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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 16


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I Am induced to write the following critique from having had my attention called to a pamphlet by the Right Reverend the Anglican Bishop of Wellington upon the subject of miracles.

My objects in doing so are:
1.To point out the fallaciousness of his Lordship's definitions of miracles.
2.To show that the arguments advanced to prove that miracles are not against reason are fallacious.
3.To show that an acceptance of all the statements of the Bible is not, as implied by the author, necessary for a belief in the Divine authority of that book.

In the course of this work I shall endeavour to show that science, in place of being antagonistic to religious emotions, absolutely promotes and guides them aright; that she only arrays herself against those errors and absurdities ingrained in every system of belief which is built up in gross ignorance of God's works.

Before going over the Bishop's work I feel it necessary, for the sake of the large human interests I attempt to subserve and promote, to notice in general terms the character of that correspondence, which, as his Lordship indicates, led him to publish his views, as it shows the spirit in which, unfortunately, this kind of correspondence is usually carried on.

The correspondence cited rose out of a chance sentence of a reviewer, intended to support the idea that some of our highest scientific knowledge was known to the ancients, which is quite true, without being discreditable to modern scientists, as will be seen. The sentence to which I refer described the alleged miracle of the sun standing still at Joshua's command as an "eclipse."

Forthwith a letter from one signing himself (as it seems incorrectly) "A Christian" appeared, combating the reviewer more by force of abuse than of logic. The question was therefore left about where it was; but the letter remains, "even to this day," a choice sample of the true anti-Christian spirit, and of nonconformity of practice with profession. Afterwards we had the advent on this mimic battle-field, in a peaceful character, of an astronomical theologian of high standing, who, boldly stepping one foot out of orthodoxy, explained the miracle nearly away by assuming that the page iv appearance of the sun and moon standing still was in fact simply an optical illusion. The ghost of this miracle so left he re-embodied in a kind of meteorological forecast, from which harmless position I apprehend none of us wish to displace it. In support of this novel view the Biblical statement in question was manipulated with that freedom and skill which long practice gives. Amendments and compromises of this nature, however, carried out upon the Bible as a whole, would tend very much towards staying that feeling of unbelief in it unfortunately so prevalent, and I should be glad to see a commentary of this sort undertaken, or even to assist in those portions requiring any professional knowledge which I can give.

I cannot, by the way, avoid thinking that the objects of his Lordship's present work are the reconversion of this erring brother to the true, the immutable faith, and the counteraction of any influence which this heretical rendering of the "Word may have had.

Besides the above-mentioned letters, several able ones appeared representing the various opinions upon the matter of those who will neither have thought enslaved, nor spare others who allow it. With the exception of the one letter by "A Christian," all are very courteous in their tone; so much for the spirit of Modern Christianity as represented in this correspondence.

I write under the thin disguise taken here, not that I fear to avow my opinions, but that they may go forth for a time free from personal considerations. It would have been more in my usual style to act otherwise, for surely no one should be ashamed to father his opinions upon debatable points, and, indeed, such a course is only due to a gentleman who has stepped out in the manful way the Bishop has done to champion popular opinion.

Should my name, however, be necessary to any one desirous to controvert this brochure, I shall be happy to furnish such an one with it. At the same time, I express my determination not to bind myself to answer anybody who, under such a disguise as the one I have taken, discards that gentle-manly deportment which Christianity inculcates.

His Lordship has begun well, and it is for the interest of every one that such combatants be not driven from the field by cowardly abuse, or abuse indeed of any kind, nor yet by unfair hitting;—let us have nothing below the belt, nor raise one angry emotion to blind our judgment. In the following critique I believe I have faithfully observed the bounds which courtesy imposes.

W. W.