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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/538

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ILLUSTRATIONS OF MR. GLADSTONE'S CONTROVERSIAL METHOD.
By Prof. T. H. HUXLEY.

THE series of essays in defense of the historical accuracy of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures contributed by Mr. Gladstone to Good Words, having been revised and enlarged by their author, appeared last year as a separate volume, under the somewhat defiant title of The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture.

The last of these essays, entitled Conclusion, contains an attack, or rather several attacks, couched in language which certainly does not err upon the side of moderation or of courtesy, upon statements and opinions of mine. One of these assaults is a deliberately devised attempt, not merely to rouse the theological prejudices ingrained in the majority of Mr. Gladstone's readers, but to hold me up as a person who has endeavored to besmirch the personal character of the object of their veneration. For Mr. Gladstone asserts that I have undertaken to try "the character of our Lord" (p. 268); and he tells the many who are, as I think, unfortunately, predisposed to place implicit credit in his assertions, that it has been reserved for me to discover that "Jesus was no better than a law-breaker and an evil-doer!" (p. 269).

It was extremely easy for me to prove, as I did in the pages of this Review last December, that, under the most favorable interpretation, this amazing declaration must be ascribed to extreme confusion of thought. And, by bringing an abundance of good-will to the consideration of the subject, I have now convinced myself that it is right for me to admit that a person of Mr. Gladstone's intellectual acuteness really did mistake the reprobation of the course of conduct ascribed to Jesus, in a story of which I expressly say I do not believe a word, for an attack on his character and a declaration that he was "no better than a law-breaker and evil-doer." At any rate, so far as I can see, this is what Mr. Gladstone wished to be believed when he wrote the following passage:

I must, however, in passing, make the confession that I did not state with accuracy, as I ought to have done, the precise form of the accusation. I treated it as an imputation on the action of our Lord; he replies that it is only an imputation on the narrative of three evangelists respecting Him. The difference, from his point of view, is probably material, and I therefore regret that I overlooked it.[1]

Considering the gravity of the error which is here admitted, the fashion of the withdrawal appears more singular than admi-


  1. Nineteenth Century, February, 1891, pp. 339, 340. [Popular Science Monthly, August, 1891, p. 502.]