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WHO ARE THE LIARS ?
It is unspeakably painful to us to ask this question, but our duty to one of the most honourable and candid of our correspondents compels. In out first number, “Observer” gave an account of "Infidel Lecturers in Liverpool,” in which Mr. Joseph Barker occupied a prominent place. A copy of that number was sent to Mr. Barker, and the only reply, which he has attempted to make, is that inserted on our 54th page ;-"What liars the Christians via! How many, and how big lies they have crammed into a couple of pages!" Now had Mr. B. said this in reference to any article, we had written, we might have allowed it to pass for what it is worth, but we cannot allow such an onslaught on the character of a gentleman of well-known integrity, and truthfulness, to pass unrepelled; nor can we allow Mr. Barker to leave this country without challenging him to prove his allegations. Our pages are open to him, and if he does not avail himself of the opportunity, he will be convicted both of cowardice and falsehood. He must not expect the working classes of England to give him their confidence, if he refuses or neglects to support his assertions by a solitary fact; and he may carry with him across the Atlantic, a character for rampant tirade and unscrupulous vilification, which will not prolong his rapidly dying influence in the sister land.
Where now is the boasted courtesy of infidels? They have set themselves up as examples of gentlemanly behaviour towards their oppoñents. Is this a specimen? Mr. Barker tells the people, that he is a better mañ now, than when he was a Christian ; is this one of the evidences of improvement? The Secularists make loud professions of recognising the sincerity of their opponents, what will they say to language so rude and unbecoming as this? If we condemn their unbelief, or have the slightest doubt of their conscientiousness, we are intolerant, and persecuting; what are they when they brand Christians as liars? What will his dear friend' Holyoake, when in one of his courteous and gentle moods, say to him? He once said, “Mr. Barker stands before the world as a Reformer. I shall be happy to recognize him in that character so soon as he shall assume its first attribute-the employment of just language. He imputes falsehoods with remorseless facility. Reluctantly I do it, but I must profess myself not a believer in Mr. Barker's devotion to truth and right
What shall we think of that energy in doing good' which erects à gratuitous and an atrocious inference into a grave and positive accusation of fact? Is it not rather devotion to recklessness than to “truth and right.”? The thoughtful among free-thinkers will exclaim with the Reasoner, « New Joseph Barker is old Joseph Barker,” and will “ hesitate as to the importance they shall attach to words proceeding from such lawless lips.”—VolĮV. pp. 155—161. Although the Reasoner may not use such language now, there is evidence that there is no change in the lawlessness, the virulence, the recklessness, and the ferocity of the language which he uses in reference to his opponents.
When he says, 'what liars the Christians are,' he perhaps judges them according to the standard of his own consciousness, when he professed to be a Christian. His own confessions may help us to a right conclusion.
“ I have heard men
speak as if conscience should not be consulted in every thing; or as if conscience should be taught to bend and give way on some points. And there was a period of my life when I hearkened to these men, and in some things followed their advice. I tried to accomodate myself to the views and wishes of proud and worldly people. I went to parties of pleasure; I tried to practice the arts of ccmpliment; I conformed to some things which I thought irrational and unworthy of a Christian. In a word I turned away from the guide withir, to the guides without; but I paid dear for my treachery. I fell into endless errors, one concession required another ; the first step inade it almost impossible not to take a second, and having once begun in the down-hill way, I went farther and farther, till I was almost lost. When I ceased to pay respect to my inward monitor, its voice became weaker, and my heart quickly became headstrong and unruly. The troubles which I at first found to arise from disregard to conscience, † afterwards began to look upon as the result of circumstances ; and instead of retracing my steps back to God, I. rather murmured against him, and sought for ease by going further into sin. I became as blind as the men whose evil advice I had tollowed, and began to dispute in favour of their errors.”—Evangelical Reformer, vol. II. p. 255.
Commentary here is unnecessary. He has drawn his own portrait. He stands as a beacon on the rock of history throwing its lurid gleam athwart the horizon, warning the unwary voyager to avoid the rocks of treachery to conscience, and the shoals of disingenuousness, on which he has made such fearful shipwreck. If men sacrifice conscience to convenience, if they study the laws of “ accomodation," if conformity to self-interest is the rule of their action, and if, in their violence, they will call those who expose them liars, they need not wonder if the burning brand which they would affix to others, cleaves to them.
What is the probity of the man, who for upwards of ten years remains in ministerial connection with a religious body, whose prirjes he has abandoned. In 1831, he wrote to his brother Benjamin, in the style of a Unitarian, and yet, for long years afterwards, he professed Methodistic doctrine, and received the pay, and secured the influence of a Methodist New Connexion minister, and he lets us into the reason for the hypocrisy.
“ I had the notion that no young man could be extensively useful in promoting the spread of true religion, unless he was a hired preacher. Hence my desire, to see my brother Benjamin, a hired preacher. This notion did me much harm. It made me more timid and reserved in declaring plain Gospel truth, and in opposing orthodox delusions, than I should otherwise have been,it made me consider it a duty to move slowly and irresolutely, when the cause of truth required promptness and energy, I was afraid of shutting the door against my brother, -of preventing his admission into the hired ministry, and thus preventing him from being useful. I was afraid of procuring my own expulsion, and of thus depriving myself of the opportunity of being useful."
Considerations of self seem to have influenced him all through, and he appears to have lived in a world of double-mindedness and falsehood. In many of his lectures, discussions, and written papers, he assures us that Christianity had conferred the greatest blessings upon his parents and family; in “The confessions of a man, " he tells us that their religious notions had exerted the most injurious influence, and now, he is incessantly teaching, that there is no belief more pernicious in its tendency, than the belief that the Bible is of superhuman origin and divine authority.' First
we are informed that his parents had “ too much natural goodness, and sound plain sense, to be seriously corrupted by theology." Afterwards he gives us a lengthened description of its injurious influence upon them; how his father “discouraged in them all love for play or recreation, believing the whole system to be an abomination; how his father's notions on those subjects were an incessant source of misery to the family in their youthful days;" and how inuch he himself suffered from his father's injustice produced by these notions; how it provoked, enraged, and made him miserable beyond all expression, how it led him to abuse his father, to vow vengeance, and to threaten to destroy himself. In another portion of the same book he gives this further explanation:
It was not for lack of kindness that he was unjust and cruel towards me, but because his kindness was joined to orthodox Methodistical superstition. I lay the blame to my father's unreasonableness, and of his oppression of his children, on the infernal delusions which have been blended with religion. What my father needed was not more kindness, but, as I have said before, more prudence, more sense, more rational, more enlightened, more true and worthy views of religion, of God and human nature. It was ignorance or his false and superstitious notions about religion, then, that were to blame for his cruel, unjust, and unreasonable conduct towards his children, and not a lack of natural kindness.". (History and Confessions of a Man, pp. 81-85.)
Yet in other portions of his writings, all these statements are flatly contradicted, and we are forced to the conclusion that some part is a pure and deliberate fabrication. Hear him, in his discussion with Mr. Alexander Campbell, Socialist Missionary
“ I would press on all present, the advice, to search the Scriptures for yourselves.
I was once strongly tempted to turn aside from the truth. I read infidel books, and saw their long stories against what they called Christianity. I howver saw what Christianity had done for my own family, and others. I read the New Testament for myself, and I found that the accusations brought by infidels could be made only against persons, and did not at all apply to the system, which condemns all that is wrong, more searchingly than even those who seek to wound Christianity through the lax lives of its professors."
He is, however, more explicit, in another of his works, in showing that Christianity had exerted a genial and elevating influence upon both parents and family. It is not for us to say, which account has to be believed. If the one, he has been guilty of "pious fraud," of which he talks so much; and in calling Christians "liars," he is manifestly judging them according to what he himself was: if the other, we have as barefaced, and impudent an infidel fraud as could well be perpetrated.
Listen to him :
"I never saw any harm of any kind that Christianity produced. I have now for a long time had something to do with Christianity myself, and it has done me no harm. I have studied it attentively for many years; I have believed its doctrines ; and I have endeavoured in some measure to obey its precepts, and it has neither made me vicious, nor miserable ; it has not injured me either in body or in soul. It has done just the contrary. I was once as violent and revengful as a youth could easily be; a provocation would have thrown me into a fury, and an injury would have been almost sure to have been followed with revenge. But that is not the case with me now: the religion of Christ has produced a happy change. Nor has Christianity produced any mischievous effects upon any of my kindred or acquaintances. My parents have believed in the religion of Christ, and have lived under the influence of its principles, for more than forty years; but it never made them either vicious or miserablé. They have been faithful and affectionate to each other ; they have been temperate and industrious; they have been true and upright; and according to their ability, they have laboured to promote the welfare of their fellow-creatures. My brothers and sisters are most of them religious; they read and study the religion of Christ on purpose that they may obey its teachings ; and yet they are not remarkable for either vice or misery. I have relations that are not Christians; I have relations that profess not to believe the Gospel, and who live in
open violation of its laws: and they are both vicious and miserable. As far as iny acquaintance with the world goes, things are just the opposite of what our opponents represent them to be. Those who most heartily believe and most faithfully practice the religion of Christ, I have always found to be the most virtuous and happy; and those who know the least and care the least for the religion of Christ, I have generally found to be the 'most vicious and miserable. If men are vicious and miserable, it is for want of Christianity ; and it seems almost a mystery how any man of common understanding can believe it to be otherwise.'
Whichever alternative Mr. “Barker may now prefer, he will never be able to explain these glaring and palpable contradictions; and unless infidels have lost all sense of truth, they will never be able to trust him more; they will be driven to the conclusion which Mr. G. J. Holyoake once reached : " I will not say that when Mr. Barker wrote it he knew it to be false, but I will say—that äny other man but Mr. Barker, would have known it to be so." He appears, however, to have boundless confidence in the credulity of so-called free-thinkers, and continues his old trade. At one of his lectures we heard Mr. B. declare that he believed in the existence of a great and good God; a few days afterwards, one of Mr. Barker's most earnest friends, when he was a Christian advocate, called upon him, and in the course of conversation, Mr. B. told him that he had very serious doubts about the existence of God. We have the fact from the gentleman himself, and his probity is unimpeachable. We could give many other illustrations of our statenient, but the above may suffice for the present.
For the truth of the pages, (12, 13, and 14,) which Mr. Barker says are "crammed with lies,” we can vouch, and there are hundreds of others who can do the same.
lle eyaded discussion with the Rev. Dr. Baylee by unreasonably lengthening out his first lecture. He was afraid of crossing swords with sò accomplished a scholar and critic, and, though he could allow Mr. John Finch to interrupt him for five minutes in the midst of one of his speeches, in sounding his own praise, he could not allow a moment to Dr. Baylee, but threatened to use physical force, if he did not sit down.
We have more than one communication from correspondents, corroborating the other facts.
As our space does not admit of the insertion of all, we shall be excused for briefly giving their substance; and it will be found that “Observer's” account is not so dark as the reality. On the first night of Mr. Rutherford's appearance, at the close of Mr. B's lecture, he was allowed ten minutes to speak and requested that the chairman would tell liim the monient his ten minitues were up, that he might not be exposed to the charge of insolence which Mr. B. made against him at Newcastle, when he had unwittingly taken more than the time allowed him, though Mr. Barker had taken twice that time in reply. We have the testimony of several witnesses that Mr. B. was very much agitated; and soon there was evidence that his ire was kindled. In his reply he said, “To the charge of insolence and impudence, I have now to add that of lying." At the close
Mr. Rutherford requested a minute to reply to this personal accusation. It was refused. He then demanded it. Still it was refused. As nine tenths of the audience were inclined to listen, he attempted to take it, and ascended the platform. At the prospect of a further exposure, Mr. B. became fearfully excited, crossed the platform, josiled Mr. R., and literally yelled in his face in order to drown his voice. Such an unmanly, and degrading exhibition of a public speak, er we never saw! Next night it was quite clear that he and his chairman had determined, if possible, to prevent Mr. R. from speaking. As he was making his way to the platform, past the reserved seats,—the only way in which the platform could be reached from the body of the hall-he was stopped, and a demand made for more MONEY, though he had paid at the door, and stated that he was going to reply to the Lecturer. This difficulty surmounted, Mr. R. found another gentleman on the platform, and although the audience was clamorous to hear him, the other gentleman had the precedence. The arrangements of the meeting were, that after the lecture, discussion would be allowed for an hour, in speeches, ten minutes each, Mr. B. having the same time for reply. This allowed three speakers against the lecturer, and three replies. That night, however, two speeches against Mr. B., and two replies from him, were considered enough to fill up the hour, and when Mr. Rutherford demanded a hearing, Mr. B., though he said that he had not occupied all his time, gave the sign to close the meeting, and the gas was almost immediately put out. Infidel love of light; of free-thought, of fair play! And all done under the auspices of the “ Free Protestant Association," and with the sanction of Mr. John Finch, who declares that they are the only consistent protestants in the world !! Barnum should get a museum for these gentlemen by themselves. It was a painful thing to see an aged man with white locks, who makes such boasting of what he has done in the cause of free-thought, actually attempting by force to drive Mr. Rutherford from the platform, when he was only demanding the right of every Englishman, to be heard in self-defence.
Mr. B. had no heart to come to the public meeting to which he was invited, to discuss the question with Mr. R. The money was awanting, and he had no confidence in the working classes, whom he knows how to flatter. A gentleman stated at that meeting, in the presence of two thousand persons, that Mr. Barker had said, that where there was no charge for admission, it would be impossible to keep order, for he found it hard enough to keep order where he charged twopence and' threepence. This infidel-craft cannot long stand. Its days are numbered; and the men who have been deceived by it, will come to see that Christianity not only professes to help them, but is in reality their true, their best, their constant friend.
MR. HOLYOAKE'S PROFESSIONS VERSUS HIS PRACTICE.
Dear Mr. Editor,
I purchased very recently a copy of the correspondence between the Rev. B. GRANT and Mr. G. J. Holyoake, leading to the Cowper Street Debate. ' It appears that Mr. Grant had published some portion of the correspondence without Mr. Holyoake's consent having been first obtained, for which he is censured most severely by Mr. H., in his letter of November 2nd, 1852, in the following language, in reply to Mr. Grant's defence of the course he adopted :-"You justify the publicity of iny letters by accusing-me of having at some former period acted in a similar arbitrary way. But I had done 80, does my wrong justify yours ? And again, in the same letter, he says, “Every month I return correspondence, sent to me for publicity, without a previous understanding to that effect between the writers. There is no case in which we