Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 42

Part Second

page 19

Part Second.

1.—What is Religion?

"The spirit of the thing interpreted
Is that which doth interpret."

After having given a crude outline of his programme for the overthrow of civil organisations, Mr Stout came to the more immediate object of his address, the demolition of all things we call Divine. Upon this be entered in lengthened detail, and evident satisfaction in the consciousness of his own ability to deal a crushing blow to our sacred institutions; and to his task he proceeded, filled with the conviction of his own importance and skill, as a very Goliath among the Philistines. His first blow is an attempt to define what religion is: "A man may be a truly religious person—one who is good, and does good without inspiration." From this sentence we learn that man may be religious without any thought of worshipping God. If the word be capable of such a construction, that use of it is foreign to the English language. The idea suggested by "religion" in every mind is "a recognition of God as an object of worship." The being of God is the centre object suggested by the word "religion" when ever it is used in the English tongue. Hence, in our sense, a man cannot be religious who has no faith in God, though he may both be moral and charitable. I grant that a secondary meaning of the term is used to signify a system of faith and worship, not necessarily Christian, but still it retains the idea God-worship. "As a word, religion is derived from the Latin religio, from religare, which signifies to bind again; hence, religion is that which binds again, or that which heals a breach previously existing between two parties. This traditional idea the Romans expressed by religio. They believed, as the foundation of their mythology, that mankind and the gods were at enmity; but how this came about they had not any knowledge of. They were angry, but not implacable; nevertheless, so estranged that there could be no direct communication with them. Mediatorial converse with the gods was then universally prevalent. The Pagans had derived by tradition from the family of Noah, with whom was deposited the revealed principles of the way of God instituted in the beginning. This idea of mediate communication for the appeasement of Divine wrath was incorporated in all domestic and temple worship which constituted their religion."

Acquaint thyself with God if thou wouldst taste his works.

Happy the man who sees a God employed
In all the good and ill that chequer life.

page 20

Mr Stout commences his discourse with a false opinion. Starting then on false premises, what may we expect for a conclusion? It would surely be an accident if he landed in a faithful position.

2.—What is Theology?

"But," continues the lecturer, "if we are to have a formulated system of belief—a theology—then it is said inspiration is necessary; and it it is asserted that we cannot become acquainted with theology as we learn geology or music, then certainly inspiration is needed." It must be patent to everyone that theology is "knowledge of God." It is defined by lexicographers as "the science of God." Then, to know what the meaning of the phrase is, we have to inquire into our idea of the "being of God "—What is God? and How do we know of God? It is beyond the power of man's unaided reason to think of such a being as the "God of the Bible." It may be argued that "the heathen have a very high knowledge of God in many instances. Greek philosophy exhibits a very grand knowledge of the Supreme One." To this I reply, a "knowledge of God" has been, according to the Bible record, transmitted to a greater or less extent through all the families of mankind by their remote ancestors. If the earliest writings amongst the primitive residents of Greece in Europe and India in Asia show a remarkably clear idea of a Divine Being, I answer that is simply what the Bible leads us to expect. And the fact discovered, is at least a strong proof of the truthfulness of the ancient history of the Scriptures. If we, for the present, assume the fact of the Noachian deluge and the veracity Scripture history succeeding, we find one grand centre of Divine knowledge living, as a source of irradiation, for a period of 500 years after. Shem, the progenitor of the Semite population of the world, lived for 500 years after the flood, and must have been a most venerable, and venerated personage, amongst the post deluvians. He was the ancestor, yet the contemporary of Abraham, and even his survivor by some years. Think of this man—of his great influence and his position amongst the people for five hundred years while the earth was in course of being repopulated! He must have often spoken of the great events of his life, and often have told of his father's obediience to Divine direction in the construction of the ark. He must often have spoken of the Divine Being who had thus directed the work of Noah, and the people must as often have heard his wondrous story, which would be the theme of converse for generations even amongst those who wandered far from the centre of population. And thus would a knowledge of God be carried down the course of time to all races of mankind, and it is a fact that the books of the East written nearest that period have the clearer conception of Deity. How natural a consequence; but how powerful an argument against gradual development of Evolution! Thus, though the old books of antiquity are acquainted with the idea of the being of God, we discover in that no argument against the Divine origin of "theology," but a powerful argument in its favour; for as men became separated by a greater gulph of time from the days of Shem, their thoughts of God become more corrupt and vague, except in the narrow strip of Bible lore, in which it beautifully becomes brighter, clearer, truer, until in Christianity it shines in the most perfect grandeur. I contend that we cannot gain a knowledge of the first principles of page 21 "theology" as we can those of geology—from observation and experience. We cannot—for it is not within the limits of possibility—form an idea of an infinite being; we cannot conceive of an omniscient being. It is impossible to gain the idea of eternity from observation; yet we have it. It is equally impossible to gain the idea of infinity from observation; yet we have it. How then came we by them? Who then was the communicator? Deity! Hence, inspiration is necessary, and is a fact.

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."

4.—A Nice Confusion.

"There is confusion worse than death."

The subject was divided into three parts, and these parts were again systematically divided under sub-heads, and discussed seriatim, giving a show of careful preparation, but woeful failure—there is a serious want of connection and of sequence in the succeeding parts. "How the communication was made" is the first grand head. It is curtly dismissed, but not before it is shown that "the communication" means a "revelation," and that it was made by means of a mental impression. "The necessity for it" is the second head, that is, the necessity for "the communication made," which was a revelation. But in the first sentence the terms are changed. "Communication" is supplanted by "inspiration," which is said not to mean "revelation." So that the idea is altered to "the necessity for inspiration," and of course inspiration had been already defined as "the utterances of holy men impelled to write concerning things of which they were ignorant." A very different thought from the necessity of a Divine communication to man. Then the third important division is "How can we verify it?" and in dealing with this part, the terms inspiration and revelation are made interchangeable. Now, surely this is an inextricable confusion. If I were going to define a "revelation," I certainly could not say it was a mental impression; nor could I dare to treat a mental impression as equivalent to a revelation. Besides, Mr Stout says it "must be in the language of the persons to whom it is addressed." Surely mental impressions are not yet in any particular language. The learned lecturer, though a tolerably smart metaphysician, has lost himself, or worse; if not, he misleads his "trusting hearers," who are too confiding to question the seeming correctness of the reasoning, and they are cruelly deceived. There is an apparent want of honesty in such tactics of discourse. Yet the lecturer is an inquirer after truth. He suggests to me the anecdote of Nelson putting the glass to his blind eye.

5.—Not Required.

He tells us that inspiration is not required—
(a)By the observer to enable him to detail events which he has witnessed.
(b)By the historian who is careful of the statements which he accepts as trustworthy.
(c)By one who prophesies, "unless the prophecies are to infallibly occur, and are easily verifiable."
page 23

This argument is not pointed at the theological idea of inspiration, but simply against his own creation. Nothing can be more clear than this reasoning if we take Mr. Stout's mock definition of the term. If inspiration be "that which impels a man to write about things of which he is ignorant," its province most clearly is not with the recorder of observations. Nor does it find a sphere with the compiler of history from the recorded events of other observers, for having read these he knows all about them. And as to the false prophet, no man is mad enough to claim Divine inspiration for him. He does not write about things he is ignorant of, but about fancies and fiction, which are not "things." Then, after making these very unnecessary and truism remarks, he proceeded to deliver a laboured defence of their power in the overthrow of the "new doctrine" of inspiration. If Moses wrote about what he was conversant with he did not write about what he was ignorant of. If Moses kept a diary he only required to transcribe it. No impulse to write what he was ignorant of was required. If Ezra, Matthew, and Mordecai wrote what had come under their own vision, why, then, they were not ignorant of it: and of course, ignorance being a pre-requisite, they cannot have been inspired. And so on in this learned style, until, to bring his process to a climax, he comes to invoke the aid of Sir Wm. Hamilton, with whom he introduces the

6.—Law of Parcimony,

by which he hopes to make havoc in the arguments in favour of inspiration. It is a mighty weapon. But I think Mr Stout has used it in the wrong place. Of course it easily casts down the caricature that the lecturer had set up to be thrown down; but he had already done this with simpler engines. But he set up his man of straw once more, just to let his audience have the exquisite pleasure of seeing the poor thing knocked over again, and down it went. But all the while the doctrine of inspiration stood by in unmoved composure. This wonderful law is summed up in these words:—"Neither more, nor more onerous causes' are to be assumed than are necessary to account for the phenomena." "Now," exclaims Mr. Stout, "the Spirit of God was not required to enable an onlooker to relate what he saw. Why, then, invoke His aid?" Of course if the Spirit of God can only aid a man to do what he could not otherwise do, then He cannot aid him in recounting facts of which he has a previous knowledge. But Mr. Stout has already forgotten even his own definition. Inspiration, according to the "new doctrine" promulgated by "my learned friend," is the "feeling of an impulse to write." Then surely there might be the "impulse to write" without the aid to record, and yet not violate the law of Parcimony. But if the proper sense of the term inspiration is "a mental impulse to write about something of which the writer is ignorant," then Mr. Stout is right. But according to a law enunciated by Mr. Stout, if I choose to say he is wrong then I am right, and he is compelled by that law to allow me my opinion. However, I shall show shortly that the theological doctrine of inspiration cannot be troubled by the law of Parcimony; for there is a vast deal more in the Bible, and in the idea of inspiration, than Mr. Stout seems to dream of.

page 24


"Oh that mine were the deep mind, prudent, and looking to both sides."

Because the law of the "Ten Commandments," as it is literally transcribed from the tables of stone on which Jehovah had engraved them, in Exodus, differs from the form in which they are given in the popular and eloquent speech of Moses in Deuteronomy, where he repeats them with comments and enforcements interned, Mr. Stout contends there is such a discrepancy as proves their non-inspiration. He is surely labouring in the interests of a bad cause. I challenge him to point out one instance in which Moses' speech departs from the strict sense of the transcription given in Exodus; and I should like to ask Mr. Stout to re-examine the two records carefully and severely critically, and then answer to himself the question, "Have I not falsely repaesented these passages?" The whole of the ten commandments are the same in fact, though expressed slightly different in terms. There is not a shade of difference in sense, or even in sequence. Can, then, the "commandments differ" if the sense is unchanged? Yet Mr. Stout calls this retention of exact sense, though slight variation in words, "a disagreement." Where is the truth?

"Truth is sunk in the deep."

About the differing forms of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew vi. and Luke xi. Mr. Stout makes a serious charge of inconsistency. But which is the inconsistent party? Certainly, emphatically, not the sacred writers; but the president of the Freethought Association. He has not taken the very slight trouble to examine his facts, and has consequently jumped at a false conclusion, as usual. He takes for granted that the two records refer to the same event and the same time. Such, however, is an unwarrantable assumption. If he were to display such slovenliness in getting up the defence of his clients, his flourishing practice would soon wane. Yet on assuming the rule of a critical lecturer, he rushes at a result, and boldly states it as a "truth," when half a minute's examination would have shown him the reverse. Is this the man who regards it as "man's highest duty to examine every subject for himself?" How woefully he falls below his own standard! The record of Matthew refers to the first year of the public ministry of Jesus, and shows the form of prayer to have been given in the course of an address, or, as we generally term it, "the Sermon on the Mount," when he was surrounded by a large concourse of people, upon whose ears fell the sublime instruction of that unparalleled discourse. The prayer was a natural portion of his sermon, and appears in its natural position. The record of Luke is of quite a different time, place, and character, and must necessarily refer to a second inculcation of the prayer. It occurred in the early portion of the third year of his public life. It was in a solitary place, where He was praying, "and when He ceased one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." The time is more than a year later; His disciples only are with Him, and He has just ceased praying, when he repeats the form (given so many months before in his public discourse) at the request of one of his followers. This shows all the confidence which is to be placed in Mr. page 25 Stout's critical ability. He has yet to learn the first principles of faithful and true criticism, or else his honesty is out of repair.

"An honest man's the noblest work of God."

7.—Philosophical Grasp.

"Hast any philosophy in thee, shepherd?"

What Solon is he to talk of "philosophical grasp and outlook" who has proved himself so unfitted to examine even his own words? He has shown himself to be a man of narrowly circumscribed critical ability, and yet he affects to be able to decide on the philosophic merits of a volume whose contents he has never carefully studied! Although he has omitted the first item of man's "highest duty," the examination of the subject, he takes fast hold of the latter part, and "speaks freely what he thinks" about it. But as for philosophy, I doubt if ever he has had an introduction to it yet. I hope he does not consider that philosophy means "love of sophistry." If, however, he does, let me correct him and put him right, for it means "love of prudence." This is the philosophy Mr Stout wants, and never did he show it more than in his lecture on "Inspiration. Prudence would have suggested to him the wisdom of first inquiring (a) Is there a plan evident in the construction of the Bible? (b) If so, what is that plan? and after having worked out his examination of these queries, he would have been better able to have given an answer. He would have discovered (c) that the Bible was never intended for a universal history; (d) that it was meant to record God's dealings with, at first, a selected portion of the race; (e) then to record his message and overtures to the whole family of man. This is the plan evident throughout, but Mr Stout was not sufficiently philosophical to follow it up. The historical portion of the Bible only contains so much history as is required to carry out its plan. It introduces neither more nor less, than is necessary to complete its purpose; which very fact gives it the highest character for philosophical grasp and outlook. Mr Stout is well acquainted with Hallam's "Constitutional History of England." Will he say it lacks philosophical grasp, because it merely takes a narrow strip of the nation's history, and ignores all the "more interesting parts of history—the record of the rise and development of the morals, the industry, the intelligence, and wealth of the nation?" He knows better. Hallam had one end in view, and he only used those events in history which aided his purpose, and we claim for him a decidedly philosophical treatment of this subject. Many histories of philosophy have been written, which also, according to Mr Stout, lack the most interesting events in the lives and times of the men whose labours are chronicled. This does not, however, deprive them of the character of truly philosophical productions, but the very opposite. It shows the clear conception of plan and carefully followed design. Hence, I claim that I have shown Mr Stout to lack "philosophical grasp" in his want of method.

8.—True History.

"We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths."

Complete history is not yet found in any one kind of literary work, if we are to understand by that "all the interesting events in the pro- page 26 gress of a race or nation." It is a matter of pure impossibility that it should. Macaulay's "History of England" is an admirable work, but there are many interesting events he does not record. That, however, does not invalidate the "truth" of what he does chronicle, and consequently his is a true history nevertheless. Many things no doubt transpired in the midst of the Hebrew nation, of which the Bible takes no notice. That, however, has no bearing upon those incidents which it does record. Mr Stout suggests that because some men are constantly trying to explain away certain records of the Bible, therefore Scripture history is not "true history." It is a noteworthy fact that many of those events which weak-minded men have tried to explain as allegory, have been proved real history, from incontestable corroborative evidence, and the allegory-loving men have had to withdraw their purile scruples. Not a year passes without some additional confirmation of the correctness of passages which have been considered incorrect by persons who knew nothing whatever of the events referred to. Mr Stout says: "But if we find several things recorded untrue, must we not say that this History differs in no respect from the works of other historians." Before he propounds this question, he should produce the untruthful records, and his evidence which condemns them. He did not give one single specimen. "But if we find." We must wait until he does find.


"He knoweth the end from the beginning."

"Even to prophecy inspiration is not required." Many men prove this correct. Thomas Paine, I understand, once uttered a prophecy without the aid of such inspiration as we are speaking of. It was to the effect that 50 years after the publication of his attack upon the Bible the latter would be an obsolete book. O, yes, men can prophecy, and make fools of themselves too. But Mr Stout reduces prophecy to a mere matter of inductive logic. "Given a certain state of things, a certain result will follow;" this is all he finds in prophecy. Moreover, he considers the prophets of the Bible such poor logicians, that not one of their calculations came true. He knew "not of one, which had been fulfilled." This, again, is the result of his want of interest in examining them. It seems as if he had pinned his reason to the pen of Paine, and sworn to take his words for "the truth." He looks upon that man's work as so infallable as to be incapable of error—to be perfectly "unanswerable." Once more he gives up the "right to examine for himself." Is Paine his Pope? How the mighty has fallen! But I invite him once again to resume his discarded prerogative, and in its power take up a few subjects of prophecy which I shall simply indicate, and I am certain that if he will make the investigation in a candid way he will know more about prophecy than he now does; he will know more of that prophecy which could not possibly be the result of a logical calculation, yet which has been fulfilled. 1st. Let him take up those relating to the fall of ancient Nineveh and Babylon, in which he will find the most minute particulars given. Then let him examine the heathen records of the overthrow of those wondrous cities, and he will find such remarkable cases of the fulfilment of prophecy as will probably surprise him. 2nd. Let him examine the prophecies regarding the land page 27 of Egypt in the same manner, and he will have the same satisfactory reward. 3rd. If he will subject the prophetic utterances respecting Tyre to the same process he will find the same answer. 4th. The prophecies uttered against the Jews will bring him even stronger proof of their Divine origin. And, 5th, the crucifixion of Christ supplies a most emphatic evidence of inspiration in prophecy. This is not the place to bring forward the proof, but if each man would take up the prophecies relating to these subjects for himself, and then read the historical accounts of the occurrences and events referred to, he could not resist the power of the conviction they would force upon him that the Bible is

"Marked with the seal of high Divinity."

10.—Nothing New.

"No absolutely new thing can be communicated" to the mind of man. "Existing ideas may be adopted and changed, but the germ of them existed." Well this, I think, is something new. Mr Stout has made a new discovery. He has outstripped Bain and the whole school of metaphysicians. "Existing ideas ray be changed!" Oh for the proof. It has always been acknowledged that the terms used to express certain ideas may be varied and employed to express other ideas, but that the idea itself can be changed has not before been known. Plato, whom Mr Stout considers such an eminent sage that he makes the following contrast—

"Moses' tardy lips, and Plato's mouth of gold."

Well, Plato regarded ideas as "stable, ever self-existent, substances; they alone being the actual," or what we might express in modern phraseology, "the true." To him, "all that was real in the manifestation was the idea." Hegel argues: "The idea is the absolute, and all actuality is only a realisation of the idea." But to our New Zealand philosopher ideas are mobile, and can be changed at will. This is absolutely new," hence his facts contradict his arguments. But, really, what does he mean by saying "the germ of existing ideas existed." What is the germ of an idea? It may be my lack of legal training, but certainly I only now learn that ideas germinate. It requires a little explanation. Mr Stout, again, is very mystical when endeavouring to show the impossibility of a revalation by Divine Inspiration. He argues that a revelation must be the communication of some new idea; that every new idea must have absolutely new words to express it; that man cannot understand absolutely new words, therefore he cannot ever have a divinely inspired revelation. The vocabulrry we have can only express our already known ideas, therefore we can never have any new ideas. Now let me ask one or two questions—Was it not an absolutely new revelation to Europeans when Columbus made known to them the existence of the Continent of America? Was it not an absolutely new truth to the world which Galilleo revealed, when he demonstrated, that the earth revolved round the sun? Were the laws of Kelper not a new revelation? Did Isaac Newton not make known what was never before a fact of man's intelligence? Docs the science of geology make known nothing previously absolutely unknown? Then how about our vocabulary? The fact is, we have such a flexible, and useful list of terms, page 28 simple and compound, that but little difficulty is felt in describing all the wondrous revelations which expand our knowledge. Again, Mr Stout says "if we know the meaning of the words" used in the communication of a revelation, that revelation cannot be absolutely new to us. Does he really mean by this that if I know all the words in the English language then the revelations of Euclid, which can be stated by those words, are not absolutely new to me, if then I for the first time am made acquainted with their existence? If not, then his argument was just so many idle words, and has no bearing whatever on the subject of inspiration. He further says, "Inspiration follows language, it does not precede it." It remains yet to be proved that language is not the effect of inspiration. It has not yet been demonstrated that it is a natural acquirement. It has developed and improved with use and necessity, but its origin is not yet in the sunlight on the development theory.

11.—How Do We Know?

"We'll leave a proof by that which we will do."

This thought seems always to perplex freethinkers beyond endurance. They for ever ask, this as often answered, question. The answer is simple and complete: We know it from the evidences which stand out demanding acknowledgment on every page of the singular volume. We know it from the attestation of God-taught men, and from the words of God through his servants. We know it by our exercise of the right of every man to examine every subject for himself. We know it from the sublimity of the utterances, precepts, characters, and from the remarkable harmony in the midst of diversity manifest throughout it. We know it from the many phases which distinguish it from all other books; for we cannot learn how human thought could produce a book so varied, so grand in its conception, so transcendent in its ideas, so dignifying to God, so humiliating to man, and so authoritative in its style.

12.—The Bible is Unique.

"Then for the style, majestic and divine, it speaks no less than God in every line.'

Considered from a mere literary point of view, the Bible stands amid the long catalogue of books, ancient and modern, majestically alone, but yet not isolated. In character, style, and manner of origin it is strangely unique. One of its features which strikes me very forcibly is the manner in which it speaks of man, even of the nation of which it first formed a sacred book. The language of the Bible at all times seeks to deprive man of that feeling so dear to his heart—that pride of power and greatness over his enemies—that boastful self-confidence which we see fostered and encouraged in other ancient books. It never praises man's prowess, never gratifies natural pride. When great feats are accomplished, the human element, in the acts which bring them about, is invariably held in abeyance, while the fact of a Divine interference is affirmed in the most emphatic manner. Nor is its treatment of individuals different from that of the nation. If persons are noticed, all their good and virtuous actions are attributed to the "Spirit being upon them," and when men whose general characters have proved good, are found to have done wrong, the Bible does not gloss over the matter, but, with the most natural expressiveness, tells the blackest as well as the brightest incidents page 29 connected with the story. On the other hand, if any character is introduced, the main features of whose life are bad, we find that his best actions are recorded with a grand candour. The Bible has no heroes of virtue, whose lives throughout are never blemished by a fault, and who are held up in contrast to some demons of vice, whose lives never present one trait of virtue, to relieve the black monotony of their wicked career. Throughout its 66 books, written by about 30 different persons, whose lives were separated in some instances by long periods of time, and whose surroundings were varied, both politically and socially, to a very noteworthy extent, the above marked principle is never violated. One spirit permeates the whole. This peculiarity alone points to some extraordinary source of authorship. Another fact which impresses me strongly is, the exclusively singular manner in which the Bible represents Deity Himself. All sacred books have their deities, but only in the Bible do we find such a Deity. Its first verse declares Him to be the Creator of the universe; and, with a remarkable consistency, this declaration is held forth as the great distinction between Him and the gods of the heathen, from Genesis to Revelation. Creation in all other sacred books is a mystery, for which they can provide no solution. Nor can the results of investigations into Nature and her laws give much relief from the obscurity. In the Bible only can I find anything approaching a satisfactory definition of a first cause. In the Bible God is represented as the Universal Deity. Heathen gods were local and partial; the God of the Bible is omnipresent. Men might act while heathen gods slept or were away on a journey. The Bible only, carries the student back into the undiscovered ages, where the Eternal Diety exists alone—exists everywhere, and in possession of all those attributes which constitute Him what He is. God is the one character of the Bible, and it is full of Him. The world has produced no other book which has assigned such an important position to the character and claims of the author of all things. His existence and transcendent supremacy are in no other composition represented with such beauty and majesty. It speaks of those matters with no indecision or hesitation, but rather with perfect certainty. It makes no effort and experiences no difficulty in presenting its ideas of God; but, inversely, it is as if the writers could only with difficulty restrain their grand expressions concerning the being, nature, and works of God.

13.—Koran, Vedas, Shakespeare.

"Sayings of the wise, in ancient and in modern books enrolled."

These, too, are unique books, Mr. Stout declares. I grant it, in their way. The Koran is unique for its gross absurdities and inconsis tencies; yet it is the work of one man, aided by two or three servants. The Vedas are unique in their great antiquity for their class of literature; but they are not uniform in plan and purpose. They are not consistent with each other Their conception of God is not of the high and majestic style of the Bible. They cannot be classed higher than the result of human authorship Shakespeare stands high as a poet, but in nearly every department or phase of thought he is quite equalled, in some excelled, by one or other of our poets. He is a bright star in page 30 the constellation of the poets; yet he is only a star, while the Bible is a sun!

14.—True or False?

"Hold fast that which is true."

That is the question. "It is the duty of every one to ask himself this question." But, alas! a too frequently neglected duty. That s where the great error lies. Young men have not the courage or patience to "work out" the answer, and they too often run to Paine, Bradlaugh, Voltaire, or some other oracle for the key; and how they hide that key in their bosoms, and cherish it, while they keep calling on others to follow Freethought, to exercise their reason, and never to accept a dogma unexamined. The precept is good, but the practice will out; and the key is invariably sought for, or recommended—the Freethought oracular key—and there self-examination ends and slavish credence commences. They then for ever call out "a search for the true," with the oracular key in their embrace, which has locked up their freedom.

15.—"A Small Portion of Mankind."

"But man revolted from his God."

Mr. Stout impugns the wisdom of God in the distribution of the Bible. He seems either to forget, or to ignore, well-established facts of history. God certainly committed to the Hebrews the Divine books. He did not, however, prevent other nations knowing of them and using them. Moreover, Mr Stout has not taken into account how widely the Bible was circulated over the world in the early days of Christianity, and that many years before our era it had been published in the popular language of the day. It was carried far south in Africa, west in Spain, north in Europe, and east in India, reaching possibly to China. Yet Mr. Stout says it was given to only a small portion of mankind. Had it not been for man's inveterate love of man-made gods and man-appointed priests, the paganism of their ancestors, and their own refusal to accept the Divine oracle, the Bible would for ages have been the univeral illuminator of mankind.

16.—"Without Morality."

"In morals blameless, as in manners meek."

"I apprehend that without morality the race would not exist. The race has existed without the Bible." Therefore the Bible is not the highest source of morals. Who ever denied that there was a possibility of man discovering, even in his savage and poorly developed condition, the necessity of morals of a certain order? Were the morals of Greece, however, to be compared with those of Palestine? Had the enlightened Romans as high an appreciation of morality as the Jews? But does Mr. Stout mean to imply that the millions who bow down to the religion of the Koran draw no sense of morality from the Bible? Then he errs. Does he mean to imply that the Vedas have running through them no wisdom imparted to the ancestors of the Eastern Asiatics by the Creator of the human family? Then he has to bring forward his proof. I contend that God communed with man before a line of the Bible was written, and this communication has been transmitted down the course page 31 of time, by precept and practice, more or less, through every diverging family of the species. The Bible teaches this. Further, it gives a higher and a purer motive for morality than is anywhere else presented. Spencer and others would make the observance of morals a mere matter of social policy, a policy prompted by sheer selfishness and personal prosperity. "If to be good will aid me, then I must be good." Hence a natural definition is formed, "Good, is that which best serves my purpose." The Bible, looking at our relation to Deity, shows that our duty to others and our allegiance to God, require us to act strictly what is right, and at the same time shows us what right is, which is love to God and man. It is not enough to say good is good, and produces good, bad is evil and generates evil, and still leave both good and evil undefined. That is just the point where philosophers disagree. What one has called a vice another has praised as a virtue; what one denounces as evil another extols as good. They have never by the simple means of experience been able to define what moral rectitude means. Now, one of the most conspicuous characteristics of the Bible is the "truth and justness of its moral distinctions," and one of the distinguishing features of the Book is that it contains the "only perfect standard of moral rectitude" known to man. Human reason is too circumscribed, to furnish such a standard. Nor is conscience honest enough to do so. It requires a perfect mind to arrange a perfect code of moral precepts. And the marvel is, that throughout the entire volume there is no deviation from the perfection of its definition. "It does not sever the outer from the inner man, but regards his principles and motives, as the germ of which the outward conduct is the development.. It identifies the love of God with keeping His commandments, and keeping His commandments with the love of God. It condemns the boasted rectitude of principle which is without the visible outward morality, as well as the Pharisaic morality that is destitute of right principle." True morality, therefore, is not without Divine inspiration.

17.—"Average Ability,"

He contends, could produce anything which has been produced by the writers for whom inspiration is claimed. I, in reply, ask any and every candid man who exercises the "right to examine every subject for himself" to compare the ten commandments of Mrs Brittan with the decalogue of Moses, and, to do the former as much justice as possible, endeavour to forget that Moses' pattern had been carefully studied before the competition was attempted, and then note the result. Yet, I presume, Mrs Brittan was a lady of rather more than "average ability." Montesquieu has said of Voltaire: "When Voltaire reads a book he makes it what he pleases, and then writes against what he has made." Too many follow his unworthy example in this matter of biblical criticism—if I may dignify it with such a term. A sense of justice does not seem to actuate those who desire to deny to the Bible the position of an inspired revelation of God to humanity. With them "the end seems to justify the means," no matter how irregular and contemptible the latter may prove to be. I cannot better bring my remarks to a close than by quoting Pollok's

page 32

18.—Eulogy on the Bible.

'They had the Bible. Hast thou ever heard
Of such a book? The author, God Himself;
The subject, God and man, salvation, life,
And death—eternal life, eternal death.
Dread works! whose meaning has no end, no bounds!
Most wondrous book! bright candle of the Lord!
Star of eternity! the only star
By which the bark of man could navigate
The sea of life, and gain the coast of bliss
Securely: only star which rose on Time,
And on its dark and troubled billows still,
As generation, drifting swiftly by,
Succeeded generation, threw a ray
Of heaven's own light, and to the hills of God,
The eternal hills, pointed the sinner's eye.
By prophets, seers and priests, and sacred bards;
Evangelists, apostles, men inspired
And by the Holy Ghost anointed, set
Apart and consecrated to declare
To Earth the counsels of the Eternal One—
This Book, this holiest, sublimest book
Was sent. Heaven's will, Heaven's code of laws entire
To man this Book contained; defined the bounds
Of vice and virtue, and of life and death,
And what was shadow, and what was substance taught.
Much it revealed; important all; the least
Worth more than what else seemed of highest worth.
But this, of plainest, most essential truth:
That God is one eternal, holy, just,
Omnipotent, omniscient, infinite,
Most wise, most good, most merciful and true—
In all perfection most unchangeable.
This Book, this holy Book, on every line
Marked with the seal of high divinity,
On every leaf bedewed with drops of love
Divine, and with the eternal heraldry
And signature of God Almighty stamped.
From first to last—this sacred light,
This lamp from off the everlasting throne,
Mercy took down and, in the night of Time,
Stood casting on the dark her gracious bow,
And evermore beseeching men, with tears
And earnest sighs, to read, believe, and live."

"My task is done.

* * * *

What is writ, is writ.

Would it were Worthier."

Printed at the "Daily Times" Office, Dowling Street, Dunedin.