Free Discussion, in the Bendigo Evening News.
A Spirited controversy has lately taken, place in the columns of the Bendigo Evening News, upon certain lectures delivered at Sandhurst, by the Rev. James Nish, in reply to Mr. G. C. Leech, the popular lay preacher of Universalism at Castlemaine. The discussion brought interpellations into the field from various parts of Victoria. Some pungent criticisms upon the Rev. James Nish's lectures came from the pen of a "A Distant Reader," and evoked among other rejoinders, one from "Fairplay," to which "Another Distant Reader," replied from Melbourne. The two letters last indicated are now re-printed by request of several persons; some of whom desire, while others challenge, refutation of the views so freely and suggestively expressed by "Another Distant Reader," in the conviction that free discussion is the best if not the only way to eliminate truth.
Bendigo Evening News, 18th August, 1870.
Sir,—I observed by "Distant Reader's" last communication through your columns, that he is quite prepared to answer or explain any question announced by him in previous letters in connection with the Rev. James Nish's lectures. The Rev. gentleman in concluding one of his lectures, stated "that the Bible must have been "written by good men or angels, or by bad men or devils; "if not by those, then it must have been written by the "inspiration of God."
Another question I would ask "Distant Reader" to explain, which Mr. Nish dwelt largely upon,—" The Origin of Evil." How has sin come into the world, if not in the way the Bible represents it ? Evil does exist in the world—how has it been created ? "Will "Distant Reader" inform me where he gets his ideas of God from, if not page 2 from the Bible ? If "Distant Reader" will answer these questions he will oblige,
Yours, Fairplay.18th August, 1870.
Bendigo Evening News, 23rd. August, 1870.A Few Words in Answer to Fairplay.
Sir—I see by your paper that a correspondent, signing himself "Fairplay," wants answers from some "Distant "Reader" to three questions, which should, I think, puzzle the most distant Reader you have; for I believe that the wisest men at our antipodes have never been able to give generally satisfactory replies to them. However, with your permission, I have a word or two to say in answer to him.
And as to the first question,—"Fairplay" only repeats a confused assertion of Mr. Nish's respecting the authorship of the Bible, and omits to ask his own question about it. We are left to guess it, as Daniel had to guess as well as to interpret Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Is thy servant a Daniel that he should do this thing ? Was such a demand ever made by anyone beside Nebuchadnezzar, unless perhaps Pharaoh, when he demanded bricks without furnishing straw? Possibly "Fairplay" may think clay would have answered for the bricks; and if clay and spittle can make the blind to see, I'll first spit in my fist of mortal clay, and let us see what we shall see.
Let us take Mr. Nish's positive assertion for our straw, with which to make our bricks, and see whether it be worth a straw, in default of "Fail-play's" unstated question. "The Bible must have been written by good men or angels, or by bad men or devils; if not by those, then it must have been written by the inspiration of God." So this exhausts the category of possibilities ! Dr. Bromby said in his late lecture (page 15, lines 34-5) that "instinct is nothing else than a direct inspiration from the Almighty." If this be so, then why may not the Bible have been written by Balaam's ass ? or any other ass ? But Mr. Nish is certainly not Dr. Bromby. Dismissing the idea that the Bible could have been written by devils page 3 or angels, as I never heard it proposed by anyone but Mr. Nish, and I scarcely think he did it seriously; and assuming Mr. Nish's last alternative to be correct that the Bible was written by inspiration of God; does Mr. Nish, or will "Fairplay" maintain, that it was not then effected by the intervention of men, good, bad, or indifferent ? I think not; for God would scarcely put the names of men to books that he had written himself; and I presume that Mr. Nish will hardly charge him with such degrading forgery. Well—if then the Bible must be confessed to have been written by men, what ground is there for saying that the inspiration of God had any hand in it ? We know that this device has been hit upon by every hierophant from Moses to Mormon—from the Sybils to Joe Smith—by every one in fact, who wished to give to his own sayings a higher authority than his own, to command the attention, which otherwise he could not expect, of men like himself. Who says the book of Mormon was written by inspiration of God, but the human writer of it, and those upon whom he imposed ? Can it be affirmed that the inspiration of God ever did, or can speak to man otherwise than through a man ? (unless Balaam's ass?) And what possible evidence can we therefore have that the inspiration of God so speaks at all, unless the bare assertion of the man himself, and those who believe in him ? I let "Fairplay" have these suggestions instead of answers, as he asked no question. Let my suggestions then have fairplay—and I think the answer will not be far to seek.
The second question concerns "the Origin of evil," and, "how has Sin come into the world, if not in the way "the Bible represents it ? Evil "does exist in the world "—how has it been created ?" But the Bible gives entirely different accounts of it. (See Isaiah XLV. 7.) "I "make peace, and create evil; 7, the Lord do all these "things." Here is plainly the origin of evil; and is not Sin evil ? Genesis says Sin came by a snake persuading a woman to eat an apple. If the woman was deluded she was a sufferer—not sinner. And the Snake—well—if the snake was evil—who made it, with knowledge that it would delude the woman ? Was not Isaiah right, if Genesis be true ? and who thus is the originator of Sin, and, therefore the Sole Sinner? Will it he [unclear: assorted (without] page 4 authority) that it was not a snake, but the Devil ? Well —who made the Devil—deliberately—with full knowledge of all the awful evil consequences ? Who was thus the creator—consciously—of the first and greatest evil—and was, therefore, the first and greatest sinner ? I stand by Isaiah !
The third question is, where did "Distant Reader," get his "ideas of God from, if not from the Bible ?" Where did the first human writer of the Bible get his ? Not from the Bible, which he had not yet begun to write. And if his conceptions of God were superior to those of "Distant "Reader," of what worth are the Christian experience and literature, accumulated through eighteen subsequent centuries ? But what were his notions of God ? That he tried—and ineffectually—to keep from man the knowledge of good and evil, (Gen. II III.) That he put a lying spirit in the mouths of prophets, (I Kings, XXII 23, Ezekiel XIV. 9.) That he called himself the friend, and approved the conduct of Abraham; who told vile, cowardly, deliberate lies, for which the punishment was visited on innocent persons with their households, (Gen. XX. 2.) That he hated Esau,—(Romans IX, 13.) one of the noblest characters mentioned in the Old Testament, and loved and blessed Jacob ! Who deliberately swindled and robbed his famishing and open-hearted brother, (Gen. XXV, and XXVII) cheated and lied to his dying father, (XXVII) and dictated impious terms to his God, as those only on which he would recognise him, (Gen. XXVIII, 20, 4.) That for an error of Saul—long dead—he inflicted three years of famine on the land of Israel, and would not be entreated for the land, till seven innocent men had been sacrificed to him ! (II Samuel XXI, 9, 14.) The God of "Fairplay" is, I devoutly trust, an entirely different God from that of the Bible!
I think I have already trespassed sufficiently upon your patience, and that it is unnecessary at present to expand further my replies to "Fairplay's" questions. I am, Sir, yours obediently,
Another Distant Reader.Melbourne, 22nd Agust, 1870
For Private Circulation only.