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world" should be roughly shaken; in the latter, the blow falls upon
the authority of the synoptic gospels. If their report on a matter of
such stupendous and far-reaching practical import as this is untrust-
worthy, how can we be sure of its trustworthiness in other cases?
The favorite "earth," in which the hard-pressed reconciler takes
refuge, that the Bible does not profess to teach science,* is stopped in

* Does any one really mean to say that there is any internal or external criterion by which the
reader of a biblical stajeint-ut, in wliicn scientific mailer is contained, is enabled to judge whether
it is to be taken au serieux or not? Is the account of the Deluge, accepted as true in the New
Testament, less precise and specific than that the call of Abraham, also accepted aa true therein T
By what mark doe* the story of the feeding with manna in the wilderness, which involves some
very curious scientific problems, show that it u meant merely for edification, while the story of the

12



CHRISTIANITY AND AGNOSTICISM. 347

this instance. For the question of the existence of demons and of
possession by them, though it lies strictly within the province of
science, is also of the deepest moral and religious significance If
physical and mental disorders are caused by demons, Gregory of Tours
and his contemporaries rightly considered that relics and exorcists were
more useful than doctors; the gravest questions arise as to the legal
and moral responsibilities of persons inspired by demoniacal impulses-
and our whole conception of the universe and of our relations to it
becomes totally different from what it would be on the contrary
hypothesis.

The theory of life of an average mediaeval Christian was as different
from that of an average nineteenth-century Englishman as that of a
West- African negro is now in these respects. The modern world is
slowly, but surely, shaking off these and other monstrous survivals of
savage delusions, and whatever happens, it will not return to that
wallowing in the mire. Until the contrary is proved, I venture to
doubt whether, at this present moment, any Protestant theologian,
who has a reputation to lose, will say that he believes the Gadarene
story.

The choice then lies between discrediting those who compiled the
gospel biographies and disbelieving the Master, whom they, simple
souls, thought to honor by preserving such traditions of the exercise
of his authority over Satan's invisible world. This is the dilemma.
No deep scholarship, nothing but a knowledge of the revised version
(on which it is supposed all mere scholarship can do has been done),
with the application thereto of the commonest canons of common
sense, is needful to enable us to make a choice between its horns. It
is hardly doubtful that the story, as told in the first Gospel, is merely
a version of that told in the second and third. Nevertheless, the dis-
crepancies are serious and irreconcilable ; and, on this ground alone, a
suspension of judgment, at the least, is called for. But there is a
great deal more to be said. From the dawn of scientific biblical criti-
cism until the present day the evidence against the long-cherished
notion that the three synoptic gospels are the works of three inde-
pendent authors, each prompted by divine inspiration, has steadily
accumulated, until, at the present time, there is no visible escape from
the conclusion that each of the three is a compilation consisting of a
groundwork common to all three the threefold tradition; aud of a
superstructure, consisting, firstly, of matter common to it with one of
the others, and, secondly, of matter special to each. The use of the
term " groundwork " and " superstructure " by no means implies
that the latter must be of later date than the former. On the con-
trary, some parts of it may be, and probably are, older than some parts
of the groundwork.*

The story of the Gadarene swine belongs to the groundwork; at
least, the essential part of it, in which the belief in demoniac posses-
sion is expressed, does; and therefore the compilers of the first,

inscription of the law on etone by the hand of Jahveh is literally true? If the story of the Fall IB
not the true record <>f an historical occurrence, what becomes of Pauline theology ? Yet the story
of the Fall as directly conflicts with probability, and is as devoid of trustworthy evidence, as that
of the Creation or that of the Deluge, with which it forms an harmoniously legendary series.

* See. for an admirable discussion of the whole subject, Dr. Abbott's article on the Gospels in
the " Encyclopaedia Britannica " ; and the remarkable monograph by Prof. Volkmar, "Jesus Naza-
renus und die erete Christliche Zeit" (1882). Whether we agree with the conclusions of thesa
writers or not, the method of critical investigation which they adopt is unimpeachable.

13



34 8 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

second, and third Gospels, whoever they were, certainly accepted that
belief (which, indeed, was universal among both Jews and pagans at
that time), and attributed it to Jesus.

What, then, do we know about the originator, or originators, of this
groundwork of that threefold edition which all three witnesses (in
Faley's phrase) agree upon that we should allow their mere state-
ments to outweigh the counter-arguments of humanity, of common
sense, of exact science, and to imperil the respect which all would be
glad to be able to render to their Master ?

Absolutely nothing.* There is no proof, nothing more than a fair
presumption, that any one of the Gospels existed, in the state in
which we find it in the authorized version of the Bible, before the
second century, or, in other words, sixty or seventy years after the
events recorded. And, between that time and the date of the oldest
extant manuscripts of the Gospels, there is no telling what additions
and alterations and interpolations may have been made. It may be
said that this is all mere speculation, but it is a good deal more. As
competent scholars and honest men, our revisers have felt compelled
to point out that such things have happened even since the date of
the oldest known manuscripts. The oldest two copies of the second
Gospel end with the eighth verse of the sixteenth chapter; the
remaining twelve verses are spurious, and it is noteworthy that the
maker of the addition has not hesitated to introduce a speech in which
Jesus promises his disciples that " in my name shall they cast out
devils."

The other passage " rejected to the margin " is still more instruct-
ive. It is that touching apologue, with its profound ethical sense, of
the woman taken in adultery which,' if internal evidence were an
infallible guide, might well be affirmed to be a typical example of the
teachings of Jesus. Yet, say the revisers, pitilessly, " Most of the
ancient authorities omit John vii, 53, viii,ll." Now, let any reason-
able man ask himself this question : If, after an approximative settle-
ment of the canon of the New Testament, and even later than the
fourth and fifth centuries, literary fabricators had the skill and the
audacity to make such additions and interpolations as these, what
may they have done when no one had thought of a canon ; when oral
tradition, still unfixed, was regarded as more valuable than such
written records as may have existed in the latter portion of the first
century ? Or, to take the other alternative, if those who gradually
settled the canon did not know of the existence of the oldest codices
which have come down to us; or if, knowing them, they rejected
their authority, what is to be thought of their competency as critics
of the text?

People who object to free criticism of the Christian Scriptures
forget that they are what they are in virtue of very free criticism;
unless the advocates of inspiration are prepared to affirm that the
majority of influential ecclesiastics during several centuries were safe-
guarded against error. For, even granting that some books of the
period were inspired, they were certainly few among many; and those
who selected the canonical books, unless they themselves were also
inspired, must be regarded in the light of mere critics, and, from the

* Notwithstanding the hard words shot at me from behind the hedge of anonymity by a writer
i a recent number of the " Quarterly Review," I repeat, without the slightest fear of refutation,
mat toe four Gospels, as they have come to us, are the work of unknown writer*

14



CHRISTIANITY AND AGNOSTICISM. 340

evidence they have left of their intellectual habits, very uncritical
critics. When one thinks that such delicate questions as those
involved fell into the hands of men like Papias (who believed in the
famous millenarian grape story); of Iran aeus with his "reasons" for
the existence of only four Gospels; and of such calm and dispassion-
ate judges as Tertullian, with his " Credo quia impossible," the
marvel is that the selection which constitutes our New Testament is
as free as it is from obviously objectionable matter. The apocryphal
Gospels certainly deserve to be apocryphal; but one may suspect that
a little more critical discrimination would have enlarged the Apoc-
rypha not inconsiderably.

At this point a very obvious objection arises, and deserves full and
candid consideration. It may be said that critical skepticism carried
to the length suggested is historical pyrrhonism; that if we are
to altogether discredit an ancient or a modern historian, because he
has assumed fabulous matter to be true, it will be as well to give up
paying any attention to history. It may be said, and with great
justice, that Eginhard's "Life of Charlemagne" is none the less
trustworthy because of the astounding revelation of credulity, of lack
of judgment, and even of respect for the eighth commandment, which
he has unconsciously made in the " History of the Translation of the
Blessed Martyrs Marcellinus and Paul.''" Or, to go no further back
than the last number of this review, surely that excellent lady, Miss
Strickland, is not to be refused all credence because of the myth about
the second James's remains, which she seems to have unconsciously
invented.

Of course this is perfectly true. I am afraid there is no man alive
whose witness could be accepted, if the condition precedent were proof
that he had never invented and promulgated a myth. In the minds
of all of us there are little places here and there, like the indistin-
guishable spots on a rock which give foothold to moss or stone-crop ;
on which, if the germ of a myth fall, it is certain to grow, without in
the least degree affecting our accuracy or truthfulness elsewhere. Sir
Walter Scott knew that he could not repeat a story without, as he said,
"giving it a new hat and stick." Most of us differ from Sir Walter
only in not knowing about this tendency of the mythopoeic faculty
to break out unnoticed. But it is also perfectly true that the
mythoposic faculty is not equally active on all minds, nor in all
regions and under all conditions of the same mind. David Hume
was certainly not so liable to temptation as the Venerable Bede, or
even as some recent historians who could be mentioned; and the
most imaginative of debtors, if he owes five pounds, never makes an
obligation to pay a hundred out of -it. The rule of common sense is
prima facie to trust a witness in all matters in which neither his
self-interest, his passions, his prejudices, nor that love of the mar-
velous which is inherent to a greater or less degree in all mankind,
are strongly concerned; and, when they are involved, to require
corroborative evidence in exact proportion to the contravention of
probability by the thing testified.

Now, in the Gadarene affair, I do not think I am unreasonably
skeptical if I say that the existence of demons who can be transferred
from a man to a pig does thus contravene probability. Let me be
perfectly candid. I admit I have no a priori objection to offer.
There are physical things, such as teenies and trichina, which can be

15



350 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

transferred from men to pigs, and vice versa, and which do undoubt-
edly produce most diabolical and deadly effects on both. For any-
thing I can absolutely prove to the contrary, there may be spiritual
things capable of the same transmigration, with like effects. More-
over, I am bound to add that perfectly truthful persons, for whom I
have the greatest respect, believe in stories about spirits of the
present day, quite as improbable as that we are considering.

So I declare, as plainly as I can, that I am unable to show cause
why these transferable devils should not exist, nor can I deny that,
not merely the whole Roman Church, but many Wacean " infidels "
of no mean repute, do honestly and firmly believe that the activity of
such-like demonic beings is in full swing in this year of grace 1889.

Nevertheless, as good Bishop Butler says, "probability is the guide
of life," and it seems to me that this is just one of the cases in which
the canon of credibility and testimony, which I have ventured to lay
down, has full force. So that, with the most entire respect for many
(by no means for all) of our witnesses for the truth of demonology,
ancient and modern, I conceive their evidence on this particular
matter to be ridiculously insufficient to warrant their conclusion.*

After what has been said I do not think that any sensible man,
unless he happen to be angry, will accuse me of "contradicting the
Lord and his apostles" if I reiterate my total disbelief in the whole
Gadarene story. But, if that story is discredited, all the other stories
of demoniac possession fall under suspicion. And if the belief in
demons and demoniac possession, which forms the somber background
of the whole picture of primitive Christianity presented to us in the
New Testament, is shaken, what is to be said, in any case, of the
uncorroborated testimony of the Gospels with respect to the " unseen
world"?

I am not aware that I have been influenced by any more bias in
regard to the Gadarene story than I have been in dealing with other
cases of like kind the investigation of which has interested me. I was
brought up in the strictest school of evangelical orthodoxy; and,
when I was old enough to think for myself, I started upon my journey
of inquiry with little doubt about the general truth of what I had
been taught ; and with that feeling of the unpleasantness of being
called an " infidel" which, we are told, is so right and proper. Near
my journey's end, I find myself in a condition of something more
than mere doubt about these matters.

In the course of other inquiries, I have had to do with fossil
remains which looked quite plain at a distance, and became more and
more indistinct as I tried to define their outline by close inspection.
There was something there something which, if I could win assur-
ance about it, might mark a new epoch in the history of the earth;
but, study as long as I might, certainty eluded my grasp. So has it
been with me in my efforts to define the grand figure of Jesus as it

* Their arguments, In the long run, are always reducible to one form. Otherwise trustworthy
witnesses afflim that such and such events took place. These events are inexplicable, except the
agency of " spirits " is admitted. Therefore " spirits " were the cause of the phenomena.

And the heads of the reply are always the same. Remember Goethe's aphorism: "AlleB
factii-che ist schon Theorie. Trustworthy witnesses are constantly deceived, or deceive them-
selves, in their interpretation of sensible phenomena. No one can prove that the sensible phe-
nomena, in these cases, could be caused only by the agency of spirits; and there is abundant
ground for believing that they may be produced in other ways.

Therefore, the utmost that can be reasonably asked for, on the evidence as it stands, is suspen-
sion of judgment. And, on the necessity for even that suspension, reasonable men may differ,
according to their views of probability.

18



CHRISTIANITY AND AGNOSTICISM. i

O*J

lies in the primary strata of Christian literature. Is he the kindly,
peaceful Christ depicted in the Catacombs? Or is he the stern judge
who frowns above the altar of SS. Cosmas and Damianus? Or can
he be rightly represented in the bleeding ascetic, broken down by
physical pain, of too many mediaeval pictures? Are we to accept the
Jesus of the second, or the Jesus of the fourth Gospel, as the true
Jesus? What did he really say and do ; and how much that is attrib-
uted to him in speech and action is the embroidery of the various
parties into which his followers tended to split themselves within
twenty years of his death, when even the threefold tradition was only
nascent ?

If any one will answer these questions for me with something more
to the point than feeble talk about the "cowardice of agnosticism," I
shall be deeply his debtor. Unless and until they are satisfactorily
answered, I say of agnosticism in this matter, " J'y suis, et fy reste."

But, as we have seen, it is asserted that I have no business to call
myself an agnostic; that if I am not a Christian I am an infidel; and
that I ought to call myself by that name of " unpleasant significance."
Well, I do not care much what I am called by other people, and, if I
had at my side all those who since the Christian era have been called
infidels by other folks, I could not desire better company. If these
are my ancestors, I prefer, with the old Frank, to be with them where-
ever they are. But there are several points in Dr. Wace's contention
which must be eliminated before I can even think of undertaking to
carry out his wishes. 1 must, for instance, know what a Christian is.
Now what is a Christian ? By whose authority is the signification of
that term defined ? Is there any doubt that the immediate followers
of Jesus, the " sect of the Nazarenes," were strictly orthodox Jews,
diffc-iing from other Jews not more than the Sadducees, the Pharisees,
and the Es&enes differed f'om one another; in fact, only in the belief
that the Messiah, for whom the rest of their nation waited, had come?
Was not their chief, "James, the brother of the Lord," reverenced
alike by Sauducee, Pharisee, and Nazarene? At the famous con-
ference which, according to the Acts, took place at Jerusalem, does
not James declare that "myriads" of Jews, who, by that time had
become Nazarenes, were "all zealous for the law"? Was not the
name of " Christian " first used to denote the converts to the doctrine
promulgated by Paul and Barnabas at Antioch ? Does the sub-
sequent history of Christianity leave any doubt that, from this time
forth, the "little rift within the lute," caused by the new teaching
developed, if not inaugurated, at Antioch, grew wider and wider, until
the two types of doctrine irreconcilably diverged? Did not the
primitive Nazarenism or Ebionism develop into the Nazarenism, and
Ebionism, and Elkasaitism of later ages, and finally die out in
obscurity and condemnation as damnable heresy; while the younger
doctrine throve and pushed out its shoots into that endless variety of
sects, of which the three strongest survivors are the Eoman and Greek
Churches and modern Protestantism?

Singular state of things! If I were to profess the doctrine which
was held by "James, the brother of the Lord," and by every one of
the " myriads" of his followers and co-religionists in Jerusalem up to
twenty or thirty years after the crucifixion (and one knows not how
much later at Pella), I should be condemned with unanimity as an



352



BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.



ebionizing heretic by the Roman, Greek, and Protestant Churches !
And, probably, this hearty and unanimous condemnation of the creed
held by those who were in the closest personal relation with their
Lord is almost the only point upon which they would be cordially of
one mind. On the other hand though I hardly dare imagine such a
thing I very much fear that the "pillars" of the primitive Hieroso-
lymitan Church would have considered Dr. Wace an infidel. No one
can read the famous second chapter of Galatians and the book of
Eevelation without seeing how narrow was even Paul's escape from a
similar fate. And, if ecclesiastical history is to be trusted, the thirty-
nine articles, be they right or wrong, diverge from the primitive
doctrine of the Nazarenes vastly more than even Pauline Christianity
did.

But, further than this, I have great difficulty in assuring myself
that even James, "the brother of the Lord," and his "myriads "of
Nazarenes, properly represented the doctrines of their Master. For it
is constantly asserted by our modern "pillars" that one of the chief
features of the work of Jesus was the instauration of religion by the
abolition of what our sticklers for articles and liturgies, with uncon-
scious humor, call the narrow restrictions of the law. Yet, if James
knew this, how could the bitter controversy with Paul have arisen;
and why did one or the other side not quote any of the various say-
ings of Jesus, recorded in the Gospels, which directly bear on tne
question sometimes, apparently, in opposite directions ?

So, if I am asked to call myself an "infidel," I reply, To what
doctrine do you ask me to be faithful ? Is it that contained in the
Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds? My firm belief is that the
Nazarenes, say of the year 40, headed by James, would have stopped
their ears and thought worthy of stoning the audacious man who pro-
pounded it to them. Is it contained in the so-called Apostles' Creed?
I am pretty sure that even that would have created a recalcitrant
commotion at Pella in the year 70, among the Nazarenes of Jerusalem,
who had fled from the soldiers of Titus. And yet if the unadulterated
tradition of the teachings of "the Nazarene were to be found any-
where, it surely should have been arnid those not very aged disciples
who may have heard them as they were delivered.

Therefore, however sorry I may be to be unable to demonstrate
that, if necessary, I should not be afraid to call myself an " infidel,"
I can not do it, even to gratify the Bishop of Peterborough and Dr.
Wace. And I would appeal to the bishop, whose native sense of
humor is not the least marked of his many excellent gifts and virtues,
whether a&king a man to call himself an " infidel " is not rather a droll
request. "Infidel*' is a term of reproach, which Christians and
Mohammedans, in their modesty, agree to apply to those who differ
from them. If he had only thought of it, Dr. Wace might have used
the term "miscreant," which, with the same etymological signification,
has the advantage of being still more " unpleasant " to the persons to
whom it is applied. But, in the name of all that is Hibernian, I ask
the Bishop of Peterborough why should a man be expected to call
himself a " miscreant " or an " infidel " ? That St. Patrick " had two
birth lays because he was a twin " is a reasonable and intelligible
utterance beside that of the man who should declare himself to be an
infidel ou the ground of denying his own 1> liff. It may be logically,

18



CHRISTIANITY AND AGNOSTICISM. 353

if not ethically, defensible, that a Christian should call a Mohammedan
an infidel, and vice versa ; but, on Dr. Wace's principles, both ought
to call themselves infidels, because each applies that term to the other.

Now I am afraid that all the Mohammedan world would agree in
reciprocating that appellation to Dr. Wace himself. I once visited the
Hazar Mosque, the great university of Mohammedanism, in Cairo, in
ignorance of the fact that I was unprovided with proper authority.
A swarm of angry undergraduates, as I suppose I ought to call them,
came buzzing about me and my guide; and, if I had known Arabic,
I suspect that " dog of an infidel " would have been by no means the
most " unpleasant " of the epithets showered upon me, before I could
explain and apologize for the mistake. If I had had the pleasure of
Dr. Wace's company on that occasion, the undiscriminative followers
of the Prophet would, I am afraid, have made no difference between
us ; not even if they had known that he was the head of an orthodox
Christian seminary. And I have not the smallest doubt that even one
of the learned mollahs, if his grave courtesy would have permitted him
to say anything offensive to men of another mode of belief, would have
told us that he wondered we did not fiud it "very unpleasant" to
disbelieve in the Prophet of Islam.

From what precedes, I think it becomes sufficiently clear that Dr.
Wace's account of the origin of the name of "Agnostic "is quite wrong.



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