KING AND BRADLAUGH DEBATE - PART 1
CHRISTIANITY VERSUS SECULARISM
SIX NIGHTS' DISCUSSION BETWEEN DAVID KING AND CHARLES BRADLAUGH
From "The Interpreter" 1909.
For several years prior to 1870, Secularists had been calling on Bro. David King, of Birmingham, to engage Mr. Bradlaugh in debate. The former declared himself willing on certain conditions - one of which was that neither party should receive any of the proceeds. After several fruitless attempts to get Mr. Bradlaugh to accept, the latter refused unless Bro. King were endorsed by six ministers, two of whom must be of the Church of England.
The debate began on September 27th, 1870, and lasted six nights. One who was present writes:- "A word as to the debaters. Seldom, if ever, was so striking a contrast observed between any two opponents as was seen between Mr. King and Mr. Bradlaugh. The former calm and kindly, patient almost to a fault, clear in statement, logically powerful, enduring without a murmur, what to most men would have been terrible castigation, and from first to last exhibiting the dignity and manners of a gentleman; but the latter, what words will describe him? - violent, madly abusive and blasphemous."
Our readers will be able to judge of the correctness of this estimate as they peruse the speeches of the debaters.
WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY?
Tuesday, 27th September, 1870.
MR. KING'S OPENING ADDRESS
MR. KING:- Respected friends, - The question for this evening does not embrace the origin, results and truth of Christianity. On the third and fourth nights, we enquire as to its origin - whether divine or human. On the two evenings following we investigate its effects. An attempt, then, this evening and tomorrow, to deal with those portions of the enquiry, would obstruct our proper business and render the investigation difficult and unsatisfactory.
It is, then, so far as our present question is concerned, of no consequence whether Christianity be of God or of man; none, whether Christ is an historical person or a myth; none, whether the Bible is the work of inspired men or a mere romance; none, whether the effects of Christianity are good, bad, or indifferent. These questions, important in themselves, are of no importance during our discussion of this first of the five questions. Our work is, so long as we are upon this question, to show what Christianity is, without reference to what it has done, or can do, or from whence it came. I trust then, that we shall keep to the appointed question by leaving over for later stages all matters which do not belong to this.
What, then, is Christianity? I answer - That doctrine recorded in the New Testament as taught by Christ and His Apostles. In that New Testament we have the only life and teaching of Christ which Christians are bound to receive. It is there we have the history of the immediate preparation for, and planting of, the Church of Christ. It is there we have its conditions of membership and installation, rules of life, worship, and discipline. In those sections commonly called Gospels, we have chiefly the life, the teaching, death, and resurrection of Christ; together with His calling, preparing and authorising His apostles, for the purpose of founding His church and kingdom after His return to heaven. In the "Acts of Apostles," we have an outline of the history of the setting up of that church and the organizing of that kingdom for the setting up and organization of which they were chosen by Christ. In the Epistles instruction is given for ordering the church and kingdom of Christ, during His absence and until He come again. In the book of Revelation there is an outline of a dire apostacy - a picture of a church, not of Christ, but claiming His name and persecuting His church. The book ends with the entire destruction of that false system, the termination of the dispensation and the introduction of the final glory.
The New Testament, then, is not a volume of detached sentences, any one of which may be used apart from the rest and interpreted as though it were an independent scrap. It is needful to perceive that whether the book be true or false, fact or fiction, there is a plan running through it, and that the system which it unfolds, and which we call Christianity, cannot be understood by any mere scrap-doctor who takes a text here and another there without regard to the whole. Thus, then, the sayings of Christ (when doubtful as to import or susceptible of more than one meaning) must be interpreted by His words and deeds recorded in other parts of the book, and by the signification attached to them by His apostles. In putting it thus, I deal with the New Testament as we are bound to deal with the works of authors generally.
But there are opponents of Christianity who insist upon separating Christ and His apostles. They say that Christianity, proper, is the doctrine of Christ, distinct from that of His apostles. They say that the doctrine of Peter and Paul and James and John is a distinctly different doctrine and that Christianity is what Christ taught, personally, and that only. Now, I beg to prove that those who so teach are wrong, and that the doctrine of Christ and the apostles is presented in the New Testament as one doctrine. I have, then, to make clear that Christ is responsible for the doctrine of His apostles and that they are responsible for all that He taught, and that, therefore, Christianity consists; of the doctrine of Christ and His apostles; every single passage of which is to be interpreted by the general tenor of their sayings and doings.
I start with the postulate - that Christ's own teaching must be included in Christianity. This I presume no one will deny, and this being self-evident my point is proved; for Christ himself taught concerning His apostles, precisely what I here affirm. To Peter He said (Matthew 16:18-19), "And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven (not heaven but the kingdom appertaining to heaven which was then shortly to commence on earth); and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Here, then, legislative authority in the kingdom and church of Christ was given to Peter. To the whole of the apostles, Jesus said, - "As my Father sent me so send I you," (John 20:21), and also - "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me," (Matthew 10:40).
He plainly told them of His approaching death and of the official work they were to accomplish. In doing so He promised to send them an advocate who should abide with them all their days. The Holy Spirit, thus promised to dwell in them and speak by them, was to guide them into all truth, to show them things to come, and to bring to their remembrance, and right comprehension, all things that He had said unto them," (John 14 to 16). So then Christ made himself responsible for their doctrine - marked them out as the expositors of His own words - declared that they stood for Him as he stood for the Father - that those who received them received Him - He endorsed for them, as Mr. Bradlaugh did for Mr. Slater, when he wrote concerning this discussion, "What Mr. Slater agrees to I agree to," thus enabling us to hold him accountable for whatever Mr. Slater (his apostle in this matter) has done. I then respectfully demand that Christianity shall not be held as wholly exhibited in the words of Jesus. But that His apostles shall be taken as united with Himself in developing, till the end of their days, a church, kingdom, system, doctrine, which he did not claim to complete during His stay on earth, but which he called them to complete, in His name; and, that consequently, we shall interpret His words, when they admit of two or more applications, according to the precepts and examples of the apostles.
Having thus guarded against a too restricted interpretation of Christianity, I must protest against error in the opposite direction. As Christianity contains all that the apostles taught, so it ends with their last words. The latest communication of the last of the apostles completes the Christian system. Add to, or take from, what they and He thus presented, and neither Christ nor his apostles, nor Christians, are responsible for the working and effects of the system thus altered. R. Owen propounded a system called Socialism. Wherever that system is taught and practised as he gave it, he is responsible for the results. But when you change it he is no longer responsible, and were you, after thus changing, to designate it by his name, you would supply a misnomer and an injustice. But this wrong is constantly committed by the opponents of Christianity. In my debate with Mr. Holyoake, he persisted in attacking Romanism, and thus charged upon Christ teaching and doing the exact opposite of His plainly declared doctrine. Recently the acts of the French Emperor have been held up as illustrative of what can be done by a Christian government and nation. But he appertains to the papacy, and stands opposed to Christianity. True, he claims for himself and for his church the name "Christian," but just as well might one claim to be the Prince of Wales, because, without authority, and in defiance of right, he took upon him the name of the prince. Everyone, knowing anything of the doctrine of Christ and his apostles, must know the utter impossibility of perpetrating the worse than brigand-like atrocities of those who sought to make and who proclaimed the war, without violating all the great principles of the doctrine of Christ.
The New Testament distinctly foretells the uprising of a carnal organization, in the form of an apostacy from Christianity, yet bearing its name. That organization has long since been developed, and if we wish to ascertain what Christianity is, we shall be careful to distinguish between the thing itself and the counterfeit - between the doctrine of Christ and the doctrines of the apostacies. If this is not done, it will not be because it is not understood, but because of unwillingness to follow truth. Both sides understand this point perfectly well. I cannot cite Christian writers who set it forth more clearly than do certain prominent scribes in the National Reformer.
Secularists, then, can and do distinguish between Christianity and the systems which usurp its name and place. They do so whenever it suits their purpose, and it is only just to demand constant recognition of a distinction so important. To show their complete recognition of the position now urged, I shall cite a few passages from the National Reformer, all of which are written against Christianity. On page 5 of the Vol. for 1867 we read concerning the progress of Christianity - "A century passed, and the only people who possessed the knowledge of the Incarnate God were still an obscure and despised sect. The Christian religion, however, increased, as hundreds of false religions have increased, or, as it would be more correct to say, an ecclesiastical despotism, founded on the ruins of the ethics taught by Christ established itself." A few lines lower down we read - "Then began a new and singular empire. The high priest of the religion called Catholic, which had erected itself on the ruins of Christianity and civilisation, undertook to fill the throne of the Roman Empire, to be a king as well as a priest, and in the name of three gods to rule, not only over the venerable seven-hilled city, but over the world."
In the leading article of the same number of the National Reformer we have the following:- "There are at the present time hundreds of different sects, all more or less persecuting each other as infidels, all the while forgetting that they themselves are infidels to each other. And if we appeal to the New Testament, we shall find that all these sects are infidels to true religion. It teaches us that essential saving religion, or true Christianity, wholly consists in doing good to each other - nay, that self-sacrifice for the good of others is the very spirit of Christianity: it inculcates a love of truth, justice, and liberty, and denounces that corrupt, hypocritical, and time-serving lip-worship which is so generally imposed upon the meekness and credulity of humankind as the religion of Jesus. If we were to judge from the effects of this falsely denominated Christian religion, we might be led to suppose that it was designed to stupify the human intellect, to foster and encourage fraud and hypocrisy, to plunder the poor, to enrich the affluent, and to engender ill-will amongst all classes of the community."
Omitting a few lines, we read - "I am fully persuaded that in the real religion of Jesus, as taught in the New Testament, there is no essential part of it that the humblest individual could not understand by himself alone. It is said of Jesus that the common people heard Him gladly; but English priests, like the priests of old, 'bind heavy burdens grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.' - Matthew 23:4; 'they teach for doctrine the commandments of men' - Matthew 15:9." From the March issue of the National Reformer (1867) I take the following from another writer. His article is headed - "Dialogue of the Dead - between a Christian of the 1st and a Professing Christian of the 19th Century." The supposed talkers are Dr. Ritual, a clergyman of the English State Church, and a Christian of the apostolic time. After hearing Dr. Ritual's description of certain matters appertaining to his church and system, Christian (who is supposed to have come from the dead and to know Christianity only as it was known in the 1st century) says - "You confirm my conviction that Christianity has died out of the world, and that the lapse of time has obscured and totally misrepresented our religion. I do not know what you mean by Pope. Peter never was at Rome. How could he be the chief of the apostles in deliberate defiance of Christ's command, that all the disciples should be equal? 'Neither be ye called masters. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.' Do I understand that you, whom I take for a pagan priest, actually profess to be a believer in Christianity?"
Further on Dr. Ritual says - "What do you mean by teachers who deny Christ? Such expressions applied to a bishop - a successor of the apostles!" To which Christian answers - "A successor of the apostles - of poor fishermen who wandered about subsisting on alms, who obeyed to the letter the commands of the Divine Master! Do you jest on sacred subjects? Is it not enough to have abandoned Christianity, but must you also turn it into ridicule, by calling a wealthy, titled bishop, who attempts to defend his own choice of Mammon-worship by preaching Jewish doctrines against the explicit commands of Christ, a successor of the apostles?"
Lower down Christian addresses Dr. Ritual thus - "For the first time you speak like a man - not like a theologian. If the thought has ever flashed across your brain that there is another world - where each shall appear in his true colours - you must have turned with loathing from the contemplation of what you are - a political priest - a thing of compromise - the tool of statesmen - the mercenary hireling of a State Church - trading upon a superstition reared on the ruins of the religion taught by Jesus. You have deceived man, not God. If, amid the rubbish of the vain learning which you call theology, the mummeries of pagan ceremonies, the man's heart of you has preserved enough of the religious sentiment to thrill at the still, small voice of conscience, you must have known that you are no more alive than dust can be - that you are doubly dead."
Now, in quoting the foregoing from Mr. Bradlaugh's paper, I am not to be supposed to accept every sentiment. I bring it forward as proof that that important distinction between the doctrine and Church of Christ and His apostles, and those systems, organizations, and despotisms which bear the Christian name and oppose the doctrine of Christ, is well understood by the advocates of Secularism. I then insist that that Christianity, concerning which we have met to inquire, is correctly described as "The doctrine of Christ and His apostles, as recorded in the New Testament." I demand, then, that we allot - Popery to the Popes; Lutheranism to Luther; Protestant State Churches to the monarchs and parliaments which make and control them; and Christianity to Christ and His apostles. Now, I wish it to be distinctly understood that I commit myself to all that Christ and His apostles present, that I accept nothing else, and that if anything I propound, as part and parcel of Christianity, is shown to be of more recent origin than the time of the apostles, then I give it up at once. Only for that which has the authority of Christ and His apostles am I here to contend.
It will be convenient (as early as possible in the debate) to state what I gather from the teaching of the apostles, with reference to certain prominent points of the doctrine of Christ. I shall not be able to present them entire in this speech, but I hope to resume at the point at which I leave off. I may, however, observe that in the New Testament we have no one passage or chapter, which contains a complete outline of Christianity. There is a comprehensive statement in Eph. 4, containing (what is there termed) the Unity of the Spirit, which consists of seven units, as specified by Paul, viz: One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God. Particularizing somewhat, we say:-
1. One God, the Father; Almighty (Rev. 11:17); Who only hath Immortality (1 Tim. 6:16); Creator of all things (Rev. 4:11); Who hath made known His will by prophets and apostles and by Christ. (Heb. 1:1-2)
2. That in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God; that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, as the Christ, the Son of God (John 1:14); that He died as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2); that He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, from whence He will come again in like manner as He ascended. (Acts 1, 2, 3)
3. That all the dead shall be raised and judged, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:28-29) That the principle of this general assize is that of righteous judgment, in which God will render to every one according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, honour and immortality, eternal life: but to them that do not obey the truth by unrighteousness, indignation and wrath (Rom. 2:8); so that, as stated by Paul, we shall all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each may receive according to that he hath done, whether good or bad. (Rom. 2:9-10). Not only so, but the standard of requirement is not the same in all cases, but varied according to ability and opportunity, as declared by Christ, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required." There are distinctly the many stripes and the few, according to the measure of criminality. (Luke 12:47.) The punishment awarded will not be purgatorial, but simply punitive, and in its final element eternal - "Everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power." (2 Thes. 1:9) Who is able to destroy both body and soul in ge-enna (Mat. 10:28.)
4. That the Church of Christ consists of those inducted ones who have so believed the gospel of His death for our sins and His resurrection from the dead, as thereby to be turned to God in that true repentance which consists in determination to forsake sin and eventuates in reformation of life - that all members of His church, thus qualified, possess the salvation promised to those who believe and obey the gospel; that is pardon of sins committed before conversion, adoption into the kingdom of Christ, and all the present privileges appertaining thereunto, with the promise of eternal glory at the coming of Christ, if they continue in right living and bring forth fruit to the good of man and the glory of God; while, on the other hand, they are warned, that every branch (or member) that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut off and cast into the fire. (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, John 15:2).
5. That the church in its glorified state will occupy, next to Christ, the highest place in the eternal kingdom and glory; but it will not be the only saved - companies of saved ones, forming nations or tribes, will enjoy the glory of the new earth and heaven and drink of the water of the river of life, over whom Christ and His church will be supreme for ever. (Rev. 21:22).
My time having expired, the remainder of this outline must stand till I again address you. [Applause].
MR. BRADLAUGH'S FIRST REPLY
MR. BRADLAUGH: - Naturally in a debate of this kind every advocate pursues the course that he thinks will best support the cause he has in hand. I presume that my opponent thought that the National Reformer was the best authority he could read to you. I cannot quarrel with his taste. Naturally, and as editor and proprietor, I must thank him for the goodly advertisement he has given to it. It would, however, have been rather more fair had he told you, that instead of these being the views of Mr. Bradlaugh as to what Christianity is, that the National Reformer was as free a platform as was this, where every person is permitted to say his say, so that one man may be defending Christianity in one article and another attacking it in another; and if my friend had looked at the foot of the article he would have found some signature or initials identifying it, and it was not quite fair to put it forward as a leading article, because the only leading articles are written by myself, and I never wrote anything of the kind he has quoted. I shall not trouble you with the National Reformer any more, though it is good reading at any time, but will pass on to the subject.
My friend says that by Christianity he means the doctrines recorded in the New Testament, as taught by Jesus Christ and his disciples. Well, I don't quite accept that definition, if it is meant to limit the debate to the New Testament, and I will explain why at once. In the New Testament I find both Jesus and the apostles referring to the Old, quoting and recommending examples from it, and, therefore, by its teaching I have liberty to go to the Old Testament to find out what it says as to the examples to which they allude. Nay, I declare as a point of fact that the teaching of the Old Testament is renewed in the New. Jesus said, in words as to which there is no mistake (and when I use the words "Jesus said" don't understand me to mean any admission of authorship, because, as Mr. King says, that question may come up in another part of the discussion, and I only use the words for the purpose of showing where I profess to be quoting from), in Matthew 5:17 and 18 verses, Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am not come to destroy but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled." And I say, that there is nothing I can quote from the Mosaic law, which is not in direct terms repealed and annulled by Jesus, that is not part and parcel of Christianity. It is part and parcel of Christianity by the law of the land. The 9th and 10th William III., which has never been repealed, makes it part and parcel of it; and I say, therefore, that I have the construction of the highest authority, that of the State and of Jesus himself. Nay, it would be utterly impossible to make out a Christian system at all unless you took in the Old Testament.
What do you find if you refer to Corinthians? You will find a statement of this character: "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." Now are you not to look to the Old Testament to see how Adam did die? Are you not to study the history of Adam? If not, I cannot understand the utility of referring to the Old Testament at all. If you turn to Hebrews 11, on reference to it you find Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David, Samuel, all held up as examples to us of faith, and their conduct put before us for our guidance. Now, surely I am bound to look to the Old Testament to see what sort of lives are set before us for approval, and all this surely shows it to be part and parcel of Christianity. Then our friend says that in debating what Christianity is, that to-night it is of no consequence whether Jesus was a real existence or a myth, or whether the books of the Bible are true or a romance. Permit me to say I think he makes a great error there, if it is true, as he himself put it, that it is one of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith that a man who believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.
All that I say is that it is of importance to examine everything in order that you may believe it. We do not believe the "Arabian Nights' Entertainment," or "Jack and the Bean Stalk," and it is necessary to examine into the truth of any sort of story that you may be required to believe as part of Christianity. Our friend says - and I agree with him for the purpose of debate - that there is a plan running through the Old and New Testaments, and that that must be taken into consideration. Surely if there is a plan; if by Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden some sort of mischief was introduced into the world which Jesus' life and death, separately or combined, was to be the remedy for - if that be so you cannot deal with the redemption without dealing with the fall. And if Genesis, the basis, be untrue, it is simply impossible that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the superstructure, can be well built on that which is a rotten foundation. I am not discussing whether Genesis is true or not, but I am just putting it as a justification for the line that I shall take.
Then he says - and this I confess seems to me a fair specimen of his heterodoxy breaking out - that we are bound to deal with the words there as with the words of authors generally. Now what does that mean? Does it mean that you are to reject things that are unpleasant to you as you would in the writings of authors generally? Because, if it does not mean that, then the sentence is a round phrase without meaning; and if it does mean that, who is to judge how much is to be rejected and how much accepted? Is Mr. King to judge the writings of Jesus and the apostles? Is it to be Mr. King, or the Church of Rome, or the Church of England? Mr. King says it is not to be him. He repudiated Kingism; he equally repudiated the Church of Rome and the Church of England. How then is the standard of criticism to be applied?
Then our friend put it - and I admired the clearness with which he put it - that Jesus was as responsible for all that the apostles said and did, and for their sayings and doings, as Mr. Bradlaugh is for Mr. Slater in this debate. He was good enough to tell you that I wrote a carte blanche to my friend Mr. Slater, agreeing to be bound by whatever he did, and our friend says that Jesus is as much bound by his disciples as Mr. Slater is by Mr. Bradlaugh. Now, I ask, was Jesus bound by Peter when Peter, with a curse, said, "I know not the man." Is Peter an illustration? He was that disciple to whom was entrusted vast power, and he said he did not know Christ, and cursed and swore. If our friend says Jesus was bound by the doings as well as the sayings of the apostles, then Peter's unfaithfulness is part and parcel of Christianity. However, I confess I don't understand it, though I dare say our friend will make it all clear. He will tell you that it is part of Christianity in spite of this, but it is clear that he did not mean that there was the same responsibility as in the case of Mr. Slater and Mr. Bradlaugh; and it was a very unfortunate illustration, to say the least of it. Now, I had thought of occupying you by a little further illustration of what Peter said, but I will save that till a little later on in the debate.
Then he said - and it struck me as coming from him with peculiar force - that if we add to, alter, or take away from what in the New Testament is represented by Jesus and his apostles, that is not Christianity. Now, I heard my friend read out of his paper a word that I could not find in the authorised English version. But he might say - oh, I read from the Greek, but here is the difficulty - you must not add to, you must not alter, you must not take away, but do you not set out by saying that that is not a reliable version of what Jesus and His disciples did. Evidently you think so, because in at least three instances you have substituted words of your own for words that are in the authorised version. I don't trouble to say this is part of my argument - I don't trouble to say whether your translation is right or wrong - but I simply say it is not what is given in this book; and if it is not, who is to be the judge as to what is a true translation. Are we to go to the Greek version instead of to the English version? Where is the evidence of that particular MSS. you got your particular word from? Don't quote some Greek word without at least cautioning me, without at least telling me when and where you say the MSS., and what is the evidence as to its superiority; and I object to any man standing up and discussing Christianity, and saying to an audience, "I am discussing that which is taught in the New Testament," leaving the audience under the impression, without a word of caution, that he accepted it, while still quoting from another version than the authorized version, in order to anticipate points that he thinks may tell against him presently.
Then my friend has been good enough to tell me something about the Emperor Napoleon and the war. I suppose it was to fill up time; but I don't see any particular object in my friend's argument. He says that war is not Christian. If that be so, how does he interpret Matthew? "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I come not to send peace, but a sword." Again, how does he interpret the passage in Deuteronomy? "When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it: And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee: And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it: And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword." Then it provides for the sparing of the women, and little ones, and cattle, but "of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God did give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth."
Now, our friend says war is not Christian. I say it is Biblical, whether it is Christian or not, that it is enjoined in the Old Testament, and that Jesus and his apostles quoted from the Old Testament; and if our friend says that the doctrines of Jesus were contrary to the Old Testament, then he will make out that the Bible is a book that contradicts itself on its own teachings. But I shall not be content there, because if he chooses to say that the doctrines were prohibitive of war, I shall show that they are not so prohibitive of war as he supposes.
Then, our friend, after he found that the National Reformer did not fill up a full half hour of the time, commenced by referring you to Ephesians 4. I presume he thought Ephesians one of the most important books he could quote from, as he began with it, and if he had selected it purposely for its looseness, then I could understand why my friend went to it. But, curiously, he quoted one or two different verses and chapters to support the doctrines which he had enlarged upon, and he put as part of the Christian's belief, God as the Creator. Then I say, if we believe in God as the Creator, on certain texts in the Old Testament, we are justified in going to the Old Testament for the theory and words by which the Creation is taught, and to ascertain whether the picture is true or false that is drawn of God as the Creator; and I utterly object to be shut out from books which teach one of the most important points which my friend refers to.
Then he has told you something about final judgment. He quoted from Romans 2, and I was struck by a phrase which he used. I cannot imitate our friend's effective style. He spoke of the scrap doctor, who scratches out texts here and there. Now, if our friend had wished to give us a specimen of himself, he could not have done it more effectively than he did. I don't suppose the phrase to have a personal reference, and I use it in the same parliamentary sense that he did. He quoted Romans 2:6., "Who will render to every man according to his deeds;" but why couldn't he go on reading a little further? You find that the writer there, being a Jew, or wanting to please them, put the Jews first and the Gentiles after. "But glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentiles." You find that Jesus' doctrine was originally limited to the Jews alone, for we read he commanded His disciples in these words - Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles; and it was not until after His death that that command was revoked or altered, and they were ordered to - Go into all nations and proclaim the gospel to every creature; and if you talk about scrap-quoting, you had better not break off in the middle of a paragraph.
I ask my friend, don't you believe in eternal torments? Yes or no? Do you believe that there is a lake of brimstone and fire, where people will be burnt for ever and ever if they come within the penal consequences of this book, or do you not? Don't let us play at words, or make a show of learning. You have used the word ge-enna instead of hell. You did not tell the audience why you substituted one for the other. I suppose so learned and able an advocate had a purpose in it. Will you kindly tell me what it is?
And now I will tell you what Christianity is so far as I can judge it. I first put it that the essential governing Christians is the doctrine of faith - that without faith in Jesus, as taught here, you cannot have Christianity at all - that is Christ's test question about it. Why, in Romans you find it as explicitly put as anything can be. Was it existing then? Has it been excluded? By what: the law of works? Nay, by the law of faith. We conclude that it is not a man's conduct, but faith; and you can have nothing clearer or more distinct than the passages from Mark - "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not, shall be damned." And I submit to you that means that he that believes in the history and teachings of Jesus Christ, and everything appertaining to them, as recorded in the gospel, shall be saved, and he that don't shall be damned. Now, if that be an unfair construction, I ask my friend to tell me how much it means, or what is the limitation of it; and if it is not unfair, then I will show you the application.
But it is clearly not unfair, because in Hebrews 11 you have a very long and able disquisition on the merits and advantages of faith, and you are told that without faith it is impossible to please God. The faith of Enoch, of Noah, of Abraham, of Jacob - all these are put as matters in which they were blessed. Clearly it was Jacob's faith and not his conduct that was held up as an example, for he was a liar, a cheat, a trickster, and a thief. It was Jacob's faith only that is referred to. Clearly Abraham was blessed for his faith and not for his conduct, for he was a liar, and a man who turned his wife out into the desert. And there are several other instances not necessary to enlarge upon that come within what I should not define as coming within the region of good works, and I put it to you there that faith is recorded as the saving element, and nothing else. What is it you believe in? That as by one man (Adam) sin and death came into the world, so by one man (Jesus) they were removed. I don't urge it for a moment that by Jesus came redemption from that sin; I put the atonement theory apart, but I have the fullest right to any advantage that may arise out of that theory.
I put it next that the consequences of not believing is eternal torment, hell fire that is never quenched, pains that never cease, for persons who bring themselves within the penal consequences of that text. I contend also, that the doctrines of Jesus are doctrines - to sum them in the few words in which our friend puts them - It is of very little consequence indeed to live here, but that it is the life hereafter in which you are to enjoy an eternity of happiness, or misery, to which your attention must be completely directed. I put it that He teaches the doctrine, and that He and His disciples taught that it was the duty of the mass of men to submit themselves to whatever is the ruling authority of the time, even if it be perverse and wrongful, for that the redressal and reward rest in the hands of God - that if a wrong be done it is neither our right nor duty to resist it, nor to prevent it, but that the matter is to be left in the hands of God Himself.
I put it to you that the theory is, that however wicked a man may be, - if he be a murderer, a liar, a thief, or be guilty of every imaginable crime, and if at the last moment he repent and believe, he goes to heaven as readily, if not more readily, than the man who has been perfectly good the whole of his life. That I am prepared to prove text by text, but I don't take the time to prove it at this moment, until I see that my friend disputes it in some way; and it will be on that theory of Christianity that I shall have to address you.
Now, gentlemen, in presenting you with this definition, I would say that I should willingly have avoided so much of this debate as may turn upon manuscripts, or the value of texts of scripture or non-scripture until the latter part of the debate, but when I find my opponent, without a word of warning, substituting words for the text which are not in it, relying on my non-acquaintance, I suppose, with them, I think it right to ask him, whenever he does vary from the text, to state why he does it. If the authorized version is not reliable let us know it, and let us have authority for the variation; but don't let us hop, skip and jump about, without saying one word as to the grounds for it.
I feel indebted to the Umpire who presided, and to the Chairman who introduced me, for their kindly words in commencing this debate, and I never probably needed more, than the kindness shown in those speeches should be as kindly preserved. You have come here not simply to hear your own views, but to hear them countervailed. I shall choose my own course. It may not be the best; it may be too rough, too coarse; it may not be true; but I leave all that to the other side, and then, whether victory be on one side or the other, at any rate we shall have this great victory - a demonstration that men of opposite opinions have learnt to meet in each other's presence, and to listen to each other's views with advantage, hoping for each other's deliverance from error.
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