KING AND BRADLAUGH DEBATE - PART 14

CHRISTIANITY

VERSUS

SECULARISM 14

SIX NIGHTS' DISCUSSION

BETWEEN

DAVID KING AND CHARLES BRADLAUGH

FROM "The Interpreter" 1909.


IS CHRISTIANITY OF DIVINE ORIGIN?

Friday, 30th September, 1870.

MR. BRADLAUGH'S FIRST REPLY

MR. BRADLAUGH: - I never said last night that Pliny, in speaking of the Christians, had been mistaken. I never retracted my statement. The assertion that I did so is, to put it in the mildest possible way, an utterly incorrect mode of repeating what took place. On the contrary, I said I did not deny that Pliny said there were Christians, but what I did deny was that Pliny's assertion was any proof of the Divine origin of the history of Christ, as related in the four Gospels. And when he was charged with having inserted in Pliny's letter the words "larger cities and smaller towns" after temples, without authority, he might have admitted that it was a mistake and apologised for it.

Then he says I alleged again that the churches were deserted and the Welshmen gone from the churches to dissenting chapels. I never said a word about dissenting chapels. I said that the papers of that day stated that the congregations of the churches were very limited in numbers, and that some of the churches were falling in pieces in consequence of neglect. What I did say was that the clergy of the United Kingdom were asking why the working classes were deserting the churches and chapels? If our friend has no memory, at any rate he should not have challenged me on this point.

Then he objects to my reference to the Koran, but I did not make it until he had made a point of it that Mahomet accommodated his religion to the passions. I said I did not believe there were certain passages to be found in it; at any rate, after twenty-four hours interval, he might have brought the Koran with him tonight. But what has he done? He has only quoted Bishop Porteus, Paley, and "Faiths of the World." Would you take Voltaire as a fair representative of Christ? If not, why should I take Bishop Porteus as a fair representative of Mahomet? What I want is the fact in this matter. Mr. King says that Mohammedanism accommodates itself to the passions; I allege on the contrary that the Koran recommends sobriety, and reproves looseness of life.

But, says Mr. King, when Mahomet was in his early stage, while he used persuasion, he made only a few converts; it was at the head of his army that he made them. Mahomet, it is said, was a general, a warrior, a conqueror; but where did he get his army wherewith to convert others? Did that grow? The army came from somewhere with which he converted others.

Then he says the Koran permitted his believers to have more wives. I forget, and should not like to charge my memory with the exact number of wives allowed in the Koran, but I know there is a strict limitation against a man having wives whom he cannot keep in common comfort. But does he mean that having four wives is an immoral thing? Because if he does I think he can read in the Bible of a man having several hundred wives, and a few hundred concubines. [Laughter]. I am not standing here to defend the Koran, but to urge that what Mr. King says about its accommodating itself to men's passions in order to win them, is not a fair statement of its scope.

Then he says that Mahomet gave the persons of his female captives to his servants. Does he mean that that is bad? I shall be inclined to agree with him if he does; but what have we in the Bible? Deut. 21:10, "When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou has taken them captive, and seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldst have her to thy wife: Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house." Then it provides that she shall bewail her father and mother for a month, after which, we are told, "It shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shall let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her." I challenge our friend to show anything in the Koran which says that after a man has sated his lust in a wife he shall turn her out into the wide world without any protection at all. [Hear, hear].

Well, I don't know that I need trouble you much further, but I think I may say that Paley would hardly be a sort of evidence that I should like to take for the Koran. I have read him with considerable attention, and I allege, and I am able to sustain it, that he did not hesitate to do as Eusebius did, modify and suppress facts which did not suit his purpose; and I am afraid our friend has not been very strict in his limitation of Christian advocacy.

With regard to Garibaldi and the Papal territory, I did not make a point of it. I asked him to substantiate the point he made, and he has not done it - he has not named the territory which Garibaldi handed over to Victor Emmanuel. If he means Sicily or Naples, it is not true that there is any alteration of the Papal laws from what obtained under Bomba, and I say that the man who pretends there is, lies. Now that's a tolerably distinct way of putting it. [Laughter]. I have driven our friend into a corner.

I have studied the laws, and I know the Code of Victor Emmanuel, and it is not true that they are in any way changed or altered. The only thing that happened was the expulsion of the Jesuits from Naples; and so far as religion and religious dominion goes the whole of Naples and the whole of Sicily are as much Papal territory as they were under Bomba himself. I say that from personal knowledge of the country and of its laws, and I say that the person who ventures to assert that it is not so is bound to show me the decrees by which any of these laws have been repealed.

Then he says that he did explain (and mind you he has left himself no loop-hole to escape), that he meant that the same change had gone on as that which had taken place in England, when it ceased to be - what? Can he charge such an act as that of Henry - in taking away the Pope's power, and declaring his independence of him! Can he point to any such decree in Italy at the present moment? Why it is utterly monstrous, and no man with any decency or any honour, having taken time to consider, would come here with such an utterly lame excuse as we have heard tonight.

Now I will ask (and by the way I am told not to be in a fluster) - I will ask you whether a man who devotes his life to platform advocacy, may not be pardoned if he shows some indignation, when he finds a man who professed before he met him to be far greater, - who actually indulged in talk about catching his hare before killing it - complaining of Infidel tricks, and whining like a beaten cur because there are so many objections thrown upon him, instead of trying to answer them. Why, I was held up through all Lancashire as a coward who dare not meet this man, and yet here he is ekeing out his want of argument by that which only wastes time. If he did not know what he had to meet before he came, all his boasting was untrue, and if he did know, then he boasted untruly that he was prepared to meet me with all he knew of me.

But further, Mr. King says men are to be judged according to their own acts, and not according to Adam's sin, because the coming of Jesus redeemed them from the consequences of that sin. Now, really I cannot imagine any man who has heard or read the Articles of the Church of England still asserting that that belief is a belief that no considerable body in this country teaches. Article 18 expressly says that "They are to be accursed that presume to say that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law, and the light of nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the name of Jesus Christ whereby men must be saved." And the declaration of the Church is positively that if they do not believe, they shall not be saved. Mr. King ventured to say that no clergyman ever taught this doctrine. Why, Dr. Bailey, in the famous discussion I had with him in Liverpool, said that not only was it taught that all unbaptized children would be damned, but that if I had never been born at all I should be damned. [Laughter].

It is really a doctrine of the Church of England, which teaches in Article 9 that "Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam as the Pelagians do vainly talk, but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit: and, therefore, in every person born into this world it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. Therefore, to pretend that no considerable body of clergy teach it is most monstrous.

I don't know whether proof that Mahomet used the sword shows where he got his armies, but if it does, listen to the argument of Judge Stallo, used in the case of "Minor v. the Board of Education." It was a question of importance, and the Judge made this part of his speech:- "From the very moment the Church obtained civil power under Constantine, the general principle of coercion was admitted and acted on, both as regards Jews, heretics, and pagans. The first had become especially obnoxious, on account of a strong Judaizing movement, which had produced one or two heresies and many apostacies; and they were also accused of assailing (with stones and other manifestations of rage) those who abandoned their faith. Constantine provided against those evils by a law in which he condemned to the flames any Jew who threw a stone at a Christian convert, and at the same time rendered it penal for any Christian to become a Jew.

Against Arian and Donatist heretics his measures were more energetic. Their Churches were destroyed, assemblies were forbidden, the bishops banished, their writings burnt, and all those who concealed those writings threatened with death. Some of those Donatists were actually condemned to death but the sentence was remitted, and any blood that was at this time shed seems to have been due to the excessive disturbances of the Circumcellions, a sect of Donatists, whose principles and acts appear to have been perfectly incompatible with the tranquillity of the case."

I don't quote that as evidence against Christianity at present, because it is not the fair place at present to quote it, but I quote it as an argument against that relating to Mohammedanism. Mr. King says he might have read the printed debates, and thus put in an answer to all that I have advanced. Why did he not do it, then, instead of reading page after page of twaddle, not having any earthly connection with the subject in hand?


MR. KING'S SECOND REPLY

MR. KING: - The question is again put as to my not answering a multitude of questions which my opponent clothes in briefest terms, crowding in a larger number of questions than anyone can possibly answer, if nothing else were attempted in the time allotted for the entire subject. It is not a question of difference of language, though he does talk somewhat faster than I do. But, taking only ten minutes to examine each of his allegations, I repeat what I have proved tonight, that the whole could not be covered in the time allotted to debate the subject into which they are introduced. Therefore, when he puts it that way he knows that he is practising a trick and seeking to impose upon us. [Cheers]. He talks of my readings; but they present my affirmative argument, and his move is to crowd that out, and compel me to reduce it to the lowest possible quantity. He aims at shutting it out by keeping up a running fire of questions in order to put his opponent on his defence in reference to more points than he can possibly handle. This is the work of a trickster, and not that of a man honourably seeking truth. [Cheers].

With respect of Mohammedanism, I said that it was of no use to refer to the early progress of that system without considering whether an increase equal to that of Christianity had been brought about in similar circumstances to those under which Christianity at first progressed. Now, the fact is admitted in favour of Mohammedanism, that you have the sword, and this was not the case with regard to the progress of Christianity early in the Christian era, but the Christians were the persecuted, and the vast progress to which we have referred was not the progress of a persecuting but of a persecuted people. In later times so-called Christians persecuted; but that does not belong to the time to which our argument refers. Nor was the persecution of that later time the work of Christians, but it appertained to that apostacy which arose out of Christianity, for which Christ and His apostles are in no way responsible. That progress referred to by Pliny was not helped forward by persecution put forth by Christians, but in defiance of the sword held in the hands of their enemies.

I alleged that the doctrine presented in the Koran met the carnal desires of the people. My opponent talks about not producing the passage in the Koran; but he has admitted sufficient. They went forth, he says, allowing four wives; there might be a diversity of three or four; and that at any rate, in an Eastern country, would be acceptable to the passions of men. But everything of the sort was forbidden by the teaching of Christ. My opponent said, that marriages were discouraged under certain circumstances. Certainly, but in no instance did he show that the Christians gave the slightest liberty for more than one wife at a time. Therefore, had the progress of one been equal to the other, which it was not, the case would fall to the ground, because the two systems are not at all equal, and the result consequently not parallel.

With regard to Mormonism, he has wasted a good deal of time. But I did not imply that the Mormons had got the chapels; I insisted that they had not done so. The fact is that the Welsh Nonconformists have become more numerous by far than the State Church in that country, and their chapels, comparatively, are filled. Even in the last session of Parliament we find members so alive to this state of things as to advocate in the House the dis-establishment of the church in Wales, deeming Wales more ripe for dis-establishment than England, because the bulk of the Welsh people are in favour of Nonconformity. When then Mr. Bradlaugh asserted that the progress of Mormonism had equalled that of apostolic Christianity, I asked whether it had emptied the churches and chapels; he replied to the effect that it has emptied the churches in Wales. But did he dare to say that the people had become Mormons, and that that is the reason the churches are empty? He did not. Why, then, did he trifle with us by putting forward such nonsense? If the men who deserted the State Church are not gone to Mormonism, he knows, as well as anyone, that it does not affect the question. Therefore, having failed to find any parallel case, my argument as to the miraculous spread of Christianity in early times remains unopposed, and that is the only one of my arguments he has attempted to grapple with.

Then we are brought back again to his favourite book - the Prayer Book. [Laughter]. He seems to be desperately in love with it, and he tells us that the Articles set forth that all are to be accursed who presume to say that any man shall be saved otherwise than by the death of Christ. I have not said anything contrary to that doctrine, and I do not say anthing contrary to it now. What I said was, that resurrection to life on the part of our race is a result of the death of Christ, and, therefore, what I said is perfectly in harmony with the Article referred to. I have put before you that the heathen would never be raised from the grave but for the death of Christ, but being thus raised they will be judged according to the light they had, or might have had, and disposed of according to their conduct in relation thereto, and yet that at the same time the blessing that thus comes to them comes not irrespective of, but consequent upon, the work of Christ.

My opponent talked about the death of Christ being too late, inasmuch as millions had died before He was born. But then the New Testament also meets that. When you look to the Epistle to the Hebrews, with regard to sacrifices under the law as compared with the sacrifice of Christ, you have it distinctly set before you that the sacrifices under the law did not take away sin. They simply put it back until the time had come when the one sacrifice, sufficient to take away the sin of the world, should be offered. Therefore, in contemplating the sacrifice of Christ, we are to regard it as not only prospective, but retrospective - that as the arrangement under the typical dispensation was only preparatory and temporary in its results, suspending as it were the punishment due to sin till the ever and completely availing sacrifice should be offered, when those sins, of which under the law, there was renewed remembrance every year, would be taken altogether and for ever away. Now this doctrine is not contrary to the doctrines of the State Church, though I should not care if it were, so long as I can teach it from the New Testament. [Applause.]

My opponent has urged that Christianity cannot be of Divine origin because its Founder did not intend that His scheme should embrace other than the Jews. If Mr. Bradlaugh so understands the New Testament he greatly misunderstands it. His mistake consists in supposing, that because certain texts refer only to Jews, and because Jews were first addressed, and the truth in the first instance proclaimed to them, that therefore enlargement of a world-wide mission was not contemplated. But you must take the whole matter into view when you speak of Christ; and whether you admit the Bible to be a book coming in any way by the aid of inspiration or not you must interpret its parts in the light of the whole. If you give me Disraeli's last work, and ask me to describe its leading character I must take the whole circumstances into consideration. If I merely view the man in the light of certain passages, without proper regard to others, I shall get but one side of his character and a wrong conception of his work and design, and thus completely miss the author's intention. And this principle applies equally whether the book be of Divine origin or otherwise.

Hence I remind you that, when we come to interpret the sayings of Christ and His apostles we must look at them in the light of the scheme as a whole. Well, you have God selecting, for certain purposes, a people - a nation - making them the custodians of His revelations and bringing down through that people, in a given line, the person who is to be the head and king of a new dispensation - the Christ. Then you have, in keeping with all this, what might be reasonably expected - namely, that the first announcements of a new economy and the first offers of its blessings should be to that people. And this was the case.

But, mark you, my opponent evidently felt that his ground is not so solid as he represents it to be. After affirming that the idea, on the part of Christ, of setting up a world-wide kingdom was merely an after-thought, the result of his failing to enlist the Jews, he gave you to understand that Christ's teaching, with but few exceptions, confined the Kingdom to them. But what can the man be thinking of when he reasons, or rather talks, in this way? Does he not perceive that a single exception destroys his argument root and branch? If Christ, only once, before His death, intimated that His rule would extend beyond the Jews, then that expansion was not devised after His death. He did give early intimation of the subsequent universal character of His work. He declared that He had other sheep, not of that fold and that them also He must bring. His parables exhibited the wide extension of His kingdom. Early He foretold His own death, and he declared that if he were lifted up (that is, crucified) He would draw all men - not Jews merely, but all men - men of all nations and peoples - unto Him, thus basing His world-wide kingdom on His own death. [Applause]. But what are we to think of the man who, with these facts before him, knowing of their existence as well as I do, and alluding to such like exceptions, tells us that Christ contemplated nothing more than a mere Jewish movement, and that, therefore, the scheme cannot be of Divine origin! [Applause].


DAVID KING INDEX