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ecclesiatical latin, and worse still, by ill-treatment amounting often to
the most horrible torture. Bedlam, with its row of raving madmen,
chained like wild beasts to the wall, was a type of the usual mode of

Even such a great and good man as Sir Thomas More ordered ac-
knowledged lunatics to be publicly flogged ; and throughout rural Eng-
land there were many what were called bowsening-places, for curing
of madmen consisting of deep walled cisterns full of water, into which,
as Carew describes it in his Survey of Cornwall, "the lunatic was sud-
denly plunged by a blow on his breast, tumbling him headlong into the
pond, where a strong fellow, kept for the purpose, dragged him about
till he was quite exhausted ; " when he was taken to church, masses said
over him, and if he did not recover he was " bowsened again and again
while there remained any hope of life in him."

This simple picture of what was going on every day in remote country
parishes of England enables us to realize the practical consequences of
the theory of demoniacal possession, better perhaps than an enumeration
of the Papal bulls and sermons of eminent divines, which urged the civil
to unite with the ecclesiastical authorities and the Inquisition, in rooting
out the bond servants of Satan.

The medical men, on the other hand, of whom two out of every three
were reputed to be atheists, took the opposite view, that madness was
nothing but a form of brain disease, that its victims were rather objects
for compassion than for aversion, and that gentle treatment was far more
likely to effect cures than exorcisms and tortures.

Here, then, was a distinct issue joined between the Doctors of Divinity
and the Doctors of Medicine, between the " theologici " and the " athei."
If the question were to be decided by texts, the "theologici " had it all
their own way, and the " athei '' were nowhere. Nothing can be clearer
than that Jesus over and over again asserted the theory of demoniacal
possession. The demons knew him, he knew them, they conversed
together; and he was so well acquainted with their ways that he could
tell what sort could only be ejected by prayer and fasting. In the famous
instance of the Gadarene swine, a raging madman was cured by evicting
a legion of devils, and instead of leaving them homeless on the roadside,
as if they had been Irish peasants, allowing them to occupy as caretakers
the bodies of more than two thousand unfortunate pigs.

Nothing can be more explicit. Orthodox Christians were quite right
in struggling to the last against a theory of lunacy which was in such
direct contradiction with the express words of Scripture and of Jesus
himself. We cannot wonder at Bossuet preaching his two great sermons,
"Sur les Demons"; and John Wesley insisting that "most lunatics are
really demoniacs," and that "to give up witchcraft is to give up the Bible,
and to take ground against the fundamental truths of theology."

There cannot be a clearer illustration of the logical strength of Dr.


Wace's formula, that if you believe in the inspiration of the Bible and in
the Divine nature of Jesus, you must believe these things, or make him
out to be a liar I may add, a liar of the worst description, for if he were
Divine and Omniscient, he must have known not only that he was
fostering a delusion, but that this delusion would be in future ages the
cause of misery and torture to thousands of the most helpless of the
human race. But I reply, not without some little tone of indignation,
' It is you, not I, who makes Jesus out to be a liar; it is your assump-
tion of Divine inspiration and Divine nature which defaces the pure and
noble image of the Man Jesus, and places us in the alternative of either
believing incredible things, or making him out to be an utterer of false-
hoods. As a man no taint of fasehood or insincerity attaches to him in
admitting that he used the language and shared the mistakes of his age
and country. But as a God there is ; and a God who teaches theories
which are demonstrably false, and which lead to barbarous and revolting
practices, is an incarnation not of goodness, but of evil. "

For the theory of demoniacal possession is demonstrably false. If,
instead of appealing to texts, the appeal is made to facts, the verdict is
reversed; it is the " athei" who hold the field, and the "theologici " who
are nowhere.

Which cure or alleviate the larger number of cases of lunacy exorcisms
and tortures, or gentle treatment ? Which is most in harmony with the
best instincts of human nature love, charity, mercy, and compassion,
Hanwell, with its harmless and happy inmates, or Bedlam, with its row
of chained wild beasts ? If a doctor of Divinity says of a lunatic that he
is possessed by a devil, while a Doctor of Medicine says he is suffering
from a lesion of the brain; if the lunatic dies, and his brain is dissected,
which do you find, the devil or the lesion ? Nay, has not medical science
gone so far that you can often predict the exact spot where the pressure
on the brain is taking place, and by an operation remove the tumor, and
restore the patient to reason ?

If these things are true, and if the modern treatment of madness is
really an improvement on the old one, it is quite clear that we are indebted
for the change to scepticism, for it was impossible as long as the authority
of Scripture was held to be the supreme tribunal, superior to fact and
reason, and whose dicta it was impious to dispute. Montaigne, Hume,
Voltaire, and a host of what used to be called infidel writers were the
precursors of Pinet and Tuke; and with Galileo, Newton, and the triumphs
of modern science, created the purer sceptical and scientific atmosphere
of the present age, in which the masters of mediaeval theology simply die
out like the Saurians of the secondary period, leaving a few fossil remains
and degenerate descendants.

Witchcraft affords another test case in which the humanizing influence
of scepticism is most apparent Down to a comparatively recent period
the belief in witchcraft was universal, and whole hecatombs of miserable


victims were sacrificed to a superstition which is no less barbarous and
degrading than that which exists to the present day in Dahomey, and
among the cannibals of Central Africa. Why? Because the texts of
what was supposed to be the inspired Word of God explicitly asserted the
reality of witchcraft, and contained the command " Ye shall not suffer a
witch to live."

The case is the same as that of the belief in demoniacal possession as
the cause of lunacy, except that the treatment of witches was even more
cruel than that of lunatics, being founded more on texts of the Old Testa-
ment, dating back to a barbarous age. It was a form of cruelty also for
for which Protestants were even more responsible than Catholics, its worst
excesses occurring in Protestant countries after the Reformation. In Ger-
many alone, it is estimated that in the great age of witch-burning which
followed that event, more than 100,000 persons perished by an excruciat-
ing death in the course of a single century.

On a smaller scale, one of the worst and latest out breaks of the witch-
burning epidemic occurred in Puritan Massachusetts at the close of the
seventeenth century, incited and fanned into a flame by the efforts of the
Mathers and other leading Calvinistic divines. Hundreds of innocent
men and women of good characters were tortured into confessions, or con-
victed on the testimony of private enemies and professional witch-hunters,
and perished in the flames, as was clearly proved when the epidemic
subsided, and reason began to resume its sway, though divines like Cotton
Mather held out to the last, and groaned over the evil spirit of unbelief
which had thwarted the glorious work of freeing New England from

Nobody now believes in witchcraft, and foolish old women and hys-
terical young ones may talk as much nonsense as they like without fear
of being burned alive. Surely the world is the better for this ; but how
has it been brought about ? Not that the texts have become more am-
biguous, but that people have ceased practically to believe in them. I
say practically, for there are a good many who still retain a sort of half-
belief, and who would be shocked either to confess that the Bible is not
inspired, or to say, with John Wesley, that "to give up witchcraft is to
give up the Bible, " but as the Ichthyosauri died out, and left harmless
lizards as their successors in the purer air of the Tertiary era ; so this,
with other barbarous superstitions, has lost all real hold on the minds and
consciences of those who, happily for themselves, live in the atmosphere
of a scientific and sceptical age.

If the idolatry of Scriptural texts has caused so much human misery in
the case of lunacy and witchcraft, the same idoltary, expanded from texts
into dogmatical creeds and confessions, has been even more destructive
in the case of heresy. Heresy, or the holding of different beliefs from
those of the Church, is either a harmless and necessary incident in the use
of human reason, or it is an act of pernicious and contagious wickedness


which it is the duty of the State to aid the Church in stamping out
This depends on whether we do or do not believe the Creeds. If we
believe the Athanasian Creed, which contains the fullest summary of the
articles of the Catholic faith, and which is still retained in the Anglican
ritual, all men will "without doubt perish everlastingly" who do not be-
lieve in every single article of that remarkable Creed, What right have
we to rail against Torquemada, or blame Calvin for burning Servetus, if
we really believe this to be true ? They were simply carrying out, con-
scientiously and logically, the piinciples to which all orthodox Christians
profess to adhere. Surely if it is right to stamp out the cattle plague, it
must be still more right to stamp out a moral cattle plague which is em-
inently contagious, and which beyond all doubt causes those who contract
the disease "to perish everlastingly." There is no possible answer to
this, except that we do not believe the Creeds ; that we feel the burning
of men for differences of opinion to be cruel, and the suppression of free-
dom of thought to be mischievous. In short, that our attitude has
become that of the poet who says

" There is more life in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the Creeds."

If this is not "scepticism," I do not know what the meaning of the
word is.

We live, fortunately, in an age when scepticism has so effectually killed
the class of ideas which led to persecutions for heresy, that we have
almost forgotten what the Inquisition and the fires of Smithfield really
were. From first to last, hundreds of thousands of victims perished in
horrible tortures for the crime of thinking for themselves. There is hardly
a man of light and leading of the present century who would not have
been sent to the stake if Spain had conquered England, and the integrity
of the Catholic faith had been enforced by the civil power, or if Calvin
had ruled in England as he did in Geneva. Darwin, Huxley, and
Herbert Spencer would certainly have been burned ; Carlyle, George
Eliot, Byron, and Shelly would have shared the same fate ; and Dean
Stanley, Bishop Temple, and the whole Broad Church would have been
in imminent peril. Spain, where the Inquistion so long reigned supreme,
is an instance not only of the devilish cruelty which a misplaced relig-
ious earnestness can inspire, but of the inevitable political and social
decrepitude which follow from successful attempts to stamp out freedom
of thought.

Religious wars were only an outcome on a larger scale of the ideas
which inspired religious persecutions. At bottom it was a firm conviction
by those who held one set of opinions, that those who held different ones
were miscreants, enemies of the human race, who ought to be forcibly
converted or exterminated. Given the conviction, the persecutions and
wars followed as a matter of course, or rather of conscience. Destroy it,


and the persecutions and wars cease. We no longer persecute and go to
war in the name of religion. Why ? Because the age has become too
liberal, enlightened, tolerant, and humane. And why has it become so ?
Because scepticism has triumphed over orthodoxy. That the age has be-
come more sceptical, and that faith in the old hard-and-fast lines of ortho-
dox religion has declined, are facts which all acknowledge, though some
deplore. It is evident, moreover, that these two facts are not merely
concurrent, but stand to one another in the relation of cause and effect
It is a case not merely of post hoc but propter hoc. Voltaire, who may
be taken as the representative of the literary scepticism of the last century,
was inspired in his attacks on orthodoxy by his indignation at one of the
last " autos-de-fe, " or acts of faith, in the burning of a heretic. His shafts
of ridicule wounded the monster to death more effectually perhaps than
could have been done by solid arguments. The name of Darwin, again,
may be taken as the representative of the scientific scepticism which has
effected the greatest revolution of thought in the history of the human
race, and substituted the idea of original impress, acting by unvarying
law, for that of secondary supernatural interferences with the course of
Nature. No educated man any longer believes in the sense in which our
forefathers believed the Bible, and in which Mahometans still believe in
the Koran. The assured faith in the Bible, as an ultimate and exhaustive
record written by God's finger, has vanished never to return, and has quite
lost its power as a practical factor in the life of nations. We retain our
affection and reverence for it, from old associations, and as containing
many beautiful and excellent things, but we no longer make it an idol.
We criticise it freely, and find it to be a collection of various writings of
various ages, bv unknown or doubtful authors, and containing, with much
that is of the highest truth and highest interest, much that bears evident
traces of the ignorance, superstition, ferocity, and immorality of the rude
and barbarous ages over which its traditions extend. No one now would
think of appealing to every single text of Scripture as an ultimate
tribunal from which there was no appeal, or, like the Caliph Omar,
burning all the other books in the world because, if they agreed with
the Bible they were superfluous, and if they disagreed with it, mis-

A better proof cannot be afforded of the extent to which ecclesiastical
religion has ceased to be a motive power in human affairs, than by a
reference to the great wars of the last half century. By an irony of fate,
the first great exhibition in Hyde Park, which was thought to have in-
augurated an era of peace, has been, like opening the temple of Janus,
the signal for a series of the greatest wars recorded in history ; wars great
not only in the magnitude of the scale on which they were waged, but in
the momentous importance of the issues involved. In all these w ars the
element of religion was entirely absent, and in its place was supplied by
the new element of Nationality. The net result of these wars has been


the consolidation of a great Germany, a great Italy, and a great United
States. Everywhere people of the same race, speaking the same language,
and having a common literature and common interests, however broken
up and divided into fragments by internal dissensions or foreign foes,
have tended with irresistible force to consolidate themselves into great
nations. Even the weaker races the Greeks, Roumanians, Servians,
and Bulgarians have felt the same impulse, and the half-satisfied aspira-
tions of the Eastern Christians constitute the peril of Europe, and threaten
us with the impending shadow of another war. Nearer home, Irish na-
tionality is the root of our Irish difficulty. We have taught the Irish
people to read and write, we have given them a free Press and Parlia-
mentary institutions, and the result is that they claim an increase of self-
government and recognition of their separate nationality which we
hesitate to concede, because we fear that it would destroy the old system
of English ascendancy, and subvert many of the settled principles of
English law, especially as regards the tenure of land and the rights and
duties of landlords. If we have saved our colonial empire, it is only by
conceding with the freest hand to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and
South Africa all that we once contended for, and giving them the fullest
scope to work out their destinies as independent communities, attached
to the mother country by ties of common interest and affections, rather
than by the hard-and-fast lines of superior force.

Now in all these great movements it is remarkable that ecclesiastical
religion has not only been an appreciable factor, but that in many cases
they have gone on in the teeth of whatever influence it might be supposed
to have remaining. In Italy, the head-quarters of ecclesiastical authority,
the Pope, though still the venerated head of millions of Catholics, has
been utterly powerless when opposed to the idea of Italian nationality.
The Catholics of South Germany fought as stoutly at Gravelotte and
Sedan, shoulder to shoulder with the Protestants of the North, to make a
great Germany, as their ancestors did under Tilly and Wallenstein against
the ancestors of the same Protestants to secure the ascendancy of their
respective Creeds. Austria has to forget the traditions of the Thirty
Years' and the Seven Years' wars, and ally herself to heretic Prussia.
France has for more than a century been intensely national, and very
little religious. Even in Spain a dominant ecclesiasticism died out with
the embers of the Carlist insurrections, and Spanish colonies in far-off
Mexico, Buenos Ayres, and Chili are entering on a career of progress and
prosperity almost exactly as they have emancipated themselves from the
rule of priests and adopted modern ideas.

Has this change from religious to national wars been on the whole
beneficial ? One thing is certain, that war among civilized states has
become infinitely more humane. Compare the picture by a military
correspondent, of the advance of the Crown Prince's army through
France, with the details of the Thirty Years' War, as given in Schiller's


history. In the one case yon see French peasant girls standing at the
doors of their cottages to see the brilliant staff ride by, and exchanging
nods and smiles with the German soldiers ; in the other you have Tilly's
Pappenheimers tossing heretic babies on the points of their pikes at the
sack of Magdeburg.

The most signal instance, perhaps, of the humanizing influence of
modern ideas is afforded by the action of the United States after the close
of the great Civil War. A war of unexampled magnitude, costing tens
of thousands of lives and millions of money, had been fought out with
unexampled determination. The vanquished had begun the war, and in
the view of the victors were rebels, but not a single hair of their heads
was touched after the contest was over, not a single political prisoner was
brought to trial. Jeff Davis was not hanged on a sour apple-tree, and the
leading generals and politicians on either side for the most part returned
quietly to civil occupations. I sometimes wonder what an historian
writing a century hence will think of this record, compared with our
English one of twenty-five members of Parliament imprisoned as common
felons for political offences. To pursue this further would, however,
lead me too far towards the burning region of contemporary politics, and
I content myself by drawing this conclusion. If the spirit of the age be
really sceptical and democratic, as all admit and many deplore, then scep-
ticism and democracy must be included among those "ingenuas artes"
of which the Roman poet says

" Emollit mores nee sinit esse feros.*'

Nor is it in war onfy that milder manners and a more humane and
charitable spirit have accompanied, if they have not been created by, the
development of these two great principles of modern society. The air is
full of projects, visionary or otherwise, which are all based on the spirit,
if not on the letter, of true Christianity, of assisting the poor and suffering,
and sweetening the conditions of life. Bismarck and the German Emperor
adopt large schemes of State socialism, and aim at a universal insurance
of workmen against poverty and old age. Trades Unions, Provident
Societies and Savings Banks do the same on an ever-widening scale in
English-speaking communities. The old harsh principles of English law,
which always sided with the strong against the weak, with man against
woman, with landlord against tenant, with capital against labor, are
being broken down in all directions. The rigid conclusions of
political economy are no longer accepted as axioms. The duties of
property, so long ignored, are coming into formidable antagonism with
its rights.

So far from impairing the sanctions of morality, moral considerations
are coming more and more to the front in this age of material progress.
Slavery, long sanctioned by Bible texts and immemorial usage, offends
the public conscience and disappears. We began by burning heretics,


burning softened into boycotting, and finally this last vestige of intoler-
ance has disappeared, and we live in an England where,

" Girt by friends or foes,
A man may speak the thing he will."

That worH-old though newly-named institution, the "boycott," is no
longer applied to differences of opinion, but confined to conspicuous
offenders against the unwritten laws of a nation's conscience; to respond-
ents in divorce courts, exceptionally bad landlords, and heartless profli-
gates. The poor are always with us, but we no longer pass them by on
the other side like the Pharisee, muttering our ecclesiastical texts and
economical formulas. We feel for them, our consciences are touched,
a daily diminishing number ignore them, and an increasing number try,
in their respective spheres, to assist them by active effort, or sympathize
with those who do.

The truth is, that morals are built on a far surer foundation than that
of Creeds, which are here to-day and gone to-morrow. They are built
on the solid rock of experiences and of the "survival of the fittest,"
which, in the long evolution of the human race from primeval savages,
have by "natural selection" and "heredity" become almost instinctive.
Every day of civilized society, working in an atmosphere of free dis-
cussion and free thought, tends to make the primary rules of morality
more and more instinctive, and to extend and widen their application.

The other charge against the spirit of the age is still more easily
refuted. It is said that scepticism has killed spiritualism, and stripped
life of its poetry and higher aspirations, while democracy has reduced
everything to a dead level of prosaic mediocrity. Those who say so see
the reflection of their own souls. The man must be indeed hopelessly
commonplace and prosaic, who fails to recognize the grandeur, splendor,
and dramatic interest of the events of the age in which we live, and the
striking originality of its principal characters. Was there ever in classic
or mediaeval times such a tragic drama of human life as is afforded by the
career of Louis Napoleon. See him in his early years a dreamy youth,
dabbling in obscure conspiracies, and musing over vague ideas and des-
tinies connected with the name he bore. Then comes the attempt at
Strasburg; the life in London, half Bohemian, half on the outskirts of
fashionable society; the ludicrous fiasco at Boulogne; the romantic escape
from the prison at Ham. The curtain falls on the first act, and when it
rises we find the obscure adventurer clearing the streets of Paris with
grape-shot, imprisoning all that is noblest and most respectable in the
public life of France, and finally firmly seated on the Imperial throne.
He proclaims the Empire to be peace, and he plunges France into four
great wars, the Crimean, the Italian, the Mexican, and the Franco-
German, all alike senseless in the view of any possible French interest
He inaugurates the system of armed peace and excessive armaments, and

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