The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37
I come now to the consideration of those passages which attribute to God feelings or conduct unworthy of Deity, It must be observed that very many of these passages will apply equally to the third branch of our subject, namely, to instances in which wrong doing, or bad motives, are directly or indirectly inculcated upon men.
As the chief aim of this inquiry is to correct popular impressions as to the moral character of God, I pass over those passages in which God is described as walking upon earth, talking face to face with men, and even eating and drinking with them—all page 11 of which are totally at variance with our modern conceptions of the Divine Being.
In Genesis vi. 5—7, we read, "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man and beast and creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them."
Here is a degrading picture of the Almighty and All-wise God. He is represented as having made a grievous mistake, and being sorry for it. "It grieved him at his heart." He has created a race of men incurably wicked, and there is nothing for it but to destroy them. Not content, however, with destroying the wicked men and women, he must needs destroy the innocent beasts, and creeping things, and the fowls of the air, as though he could not destroy man without destroying all creation as well.
In Gen. viii. 21, after Noah's sacrifice of one of every sort of clean animals, "The Lord smelled a sweet savor; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake." Why? One would expect it was because they were now going to be good—not at all. God goes on to say, "for t he imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I smite again any more every thing living as I have done." The same reason is given for God's sparing men, as was given before for his destroying them; as much as to imply that God had acted on an impulse of savage and Indiscriminate rage, which had also proved to be futile, and when he had had time for reflection, or after being appeased by a burnt-offering, he resolved never to do so again.
In Gen. xii. 11—20, we have an account of a deliberate lie told by Abraham, in order—not to protect the honor of his wife—but to save himself from being murdered on her account. I will not read the whole passage, but ver. 17 tolls us that God punished—not Abraham for his falsehood—but poor Pharaoh for his being deceived. "The Lord plagued page 12 Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abraham's wife." Pharaoh had taken her on Abram's own statement that Sarai was his sister, and being purely innocent he was yet punished as guilty, while the cowardly and guilty Abram goes free.
In chap, xx., a similar scene is recorded between Abraham and Abimelech. King of Gerar, Sarah being dangerously beautiful at 90 odd years of age (Gen. xvii. 17). In ver. 9, Abimelech asks Abraham in reference to his falsehood, "What have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? Thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done." and yet in ver. 7, God is represented as saying to Abimelech, "Abraham is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee and thou shalt live." and in ver. 17, "So Abraham prayed unto God. And God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maid servants."
Any child in a Sunday-school would learn from this passage that God was monstrously unjust, because Abimelech had not even laid his h and upon Sarah, whereas all the wrong done, or intended, was the direct result of Abraham's lie. For the benefit of those who do not know their Bible, it is striking to observe that a similar affair is related also of Isaac and Rebekah, and Abimelech, King of Gerar, in chap. xxvi. of the same book.
We come now to the story of Abraham's sacrifice of his son Isaac (Gen. xxii.) To state it briefly, it was either wrong or right for Abraham to kill and burn his son on an altar as a sacrifice to God. If it was right, why did God stop him from doing it? It was wrong, and God knew it. Then since it was wrong to do this, it was unworthy of God to tempt Abraham to do it; to command him to do it; to keep that wicked purpose harbored in his heart all those three days of silent agony. It was horrible in a Divine Being to suggest so odious a thought as that of child-murder, and that to satisfy his own craving for human sacrifice. The whole story may be easily and satisfactorily explained by reference to the customs of the time, except that part of it which describes God as tempting Abraham, and commanding him to do a wicked deed.
We pass now to the Book of Exodus. In the page 13 Second Commandment (Exodus xx. 5), the reason urged by God against idolatry is that he is a "jealous God," i. e., jealous of the false Gods. This is not a noble trait in any human character, even though it be very natural to man; how much more, then, is it unworthy of God!
If you ask a child who has been trained in a Sunday-school, who are God's favorites among the Bible heroes, he will be sure to mention Abraham and Isaac, ready to sacrifice t he virtue of their wives for their own safety; Jacob, the fraudulent and accomplished liar; Lot, a drunkard and worse; David, addicted to bloodshed and lust; and Solomon, a notorious and wholesale profligate. This comes of your indiscriminate Bible teaching.
Exodus iii. 8, the Lord said, "I am come down to deliver them (i. e. the Israelites), out of the h and of the Egyptians (ver. 17), and to bring them into the l and of the Canaanites," etc. Ver. 18 says that God ordered Moses to say unto the King of Egypt, "Let us go, we beseech thee, three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God."
What is this but to teach that the God of all truth did not hesitate to order his prophets to deceive the king in order to secure his purposes?
Verses 21 and 22 of this chapter give God's orders to the lsraelitish women to borrow jewels of gold and silver and raiment of the Egyptian women. "and ye shall spoil the Egyptians." This order is repeated in the 11th chapter, verses 2 and 3, where the men are included in the order. Thus God is represented as making men rogues as well as liars. Many times in the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 14th chapters of Exodus, God is described as telling Moses that he would harden Pharaoh's heart and the heart of his servants, so that he should not let the people go. And then it is stated on each occasion but one, "The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart." The Bible worshippers shall not get out of these obnoxious passages by saying that it was a judicial hardening caused by the sinner himself, for this interpretation is not only flatly contradictory of the words in Exodus, but the Apostle Paul himself cuts off that retreat by adducing this very case of God hardening Pharaoh's heart as an illustration of the page 14 doctrines of election and predestination. Rom. ix. 17, 18, "Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth;" therefore adds St. Paul, "therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth."
We might well ask the Apostle what sort of a name hath this vile representation of God declared throughout the earth? A name of infamous untrust-worthiness and malignity; the name of one who instead of helping to turn a humble sinner from the error of his ways at the moment of his softening, deliberately stepped in to quench the rising flame of good intention, and to harden his relenting spirit into fresh evil—and all to show his power!
That is not the name of "the Lord God merciful and gracious, abundant in goodness and truth, who will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax."
These early books abound in such misrepresentations of God, but I must press on and miss a great deal, or else we shall never have done.
In the 32nd chapter of Exodus, verses 9—14, God is represented as being on the point of consuming all the people in His fury, but was kept from doing so by an appeal to His vanity.
"And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and behold it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may work hot against them, and that I may consume them. And Moses besought the Lord and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people which thou hast brought forth out of the l and of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath and repent of this evil against thy people. And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
In Numbers xiv., verses 11—20, a similar scene occurs in which (ver. 15, 16) Moses says to God, "Now if thou shalt kill all these people as one man, then the nations which have heard the tame of thee will speak, saying, Because the Lord was not able page 15 to bring this people into the l and which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness. Pardon them, I beseech thee . . . . . . And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word." But now just consider what this pardon amounted to. God goes on to say, ver. 21, "But as truly as I live all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord." and how was this "glory" to be shown? Verses 22, 23, tell us, "All those men which have seen my glory and my miracles which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness," etc., etc., "surely they shall not see the l and which I sware unto their fathers; neither shall any of them that provoked me see it. But ray servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land, and his seed shall possess it." So, after all, the children of Israel who came out of Egypt, deluded by promises of the l and of Canaan, all perished in the wilderness except two, Caleb and Joshua. God was either unable or unwilling to keep his oath which he sware unto them.
On another occasion, the revolt of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Moses and Aaron again prevent the destruction of the people, but this time by an appeal to God's sense of justice. Numbers xvi. 20—23, "The Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, separate yourselves from among the congregation, that I may consume them in a moment. And they fell upon their faces and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?" In spite of this plea 14,700 persons died of a plague, besides the 250 insurrectionists who were swallowed up by an earthquake. The plague would have gone on till the last man was dead, if it had not been for Aaron rushing in with a censer of incense, which made an atonement for the people, and the plague (ver. 47) was stayed. Can any picture of God be more degrading than these?
In Numbers xxi, ver. 4—6, God is represented as having sent fiery serpents among the people only because they complained that they had neither bread nor water, and they did not enjoy the manna. Then in utter forgetfulness of the 2nd Commandment already written by God's finger on tables of stone, page 16 God, instead of removing the biting serpents, orders Moses to make a fiery serpent of brass, and set it on a pole that any one who was bitten might look on it and recover.
In Numbers xxii. verses 20, 21, 22, "and God came to Balaam by night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up and go with them. And Balaam rose up in the morning and saddled his ass and went with the princes of Moab. And God's anger was kindled because he went." Verses 34, 35, after Balaam's conversation with his ass, he sees the angel of the Lord and says, "Now, therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again," and yet the angel of the Lord says in reply to this, "Go thou with the men." A thous and asses speaking with a thous and human voices is not so incredible as this monstrous fickleness and injustice Here attributed to God.
At your leisure read the 32nd chapter of Deuteronomy, which abounds in degrading pictures of the Divine character.
In 2 Samuel xxi. 1, we read, "There was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year, and David inquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, "It is for Saul and for his bloody house because he slew the Gibeonites." After seven of Saul's sons had been hung up before the Lord in Gibeah, we read in verse 14, "After that God was entreated for the land."
2 Samuel xxiv. 1, "The auger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah." Ver. 15. "So the Lord sent a pestilence which carried off 70,000 men." Ver. 17. David is distressed. He says to God, "Lo, I have sinned and done wickedly; but these sheep what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house."
Here is the creature fairly accusing the Creator of an atrocious act of injustice. As usual, after some burnt offerings had been made, "The Lord was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed," ver. 25.
1 Sam. vi. 19. The Lord smote 50,070 persons in the little village of Beth-shemesh for peeping into the ark. Those who wore left are recorded as say- page 17 ing—possibly in bitter irony—"Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?"
2 Sam. vi. 6, 7. Uzzah ventured to put forth his h and to keep the ark from falling over; but was killed on the spot in reward for his reverend service.
1 Kings xxii. 19—23. Micaiah, the only true prophet out of 401 who persuaded Ahab to go up to Ramoth-gilead, says the following: "1 saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven (heaven only, mark you) standing on his right h and and on his left. And the Lord said, Who snail persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? and one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? and he said I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets. And he (i. e. God) said. Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now, therefore," adds Micaiah, "behold the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets."
Ezekiel, probably referring to this, says, chap, xiv. 9, "If a prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and"—can you believe that I am not reading falsely?—"I will stretch out my h and upon him and will destroy him."
The Apostle Paul, too, says (2 Thess. ii. 11,12), "For this cause God shall send them strong delusions, that they shall believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believe not the truth." (Father Hyacinthe, in a letter from Rome, dated 22nd June, writes: "God never requires falsehood, but falsehood often has need of God; and it is never so effective as when it presents itself to us in His name."—London Times, 22nd June.)
My friends, is it not incredible that such teachings as this should be believed to be the very Word of God—the inspired revelation of his mind and will? Surely Atheism is better than this. With what pretence of justice were Ananias and Sapphira slain for lying unto God, when God is represented as lying unto men? I defy the bibliolators to get over such difficulties as these extracts present. No explanation will avail them but that only which carries the inevitable conclusion that God is represented in page 18 parts of the Bible as an immoral being, and not "righteous in all his ways," or "holy in all his works;" that He does not "love truth and equity," and that He is neither lust, nor true nor trustworthy. I will only say, further, on this point, that I have had to miss many and many an illustration because it is impossible to give them all.