic) of the Christian Church. Apart from this consideration, however, how mean and stunted must be the mind that piously disowns fellowship with the glorious host of thinkers and doers who, without identifying themselves with any church, have earnestly and unceasingly laboured to elevate and bless their fellow-creatures. It is pleasing to find at least, one bishop recognising the services of such, and page 218 speaking of Dickens as one who "preached not in a church nor from a pulpit, but in a style and fashion of his own—a gospel, a cheery, joyous, gladsome message, which the people understood, and by which they could hardly help being bettered . . . . We might not," continued the Bishop of Manchester, "have been able to subscribe to the same creed in relation to God, but I think we should have subscribed to the same creed in relation to man. He who has taught us our duty to men better than we knew it before; who knew so well how to weep with them that weep and to rejoice with them that rejoice; who has shown, with all his knowledge of the dark corners of the earth, how much sunshine may rest on the lowliest lot; who had such evident sympathy with suffering, such a love of innocence, such a natural instinct of purity, that there is scarcely a page of the thousands he has written which might not be put into the hands of a little child, may be regarded by those who recognise the diversity of the gifts of the spirit as a teacher sent from God." More than this in defence, or rather in eulogy of Charles Dickens we need not attempt to say. But we may remind Dr. Barker how much he would add to his episcopal dignity by cordially joining the foremost of mankind in their crusade against human degradation in every shape, instead of sneering at them from his obscure corner of the vineyard of usefulness, simply because they do not flaunt the badge of his own or of any religious sect. Let him, turning his attention to the moral condition of the diocese over which he presides, but place himself in the van of those who would strike at the root of the vice and misery with which it undeniably abounds; let him address himself to the elevation and protection of the community by not only advocating the claims of a pure morality, but by trying to enforce them in the face of a corrupt and unprincipled though influential majority, and he will find himself engaged in a work which, if faithfully and heartily done, will abundantly consecrate the worker.
To the edification of the faithful and the signal discomfiture of unbelievers, Science, as we learn from a work by Dr. Mortimore, of America, entitled "The Spirit of God as Fire; the Globe within the Sun our Heaven," has once more confirmed, and this time in a very remarkable manner, the truths of Revelation. Foremost, for example, among these truths is the existence of a place where the souls of the lost, saturated with fire and brimstone, are to spend an eternity of woe, and of another place where the souls of the redeemed, immersed in delights of every kind and degree, are to enjoy never-ending bliss. Revelation, moreover, can be adduced in support of the notion that heaven and hell are separated by a "great gulf" across which the saved and the damned can not only see but actually converse, as did Abraham and the rich man, with each other. Hitherto, the most rigid scripturalists have been willing to regard this portraiture of the future state as mere allegory, but recent astronomical discoveries, it seems, have proved it true to the letter. Arming himself with Science in defence of Revelation, Dr. Mortimore points out that the hell of the lost must be the immense layer of burning gas or matter with which the sun is now known to be surrounded, and which as being capable of indefinite expansion will furnish ample accommodation for the myriads of reprobate spirits that are destined to occupy it. Heaven, on the other hand, is the inner globe of the sun, between which and the outer page 219 hell is the "great gulf" which, as being an excellent conductor of light and sound, will allow both saints and sinners to see and hear across it. Of course the celestial space is limited, but, allowing twenty cubic feet to each redeemed soul, Dr. Mortimore, after close calculation, finds there will be room for the ransomed, both from the earth and from the other planets of the solar system. The most alarming feature of this arrangement is, that the saints, in order to get to heaven, must pass through hell, unless, indeed, the dark openings in the photosphere, generally known as the solar spots, may permit of their making the perilous transit without getting singed. Should it come to the worst, however, it is comforting to know, that as the passage of a soul from earth to heaven (over 90,000,000 miles) will be performed in about five minutes, so its momentary flight through a few hundred thousand miles of flame will not be more hazardous than the passage of one's finger through the flame of a candle. But we refrain from giving further details; enough having probably been said to convince the most sceptical of our readers that the God whom Jesus portrays as loving the sinner to the utmost, and even Moses can speak of as "merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness," is after all a consuming or rather unconsuming fire.
Consistently with his denominational predilections, Mr. John Campbell proposed the other day, in the Upper House, the exhibition of the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer in every school-room in the colony. The proposition was treated with all the respect due to it—that is to say, it was declined. For ourselves, we do not share Mr. Campbell's anxiety in this matter; yet, as a sort of consolation to the disappointed legislator, we would suggest that both the Credo and the Prayer be exhibited as prominently as possible in Campbell's Bonded Warehouse, and for the following reasons:—the Merwanjee Framjee, Captain Bidwell, from Liverpool, is now discharging at Campbell's Wharf; and Messrs. Campbell and Co.—of which respectable firm Mr. John Campbell is the honoured head—have, or had, on board fifty hogsheads of rum, which they are bonding in their own warehouse for sale to any who have no scruples in distributing the maddening beverage. Now, the Lord's Prayer solicits God not to lead us into temptation; but we apprehend that there is an awful amount of temptation in fifty hogsheads of rum, as well as an awful amount of potential madness, distress and ruin. We, therefore, further propose that every cask on leaving the warehouse shall be ornamented with the Apostles' Creed nailed on to it at one end, and the Lord's Prayer at the other, merely for the purpose of counteracting in some degree the mischief-making properties of the liquor, and of showing also that piety and patriotism do not at all times harmonise quite so much as is desirable.
The Bishops in Convocation having unanimously decided that our authorised version of the Bible shall undergo revision, and the "Companies" selected for the task, one for the revision of the Old Testament and the other for that of the New, having commenced operations, we shall, barring mishaps, soon be in possession of a Bible which, without receiving the sanction of Parliament, or supplanting the edition of 1611 as that "appointed to be read in Churches," will assuredly commend itself to the largo and increasing number of English-speaking people who are so far emancipated from bibliolatry, as to perceive page 220 that the value of the Bible will be greatly enhanced by the application of modern scholarship to a notoriously vicious rendering of its original text. That the mass of Christians should take this view of the matter is, of course, not to be expected. Trained, as they have been, to regard the very letter of the Bible as the actual word of God, and to appeal to it as determining, by a phrase or a word as it may be, the gravest questions of religious controversy, it will scarcely accord with their feelings to find that some favourite text or other belongs to an interpolated passage, or to one, the canonical genuineness of which is very doubtful. Strange as it may appear, it will not, we think, be questioned that the mass of Christians have yet to realise the fact that our Bible is a translation into English from other languages, effected by scholars whose erudition was not of the highest, and whose materials for the work of a good translation were notoriously deficient; one result of this ignorance being that scholars, in venturing to point out some of the thousands of inaccuracies that are known to disfigure the authorised version, have hitherto been shunned and scouted as infidels. There is reason to believe that the publication of the Convocation Bible will greatly help to dispel this popular delusion, and also to prepare the minds of men for the fact that besides these inaccuracies there are in the Bible interpolated passages and even interpolated books, which need not necessarily be expunged, but the true character of which the wayfaring man has a right to know. Why should ninety-nine out of every hundred readers of the Bible be allowed to believe that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, or that the Book of Daniel was written by the prophet of that name who lived during the Captivity, or that John the disciple wrote both the fourth gospel and the Apocalypse—when these and other questions of the kind are answered by scholars in the negative? What we want is not so much a new Bible as a little "more light" thrown upon the one we have.
As our readers may have noticed, the question of Biblical Revision has brought that stern and uncompromising champion of undefiled orthodoxy, Archdeacon Denison, once more to the front. Regarding the proposed revision as in itself a calamity of no small dimensions, what shocks and pains him to the utmost is, that the Bishops should have so far forgotten themselves as to decide upon inviting "the co-operation of any persons eminent for scholarship, to whatever nation or religious body they may belong." In the debate, accordingly, which took place upon this clause in the Lower House of Convocation, the Archdeacon moved as an amendment that Jews and all who did not believe in the divinity of Christ should be excluded from taking part in the revision. The impudence of this proposal was sufficient to secure its rejection. The Jews, for whom the insult was specially intended, were warmly defended by Dean Alford and others as a people worthy of all respect, and as the "inheritors of a great posit ion." But, apart from this, who so qualified, or who so entitled, to have a hand in translating and in determining the drift of the Hebrew Scriptures as educated members of the race by whom and for whom they were written? True, the Jews, in common with many Christians, deny the divinity of the founder of Christianity; and this it is which arouses the Archdeacon's alarm, and evokes his indignant repudiation of any such heathenish assistance in the work of translating the Old Testament. He page 221 knows, well enough, that of the many allusions to Christ in the chapter headings—allusions for the most part as utterly false as they are ridiculously far-fetched—not one, under the application of a fair and honourable criticism, would be permitted to stand. To say nothing of the chapter headings to the Psalms and the Prophetical books, how can we address ourselves, without being angry, to the moral taste and critical discrimination which could find in the Song of Solomon—an amatory ode from an oriental prince to his mistress not untarnished by lewdness—"the mutual love of Christ and his Church!" The lady of this love-song, in describing her lover, is made to say: "My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest. among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh." But who but the translators of the Bible would have discovered or dreamt of discovering in this amatorial outburst "a description of Christ by his graces." Or what man in his senses would suspect that the statement "We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? "referred to" the calling of the Gentiles/" In a word, this absurd and unwarrantable introduction into the chapter headings of evangelical comments upon statements which, with equal fairness, might be referred to Luther or Washington as to Jesus, is an abuse and, to some extent, an imposture which cries aloud for rectification; and we do but hope that some member of the revising companies will have the courage and the honesty to call attention to it.
We have a considerable liking for the Rev. Thomas Smith, of St. Barnabas' Church, both as a man and as a preacher; nor, but for this, should we trouble ourselves to remind him that a good cause like that which he undoubtedly has at heart can hardly be served by methods of raising money which, however consistent with the jesuitical principle that the end justifies the means, are anything but reputable when looked at from a high moral stand-point. For the furtherance of religious enterprise money must, of course, be forthcoming; but we are quite sure that a man of Mr. Smith's tact, ability and perseverance, has resources at his command for raising what he requires without descending to appeals such as the one he made the other night to the members of his church. "You must clear off to-night that little church-debt of four hundred odd," said Mr. Smith at the festive gathering held in honour of his return from England, "or I shall be unable to go on with the work of 'winning souls for Christ;'" an appeal which, without forcing an interpretation, we take to mean—"Come, down with the cash, my beloved brethren, or to not a soul of you can I promise salvation."The response of the flock to their pastor was, naturally enough, a large sum of money subscribed by persons of for the most part very slender means, and who, but for this adroit but, in our opinion, discreditable manipulation of their hopes and fears, would probably and properly have refrained from giving what they were not in a position to give. Mr. Smith, again, may be able to call to mind the fierce rebuke we once heard him administer to those who, in view of the "collection," turned their shillings into sixpences or even threepenny pieces, thinking that the Lord would be satisfied with the smaller coin page 222 when they might have given him the larger. We refuse, however, to believe that the Lord is of the same money-grasping turn as the mass of his accredited servants, or that the lesson which Jesus drew from the poor woman and her two mites has ceased to be morally significant. Mr. Smith is often alluded to as the poor man's preacher. Let him, then, respect the feelings of the poor; not forgetting that a missed but cheerfully-given sixpence is a much more acceptable offering to the Lord than any unmissed and grudgingly-given pound. As a "winner of souls for Christ," he will also do well not to parade his calling so much. We can assure him that sensible men are heartly sick of such canting utterances, and are often moved by them to withhold what would otherwise have been a helping hand.
Pope Pius the Ninth having, by the promulgation of the dogma of Infallibility, been pronounced incapablé of error, the next move, we presume, will be the promulgation of another dogma affirming the exemption of his Holiness from disease and death. The latter proclamation, in truth, would be not a whit less absurd than the former; and for ourselves, we must say that, in view of the outrageous silliness of the Infallibility dogma, we find a difficulty in understanding the great religious stir it has created. Because five or six hundred elderly gentlemen, after a considerable spell of genuine cackle, choose to vote and proclaim one of their number incapable of making mistakes, is it, therefore, so? Is their placet hoc omnibus of the slightest weight when poised against a grain of common sense? Is it of the slightest authority when measured against the moral and mental forces which in these days make and influence public opinion? We trow not. There was no occasion, therefore, for the Protestant hubbub that has arisen. Romanism, being in her dotage, is consequently garrulous, and may surely be allowed the privilege of talking, in consideration of the fact that her talk will soon be over. Protestantism, moreover, as we often take occasion to point out, has a pet little infallibility of her own, which, although of ancient standing, is quite as much opposed to reason and the spirit of the age as is the infallibility with which the (Ecumenical Council has just invested the Pope. Bible-worship, we take it, is just as indefensible as Church-worship or Pope-worship, and as for the blasphemy involved in such proceedings, we are bold to say the oracularising of a body of tradition, however valuable in itself, at the expense and to the dethronement of the living oracles of reason and the conscience is by far the greater blasphemy of the two.
Thanks to the eloquence of that rising barrister-at-law, Mr. David Buchanan, and the discernment of the jury who were impannelled to try the Anatomical Museum case, Sydney, more fortunate than Melbourne, has been left in possession of a Temple of Science and Morality, the closing of which would, as Mr. Buchanan forcibly and patriotically pointed out, have been a serious, if not an irreparable, loss to the community. How near this calamity was befalling us may be inferred from the fact that several medical practitioners of high standing and eminent ministers of the gospel—all good but obviously mistaken men—gave it as their opinion that the Museum was bad both in character and in tendency, and that its high-minded proprietor had other and less unselfish ends to serve than the moral and intellectual elevation of the page 223 people. Mr. Buchanan, however, quickly demolishing these frivolous objections, found no difficulty in convincing the jury that every town should have its Anatomical Museum, where the young, taking counsel from displays of retributive disease, may learn wisdom betimes, and be deterred from falling into mischief. How, indeed, should it be otherwise? How better apprise the nose of the deleterious effects of disgusting stinks than by bringing that organ into close contact with them? or wean off our young men from the bestialising effects of intemperance than by letting them spend an hour occasionally in some low tap-room? It is clear, therefore, that the thanks of the community are due to Mr. Buchanan for pointing out, so convincingly as he has done, the deterrent character of a class of exhibitions which have hitherto been shunned by squeamish and would-be-virtuous people as; dens of imposture and nastiness; and under these circumstances it is of course our duty, notwithstanding that one reverend gentleman's visit to the Pitt Street Institute made him "quite ill for hours afterwards," to advise our readers to go there without delay, especially as the proprietor, disgusted no doubt at our thickheadedness and ingratitude, is threatening us with only another week of it.