صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

When the divine Being was thus presented to the soul, He touched at once Man's aspirations, affections and intelligence, and faith in Him sunk into the inmost heart of humanity. In vain did the proud and ambitious Arius seek to overlay spiritual truth with the fabulous conceptions of heathenism, to paganize Christianity, and to subordinate its enfranchising power to false worship and to despotism. Reason asserted its right of supremacy, and the party of superstition was driven from the field. Then Mooned Ashtaroth was eclipsed, and Osiris was seen no more in Memphian Grove; then might have been heard the crash of the falling temples of Polytheism; and, instead of them, came that harmony which holds Heaven and Earth in happiest union.

Amid all the deep sorrows of humanity during the sad conflict which was protracted through centuries for the overthrow of the past and the reconstruction of society, the idea of an incarnate God, carried peace to the bosom of mankind. That faith emancipated the slave, redeemed the captive, elevated the low, lifted up the oppressed, consoled the wretched, inspired alike the heroes of thought and the countless masses : The down-trodden nations clung to it as to the certainty of their future emancipation; and it so filled thc heart of the greatest poet of the Middle Ages—perhaps the greatest poet of all time—that he had no prayer so earnest as to behold in the profound and clear substance of the eternal light, that circling of reflected light, which showeth the the image of man.

From the time that this truth of the Triune God was clearly announced, he was no longer dimly conceived as a remote and shadowy causality, but appeared as all that is good, and beautiful and true, as goodness itself, incarnate and interceding, redeeming and inspiring; the union of liberty, love and light; the Infinite cause, the Infinite Mediator, the Infinite in and with the universe, as the paraclete and the comforter. The doctrine once communicated to man, was not to be eradicated. It spread as widely, as swiftly, and as silently as light; and the idea of God with us dwelt and dwells in every system of thought that can pretend to vitality; in every oppressed nation whose struggles to be free, have the promise of success ; in every soul that sighs for redemption.

That God has dwelt, and dwells with humanity, is not only the noblest illustration of its nature, but the perfect guarantee for its progress. We are entering on a new era in the history of the race, and though we cannot cast its horoscope, we at least may in some measure discern the course of its motion.

Here we are met, at the very threshold of our argument, by the afterbirth of the materialism of the last century. A feeble effort is making to reconstruct society on the simple observation of the laws of the visible universe The system is presented, with arrogant pretension, under the name of "the Positive Philosophy,” and deduces its lineage through the English unitarianism of Priestley and Belsham, and the French materialism which culminated in Broussais. It scoffs at all questions of metaphysics and religious faith as insoluble and unworthy of human attention, and sets up the banner of an affirming creed in the very moment it describes its main characteristic as a refusal to contemplate or to recognize the Infinite. How those who take their opinions from Hobbes and Locke and their continental interpreters, and still adhere to the philosophy which owns no sourees of knowledge but the senses, can escape the humiliating yoke of this new system, I leave to them to discover. But the system is as little entitled to be feared as to be received. When it has put together all that it can collect of the laws of the material universe it can advance no further toward the explanation of its existence, morals, or reason. They who listen as well to the instructions of inward experience, may smile at the air of wisdom with which a scheme that has no basis in the soul is presented to the world as a new universal creed—the Catholic Church of the materialist. Its handful of acolytes wonder why they remain so few. But Atheism never held sway over human thought except as an usurper—no child of its own succeeding. Error is a convertible term with decay. Falsehood and death are synonymes. Falsehood can gain no permanent foothold in the immortal soul; for there can be no abiding or real faith except that which is eternally and universally true. The future of the world will never produce a race of Atheists; and their casual appearance is but the evidence of some ill-understood truth-some mistaken direction of the human mind—some partial and imperfect view of creation. The Atheist denies the life of life, which is the source of liberty. Proclaiming himself a mere finite thing of to-day, he rejects all connection with the Infinite. Pretending to search for truth, he abjures the spirit of truth. Were it possible that the world could become without God, that greatest death—the death of the race would ensue; and when a better creation should succeed, there would no more be known of the departed one than is known of the mastodon or the ichthyosaur. It is because man cannot separate himself from his inward experience, and his yearning after the infinite, that he is capable of progress-that he has received a religion, whose history is the triumph of right over evil, whose symbol is the resurrection.

But leaving aside the question how far rational life extends it is certain that for humanity the connection with the Infinite constitutes its unity. Here, too, is our solace for the indisputable fact that humanity, in its upward course, passes through the shadows of death and over the relics of decay. Her march is strown with the ruins of formative efforts, that were never crowned with success. How often does the just man suffer, and sometimes suffer most for his brightest virtues! How often do noblest sacrifices to regenerate a nation seem to have been offered in vain! How often is the champion of liberty struck down in the battle, and the symbol which he uplifted trampled under foot! But what is the life of an individual to that of his country of a state or a nation at a given moment, to that of a race? The just man would cease to be just, if he were not willing to perish for his kind. The scoria that fly from the iron at the stroke of the artisan shows how busily he plies his task; the clay which is rejected from the potter's wheel proves the progress of his work; the chips of marble that are thrown off by the chisel of the sculptor leave the miracle of beauty to grow under his hand. Nothing is lost. I leave to others the questioning of Infinite Power, why the parts are distributed as they are, and not otherwise. Humanity moves on, attended by its glorious company of martyrs. It is our consolation that their sorrows, and persecution, and death, are encountered in the common cause, and not in vain.



[ocr errors]

These gentlemen have lately made a crusade on our “good old town" without much effect. None of them got much patronage for the sake of their arguments, (for th -re were none brought out) though many went to hear their Lectures for the sake of the novelty. They have tried to gain converts (or I should say perverts) to their sceptical dogmas by fair means, but finding that not to answer very well, they have determined to try foul means—by forming a Society and under the garb of a religious name, inviting all "lovers of Truth” to join them. The last name they adopted is the "Free Protestant Association”. I would respect fully suggest to their 'Executive Council,' which they talk so loudly about, that is the next lot of prospectuses they get printed, they should append a word of ex. planation so that the people may know that it is an Infidel society. If they were men they would do it. Nay-if they had a spark of common honesty they would. Though if any individual were to ask me what would be a proper and suitable name for this respectable body as Mr. Barker calls it, I confess I would call it “the society of benighted Jesuits,having John Finch for their Inquisitorial Father!

Mr. George Jacob Holyoake gave three lectures to inaugurate the society. His first lecture was attended pretty largely, because on a Sunday night, and being a stranger in Liverpool, and heading his placard, "True protestantism, many paid their admission fees, not expecting that they were supporting a lecturer whose doctrine of necessity would be a sanction and excuse for the inquisition. His other lectures were complete failures, and I believe left the society rather minus their funds. Mr. Holyoake's style was far too egotistical to be relished by his audiences here. The Liverpool Young Men's Christian Association accepted his challenge for discussion. The arrangements were being made, the time and place were fixed, but all ended in smoke, because Mr. H. would not discuss without being paid two guineas per night.

Mr. Charles Soutliwell, who honestly confesses that he lectures sometimes all for money," next came to “waste his sweetness on the desert air." His lectures were delivered to almost empty seats in the Queen's Hall, Bold Street. I cannot doubt that most of the few who went to hear him, expected to hear a Christian man, for the subject of his lectures was announced to be “the cause and cure of Infidelity ;” thus duping unwary Christians out of their threepences and sixpences. This appears to be part and parcel of the policy of Infidel lecturers.

Robert Cooper comes next and placards himself as Editor of the London Investigator." However, this lover of investigation ” endeavoured to shirk all investigation when he was here. He challenged discussion, and when his challenges were accepted by persons in his own position, he refused to have anything to do with them, because, forsooth, they were not authorized ministers! Thus an unauthorized infidel refusés to meet unauthorized Christians in discussion; and if he is asked, as he was in Manchester, if he will meet an authorized minister, he again evades debate by saying the minister is not respectable enough for him.

Notwithstanding the miserable audiences they had at all the lectures I have mentioned, this society of benighted Jesuits are determined to make another effort, and to call to their aid that notorious adventurer, Mr. Joseph Barker, wboni they style Rev., heading his placards in large type, “the Bible ! the Bible!! They were determined to attract attention, and no matter what it cost, they would have it! So they gave out, that this Rev. Gentleman (?) would prove the Bible to be a mere human production ! Certainly his lectures were well attended, most of them ending in noise and confusion, always commenced by the Rev. (?) lecturer! In his usual bombastic manner he challenged every influential orthodox minister “ to public discussion." His challenges were made again and again, but as often as they were accepted, he proved most palpably that he wanted MONEY and nothing else! How annoyed he was when he found out that Christians in Liverpool were wide awake to his tactics.

At his first lecture, the Rev. Dr. Baylee went with the intention of replying to hit at the conclusion. But knowing that he had a most able Biblical scholar by his side, he continued lecturing: to a most unreasonable hour. The doctor saw through this, and privately requested the chairman to say, how long the lecture was to continue, as it was getting very late, and he had to cross over to the other side of the river to get home. The request was refused. He then asked permission to speak to the people for one minute, intending to announce that as it was so late, he would deliver a lecture in reply some other night. However the lecturer heard him speaking to the chairman, and threatened knock Dr. Baylee down if he did not sit down; reminding me of the manner in which he dealt with the Bible in his lecture, if he could not reason it down, he would knock it down. Other ministers' tackled him at his other lectures, but in his usual manner when an argument was advanced which he could not well reply to, he gave it the lie direct, and then refused his opponents an opportunity of advancing their proof. This is in perfect harmony with infidel fair-play everywhere! He did not like the resuscitation of his own arguments when he was a Methodist preacher. Unable to answer them, he evaded their force by this most significantremark, "I was a great fool when I said it.” If he was a fool then, how shall we know that he is a wise mau now?

But his second visit was if possible still more interesting than the first, for his first lecture was advertised to be on " Pious Frauds, and a more gross fraud was never attempted than that lecture of Joseph Barker's! A very sensible minister got up at the conclusion and told the people his opinion of the " fraud,” in which the people joined most cordially, and as a matter of course, Mr. Joseph tried to defend himself, but it would not do. The people saw through it, and the meeting after being aroused most completely with what had taken place, broke up in sheer disgust at his miserable attempts at defence. On the second vight to his utter amazement, confusion, and disparagement, who should appear on the platform but an old opponent of his, the Rev. J. H. Rutherford, of Newcastle-on Tyne. The infidel champion was greatly troubled, and gave unmistakeable signs of it especially when his own past course, to which he had alluded, was exposed. I was sorry for him. It was the best exposure which was made of him in this town, and one which will not be easily forgotten. Several most pithy arguments were brought against the lecture by Mr. Rutherford, and as Barker could not answer? the charges, he threw them all overboard by saying they were false, and then refused Mr. R. a minute to substantiate what he had said. But why should wet wonder at it? It wouldn't do for him. It would be like giving a man a whip, and then saying, Now, lash me with it.” Besides it wouldn't pay. The people would see that his word was not to be trusted, and they would not waste their time going to hear him. However the next'night Mr. Barker gave proof positive that he was frightened of Mr. Rutherford, for as soon as he saw him preparing to reply to him, he gave the chairman the sign to dissolve the meeting, so as to let Mr. R. have no opportunity of speaking. - So much for Infidel free and fair discussion!

Bnt he was not to be discouraged, so he came a third time to deliver three more lectures, which I presume will have almost exhausted his stock; every time challenging all ministers to discussion, and saying they dare not come for ward to defend the Bible. So some Christians in Liverpool were determined to have a discussion, and to test his boastful challenges. The money stood in

Barker must have half, or else he would not discuss! What was to be done? This was an awful barrier. No Christian man would like, if he could avoid it, to put money in such a man's pocket. In this strait, a meeting wase

led, and Mr. Barker invited to defend his principles in public discussion with

the way!

the Rev. J. H. Rutherford. The people were admitted free, so that there was no money to be divided! Placards, &c., were paid for by the Christians, and after all Barker dared not turn up. He did not reply to the invitation to be present, until the day before the meeting was called for. The consequence was, the arrangements could not be altered. The meeting was held, and I should think there were upwards of 2000 people present; of course, as he was not there, Mr. Rutherford had to occupy the time of the meeting by exposing Joseph Barker's policy, which I must say he did in a most able and clear manner, to the entire approval of the vast assembly. At the close of Mr. Rutherford's address the following resolution was proposed by Mr. Bathgate, Scripture Reader ; seconded very ably by the Rev. J. D. Hirsch, German Chaplain; supported by Mr. Kent, Professor of Medical Botany; and carried by most enthusiastic: cheering

“That this meeting regards the professions, the policy, and the principles of Mr. Joseph Barker, the Infidel Lecturer, from Ohio, America, ils unworthy of public confidence; looks upon his challenges to discuss with any influential minister the Divine origin and authority of the Bible, as part of a money-making system; considers his refusal to debate, on condition that the surplus proceeds should be devoted to a benevolent end, as evidence that Gold is with him in higher consideration than the enlightenment and welfare of the people; deems his refusal to confront the Rev. J. H. Rutherford, on the present occasion, proof of his fear to subject his substitute for the Bible to a just and reasonable test; views his treatment of some of his opponents, at his lectures, last week, as showing how false are his professions of free thought: and regards his attack on the Bible as worthy only of his connection with a society, which, in its placards, masks his position, as an Infidel lecturer, by calling him the Rev. Joseph Barker; conceals its Atheism and opposition to Christianity, by assuming the name of the Free Protestant Association, and under a pretended advocacy of pure Moralism, hides principles that are subversive alike of religion, morality, and order."

Before the Resolution was passed a gentleman, who had just arrived from America, and seeing the placards on the walls had come that evening to the meeting, advanced forward to the platform and stated that he was a citizen of Ohio, America, and wished to inform that large meeting, that MR. JOSEPH BARKER DID NOT IN ANY WAY REPRESENT THE INHABITANTS OF THAT STATE, AND THAT THEY WOULD BE UTTERLY ASHAMED TO OWN SUCH A MAN, OR HAVE ANY CONNECTION WHATEVER WITH HIM.

I must now conclude this article, else I shall be trespassing too much on the space of The Defender; and I will do so by adding that a committee has been formed in Liverpool for the purpose of bringing about a Public discussion between Mr. Joseph Barker and the Rev. J. H. Rutherford, on Mr. B’s. own terms, so as completely to rob him of every excuse.- OBSERVER,


Mr. Editor,

As a lover of fair-play, I am pained to observe the systematic efforts which Mr. Holyoake and his friends are making to injure Mr. Grant's character, for no other reason that I know, than that he has tested Secularism by the very standard which themselves have set up. They have challenged the judgment of their compeers upon their past course by declaring that they have nothing to recant or to regret, and they must not expect to escape that judgment either by evasion or recrimination. If they do not defend their past course it is because they dare not; and if they say that others have committed similar sins, they confess their own sinfulness, and can have no “justification by conduct. Had they candour enough to say that they abandon the past, and have resolved upon “turning over

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »