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I 5 8 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

who had preached without interruption in some remote province of
Russia, came to Moscow, and in a fit of religious enthusiasm invaded the
cathedral, and broke the windows of the shopkeepers in its vicinity who
exhibited Ikons and other sacred objects of the Greek ritual. Undoubt-
edly the Metropolitan would complain to the Governor, and the leader
of the rioters would be summarily arrested, and if not crucified, sent to
Siberia.

Supposing this narrative to be true, it affords a natural explanation of
many of the incidents recorded. A disciple might well be bribed to dis-
close the hiding-place of his master ; the arrest might be made under the
circumstances described ; the disciples might disperse in alarm, and
Peter deny his connection with them ; Jesus might be taken before the
high priest, and by him referred to the Roman Governor. The incredible
legends about his trial and Pontius Pilate might resolve themselves into
the fact that Jesus had no defence to make, and was condemned, not on
theological grounds, or on the charge of having proclaimed himself as a
temporal king of the Jews, but on the simple charge of having been the
ringleader in a serious riot. Crucifixion would, as we know from nu-
merous instances in Josephus, have been a common Roman method of
dealing with such leaders, and its various incidents, such as the brutality
of the soldiers and the procession to Golgotha, are only what might be
expected. The historical part of the narrative can hardly be carried
farther than that Jesus came up to Jerusalem with a body of his followers,
that a riot took place in the Temple, and that he was arrested, tried, and
executed by the Roman Governor at the request of the Jewish authorities.
His entombment and the finding of the tomb empty rest, according to
Mark, who is the best authority, on the testimony of two women, Mary
Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, who are alone mentioned as
seeing where the body was laid, and of these two women and Salome, who
found the tomb empty, but, being afraid, said nothing at the time to any
one.

The next historical question is one of great importance. Did the
apostles, as directly asserted by Matthew, and indirectly by Mark, return
immediately to Galilee, where the belief in the Resurrection took form ;
or did they, as asserted with equal positiveness by Luke, remain at Jeru-
salem, where a series of startling miraculuous appearances took place ?

There can be little doubt in considering the Galilean tradition to be
the true one. Independently of the great weight of authority for consid-
ering the narrative of Mark, which is substantially the same as that of
Matthew, "to be the earliest and most authentic, it is inconceivable that, if
events had really occurred as described by Luke, any author or compiler
of any other Gospel should have ignored them and transferred the scene
to Galilee. However simple-minded such an author may have been, he
could not but have seen that he was weakening immensely the evidence
for the cardinal fact of the Resurrection, if, instead of referring to such



PROBLEMS OF THE FUTURE. 159

precise and definite statements of miracles, including the Ascension,
occurring in or near the capital city Jerusalem, in the presence of numer-
ous witnesses, many of whom survived to attest their truth twenty or
more years afterwards, he either omitted all mention of such occurrences
like Mark, or like Matthew transferred the scene to a remote province
and to a select few of his own disciples, and whittled down the evidence
to the vague statement that these went into the "mountain where
Jesus had appointed them," where "some worshipped him and some
doubted. "

Such a perversion of Luke's narrative might well have come from an
enemy of the new faith, but hardly from an apostle. On the other hand,
at a subsequent period, when the eye-witnesses were dead, and the orig-
inal records and traditions were obscured by time, and when the dog-
mas of the Resurrection and Divine nature of Jesus were firmly established,
nothing is more likely than that the birthplace of the new religion should
be transferred to Jerusalem, and the vague statements of occurrences in
Galilee should be transformed into a series of stupendous miracles
occurring at the sacred city in the presence of a large number of
witnesses.

The probabilities of the case also are all in favor of the return to
Galilee. The disciples had come to Jerusalem on a special pilgrimage,
to keep the Passover there, which was over ; there was no intimation of
any intention to remain, nor could they well have brought with them any
sufficient resources for a long stay. They were in mortal fear of the Jews,
and several of them had wives and families at home, to whom they would
hasten to return. If we could believe John, they not only returned, but
resumed their original occupation as fishermen ; but I lay little stress on
this, as the author of John, whoever he was, was evidently a man of con-
siderable literary attainments and dramatic genius, which he displayed in
in writing a Gospel, great parts of which may be most aptly described as
a theological romance.

But it is useless to dwell on details, as the conclusive argument is,
that Mark and Matthew could by no possibility have written as they did
if the course of events immediately after the death of Jesus had really
been, or even had been generally supposed to be, as described by Luke.

With the return of the disciples to Galilee the curtain falls on what
may be fairly called the historical drama of the life of Jesus, and we
enter on a region where all is conjecture and uncertainly. The belief in
the Resurrection evidently grew up in Galilee. It probably originated
with the women, for they are mentioned in all the accounts as the first
to have seen the risen Jesus, or to have brought a message from him or
from angels, and this is hardly likely to have been invented.

If at first they were afraid to tell any one, nothing is mor* natural than
t/.^>, when they found themselves in their own country and among
friends, their tongues would have been loosened, and they would begin



160 BEACU:\ LIGHTS Ob' SL'JEXCE.

to talk of the wonderful things they had seen, or fancied they had seen,
at Jerusalem.

The only thing certain is, that the belief in the Resurrection, once
started, grew rapidily, but that the various accounts of how it grew are
so vague and contradictory that it is hopeless to attempt to draw any cer-
tain conclusion respecting them. This will be apparent if we simply
place in juxtaposition the five different records which have come down to
us in the New Testament.

The most certain authentic record is that related by St. Paul in his
Epistle to the Corinthians. It is true that Paul was not an eye-witness,
or at all likely to have examined the evidence critically, and he places the
appearance to himself, which, whether supernatural or not, was obviously
in the nature of a vision, on precisely the same footing as the others.
Still it is good evidence that, some twenty years after the event, the
appearances he mentions were currently believed by the early Christian
community at Jerusalem.

They are six in number, and presumably, though he does not mention
the place, all at Jersualem, except that to himself on the road to Damas-
cus. Vis. :

I. To Peter.

a. To the twelve.

3. To above 500 brethren at once.

4. To James.

5. To all the apostles.

6. To himself.

Compare this with the other accounts, beginning with that of Mark,
which probably came direct from St Peter.

In the genuine Mark of the oldest manuscripts

Miraculous appearances.

None. Only a message from a young man in white delivered to the two
Marys and Salome.

In the addition to Mark, introduced later than the date of the oldest
manuscripts

Three, i. To Mary Magdalene.

2. To the two walking from Emmaus.

3. To the eleven.

i and 2 being distinctly stated not to have been believed by those to whom
they were told, at the time of their alleged occurrence.
According to Matthew

Miraculous appearances. Two.

1. To Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at Jerusalem.

2. To the eleven on a mountain in Galilee, when some worshipped and

"some doubted."



PROBLEMS OF THE FUTURE. 161

According to Luke

Miraculous appearances. Four all at Jerusalem.

1. Messages of two men in dazzling apparel, probably angels, to the two

Marys, Joanna, and other women.

2. To the two disciples walking from Emmaus, who at first did not reCOg.

mze him.

3. To the eleven, when he eat the broiled fish.

4. The Ascension, when he was bodily taken up in a cloud to heaven In the

presence of the eleven.

According to John

Miraculous appearances. Four first three at Jerusalem, fourth in Galilee.

1. To Mary Magdalene alone, who at first took him for the gardener.

2. To the disciples sitting in a room with closed doors.

3. A second time to the disciples, to remove Thomas' doubts.

4. By the sea of Galilee, when Peter and six other disciples caught the mi-

raculous draught of fishes, when at first none of them recognized him.

And John expressly states that this last was the third appearance to the
disciples after Jesus had risen from the dead, thus excluding all others ex-
cept i, 2, and 3.

It will be remarked, that of the five miraculous appearances recorded
by St. Paul as being the current belief at Jerusalem twenty years after the
event, three, those to Peter, James, and above 500 brethren at once, are
not even mentioned in any other account. The latter can hardly be the
same as Luke's Ascension, which comes in its natural place as the con-
cluding scene of the great drama of the life and resurrection of Jesus, and
the spectators are confined to the eleven apostles.

Paul's No. 5, or second appearance to all the apostles, may refer either
to that described by John to convince Thomas, or to Luke's Ascension;
but Paul makes no mention either of Thomas or of the Ascension, which
would be very strange if the bodily Ascension to heaven was a cardinal
article of faith when Paul visited Jerusalem, which it must have been if
it really happened as described by Luke. There remains therefore onl)
the vague tradition that Jesus had appeared to the twelve, as to which th<
enumeration by Paul of five miraculous appearances receives the slightest
confirmation from any of the Gospels.

The Gospel accounts, again, vary so much that there is not a single
case in which any one is confirmed by any of the others. The nearest
approach to it is in the appearances to the woman ; but here John says
distinctly it was to Mary Magdalene alone; while Matthew says it was to
the two Marys; Luke, that the vision was to the two Marys, Joanna, and
other women, and was one of angels, and not of Jesus; Mark, that the
message was given to the two Marys and Salome by a young man, Evi-
dently the tradition as to the women was very vague,



162 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

Again, the Ascension of Jerusalem, the greatest of all the miracles,
rests on Luke alone, and is negatived by the testimony of Matthew and
John, that the apostles returned to Galilee, and that the final scene, what-
ever it may have been, took place there; and still more significantly by
their silence and that of Mark, respecting an event which, if it took place
as described by Luke, must have been known and mentioned.

The appearance to the two disciples returning from Emmaus rests also
on the sole authority of Luke, and that to convince Thomas on that of
John. The miraculous draught of fishes is mentioned by John, and by
John alone. The appearance to the eleven is the only event mentioned
by three of the Evangelists, but of these, two place it in a room at Jeru-
salem, while one places it on a mountain in Galilee.

It is evident that it would be futile to attempt to form any historical
estimate from such accounts as these; they must be left, with miracles
generally, to the province of faith rather than that of reason. All we can
rationally infer is, that, as in the case of St. Thomas-a-Becket and so many
other saints and martyrs, the growth of miraculous myths was very rapid,
and that probably those records which contain the fewest of them must
date back very closely to the original events, and to the actors who took
a principal part in them. I have never been able to see any explanation
of the silence of the Gospel according to St. Mark respecting any miracu-
lous appearances after the Resurrection, and the brief and vague reference
to them in St. Matthew, except in the supposition that the account given by
Papias is true, and that they are really based on written notes taken down
by Mark from Peter, whose authority was sufficient to prevent later com-
pilers and editors from adding to them legends and traditions which were
floating about in the early Christian world, unsupported by any direct
apostolic authority.

Here then the curtain falls on any attempt to realize the historical ele-
ment in what Huxley so appropriately terms "the grand figure of Jesus as
it lies embedded in the primary strata of Christian literature." We see
him crucified at Jerusalem, his disciples returning to Galilee, and the faith
in his Resurrection growing up there, and soon becoming an assured
conviction, though with no agreement as to the facts on which it was
founded, and rapidly becoming surrounded with an atmosphere of myths
and miracles.

The next stage is even more obscure. We have no information as to
when and how the apostles returned to Galilee from Jerusalem, and
became, as we find them twenty years later, pillars of the Church there,
and leaders of a great religious movement. The Acts of the Apostles may
contain some authentic records of their proceedings at a later period, after
they had established themselves at Jerusalem, and exchanged the profession
of fisherman for that of missionaries of the new religion; but Luke's
account is discredited by the obvious fact that his earlier narrative of what
occurred during the first period of the Crucifixion is unhistorical. It is



PROBLEMS OF THE FUTURE. 163

clear that some time must have elapsed, and considerable changes taken
place at Jerusalem, during the interval between the departure of the
disciples for Galilee in mortal fear of the Jews, and their return to the
capital, where they seem to have preached publicly, and made numerous
converts, without any serious interference by the populace or the
authorities.

The narrative of this early period in the Acts, up to the date of Paul's
appearance on the scene, is full of improbabilities. The miracles
attributed to Peter, his deliverance from prison by angels, the gift of
tongues by the Holy Ghost, which did not enable Peter to dispense with
an interpreter, these and many other incidents have rather the air of
legends than of genuine history. They stand in marked contrast with the
naive and natural incidents recorded by Mark, how the crowd overflowed
into the street, how the bustle was such that they had no time to eat, how
Jesus slept through a night-squall which endangered the boat I can find
no solid historical ground until Paul met the pillars of the Church at
Jerusalem, except the general fact that the apostles returned there from
Galilee, preached publicly, made numerous converts, and that Peter
probably played a leading part. But with the death of Jesus and the
flight of his disciples to Galilee the first chapter ends, and the second opens
with the history of the early Christian Church, when the preoccupations
of the principal actors were doctrinal rather than historical, and we enter
on a new and wider phrase of religious controversies and metaphysical
speculations. It requires all the erudition of the most learned divines and
professors to find any clue through this labyrinth, and takes us far from
that which is the sole object of this essay to endeavor to form some con-
ception of what may be the historical element in the records of the life
and death of the founder of the religion.



CHAPTER X.

SCEPTICISM AND PESSIMISM.

/""^ARLYLE was a great genius, but he was a dreadful croaker. Bar-
V-/' ren, brainless, soulless, faithless were the epithets he commonly
applied to the age in which he lived, and his favorite simile for his con-
temporaries was that of apes chattering on the shores of the Dead Sea.
In the case of Carlyle, the cause of this pessimism is not far to seek. He
suffered from chronic dyspepsia. If with the many other excellent quali-
ties of his peasant progenitors, he had inherited some share of the " dura
messorum ilia," and been able to eat his three square meals a day, and
feel all the better for it, his views of the age and of his contemporaries
would have been materially altered. He would have seen an age which
is one of the most marked chapters in the history of human evolution ;
an age of great events and marvellous progress, progress not material only,
but fully to an equal extent social, political, moral, and intellectual. The
shores of the Dead Sea would have blossomed with verdure, and instead
of chattering apes he would have seen human faces, ' ' men my brothers,
men the workers," with a great deal of human nature in them, good and
bad, weak and strong, joyous and sad, healthy and suffering, but on the
whole working up to a level which, if not necessarily happier, is at any
rate higher.

For such dyspeptic pessimists there is an excuse. Pessimism is prob-
ably as inevitably their creed as optimism is for the more fortunate mor-
tals who enjoy the "mens sana in corpore sano." But there are a large
number of our modern pessimists for whom no such excuse can be
pleaded.

There are the would-be superior persons, who think their claim to
superiority is best established by affecting a lofty air of superfine disdain
for the rude realities of real life ; the critics who, as Lord Beaconsfield
wittily says, are the failures ; the minor poets, painters, and writers who,
in their own opinion, would have been shining lights if their tapers had
burned in a more congenial atmosphere ; the prejudiced politicians and
aristocratic classes who feel that knowledge, and with it political power,
is passing over to the masses. And above all there are the orthodox
divines, and good but narrow-minded religious public, whose one idea of
religion is that it consists of adherence to traditional dogmas, and an un-



PROBLEMS OF THE FUTURE. 165

broken belief in the truth of every word of the Bible as the inspired word
of God, and the ne plus ultra of human knowledge.

With prejudices such as these it would be a waste of time to attempt
argument; but there are a certain number of earnest and thoughtful men
who hold what are substantially the same views upon different grounds,
which deserve more careful consideration. They are not confined to
social swells, would-be superior persons and orthodox theologians, but
even a man of light and leading like Mr. Frederic Harrison can see no
salvation except in the exceedingly improbable contingency of the world
adopting the cult of humanity as evolved by the inner consciousness of
M. Auguste Comte. What they say is substantially this, Science is kill-
ing faith; scepticism and democracy are advancing on old creeds and old
institutions, like the lion of the desert, who in Tennyson's splendid
simile

" Drawing nigher,
Glares at one who nods and winks behind a slowly-dying fire."

Religion, they say, is becoming extinct, not only in the simple, old'
fashioned sense of belief in creeds and catechisms, but in the higher sense
of doubting the truth of the essential principles on which the Christian
scheme of theology, and ultimately all spiritual faith and all religions, de-
pend. A God who, according to one eminent Anglican divine, has been
"defecated to a pure transparency," and, according to another, removed
behind the primeval atoms and energies into an " original impress " act-
ing by unvarying laws, is, they tell us, practically equivalent to no God
at all, and instead of agnostics we ought to call ourselves atheists. With-
out a lively faith in such a personal, ever-present Deity, who listens to our
prayers, modifies the course of events, records our actions, and finally re-
wards or punishes us after death according to our deserts, there can be,
they say, no real religion; and they hold, and I think rightly hold, that
the only support for such a religion is to be found in the assumed inspira-
tion of the Bible and the divinity of Christ

Destroy these, and they think the world will become vulgar and ma-
terialized, losing not only the surest sanction of morals, but what is even
more important, the spiritual aspirations and tendencies which lift us
above the sordid realities of daily existence, and give poetry to the prose
of life. The Muses will take their flight with their sister Theology to
happier spheres; imagination, idealism, heroism, and originality will dis-
appear, leaving the world to a barren and prosaic sort of Chinese civiliza-
tion. In short, their forecast of human existence is very similar to that
which astronomers make of the planet upon which the human race live,
viz. , that as its inner heat radiates away in the course of ages, it will be-
come, like its satellite the moon, a barren and burnt-up cinder.

To these gloomy forebodings I venture to return a positive and categor-
ical denial; and to assert, on the contrary, that scepticism has been the great



i66 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

sweetener of modern life, has not only given us truer and juster views of
the realities of the universe, but has made us more liberal-minded, toler-
ant, merciful, charitable, than in the hard, cruel days of mediaeval super-
stition, and, in a word, that almost in exact proportion as we have drifted
away from the letter, we have approached nearer to the spirit of true
Christianity.

This, I am aware, will appear to many a strong assertion, and I must
be prepared to justify it by specific instances, which I proceed to do. But
first let me define what I mean by the term ' ' scepticism, " In a general
way it means allegiance to truth; the habit of mind which makes a man,
like a conscientious juryman, require evidence before he delivers his
verdict, and if the evidence is insufficient makes him return one of ' ' not
proven." Doubt of doubtful things is to such a one as sacred a duty as
affirmation of what is true and denial of what is false. His cardinal
maxim is that of Dr. Johnson, "Clear your mind of cant." Don't say
you believe when you really disbelieve, or only half believe, and try to
hide your misgiving from yourself and from the world by loudness of
asseveration or bitterness of denunciation.

But to this general meaning of the word scepticism a more limited
and precise significance has come to be attached, and it is commonly
used to denote disbelief in the inspiration of the Bible and the dogmas of
theological Christianity. In this sense I accept it, and proceed to join
issue with those who deny my assertion, that the world is a better place
to live in on account of scepticism.

I will begin by taking a specific instance the treatment of lunatics.
Ever since the establishment of Christianity there has been a controversy
between doctors and theologians. Theologians, and the public gener-
ally, relying on texts of Scripture, held that lunacy, with its kindred
diseases of epilepsy and nervous affections, were caused by demons, or
evil and unclean spirits, taking bodily possession of the unfortunate
patients. Doctors, who for a long time alone represented the cause of
science, relying on fact and experiment, and the teachings of great phy-
sicians of pre-Christian times, such as Hippocrates and Galen, held that
such diseases were simply cases of pressure on the brain and over-wrought
nervous systems. This was held to be so contrary to the truths of re-
vealed religion, that doctors were looked upon as infidels of the worst
sort, and the saying became general, " Ubi tres medici duo Athei ; " atheist
being the polite appellation with which every one was pelted who dared
to appeal from Scripture to reason, and think for himself.

This radical divergence of view respecting the cause of lunacy led
naturally to a corresponding difference in the mode of treatment. From
the orthodox point of view the lunatic was a loathsome and repulsive
object, whose body, probably for sins of his own or of his ancestors, had
been taken possession of by an evil spirit. The only hope of cure was,
so to speak, to bully the demon out of him by portentous exorcisms in



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