Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/181

This page has been validated.
167
AGNOSTICISM: A REJOINDER.

the saddest spectacle which has been offered to the eyes of Englishmen in this generation. A high court of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, with a host of great lawyers in battle array, is and, for Heaven knows how long, will be, occupied with these very questions 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 did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honoreth me with their lips,
But 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 doctrine of the "open Bible," or anything but a grave misgiving of the results of diligent reading of the Bible, without the help of ecclesiastical 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 metaphysics 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 with Christianity, to the intoxication and delusion of mankind, lies in copious draughts from the undefiled 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. If 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 uneducated to do? Has it ever occurred to those who talk in this fashion that the creeds and articles of their several confessions; their determination 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 con-