The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37
I come now to the last branch of my inquiry—that which relates to Jesus Christ. I will show from the New Testament itself that, however splendid and noble he was as a man, he could not have been the Almighty God, creator and preserver of the universe. Nothing that I can say will detract from his great human excellence. His nobleness, and purity, and lofty self-sacrifice for the truth, have never been surpassed. But for all that, he was a man like ourselves; and even in a narrative purposely designed to represent him as faultless, he discloses certain sure signs of human error and infirmity which can never be reconciled to the idea that he was the Almighty God on earth.
(1). His knowledge was defective. In Luke ii. 52, we read that "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." The wisdom of God must be absolute and complete, and therefore not capable of increasing at all. If Jesus increased in wisdom, then he must at one time have been deficient in wisdom, and could not have been God himself. But it is further stated that he increased in favor with God. What can be more absurd than to say that God increased in his own favor? This text is perfectly consistent with the idea that Jesus was only a man, but utterly inconsistent with the idea that he was a God.
Then he believed that blindness and dumbness were the result of being possessed of a devil (Matt, xii. 22—28)—"Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb, and He healed him, inasmuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. . . . . When the Pharisees heard it, they page 25 said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of devils." and Jesus answered, "If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? . . . . But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come to you."
Another proof of his belief that devils were the immediate cause of disease is found in Matt. xvii. 14—21. A poor lunatic lad, subject to epilepsy, falling oftentimes into the fire and into the water, could not be healed by the disciples of Jesus, who thereupon reproaches them for their want of faith, and says, "Bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil, and he departed out of him." He adds, in the 21st verse, "Howbeit this kind (of devil) goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
His knowledge of Jewish history was at fault when he accused his countrymen of having murdered Zacharias, the son of Barachias (Matt, xxiii. 35). It was Zachariah, son of Jehoida, who was slain as described, between the temple and the altar. You will find this recorded in 2 chron. xxiv. 20—22. Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, was one of the prophetic writers of the Old Testament, and lived 320 years later. A very trifling mistake truly, but one which makes all the difference to the claims made for Jesus that he was a God.
With respect to his future return to earth, he himself admits (Matt. xxiv. 30) that "of that day and hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels in heaven, but my Father only." Mark xiii. 32 says that Jesus said still more explicitly, "No man, no, not the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." That he spoke the truth when he confessed this ignorance is too well established by those passages in which he predicted his return "before that generation should pass away" (Matt. xxiv. 29—35. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect page 26 from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. . . . . Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things he fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." If words have any meaning at all, these words show that Jesus was mistaken in his prediction. I know a common method of trying to get out of this tiresome fact is to say that the "generation" spoken of did not mean generation, but the present epoch or age of the world between Christ's ascension and his return to earth. But this involves the error of the apostles and the early Church, who all firmly believed that Christ would come again in the lifetime of some of them, and who accepted his words literally. (See 1 Thess. iv. 15—17.) I think myself that the immediate followers of Jesus were more likely to have known what he meant than we are. The later epistles show signs of the disappointment of this expectation (see 2 Peter iii. 4, and 2 Thess. ii. 2, 3. The genuineness of these two epistles is doubted by some critics). And it is worthy of notice that the Fourth gospel, which many critics believe to have been written A. D. 160—180, carefully excludes all these predictions of Christ's second coming, and has a most suspicious passage in chap. xxi. 20—23: "Then Peter, turning about, seeth (John). . . . And saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? .... Then went this saying abroad among the brethren that that disciple should not die. Yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die, but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"
When this book was written there can be little doubt that every one of the apostles and contemporaries of Jesus was dead and buried, and John, who perhaps survived them all, had been dead half a century.
That saying of Jesus concerning Judas Iscariot always seemed to me inconsistent with the idea that Jesus was his Creator. "Woe to the man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! Good were it for that man if he had never been born!" (Mark xiv. 21). The Creator is surely responsible for the existence of all his creatures, and such a speech is unbecoming to the lips of the Creator.
Had Jesus been the Almighty God, neither could page 27 he have uttered those words on the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" As a cry of anguish and disappointment it was natural enough on the lips of a frail man; but if Jesus were God himself, it would be but a solemn mockery.
In the Fourth gospel we have presented to us a character in Jesus Christ in striking and painful contrast to the Jesus of the first three gospels. In the Synoptics, he is at least simple and plain, willing to teach, and to reply to inquirers, and free from narrowness in his religious views. But in the Fourth gospel we find him represented as often striving to perplex and confound his questioners. He is in a state of chronic antagonism with the men around him who are not his followers, and begins his ministry by condemnation of all who do not believe on Him. Chap. iii. 18, "He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
He teaches the doctrine of Election notwithstanding, chap. vi. 44. He says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." Chap. ix. 39, "For judgment am I come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind."
Is this God loving the world impartially, or is it not? In chap. xvii. 9, speaking of those who believe on him, he says, "I pray for them; I pray not for the world." In chap. xi. 41, 42, he is represented at the grave of Lazarus, as saying, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me," and as saying this only for effect, "but because of the people which stand by I said it." God would surely have known his motives in saying "I thank thee that thou hast heard me," without Jesus telling him so; and to announce the motive to the by-standers was to give an air of insincerity and artifice to his own conduct. I cannot believe this of Jesus. This alone stamps the narrative as incredible and fictitious.
According to this untrustworthy gospel he taught not the doctrine of the Trinity, but rank Tritheism. Chap. xvi. 7, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." Chap. xiv. 26, "The Comforter, which is page 28 the Holy Ghost whom the Father will send in my name." According to this, one God is said to be unwilling or unable to be where another God is, but will take his place when he departs. These passages do not teach any doctrine of a Trinity, but only of Three Gods in most unconquerable plainness. Moreover they directly contradict the statement that "Jesus [himself was] full of the Holy Ghost" (Luke iv. 1), and that John the Baptist and his mother Elizabeth (Luke i.) and his father Zecharias, and the aged Simeon were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost (Matt, iii.) visibly descended upon Jesus at his baptism.
I see traces of human weakness in the language which Jesus is reported to have used against the chief priests and scribes and pharisees of his time. I know what it is to be tempted to abuse and denounce fiercely the men whom in our day we believe to be hindering the work of God, and keeping back from the people the light of truth. But what holds me from giving free utterance to my angry thoughts? Why, instead of abusing the men themselves, do I force myself into attacking only their erroneous or mischievous opinions? It is my conscience. My moral sense tells me that I must not call ill-names, nor let my righteous indignation against falsehood and blasphemy get the better of me, and lead me into malediction.
My reason also tells me that men are scarcely ever responsible for their beliefs or misbeliefs; that they deserve pity if they are in error, and do not deserve curses. Hence I could not, without a guilty conscience, take up the language of Jesus against the bigots of our own day. I could not say to any men, "Ye are of your father the devil" (John viii. 44), nor this, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matt, xxiii. 33.) I cannot be sure that he ever used such improper language as this to his fellow-men, but I am very sure that the Gospels say that he did, and therefore the Gospels represent him as giving way to bad temper, and doing that which all decent people now-a-days agree in condemning as not only wrong, but futile; for abuse is not argument.
The last point in the recorded character of Jesus which I shall criticise is that which I shall deliberately call his disregard of family ties.page 29
Luke ii. 43, tells us that "the child Jesus [being twelve years old,] tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it." After three days they found him in the temple, and his mother said, "Son, Why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing." Ver. 49. And he said unto them, "How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? and they understood not the saying which he spake unto them." (Notwithstanding all that is written about the miraculous birth.) "and he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them." Ver. 51. (Notwithstanding his Father's business, which he at once gave up.)
Now what chills my heart in this story is not that a little boy twelve years old should be so thoughtlessly cruel as to get away unknown to his parents; but that when he was told of their sorrow in losing him, he made no sort of apology—never uttered a word of tender regret, but only began to vindicate himself on the ground of a higher obligation; as though God in heaven ever did or ever would desire a child to inflict such a wound as that on its parents' hearts.
I know what it is to lose a child for a few hours. I have helped more than one poor mother to find her lost little one in the dense streets of London, and I have felt and witnessed the agony of parental anguish, worse while it lasts than the wrench of Death. And yet this youth of twelve, said also to be God Almighty, could inflict such a wound as this and not know it: and when tenderly reminded of it, neither felt nor expressed the least sorrow. This disregard of natural ties is again exhibited (Matt. xii. 46—49): "While yet he talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him." Then a by-stander tells him, Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without desiring to speak with thee." But instead of regarding the firth commandment, which says, Honor thy father and thy mother, he answered and said unto him that told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? and he stretched forth his h and towards his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!"
I can hardly read such passages with patience. They exhibit Jesus as completely destitute of natu- page 30 ral affection, cruel and disrespectful towards his mother, and carried away by egotistical vanity. Mark iii. 31—35, tells the same tale, and Luke viii. 20, 21, likewise, with this vaiation, "My mother and my brethren are those which hear the Word of God, and keep it." What about the fifth commandment being the Word of God?
The Fourth gospel has furnished two instances in which Jesus is described—and in my opinion, falsely described—as guilty of a coldness towards his mother, which is unpardonable and unworthy of a man. Chapter ii. gives an account of the marriage at Cana in Galilee. Verse 3, "When they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus said unto him, They have no wine." Instead of saying tenderly, Leave it to me, dear mother, he says, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come."
Those who are ignorant of Greek must not suppose there was anything disrespectful in the term "Woman;" it was equivalent to Lady or Madam. But the cutting coldness of this reply betrays the absence of natural affection, which, as a son and a father, I here openly denounce as a frightful blemish in the life and character of Jesus Christ.
Worse than all, when that neglected mother, who had followed him about with so much maternal pride, treasuring up every word of his in her loving heart, comes and stands by the Cross, to be at h and in his last hour, to render a kindly service, or to get a loving farewell from those lips which she had idolized more than they deserved to be, what is his greeting? He points to a disciple standing near, and says (John xix. 25, 26) "Woman, behold thy son;" and to the disciple, "Behold thy mother." Even supposing him to have been thus providing for her future support, yet anything more heartless than this you cannot conceive—it betrays a soul in which all natural affection is dead, or in which it never even had birth. There was not a word of love in it, not a word of tenderness. The sword that was to go through that poor mother's soul pierced her to her agony. (Luke ii. 35). I for one would say, if this anguish of heart could not have been avoided because Jesus was God, then it was a thous and pities that he became incarnate at all. No benefit to mankind could compensate for the mischief of such a page 31 cruel example—for this persistent and heartless trampling on the purest affections of humanity.
If you, my Bibliolator, insist upon this being a proof that Jesus was Divine, and therefore superior to all family and local ties, then in God's name, I say yours is a God whom I will not follow nor believe in; whose every word I will disobey, and whose every guidance I will distrust.
1 will now place you on the horns of a dilemma. If Jesus treated his mother and his brethren as described in the Gospels, he was not the God who commands us to honor our father and our mother, and to love each other as brethren. If Jesus did not do so, then your Gospels speak falsely, and are no longer to be trusted, when they tell you that Jesus lived before Abraham, or was born without a human father.
My painful task is done. Had I known beforeh and what a mass of evidence there was to choose from, I would not have attempted to treat this great subject in one Lecture. As it is, I have left an enormous quantity of illustrations for future use. When the popular superstition is destroyed, it will then be my privilege and happiness to speak of the truths and beauties of the Bible, and of the character of Jesus, with the genuine enthusiasm which I feel.
I believe I am not saying more than the literal truth when I affirm that I have to-night completely proved that the Bible contains errors, and immoral teaching, and views degrading to God, and that the very records of the life of Jesus furnish their own, testimony that he was only a man, and was not free from some human imperfections and infirmities.
It would be well for all those who clamor for the infallibility of the Bible, or for the Godhead of Jesus Christ, to be careful not to omit one very important preliminary before they venture upon arguing out their views—the advice I give gratis and with hearty welcome—
"Read Your Bibles."