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University of Adelaide
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Ladies and Gentlemen: Fear is the dungeon of the mind, and superstition is a dagger with which hypocrisy assassinates the soul. Courage is liberty. I am in favor of absolute freedom of thought. In the realm of the mind every one is monarch. Every one is robed, sceptered, and crowned, and every one wears the purple of authority. I belong to the republic of intellectual liberty, and only those are good citizens of that republic who depend upon reason and upon persuasion, and only those are traitors who resort to brute force.
Now, I beg of you all to forget just for a few moments that you are Methodists, or Baptists, or Catholics, or Presbyterians, and let us for an hour or two remember only that we are men and women. And allow me to say “man” and “woman” are the highest titles that can be bestowed upon humanity. “Man” and “woman.” And let us if possible banish all fear from the mind. Do not imagine that there is some being in the infinite expanse who is not willing that every man and woman should think for himself and herself. Do not imagine that there is any being who would give to his children the holy torch of reason and then damn them for following where the holy light led. Let us have courage.
Priests have invented a crime called “blasphemy,” and behind that crime hypocrisy has crouched for thousands of years. There is but one blasphemy, and that is injustice. There is but one worship, and that is justice.
You need not fear the anger of a God whom you cannot injure. Rather fear to injure your fellow-men. Do not be afraid of a crime you cannot commit. Rather be afraid of the one that you may commit.
There was a Jewish gentleman went into a restaurant to get his dinner, and the devil of temptation whispered in his ear: “Eat some bacon.”
He knew if there was anything in the universe calculated to excite the wrath of the Infinite Being, who made every shining star, it was to see a gentleman eating bacon. He knew it, and He knew the Infinite Being was looking, and that he was the Infinite Eaves-dropper of the universe. But his appetite got the better of his conscience, as it often has with us all, and he ate that bacon. He knew it was wrong. When he went into that restaurant the weather was delightful, the sky was as blue as June, and when he came out the sky was covered with angry clouds, the lightning leaping from one to the other, and the earth shaking beneath the voice of the thunder. He went back into that restaurant with a face as white as milk, and he said to one of the keepers:
“My God, did you ever hear such a fuss about a little piece of bacon?”
As long as we harbor such opinions of Infinity; as long as we imagine the heavens to be filled with such tyranny, so long the sons of men will be cringing, intellectual cowards. Let us think, and let us honestly express our thought.
Do not imagine for a moment that I think people who disagree with me are bad people. I admit, and I cheerfully admit, that a very large proportion of mankind and a very large majority, a vast number, are reasonably honest. I believe that most Christians believe what they teach; that most ministers are endeavoring to make this world better. I do not pretend to be better than they are. It is an intellectual question. It is a question, first, of intellectual liberty, and after that, a question to be settled at the bar of human reason. I do not pretend to be better than the are. Probably I am a good deal worse than many of them, but that is not the question. The question is “Bad as I am, have I a right to think?” And I think I have, for two reasons.
First, I can’t help it. And secondly, I like it. The whole question is right at a point. If I have not a right to express my thoughts, who has?
“Oh,” they say, “we will allow you, we will not burn you.”
“All right; why won’t you burn me?”
“Because we think a decent man will allow others to think and express his thought.”
“Then the reason you do not persecute me for my thought is that you believe it would be infamous in you!”
“And yet you worship a God who will, all you declare, punish me forever.”
The next question then is: Can I commit a sin against God by thinking? If God did not intend I should think, why did He give me a “thinker.” Now, then, we have got what they call the Christian system of religion, and thousands of people wonder how I can be wicked enough to attack that system.
There are many good things about it, and I shall never attack anything that I believe to be good! I shall never fear to attack anything I honestly believe to be wrong. We have, I say, what they call the Christian religion, and, I find, just in proportion that nations have been religious, just in the proportion they have gone back to barbarism. I find that Spain, Portugal, Italy are the three worst nations in Europe; I find that the nation nearest infidel is the most prosperous France. And so I say there can be no danger in the exercise of absolute intellectual freedom. I find among ourselves the men who think at least as good as those who do not. We have, I say, a Christian system, and that is founded upon what they are pleased to call system the “New Testament.” Who wrote the New Testament? I don’t know. Who does know? Nobody!
We have found some fifty-two manuscripts containing portions of the New Testament. Some of those manuscripts leave out five or six books — many of them. Others more others less. No two of these manuscripts agree. Nobody knows who wrote these manuscripts. They are all written in Greek; the disciples of Christ knew only Hebrew. Nobody ever saw, so far as we know, one of the original Hebrew manuscripts. Nobody ever saw anybody who had seen anybody who had heard of anybody that had seen anybody that had ever seen one of the original Hebrew manuscripts. No doubt the clergy of your city have told you these facts thousands of times, and they will be obliged to me for having repeated them once more. These manuscripts are written in what are called capital Greek letters. They are called Uncial characters; and the New Testament was not divided into chapters and verses, even, until the year of grace 1551. Recollect it.
In the original the manuscripts and gospels are signed by nobody. The epistles are addressed to nobody; and they are signed by the same person. All the addresses, all the pretended earmarks showing to whom they are written and by whom they are written are simply interpolations, and everybody who has studied the subject knows it.
It is further admitted that even these manuscripts have not been properly translated, and they have a syndicate now making a new translation; and I suppose that I cannot tell whether I really believe the Testament or not until I see that new translation.
You must remember, also, one other thing. Christ never wrote a solitary word of the New Testament — not one word. There is an account that He once stooped and wrote something in the sand, but that has not been preserved. He never told anybody to write a word. He never said: “Matthew, remember this. Mark, don’t forget to put that down. Luke, be sure that in your gospel you have this. John, don’t forget it.” Not one word. And it has always seemed to me that a Being coming from another world, with a message of infinite importance to mankind, should at least have verified that message by his own signature.
Why was nothing written? I will tell you. In my judgment they expected the end of the world in a very few days. That generation was not to pass away until the heavens should be rolled up as a scroll, and until the earth should melt with fervent heat. That was their belief. They believed that the world was to be destroyed, and that there was to be another coming, and that the saints were then to govern the world. And they even went so far among the Apostles, as we frequently do now before election, as to divide out the offices in advance. This Testament was not written for hundreds of years after the Apostles were dust. These facts lived in the open mouth of credulity. They were in the wastebaskets of forgetfulness. They depended upon the inaccuracy of legend, and for centuries these doctrines and stories were blown about by the inconstant winds. And finally, when reduced to writing, some gentleman would write by the side of the passage his idea of it, and the next copyist would put that in as a part of the text. And, finally, when it was made, and the Church got in trouble, and wanted a passage to help it out, one was interpolated to order. So that now it is among the easiest things in the world to pick out at least one hundred interpolations in the Testament. And I will pick some of them out before I get through.
And let me say here, once for all, that for the man Christ I have infinite respect. Let me say, once for all, that the place where man has died for man is holy ground; and let me say, once for all, to that great and serene man I gladly pay the homage of my admiration and my tears. He was a reformer in His day. He was an infidel in His time. He was regarded as a blasphemer, and His life was destroyed by hypocrites, who have, in all ages, done what they could to trample freedom out of the human mind. Had I lived at that time I would have been His friend, and should He come again He would not find a better friend than I will be.
That is for the man. For the theological creation I have a different feeling. If He was, in fact, God, He knew that there was no such thing as death. He knew that what we call death was but the eternal opening of the golden gates of everlasting joy; and it took no heroism to face a death that was simply eternal life.
But when a man, when a poor boy sixteen years of age, goes upon the field of battle to keep his flag in heaven, not knowing but that death ends all — not knowing but that, when the shadows creep over him, the darkness will be eternal — there is heroism.
And so for the man who, in the darkness, said: “My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”— for that man I have nothing but respect, admiration, and love.
A while ago I made up my mind to find out what was necessary for me to do in order to be saved. If I have got a soul, I want it saved. I do not wish to lose anything that is of value. For thousands of years the world has been asking that question “What shall we do to be saved?”
Saved from poverty? No. Saved from crime? No. Tyranny? No. But “What shall we do to be saved from the eternal wrath of the God who made us all?”
If God made us, He will not destroy us. Infinite wisdom never made a poor investment. And upon all the works of an infinite God, a dividend must finally be declared. The pulpit has cast a shadow over even the cradle. The doctrine of endless punishment has covered the cheeks of this world with tears. I despise it, and I defy it.
I made up my mind, I say, to see what I had to do in order to save my soul according to the Testament, and thereupon I read it. I read the gospel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But I found that the Church had been deceiving me. I found that the clergy did not understand their own book. I found that they had been building upon passages that had been interpolated. I found that they had been building upon passages that were entirely untrue. And I will tell you why I think so.
The first of these gospels was written by St. Matthew, according to the claim. Of course he never wrote a word of it. Never saw it. Never heard of it. But, for the purpose of this lecture, I will admit that he wrote it. I will admit that he was with Christ for three years, that he heard much of His conversation during that time and that he became impregnated with the doctrines, or dogmas, and the ideas of Jesus Christ.
Now let us see what Matthew says we must do in order to be saved. And I take it that, if this be true, Matthew is as good an authority as any minister in the world.
The first thing I find upon the subject of salvation is in the fifth chapter of Matthew, and is embraced in what is commonly known as the sermon on the Mount. It is as follows:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Good!
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Good! Whether they belonged to any church or not; whether they believed the Bible or not.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Good!
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” (that’s me, little) “for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
In the same sermon he says: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” And then he makes use of this remarkable language, almost as applicable today as it was then: “For I say unto you that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of Heaven.” Good!
In the sixth chapter I find the following, and it comes directly after the prayer known as the Lord’s prayer: “For if you forgive men their trespasses your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” I accept the conditions. There is an offer; I accept it. If you will forgive men that trespass against you, God will forgive your trespasses against Him. I accept, and I never will ask any God to treat me any better than I treat my fellowmen. There is a square promise. There is a contract. If you will forgive others, God will forgive you. And it does not say you must believe in the Old Testament, nor be baptized, nor join the Church, nor keep Sunday. It simply says, if you forgive others God will forgive you; and it must be true. No God could afford to damn a forgiving man. (A voice: “Will He forgive Democrats?”) Oh, certainly. Let me say right here that I know lots of Democrats, great, broad, whole-souled, clever men, and I love them. And the only bad thing about them is that they vote the Democratic ticket. And I know lots of Republicans so mean and narrow that the only decent thing about them is that they vote the Republican ticket.
Now let me make myself plain upon that subject, perfectly plain. For instance, I hate Presbyterianism, but I know hundreds of splendid Presbyterians. Understand me. I hate Methodism, and yet I know hundreds of splendid Methodists. I dislike a certain set of principles called Democracy, and yet I know thousands of Democrats that I respect and like. I like a certain set of principles — that is, most of them — called Republicanism, and yet I know lots of Republicans that are a disgrace to those principles.
I do not war against men. I do not war against persons. I war against certain doctrines that I believe to be wrong. And I give to every other human being every right that I claim for myself. Of course I did not intend today to tell what we must do in the election for the purpose of being saved.
The next thing that I find is in the seventh chapter and the second verse: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Good! That suits me!
And in the twelfth chapter of Matthew: “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father that is in Heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother. For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according —” To the church he belongs to? No. To the manner in which he was baptized? No. According to his creed? No. “Then he shall reward every man according to his works.” Good! I subscribe to that doctrine.
And in the sixteenth chapter: “And Jesus called a little child to Him and stood him in the midst, and said: ‘Verily, I say unto you, except ye become converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’” I do not wonder that a reformer in His day that met the Scribes and Pharisees and hypocrites, I do not wonder that at last He turned to children and said: “Except ye become as little children,” I do not wonder. And yet, see what children the children of God have been. What an interesting dimpled darling John Calvin was. Think of that prattling babe known as Jonathan Edwards! Think of the infants that founded the Inquisition, that invented instruments of torture to tear human flesh. They were the ones who had become as little children.
So I find in the nineteenth chapter: “And behold, one came and said unto Him: ‘Good master, what good thing shall I do in order to inherit eternal life?’ And He said unto him, ‘why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, and that is God, but if thou will enter into eternal life, keep the commandments,’ and he said unto Him, ‘Which?’”
Now, there is a pretty fair issue. Here is a child of God asking God what is necessary for him to do in order to inherit eternal life. And God says to him: Keep the commandments. And the child said to the Almighty: “Which?” Now if there ever had been an opportunity given to the Almighty to furnish a gentleman with an inquiring mind with the necessary information upon that subject, here was the opportunity. He said unto Him, ‘which?’ And Jesus said: “Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness; honor thy father and mother; and, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” He did not say to him: “You must believe in Me — that I am the only begotten Son of the living God.” He did not say: “You must be born again.” He did not say: “You must believe the Bible.” He did not say: “You must remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” He simply said: “Thou shalt do no murder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honor thy father and thy mother; and, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” And thereupon the young man, who I think was a little “fresh,” and probably mistaken, said unto Him: “All these things have I kept from my youth up.” I don’t believe that.
Now comes in an interpolation. In the old times when the Church got a little scarce for money, they always put in a passage praising poverty. So they had this young man ask: “What lack I yet?” And Jesus said unto him: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have treasures in heaven.” The Church has always been willing to swap off treasures in heaven for cash down.
And when the next verse was written the Church must have been nearly dead-broke. “And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Did you ever know a wealthy disciple to unload on account of that verse?
And then comes another verse, which I believe is an interpolation: “And every one that has forsaken houses, or brethren or sisters, or father or mother, or wife or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Christ never said it. Never. “Whosoever shall forsake father and mother.” Why He said to this man who asked him “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” among other things, He said “Honor thy father and thy mother.” And we turn over the page and He says: “If you will desert your father and your mother you shall have everlasting life.” It won’t do. If you desert your wife and your little children, or your lands — the idea of putting a house and lot on equality with wife and children. Think of that! I do not accept the terms. I will never desert the one I love for the promise of any God.
It is far more important that we shall love our wives than that we shall love God. And I will tell you why you cannot help Him. You can help her. You can fill her life with the perfume of perpetual joy. It is far more important that you love your children than that you love Jesus Christ. — And why? If He is God you cannot help Him, but you can plant a little flower of happiness in every footstep of the child, from the cradle until you die in that child’s arms. Let me tell you to-day, it is far more important to build a home than to erect a church. The holiest temple beneath the stars is a home that love has built. And the holiest altar in all the wide world is the fireside around which gather father and mother and children.
There was a time when people believed that infamy. There was a time when they did desert fathers; and mothers, and wives and children. St. Augustine says to the devotee: “Fly to the desert, and though your wife put her arms around your neck, tear her hands away; she is a temptation of the devil. Though your father and mother throw their bodies athwart your threshold, step over them; and though your children pursue and with weeping eyes beseech you to return, listen not. It is the temptation of the evil one. Fly to the desert and save your soul.” Think of such a soul being worth saving. While I live I propose to stand by the folks.
Here there is another condition of salvation. I find it in the 25th chapter: “Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, ‘Come, ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was a hungered and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger and ye took Me in; naked and ye clothed Me; and I was sick and ye visited Me; and I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” Good! And I tell you tonight that God will not punish with eternal thirst the man who has put the cup of cold water to the lips of his neighbor. God will not allow to live in eternal nakedness of pain the man who has clothed others.
For instance, here is a shipwreck, and here is some brave sailor stands aside and allows a woman whom he never saw before to take his place in the boat, and he stands there, grand and serene as the wide sea, and he goes down. Do you tell me there is any God who will push the life-boat from the shore of eternal life, when that man wishes to step in? Do you tell me that God can be unpitying to the pitiful, that He can be unforgiving to the forgiving? I deny it; and from the aspersions of the pulpit I seek to rescue the reputation of the Deity.
Now, I have read you everything in Matthew on the subject of salvation. That is all there is. Not one word about believing anything. It is the gospel of deed, the gospel of charity, the gospel of self-denial; and if only that gospel had been preached, persecution never would have shed one drop of blood. Not one. Now, according to the testimony, Matthew was well acquainted with Christ. According to the testimony, he had been with Him, and His companion for years, and if it was necessary to believe anything in order to get to heaven, Matthew should have told us. But he forgot it. Or he didn’t believe it. Or he never heard of it. You can take your choice.
The next is Mark. Now let us see what he says. And for the purpose of this lecture it is sufficient for me to say that Mark agrees, substantially, with Matthew, that God will be merciful to the merciful; that He will be kind to the kind that He will pity the pitying. And it is precisely, or substantially, the same as Matthew until I come to the 16th verse of the 16th chapter, and then I strike an interpolation, put in by hypocrisy, put in by priests, who longed to grasp with bloody hands the sceptre of universal authority.
Let me read it to you. And it is the most infamous passage in the Bible. Christ never said it. No sensible man ever said it. “And He said unto them”— that is, unto His disciples —“Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Now, I propose to prove to you that that is an interpolation. Now how will I do it? In the first place, not one word is said about belief in Matthew. In the next place, not one word is said about belief in Mark, until I come to that verse. And when is that said to have been spoken? According to Mark, it is a part of the last conversation of Jesus Christ — just before, according to the account, He ascended bodily before their eyes. If there ever was any important thing happened in this world, that is one of them. If there was any conversation that people would be apt to recollect, it would be the last conversation with God before He rose through the air and seated Himself upon the throne of the Infinite. We have in this Testament five accounts of the last conversation happening between Jesus Christ and His apostles. Matthew gives it. And yet Matthew does not state that in that conversation He said: “Whoso believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and whoso believeth not shall be damned.” And if He did say those words, they were the most important that ever fell from His lips. Matthew did not hear it, or did not believe it, or forgot it.
Then I turn to Luke, and he gives an account of this same last conversation, and not one word does he say upon that subject. Now it is the most important thing, if Christ said it, that He ever said.
Then I turn to John, and he gives an account of the last conversation, but not one solitary word on the subject of belief or unbelief. Not one solitary word on the subject of damnation. Not one.
Then I turn to the first chapter of the Acts, and there I find an account of the last conversation; and in that conversation there is not one word upon this subject. Now, I say, that demonstrates that the passage in Mark is an interpolation.
What other reason have I got? That there is not one particle of sense in it. Why? No man can control his belief. You hear evidence for and against, and the integrity of the soul stands at the scales and tells which side rises and which side falls. You cannot believe as you wish. You must believe as you must. And He might as well have said: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel, and whosoever has red hair shall be saved, and whosoever hath not shall be damned.”
I have another reason. I am much obliged to the gentleman who interpolated these passages. I am much obliged to him that he put in some more — two, more. Now hear:
“And these signs shall follow them that believe.” Good.
“In My name shall they cast out devils. They shall speak with new tongues, and they shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them. They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Bring on your believer! Let him cast out a devil. I do not claim a large one, “just a little one for a cent.” Let him take up serpents. “And if he drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt him.” Let me mix up a dose for the theological believer, and if it does not hurt him I’ll join a church. O, but, “they say those things only lasted through that apostolic age.” Let us see. “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe.”
How long? I think at least until they had gone into all the world. Certainly these signs should follow until all the world had been visited. And yet if that declaration was in the mouth of Christ, he then knew that one-half of the world was unknown and that he would be dead 1,492 years before his disciples would know that there was another world. And yet he said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel,” and he knew then that it would be 1,492 years before anybody went. Well, if it was worth while to have signs follow believers in the old world, surely it was worth while to have signs follow believers in the new world. And the very reason that signs should follow would be to convince the unbeliever, and there are as many unbelievers now as ever, and the signs are as necessary today as they ever were. I would like a few myself.
This frightful declaration, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned,” has filled the world with agony and crime.
Every letter of this passage has been sword and fagot; every word has been dungeon and chain.
That passage made the sword of persecution drip with innocent blood for ten centuries. That passage made the horizon of a thousand years lurid with the flames of fagots. That passage contradicts the sermon on the mount. That passage travesties the Lord’s prayer. That passage turns the splendid religion of deed and duty into the superstition of creed and cruelty. I deny it. It is infamous. Christ never said it! Now I come to Luke, and it is sufficient to say that Luke substantially agrees with Matthew and with Mark. Substantially agrees, as the evidence is read. I like it.
“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” Good!
“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged. Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive and ye shall be forgiven.” Good!
“Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.” Good! I like it.
“For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.”
He agrees substantially with Mark; he agrees substantially with Matthew; and I come at last to the nineteenth chapter.
“And Zaccheus stood and said unto the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him four-fold.’ And Jesus said unto him, ‘This day is salvation come to this house.’”
That is good doctrine. He didn’t ask Zaccheus what he believed. He didn’t ask him, Do you believe in the Bible? Do you believe in the five points? Have you ever been baptized-sprinkled? Oh! immersed. “Half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him four-fold.” “And Christ said, ‘This day is salvation come to this house.’” Good!
I read also in Luke that Christ when upon the cross forgave His murderers, and that is considered the shining gem in the crown of His mercy — that He forgave His murderers. That He forgave the men who drove the nails in His hands, in His feet, that plunged a spear in His side; the soldier that in the hour of death offered Him in mockery the bitterness to drink; that He forgave them all freely, and that yet, although He would forgive them, He will in the nineteenth century damn to eternal fire an honest man for the expression of his honest thoughts. That won’t do. I find too, in Luke, an account of two thieves that were crucified at the same time. The other gospels speak of them. One says they both railed upon Him. Another says nothing about it. In Luke we are told that one did, but one of the thieves looked and pitied Christ, and Christ said to that thief:
“This day shalt thou meet me in Paradise.”
Why did He say that? Because the thief pitied Him. And God cannot afford to trample beneath the feet of His infinite wrath the smallest blossom of pity that ever shed its perfume in the human heart!
Who was this thief? To what church did he belong? I don’t know. The fact that he was a thief throws no light on that question. Who was he? What did he believe? I don’t know. Did he believe in the Old Testament? In the miracles? I don’t know. Did he believe that Christ was God? I don’t know. Why, then, was the promise made to him that he should meet Christ in Paradise. Simply because he pitied innocence suffering on the cross.
God cannot afford to damn any man that is capable of pitying anybody.
And now we come to John, and that is where the trouble commences. The other gospels teach that God will be merciful to the merciful, forgiving to the forgiving, kind to the kind, loving to the loving, just to the just, merciful to the good.
Now we come to John, and here is another doctrine. And allow me to say that John was not written until centuries after the others. This, the Church got up:
“And Jesus answered and said unto him: ‘Furthermore I say unto thee that except a man be born again he cannot see the “Kingdom of God.”’”
Why didn’t He tell Matthew that? Why didn’t He tell Luke that? Why didn’t He tell Mark that? They never heard of it, or forgot it, or they didn’t believe it.
“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” Why?
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ‘ye must be born again.’ That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit,”— and He might have added that which is born of water is water.
“Marvel not that I say unto thee, ‘ye must be born again.’” And then the reason is given, and I admit I did not understand it myself until I read the reason, and will understand it as well as I do; and here it is: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, and canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth.” So I find in the book of John the idea of the real presence.
So I find in the book of John, that in order to be saved we must eat of the flesh and we must drink of the blood of Jesus Christ, and if that gospel is true, the Catholic Church is right. But it is not true. I cannot believe it, and yet for all that it may be true. But I don’t believe it. Neither do I believe there is any God in the universe who will damn a man simply for expressing his belief.
“Why,” they say to me, “suppose all this should turn out to be true, and you should come to the day of judgment and find all these things to be true. What would you do then?” I would walk up like a man, and say, “I was mistaken.”
“And suppose God was about to pass judgment on you, what would you say?” I would say to Him, “Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you.” Why not?
I am told that I must render good for evil. I am told that if smitten on one cheek I must turn the other. I am told that I must overcome evil with good. I am told that I must love my enemies; and will it do for this God who tells me, “Love my enemies,” to say, “I will damn mine.” No, it will not do; it will not do.
In the book of John all this doctrine of regeneration; all this doctrine that it is necessary to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; all the doctrine that salvation depends upon belief — in this book of John all these doctrines find their warrant; nowhere else.
Read these three gospels and then read John, and you will agree with me that the gospels that teach “We must be kind, we must be merciful, we must be forgiving, and thereupon that God will forgive us,” is true, and then say whether or no that doctrine is not better than the doctrine that somebody else can be good for you, that somebody else can be bad for you, and that the only way to get to heaven is to believe something that you do not understand.
Now upon these gospels that I have read the churches rest; and out of those things that I have read they have made their creeds. And the first Church to make a creed, so far as I know, was the Catholic. I take it that is the first Church that had any power. That is the Church that has preserved all these miracles for us. That is the Church that preserved the manuscripts for us. That is the Church whose word we have to take. That Church is the first witness that Protestantism brought to the bar of history to prove miracles that took place eighteen hundred years ago; and while the witness is there Protestantism takes pains to say: “You can’t believe one word that witness says, now.”
That Church is the only one that keeps up a constant communication with heaven through the instrumentality of a large number of decayed saints. That Church is an agent of God on earth. That Church has a person who stands in the place of Deity; and that Church, according to their doctrine, is infallible. That Church has persecuted to the exact extent of her power — and always will. In Spain that Church stands erect, and that Church is arrogant. In the United States that Church crawls. But the object in both countries is the same, and that is the destruction of intellectual liberty. That Church teaches us that we can make God happy by being miserable ourselves. That Church teaches you that a nun is holier in the sight of God than a loving mother with a child in her thrilled and thrilling arms. That Church teaches you that a priest is better than a father. That Church teaches you that celibacy is better than that passion of love that has made everything of beauty in this world. That Church tells the girl of 16 or 18 years of age, with eyes like dew and light — that girl with the red of health in the white of her beautiful checks — tells that girl, “Put on the veil woven of death and night, kneel upon stones, and you will please God.”
I tell you that, by law, no girl should be allowed to take the veil, and renounce the beauties of the world, until she was at least 25 years of age. Wait until she knows what she wants.
I am opposed to allowing these spider-like priests weaving webs to catch the flies of youth; and there ought to be a law appointing commissioners to visit such places twice a year, and release every person who expresses a desire to be released. I don’t believe in keeping penitentiaries for God. No doubt they are honest about it. That is not the question.
Now this Church, after a few centuries of thought, made a creed, and that creed is the foundation of orthodox religion. Let me read it to you:
“Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith; which faith, except every one do keep entire and inviolate, without doubt, he shall everlastingly perish.” Now the faith is this: “That we worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity.”
Of course you understand how that’s done, and there’s no need of my explaining it. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. You see what a predicament that would leave the Deity in if you divided, the substance.
“For one is the person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost; but the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one “— you know what I mean by Godhead. In glory equal, and in majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, such is the Holy Ghost. The Father is uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
And that is the reason we know so much about the thing. “The Father is eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Ghost eternal,” and yet there are not three eternals, only one eternal, as also there are not three uncreated, nor three incomprehensibles, only one uncreated, one incomprehensible.
“In like manner, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, the Holy Ghost almighty.” Yet there are not three almighties, only one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son God, the Holy Ghost God, and yet not three Gods; and so likewise, the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Ghost is Lord, yet there are not three Lords, for as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord, so we are all forbidden by the Catholic religion to say there are three Gods, or three Lords. “The Father is made of no one, not created or begotten. The Son is from the Father alone, not made, nor created, or begotten. The Holy Ghost is from the Father and the Son, not made nor begotten, but proceeded —” You know what proceeding is.
“So there is one Father, not three Fathers.” Why should there be three Fathers, and only one Son?
“One Son, and not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts; and in this Trinity there is nothing before or afterward, nothing greater or less, but the whole three persons are coeternal with one another, and coequal, so that in all things the unity is to be worshiped in Trinity, and the Trinity is to be worshiped in unity, and therefore we will believe.” Those who will be saved must thus think of the Trinity. Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now the right of this thing is this: That we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man. He is God of the substance of His Father begotten before the world was. That was a good while before His mother lived.
“And He is man of the substance of His mother, born in this world, perfect God and perfect man, and the rational soul in human flesh subsisting equal to the Father according to His Godhead, but less than the Father, according to His manhood, who being both God and man is not two but one — one not by conversion of God into flesh but by the taking of the manhood into God.”
You see that it is a great deal easier than the other. “One altogether, not by a confusion of substance, but by unity of person, for as the rational soul and flesh is one man, so God the man, is one Christ, who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead, ascended into heaven, and He sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, and He shall come to judge the living and the dead.”
In order to be saved it is necessary to believe this. What a blessing, that we do not have to understand it. And in order to compel the human intellect to get upon its knees, before that infinite absurdity, thousands and millions have suffered agonies; thousands and millions have perished in dungeons and in fire; and if all the bones of all the victims of the Catholic Church could be gathered together, a monument higher than all the pyramids would rise in our presence, and the eyes even of priests would be suffused with tears.
That Church covered Europe with cathedrals and dungeons. That Church robbed men of the jewel of the soul. That Church had ignorance upon its knees. That Church went into partnership with the tyrants of the throne, and between these two vultures, the altar and the throne, the heart of man was devoured. Of course I have met, and cheerfully admit that there is thousands of good Catholics; but Catholicism is contrary to human liberty. Catholicism bases salvation upon belief. Catholicism teaches man to trample his reason under foot. And for that reason, it is wrong.
Now, the next Church that comes along in the way that I wish to speak of is the Episcopalian. That was founded by Henry VIII., now in heaven. He cast off Queen Catherine and Catholicism together. And he accepted Episcopalianism and Annie Boleyn at the same time. That Church, if it had a few more ceremonies, would be Catholic. If it had a few less, nothing. We have an Episcopalian Church in this country, and it has all the imperfection of a poor relation. It is always boasting of a rich relative. In England the creed is made by law, the same as we pass statutes here. And when a gentleman dies in England, in order to determine whether he shall be saved or not, it is necessary for the power of heaven to read the acts of Parliament. It becomes a question of law, and sometimes a man is damned on a very nice point. Lost on demurrer.
A few years ago, a gentleman by the name of Seabury, Samuel Seabury, was sent over to England to get some apostolic succession. We hadn’t a drop in the house. It was necessary for the bishops of the English church to put their hands upon his head. They refused; there was no act of Parliament justifying — it. He had then to go to the Scotch Bishops; and, had the Scotch Bishops refused, we never would have had any apostolic succession in the new world. And God would have been driven out of half the world; and the true church never could have been founded. But the Scotch Bishops put their hands on his head, and now we have an unbroken succession of heads and hands from St. Paul to the last bishop.
In this country the Episcopal Church has done some good, and I want to thank that Church. Having, on an average, less religion than the others, on an average you have done more good to mankind. You preserved some of the humanities. You did not hate music, you did not absolutely despise painting, and you did not altogether abhor architecture, and you finally admitted that it was no worse to keep time with your feet than with your hands. And some went so far as to say that people could play cards, and God would overlook it, or would look the other way. For all these things accept my thanks.
When I was a boy, the other Churches looked upon dancing as probably the mysterious sin against the Holy Ghost; and they used to teach that when four boys got in a hay-mow, playing seven-up, that the Eternal God stood whetting the sword of His eternal wrath waiting to strike them down to the lowest hell. And so that Church has done some good.
After a while, in England, a couple of gentlemen, or a couple of men by the name of Wesley and Whitfield, said: “If everybody is going to hell, nearly, somebody ought to mention it.” The Episcopal clergy said: “Keep still; don’t tear your gown.” Wesley and Whitfield said: “This frightful truth ought to be proclaimed from the housetops at every opportunity, from the highway of every occasion.” They were good, honest men. They believed their doctrine. And they said: “If there is a hell, and a Niagara of souls pouring over an eternal precipice of ignorance, somebody ought to say something.” They were right; somebody ought, if such thing was true. Wesley was a believer in the Bible. He believed in the actual presence of the Almighty. God used to do miracles for him; used to put off a rain several days to give his meeting a chance; used to cure his horse of lameness; used to cure Mr. Wesley’s headaches.
And Mr. Wesley also believed in the actual existence of the devil. He believed that devils had possession of people. He talked to the devil when he was in folks, and the devil told him that he was going to leave; and that he was going into another person; that he would be there at a certain time; and Wesley went to that other person, and there the devil was, prompt to the minute. He regarded every conversion as an absolute warfare between God and this devil for the possession of that human soul. Honest, no doubt. Mr. Wesley did not believe in human liberty. Honest, no doubt. Was opposed to the liberty of the colonies. Honestly so. Mr. Wesley preached a sermon entitled, “The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes,” in which he took the ground that earthquakes were caused by sin and the only way to stop them was to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. No doubt an honest man.
Wesley and Whitfield fell out on the question of predestination. Wesley insisted that God invited everybody to the feast. Whitfield said He did not invite those He knew would not come. Wesley said He did. Whitfield said: “Well, He didn’t put plates for them, anyway.” Wesley said He did. So that, when they were in hell, he could show them that there was a seat left for them. And that Church that they founded is still active. And probably no Church in the world has done so much preaching for as little money as the Methodists. Whitfield believed in slavery and advocated the slave trade. And it was of Whitfield that Whittier made the two lines:
He bade the slave ships speed from coast to coast, Fanned by the wings of the Holy Ghost.
We have lately had a meeting of the Methodists, and I find, by their statistics, that they believe they have converted 130,000 folks in a year. That in order to do this, they have 26,000 preachers, 226,000 Sunday-school scholars, and about $1,000,000,000 invested in church property. I find, in looking over the history of the world, that there are 40,000,000 or 50,000,000,000 of people born a year, and if they are saved at the rate of 30,000 a year, about how long will it take that doctrine to save this world? Good, honest people; they are mistaken.
In old times they were very simple. Churches used to be like barns. They used to have them divided — men on that side, and women on this. A little barbarous. We have advanced since then, and we now find as a fact, demonstrated by experience, that a man sitting by the woman he loves can thank God as heartily as though sitting between two men that he has never been introduced to.
There is another thing these Methodists should remember, and that is, that the Episcopalians were the greatest enemies they ever had. And they should remember that the Free–Thinkers have always treated them kindly and well.
There is one thing about the Methodist Church in the North that I like. But I find that it is not Methodism that does that. I find that the Methodist Church in the South is as much opposed to liberty as the Methodist Church North is in favor of liberty. So it is not Methodism that is in favor of liberty or slavery. They differ a little in their creed from the rest. They do not believe that God does everything. They believe that He does His part, and that you must do the rest, and that getting to heaven is a partnership business.
The next church is the Presbyterians — in my judgment the worst of all, as far as creed is concerned. This Church was founded by John Calvin, a murderer! John Calvin, having power in Geneva, inaugurated human torture. Voltaire abolished torture in France. The man who abolished torture, if the Christian religion be true, God is now torturing in hell; and the man who inaugurated torture, is now a glorified angel in heaven. It won’t do.
John Knox started this doctrine in Scotland, and there is this peculiarity about Presbyterianism, it grows best where the soil is poorest. I read the other day an account of a meeting between John Knox and John Calvin. Imagine a dialogue between a pestilence and a famine! Imagine a conversation between a block and an ax! As I read their conversation it seemed to me as though John Knox and John Calvin were made for each other; that they fitted each other like the upper and lower jaws of a wild beast. They believed happiness was a crime; they looked upon laughter as blasphemy, and they did all they could to destroy every human feeling, and to fill the mind with the infinite gloom of predestination and eternal damnation. They taught the doctrine that God had a right to damn us because He made us. That is just the reason that He has not a right to damn us. There is some dust. Unconscious dust! What right has God to change that unconscious dust into a human being, when He knows that human being will sin; and He knows that human being will suffer eternal agony? Why not leave him in the unconscious dust? What right has an infinite God to add to the sum of human agony? Suppose I knew that I could change that piece of furniture into a living, sentient human being, and I knew that that being would suffer untold agony forever. If I did it, I would be a fiend. I would leave that being in the unconscious dust. And yet we are told that we must believe such a doctrine, or we are to be eternally damned! It won’t do.
In 1839 there was a division in this Church, and they had a lawsuit to see which was the Church of God. And they tried it by a judge and jury, and the jury decided that the new school was the Church of God, and then they got a new trial, and the next jury decided that the old school was the Church of God, and that settled it. That Church teaches that infinite innocence was sacrificed for me! I don’t want it! I don’t wish to go to heaven unless I can settle by the books, and go there because I ought to go there. I have said, and I say again, I don’t want to be a charity angel. I have no ambition to become a winged pauper of the skies.
The other day a young gentleman, a Presbyterian, who had just been converted, came to me and gave me a tract and he told me he was perfectly happy. Ugh! Says I: “Do you think a great many people are going to hell?” “Oh, yes.” “And you are perfectly happy?” “Well, he didn’t know as he was quite.” “Wouldn’t you be happier if they were all going to heaven?” “O, yes.” “Well, then you are not perfectly happy?” “No, he didn’t think he was.” Says I: “When you get to heaven, then you would be perfectly happy?” “Oh, yes.” “Now, when we are only going to hell, you are not quite happy; but when we are in hell, and you in heaven, then you will be perfectly happy?” You won’t be as decent when you get to be an angel as you are now, will you? “Well,” he said, “that was not exactly it.” Said I: “Suppose your mother were in hell, would you be happy in heaven then?” “Well,” he says, “I suppose God would know the best place for mother.” And I thought to myself, then, if I was a woman, I would like to have five or six boys like that.
It will not do. Heaven is where are those we love, and those who love us. And I wish to go to no world unless I can be accompanied by those who love me here. Talk about the consolations of this infamous doctrine. The consolations of a doctrine that makes a father say, “I can be happy with my daughter in hell”; that makes a mother say, “I can be happy with my generous, brave boy in hell”; that makes a boy say, “I can enjoy the glory of heaven with the woman who bore me, the woman who would have died for me, in eternal agony.” And they call that tidings of great joy.
I have not time to speak of the Baptists — that Jeremy Taylor said were as much to be rooted out as anything that is the greatest pest and nuisance on the earth. Nor of the Quakers, the best of all, and abused by all. I can not forget that George Fox, in the year of grace 1640, was put in the pillory and whipped from town to town, scarred, put in a dungeon, beaten, trampled upon, and what for? Simply because he preached the doctrine: “Thou shalt not resist evil with evil. Thou shalt love thy enemies.” Think what the Church must have been that day to scar the flesh of that loving man! Just think of it! I say I have not time to speak of all these sects. And of the varieties of Presbyterians and Campbellites. The people who think they must dive in order to go up. There are hundreds and hundreds of these sects, all founded upon this creed that I read, differing simply in degree. Ah but they say to me: “You are fighting something that is dead. Nobody believes this, now.” The preachers do not believe what they preach in the pulpit. The people in the pews do not believe what they hear preached. And they say to me: “You are fighting something that is dead. This is all a form, we do not believe a solitary creed in it. We sign it and swear that we believe it, but we don’t. And none of us do. And all the ministers they say in private, admit that they do not believe it, not quite.” I don’t know whether this is so or not. I take it that they believe what they preach. I take it that when they meet and solemnly agree to a creed, I take it they are honest and solemnly believe in that creed.
The Evangelical Alliance, made up of all orthodox denominations of the world, met only a few years ago, and here is their creed: They believe in the divine inspiration, authority, and sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures; the right and duty of private judgment in the interpretation of Holy Scriptures, but if you interpret wrong you are damned. They believe in the unity of the Godhead and the trinity of the persons therein. They believe in the utter depravity of human nature. There can be no more infamous doctrine than that. They look upon a little child as a lump of depravity. I look upon it as a bud of humanity, that will, under proper circumstances, blossom into rich and glorious life.
Total depravity of human nature! Here is a woman whose husband has been lost at sea; the news comes that he has been drowned by the ever-hungry waves, and she waits. There is something in her heart that tells her he is alive. And she waits. And years afterwards as she looks down toward the little gate, she sees him; he has been given back by the sea, and she rushes to his arms and covers his face with kisses, and with tears. And if that infamous doctrine is true, every tear is a crime, and every kiss a blasphemy. It won’t do. According to that doctrine, if a man steals and repents, and takes back the property, the repentance and the taking back of the property are two other crimes if he is totally depraved: It is an infamy. What else do they believe? “The justification of a sinner by faith alone,” without works, just faith. Believing something that you don’t understand. Of course God cannot afford to reward a man for believing anything that is reasonable. God rewards only for believing something that is unreasonable, if you believe something that you know is not so. What else? They believe in the eternal blessedness of the righteous, and in the eternal punishment of the wicked. Tidings of great joy! They are so good that they will not associate with Universalists. They will not associate with Unitarians. They will not associate with scientists. They will only associate with those who believed that God so loved the world that He made up his mind to damn the most of us. Then they say to me: “What do you propose? You have torn this down; what do you propose to give in the place of it?” I have not torn the good down. I have only endeavored to trample out the ignorant, cruel fires of hell. I do not tear away the passage, “God will be merciful to the merciful.” I do not destroy the promise, “If you will forgive others, God will forgive you.” I would not for anything blot out the faintest stars that shine in the horizon of human despair, nor in the horizon of human hope; but I will do what I can to get that infinite shadow out of the heart of man.
“What do you propose to put in place of this?”
Well, in the first place, I propose good fellowship — good friends all around. No matter what we believe, shake hands and let it go. That is your opinion. This is mine: “Let us be friends.” Science makes friends, religion — superstition — makes enemies. They say, “Belief is important.” I say no, good actions are important. Judge by deed, not by creed, good fellowship. We have had too many of these solemn people. Whenever I see an exceedingly solemn man, I know he is an exceedingly stupid man. No man of any humor ever founded any religion — never. Humor sees both sides, while reason is the holy light; humor carries the lantern and the man with a keen sense of humor is preserved from the solemn stupidities of superstition. I like a man who has got good feeling for everybody — good fellowship. One man said to another:
“Will you take a glass of wine?”
“I don’t drink.”
“Will you smoke a cigar?”
“I don’t smoke.”
“Maybe you will chew something?”
“I don’t chew.”
“Let us eat some hay.”
“I tell you I don’t eat hay.”
“Well, then, good-bye; for you are no company for man or beast.”
I believe in the gospel of cheerfulness, the gospel of good nature, the gospel of good health. Let us pray to our bodies. Take care of our bodies, and our souls will take care of themselves. Good health! And I believe that the time will come when the public thought will be so great and grand that it will be looked upon as infamous to perpetuate disease. I believe the time will come when man will not fill the future with consumption and insanity. I believe the time will come when we study ourselves, and understand the laws of health, that we will say, “We are under obligation to put the flags of health in the cheeks of our children.” Even if I got to heaven, and had a harp, I would hate to look back upon my children and grandchildren, and see them diseased, deformed, crazed, all suffering the penalties of crimes I had committed.
I, then, believe in the gospel of good health, and I believe in a gospel of good living. You can not make any God happy by fasting. Let us have good food, and let us have it well cooked — and it is a thousand times better to know how to cook it than it is to understand any theology in the world. I believe in the gospel of good clothes. I believe in the gospel of good houses, in the gospel of water and soap. I believe in the gospel of intelligence, in the gospel of education. The school-house is my cathedral. The universe is my Bible. I believe in that gospel of justice that we must reap what we sow.
I do not believe in forgiveness. If I rob Mr. Smith and God forgives me, how does that help Smith? If I, by slander, cover some poor girl with the leprosy of some imputed crime, and she withers away like a blighted flower, and afterward I get forgiveness, how does that help her? If there is another world we have got to settle. No bankrupt court there. Pay down. The Christians say, that among the ancient Jews, if you committed a crime you had to kill a sheep, now they say — “Charge it.” “Put it upon the slate.” It won’t do, for every crime you commit you must answer to yourself and to the one you injure. And if you have ever clothed another with unhappiness, as with a garment of pain, you will never be quite as happy as though you hadn’t done that thing. No forgiveness. Eternal, inexorable, everlasting justice. That is what I believe in. And if it goes hard with me, I will stand it, and I will stick to in logic and I will bear it like a man.
And I believe, too, in the gospel of liberty, in giving to others what we claim for ourselves. I believe there is room everywhere for thought, and the more liberty you give away the more you will have. In liberty, extravagance is economy. Let us be just. Let us be generous to each other.
I believe in the gospel of intelligence. That is the only lever capable of raising mankind. Intelligence must be the savior of this world. Humanity is the grand religion, and no God can put another in hell in another world who has made a little heaven in this. God cannot make a man miserable if that man has made somebody else happy. God cannot hate anybody who is capable of loving anybody.
So I believe in this great gospel of generosity.
“Ah! but,” they say, “it won’t do. You must believe. I say no. My gospel of health will bring life. My gospel of intelligence, my gospel of good living, my gospel of good-fellowship will cover the world with happy homes. My doctrine will put carpets upon your floors, pictures upon your walls. My doctrine will put books upon your shelves, ideas in your minds. My doctrine will rid the world of the abnormal monsters born of the ignorance of superstition. My doctrine will give us health, wealth, and happiness. That is what I want. That is what I believe in. Give us intelligence. In a little while a man may find that he cannot steal without robbing himself. He will find that he cannot murder without assassinating his own joy. He will find that every crime is a mistake. He will find that only that man carries the cross who does wrong, and that the man who does right the cross turns to wings upon his shoulders that will bear him upwards forever. He will find that intelligent self-love embraces within its mighty arms all the human race.
“Oh,” but they say to me, “you take away immortality.” I do not. If we are immortal it is a fact in nature, and we are not indebted to priests for it, nor to Bibles for it, and it cannot be destroyed by unbelief.
As long as we love we will hope to live, and when the one dies that we love, we will say: “Oh, that we could meet again!” And whether we do or not, it will not be the work of theology. It will be a fact in nature. I would not for my life destroy one star of human hope; but I want it so that when a poor woman rocks the cradle, and sings a lullaby to the dimpled darling, that she will not be compelled to believe that, ninety-nine chances in a hundred, she is raising kindling-wood for hell. One world at a time — that is my doctrine.
It is said in the Testament, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” and I say, sufficient unto each world is the evil thereof. And suppose, after all, that death does end all, next to eternal joy, next to being forever with those we love and those who have loved us, next to that is to be wrapt in the dreamless drapery of eternal peace.
Next to external life is eternal death. Upon the shadowy shore of death the sea of trouble casts no wave. Eyes that have been curtained by the everlasting dark will never know again the touch of tears. Lips that have been touched by eternal silence will never utter another word of grief. Hearts of dust do not break; the dead do not weep. And I had rather think of those I have loved, and those I have lost, as having returned, as having become a part of the elemental wealth of the world — I would rather think of them as unconscious dust — I would rather think of them as gurgling in the stream, floating in the clouds, bursting in the foam of light upon the shores of worlds — I would rather think of them as the inanimate and eternally unconscious, that to have even a suspicion that their naked souls had been clutched by an orthodox God.
But for me, I will leave the dead where nature leaves them. And whatever flower of hope springs up in my heart I will cherish; but I can not believe that there is any being in this universe who has created a human soul for eternal pain. And I would rather that every God would destroy himself; I would rather that we all should go to eternal chaos, to black and starless night, that that just one soul should suffer eternal agony. I have made up my mind that if there is a God, he will be merciful to the merciful. Upon that rock I stand. That he will forgive the forgiving. Upon that rock I stand. That every man should be true to himself, and that there is no world, no star, in which honesty is a crime. And upon that rock I stand. The honest man, the good, kind, sweet woman, the happy child, has nothing to fear, neither in this world, nor the world to come. And upon that rock I stand.
After looking over the replies made to his new lecture, Col. Ingersoll was asked by a Tribune reporter what he thought of them. He replied as follows:
I think they dodge the point. The real point is this: If salvation by faith is the real doctrine of Christianity, I asked on Sunday before last, and I still ask, why didn’t Matthew tell it? I still insist that Mark should have remembered it, and I shall always believe that Luke ought, at least, to have noticed it. I was endeavoring to show that modern Christianity has for its basis an interpolation. I think I showed it. The only gospel on the orthodox side is that of John, and that was certainly not written, or did not appear in its present form, until long after the others were written. I know very well that the Catholic Church claimed during the Dark Ages, and still claims, that references had been made to the gospels by persons living in the first, second and third centuries; but I believe such manuscripts were manufactured by the Catholic Church. For many years in Europe there was not one person in 20,000 who could read and write. During that time the Church had in its keeping the literature of our world. They interpolated as they pleased. They created. They destroyed. In other words, they did whatever in their opinion was necessary to substantiate the faith. The gentlemen who saw fit to reply did not answer the question, and I again call upon the clergy to explain to the people why, if salvation depended upon belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew did not mention it. Some one has said that Christ didn’t make known this doctrine of salvation by belief or faith until after His resurrection. Certainly none of the gospels were written until after His resurrection; and if He made that doctrine known after His resurrection, and before His ascension, it should have been in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as John.
The replies of the clergy show that they have not investigated the subject; that they are not well acquainted with the New Testament. In other words, they have not read it except with the regulation theological bias. There is one thing I wish to correct here. In an editorial in the Tribune it was stated that I had admitted that Christ was beyond and above Buddha, Zoroaster, Confucius, and others. I didn’t say so. Another point was made against me, and those who made it seemed to think it was a good one. In my lecture I asked why it was that the Disciples of Christ wrote in Greek, whereas, in fact, they understood only Hebrew. It is now claimed that Greek was the language of Jerusalem at that time; that Hebrew had fallen into disuse; that no one understood it except the literati and the highly educated. If I fell into an error upon this point it was because I relied upon the New Testament. I find in the twenty-first chapter of the Acts an account of Paul having been mobbed in the city of Jerusalem; that he was protected by a Chief Captain and some soldiers; that, when upon the stairs of the castle to which he was being taken for protection, he obtained leave from the Captain to speak unto the people. In the fortieth verse of that chapter I find the following:
“And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs and beckoned with the hand unto the people; and when there was made a great silence he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying —”
And then follows the speech of Paul, wherein he gives an account of his conversion. It seems a little curious to me that Paul for the purpose of quieting the mob, would speak to that mob in an unknown language. If I were mobbed in the city of Chicago, and wished to defend myself with an explanation, I certainly would not make that explanation in Chocktaw, even if I understood that tongue. My present opinion is that I would speak in English; and the reason I would speak in English is, because that language is generally understood in this city. And so I conclude from the account in the twenty-first chapter of the Acts that “Hebrew was the language of Jerusalem at that time, or that Paul would not have addressed the mob in that tongue.”
“Did you read Mr. Courtney’s answer?”
“I read what Mr. Courtney read from others, and think some of his quotations very good; and have no doubt that the authors will feel complimented by being quoted.”
“But what about there being belief in Matthew?”
“Mr. Courtney says that certain people were cured of diseases on account of faith. Admitting that mumps, measles, and whooping-cough could be cured in that way, there is not even a suggestion that salvation depended upon a like faith. I think he can hardly afford to rely upon the miracles of the New Testament to prove his doctrine. There is one instance in which a miracle was performed by Christ without His knowledge. And I hardly think that even Mr. Courtney would insist that any faith could have been great enough for that. The fact is, I believe that all these miracles were ascribed to Christ long after His death, and that Christ never, at any time or place, pretended to have any supernatural power whatever. Neither do I believe that He claimed any supernatural origin. He claimed simply to be a man — no less, no more. I don’t believe Mr. Courtney is satisfied with his own reply.”
“And now as to Prof. Swing?”
“Mr. Swing has been out of the orthodox church so long that he seems to have forgotten the reasons for which he left it. I don’t believe there is an orthodox minister in the city of Chicago who will agree with Mr. Swing that salvation by faith is no longer preached. Prof. Swing seems to think it of no importance who wrote the Gospel of St. Matthew. In this I agree with him. Judging from what he said, there is hardly difference enough of opinion between us to justify a reply on his part. He, however, makes one mistake. I did not in the lecture say one word about tearing churches down. I have no objection to people building all the churches they wish. While I admit that it is a pretty sight to see children on a morning in June going through the fields to the country church, I still insist that the beauty of that sight doesn’t answer the question how it is that Matthew forgot to say anything about salvation through Christ. Prof. Swing is a man of poetic temperament; but this is not a poetic question.”
“How did the card of Dr. Thomas strike you?”
“I think the reply of Dr. Thomas in the best possible spirit. I regard him to day as the best intellect in the Methodist denomination. He seems to have what is generally understood as a Christian spirit. He has always treated me with perfect fairness, and I should have said long ago many grateful things, had I not feared I might hurt with his own people. He seems to be by nature a perfectly fair man; and I know of no man in the United States for whom I have a profounder respect. Of course I don’t agree with Mr. Thomas. I think in many things he is mistaken. But I believe him to be perfectly sincere. There is one trouble about him — he is growing; and this fact will no doubt give great trouble to many of his brethren. Certain Methodist hazelbrush feel a little uneasy in the shadow of his oak.”
“Are you going to make a formal reply to their sermons.”
“Not unless something better is done than has been. Of course I don’t know what another Sabbath may bring forth. I am waiting. But of one thing I feel perfectly assured; that no man in the United States, or in the world, can account for the fact, if we are to be saved only by faith in Christ, that Matthew forgot it, that Luke said nothing about it, and that Mark never mentioned it except in two passages written by another person. Until that is answered, as one grave-digger says to the other in “Hamlet,” I shall say: ‘Ay, tell me that and unyoke.’ In the meantime, I wish to keep on the best terms with all parties concerned. I cannot see why my forgiving spirit fails to gain their sincere praise.”
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