The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 39
Ancient Fictions v. Modern Facts and Modern Criticisms of Some Ancient Worthies
Ancient Fictions v. Modern Facts and Modern Criticisms of Some Ancient Worthies.
In treating of subjects that have been held for so many centuries, both by tradition and training, as sacred and above criticism, I have deemed it expedient to make a few prefatory remarks in reference to the style adopted. Not having been long organised as a society, it is reasonable to expect that some of our members may be unable to free themselves at once from the effects of a life's teachings, and may possibly be inclined to deprecate the adoption of raillery and ridicule in reference to religious subjects, and may also urge that great consideration should be paid to the feelings of all who differ from us. Desiring to pay the utmost deference to objections which will be found to resolve themselves into the two named, I have thought it necessary to anticipate and answer them.
First—In reference to the value of raillery and ridicule as effective agents for attacking and reforming abuses. We are all aware that no publication has been so successful in this line as the London Punch, which for over 40 years has stood unrivalled as a caricaturist, and has often, by covering some undesirable scheme or measure with ridicule, fairly laughed it to defeat. One memorable instance out of many, was when Mr. Lowe, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, contemplated imposing a halfpenny tax upon every box of matches sold. So confident were the Government of being able to carry their Bill, that £250,000 worth of stamps were prepared for immediate issue. For a few weeks Punch fairly overflowed with wit and grotesque humour heaped upon the proposal, and by its influence upon public opinion, page 3 there is no doubt, was mainly instrumental in causing the withdrawal of the Bill. I am not so presumptuous as to imagine myself capable of wielding such weapons with the skill of Punch's contributors, aspiring to nothing more than, the position of a volunteer skirmisher, ambitious of popping a shot into the serried flanks of the enemy, and asking your kind indulgence for any lack of skill displayed. The claim the appeal for "consideration" has upon Freethinkers may be estimated by the reflection that for centuries Freethinkers have been subjected to the bitterest persecutions at the hands of the Church and its upholders, it is possible to conceive. In the present day the power of inflicting the faggot and stake, cruel tortures, imprisonments, mutilation, and confiscations, has fortunately passed away, due entirely to secular progress and intellectual advancement outside of the Church, and won solely by the sacrifices and heroic endurance of Freethought martyrs. But innumerable opportunites of subjecting unbelievers to a variety of social tyrannies by the dominant sects still remain, and are freely exercised. In this city at this moment there are hundreds holding the same opinions as ourselves upon religious questions, who dare not avow them openly, because it would be certain to entail social ostracism, loss of profession or business, and disabilities to which it would be almost impossible to expect them to submit. We who are so fortunately placed as to be enabled to have the courage of our opinions, cannot blame, but only pity their position. At the same time we recognise the especial duty imposed upon us of labouring, to the utmost of our ability, to bring about a more tolerant state of affairs.
Col. Ingersol has very truly described the position referred to above, in the words "that every individual not perfectly free to act according to his honest convictions, is a certificate of the meanness and intolerance of the community among which he resides. Raillery and ridicule Voltaire found most effective weapons in his day, and their value for attacking abuses is now fully recognised in England. Often a timely keen-pointed shaft of ridicule will penetrate the obtuse intellect of a dull unreasoning supporter of existing superstitions, and awaken a spirit of enquiry, where the sententious and ponderous arguments of mature thought, however logical and unanswerable, would fail of effect."
After this somewhat lengthened introduction, I will now page 4 proceed with what may appear to some the almost useless task of threshing straw, and slaying the slain. But as it is only by continuous assaults, and as it has been rather forcibly expressed by "damnable iteration" that any effect can be produced, we will commence with that oft-exploded fiction the Creation, and "reputed fall of man," as recorded in the 1st and 2nd chapters of Genesis, upon which is based the whole theory of the atonement and redemption, and entire superstructure of the Christian religion.
Although geological discoveries have demonstrated the vast antiquity of the earth, it is scarcely necessary to seek its aid to refute such a clumsily constructed narrative. The sun being the source of light and heat, millions of years before the time assigned for the Mosaic creation, and under peculiar atmospheric conditions, had stimulated such a prolific and luxuriant vegetation that resulted in the deposition of vast beds of decomposed vegetable matter, evidence of which exist in the extensive coal measures now worked. And yet the sun which is 1,250,000 times larger than our earth, and whoso apparent rising and setting constitutes the difference between day and night, light and darkness, is in Genesis represented as not having been made until the fourth day of creation, only some 6000 years ago; while we are also told in the same account that, there had been mornings and evenings, day and night before his existence; to say nothing of the absurdity of an orb of such vast dimensions being made and fixed in the sky, for the sole purpose of giving light to an insignificant ball 1,250,000 times smaller than itself. After Adam was made, we are told that the All Seeing, All Powerful, All Wise, All Perfect, congratulated Himself upon His work, and pronounced it very good, and shortly afterwards discovered that it was not perfect, was not good, as there was no helpmeet for man. And then followed the first recorded instance of Anæsthetics being used for a surgical operation, as during a deep sleep, a rib was abstracted from Adam's side with which to form a woman. It appears that the All Wise had had no experience or foreknowledge of the insatiable curiosity of His latest production; and taking the account as it stands must believe that it was confidently expected that the command to abstain from eating the fruit of a certain tree would be obeyed. We know there is a sect which maintains that the disobedience and fall were pre-ordained, and I must ad- page 5 mit that this contention, is quite reconcilable with divine justice as pourtrayed throughout the book. But happily as between man and man, a much more intelligent and humane conception of right and justice prevails, drawn from a purer and more enlightened source than the musty records of a semi-barbarous period. We mortals are not left long in doubt as to the results, the fruit was, as a matter of course, tasted, and like a true woman shared with her husband, whose magnanimity was not very conspicuous in trying to fix upon her the sole blame of the indulgence. Then follows the fierce denunciation, and expulsion from the garden of both for this wifely act. The serpent for its share in the transaction was condemned to crawl upon its belly all the days of its life. It is curious to consider what other form of locomotion it could have, considering its ordinary shape and length. We can only imagine it as progressing in some kind of complicated knot, or reared aloft tiltilating upon the tip of its tail. It may be noted here that fossil remains of the same kinds of reptiles have been found, proving that they existed in the same form as known to us hundreds of thousands of years before the date referred to; and also that the Serpent and Tree were religious emblems, and symbols of worship in India ere the Egyptians existed as a nation, thousands of years before the time fixed by the Jewish historian for the creation.
To proceed with our story, it is recorded that Adam gave names to every living thing that had been created. Now if the writer had handed down those names, we could have spared the chapter of geneaologies that follow, and what an assistance it would have been to evolutionists; we should have known exactly what stock we started with on our career, and by an occasional stock-taking have been enabled to test whether the original capital was intact or otherwise. Noah had a fine opportunity of supplying the omission when drafting the animals into the Ark, but unfortunately he neglected it; due probably to his having taken a good stock of wine on board, as we find there was some left at the end of the voyage. To return to the events of the garden. It appears that the partaking of this involuntary dessert after an al-fresco lunch, had the remarkable effect of so opening Adam's eyes, that he for the first time became conscious of his own identity, and also of Eve's surpassing loveliness, to which it appears he had been previously insensible. The plain and reasonable infer- page 6 once to be drawn from the context by anyone not religiously blind is, that this discovery, particularly the latter, implied an awakened intelligence, which instead of involving a fall to eternal perdition, we should naturally conclude had raised him to a platform immeasurably above the brute creation, which he appears to have previously occupied. Therefore if we are to draw a moral from this Eastern myth, instead of taking the semi-savage one of degredation and misery, that was quite congenial with the ignorant and barbarous age in which it originated, how much more sensible and elevating to suppose it to imply that, man can only rise in the intellectual scale by his own efforts, and that the first and strongest impulse in this direction usually proceeds from woman—"the first links in the intellectual chain are forged in the arms of the nurse."
The next scene in the drama introduces us to Cain and Abel offering sacrifices. And we find that the sacrifice which was most acceptable, had involved the taking of life, while the pure fruits of the earth were rejected, and that this preference resulted in an accession of jealousy, a quarrel, the descent of a club, and another tragic sacrifice. We cannot help sympathising with the "Bible in Schools' Associations," and others, in their efforts to restore this, and the numberless other fine moral lessons to our public schools, for the instruction and training of the youthful mind. This principle of sacrifice pervades the entire book, and is mostly of a sanguinary character. Abraham was authorised to slay his son Isaac for a sacrifice. And from this period onwards, we find every event initiated, or consummated by a sacrifice. Individuals, families, communities, the nation as a whole are represented as continually sacrificing, until the idea finally expanded into the grand conception that the whole world required a sacrifice, and, as no mere mortal could possibly suffice for such a limitless atonement, no less a victim than the Son of God was deemed worthy of such a stupendous honour, by which it is alleged the human race has been redeemed from the consequences of Adam's fall.
History teaches us that it is chiefly among barbaric and semi-civilised nations that this idea of sacrifice is found, and that not infrequently humanity supplies the victims. In the present day there are some remote parts of the earth, where the influence of modern civilisation has not penetrated page 7 sufficiently to abate the savage customs of the inhabitants, and where sacrifices of human beings are of annual occurrence. Only the other day we were informed by telegram that 200 young girls were slain, and their blood used in the mixing of the mortar required in the construction of a temple to some of their gods. The plain common sense inference is, that this idea of sacrifice is essentially a product of the earliest and most savage condition of primitive man, and remains a characteristic of a barbarous or semi-civilised people. And as it is invariably associated with other detestable vices, the records of the doings of such a people can have no moral value or interest for us, except as frightful examples of depravity to be avoided and fought against. What is now, and has always been, the chief rite and sacrament of the Christian Church, but a ceremony designed for the express purpose of perpetuating the memory of a sacrifice, and the partaking of which is indispensible for church membership, young girls and ladies of gentle nurture and refinement, who would shudder and recoil at the sight of blood, are taught to esteem, as a blessed privilege, the joining in a ceremony where a vessel containing a small quantity of wine, specially prepared, to assist the impression produced by the words uttered in presenting it, is passed from lip to lip of any number of votaries, and the dregs afterwards drained by the minister, that not a drop of the consecrated mixture may be lost.
The hymns in use in all the churches may be considered as saturated with the same sanguinary sentiments, particularly one No. 107, called the "Precious blood of Christ." I lately attended one of Mrs. Hampson's meetings, and was chiefly struck with the bountiful use which she made of this "blood" argument; it also being declared absolutely necessary to salvation that everyone must be (metaphorically) washed in the blood of Jesus Pursuing the record, we find that wickedness had so increased with the multiplication of the race, that the deluge was resolved on for the purpose of destroying not only mankind, but all living things from off the face of the earth, a family of eight persons and sufficient representatives of the animal creation with which to make a fresh start, being appointed to be saved from the otherwise general doom.
———"Victim when wrong,
And martyr oft when right."
The ancient measurements of the ark, when reduced to English feet will give a vessel nearly the size of the Great Eastern, and although we may smile at the idea of a vessel of even those dimensions being large enough to provide accommodation for the animals, nothing is said about the food supply, except that it was to be provided, showing that no miraculous interference with the animals' appetites was contemplated. As a large proportion of the animals were carnivorous, the teeth and claws of liens, tigers, &c., being cited by the defenders of dogmas, as evidences of design, namely to prey upon other animals, a very large additional number were necessary to ration the others, and these, again, other animals, and so on down the scale to rats and mice for the cats, &c. And this provision would have been necessary for not only the 150 days during which the water is said to have prevailed, but for a very long period after its subsidence, or like the Kilkenny cats, they would have devoured each other, and thus numberless links in the chain of creation would have been irrevocably lost. As the heavenly fiat had gone forth that all living things were to be destroyed, fishes must have been included in the general doom, and, as no explanation is given how this was accomplished, we must suppose that the seas first overflowed and killed all the fresh water fish, and were soon after so diluted with such a tremendous influx of fresh water, as sufficed to destroy all the rest, and afterwards there page 9 was a special creation to renew the stock, which the inspired writer has forgotten to refer to. Then we have the covenant, and the bow in the clouds. As the inspired writer flourished a few centuries before much was known about the effects of reflection, and refraction of light, which any schoolboy of the present day can demonstrate with the aid of a glass globe filled with water; we can excuse his ignorance, but not his clumsy method of exposing it.
Noah having had such a surfeit of water, it is not surprising that he lost no time in making provision for a more agreeable beverage. He planted a vineyard; having judiciously preserved a good stock of vines, we may suppose in anticipation of experiencing a peculiar stage of hydrophobia, that he expected to supervene.
After the first vintage it appears his antipathy to the former beverage, led him to use it in even less proportion, and in consequence without the immunity ascribed to the famous Dutchman Mynheer Van Dunck.
It will, perhaps, appear strange to those who have not taken the trouble to expend any thought upon this wonderful event, to be told that this flood, which is stated to have submerged the highest mountains under Heaven, was insufficient to float the Ark from where it had been built, and therefore, that Noah instead of having been floated away to unknown regions, must upon the subsidence of the water, have found that after all he had never left his native village. The recorded height of the flood is given as 15 cubits, and taking the cubit at 18 inches, this gives 22 feet 6 inches as the extreme height of the flood. Why, in modern times we have had inundations in America, India, France, Hungary, and recently in Spain, far surpassing that, and probably covering as large a section of the earth as was known to Noah and his contemporaries.
It will perhaps be said that the cubit given must have referred to quite a different measure, but if so, it would also apply to the dimensions of the Ark; now the measurement of the Ark reckoning the cubit at 18 inches gives 450 feet for its length and 75 feet in breadth which is about midway between the size of the largest vessel of war afloat, and the Great Eastern, the latter being 680 x 83, therefore it is inconceivable that this size could have been indefinitely increased. The fact is patent to the upholders of religious creeds that, page 10 credulous people will not, and careless unthinking ones do not, trouble to question anything they, the priests, choose to assert has a divine authority and sanction. Hence we still have these abounding contradictions, and absurd inconsistencies promulgated weekly from 40,000 pulpits, by a specially trained, self-interested army of preachers, to as many congregations; with all that imperturable complacency and assurance, which is only found where divine authority is claimed, and the people taught to regard, as the peculiar privilege of the speaker.
Of the tower of Babel it is only necessary to remark that, the divinely inspired writer pays small compliment to the wisdom of the All-Knowing One, in supposing it was necessary to confuse the tongues, and scatter the workmen, to frustrate the project of building a tower to reach above the skies.
Having critically examined two of the chief events recorded in this inspired book, it will be a desirable change to turn awhile from such childish myths, which were written for, and only adapted to the infancy of our race, and review the lives and characters of a few of the heroes who flourished in the same early and benighted period, but who are lauded, and held up as bright examples for us to emulate and follow. The records of their evil lives is singularly consistent (where there is so much inconsistency), with a very primitive and partially civilised state of society—actions which at the present day would richly merit an acquaintance with the inside of our gaols, and in numberless instances the last dread operation of the law. And yet Christians who have in all ages and countries persecuted the Jews, have nevertheless appropriated this record of that much despised race, and having made it the sheet anchor of Christendom, regard the heroes referred to as the especial favourites of deity. One, the most notorious evil liver of the lot, according to our modern ideas of morality, was especially singled out as the "Man after God's own heart." And this is the book that strenuous efforts are to be made to re-introduce to our schools, that the characters of the rising generation may be formed on the models of an ancient semi-savage people, whose notions of justice, decency, and morality have nothing in common, but much in direct opposition to modern culture and refinement. We know it is said that the faithful delineation of human character requires that both the good and evil should be pourtrayed, and that this ad- page 11 mixture proves the truthfulness of the records. But while admitting that the characters were quite as bad, perhaps a great deal worse than represented, we have a right to object to the displaying of such examples of vice, and to question its value for the training and instruction of our children. The same argument if logically acted upon, would admit the Newgate Calendar to our schools, as a useful lesson book. The Spartans of old were wont to make their helots drunk, in order to disgust their sons with the sight of intemperance, but if experience and common sense, revolt at such a pernicious use being made of the crimes and follies of others, then why should any exception be made in favour of similar exhibitions that abound in a book, simply because infatuated enthusiasts choose to regard the same book as divinely inspired, and a knowledge of which is deemed necessary for perpetuating a system of ethics, that many sensible and enquiring minds have come to consider a baleful superstition. The tremendous catastrophe of swamping the earth and its inhabitants, appears to have quite failed of the object of eradicating its wickedness, as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone was so soon afterwards found to be necessary, and, as the first eight selected and saved to found a new world do not appear, from the result, to have been any better than Lot and his companions, its non-reformation is not very remarkable. Abram, or Abraham, called the father of the faithful, and deemed worthy of being the founder of the chosen people, affords another instance where the absence of all the qualities now deemed necessary to constitute an upright, truthful and moral character, seemed a special recommendation for divine favour. His readiness to murder his son Isaac at the command of God, is held up as a model of what true faith should be, and is required in a believer. How would such a plea be received in our law courts? Giteau stated at his trial for the assasination of President Garfield, that he was commanded by God to shoot him, but the jury paid no regard to the plea. Abraham's truthfulness is made manifest in passing his wife off as his sister, when substantial benefits were to be obtained by so doing; and his tenderness and conjugal love are beautifully illustrated in driving Hagar, his bond-slave and concubine, with her child—his child—from his home to perish in the wilderness.page 12
The backslidings, and slaughterings of his descendants are in strict keeping with the character of their founder. This model patriarch is subsequently represented as performing the acrobatic feat of carrying Lazarus to heaven in his bosom. Of Isaac not much is said, but he is also made to illustrate how lightly, and in what small esteem the conjugal tie and chastity were held by these holy men, when personal security or profit was to be obtained by disregarding either. Jacob early displayed the cunning and untruthfulness of his progenitor Abraham. From his taking advantage of his brother's necessities to obtain his birthright, and cheating his old blind father out of his blessing, to his manipulating of Laban's flocks for the increasing of his own share, is one long series of dissimulation and deceit, and is made to appear so worthy and meritorious, as to call down the divine blessing and approval; for besides numerous promises of favours, &c., it is expressly recorded that "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. is. v. 5), notwithstanding which, any intelligent and impartial reader would not fail to consider the forgiving Esau by far the nobler of the two brothers. After Jacob had forestalled his brother, and to escape from the effects of his just resentment, he was packed off by his mother to his uncle Laban, and on the journey, night coming on, he laid down to sleep, first selecting a stone for a pillow. It is related of a chieftain and his son, that while travelling in the snowy highlands of Scotland, and before laying down to sleep, the latter rolled together some snow for a pillow, but the father indignantly kicked it away, incensed at such a sign of effeminacy in his son. Whether the stone pillow, or indigestion caused Jacob to dream, it is recorded that he "dreamed a dream." We all know of the sometimes complete or partial activity of the brain, while the rest of the body is wrapped in unconscious slumber, but no regard is now paid to such unsubstantial vagaries of the mind. Occasionally curious coincidences occur between dreams and subsequent experiences, but beyond noting their occurrence no further significance is attached to such accidental resemblances, but, as a belief in witchcraft was very generally entertained two or three hundred years, ago so a profound belief in dreams prevailed, we may be assured, in the prehistoric ages, and at the period referred to in the Bible they were regarded as direct communications from God. Hence page 13 we find the importance attached to dreams is of itself conclusive evidence of the profound ignorance that then existed of the ordinary operations of the mind. Jacob's dream, upon the occasion referred to, does not appear to have impressed him with any very exalted notions of heaven, as upon awaking he was in a great fright, thinking it a dreadful place to inspire such dreams, considering the place, as what we should call, haunted.
Why angels, possessed of wings and other attributes, supposed to render them superior to our sublunary laws of motion, should require ladders to descend from and ascend to the etherial spheres is passed over unexplained, probably they desired to exhibit certain acrobatic feats for the special entertainment of Jacob, exultant at the chance of escaping from the dull monotony of "loafing round the throne," as a well-known American writer tersely puts it.
In the foregoing we have the three scriptural characters, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the patriarchal Trinity so often referred to in the Bible, and re-produced in the Book of Common Prayer of the Christian Church, with such effusive unction, and from whom S.Matthew attempts to trace descent of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, or rather of Joseph, his reputed father, but who, according to Christian theology, had no concern in his son's parentage, while Joseph himself was the son of two fathers, and the curiously mixed genealogy referred to includes Pharez and Zarah, sons of Judah, by Tamar, his own daughter-in-law (Gen. xxxviii), and Solomon, son of David, by Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. In Luke's version of the same genealogy, several names are omitted, presumably on account of their unworthiness, Nathan being substituted for Solomon, but Pharez and Judah are retained, upon which commentators have not thought it necessary to remark, although we have scriptural authority for the saying that, if the fountain be defiled, the stream cannot be pure.
We may pause here, and defer to a future occasion a continuation of the review of Bible characters and incidents, and refer to a few of the modern facts that more particularly concern us in our relations to the world we inhabit. The discoveries of science, whether regarded in their application to our material wants, or in the inestimable service rendered to humanity, by freeing the mind from a mass of ignorant page 14 conceptions and delusions, that have in the past barred the road of progress and enlightenment, are equally deserving of our grateful recognition. Science, and ergo, knowledge, is the Archimedian lever that alone can lift us out of the slough of ignorance and superstition in which it has always been the interest and endeavour of the Church to keep us steeped. From the time when the Christian Church assumed and monopolised the supreme power of directing and controlling the mental aspirations of a large section of the civilised world, down until quite recent time, all its energies have been con-centrated upon a fierce and savage attempt at the repression of all freedom of thought and utterance, if suspected of questioning or conflicting with the old worn out myths and fables of a by-gone and illiterate age.
The discoveries in the comparatively modern science of of geology, have almost revolutionised thought during the last half century. From the earliest period the conclusions of scientists have been violently opposed by the supporters of the Bible theory. In a former age Galelio was persecuted for promulgating views which were equally novel and obnoxious to the supporters of a religious system based upon written records, for which a divine inspiration is claimed, but which we have very conclusively shown reflects only the ignorance, and, in many respects, the barbarism of an early stage of our common humanity.
Those who have had no opportunity of learning anything about the symbol worship of the Chaldeans, Egyptians, and Brahmins of India, would he surprised to know how largely remnants of the same enter into, and are incorporated, with the forms, ceremonies, and ritual of modern religious services and beliefs. The Bishop's mitre is borrowed from the ancient fish dress of an Egyptian priest, and many ornaments, ecclesiastical and architectural, now in use, formerly represented ideas little suspected by their admirers. The cross and crosier were religious emblems before the date assigned for the Mosaic creation, and if their original significance were generally understood, they would receive scant reverence from their votaries of the present day.
The one great modern fact that may be said to embrace all other facts, is the rapid spread of rational and secular ideas upon politics, religion, morals, and education; which has already exercised a marked influence upon that most antago- page 15 nistic and conservative institution, the Christian Church, which has ruled mankind, and fettered the free exercise of the intellect, for the past eighteen centuries. So long as it rested with the Church to withhold all education from the people, or to allow of such only as tended to secure a perpetuation of her absolutism, there was but one attitude, that of determined and bitter hostility towards all or any attempts to break through the bonds of a servile superstition. But since the inherent force of intellect and genius, has snapped link after link of the mental chain so cunningly forged for its special purpose, and through inconceivable pains, penalties, and persecutions, has secured for the people a large measure of liberty of thought and action, secular progress has been rapid and sure. So much so that the Church itself has not been able to resist the humanising influence of the outward pressure, having, if not considerably modified some of the former tenets, discreetly kept them in the background; a few fanatics, hot gospellers, and revivalists, being now the chief exponents of hell fire and brimstone doctrines, to the occasional dismay, and sometimes the confirmed lunacy of weak-minded women.
The almost universal attention now paid to the education of the young, and the general establishment of secular schools, during the last few years, may be expected to have a marked influence in liberalising thought among the masses of the next generation.
So little attention had been paid to popular education in England forty years ago, that I remember during Lord Melbourne's administration, attention being drawn in the public press, to the fact that while £70,000 was voted for the Queen's stables, £30,000 was considered sufficient for subsidising elementary schools. From a return of last year I find the annual cost of the English Board Schools was £1,235,360 9s. 3d., while the school fee of 2d per week paid by the children amounted to £1,480,000, with an average attendance of 204,334, and a computed additional attendance of 10,000 children each year. This is exclusive of 178.150 attending voluntary schools, assisted by the Government in the form of grants for results on periodic examinations.
Notwithstanding the immense advance here shown in the matter of education, we have here, in the youngest dependency of the British Empire, gone beyond the old country in page 16 this direction. About the time named, the first band of English settlers were just starting to found a colony in these Islands, and now we can boast of the establishment of a national, free, and secular system of education, at an annual cost exceeding a quarter of a million sterling, which, considered in proportion to the respective revenues of the two countries, is equivalent, in England, to about five millions, devoted to this special purpose.
The clergy here do not conceal the chagrin felt at the substitution of secular for denominational schools, knowing very well that, unless their dogmas are impressed upon the mind during the pliant period of youth, there is small chance of their being embraced when the judgment has matured. One reverend gentleman in a Church Synod, held in this city sometime ago, did not hesitate to utter an undeserved calumny upon all the children attending the Government schools, by stating that they were easily known by their boorish and ruffianly behaviour, or words to that effect, he probably missed that reverential deference to a black coat, which, with the catechism, is usually made the ne plus ultra of a Church school education.
The triumph of science can be only approximately realised by the impetus given to the general diffusion of knowledge, resulting from the giant strides made by the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities for intercommunication now available to nearly all classes of the community; and electricity bids fair with advancing knowledge to develope into a not less important auxiliary. The steam engine has been a powerful agent in the same direction, during the last fifty years, by breaking down barriers and prejudices, the growth of centuries of isolation, and rendering possible a union and reciprocal interchange of thought and community of interests following the paths of commerce, which would otherwise have been unattainable. And in consequence we may reasonably hope, it has shortened by many decades the advent of that time when nations, more fully realising their common humanity, and impressed with a truer sense of life's obligations here, than can be gained by the contemplation of improbable hereafters, and resolutely discarding the teachings of effeté and worn out superstitions, will cease to engage in the deadly and senseless wars which have chiefly characterised the rule of rival faiths in the miserable past.