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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 42

3.—A Curious Definition

3.—A Curious Definition.

Of course the argument against inspiration could not be carried out without some feint at a definition of the subject, nor would a real straightforward one be valuable for the object in view, so the "truth-searching" lecturer made a mock statement in place of a definition, which, of course, his hearers of the Freethought Association will accept as genuine, simply because it was uttered by their grave President in his learned inaugural address. "Holy men spoke about subjects of which they were ignorant." Or slightly more extended, speaking of the Bible, "it contains the utterances of holy men impelled to write concerning things of which they were ignorant, and these utterances were infallibly true." What inspiration is, is not even hinted at in this sarcastic piece of evasion or confusion. Anything may be inspiration, if this is to be accepted as a definition of the meaning of the term. According to this, no doubt Mr Stout was inspired (impelled) to tell half the truth and conceal the other half. Such inspiration was surely impelling him, for as I read over his sayings I am forced almost to the conclusion that he, too, "wrote about a thing of which he was ignorant," for it is difficult for me to believe that Mr Stout would wilfully pervert "the true" into "the false." But then, again, I am met with another difficulty. Mr Stout is not an ignorant man, and also he has distinctly garbled the beautifully concise yet perfect definition which he refers to in his own clumsy utterance. "Holy men of God wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," and he altogether omitted to notice the other equally brief statement, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." However, as he got further on, he did remark that "we are given to understand that "God" moved certain men to write, and that what they were going to write they did not know. Mr Stout must have discovered a new M.S., for in no part of the previously known ones does the latter piece of information occur; or, then, he has given it gratuitously, after being at the labour of manufacturing it himself. However, he wished to pass it off as part of the original. Well, either he was ignorant of what he was speaking about, or he thought his audience were. Still, he should have revised it before he permitted it to be printed. It was a great mistake on his part to show to the public what heaps of rubbish he collects in his search for that much coveted, yet deeply hidden gem, "the true." Oh, how repulsive it is to have to turn over all these mounds of putrid falsehood to find the specks of truth, and then be disappointed. Why was he afraid to make a faithful statement of the case he was going to endeavour to expose? Why did he set up a false figure—a caricature—and only throw that down? Why not state it truly, and attack it fairly? Having, of course, only demolished a burlesque, his work has gone for page 22 nothing, except the amusement it gave to the beholders. His arguments being only directed against an imiginary case both have come to naught, and the honour of the combat has faded. Anyone reading this lecture, however, cannot fail to observe that there was a definite and planned reason for the words "of which they were ignorant," and "to write they did not know what," being kept so prominently forward. For without this misstatement the argument of the lecture had no end. This will appear as we proceed. Yet, such a method of planning and handling an argument does not appear to be like "searching for the true."