KING AND BRADLAUGH DEBATE - PART 2
CHRISTIANITY VERSUS SECULARISM
SIX NIGHTS' DISCUSSION BETWEEN DAVID KING AND CHARLES BRADLAUGH
From "The Interpreter" 1909.
WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY?
Tuesday, 27th September, 1870.
MR. KING'S FIRST REPLY
MR. KING:- I shall at once return to the outline of the doctrine of Christ and His apostles, to which I was directing your attention when my time expired. I had specified five particulars, and now I resume with the sixth, which relates to justification and salvation by faith.
6. The doctrine of justification and salvation by faith is truly apostolic; but justification by faith alone is only named by the apostles to be repudiated, - faith alone is declared dead and worthless. The faith demanded in order to justification is not merely assent to dogma, but a principle of action which is only deemed complete, and counted as existent, when preferred by right feeling and doing. (1 Cor. 13:2, James 2:17-26.)
7. Having said that those who believe and obey the gospel are not the only saved people, it is scarcely necessary to add that the declaration, "He that believeth not shall be damned" is not applied to all who have been, or who are without faith in the gospel. In every instance where condemnation is announced as the result of not believing, the presence of testimony and evidence sufficient to produce faith (if examined and not improperly resisted) is presupposed, and, therefore, persons unable to believe, because without testimony and evidence, or from physical inability - as in the case of infants and idiots - are not included among those condemned for not believing.
8. That the institution appertaining to the doctrine of Christ and His apostles, and therein made known to us as THE CHURCH, is neither national nor provincial, and is not governed by popes, cardinals, councils nor parliaments.
9. That priests, altars, and victims have no place in the Church and doctrine of Christ, - that Christ alone took the place of the priesthood among His followers, making every Christian as much a priest as any other: thus giving to every man full access to Himself, and through Him to every ordinance of worship and service, without the aid and existence of priests or clergy, thus abolishing priesthood by constituting every member of the Church his own priest. (1 Peter 2:, 9, Rev. 1:6.)
This anti-priestly feature of Christianity is admitted by its early enemies, avowed on the pages of history, and declared by modern unbelievers. In proof of the last assertion, I quote again from National Reformer articles of the dates before mentioned. Christian, in conversation with Dr. Ritual, says "Jesus instituted no priests. He hated priestcraft. His words were, 'Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so it shall not be among you; but whosoever will be great among you shall be your minister, and whosoever of you will be the chiefest shall be servant of all.' Which of the apostles was called Lord, or lived in a palace, or wore the robes of a pagan pontiff? A true Christian fraternity could know no distinction of laity or clergy."
From the other National Reformer article before cited, we read - "Jesus exhorted the people to think for themselves, saying, 'Yes, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?' (Luke 12:57.) And Paul exhorts us to 'Prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.' (1 Thess. 5:21.) The New Testament likewise prescribes the means by which we can become fully acquainted with the religion of Jesus, - by 'free inquiry and mutual instruction.' The primitive Christians did not set up an exclusive order of priests; their assemblies and congregations were conducted on the principle of mutual instruction; for (1 Cor. 14:31) we read - 'For ye may all teach, one by one, that all may learn and all may be admonished.' No doubt, Paul had a strong presentiment that the small seed of pure and genuine Christianity, when it is watered by the fertile showers of civil emoluments, would soon grow up into a large and spreading tree: but that under the shelter of its branches the birds of prey and plunder would not fail to make themselves comfortable habitations, and thus deface its beauty and destroy its fruit, and that under such conditions the religion of Christ could never become the national religion of any country upon earth. But the religion of Jesus, as taught in the New Testament, proclaims - 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.' (Luke 2:14.) It is a plain, practical, and benevolent religion, unpolluted with mysteries, unencumbered with priests, and eminently fitted to emplant in the human breast a love of truth, of liberty, of justice, and brotherly affections."
Thus you have from the National Reformer, and from an infidel pen, a clear statement of what Christianity, in this important particular, really is, and you perceive that, notwithstanding the fact that Secularists frequently charge upon Christianity the wrongs of priestism, that they know as well as I do, and that their own organ proclaims, the completely anti-priestly character of Christianity as given by Christ and His apostles. I don't know that I shall read anything more from the National Reformer on this subject. What I have read is certainly the best piece of reading I have seen in that paper. [Hear, from Mr. Bradlaugh.] I did not present these quotations under the supposition that Mr. Bradlaugh had written them. It was not my intention to imply anything of the sort. What I say is this, - that the statements cited are not those of Christians, writing either in explanation or defence of Christianity, but they are made by persons opposed to Christianity, who notwithstanding their opposition, discern in these particulars what Christianity really is. They are the statements of men who wrote as Secularists, in their own paper, and for the purpose of opposing Christianity.
Returning to my outline of Christian doctrine, I say - Note the requirements of Christianity with reference to love and brotherhood. He who hath faith without love is declared worthless (1 Cor. 13); he who, seeing his brother in need, shuts up his feelings of compassion, is declared without the love of God and therefore obnoxious to Christ. (James 2:15-16). Every disciple is required to look, not to his own things or welfare only, but also to the welfare of others (Phil. 2:4); to seek not to please himself merely, or mainly, but to please his neighbour, for his good to edification - the strong are required to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please themselves. (Rom. 15:1)
All are commanded to return good for evil, blessing for cursing, and when one disciple commits trespass against another, the wronged one is required to see him alone for the purpose of winning him back to rectitude. If that fail, two or three others are to be taken to dissuade him from persisting in wrong. (Matt. 18:16) The ready forgiveness of those who wrong or offend us and who repent of the same is not only commanded, but our trespasses against God are held as unpardoned while we forgive not our repenting brother. (Matt. 6:15.) If conscious of having wronged our neighbour, we are told to go to and do him justice before attending to the ordinances of the Church. (Matt. 5:23.) Whatever we would (in these matters of just dealings) that others should do unto us we are required to do unto them. (Matt. 7:12.) In a word, we are to put away every evil and follow every good, to put off wrath, malice, railing, lying, and to put on mercy, kindness, and humbleness of mind, and long-suffering, and over all to put on love as the perfect bond (Col. 3.)
Lastly, in this epitome, let me notice the weekly Church service instituted by the authority of Christ for His Church, in all time. On the first day of the week His disciples are required to assemble, and to attend to the apostles' doctrine, and fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers. (Acts 2:42.) This is to be done steadfastly, or unremittingly, in accordance with the command - neglect not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is. (Heb. 10:25.)
Observe, this is not a Jewish Sabbath, nor a slavish Sabbatarianism, but a Christian festival, a time of rest and peace and joy. They are called to assemble, not to witness a ritualistic performance; not to listen to a dead language or a foreign tongue; not to gain access to God by the intervention of human priests; nor to obtain absolution by auricular confession. It is a service rather man-ward than God-ward, designed to serve us rather than Him. It is exactly what man needs, and it meets requirements of his nature.
The apostolic order spreads the Lord's table every Lord's day, that the symbols of broken bread and poured-out wine may speak, through the eye to the heart, and thus deepen gratitude and love to Christ, whose love and death they show forth - that thus His disciples may be impelled to consecrate themselves increasingly to the doing of His will; which can only be done as, in love to God and man, they seek to benefit both saints and sinners. Mutual exhortation and prayer and praise meet the emotional wants of our nature, and tend to inspire us with longings for a higher life now and a more glorious one hereafter. Love flows out in attending to the fellowship, which implies money contribution for the requirements of brotherhood; so that those who have little of this world's goods may not lack, but find help from the abundance of others. This service is as philosophic as it is philanthropic: it is known to be a mighty power, tending to the steadfastness, joy, purity, and peace of thousands. They find these blessings through Christ, and by this means, and their feeling ever says -
"Jesus, peace and joy art Thou,
Joy and peace for ever;
Joy that fades not, changes not,
Peace that leaves us never,
Joy and peace we have in Thee,
Now and through eternity."
Now let me put Mr. Bradlaugh right with regard to my appeal to the New Testament. I did not at all intend to intimate, that in this discussion my opponent and myself are absolutely confined to the New Testament. My friend puts before us the statement, that the whole of the law of the Old Testament is adopted by Jesus. That is not correct. Jesus came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. He said, that not one jot or tittle of it should pass away until all was fulfilled. Does not that imply a time when it would be fulfilled and pass away? Christ came to fulfil - His coming, His work on earth, His death, fulfilled that law, and this abolished it. [Applause.]
The law and the prophets contained clear indication of the coming of the new dispensation, of the making of the new covenant, and of the passing away of that old covenant. Therefore Christ, (who lived and died under that old dispensation), did not, while living under that dispensation, break or destroy the law; He did not teach the people to do so; he taught in defence of that law which be came to fulfil. The very words quoted by Mr. Bradlaugh clearly imply a time when the law would pass away. [Hear, hear.] He uses the text as if the law would never pass away, but the teaching is, that it should not pass away until all was fulfilled. [Applause.]
MR. BRADLAUGH'S SECOND REPLY
MR. BRADLAUGH: - Our friend has not been good enough to tell me which version of the Bible he relies upon, nor to tell me why he quoted from another instead of from this, and he has left me in doubt as to which I am to answer instead of this. He seems, in consideration of the exigencies of debate, to have read a speech beforehand. He has not told me whether the definition of Christianity which I gave him was the right one or the wrong one, so that I do not know whether or not to persevere in that definition. He has been good enough to answer one point, and one point only. And if I am to be answered in the same way as I have been answered upon this point, this discussion will assume the form of a one-sided debate. My friend says that in this New Testament justification by faith is only named to be repudiated. I utterly and emphatically deny that faith is thus named only to be repudiated. I say that the person who has spoken that, either never read his Bible or did not remember what he read, or had made the statement knowing it to be untrue. I think I have put the issue as plainly and as directly as I can. Will my friend be good enough to give me the verse or verses as well as the chapter he quotes from, because I can't pretend to the same efficiency as a biblical scholar. He first quoted Corinthians 13th chapter. If he means the first Epistle and the 13th chapter, I have looked through all the verses in the chapter, and I confess I have not been fortunate enough to find the quotation he refers to. I would like him to make his quotations sufficiently precise to enable me to detect. He told us that justification by faith is only named to be repudiated. Well, I read 1 Corinthians 13 through to endeavour to find the passage which supports this doctrine. But I have not the same intimate acquaintaince with Scripture as my friend, because he finds things in it that I don't. Therefore I am placed in a difficult position, not having a sufficiently clear clue to the text, so that I might neither misrepresent him nor mislead myself. My friend again puts forward some statements from the National Reformer, which he says are not the statements of Christians. I don't know that that matters much, but at any rate they sound very much like it. They are either statements written by Christians themselves or statements representing the Christian view of the matter. But what earthly view has my friend to enforce these statements upon me? The columns of the National Reformer are open to all correspondents. If my friend means that the writers in the National Reformer try to understand the subject they write about when writing in the columns of that journal he is quite welcome to it. Our friend says that a certain morality of character is Christian. And he reads from Colossians 3 - I presume from the 8th and 9th verses, although he did not give the verses - he read amongst other things that one was to put off lying. But how am I to deal with that as Christianity? I find Jacob in the New Testament is held up as an example of faith. Why Jacob didn't put off lying. And if Jacob didn't put off lying - Jacob, a man who was especially beloved of God, am I to take that text which recommends him, rather than look at the entire conduct of Jacob, who was a liar! I only want some theory to guide my criticism. I should like to know what it is; and I must say that I admire the very brilliant method in which our friend deals with the Old Testament. He does not say that he will not deal with the Old Testament, but he looks to the New. Now what the - I was going to be profane, because I was rather startled, but let us know what it is. If it is to be a mere word jingle, this debate, let us know, and I can take my part in it as well as another. If it is to be our friend's heresy, let me at least know what I have to deal with. Frankly state your heresies; I am not responsible for other people's orthodoxy. Now, let us see how he gets rid of the Old Testament. By the construction of Matthew 5:17 and 18, (which is certainly worthy of notice), we have this:- "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil: for verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth do pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." He had not come to destroy, but to fulfil; but Mr. King said that meant that in coming He did destroy it! When He did come it was completely done with! But then would it not have been much plainer if Jesus had said, Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; the purpose and end of my life is to give a new covenant which replaces them, and my death gets rid of these injunctions. What I said was, that we should take the Old Testament where it was not precisely repealed in words. I say let our friend be answerable for the Old Testament, except where it is specially repealed. I took our friend to the creation and fall and showed the connection of it with the redemption, and, instead of replying, he reads papers. If this is to go on it ceases to be a debate on Christianity at all.
Now, let me press the matter further as regards our friend's speech, and I come to the only thing in it that I may refer to jocularly. He said something about involving money contributions for the brotherhood. Now really I thought that ridiculous, for I am one of the brotherhood, and you are to starve me. You stipulate that I should not have any money contributions at all. I suppose he meant to say something funny, and I deal with it in the same good temper.
Now I put a question which he did not answer, and I intend to press it - what is the difference between ge-enna and hell, and why do you substitute one for the other? He carefully avoided that, so that I have not the opportunity of replying in this speech as I ought to matters that should be cleared away. It is useless dealing with scrap-texts unless I know what I am to do with the main feature of the Christian scheme. Does he believe that Jesus Christ came to save the world from sin introduced by Adam? If yes, will you kindly state texts from the book to trace it; also whether the coming of Jesus saves all mankind from the sin of Adam or only those who believe; if you say only those who believe (as the book says), what becomes of the five hundred million of Buddhists, who never heard of it? I don't want to make any comment on it. I only want to know whether they are to be saved or damned if they never heard of it. If they are saved then the element of faith don't apply in their case, and if they are not saved then it may be a fair matter of enquiry when we come to discuss what are the legitimate effects. You may have noticed that I carefully avoided following my friend in his speech as to what this or that apostle said, but just before sitting down he put to me the famous golden rule, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Now, I ask in the case of one of the apostles how does he reconcile these, and what is Christianity, judging the two together? "And when ye come into an house salute it; and if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust off your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city." Now, I want to know if it is doing unto others as you would be done unto, if, because you to to the house of a person who will not listen to you, you shake the dust off your feet, knowing that the consequence will be that a worse punishment will be inflicted than that which Sodom and Gomorrah received for the worst of crimes? If I obeyed the text "Do unto others," &c., I should not do anything of the kind. How am I to collate these texts together? And to what sort of conclusion must I come as to doctrine taught by them? It is for our friend to explain it, and I beg him, if this debate is to go on, to preserve his already prepared copy for some other occasion, and apply himself to what I have to say, instead of to something which he thinks more interesting. [Applause.]
DAVID KING INDEX