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OMNIPOTENCE THE AUTHOR OF EVIL.

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generosity and devotion of the proposed substitute, but the equity of the judge who accepts it merely excites our contempt and disgust. Yet such in the doctrine of the Redemption is the justice of the God of the Bible.

There is a wondrous mass of contradictions involved in this doctrine. If one person of the Trinity descended upon earth, and Jesus is said to have been perfect God, then, unless the remaining two persons were sufficient to form a quorum, there was no God in heaven, as two-thirds cannot amount to a whole. Again, Jesus is said to have suffered to appease the anger of God; but Jesus himseif was the second person in the Trinity, which is said to be one God. Did he, then, suffer to appease his own anger? or was it to satisfy the Father and Holy Ghost, he himself not only being willing to forgive mankind freely, but to be the means of reconciling them with the more obdurate Father and Ghost? This, of course, would be answered by the defenders of Christianity calling it a great, an incomprehensible mystery, and declaring all further inquiry to be impious.

Theologians will persist in their attempts at reconciling the justice and wisdom of the God of the Bible-the justice and wisdom, in fact, of dark and superstitious times-with our rational and civilised ideas on these subjects; and although frequently reduced to that superlative nonsense, a dogmatical limitation of Omnipotence, they still endeavour to explain how their God, without any evil in himself, could admit evil into the world. In the hypothesis of Omnipotence, no inferior agent or power can possibly be supposed to exist without the express command of God. If, with some of the ancient philosophers, we were to suppose a matter existing from all eternity, from which God did not so much create as form the universe, then in this case we should have two powers, both imperfect and finite, instead of one perfect and self-sufficient God. Again: if, with the Manichees, Guebres, and other sects, we were to believe in two powers, one the author of all good, and the other of all evil, we should be reduced to the same inconsistency. The Almighty God of the Christians must, therefore, be considered as the author of all evil-at once Oromasdes and Arimanes. Theologians may sophisticate and twist

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INSPIRATION OF THE BIBLE.

and mangie the plain meaning of their own words and their own doctrines, but all must come to this inevitable conclusion, that if there be an Omnipotent God, no evil, no sin could ever have come into the world without his absolutely placing it there. It is not worth while to entangle ourselves in the mazes of free will and predestination, for the insurmountable difficulty lies in the idea of Omnipotent power, which involves a thousand absurd contradictions.

The claim of the writers of the Bible to a supernatural inspiration will merely excite the reader's ridicule, when he finds the power and wisdom of the God of the Bible illustrated by vacillation and blundering, and his mercy and goodness by inefficacious cruelty and antiquated injustice; and when he finds that this heavenly influence has not preserved the writings from glaring marks of ignorance and barbarity, from Oriental extravagance, hyperbole, and bad taste, and from the fouler stain of Oriental obscenity.

CHAPTER THE THIRTEENTH.

SUMMING UP.

SOME witty remarks of S. T. Coleridge, at the commencement of one of his Theological Essays, are peculiarly applicable to many defenders of Christian doctrines and evidences. "People are apt, when they are strongly attached to a doctrine, which they never take the pains carefully to unfold and examine in all its parts, to fly out against those who present it to them plainly, as if they presented it unfairly. They see it for the first time in its bare, unadorned reality, without that running accompaniment, and deceptive commentary of assumptions and attributions laudatory or reproachful, which has been to them in lieu of sound, searching argument. When these are left out they think the doctrine cheated and abused, merely because it does not look as

WHAT WE HAVE DONE.

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well in their eyes as it used to do; forgetting that the form of Truth will bear exposure as well as that of Beauty itself that truth is beauty, inasmuch as it is symmetry and fair proportion." "Arguments when exposed appear too bad ever to have been used; brought into the light of Reason,

' They look as glow-worms look by day,'

or like the scenes and tinsel of a playhouse, viewed in the cool clear atmosphere of the morning."*

Stripped of the "deceptive commentary of assumptions and attributions," what are the evidences of Christianity? We have shown that nothing favourable to the supernatural origin of the religion can be drawn from the writings of its early apologists. We have examined Leslie's celebrated and vaunted argument of the four criteria, and claim to have proved it to be a fallacy. We have shown that pious frauds have been made use of with the best intentions by otherwise virtuous men, both before and after the death of Christ, and up to the present time. We have inquired into the authenticity of the Gospel Narratives, and have found the proofs of it to be fatally deficient. We have exposed the sophistry of always representing the early Christian martyrs as having suffered and died in testimony to the truth of the miracles-a point which their persecutors never called in question. We have found Christianity to be, not a "cunningly devised fable," but a stage of improvement on Judaism and Paganism; and the founders of Christianity to be, not crafty impostors, but simple-minded and generous reformers, who lived in an age when truth was little understood or regarded-when belief in supernatural interference on earth was a vivid faith, and not a respectable conventional profession-when men would fight, and kill, and die, and lie, for their faith, and believed that the end sanctified the means, and that everything was justifiable in the cause of God. We have proved the worthlessness of the Evidences of Prophecy, and have reduced them to an absurdity, by showing that an equally strong case can be made for Mohammedanism.

Aids to Reflection, vol. ii., pp. 249-50.

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We have produced a sufficient number of instances of immorality, ignorance, cruelty, contradictions and discrepancies, contained in the Bible, particularly in the character of the God of the Bible, to disprove its pretended inspiration. And what remains?

Christian advocates still do strive, and doubtless will strive for some time longer, to twist together and furbish this flimsy, rusty chain of the evidences. Though its most essential links have so often been crushed and shattered, they still flatter themselves that it will hang together; and some even imagine that it has withstood every attack. They cannot and will not believe that so plain a tale can put down a religion that has been venerated for so many ages and by so many nations, and defended by the elaborate and learned works of so many eminent and dignified scholars and divines. Unable to explain away the ludicrous horrors of some of the Bible stories and doctrines, they avail themselves of the plea of "relative wisdom," or of "sacred mystery," triumphantly expatiate on the undesigned coincidences of the Acts and Epistles, or some other equally irrelevant triviality, or break away out of all bounds into a strain of extravagant and blustering declamation.

"It is no doubt," says Mr. Henry Rogers, in his "Reason and Faith," "much easier to insist on individual objections, which no man can effectually answer, than it is to appreciate the total effect of many lines of argument and many sources of evidence, all bearing on one point." Now it will surely be granted that six, or ten, or any number of sophisms or erroneous arguments, "all bearing on one point," can never establish that point; that no amount of fallacious logic or suspicious evidence, however amalgamated and intertwined, can ever form a'cogent and harmonious mass of proof; and that if "individual objections, which no man can effectually answer," can be advanced against each line of argument and source of evidence, those arguments and evidences, in a collective form, must be of very small weight. Bishop Butler, in a passage quoted by Mr. Rogers with great approbation, maintains that "the truth of religion, like the truth of common matters, is to be judged of by all the evidence taken

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together." And "it is easy to show, in a short and lively manner, that such and such things are liable to objection; but impossible to show, in like manner, the united force of the whole argument in one view."* The strength and force of a mass of arguments surely must depend upon the integrity of its parts; arguments cannot be examined, or appreciated, or attacked, or defended, in a lump; they must necessarily be taken in detail. And what is the value of "all the evidence taken together," in the face of so many "individual objections which no man can effectually answer ?"

The Christian Socialists, those sincere and nobly benevolent men, whom no one unembittered by religious or political bigotry can refrain from loving and "blessing unawares," are vainly trying to reconcile those great living truths of human equality, brotherhood, and mutual service, with the dead language of the gospel of Christ. Vainly-for the violent outburst of abuse and ridicule, and the reasonable arguments, with which both the Evangelical and High Church parties have denied and rejected their sanitary and social interpretation of scripture, go very far to prove the impracticability of preserving this unnatural compound, not to mention the clearer and more general insight into the falsity of the origin and claims of Christianity, which is becoming more and more conspicuous in every rank of society.

CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH,

OMNIPOTENCE.

(1.) IT has been sarcastically urged against the atheist that his opinions are at once the meanest and the most arrogant possible, since he degrades man to the level of the beasts by denying his

Analogy, part ii., chap. vii., quoted in Reason and Faith, p. 27. † Meanwhile they are doing much good by promoting associa tions among workmen, and by bringing higher and lower classes into friendly and confidential relations.

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