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a Weekly Magazine
OF CHRISTIAN EXPOSITION AND ADVOCACY.
Who knows not that truth is strong, next to the Almighty; she needs no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensing; to make her victorious, those are the shifts and the defences that orror uses against her power.—MILTON.
SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 1855.
232 The Blank Bible
228 Is Christianity a religion of love or fear? 332 Barker's a Ivice to Infidels
230 Answers to questions about Death. 238 The Life-renewing vitality of Christianity 231 A specimen of Secular Knowledge. 239 Confidence amid trial-J. Barker in 183.). 232 The latest Atomic Theory.
THE DISCUSSION AT HALIFAX BETWEEN THE Rev. BREWIN GRANT AND MR. JOSEPH BARKER, ON THE
ORIGIN AND AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE.
The attendance on this occasion was much better than for the last few evenings. Mr. J. Jenning's occupied the chair.
Mr. BARKER opened the discussion by referring to the teaching of the New Testament. He had been told by his opponent that he had neglected the Gospels, as if they did not form a part of the Bible. He would, therefore, that evening make some observations on this neglected part of the Scriptures. The New Testament taught that rulers were a terror to evil-doers and the defenders of such as did well. Now, that was not the case; for in the United States of America, where the Bible was acknowledged, slavery was rampant; and there were other nations worse than the United States. The New Testament told servants to obey their masters, and children to obey their parents in all things, commands which were absurd, no exception to the rule being indicated. If all had obeyed the rule set over us we should never have had Dissenters or Quakers, or Methodists, or any of the different denominations which we now have. We were told that Christ was a perfect example. He would ask any man, even his opponent, what was a perfect man,--he could not do it even if
No. 15, Vol. 1.
he were to try. In the whole of the Testament we had nothing like a perfect example. For Christ to have been a perfect example he should have occupied all the positions of life, yet he was never a husband, a father, a master, a servant, a landlord, a tenant, employer, or employed. He was never a statesman, a political, sanitary, social, or educational reformer, and he could not, therefore, be to us a perfect example. Jesus was spoken of as having come from God; and yet he was spoken of as being tempted in the wilderness by the devil, and fasting for forty days. And for Jesus to talk of turning a stone into bread, when he was not hungry, was foolishness. As to the other temptations which he was said to have undergone, it was monstrous to believe in them. As a boy, Christ could by no means be held up as a model for the young, for he absented himself at twelve years of age from the care of his parents, and caused them considerable trouble in seeking him, and, when found, he treated them with coldness and disrespect. The gospels also represented Jesus as being a Jew, with as national and narrow a soul as other Jews. The Gentiles were by him regarded as dogs, for he said that he came to save his own people. On all occasions when sending out his disciples to preach, he commanded them not to go in the way of Gentiles, but to seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The case of the Syro-Phoenician woman was set forth by Mr Barker as an instance of the narrow spirit manifested by Christ. He never attempted to reform the institutions of his country ; he had never a word to say against the slavery of his own day. Christ taught that the rich were to sell all that they had and give it to the needy. This was a very foolish doctrine. The proper way to relieve the poor was to supply them with useful labour, but this Christ never seemed to have thought of. Christ taught the doctrine that the world was about to end, which accounted for his teaching the poor to rely upon the bounty of the rich or of Providence. Mr. Barker went on to say that Christ was not desirous that his teachings should be understood, lest the people should believe and be saved. If Christ was a martyr his confidence in his own cause was not equal to that of many other martyrs, as his exclamation on the cross indicated. In short Mr. B. could see no superior example in Christ, and consumed the remainder of his time in criticising the sermon on the mount.
Mr Grant complained of Mr. Barker's perverting almost every scripture passage which he had reviewed. On the character of Christ he had not correctly sta ed a single sentence. The text which said that rulers were a terror to evildoers, also gave a reason for the affirmation, and the passage which called on servants to obey their masters and children to obey their parents, evidently did not refer to things which were bad. Mr. Barker said that Jesus was not a social reformer; he had, however expressed the contrary a thousand times. Mr. Barker had also said that Christ was a narrow-minded Jew, notwithstanding that Christ had told the woman of Samaria that the time would come when the worship of God would be confined neither to that mountain nor to Jerusalem. ! he theory of the deluge being confined to the Eastern hemisphere was no new interpretation of Dr. Pye Smith, Dr. Harris, or other eminent geologists. The language used in the Bible was of such a character as is now used when we wish to imply sonie extensive influence or far-reaching truth. The idiom has often been employed that the whole world were running after some sight when in reality, only a limited portion was affected by the circumstance.
Such was the meaning of the Scriptures when they said that all the hills under heaven were covered with water, implying that all the then-known inhabited parts of the world were deluged with water. Mr. Grant then read a number of quotations from the works of Dr. Harris, Professor Hitchcock, and Dr. Pye Smith, showing the wilful misrepresentatiors of which Mr. Barker had been guilty, in giving he opinions of these gentlemen on the questions of the deluge, and the antiquity of the earth. Mr. Grant concluded by a brief summary of his opponent's. positions bearing on the foregoing questions.
Mr. BARKER commenced by saying that Mr. Grant had stated that the flood was sent to destroy man. If he understood the passage rightly, it meant that every animal upon the earth must die. The Bible distinctly affirmed that every hill under heaven was covered with water. He had never once belied Dr. Pye Smith, as that gentleman never believed in the universal deluge of the world. With regard to servants obeying their masters, however his opponent might argue, God said obey your masters in all things. The gospels taught that if a person smote us on one cheek, we were to offer him the other; or if a person stole our coat, we were to give him our cloak also. No christians acted thus, but they acted as infidels act, with common sense, and took such persons before the magistrates, which showed that the wisdom of the world was before the wisdom of Christ. We were taught to forgive others their trespasses as we were forgiven. This was as false a doctrine as the tongue of man could utter. We could never expect to be punished, but remained to be punished. Christ taught that we were not to take thought for the morrow, thus teaching people to cease working, and to live upon what they had, or to depend upon Providence, showing plainly that he expected a new order of things, and that the world was at an end. In the Bible we found that where prayers were said to have been answered, it was because of importunity. A great many prayed for his (Mfr. Barker's) conversion, but a great number prayed that he might be taken away. The doctrine of prayer was complete foolishness. Not all the prayers of all the christians in the world could ever remove a mountain. He concluded by railing at Christ's describing all sickness and disease as the work of the devil, and at the Bible theory which attributed all wickedness to the same agency.
Mr. GRANT again explained his position with reference to the subject of the deluge, which, he said, Mr. Barker seemed unwilling to understand. As regardled the narrow-inindedness of Christ, he thought that the very example of the Syro-Phænician woman, which Mr. Barker had adduced as a proof of the national exclusiveness of Christ, was a noble instance of his benevolence, for he broke down the national barrier, and held forth the woman for the admiration of all Israel. Mr. Grant then proceeded to notice the objection of Mr. Barker as to the forgiving of trespasses, showing plainly the intended meaning of this pas. bage. After this, be entered into a lengthy disquisition on the question of imputing the sins of the father unto the son, and also on the mediatorial relationship of Christ to mankind. Mr. Grant then entered into the doctrine of the origin of sin, contending that the Bible gave a rational solution of the difficulty, whilst nature was dumb. He then called upon his opponent to account, apart from the Bible, for the existence of all oppression, political and govermental; for the presence of war, famine, sickness, and storm; for the dishonesty and fraud amongst men, and for whatever tended to impair the happiness of the family of man. Mr. Barker had 'said that the God of the Bible was cruel; so was the God of nature. But the former gave a moral reason for his conduct, which the latter never attempted, but left all in uncertainty. The christian had the advantage of the infidel, for he possessed all that nature could reveal, in addition to the teaching of the Bible.
Mr. BARKER proceeded to notice the parables of the labourers, the joy experienced in heaven at the conversion of a sinner, and the institutions of marriage and baptism, not omitting to drag in the "burning lake."
Mr. Grant replied by glancing briefly over the ground occupied by his opponent, and combatting the charge that the Apostle Paul spoke of the institution of marriage as only for those who could not control their passions. He also touched on the previous evening's discussion, and on the creation of the world in six days; and concluded by noticing several passages of Scripture where the terms "made" and "created” are calculated to convey the saine impressions, but which terms in the original were unmistakeably different.
THE BLANK BIBLE.
Very different from the case of this sceptic was that of a most excellent female relative, who had been equally long a prisoner to her chamber, and to whom the Bible had been, as to many thousands more, her faithful companion in solitude, and the all-sufficient solace of her sorrows. I found her gazing intently on the blank Bible, which had been so recently bright to her with the lustre of immortal hopes. She burst into tears as she saw me. “ And has
you too, my gentle friend ?” said I. “No," she answered, “and I trust it never will. He who has taken
the Bible has not taken away the memory, and I now recall all that is most precious in that book which has so long been my meditation. It is a heavy judgment upon the land; and surely,” added this true Christian, never thinking of the faults of others, “ I at least cannot complain, for I have not prized as I ought that book which yet, of late years I think I can say, I loved more than any other possession on earth. But I know,” she continued, smiling through her tears, “ that the sun shines, though clouds may veil him for a moment; and I am unskaken in my faith in those truths which have been transcribed on my memory, though they are blotted from my book. In these hopes I have lived, and in these hopes I will die." I have no consolation to offer to you,” said I, “ for you need none." She quotel many of the passages which have been, through all ages, the chief stay of sorrowing humanity; and I thought the words of Scripture had never sounded so solemn or so sweet before. "I shall often come to see you,” I said, “ to hear a chapter in the Bible, for you know it far better than I.”
No sooner had I taken my leave than I was informed that an old lady of my acquaintance had summoned me in haste. She said she was much impressed by this extraordinary calamity. As, to my certain knowledge, she had never troubled the contents of the book, I was surprised that she had so taken to heart the loss of that which had, practically, been lost to her all her days. “Sir,” said she, the moment I entered, “the Bible, the Bible.” “Yes, madam,” said I, “ this is a very grievous and terrible visitation. I hope we may learn the lessons which it is calculated to teach
“I am sure,” answered she, “I am not likely to forget it for a while, for it has been a grievous loss to me." I told her I was very glad. “Glad !" she rejoined. “Yes," I said, “I am glad to find that you think it so great a loss, for that loss may then be a gain indeed. There is, thanks be to God, enough left in our memories to carry us to heaven.”
56 Ah! but,” said she, " the hundred pounds, and the villiany of my mail-servant. Have you not heard?” This gave me some glimpse as to the secret of her
sorrow. She told me that she had deposited several bank-notes in the leaves of her family Bible, thinking that, to be sure, nobody was likely to look there for them. “No sooner, said she, were
the Bibles made useless by this strange event, than my servant peeped into every copy in the house, and she now denies that she found anything in my old family Bible, except two or three blank leaves of thin paper, which, she
says, ishe destroyed; that if any characters were ever on them they must have been erased, when those of the Bible were obliterated. But I am sure she lies; for who would believe that heaven took the trouble to blot out my precious bank-notes? They were not God's word, I trow." It was clear that she considered the “promise to pay” better by far than any mises” which the book contained. “I should not have cared so much about the Bible,” she whined, hypocritically, “because, as you truly observe, our memories may retain enough to carry us to heaven”-a little in that case would certainly go a great way, I thought to myself—" and if not, there are those who can supply the loss. But who is to get my banknotes back again ? Other people have only lost their Bibles.” It was, indeed, a case beyond my power of consolation.
The calamity not only strongly stirred the feelings of men, and upon the whole, I think, beneficially, but it immediately stimulated their ingenuity. It was wonderful to see the energy with which men discussed the subject, and the zeal, too, with which they ultimately exerted themselves to repair the loss. I could even hardly regret it, when I considered what a spectacle of intense activity, intellectual and moral, the visitation had occasioned. It was very early suggested that the whole Bible had again and again been quoted piecemeal in one book or other; that it had impressed its own image on the surface of human literature, and had been reflected on its course as the stars on a stream. But, alas ! on investigation, it was found as vain to expect that the gleam of star-light would still remain mirrored in the water, when the clouds had veiled the stars themselves, as that the bright characters of the Bible would remain reflected in the books of men when they had been erased from the book of God. On inspection, it was found that every text, every phrase which had been quoted, not only in books of devotion and theology, but in those of poetry and fiction, had been remorselessly expunged. Never before had I had any adequate idea of the extent to which the Bible had moulded the intellectual and moral life of the last eighteen centuries, nor how intimately it had interfused itself with the habits of thought and modes of expression; nor how naturally and extensively its comprehensive imagery and language had been introduced into human writings, and most of all, where there had been most of genius. A vast portion of literature became instantly worthless, and was transformed into so much waste paper. It was almost impossible to look into any book of merit, and read ten pages together, without coming to some provoking erasures and mutilations, some “hiatus valde deflendi," which made whole passages perfectly unintelligible. Many of the sweetest passages of Shakespere were converted into unmeaning nonsense, from the absence of those words which his own all but divine genius had appropriated from a still diviner source. As to Milton, he was nearly ruined, as might naturally be supposed. Walter Scott's novels were filled with per