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cism wnich is not cowardly, or which may not be as fearless as Prof.
Huxley has always shown himself to be.

. I hope that I have now satisfied the professor on the two points on
which he has appealed to me. There is much in the other parts of
his article which tempts me to reply. But I have a dislike to thrust-
ing myself into other men's disputes, more especially when a combat-
ant like Dr. Wace, so much more competent than myself, is in the
field. I leave the professor in his hands, with the anticipation that he
will succeed in showing him that a scientist dealing with questions of
theology or biblical criticism may go quite as far astray as theologians
often do in dealing with questions of science.

My reply to Prof. Huxley is accordingly confined to the strictly per-
sonal questions raised by his references to myself. I hope that, after
making due allowance for Hibernicisms and for imperfect acquaint-
ance with English modes of thought and expression, he will accept
my explanation as sufficient.




THE concluding paragraph of the Bishop of Peterborough's reply te
the appeal which I addressed to him in the penultimate number of
this review, leads me to think that he has seen a personal reference
where none was intended. I had ventured to suggest that the demand
that a man should call himself an infidel, savored very much of the
flavor of a "bull"; and, even had the Eight Reverend prelate been as
stolid an Englishman as I am, I should have entertained the hope,
that the oddity of talking of the cowardice of persons who object to
call themselves by a nickname, which must in their eyes be as inap-
propriate as, in the intention of the users, it is offensive, would have
struck him. But, to my surprise, the bishop has not even yet got
sight of that absurdity. He thinks, that if I accept Dr. Wace's defini-
tion of his much-loved epithet, I am logically bound not only to
adopt the titles of infidel and miscreant, but that I shall " even glory
in those titles." As I have shown, " infidel " merely means somebody



who does not believe what you believe yourself, and therefore Dr.
Wace has a perfect right to call, say, my old Egyptian donkey-driver,
Nooleh, and myself, infidels, just as Nooleh and I have a right to call
him an infidel. The ludicrous aspect of the thing comes in only
when either of us demands that the two others should so label them-
selves. It is a terrible business to have to explain a mild jest, and I
pledge myself not to run the risk of offending in this way again. I
see how wrong I was in trusting to the bishop's sense of the ludicrous,
and I beg leave unreservedly to withdraw my misplaced confidence.
And I take this course the more readily as there is something about
which I am obliged again to trouble the Bishop of Peterborough,
which is certainly no jesting matter. Referring to my question, the
bishop says that if they (the terms " infidel " and " miscreant ")

should not be so proved to be applicable, then I should hold it to be as unreasonable to expect
him to call himself by such names as he, I suppose, would hold it to be to expect us Christians to
admit, without better reason than he has yet given us, that Christianity is "the sorry stuff"
which, with his " profoundly " moral readiness to say " unpleasant " things, he is pleased to eay
that It is.*

According to those " English modes of thought and expression," of
which the bishop seems to have but a poor opinion, this is a deliberate
assertion that I had said that Christianity is " sorry stuff." And,
according to the same standard of fair dealing, it is, I think, absolutely
necessary for the Bishop of Peterborough to produce the evidence on
which this positive statement is based. I shall be unfeignedly sur-
prised if he is successful in proving it ; but it is proper for me to wait
and see.

Those who passed from Dr. Wace's article in the last number of this
review to the anticipatory confutation of it which followed in " The
New Reformation," must have enjoyed the pleasure of a dramatic sur-
prise just as when the fifth act of a new play proves unexpectedly
bright and interesting. Mrs. Ward will, I hope, pardon the compari-
son, if I say that her effective clearing away of antiquated incum-
brances from the lists of the controversy reminds me of nothing so
much as of the action of some neat-handed, but strong- wristed, Phyl-
lis, who, gracefully wielding her long-handled " Turk's head," sweeps
away the accumulated results of the toil of generations of spiders. I
am the more indebted to this luminous sketch of the results of critical
investigation, as it is carried out among those theologians who are
men of science and not mere counsel for creeds, since it has relieved
me from the necessity of dealing with the greater part of Dr. Wace's
polemic, and enables me to devote more space to the really important
issues which have been raised.f

Perhaps, however, it may be well for me to observe that approba-
tion of the manner in which a great biblical scholar, for instance
Reuss, does his work does not commit me to the adoption of all, or
indeed of any of his views; and further, that the disagreements of a
series of investigators do not in any way interfere with the fact that
each of them has made important contributions to the body of truth
ultimately established. If I cite Buffon, Linnaeus, Lamarck, and
Cuvier, as having each and all taken a leading share in building up
modern biology, the statement that every one of these great natural-
ists disagreed with, and even more or less contradicted, all the rest is

* Page 45.

i I may perhaps return to the questions of the authorship of the Gospels. For the present I
must content myself with warning my readers against any reliance upon Dr. Wace's statements aa
to the result* arrived at by modern criticism. They are as gravely as surprisingly erroneous.



quite true: but the supposition that the latter assertion is in any way
inconsistent with the former, would betray a strange ignorance of the
manner in which all true science advances.

Dr. Wace takes a great deal of trouble to make it appear that I have
desired to evade the real questions raised by his attack upon me at the
Church Congress. I assure the reverend principal that in this, as in
some other respects, he has entertained a very erroneous conception of
my intentions. Things would assume more accurate proportions in
Dr. Wace's mind if he would kindly remember that it is just thirty
years since ecclesiastical thunderbolts began to fly about my ears. I
have had the " Lion and the Bear" to deal with, and it is long since
I got quite used to the threatenings of episcopal Goliaths, whose cro-
siers were like unto a weaver's beam. So that I almost think I might
not have noticed Dr. Wace's attack, personal as it was ; and although,
as he is good enough to tell us, separate copies are to be had for the
modest equivalent of twopence, as a matter of fact, it did not come
under my notice for a long time after it was made. May I further
venture to point out that (reckoning postage) the expenditure of two-
pence-halfpenny, or, at the most, threepence, would have enabled Dr.
Wace so far to comply with ordinary conventions as to direct my
attention to the fact that he had attacked me before a meeting at
which I was not present ? I really am not responsible for the five
months' neglect of which Dr. Wace complains. Singularly enough,
the Englishry who swarmed about the Engadine, during the three
months that I was being brought back to life by the glorious air and
perfect comfort of the Maloja, did not, in my hearing, say anything
about the important events which had taken place at the Church Con-
gress; and I think I can venture to affirm that there was not a single
copy of Dr. Wace's pamphlet in any of the hotel libraries which I
rummaged in search of something more edifying than dull English or
questionable French novels.

And now, having, as I hope, set myself right with the public as
regards the sins of commission and omission with which I have been
charged, I feel free to deal with matters to which time and type may
be more profitably devoted.

The Bishop of Peterborough indulges in the anticipation that Dr.
Wace will succeed in showing me " that a scientist dealing with ques-
tions of theology or biblical criticism may go quite as far astray as
theologians often do in dealing with questions of science."* I have
already admitted that vaticination is not in my line ; and I can not so
much as hazard a guess whether the spirit of prophecy which has
descended on the bishop comes from the one or the other of the two
possible sources recognized by the highest authorities. But I think
it desirable to warn those who may be misled by phraseology of this
kind, that the antagonists in the present debate are not quite rightly
represented by it. Undoubtedly, Dr. Wace is a theologian ; and I
should be the last person to question that his whole cast of thought
and style of argumentation are pre-eminently and typically theolog-
ical. And, if I must accept the hideous term " scientist " (to which I
object even more than I do to " infidel "), I am ready to admit that I
am one of the people so denoted.

But I hope and believe that there is not a solitary argument I have

* Paste 4t..

used, or that I am about to use, which is original, or has anything to
do with the fact that I have been chiefly occupied with natural sci-
ence. They are all, facts and reasoning alike, either identical with,
or consequential upon, propositions which are to be found in the
works of scholars and theologians of the highest repute in the only
two countries, Holland and Germany,* in which, at the present time,
professors of theology are to be found whose tenure of their posts
does not depend upon the results to which their inquiries lead them.f
It is true that, to the best of my ability, I have satisfied myself of
the soundness of the foundations on which my arguments are built,
and I desire to be held fully responsible for everything I say. But,
nevertheless, my position is really no more than that of an expositor;
and my justification for undertaking it is simply that conviction of
the supremacy of private judgment (indeed, of the impossibility of
escaping it) which is the foundation of the Protestant Keformation,
and which was the doctrine accepted by the vast majority of the
Anglicans of my youth, before that backsliding toward the " beggarly
rudiments " of an effete and idolatrous sacerdotalism which has, even
now, provided us with the saddest spectacle which has been offered to
the eyes of Englishmen in this generation. A high court of ecclesias-
tical jurisdiction, with a host of great lawyers in battle array, is, and,
for Heaven knows how long, will be occupied with these very ques-
tions of " washings of cups and pots and brazen vessels," which the
Master, whose professed representatives are rending the Church over
these squabbles, had in his mind when, as we are told, he uttered the
scathing rebuke :

Well djd Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written :
This people honoreth me with their lips,
Bat their heart is far from me :
But in vain do they worship me,
Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men (Mark vii, 6, 7).

Men who can be absorbed in bickerings over miserable disputes of
this kind can have but little sympathy with the old evangelical doc-
trine of the " open Bible," or anything but a grave misgiving of the
results of diligent reading of the Bible, without the help of ecclesias-
tical spectacles, by the mass of the people. Greatly to the surprise of
many of my friends, I have always advocated the reading of the Bible,
and the diffusion of the study of that most remarkable collection of
books among the people. Its teachings are so infinitely superior to
those of the sects, -who are just as busy now as the Pharisees were
eighteen hundred years ago, in smothering them under "the precepts
of men "; it is so certain, to my mind, that the Bible contains within
itself the refutation of nine tenths of the mixture of sophistical meta-
physics and old-world superstition which has been piled round it by
the so-called Christians of later times ; it is so clear that the only
immediate and ready antidote to the poison which has been mixed

* The United States ought, perhaps, to be added, but I am not sure.

t Imagine that all our chairs of Aptionomy had been founded in the fourteenth century, and
that their incumbents were bound to pig^i Ptolemaic articles. In that case, with every respect for
the efforts of persons thus hampered TO attain and expound the truth, I think men of common
sense would go elsewhere to learn astronomy. Zeller's " Vortrage nnd Abhandlungen " were
published and came into my hands a quarter of a century ago. The writer's rank, as a theologian
to begin with, and subsequently as a historian of Greek philosophy, is of the highest. Among
these essays are two "Das Urchristenthnm " and " Die Tubini'er historische Schnle " which
are likely to be of more use to those who wish to know the real state of the case than all that the
official " apologists," with tUeir one eye on truth and the other on the tenets of their sect, have
written. For the opinion o f & scientific theologian about theologians of this stamp see pp. 2*5
and 227 of the ' Vortrage."



with Christianity, to the intoxication and delusion of mankind, lies
in copious draughts from the undefined spring, that I exercise the
right and duty of free judgment on the part of every man, mainly for
the purpose of inducing other laymen to follow my example. It' the
New Testament is translated into Zulu by Protestant missionaries, it
must be assumed that a Zulu convert is competent to draw from its
contents all the truths which it is necessary for him to believe. I
trust that I may, without immodesty, claim to be put on the same
footing as the Zulu.

The most constant reproach which is launched against persons of
my way of thinking is, that it is all very well for us to talk about the
deductions of scientific thought, but what are the poor and the unedu-
cated to do? Has it ever occurred to those who talk in this fashion
that the creeds and articles of their several confessions ; their deter-
mination of the exact nature and extent of the teachings of Jesus;
their expositions of the real meaning of that which is written in the
Epistles (to leave aside all questions concerning the Old Testament)
are nothing more than deductions, which, at any rate, profess to be
the result of strictly scientific thinking, and which are not worth
attending to unless they really possess that character? If it is not
historically true that such and such things happened in Palestine
eighteen centuries ago, what becomes of Christianity ? And what is
historical truth but that of which the evidence bears strict scientific
investigation ? I do not call to mind any problem of natural science
which has come under my notice, which is more difficult, or more
curiously interesting as a mere problem, than that of the origin of the
synoptic Gospels and that of the historical value of the narratives
which they contain. The Christianity of the churches stands or falls
by the results of the purely scientific investigation of these questions.
They were first taken up in a purely scientific spirit just about a cen-
tury ago ; they have been studied, over and over again, by men of vast
knowledge and critical acumen; but he would be a rash man who
should assert that any solution of these problems, as yet formulated, is
exhaustive. The most that can be said is that certain prevalent solu-
tions are certainly false, while others are more or less probably true.

If I am doing my best to rouse my countrymen out of their dog-
matic slumbers, it is not that they may be amused by seeing who gets
the best of it, in a contest between a "scientist" and a theologian.
The serious question is whether theological men of science, or theo-
logical special pleaders, are to have the confidence of the general
public ; it is the question whether a country in which it is possible
for a body of excellent clerical and lay gentlemen to discuss, in public
meeting assembled, how much it is desirable to let the congregations
of the faithful know of the results of biblical criticism, is likely to
wake up with anything short of the grasp of a rough lay hand upon
its shoulder; it is the question whether the New Testament books,
being as I believe they were, written and compiled by people who,
according to their lights, were perfectly sincere, will not, when
properly studied as ordinary historical documents, afford us the means
of self-criticism. And it must be remembered that the New Testa-
ment books are not responsible for the doctrine invented by the
churches that they are anything but ordinary historical documents.
The author of the third Gospel tells us as straightforwardly as a man
can that he has no claim to any other character than that of an ordi-



nary compiler and editor, who had before him the works of many and
variously qualified predecessors.

In my former papers, according to Dr. "Wace, I have evaded giving
an answer to his main proposition, which he states as follows:

Apart from all disputed points or criticism, no one practically doubts that our Lord lived and
that he died on the cross-, in the most intense serse of filial relation to his Father in heaven, and
that he bore testimony to that Father's providence, love, and grace toward mankind. The Lord's
Prayer affords a sufficient evidence on these points. If the Sermon on the Mount alone be added,
the whole unseen world, of which the agnostic refuses to know anything, stands unveiled before
us. ... If Jesus Christ preached that sermon, made those promises, and taught that prayer, then
any one who says that we know nothing of God, or of a future life, or of an unseen world, says
that he does not believe Jesus Christ.*


The main question at issue, in a word, is one which Prof. Huxley has chosen to leave entirely
on one side whether, namely, allowing for the utmost uncertainty on other points of the criti-
cism to which he appeals, there is any reasonable doubt that the Lord's Prayer and the Sermon on
the Mount afford a true account of our Lord's essential belief and cardinal teaching, t

I certainly was not aware that I had evaded the questions here
stated ; indeed, I should say that I have indicated my reply to them
pretty clearly ; but, as Dr. "Wace wants a plainer answer, he shall
certainly be gratified. If, as Dr. Wace declares it is, his "whole case
is involved in " the argument as stated in the latter of these two
extracts, so much the worse for his whole case. For I am of opinion
that there is the gravest reason for doubting whether the " Sermon on
the Mount " was ever preached, and whether the so-called " Lord's
Prayer" was ever prayed by Jesus of Nazareth. My reasons for this
opinion are, among others, these: There is now no doubt that the
three synoptic Gospels, so far from being the work of three independ-
ent writers, are closely inter-dependent,! and that in one of two ways.
Either all three contain, as their foundation, versions, to a large
extent verbally identical, of one and the same tradition; or two of
them are thus closely dependent on the third; and the opinion of the
majority of the best critics has, of late years, more and more con-
verged toward the conviction that our canonical second Gospel (the
so-called "Mark's" Gospel) is that which most closely represents the
primitive groundwork of the three.JJ That I take to be one of the
most valid results of New Testament criticism, of immeasurably
greater importance than the discussion about dates and authorship.

But if, as I believe to be the case, beyond any rational doubt or
dispute, the second Gospel is the nearest extant representative of the
oldest tradition, whether written or oral, how comes it that it contains
neither the " Sermon on the Mount " nor the " Lord's Prayer," those
typical embodiments, according to Dr. "Wace, of the "essential belief
and cardinal teaching" of Jesus? Not only does "Mark's" Gospel
fail to contain the " Sermon on the Mount," or anything but a very
few of the sayings contained in that collection ; but, at the point of

* Page 33.

t Page 34.

$ I suppose this is what Dr. Wace is thinking about when he says that I allege that there ' is no
vUible escape" from the supposition of an "Ur- Marcus" (p. 82). That a "theologian of repute" 1
should confound an indisputable fact with one of the modes of explaining that fact, i6 not so
singular as those who are unaccustomed to the ways of theologians might imagine.

tt Any examiner whose duty it has been to examine into a case of " copying " will be particu'
larly well prepared to appreciate the force of the case stated in that most excellent little hook,
" The Common Tradition of the Synoptic Gospels," by Dr. Abbott and Mr. Ruehbrooke (Mac-
millan, 1884). To thoce who have not passed through such painful experiences I may recommend
the brief discussion of the genuineness of the " Casket Letters " in my friend Mr. Skelton's inter-
esting book, " Maitland of Lethington.'' The second edition of Eoltzmann's " Lehrbuch," pub-
lished in 1886, gives a remarkably fair and full account of the present results of criticism. At page
36ti he writes that the present burning question is whether the " relatively primitive narration and
the root of the other synoptic texts in contained in Matthew or in Mark. It is only on this point
(bat properly Informed (sachkundlge) critics differ," and he decides in favor of Mark.



the history of Jesus where the " Sermon " occurs in " Matthew," there
is in "Mark" an apparently unbroken narrative, from the calling of
James and John to the healing of Simon's wife's mother. Thus the
oldest tradition not only ignores the " Sermon on the Mount," but, by
implication, raises a probability against its being delivered when and
where the later " Matthew" inserts it in his compilation.

And still more weighty is the fact that the third Gospel, the author
of which tells us that he wrote after "many" others had "taken in
hand" the same enterprise; who should therefore have known the
first Gospel (if it existed), and was bound to pay to it the deference
due to the work of an apostolic eye-witness (if he had any reason for
thinking it was so) this writer, who exhibits far more literary com-
petence than the other two, ignores any " Sermon on the Mount,"
such as that reported by "Matthew," just as much as the oldest
authority does. Yet "Luke" has a great many passages identical, or
parallel, with those in "Matthew's" "Sermon on the Mount," which
are, for the most part, scattered about in a totally different con-

Interposed, however, between the nomination of the apostles and a
visit to Capernaum ; occupying, therefore, a place which answers to
that of the " Sermon on the Mount" in the first Gospel, there is, in
the third Gospel, a discourse which is as closely similar to the
" Sermon on the Mount " in some particulars, as it is widely unlike it
in others.

This discourse is said to have been delivered in a "plain" or "level
place" (Luke vi, 17), and by way of distinction we may call it
the " Sermon on the Plain."

I see no reason to doubt that the two evangelists are dealing, to a
considerable extent, with the same traditional material ; and a com-
parison of the two " sermons " suggests very strongly that " Luke's "
version is the earlier. The correspondence between the two forbid the
notion that they are independent. They both begin with a series of
blessings, some of which are almost verbally identical. In the middle
of each (Luke vi, 27-38, Matthew v, 43-48) there is a striking expo-
sition of the ethical spirit of the command given in Leviticus xix, 18.
And each ends with a passage containing the declaration that a tree is
to be known by its fruit, and the parable of the house built on the
sand. But while there are only twenty -nine verses in the " Sermon
on the Plain," there are one hundred and seven in the " Sermon on
the Mount" ; the excess in length of the latter being chiefly due to the
long interpolations, one of thirty verses before, and one of thirty-four
verses after, the middlemost parallelism with Luke. Under these
circumstances, it is quite impossible to admit that there is more prob-

Online LibraryIsreal Smith ClareLibrary of Universal history and popular science ... (Volume 20) → online text (page 46 of 60)