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Phases of Faith by Francis William Newman

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literature. All historians agree, that the enlightenment of mind
hence arising was a prime mover of religious Reformation; and learned
Protestants of Germany have even believed, that the overthrow of
Popish error and establishment of purer truth would have been brought
about more equably and profoundly, if Luther had never lived, and the
passions of the vulgar had never been stimulated against the externals
of Romanism.

At any rate, it gradually opened upon me, that the free cultivation of
the _understanding_, which Latin and Greek literature had imparted to
Europe and our freer public life, were chief causes of our religious
superiority to Greek, Armenian, and Syrian Christians. As the Greeks
in Constantinople under a centralized despotism retained no free
intellect, and therefore the works of their fathers did their souls no
good; so in Europe, just in proportion to the freedom of learning,
has been the force of the result. In Spain and Italy the study
of miscellaneous science and independent thought were nearly
extinguished; in France and Austria they were crippled; in Protestant
countries they have been freest. And then we impute all their effects
to the Bible![9]

I at length saw how untenable is the argument drawn from the inward
history of Christianity in favour of its superhuman origin. In fact:
this religion cannot pretend to _self-sustaining power._ Hardly was it
started on its course, when it began to be polluted by the heathenism
and false philosophy around it. With the decline of national genius
and civil culture it became more and more debased. So far from being
able to uphold the existing morality of the best Pagan teachers, it
became barbarized itself, and sank into deep superstition and manifold
moral corruption. From ferocious men it learnt ferocity. When civil
society began to coalesce into order, Christianity also turned for the
better, and presently learned to use the wisdom, first of Romans, then
of Greeks: such studies opened men's eyes to new apprehensions of the
Scripture and of its doctrine. By gradual and human means, Europe,
like ancient Greece, grew up towards better political institutions;
and Christianity improved with them,--the Christianity of the more
educated. Beyond Europe, where there have been no such institutions,
there has been no Protestant Reformation:--that is in the Greek,
Armenian, Syrian, Coptic churches. Not unreasonably then do Franks
in Turkey disown the title Nazarene, as denoting _that_ Christianity
which has not been purified by European laws and European learning.
Christianity rises and sinks with political and literary influences:
in so far,[10] it does not differ from other religions.

The same applied to the origin and advance of Judaism. It began
in polytheistic and idolatrous barbarism: it cleared into a hard
monotheism, with much superstition adhering to it. This was farther
improved by successive psalmists and prophets, until Judaism
culminated. The Jewish faith was eminently grand and pure; but
there is nothing[11] in this history which we can adduce in proof of
preternatural and miraculous agency.

II. The facts concerning the outward spread of Christianity have also
been disguised by the party spirit of Christians, as though there were
something essentially _different in kind_ as to the mode in which it
began and continued its conquests, from the corresponding history
of other religions. But no such distinction can be made out. It is
general to all religions to begin by moral means, and proceed farther
by more worldly instruments.

Christianity had a great moral superiority over Roman paganism, in
its humane doctrine of universal brotherhood, its unselfishness, its
holiness; and thereby it attracted to itself (among other and baser
materials) all the purest natures and most enthusiastic temperaments.
Its first conquests were noble and admirable. But there is nothing
_superhuman_ or unusual in this. Mohammedism in the same way conquers
those Pagan creeds which are morally inferior to it. The Seljuk and
the Ottoman Turks were Pagans, but adopted the religion of Tartars and
Persians whom they subjugated, because it was superior and was blended
with a superior civilization; exactly as the German conquerors of the
Western Empire of Rome adopted some form of Christianity.

But if it is true that _the sword_ of Mohammed was the influence which
subjected Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Persia to the religion of Islam,
it is no less true that the Roman empire was finally conquered to
Christianity by the sword. Before Constantine, Christians were but a
small fraction of the empire. In the preceding century they had gone
on deteriorating in good sense and most probably therefore in moral
worth, and had made no such rapid progress in numbers as to imply that
by the mere process of conversion they would ever Christianize the
empire. That the conversion of Constantine, such as it was, (for he
was baptized only just before death,) was dictated by mere worldly
considerations, few modern Christians will deny. Yet a great fact is
here implied; viz., that Christianity was adopted as a state-religion,
because of the great _political_ power accruing from the organization
of the churches and the devotion of Christians to their ecclesiastical
citizenship. Roman statesmen well knew that a hundred thousand Roman
citizens devoted to the interests of Rome, could keep in subjection
a population of ten millions who were destitute of any intense
patriotism and had no central objects of attachment. The Christian
church had shown its immense resisting power and its tenacious union,
in the persecution by Galerius; and Constantine was discerning enough
to see the vast political importance of winning over such a body;
which, though but a small fraction of the whole empire, was the only
party which could give coherence to that empire, the only one which
had enthusiastic adherents in every province, the only one on whose
resolute devotion it was possible for a partizan to rely securely. The
bravery and faithful attachment of Christian regiments was a lesson
not lost upon Constantine; and we may say, in some sense, that the
Christian soldiers in his armies conquered the empire (that is, the
imperial appointments) for Christianity. But Paganism subsisted,
even in spite of imperial allurements, until at length the sword of
Theodosius violently suppressed heathen worship. So also, it was the
spear of Charlemagne which drove the Saxons to baptism, and decided
the extirpation of Paganism from Teutonic Europe. There is nothing in
all this to distinguish the outward history of Christianity from
that of Mohammedism. Barbarous tribes, now and then, venerating
the superiority of our knowledge, adopt our religion: so have Pagan
nations in Africa voluntarily become Mussulmans. But neither we nor
they can appeal to any case, where an old State-religion has yielded
without warlike compulsion to the force of heavenly truth,--"charm we
never so wisely." The whole influence which Christianity exerts over
the world at large depends on the political history of modern Europe.
The Christianity of Asia and Abyssinia is perhaps as pure and as
respectable in this nineteenth century as it was in the fourth and
fifth, yet no good or great deeds come forth out of it, of such a kind
that Christian disputants dare to appeal to them with triumph. The
politico-religious and very peculiar history of _European_ Christendom
has alone elevated the modern world; and as Gibbon remarks, this whole
history has directly depended on the fate of the great battles of
Tours between the Moors and the Franks. The defeat of Mohammedism by
Christendom certainly has not been effected by spiritual weapons. The
soldier and the statesman have done to the full as much as the priest
to secure Europe for Christianity, and win a Christendom of which
Christians can be proud. As for the Christendom of Asia, the
apologists of Christianity simply ignore it. With these facts, how can
it be pretended that the external history of Christianity points to an
exclusively divine origin?

The author of the "Eclipse of Faith" has derided me for despatching
in two paragraphs what occupied Gibbon's whole fifteenth chapter; but
this author, here as always, misrepresents me. Gibbon is exhibiting
and developing the deep-seated causes of the spread of Christianity
before Constantine, and he by no means exhausts the subject. I am
comparing the ostensible and notorious facts concerning the outward
conquest of Christianity with those of other religions. To _account_
for the early growth of any religion, Christian, Mussulman, or
Mormonite, is always difficult.

III. The moral advantages which we owe to Christianity have been
exaggerated by the same party spirit, as if there were in them
anything miraculous.

1. We are told that Christianity is the decisive influence which has
raised _womankind_: this does not appear to be true. The old Roman
matron was, relatively to her husband,[12] morally as high as in
modern Italy: nor is there any ground for supposing that modern women
have advantage over the ancient in Spain and Portugal, where Germanic
have been counteracted by Moorish influences. The relative position of
the sexes in Homeric Greece exhibits nothing materially different from
the present day. In Armenia and Syria perhaps Christianity has done
the service of extinguishing polygamy: this is creditable, though
nowise miraculous. Judaism also unlearnt polygamy, and made an
unbidden improvement upon Moses. In short, only in countries where
Germanic sentiment has taken root, do we see marks of any elevation
of the female sex superior to that of Pagan antiquity; and as this
elevation of the German woman in her deepest Paganism was already
striking to Tacitus and his contemporaries, it is highly unreasonable
to claim it as an achievement of Christianity.

In point of fact, Christian doctrine, as propounded by Paul, is not at
all so honourable to woman as that which German soundness of heart has
established. With Paul[13] the _sole_ reason for marriage is, that a
man may gratify instinct without sin. He teaches, that _but_ for this
object it would be better not to marry. He wishes that all were in
this respect as free as himself, and calls it a special gift of God.
He does not encourage a man to desire a mutual soul intimately to
share griefs and joys; one in whom the confiding heart can repose,
whose smile shall reward and soften toil, whose voice shall beguile
sorrow. He does not seem aware that the fascinations of woman refine
and chasten society; that virtuous attachment has in it an element of
respect, which abashes and purifies, and which shields the soul, even
when marriage is deferred; nor yet, that the union of two persons
who have no previous affection can seldom yield the highest fruits of
matrimony, but often leads to the severest temptations. How _should_
he have known all this? Courtship before marriage did not exist in the
society open to him: hence he treats the propriety of giving away a
maiden, as one in which _her_ conscience, _her_ likes and dislikes,
are not concerned: 1 Cor. vii. 37, 38. If the law leaves the parent
"power over his own will" and imposes no "necessity" to give her away,
Paul decidedly advises to keep her unmarried.

The author of the Apocalypse, a writer of the first century, who
was received in the second as John the apostle, holds up a yet more
degrading view of the matrimonial relation. In one of his visions he
exhibits 144,000 chosen saints, perpetual attendants of "the Lamb,"
and places the cardinal point of their sanctity in the fact, that
"they were not defiled with women, but were virgins." Marriage,
therefore, is defilement! Protestant writers struggle in vain against
this obvious meaning of the passage. Against all analogy of Scriptural
metaphor, they gratuitously pretend that _women_ mean _idolatrous
religions_: namely, because in the Old Testament the Jewish Church is
personified as a virgin betrothed to God, and an idol is spoken of as
her paramour.

As a result of the apostolic doctrines, in the second, third, and
following centuries, very gross views concerning the relation of the
sexes prevailed, and have been everywhere transmitted where men's
morality is exclusively[14] formed from the New Testament. The
marriage service of the Church of England, which incorporates the
Pauline doctrine is felt by English brides and bridegrooms to contain
what is so offensive and degrading, that many clergymen mercifully
make unlawful omissions. Paul had indeed expressly denounced
_prohibitions_ of marriage. In merely _dissuading_ it, he gave advice,
which, from his limited horizon and under his expectation of the
speedy return of Christ, was sensible and good; but when this advice,
with all its reasons, was made on oracle of eternal wisdom, it
generated the monkish notions concerning womanhood. If the desire of
a wife is a weakness, which the apostle would gladly have forbidden,
only that he feared worse consequences, an enthusiastic youth cannot
but infer that it is a higher state of perfection _not_ to desire a
wife, and therefore aspires to "the crown of virginity." Here at once
is full-grown monkery. Hence that debasement of the imagination, which
is directed perpetually to the lowest, instead of the highest side of
the female nature. Hence the disgusting admiration and invocation of
Mary's perpetual virginity. Hence the transcendental doctrine of her
immaculate conception from Anne, the "grandmother of God."

In the above my critics have represented me to say that Christianity
has done _nothing_ for women. I have not said so, but that what it has
done has been exaggerated. I say: If the _theory_ of Christianity is
to take credit from the _history_ of Christendom, it must also receive
discredit. Taking in the whole system of nuns and celibates, and the
doctrine which sustains it, the root of which is apostolic, I doubt
whether any balance of credit remains over from this side of Christian
history. I am well aware that the democratic doctrine of "the equality
of souls" has a _tendency_ to elevate women,--and the poorer orders
too; but this is not the whole of actual Christianity, which is a very
heterogeneous mass.

2. Again: the modern doctrine, by aid of which West Indian slavery has
been exterminated, is often put forward as Christian; but I had always
discerned that it was not Biblical, and that, in respect to this great
triumph, undue credit has been claimed for the fixed Biblical and
authoritative doctrine. As I have been greatly misunderstood in
my first edition, I am induced to expand this topic. Sir George
Stephen,[15] after describing the long struggle in England against the
West Indian interest and other obstacles, says, that, for some time,
"worst of all, we found the people, not actually against us, but
apathetic, lethargic, incredulous, indifferent. It was then, and _not
till then_, that we sounded the right note, and touched a chord that
never ceased to vibrate. _To uphold slavery was a crime against God!_
It was a NOVEL DOCTRINE, but it was a cry that was heard, for it would
be heard. The national conscience was awakened to inquiry, and inquiry
soon produced conviction." Sir George justly calls the doctrine novel.
As developed in the controversy, it laid down the general proposition,
that _men and women are not, and cannot be chattels_; and that all
human enactments which decree this are _morally null and void_, as
sinning against the higher law of nature and of God. And the reason
of this lies in the essential contrast of a moral personality and
chattel. Criminals may deserve to be bound and scourged, but they do
not cease to be persons, nor indeed do even the insane. Since every
man is a person, he cannot be a piece of property, nor has an
"owner" any just and moral claim to his services. Usage, so far from
conferring this claim, increases the total amount of injustice; the
longer an innocent man is _forcibly_ kept in slavery, the greater the
reparation to which he is entitled for the oppressive immorality. This
doctrine I now believe to be irrefutable truth, but I disbelieved it
while I thought the Scripture authoritative; because I found a very
different doctrine there--a doctrine which is the argumentative
stronghold of the American slaveholder. Paul sent back the fugitive
Onesimus to his master Philemon, with kind recommendations and
apologies for the slave, and a tender charge to Philemon, that he
would receive Onesimus as a brother in the Lord, since he had been
converted by Paul in the interval; but this very recommendation,
full of affection as it is, virtually recognizes the moral rights of
Philemon to the services of his slave; and hinting that if Onesimus
stole anything, Philemon should now forgive him, Paul shows perfect
insensibility to the fact that the master who detains a slave in
captivity against his will, is guilty himself of a continual theft.
What says Mrs. Beecher Stowe's Cassy to this? "Stealing!--They who
steal body and soul need not talk to us. Every one of these bills is
stolen--stolen from poor starving, sweating creatures." Now Onesimus,
in the very act of taking to flight, showed that he had been
submitting to servitude against his will, and that the house of his
owner had previously been a prison to him. To suppose that Philemon
has a pecuniary interest in the return of Onesimus to work without
wages, implies that the master habitually steals the slave's earnings;
but if he loses nothing by the flight, he has not been wronged by it.
Such is the modern doctrine, developed out of the fundamental fact
that persons are not chattels; but it is to me wonderful that it
should be needful to prove to any one, that this is _not_ the doctrine
of the New Testament. Paul and Peter deliver excellent charges to
masters in regard to the treatment of their slaves, but without any
hint to them that there is an injustice in claiming them as slaves at
all. That slavery, _as a system_, is essentially immoral, no Christian
of those days seems to have suspected. Yet it existed in its
worst forms under Rome. Whole gangs of slaves were mere tools of
capitalists, and were numbered like cattle, with no moral relationship
to the owner; young women of beautiful person were sold as articles
of voluptuousness. Of course every such fact was looked upon by
Christians as hateful and dreadful; yet, I say, it did not lead them
to that moral condemnation of slavery, _as such_, which has won the
most signal victory in modern times, and is destined, I trust, to win
one far greater.

A friendly reviewer replies to this, that the apathy of the early
Christians to the intrinsic iniquity of the slave system rose out of
"their expectation of an immediate close of this world's affairs. The
only reason why Paul sanctioned contentment with his condition in the
converted slave, was, that for so short a time it was not worth while
for any man to change his state." I agree to this; but it does not
alter my fact: on the contrary, it confirms what I say,--that the
Biblical morality is not final truth. To account for an error surely
is not to deny it.

Another writer has said on the above: "Let me suppose you animated to
go as missionary to the East to preach this (Mr. Newman's) spiritual
system: would you, in addition to all this, publicly denounce the
social and political evils under which the nations groan? If so, your
spiritual projects would soon be perfectly understood, and _summarily
dealt with_.--It is vain to say, that, if commissioned by Heaven,
and endowed with power of working miracles, you would do so; for you
cannot tell under what limitations your commission would be given:
it is pretty certain, that _it would leave you to work a moral and
spiritual system by moral and spiritual means_, and not allow you to
turn the world upside down, and _mendaciously_ tell it that you came
only to preach peace, while every syllable you uttered would be an
incentive to sedition."--_Eclipse of Faith_, p. 419.

This writer supposes that he is attacking _me_, when every line is an
attack on Christ and Christianity. Have _I_ pretended power of working
miracles? Have I imagined or desired that miracle would shield me
from persecution? Did Jesus _not_ "publicly denounce the social and
political evils" of Judaea? was he not "summarily dealt with"? Did
he not know that his doctrine would send on earth "not peace, but a
sword"? and was he _mendacious_ in saying, "Peace I leave unto
you?" or were the angels mendacious in proclaiming, "Peace on earth,
goodwill among men"? Was not "every syllable that Jesus uttered" in
the discourse of Matth. xxiii., "an incentive to sedition?" and does
this writer judge it to be _mendacity_, that Jesus opened by advising
to OBEY the very men, whom he proceeds to vilify at large as immoral,
oppressive, hypocritical, blind, and destined to the damnation of
hell? Or have I anywhere blamed the apostles because they did _not_
exasperate wicked men by direct attacks? It is impossible to answer
such a writer as this; for he elaborately misses to touch what I have
said. On the other hand, it is rather too much to require me to defend
Jesus from his assault.

Christian preachers did not escape the imputation of turning the world
upside down, and at length, in some sense, effected what was imputed.
It is matter of conjecture, whether any greater convulsion would
have happened, if the apostles had done as the Quakers in America. No
Quaker holds slaves: why not? Because the Quakers teach their members
that it is an essential immorality. The slave-holding states
are infinitely more alive and jealous to keep up their "peculiar
institution," than was the Roman government; yet the Quakers have
caused no political convulsion. I confess, to me it seems,
that if Paul, and John, and Peter, and James, had done as these
Quakers, the imperial administration would have looked on it as a
harmless eccentricity of the sect, and not as an incentive[16] to
sedition. But be this as it may, I did not say what else the apostles
might have succeeded to enforce; I merely pointed out what it was that
they actually taught, and that, _as a fact_, they did _not_ declare
slavery to be an immorality and the basest of thefts. If any one
thinks their course was more wise, he may be right or wrong, but his
opinion is in itself a concession of my fact.

As to the historical progress of Christian practice and doctrine on
this subject, it is, as usual, mixed of good and evil. The humanity of
good Pagan emperors softened the harshness of the laws of bondage, and
manumission had always been extremely common amongst the Romans. Of
course, the more humane religion of Christ acted still more powerfully
in the same direction, especially in inculcating the propriety of
freeing _Christian_ slaves. This was creditable, but not peculiar, and
is not a fact of such a nature as to add to the exclusive claims of
Christianity. To every _proselyting_ religion the sentiment is so
natural, that no divine spirit is needed to originate and establish
it. Mohammedans also have a conscience against enslaving Mohammedans,
and generally bestow freedom on a slave as soon as he adopts their
religion. But no zeal for _human_ freedom has ever grown out of the
purely biblical and ecclesiastical system, any more than out of the
Mohammedan. In the middle ages, zeal for the liberation of serfs first
rose in the breasts of the clergy, after the whole population had
become nominally Christian. It was not men, but Christians, whom the
clergy desired to make free: it is hard to say, that they thought
Pagans to have any human rights at all, even to life. Nor is it
correct to represent ecclesiastical influences as the sole agency
which overthrew slavery and serfdom. The desire of the kings to raise
up the chartered cities as a bridle to the barons, was that which
chiefly made rustic slavery untenable in its coarsest form; for a
"villain" who escaped into the free cities could not be recovered. In
later times, the first public act against slavery came from republican
France, in the madness of atheistic enthusiasm; when she declared
black and white men to be equally free, and liberated the negroes of
St. Domingo. In Britain, the battle of social freedom has been fought
chiefly by that religious sect which rests least on the letter of
Scripture. The bishops, and the more learned clergy, have consistently
been apathetic to the duty of overthrowing the slave system.--I was
thus led to see, that here also the New Testament precepts must not be
received by me as any final and authoritative law of morality. But I
meet opposition in a quarter from which I had least expected it;--from
one who admits the imperfection of the morality actually attained by
the apostles, but avows that Christianity, as a divine system, is
not to be identified with apostolic doctrine, but with the doctrine
_ultimately developed_ in the Christian Church; moreover, the
ecclesiastical doctrine concerning slavery he alleges to be truer
than mine,--I mean, truer than that which I have expounded as held
by modern abolitionists. He approves of the principle of claiming
freedom, not for _men_, but for _Christians_. He says: "That
Christianity opened its arms at all to the servile class was enough;
for in its embrace was the sure promise of emancipation.... Is
it imputed as a disgrace, that Christianity put conversion before
manumission, and _brought them to God, ere it trusted them with
themselves_?... It created the simultaneous obligation to make the
Pagan a convert, and the convert free." ... "If our author had made
his attack from the opposite side, and contended that its doctrines
'proved too much' against servitude, and _assumed with too little
qualification the capacity of each man for self-rule_, we should have
felt more hesitation in expressing our dissent."

I feel unfeigned surprize at these sentiments from one whom I so
highly esteem and admire; and considering that they were written at
first anonymously, and perhaps under pressure of time, for a review,
I hope it is not presumptuous in me to think it possible that they are
hasty, and do not wholly express a deliberate and final judgment. I
must think there is some misunderstanding; for I have made no high
claims about capacity for _self-rule_, as if laws and penalties were
to be done away. But the question is, shall human beings, who (as all
of us) are imperfect, be controlled by public law, or by individual
caprice? Was not my reviewer intending to advocate some form of
_serfdom_ which is compatible with legal rights, and recognizes the
serf as a man; not _slavery_ which pronounces him a chattel? Serfdom
and apprenticeship we may perhaps leave to be reasoned down by
economists and administrators; slavery proper is what I attacked as
essentially immoral.

Returning then to the arguments, I reason against them as if I did
not know their author.--I have distinctly avowed, that the effort to
liberate Christian slaves was creditable: I merely add, that in this
respect Christianity is no better than Mohammedism. But is it really
no moral fault,--is it not a moral enormity,--to deny that Pagans
have human rights? "That Christianity opened its arms _at all_ to the
servile class, _was enough_." Indeed! Then either unconverted men
have no natural right to freedom, or Christians may withhold a natural
right from them. Under the plea of "bringing them to God," Christians
are to deny by law, to every slave who refuses to be converted, the
rights of husband and father, rights of persons, rights of property,
rights over his own body. Thus manumission is a bribe to make
hypocritical converts, and Christian superiority a plea for depriving
men of their dearest rights. Is not freedom older than Christianity?
Does the Christian recommend his religion to a Pagan by stealing his
manhood and all that belongs to it? Truly, if only Christians have a
right to personal freedom, what harm is there in hunting and catching
Pagans to make slaves of them? And this was exactly the "development"
of thought and doctrine in the Christian church. The same priests who
taught that _Christians_ have moral rights to their sinews and skin,
to their wives and children, and to the fruit of their labour, which
_Pagans_ have not, consistently developed the same fundamental idea
of Christian superiority into the lawfulness of making war upon
the heathen, and reducing them to the state of domestic animals. If
Christianity is to have credit from the former, it must also take the
credit of the latter. If cumulative evidence of its divine origin is
found in the fact, that Christendom has liberated Christian slaves,
must we forget the cumulative evidence afforded by the assumed right
of the Popes to carve out the countries of the heathen, and bestow
them with their inhabitants on Christian powers? Both results flow
logically out of the same assumption, and were developed by the same

But, I am told, a man must not be freed, until we have ascertained
his capacity for self-rule! This is indeed a tyrannical assumption:
_vindicioe secundum servitutem_. Men are not to have their human
rights, until we think they will not abuse them! Prevention is to be
used against the hitherto innocent and injured! The principle involves
all that is arrogant, violent, and intrusive, in military tyranny
and civil espionage. Self-rule? But abolitionists have no thought of
exempting men from the penalties of common law, if they transgress
the law; we only desire that all men shall be equally subjected to
the law, and equally protected by it. It is truly a strange inference,
that because a man is possibly deficient in virtue, therefore he shall
not be subject to public law, but to private caprice: as if this were
a school of virtue, and not eminently an occasion of vice. Truer far
is Homer's morality, who says, that a man loses half his virtue on the
day he is made a slave. As to the pretence that slaves are not fit
for freedom, those Englishmen who are old enough to remember the awful
predictions which West Indian planters used to pour forth about the
bloodshed and confusion which would ensue, if they were hindered
by law from scourging black men and violating black women, might, I
think, afford to despise the danger of _enacting_ that men and women
shall be treated as men and women, and not made tools of vice end
victims of cruelty. If ever sudden emancipation ought to have produced
violences and wrong from the emancipated, it was in Jamaica, where the
oppression and ill-will was so great; yet the freed blacks have not in
fifteen years inflicted on the whites as much lawless violence as
they suffered themselves in six months of apprenticeship. It is the
_masters_ of slaves, not the slaves, who are deficient in self-rule;
and slavery is doubly detestable, because it depraves the masters.

What degree of "worldly moderation and economical forethought" is
needed by a practical statesman in effecting the liberation of slaves,
it is no business of mine to discuss. I however feel assured, that
no constitutional statesman, having to contend against the political
votes of numerous and powerful slave-owners, who believe their
fortunes to be at stake, will ever be found to undertake the task _at
all_, against the enormous resistance of avarice and habit, unless
religious teachers pierce the conscience of the nation by denouncing
slavery as an essential wickedness. Even the petty West Indian
interests--a mere fraction of the English empire--were too powerful,
until this doctrine was taught. Mr. Canning in parliament spoke
emphatically against slavery, but did not dare to bring in a bill
against it. When such is English experience, I cannot but expect the
same will prove true in America.

In replying to objectors, I have been carried beyond my narrative,
and have written from my _present_ point of view; I may therefore here
complete this part of the argument, though by anticipation.

The New Testament has beautifully laid down Truth and Love as the
culminating virtues of man; but it has imperfectly discerned that Love
is impossible where Justice does not go first. Regarding this world
as destined to be soon burnt up, it despaired of improving the
foundations of society, and laid down the principle of Non-resistance,
even to Injurious force, in terms so unlimited, as practically to
throw its entire weight into the scale of tyranny. It recognises
individuals who call themselves kings or magistrates (however
tyrannical and usurping), as Powers ordained of God: it does _not_
recognize nations as Communities ordained of God, or as having any
power and authority whatsoever, as against pretentious individuals. To
obey a king, is strenuously enforced; to resist a usurping king, in a
patriotic cause, is not contemplated in the New Testament as under
any circumstances an imaginable duty. Patriotism has no recognised
existence in the Christian records. I am well aware of the _cause_
of this; I do not say that it reflects any dishonour on the Christian
apostles: I merely remark on it as a calamitous fact, and deduce that
their precepts cannot and must not be made the sufficient rule of
life, or they will still be (as they always have hitherto been) a
mainstay of tyranny. The rights of Men and of Nations are wholly
ignored[17] in the New Testament, but the authority of Slave-owners
and of Kings is very distinctly recorded for solemn religious
sanction. If it had been wholly silent, no one could have appealed
to its decision: but by consecrating mere Force, it has promoted
Injustice, and in so far has made that Love impossible, which it
desired to establish.

It is but one part of this great subject, that the apostles absolutely
command a slave to give obedience to his master in nil things, "as
to the Lord." It is in vain to deny, that _the most grasping of
slave-owners asks nothing more of abolitionists than that they would
all adopt Paul's creed_; viz., acknowledge the full authority of
owners of slaves, tell them that they are responsible to God alone,
and charge them to use their power righteously and mercifully.

3. LASTLY: it is a lamentable fact, that not only do superstitions
about Witches, Ghosts, Devils, and Diabolical Miracles derive a strong
support from the Bible, (and in fact have been exploded by nothing
but the advance of physical philosophy,)--but what is far worse, the
Bible alone has nowhere sufficed to establish an enlightened religious
toleration. This is at first seemingly unintelligible: for the
apostles certainly would have been intensely shocked at the thought of
punishing men, in body, purse, or station, for not being Christians
or not being orthodox. Nevertheless, not only does the Old Testament
justify bloody persecution, but the New teaches[18] that God will
visit men with fiery vengeance _for holding an erroneous creed_;--that
vengeance indeed is his, not ours; but that still the punishment
is deserved. It would appear, that wherever this doctrine is held,
possession of power for two or three generations inevitably converts
men into persecutors; and in so far, we must lay the horrible
desolations which Europe has suffered from bigotry, at the doors, not
indeed of the Christian apostles themselves, but of that Bibliolatry
which has converted their earliest records into a perfect and eternal

IV. "Prophecy" is generally regarded as a leading evidence of the
divine origin of Christianity. But this also had proved itself to me
a more and more mouldering prop, whether I leant on those which
concerned Messiah, those of the New Testament, or the miscellaneous
predictions of the Old Testament.

1. As to the Messianic prophecies, I began to be pressed with the
difficulty of proving against the Jews that "Messiah was to suffer."
The Psalms generally adduced for this purpose can in no way be fixed
on Messiah. The prophecy in the 9th chapter of Daniel looks specious
in the authorized English version, but has evaporated in the Greek
translation and is not acknowledged in the best German renderings.
I still rested on the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, as alone fortifying me
against the Rabbis: yet with an unpleasantly increasing perception
that the system of "double interpretation" in which Christians
indulge, is a playing fast and loose with prophecy, and is essentially
dishonest _No one dreams of a "second" sense until the primary sense
proves false_: all false prophecy may be thus screened. The three
prophecies quoted (Acts xiii. 33--35) in proof of the resurrection
of Jesus, are simply puerile, and deserve no reply.--I felt there was
something unsound in all this.

2. The prophecies of the New Testament are not many. First, we have
that of Jesus in Matt xxiv. concerning the destruction of Jerusalem.
It is marvellously exact, down to the capture of the city and
miserable enslavement of the population; but at this point it becomes
clearly and hopelessly false: namely, it declares, that "_immediately
after_ that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, &c. &c., and then
shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall
all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man
coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he
shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall
gather together his elect," &c. This is a manifest description of the
Great Day of Judgment: and the prophecy goes on to add: "Verily I say
unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be
fulfilled." When we thus find a prediction to break down suddenly
in the middle, we have the well-known mark of its earlier part being
written after the event: and it becomes unreasonable to doubt that
the detailed annunciations of this 24th chapter of Matthew, were first
composed _very soon after_ the war of Titus, and never came from the
lips of Jesus at all. Next: we have the prophecies of the Apocalypse.
Not one of these can be interpreted certainly of any human affairs,
except one in the 17th chapter, which the writer himself has explained
to apply to the emperors of Rome: and that is proved false by the
event.--Farther, we have Paul's prophecies concerning the apostacy of
the Christian Church. These are very striking, as they indicate his
deep insight into the moral tendencies of the community in which he
moved. They are high testimonies to the prophetic soul of Paul; and
as such, I cannot have any desire to weaken their force. But there is
nothing in them that can establish the theory of supernaturalism, in
the face of his great mistake as to the speedy return of Christ from

3. As for the Old Testament, if all its prophecies about Babylon and
Tyre and Edom and Ishmael and the four Monarchies were both true and
supernatural, what would this prove? That God had been pleased to
reveal something of coming history to certain eminent men of Hebrew
antiquity. That is all. We should receive this conclusion with an
otiose faith. It could not order or authorize us to submit our souls
and consciences to the obviously defective morality of the Mosaic
system in which these prophets lived; and with Christianity it has
nothing to do.

At the same time I had reached the conclusion that large deductions
must be made from the credit of these old prophecies.

First, as to the Book of Daniel: the 11th chapter is closely
historical down to Antiochus Epiphanes, after which it suddenly
becomes false; and according to different modern expositors, leaps
away to Mark Antony, or to Napoleon Buonaparte, or to the Papacy.
Hence we have a _prima facie_ presumption that the book was composed
in the reign of that Antiochus; nor can it be proved to have existed
earlier: nor is there in it one word of prophecy which can be shown to
have been fulfilled in regard to any later era. Nay, the 7th chapter
also is confuted by the event; for the great Day of Judgment has not
followed upon the fourth[19] Monarchy.

Next, as to the prophecies of the Pentateuch. They abound, as to the
times which precede the century of Hezekiah; higher than which we
cannot trace the Pentateuch.[20] No prophecy of the Pentateuch can be
proved to have been fulfilled, which had not been already fulfilled
before Hezekiah's day.

Thirdly, as to the prophecies which concern various nations,--some of
them are remarkably verified, as that against Babylon; others failed,
as those of Ezekiel concerning Nebuchadnezzar's wars against Tyre
and Egypt. The fate predicted against Babylon was delayed for five
centuries, so as to lose all moral meaning as a divine infliction on
the haughty city.--On the whole, it was clear to me, that it is a vain
attempt to forge polemical weapons out of these old prophets, for the
service of modern creeds.[21]

V. My study of John's gospel had not enabled me to sustain Dr.
Arnold's view, that it was an impregnable fortress of Christianity.

In discussing the Apocalypse, I had long before felt a doubt whether
we ought not rather to assign that book to John the apostle in
preference to the Gospel and Epistles: but this remained only as a
doubt. The monotony also of the Gospel had often excited my _wonder_. But
I was for the first time _offended_, on considering with a fresh mind an
old fact,--the great similarity of the style and phraseology in the third
chapter, in the testimony of the Baptist, as well as in Christ's
address to Nicodemus, that of John's own epistle. As the three first
gospels have their family likeness, which enables us on hearing a text
to know that it comes out of one of the three, though we perhaps know
not which; so is it with the Gospel and Epistles of John. When a verse
is read, we know that it is either from an epistle of John, or
else from the Jesus of John; but often we cannot tell which. On
contemplating the marked character of this phenomenon, I saw it
infallibly[22] to indicate that John has made both the Baptist and
Jesus speak, as John himself would have spoken; and that we cannot
trust the historical reality of the discourses in the fourth gospel.

That narrative introduces an entirely new phraseology, with a
perpetual discoursing about the Father and the Son; of which there is
barely the germ in Matthew:--and herewith a new doctrine concerning
the heaven-descended personality of Jesus. That the divinity of Christ
cannot be proved from the three first gospels, was confessed by the
early Church, and is proved by the labouring arguments of the modern
Trinitarians. What then can be dearer, than that John has put into the
mouth of Jesus the doctrines of half a century later, which he desired
to recommend?

When this conclusion pressed itself first on my mind, the name of
Strauss was only beginning to be known in England, and I did not read
his great work until years after I had come to a final opinion on this
whole subject. The contemptuous reprobation of Strauss in which it is
fashionable for English writers to indulge, makes it a duty to express
my high sense of the lucid force with which he unanswerably shows that
the fourth gospel (whoever the author was) is no faithful exhibition
of the discourses of Jesus. Before I had discerned this so vividly
in all its parts, it had become quite certain to me that the secret
colloquy with Nicodemus, and the splendid testimony of the Baptist
to the Father and the Son, were wholly modelled out of John's own
imagination. And no sooner had I felt how severe was the shock to
John's general veracity, than a new and even graver difficulty rose
upon me.

The stupendous and public event of Lazarus's resurrection,--the
circumstantial cross-examination of the man born blind and healed
by Jesus,--made those two miracles, in Dr. Arnold's view, grand and
unassailable bulwarks of Christianity. The more I considered them, the
mightier their superiority seemed to those of the other gospels. They
were wrought at Jerusalem, under the eyes of the rulers, who did their
utmost to detect them, and could not; but in frenzied despair, plotted
to kill Lazarus. How different from the frequently vague and wholesale
statements of the other gospels concerning events which happened where
no enemy was watching to expose delusion! many of them in distant and
uncertain localities.

But it became the more needful to ask; How was it that the other
writers omitted to tell of such decisive exhibitions? Were they so
dull in logic, as not to discern the superiority of these? Can they
possibly have known of such miracles, wrought under the eyes of
the Pharisees, and defying all their malice, and yet have told in
preference other less convincing marvels? The question could not
be long dwelt on, without eliciting the reply: "It is necessary to
believe, at least until the contrary shall be proved, that the
three first writers either had never heard of these two miracles, or
disbelieved them." Thus the account rests on the unsupported evidence
of John, with a weighty presumption against its truth.

When, where, and in what circumstances did John write? It is agreed,
that he wrote half a century after the events; when the other
disciples were all dead; when Jerusalem was destroyed, her priests
and learned men dispersed, her nationality dissolved, her coherence
annihilated;--he wrote in a tongue foreign to the Jews of Palestine,
and for a foreign people, in a distant country, and in the bosom of
an admiring and confiding church, which was likely to venerate him the
more, the greater marvels he asserted concerning their Master. He
told them miracles of firstrate magnitude, which no one before had
recorded. Is it possible for me to receive them _on his word_, under
circumstances so conducive to delusion, and without a single check to
ensure his accuracy? Quite impossible; when I have already seen how
little to be trusted is his report of the discourses and doctrine of

But was it necessary to impute to John conscious and wilful deception?
By no means absolutely necessary;--as appeared by the following
train[23] of thought. John tells us that Jesus promised the Comforter,
_to bring to their memory_ things that concerned him; oh that one
could have the satisfaction of cross-examining John on this subject!
Let me suppose him put into the witness-box; and I will speak to him
thus: "O aged Sir, we understand that you have two memories, a natural
and a miraculous one: with the former you retain events as other men;
with the latter you recall what had been totally forgotten. Be pleased
to tell us now. Is it from your natural or from your supernatural
memory that you derive your knowledge of the miracle wrought on
Lazarus and the long discourses which you narrate?" If to this
question John were frankly to reply, "It is solely from my
supernatural memory,--from the special action of the Comforter on my
mind:" then should I discern that he was perfectly truehearted. Yet
I should also see, that he was liable to mistake a reverie, a
meditation, a day-dream, for a resuscitation of his memory by the
Spirit. In short, a writer who believes such a doctrine, and does
not think it requisite to warn us how much of his tale comes from his
natural, and how much from his supernatural memory, forfeits all claim
to be received as an historian, witnessing by the common senses to
external fact. His work may have religious value, but it is that of
a novel or romance, not of a history. It is therefore superfluous to
name the many other difficulties in detail which it contains.

Thus was I flung back to the three first gospels, as, with all their
defects,--their genealogies, dreams, visions, devil-miracles, and
prophecies written after the event,--yet on the whole, more faithful
as a picture of the true Jesus, than that which is exhibited in John.

And now my small root of supernaturalism clung the tighter to Paul,
whose conversion still appeared to me a guarantee, that there was at
least some nucleus of miracle in Christianity, although it had not
pleased God to give us any very definite and trustworthy account.
Clearly it was an error, to make miracles our _foundation_; but might
we not hold them as a result? Doctrine must be our foundation; but
perhaps we might believe the miracles for the sake of it.--And in the
epistles of Paul I thought I saw various indications that he took this
view. The practical soundness of his eminently sober understanding had
appeared to me the more signal, the more I discerned the atmosphere of
erroneous philosophy which he necessarily breathed. But he also proved
a broken reed, when I tried really to lean upon him as a main support.

1. The first thing that broke on me concerning Paul, was, that
his moral sobriety of mind was no guarantee against his mistaking
extravagances for miracle. This was manifest to me in his treatment of
_the gift of tongues_.

So long ago as in 1830, when the Irving "miracles" commenced in
Scotland, my particular attention had been turned to this subject, and
the Irvingite exposition of the Pauline phenomena appeared to me so
correct, that I was vehemently predisposed to believe the miraculous
tongues. But my friend "the Irish clergyman" wrote me a full account
of what he heard with his own ears; which was to the effect--that none
of the sounds, vowels or consonants, were foreign;--that the strange
words were moulded after the Latin grammar, ending in -abus, -obus,
-ebat, -avi, &c., so as to denote poverty of invention rather than
spiritual agency;--and _that there was no interpretation_. The last
point decided me, that any belief which I had in it must be for the
present unpractical. Soon after, a friend of mine applied by letter
for information as to the facts to a very acute and pious Scotchman,
who had become a believer in these miracles. The first reply gave us
no facts whatever, but was a declamatory exhortation to believe.
The second was nothing but a lamentation over my friend's unbelief,
because he asked again for the facts. This showed me, that there was
excitement and delusion: yet the general phenomena appeared so similar
to those of the church of Corinth, that I supposed the persons must
unawares have copied the exterior manifestations, if, after all, there
was no reality at bottom.

Three years sufficed to explode these tongues; and from time to time
I had an uneasy sense, how much discredit they cast on the Corinthian
miracles. Meander's discussion on the 2nd Chapter of the Acts first
opened to me the certainty, that Luke (or the authority whom he
followed) has exaggerated into a gift of languages what cannot have
been essentially different from the Corinthian, and in short from
the Irvingite, tongues. Thus Luke's narrative has transformed into a
splendid miracle, what in Paul is no miracle at all. It is true that
Paul speaks of _interpretation of tongues_ as possible, but without a
hint that any verification was to be used. Besides, why should a Greek
not speak Greek in an assembly of his own countrymen? Is it credible,
that the Spirit should inspire one man to utter unintelligible sounds,
and a second to interpret these, and then give the assembly endless
trouble to find out whether the interpretation was pretence or
reality, when the whole difficulty was gratuitous? We grant that
there _may_ be good reasons for what is paradoxical, but we need the
stronger proof that it is a reality. Yet what in fact is there? and
why should the gift of tongues in Corinth, as described by Paul, be
treated with more respect than in Newman Street, London? I could
find no other reply, than that Paul was too sober-minded: yet his own
description of the tongues is that of a barbaric jargon, which makes
the church appear as if it "were mad," and which is only redeemed from
contempt by miraculous interpretation. In the Acts we see that this
phenomenon pervaded all the Churches; from the day of Pentecost onward
it was looked on as the standard mark of "the descent of the Holy
Spirit;" and in the conversion of Cornelius it was the justification
of Peter for admitting uncircumcised Gentiles: yet not once is
"interpretation" alluded to, except in Paul's epistle. Paul could not
go against the whole Church. He held a logic too much in common with
the rest, to denounce the tongues as _mere_ carnal excitement; but he
does anxiously degrade them as of lowest spiritual value, and wholly
prohibits them where there is "no interpreter." To carry out this
rule, would perhaps have suppressed them entirely.

This however showed me, that I could not rest on Paul's practical
wisdom, as securing him against speculative hallucinations in the
matter of miracles; for indeed he says: "I thank my God, that I speak
with tongues _more than ye all_."

2. To another broad fact I had been astonishingly blind, though the
truth of it flashed upon me as soon as I heard it named;--that Paul
shows total unconcern to the human history and earthly teaching of
Jesus, never quoting his doctrine or any detail of his actions. The
Christ with whom Paul held communion was a risen, ascended, exalted
Lord, a heavenly being, who reigned over arch-angels, and was about to
appear as Judge of the world: but of Jesus in the flesh Paul seems to
know nothing beyond the bare fact that he _did_[24] "humble himself"
to become man, and "pleased not himself." Even in the very critical
controversy about meat and drink, Paul omits to quote Christ's
doctrine, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth the man," &c.
He surely, therefore, must have been wholly and contentedly ignorant
of the oral teachings of Jesus.

3. This threw a new light on the _independent_ position of Paul. That
he anxiously refused to learn from the other apostles, and "conferred
not with flesh and blood,"--not having received his gospel of many but
by the revelation of Jesus Christ--had seemed to me quite suitable to
his high pretensions. Any novelties which might be in his doctrine, I
had regarded as mere developments, growing out of the common stem, and
guaranteed by the same Spirit. But I now saw that this independence
invalidated his testimony. He may be to us a supernatural, but he
certainly is not a natural, witness to the truth of Christ's miracles
and personality. It avails not to talk of the _opportunities_ which he
had of searching into the truth of the resurrection of Christ, for we
see that he did not choose to avail himself of the common methods of
investigation. He learned his gospel _by an internal revelation_.[25]
He even recounts the appearance of Christ to him, years after his
ascension, as evidence co-ordinate to his appearance to Peter and to
James, and to 500 brethren at once. 1 Cor. xv. Again the thought is
forced on us,--how different was his logic from ours!

To see the full force of the last remark, we ought to conceive how
many questions a Paley would have wished to ask of Paul; and how many
details Paley himself, if _he_ had had the sight, would have felt
it his duty to impart to his readers. Had Paul ever seen Jesus when
alive? How did he recognize the miraculous apparition to be the person
whom Pilate had crucified? Did he see him as a man in a fleshly body,
or as a glorified heavenly form? Was it in waking, or sleeping, and
if the latter, how did he distinguish his divine vision from a common
dream? Did he see only, or did he also handle? If it was a palpable
man of flesh, how did he assure himself that it was a person risen
from the dead, and not an ordinary living man?

Now as Paul _is writing specially[26] to convince the incredulous or
to confirm the wavering_, it is certain that he would have dwelt on
these details, if he had thought them of value to the argument. As
he wholly suppresses them, we must infer that he held them to
be immaterial; and therefore that the evidence with which he was
satisfied, in proof that a man was risen from the dead, was either
totally different in kind from that which we should now exact, or
exceedingly inferior in rigour. It appears, that he believed in
the resurrection of Christ, first, on the ground of prophecy:[27]
secondly, (I feel it is not harsh or bold to add,) on very loose and
wholly unsifted testimony. For since he does not afford to us the
means of sifting and analyzing his testimony, he cannot have judged it
our duty so to do; and therefore is not likely himself to have sifted
very narrowly the testimony of others.

Conceive farther how a Paley would have dealt with so astounding a
fact, so crushing an argument as the appearance of the risen Jesus
_to 500 brethren at once_. How would he have extravagated and revelled
in proof! How would he have worked the topic, that "this could have
been no dream, no internal impression, no vain fancy, but a solid
indubitable fact!" How he would have quoted his authorities, detailed
their testimonies, and given their names and characters! Yet Paul
dispatches the affair in one line, gives no details and no special
declarations, and seems to see no greater weight in this decisive
appearance, than in the vision to his single self. He expects us to
take his very vague announcement of the 500 brethren as enough, and
it does not seem to occur to him that his readers (if they need to
be convinced) are entitled to expect fuller information. Thus if Paul
does not intentionally supersede human testimony, he reduces it to its
minimum of importance.

How can I believe _at second hand_, from the word of one whom I
discern to hold so lax notions of evidence? Yet _who_ of the Christian
teachers was superior to Paul? He is regarded as almost the only
educated man of the leaders. Of his activity of mind, his moral
sobriety, his practical talents, his profound sincerity, his
enthusiastic self-devotion, his spiritual insight, there is no
question: but when his notions of evidence are infected with the
errors of his age, what else can we expect of the eleven, and of the

4. Paul's neglect of the earthly teaching of Jesus might in part
be imputed to the nonexistence of written documents and the great
difficulty of learning with certainty what he really had taught.--This
agreed perfectly well with what I already saw of the untrustworthiness
of our gospels; but it opened a chasm between the doctrine of Jesus
and that of Paul, and showed that Paulinism, however good in itself,
is not assuredly to be identified with primitive Christianity.
Moreover, it became clear, why James and Paul are so contrasted. James
retains with little change the traditionary doctrine of the Jerusalem
Christians; Paul has superadded or substituted a gospel of his own.
This was, I believe, pointedly maintained 25 years ago by the author
of "Not Paul, but Jesus;" a book which I have never read.

VII. I had now to ask,--Where are _the twelve men_ of whom Paley
talks, as testifying to the resurrection of Christ? Paul cannot be
quoted as a witness, but only as a believer. Of the twelve we do not
even know the names, much less have we their testimony. Of James and
Jude there are two epistles, but it is doubtful whether either
of these is of the twelve apostles; and neither of them declare
themselves eyewitnesses to Christ's resurrection. In short, Peter and
John are the only two. Of these however, Peter does not attest the
_bodily_, but only the _spiritual_, resurrection of Jesus; for he says
that Christ was[28] "put to death in flesh, but made alive in spirit,"
1 Pet iii. 18: yet if this verse had been lost, his opening address
(i. 3) would have seduced me into the belief that Peter taught the
bodily resurrection of Jesus. So dangerous is it to believe
miracles, on the authority of words quoted from a man whom we cannot
cross-examine! Thus, once more, John is left alone in his testimony;
and how insufficient that is, has been said.

The question also arose, whether Peter's testimony to the
transfiguration (2 Pet. i. 18), was an important support. A first
objection might be drawn from the sleep ascribed to the three
disciples in the gospels; if the narrative were at all trustworthy.
But a second and greater difficulty arises in the doubtful
authenticity of the second Epistle of Peter.

Neander positively decides against that epistle. Among many reasons,
the similarity of its second chapter to the Epistle of Jude is a
cardinal fact. Jude is supposed to be original; yet his allusions
show him to be post-apostolic. If so, the second Epistle of Peter is
clearly spurious.--Whether this was certain, I could not make up
my mind: but it was manifest that where such doubts may be honestly
entertained, no basis exists to found a belief of a great and
significant miracle.

On the other hand, both the Transfiguration itself, and the fiery
destruction of Heaven and Earth prophesied in the third chapter
of this epistle, are open to objections so serious, as mythical
imaginations, that the name of Peter will hardly guarantee them to
those with whom the general evidence for the miracles in the gospels
has thoroughly broken down.

On the whole, one thing only was clear concerning Peter's faith;--that
he, like Paul, was satisfied with a kind of evidence for the
resurrection of Jesus which fell exceedingly short of the demands of
modern logic: and that it is absurd in us to believe, barely _because_
they believed.

[Footnote 1: Matt. xii. 39, xvi. 4.]

[Footnote 2: John xx. 29.]

[Footnote 3: John xiv, 11. In x. 37, 38, the same idea seems to be
intended. So xv. 24.]

[Footnote 4: A reviewer erroneously treats this as inculcating a
denial of the possibility of inward revelation. It merely says, that
_some answer_ in needed to these questions; and _none in given_. We
can make out (in my opinion) that dreams and inward impressions
were the form of suggestion trusted to; but we do not learn what
precautions were used against foolish credulity.]

[Footnote 5: If miracles were vouchsafed on the scale of a _new
sense_, it is of course conceivable that they would reveal new masses
of fact, tending to modify our moral judgments of particular actions:
but nothing of this can be made out in Judaism or Christianity.]

[Footnote 6: A friendly reviewer derides this passage as a very feeble
objection to the doctrine of the Absolute Moral perfections of Jesus.
It in here rather feebly _stated_, because at that period I had not
fully worked out the thought. He seems to have forgotten that I am

[Footnote 7: An ingenious gentleman, well versed in history, has put
forth a volume called "The Restoration of Faith," in which he teaches
that _I have no right to a conscience or to a God_, until I adopt his
historical conclusions. I leave his co-religionists to confute his
portentous heresy; but in fact it is already done more than enough in
a splendid article of the "Westminster Review," July, 1852.]

[Footnote 8: I seem to have been understood now to say that a
knowledge of the Bible was not a pre-requisite of the Protestant
Reformation. What I say is, that at this period I learned the study
of the Classics to have caused and determined that it should then take
place; moreover, I say that a free study of _other books than sacred
ones_ is essential, and always was, to conquer superstition.]

[Footnote 9: I am asked why _Italy_ witnessed no improvement of
spiritual doctrine. The reply is, that _she did_. The Evangelical
movement there was quelled only by the Imperial arms and the
Inquisition. I am also asked why Pagan Literature did not save the
ancient church from superstition. I have always understood that
the vast majority of Christian teachers during the decline were
unacquainted with Pagan literature, and that the Church at an early
period _forbade_ it.]

[Footnote 10: My friend James Martineau, who insists that "a
self-sustaining power" in a religion is a thing _intrinsically
inconceivable_, need not have censured me for coming to the conclusion
that it does not exist in Christianity. In fact, I entirely agree with
him; but at the time of which I here write, I had only taken the first
step in his direction; and I barely drew a negative conclusion, to
which he perfectly assents. To my dear friend's capacious and kindling
mind, all the thought here expounded are prosaic and common; being
to him quite obvious, so far as they are true. He is right in looking
down upon them; and, I trust, by his aid, I have added to my wisdom
since the time of which I write. Yet they were to me discoveries
once, and he must not be displeased at my making much of them in this

[Footnote 11: It is the fault of my critics that I am forced to tell
the reader this is exhibited in my "Hebrew Monarchy."]

[Footnote 12: It in not to the purpose to urge the _political_
minority of the Roman wife. This was a mere inference from the high
power of the bond of the husband. The father had right of death over
his son, and (as the lawyers stated the case), the wife was on the
level of one of the children.]

[Footnote 13: 1 Cor. vii. 2-9]

[Footnote 14: Namely, in the Armenian, Syrian, and Greek churches,
and in the Romish church in exact proportion as Germanic and poetical
influences have been repressed; that is, in proportion as the
hereditary Christian doctrine has been kept pure from modern

[Footnote 15: In a tract republished from the _Northampton Mercury_
Longman, 1853.]

[Footnote 16: The Romans practised fornication at pleasure, and held
it ridiculous to blame them. If Paul had claimed authority to hinder
them, they might have been greatly exasperated; but they had not
the least objection to his denouncing fornication as immoral to
Christians. Why not slavery also?]

[Footnote 17: I fear it cannot be denied that the zeal for
Christianity which began to arise in our upper classes sixty years
ago, was largely prompted by a feeling that its precepts repress
all speculations concerning the rights of man. A similar cause now
influences despots all over Europe. The _Old_ Testament contains the
elements which they dread, and those gave a political creed to our

[Footnote 18: More than one critic flatly denies the fact. It
is sufficient for me here to say, that such is the obvious
interpretation, and such _historically has been_ the interpretation of
various texts,--for instance, 2 Thess. i. 7: "The Lord Jesus shall be
revealed... in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them _that know
not God, and that obey not the Gospel_; who shall be punished with
everlasting destruction," &c. Such again is the sense which all
popular minds receive and must receive from Heb, x. 25-31.--I am
willing to change _teaches_ into _has always been understood to
teach_, if my critics think anything is gained by it.]

[Footnote 19: The four monarchies in chapters ii. and vii, are,
probably, the Babylonian, the Median, the Persian, the Macedonian.
Interpreters however blend the Medes and Persians into one, and then
pretend that the Roman empire is _still in existence_.]

[Footnote 20: The first apparent reference is by Micah (vi. 5) a
contemporary of Hezekiah; which proves that an account contained in
our Book of Numbers was already familiar.]

[Footnote 21: I have had occasion to discuss most of the leading
prophecies of the Old Testament in my "Hebrew Monarchy."]

[Footnote 22: A critic is pleased to call this a mere _suspicion_ of
my own; in so writing, people simply evade my argument. I do not ask
them to adopt my conviction; I merely communicate it as mine, and wish
them to admit that it is _my duty_ to follow my own conviction. It
is with me no mere "suspicion," but a certainty. When they cannot
possibly give, or pretend, any _proof_ that the long discourses of
the fourth gospel have been accurately reported, they ought to be less
supercilious in their claims of unlimited belief. If it is right for
them to follow their judgment on a purely literary question, let them
not carp at me for following mine.]

[Footnote 23: I am told that this defence of John is fanciful. It
satisfies me provisionally; but I do not hold myself bound to satisfy
others, or to explain John's delusiveness.]

[Footnote 24: Phil. ii. 5-8; Rom. xv. 3. The last suggests it was from
the Psalms (viz from Ps. lxix. 9) that Paul learned the _fact_ that
Christ pleased not himself.]

[Footnote 25: Here, again, I have been erroneously understood to say
that there cannot be _any_ internal revelation of _anything_. Internal
truth may be internally communicated, though even so it does not
become authoritative, or justify the receiver in saying to other men,
"Believe, _for_ I guarantee it." But a man who, on the strength of an
_internal_ revelation believes an _external event_, (past, present, or
future,) is not a valid witness of it. Not Paley only, nor Priestley,
but James Martineau also, would disown his pretence to authority;
and the more so, the more imperious his claim that we believe on his

[Footnote 26: This appears in v. 2, "by which ye are saved,--_unless
ye have believed in vain_" &c. So v. 17-19.]

[Footnote 27: 1 Cor. xv. "He rose again the third day _according to
the Scriptures_." This must apparently be a reference to Hosea vi. 2,
to which the margin of the Bible refers. There is no other place
in the existing Old Testament from which we can imagine him to have
elicited the rising _on the third day_. Some refer to the type of
Jonah. Either of the two suggests how marvellously weak a proof
satiated him.]

[Footnote 28: Such is the most legitimate translation. That in the
received version is barely a possible meaning. There is no such
distinction of prepositions as _in_ and _by_ in this passage.]



After renouncing any "Canon of Scripture" or Sacred Letter at the end
of my fourth period, I had been forced to abandon all "Second-hand
Faith" by the end of my fifth. If asked _why_ I believed this or that,
I could no longer say, "_Because_ Peter, or Paul, or John believed,
and I may thoroughly trust that they cannot mistake." The question now
pressed hard, whether this was equivalent to renouncing Christianity.

Undoubtedly, my positive belief in its miracles had evaporated; but
I had not arrived at a positive _dis_belief. I still felt the actual
benefits and comparative excellencies of this religion too remarkable
a phenomenon to be scored for defect of proof. In Morals likewise
it happens, that the ablest practical expounders of truth may make
strange blunders as to the foundations and ground of belief: why was
this impossible as to the apostles? Meanwhile, it did begin to appear
to myself remarkable, that I continued to love and have pleasure in so
much that I certainly disbelieved. I perused a chapter of Paul or of
Luke, or some verses of a hymn, and although they appeared to me to
abound with error, I found satisfaction and profit in them. Why
was this? was it all fond prejudice,--an absurd clinging to old

A little self-examination enabled me to reply, that it was no
ill-grounded feeling or ghost of past opinions; but that my religion
always had been, and still was, a _state of sentiment_ toward God, far
less dependent on articles of a creed, than once I had unhesitatingly
believed. The Bible is pervaded by a sentiment,[1] which is implied
everywhere,--viz. _the intimate sympathy of the Pure and Perfect God
with the heart of each faithful worshipper_. This is that which is
wanting in Greek philosophers, English Deists, German Pantheists, and
all formalists. This is that which so often edifies me in Christian
writers and speakers, when I ever so much disbelieve the letter of
their sentences. Accordingly, though I saw more and more of moral and
spiritual imperfection in the Bible, I by no means ceased to regard it
as a quarry whence I might dig precious metal, though the ore needed a
refining analysis: and I regarded this as the truest essence and most
vital point in Christianity,--to sympathize with the great souls from
whom its spiritual eminence has flowed;--to love, to hope, to rejoice,
to trust with them;--and _not_, to form the same interpretations of an
ancient book and to take the same views of critical argument.

My historical conception of Jesus had so gradually melted into
dimness, that he had receded out of my practical religion, I knew not
exactly when I believe that I must have disused any distinct prayers
to him, from a growing opinion that he ought not to be the _object_ of
worship, but only the _way_ by whom we approach to the Father; and
as in fact we need no such "way" at all, this was (in the result) a
change from practical Ditheism to pure Theism. His "mediation" was to
me always a mere name, and, as I believe, would otherwise have been
mischievous.[2]--Simultaneously a great uncertainty had grown on me,
how much of the discourses put into the mouth of Jesus was really
uttered by him; so that I had in no small measure to form him anew to
my imagination.

But if religion is addressed to, and must be judged by, our moral
faculties, how could I believe in that painful and gratuitous
personality,--The Devil?--He also had become a waning phantom to
me, perhaps from the time that I saw the demoniacal miracles to be
fictions, and still more when proofs of manifold mistake in the New
Testament rose on me. This however took a solid form of positive
_dis_belief, when I investigated the history of the doctrine,--I
forget exactly in what stage. For it is manifest, that the old Hebrews
believed only in evil spirits sent _by God_ to do _his bidding_, and
had no idea of a rebellious Spirit that rivalled God. That idea was
first imbibed in the Babylonish captivity, and apparently therefore
must have been adopted from the Persian Ahriman, or from the "Melek
Taous," the "Sheitan" still honoured by the Yezidi with mysterious
fear. That _the serpent_ in the early part of Genesis denoted the
same Satan, is probable enough; but this only goes to show, that that
narrative is a legend imported from farther East; since it is certain
that the subsequent Hebrew literature has no trace of such an Ahriman.
The Book of Tobit and its demon show how wise in these matters the
exiles in Nineveh were beginning to be. The Book of Daniel manifests,
that by the time of Antiochus Epiphanes the Jews had learned each
nation to have its guardian spirit, good or evil; and that the fates
of nations depend on the invisible conflict of these tutelary powers.
In Paul the same idea is strongly brought out. Satan is the prince of
the power of the air; with principalities and powers beneath him; over
all of whom Christ won the victory on his cross. In the Apocalypse
we read the Oriental doctrine of the "_seven angels_ who stand before
God." As the Christian tenet thus rose among the Jews from their
contact with Eastern superstition, and was propagated and expanded
while prophecy was mute, it cannot be ascribed to "divine supernatural
revelation" as the source. The ground of it is dearly seen in infant
speculations on the cause of moral evil and of national calamities.

Thus Christ and the Devil, the two poles of Christendom, had faded
away out of my spiritual vision; there were left the more vividly, God
and Man. Yet I had not finally renounced the _possibility_, that
Jesus might have had a divine mission to stimulate all our spiritual
faculties, and to guarantee to us a future state of existence. The
abstract arguments for the immortality of the soul had always appeared
to me vain trifling; and I was deeply convinced that nothing could
_assure_ us of a future state but a divine communication. In what mode
this might be made, I could not say _a priori_: might not this really
be the great purport of Messiahship? was not this, if any, a worthy
ground for a divine interference? On the contrary, to heal the sick
did not seem at all an adequate motive for a miracle; else, why
not the sick of our own day? Credulity had exaggerated, and had
represented Jesus to have wrought miracles: but that did not wholly
_dis_prove the miracle of resurrection (whether bodily or of whatever
kind), said to have been wrought by God _upon_ him, and of which so
very intense a belief so remarkably propagated itself. Paul indeed
believed it[3] from prophecy; and, as we see this to be a delusion,
resting on Rabbinical interpretations, we may perhaps _account_ thus
for the belief of the early church, without in any way admitting the
fact.--Here, however, I found I had the clue to my only remaining
discussion, the primitive Jewish controversy. Let us step back to an
earlier stage than John's or Paul's or Peter's doctrine. We cannot
doubt that Jesus claimed to be Messiah: what then was Messiah to be?
and, did Jesus (though misrepresented by his disciples) truly fulfil
his own claims?

The really Messianic prophecies appeared to me to be far fewer than is
commonly supposed. I found such in the 9th and 11th of Isaiah, the
5th of Micah, the 9th of Zechariah, in the 72nd Psalm, in the 37th of
Ezekiel, and, as I supposed, in the 50th and 53rd of Isaiah. To these
nothing of moment could be certainly added; for the passage in Dan.
ix. is ill-translated in the English version, and I had already
concluded that the Book of Daniel is a spurious fabrication. From
Micah and Ezekiel it appeared, that Messiah was to come from Bethlehem
and either be David himself, or a spiritual David: from Isaiah it is
shown that he is a rod out of the stem of Jesse.--It is true, I found
no proof that Jesus did come from Bethlehem or from the stock of
David; for the tales in Matthew and Luke refute one another, and
have clearly been generated by a desire to verify the prophecy. But
genealogies for or against Messiahship seemed to me a mean argument;
and the fact of the prophets demanding a carnal descent in Messiah
struck me as a worse objection than that Jesus had not got it,--if
this could be ever proved. The Messiah of Micah, however, was not
Jesus; for he was to deliver Israel from _the Assyrians_, and his
whole description is literally warlike. Micah, writing when the name
of Sennacherib was terrible, conceived of a powerful monarch on the
throne of David who was to subdue him: but as this prophecy was not
verified, the imaginary object of it was looked for as "Messiah,"
even after the disappearance of the formidable Assyrian power. This
undeniable vanity of Micah's prophecy extends itself also to that in
the 9th chapter of his contemporary Isaiah,--if indeed that splendid
passage did not really point at the child Hezekiah. Waiving this
doubt, it is at any rate clear that the marvellous child on the throne
of David was to break the yoke of the oppressive Assyrian; and none of
the circumstantials are at all appropriate to the historical Jesus.

In the 37th of Ezekiel the (new) David is to gather Judah and Israel
"from the heathen whither they be gone" and to "make them one nation
_in the land, on the mountains of Israel_:" and Jehovah adds, that
they shall "dwell in the land _which I gave unto Jacob my servant,
wherein your fathers dwelt_: and they shall dwell therein, they and
their children and their children's children for ever: and my servant
David shall be their prince for ever." It is trifling to pretend that
_the land promised to Jacob, and in which the old Jews dwelt_, was
a spiritual, and not the literal Palestine; and therefore it is
impossible to make out that Jesus has fulfilled any part of this
representation. The description however that follows (Ezekiel xl.
&c.) of the new city and temple, with the sacrifices offered by
"the priests the Levites, of the seed of Zadok," and the gate of the
sanctuary for the prince (xliv. 3), and his elaborate account of
the borders of the land (xlviii. 13-23), place the earnestness of
Ezekiel's literalism in still clearer light.

The 72nd Psalm, by the splendour of its predictions concerning the
grandeur of some future king of Judah, earns the title of Messianic,
_because_ it was never fulfilled by any historical king. But it is
equally certain, that it has had no appreciable fulfilment in Jesus.

But what of the 11th of Isaiah? Its portraiture is not so much that of
a king, as of a prophet endowed with superhuman power. "He shall smite
the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips
he shall slay the wicked." A Paradisiacal state is to follow.--This
general description _may_ be verified by Jesus _hereafter_; but we
have no manifestation, which enables us to call the fulfilment a fact.
Indeed, the latter part of the prophecy is out of place for a time so
late as the reign of Augustus; which forcibly denotes that Isaiah was
predicting only that which was his immediate political aspiration: for
in this great day of Messiah, Jehovah is to gather back his dispersed
people from Assyria, Egypt, and other parts; he is _to reconcile Judah
and Ephraim_, (who had been perfectly reconciled centuries before
Jesus was born,) and as a result of this Messianic glory, the people
of Israel "shall fly upon the shoulders of the _Philistines_ towards
the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay
their hand on _Edom_ and _Moab_, and the children of _Ammon_ shall
obey them." But Philistines, Moab and Ammon, were distinctions
entirely lost before the Christian era.--Finally, the Red Sea is to be
once more passed miraculously by the Israelites, returning (as would
seem) to their fathers' soil. Take all these particulars together,
and the prophecy is neither fulfilled in the past nor possible to be
fulfilled in the future.

The prophecy which we know as Zechariah ix.-xi. is believed to be
really from a prophet of uncertain name, contemporaneous with Isaiah.
It was written while Ephraim was still a people, i.e. before the
capture of Samaria by Shalmanezer; and xi. 1-3 appears to howl over
the recent devastations of Tiglathpilezer. The prophecy is throughout
full of the politics of that day. No part of it has the most remote or
imaginable[4] similarity to the historical life of Jesus, except that
he once rode into Jerusalem on an ass; a deed which cannot have been
peculiar to him, and which Jesus moreover appears to have planned with
the express[5] purpose of assimilating himself to the lowly king here
described. Yet such an isolated act is surely a carnal and beggarly
fulfilment. To ride on an ass is no mark of humility in those who must
ordinarily go on foot. The prophet clearly means that the righteous
king is not to ride on a warhorse and trust in cavalry, as Solomon
and the Egyptians, (see Ps. xx. 7. Is. xxxi. 1-3, xxx. 16,) but is to
imitate the lowliness of David and the old judges, who rode on young
asses; and is to be a lover of peace.

Chapters 50 and 53 of the pseudo-Isaiah remained; which contain many
phrases so aptly descriptive of the sufferings of Christ, and so
closely knit up with our earliest devotional associations, that they
were the very last link of my chain that snapt. Still, I could not
conceal from myself, that no exactness in this prophecy, however
singular, could avail to make out that Jesus was the Messiah of
Hezekiah's prophets. There must be _some_ explanation; and if I did
not see it, that must probably arise from prejudice and habit.--In
order therefore to gain freshness, I resolved to peruse the entire
prophecy of the pseudo-Isaiah in Lowth's version, from ch. xl. onward,
at a single sitting.

This prophet writes from Babylon, and has his vision full of the
approaching restoration of his people by Cyrus, whom he addresses by
name. In ch. xliii. he introduces to us an eminent and "chosen
servant of God," whom he invests with all the evangelical virtues, and
declares that he is to be a light to the Gentiles. In ch. xliv. (v.
1--also v. 21) he is named as "_Jacob_ my servant, and _Israel_ whom
I have chosen." The appellations recur in xlv. 4: and in a far more
striking passage, xlix. 1-12, which is eminently Messianic to the
Christian ear, _except_ that in v. 3, the speaker distinctly declares
himself to be (not Messiah, but) Israel. The same speaker continues in
ch. l., which is equally Messianic in sound. In ch. lii. the prophet
speaks _of_ him, (vv. 13-15) but the subject of the chapter is
_restoration from Babylon_; and from this he runs on into the
celebrated ch. liii.

It is essential to understand the _same_ "elect servant" all along.
He is many times called Israel, and is often addressed in a tone quite
inapplicable to Messiah, viz. as one needing salvation himself; so in
ch. xliii. Yet in ch. xlix. this elect Israel is distinguished from
Jacob and Israel at large: thus there is an entanglement. Who can be
called on to risk his eternal hopes on his skilful unknotting of it?
It appeared however to me most probable, that as our high Churchmen
distinguish "mother Church" from the individuals who compose the
Church, so the "Israel" of this prophecy is the idealizing of
the Jewish Church; which I understood to be a current Jewish
interpretation. The figure perhaps embarrasses us, only because of the
male sex attributed to the ideal servant of God; for when "Zion"
is spoken of by the same prophet in the same way, no one finds
difficulty, or imagines that a female person of superhuman birth and
qualities must be intended.

It still remained strange that in Isaiah liii. and Pss. xxii. and
lxix. there should be _coincidences_ so close with the sufferings of
Jesus: but I reflected, that I had no proof that the narrative had not
been strained by credulity,[6] to bring it into artificial agreement
with these imagined predictions of his death. And herewith my last
argument in favour of views for which I once would have laid down my
life, seemed to be spent.

Nor only so: but I now reflected that the falsity of the prophecy
in Dan. vii. (where the coming of "a Son of Man" to sit in universal
judgment follows immediately upon the break-up of the Syrian
monarchy,)--to say nothing of the general proof of the spuriousness of
the whole Book of Daniel,--ought perhaps long ago to have been seen by
me as of more cardinal importance. For if we believe anything at all
about the discourses of Christ, we cannot doubt that he selected "_Son
of Man_" as his favourite title; which admits no interpretation so
satisfactory, as, that he tacitly refers to the seventh chapter of
Daniel, and virtually bases his pretensions upon it. On the whole,
it was no longer defect of proof Which presented itself, but positive
disproof of the primitive and fundamental claim.

I could not for a moment allow weight to the topic, that "it is
dangerous to _dis_believe wrongly;" for I felt, and had always
felt, that it gave a premium to the most boastful and tyrannizing
superstition:--as if it were not equally dangerous to _believe_
wrongly! Nevertheless, I tried to plead for farther delay, by asking:
Is not the subject too vast for me to decide upon?--Think how many
wise and good men have fully examined, and have come to a contrary
conclusion. What a grasp of knowledge and experience of the human mind
it requires! Perhaps too I have unawares been carried away by a love
of novelty, which I have mistaken for a love of truth.

But the argument recoiled upon me. Have I not been 25 years a reader
of the Bible? have I not full 18 years been a student of Theology?
have I not employed 7 of the best years of my life, with ample
leisure, in this very investigation;--without any intelligible earthly
bribe to carry me to my present conclusion, against all my interests,
all my prejudices and all my education? There are many far more
learned men than I,--many men of greater power of mind; but there are
also a hundred times as many who are my inferiors; and if I have been
seven years labouring in vain to solve this vast literary problem, it
is an extreme absurdity to imagine that the solving of it is imposed
by God on the whole human race. Let me renounce my little learning;
let me be as the poor and simple: what then follows? Why, then, _still
the same thing follows_, that difficult literary problems concerning
distant history cannot afford any essential part of my religion.

It is with hundreds or thousands a favourite idea, that "they have an
inward witness of the truth of (_the historical and outward facts of_)
Christianity." Perhaps the statement would bring its own refutation
to them, if they would express it clearly. Suppose a biographer of Sir
Isaac Newton, after narrating his sublime discoveries and ably stating
some of his most remarkable doctrines, to add, that Sir Isaac was a
great magician, and had been used to raise spirits by his arts, and
finally was himself carried up to heaven one night, while he
was gazing at the moon; and that this event had been foretold by
Merlin:--it would surely be the height of absurdity to dilate on the
truth of the Newtonian theory as "the moral evidence" of the truth of
the miracles and prophecy. Yet this is what those do, who adduce the
excellence of the precepts and spirituality of the general doctrine of
the New Testament, as the "moral evidence" of its miracles and of its
fulfilling the Messianic prophecies. But for the ambiguity of the
word _doctrine_, probably such confusion of thought would have been
impossible. "Doctrines" are either spiritual truths, or are
statements of external history. Of the former we may have an inward
witness;--that is their proper evidence;--but the latter must depend
upon adequate testimony and various kinds of criticism.

How quickly might I have come to my conclusion,--how much weary
thought and useless labour might I have spared,--if at an earlier time
this simple truth had been pressed upon me, that since the religious
faculties of the poor and half-educated cannot investigate Historical
and Literary questions, _therefore_ these questions cannot constitute
an essential part of Religion.--But perhaps I could not have gained
this result by any abstract act of thought, from want of freedom to
think: and there are advantages also in expanding slowly under great
pressure, if one _can_ expand, and is not crushed by it.

I felt no convulsion of mind, no emptiness of soul, no inward
practical change: but I knew that it would be said, this was only
because the force of the old influence was as yet unspent, and that
a gradual declension in the vitality of my religion must ensue. More
than eight years have since past, and I feel I have now a right to
contradict that statement. To any "Evangelical" I have a right to
say, that while he has a _single_, I have a _double_ experience; and
I know, that the spiritual fruits which he values, have no connection
whatever with the complicated and elaborate creed, which his school
imagines, and I once imagined, to be the roots out of which they are
fed. That they depend directly on _the heart's belief in the sympathy
of God with individual man_,[7] I am well assured: but that doctrine
does not rest upon the Bible or upon Christianity; for it is a
postulate, from which every Christian advocate is forced to start. If
it be denied, he cannot take a step forward in his argument. He talks
to men about Sin and Judgment to come, and the need of Salvation,
and so proceeds to the Saviour. But his very first step,--the idea
of Sin,--_assumes_ that God concerns himself with our actions, words,
thoughts; _assumes_ therefore that sympathy of God with every man,
which (it seems) can only be known by an infallible Bible.

I know that many Evangelicals will reply, that I never can have had
"the true" faith; else I could never have lost it: and as for my
not being conscious of spiritual change, they will accept this as
confirming their assertion. Undoubtedly I cannot prove that I ever
felt as they now feel: perhaps they love their present opinions _more
than_ truth, and are careless to examine and verify them; with that
I claim no fellowship. But there are Christians, and Evangelical
Christians, of another stamp, who love their creed, _only_ because
they believe it to be true, but love truth, as such, and truthfulness,
more than any creed: with these I claim fellowship. Their love to God
and man, their allegiance to righteousness and true holiness, will
not be in suspense and liable to be overturned by new discoveries in
geology and in ancient inscriptions, or by improved criticism of texts
and of history, nor have they any imaginable interest in thwarting
the advance of scholarship. It is strange indeed to undervalue _that_
Faith, which alone is purely moral and spiritual, alone rests on
a basis that cannot be shaken, alone lifts the possessor above the
conflicts of erudition, and makes it impossible for him to fear the
increase of knowledge.

I fully expected that reviewers and opponents from the evangelical
school would laboriously insinuate or assert, that I _never was_
a Christian and do not understand anything about Christianity
spiritually. My expectations have been more than fulfilled; and the
course which my assailants have taken leads me to add some topics to
the last paragraph. I say then, that if I had been slain at the age of
twenty-seven, when I was chased[8] by a mob of infuriated Mussulmans
for selling New Testaments, they would have trumpeted me as an
eminent saint and martyr. I add, that many circumstances within easy
possibility might have led to my being engaged as an official teacher
of a congregation at the usual age, which would in all probability
have arrested my intellectual development, and have stereotyped my
creed for many a long year; and then also they would have acknowledged
me as a Christian. A little more stupidity, a little more worldliness,
a little more mental dishonesty in me, or perhaps a little more
kindness and management in others, would have kept me in my old state,
which was acknowledged and would still be acknowledged as Christian.
To try to disown me now, is an impotent superciliousness.

At the same time, I confess to several moral changes, as the result of
this change in my creed, the principal of which are the following.

1. I have found that my old belief narrowed my affections. It taught
me to bestow peculiar love on "the people of God," and it assigned an
intellectual creed as one essential mark of this people. That creed
may be made more or less stringent; but when driven to its minimum, it
includes a recognition of the historical proposition, that "the Jewish
teacher Jesus fulfilled the conditions requisite to constitute him
the Messiah of the ancient Hebrew prophets." This proposition has been
rejected by very many thoughtful and sincere men in England, and by
tens of thousands in France, Germany, Italy, Spain. To judge rightly
about it, is necessarily a problem of literary criticism; which has
both to interpret the Old Scriptures and to establish how much of the
biography of Jesus in the New is credible. To judge wrongly about it,
may prove one to be a bad critic but not a less good and less pious
man. Yet my old creed enacted an affirmative result of this historical
inquiry, as a test of one's spiritual state, and ordered me to think
harshly of men like Marcus Aurelius and Lessing, because they did
not adopt the conclusion which the professedly uncritical have
established. It possessed me with a general gloom concerning
Mohammedans and Pagans, and involved the whole course of history and
prospects of futurity in a painful darkness from which I am relieved.

2. Its theory was one of selfishness. That is, it inculcated that my
first business must be, to save my soul from future punishment, and
to attain future happiness; and it bade me to chide myself, when I
thought of nothing but about doing present duty and blessing God for
present enjoyment.

In point of fact, I never did look much to futurity, nor even in
prospect of death could attain to any vivid anticipations or desires,
much less was troubled with fears. The evil which I suffered from
my theory, was not (I believe) that it really made me selfish--other
influences of it were too powerful:--but it taught me to blame
myself for unbelief, because I was not sufficiently absorbed in the
contemplation of my vast personal expectations. I certainly here feel
myself delivered from the danger of factitious sin.

The selfish and self-righteous texts come principally from the three
first gospels, and are greatly counteracted by the deeper spirituality
of the apostolic epistles. I therefore by no means charge this
tendency indiscriminately on the New Testament.

3. It laid down that "the time is short; THE LORD IS AT HAND: the
things of this world pass away, and deserve not our affections: the
only thing worth spending one's energies on, is, the forwarding of
men's salvation." It bade me "watch perpetually, not knowing whether
my Lord would return at cockcrowing or at midday."

While I believed this, (which, however disagreeable to modern
Christians, is the clear doctrine of the New Testament,) I acted an
eccentric and unprofitable part. From it I was saved against my will,
and forced into a course in which the doctrine, having been laid
to sleep, awoke only now and then to reproach and harass me for
my unfaithfulness to it. This doctrine it is, which makes so many
spiritual persons lend active or passive aid to uphold abuses and
perpetuate mischief in every department of human life. Those who stick
closest to the Scripture do not shrink from saying, that "it is not
worth while trying to mend the world," and stigmatize as "political
and worldly" such as pursue an opposite course. Undoubtedly, if we are
to expect our Master at cockcrowing, we shall not study the permanent
improvement of this transitory scene. To teach the certain speedy
destruction of earthly things, _as the New Testament does_, is to cut
the sinews of all earthly progress; to declare war against Intellect
and Imagination, against Industrial and Social advancement.

There was a time when I was distressed at being unable to avoid
exultation in the worldly greatness of England. My heart would, in
spite, of me, swell with something of pride, when a Turk or Arab asked
what was my country: I then used to confess to God this pride as
a sin. I still see that that was a legitimate deduction from the
Scripture. "The glory of this world passeth away," and I had professed
to be "dead with Christ" to it. The difference is this. I am now as
"dead" as then to all of it which my conscience discerns to be sinful,
but I have not to torment myself in a (fundamentally ascetic)
struggle against innocent and healthy impulses. I now, with deliberate
approval, "love the world and the things of the world." I can feel
patriotism, and take the deepest interest in the future prospects of
nations, and no longer reproach myself. Yet this is quite consistent
with feeling the spiritual interests of men to be of all incomparably
the highest.

Modern religionists profess to be disciples of Christ, and talk high
of the perfect morality of the New Testament, when they certainly
do not submit their understanding to it, and are no more like to the
first disciples than bishops are like the pennyless apostles. One
critic tells me that _I know_ that the above is _not_ the true
interpretation of the apostolic doctrine. Assuredly I am aware that we
may rebuke "the world" and "worldliness," in a legitimate and modified
sense, as being the system of _selfishness_: true,--and I have avowed
this in another work; but it does not follow that Jesus and the
apostles did not go farther: and manifestly they did. The true
disciple, who would be perfect as his Master, was indeed ordered to
sell all, give to the poor and follow him; and when that severity was
relaxed by good sense, it was still taught that things which lasted
to the other side of the grave alone deserved our affection or our
exertion. If any person thinks me ignorant of the Scriptures for being
of this judgment, let him so think; but to deny that I am sincere in
my avowal, is a very needless insolence.

4. I am sensible how heavy a clog on the exercise of my judgment has
been taken off from me, since I unlearned that Bibliolatry, which I am
disposed to call the greatest religious evil of England.

Authority has a place in religious teaching, as in education, but it
is provisional and transitory. Its chief use is to guide _action_,
and assist the formation of habits, before the judgment is ripe. As
applied to mere _opinion_, its sole function is to guide inquiry. So
long as an opinion is received on authority only, it works no inward
process upon us: yet the promulgation of it by authority, is not
therefore always useless, since the prominence thus given to it may
be a most important stimulus to thought. While the mind is inactive or
weak, it will not wish to throw off the yoke of authority: but as soon
as it begins to discern error in the standard proposed to it, we have
the mark of incipient original thought, which is the thing so valuable
and so difficult to elicit; and which authority is apt to crush. An
intelligent pupil seldom or never gives _too little_ weight to the
opinion of his teacher: a wise teacher will never repress the free
action of his pupils' minds, even when they begin to question his
results. "Forbidding to think" is a still more fatal tyranny than
"forbidding to marry:" it paralyzes all the moral powers.

In former days, if any moral question came before me, I was always
apt to turn it into the mere lawyerlike exercise of searching and
interpreting my written code. Thus, in reading how Henry the Eighth
treated his first queen, I thought over Scripture texts in order to
judge whether he was right, and if I could so get a solution, I left
my own moral powers unexercised. All Protestants see, how mischievous
it is to a Romanist lady to have a directing priest, whom she every
day consults about everything; so as to lay her own judgment to
sleep. We readily understand, that in the extreme case such women may
gradually lose all perception of right and wrong, and become a mere
machine in the hands of her director. But the Protestant principle of
accepting the Bible as the absolute law, acts towards the same end;
and only fails of doing the same amount of mischief, because a book
can never so completely answer all the questions asked of it, as a
living priest can. The Protestantism which pities those as "without
chart and compass" who acknowledge no infallible written code, can
mean nothing else, than that "the less occasion we have to trust our
moral powers, the better;" that is, it represents it as of all things
most desirable to be able to benumb conscience by disuse, under the
guidance of a mind from without. Those who teach this need not marvel
to see their pupils become Romanists.

But Bibliolatry not only paralyzes the moral sense; it also corrupts
the intellect, and introduces a crooked logic, by setting men to the
duty of extracting absolute harmony out of discordant materials. All
are familiar with the subtlety of lawyers, whose task it is to elicit
a single sense out of a heap of contradictory statutes. In their case
such subtlety may indeed excite in us impatience or contempt; but
we forbear to condemn them, when it is pleaded that practical
convenience, not truth, is their avowed end. In the case of
theological ingenuity, where truth is the professed and sacred
object, a graver judgment is called for. When the Biblical interpreter
struggles to reconcile contradictions, or to prove that wrong is
right, merely because he is bound to maintain the perfection of the
Bible; when to this end he condescends to sophistry and pettifogging
evasions; it is difficult to avoid feeling disgust as well as grief.
Some good people are secretly conscious that the Bible is not an
infallible book; but they dread the consequences of proclaiming this
"to the vulgar." Alas! and have they measured the evils which the
fostering of this lie is producing in the minds, not of the educated
only, but emphatically of the ministers of religion?

Many who call themselves Christian preachers busily undermine moral
sentiment, by telling their hearers, that if they do not believe the
Bible (or the Church), they can have no firm religion or morality, and
will have no reason to give against following brutal appetite.
This doctrine it is, that so often makes men atheists in Spain, and
profligates in England, as soon as they unlearn the national creed:
and the school which have done the mischief, moralize over the
wickedness of human nature when it comes to pass instead of blaming
the falsehood which they have themselves inculcated.

[Footnote 1: A critic presses me with the question, how I can doubt
that doctrine so holy _comes from God_. He professes to review my
book on the Soul; yet, apparently became he himself _dis_believes the
doctrine of the Holy Spirit taught alike in the Psalms and Prophets
and in the New Testament,--he cannot help forgetting that I profess
to believe it. He is not singular in his dulness. That the sentiment
above is necessarily independent of Biblical _authority_, see p. 133.]

[Footnote 2: I do not here enlarge on this, as it is discussed in my
treatise on The Soul 2nd edition, p. 76, or 3rd edition, p. 52.]

[Footnote 3: 1 Cor. xv. 3. Compare Acts xii. 33, 34, 35 also Acts ii.
27, 34.]

[Footnote 4: I need not except the _potter_ and the thirty pieces of
silver (Zech. xi. 13), for the _potter_ is a mere absurd error of text
or translation. The Septuagint has the _foundry_, De Wette has the
_treasury_, with whom Hitzig and Ewald agree. So Winer (Simoni's

[Footnote 5: Some of my critics are very angry with me for saying
this; but Matthew himself (xxi. 4) almost says it:--"_All this was
done, that it might be fulfilled_," &c. Do my critics mean to tell me
that Jesus _was not aware_ of the prophecy? or if Jesus did know of
the prophecy, will they tell me _that he was not designing_ to fulfil
it? I feel such carping to be little short of hypocrisy.]

[Footnote 6: Apparently on these words of mine, a reviewer builds up
the inference that I regard "the Evangelical narrative as a mythical
fancy-piece imitated from David and Isaiah." I feel this to be a great
caricature. My words are carefully limited to a few petty details of
one part of the narrative.] [Footnote 7: I did not calculate that
any assailant would be so absurd as to lecture me on the topic, that
God has no sympathy _with our sins and follies_. Of course what I
mean is, that he has complacency in our moral perfection. See p. 125

[Footnote 8: This was at Aintab, in the north of Syria. One of my
companions was caught by the mob and beaten (as they probably thought)
to death. But he recovered very similarly to Paul, in Acts xiv. 20,
after long lying senseless.]



Let no reader peruse this chapter, who is not willing to enter into
a discussion, as free and unshrinking, concerning the personal
excellencies and conduct of Jesus, as that of Mr. Grote concerning
Socrates. I have hitherto met with most absurd rebuffs for my
scrupulosity. One critic names me as a principal leader in a school
which extols and glorifies the character of Jesus; after which
he proceeds to reproach me with inconsistency, and to insinuate
dishonesty. Another expresses himself as deeply wounded that, in
renouncing the belief that Jesus is more than man, I suggest to
compare him to a clergyman whom I mentioned as eminently holy and
perfect in the picture of a partial biographer; such a comparison
is resented with vivid indignation, as a blurting out of something
"unspeakably painful." Many have murmured that I do _not_ come forward
to extol the excellencies of Jesus, but appear to prefer Paul. More
than one taunt me with an inability to justify my insinuations
that Jesus, after all, was not really perfect; one is "extremely
disappointed" that I have not attacked him; in short, it is manifest
that many would much rather have me say out my whole heart, than
withhold anything. I therefore give fair warning to all, not to
read any farther, or else to blame themselves if I inflict on them
"unspeakable pain," by differing from their judgment of a historical
or unhistorical character. As for those who confound my tenderness
with hypocrisy and conscious weakness, if they trust themselves to
read to the end, I think they will abandon that fancy.

But how am I brought into this topic? It is because, after my mind had
reached the stage narrated in the last chapter, I fell in with a new
doctrine among the Unitarians,--that the evidence of Christianity is
essentially popular and spiritual, consisting in _the Life of Christ_,
who is a perfect man and the absolute moral image of God,--therefore
fitly called "God manifest in the flesh," and, as such, Moral Head of
the human race. Since this view was held in conjunction with those
at which I had arrived myself concerning miracles, prophecy, the
untrustworthiness of Scripture as to details, and the essential
unreasonableness of imposing dogmatic propositions as a creed, I
had to consider why I could not adopt such a modification, or (as it
appeared to me) reconstruction, of Christianity; and I gave reasons
in the first edition of this book, which, avoiding direct treatment of
the character of Jesus, seemed to me adequate on the opposite side.

My argument was reviewed by a friend, who presently published the
review with his name, replying to my remarks on this scheme. I thus
find myself in public and avowed controversy with one who is endowed
with talents, accomplishments, and genius, to which I have no
pretensions. The challenge has certainly come from myself. Trusting to
the goodness of my cause, I have ventured it into an unequal combat;
and from a consciousness of my admired friend's high superiority, I do
feel a little abashed at being brought face to face against him. But
possibly the less said to the public on these personal matters, the

I have to give reasons why I cannot adopt that modified scheme
of Christianity which is defended and adorned by James Martineau;
according to which it is maintained that though the Gospel Narratives
are not to be trusted in detail, there can yet be no reasonable
doubt _what_ Jesus _was_; for this is elicited by a "higher moral
criticism," which (it is remarked) I neglect. In this theory, Jesus is
avowed to be a man born like other men; to be liable to error, and
(at least in some important respects) mistaken. Perhaps no general
proposition is to be accepted _merely_ on the word of Jesus; in
particular, he misinterpreted the Hebrew prophecies. "He was not
_less_ than the Hebrew Messiah, but _more_." No moral charge is
established against him, until it is shown, that in applying the old
prophecies to himself, he was _conscious_ that they did not fit.
His error was one of mere fallibility in matters of intellectual and
literary estimate. On the other hand, Jesus had an infallible moral
perception, which reveals itself to the true-hearted reader, and is
testified by the common consciousness of Christendom. It has pleased
the Creator to give us one sun in the heavens, and one Divine soul in
history, in order to correct the aberrations of our individuality, and
unite all mankind into one family of God. Jesus is to be presumed to
be perfect until he is shown to be imperfect. Faith in Jesus, is not
reception of propositions, but reverence for a person; yet this is
_not_ the condition of salvation or essential to the Divine favour.

Such is the scheme, abridged from the ample discussion of my eloquent
friend. In reasoning against it, my arguments will, to a certain
extent, be those of an orthodox Trinitarian;[1] since we might both
maintain that the belief in the absolute divine morality of Jesus is
not tenable, when the belief in _every other_ divine and superhuman
quality is denied. Should I have any "orthodox" reader, my arguments
may shock his feelings less, if he keeps this in view. In fact, the
same action or word in Jesus may be consistent or inconsistent with
moral perfection, according to the previous assumptions concerning his

I. My friend has attributed to me a "prosaic and embittered view of
human nature," apparently because I have a very intense belief of
Man's essential imperfection. To me, I confess, it is almost a first
principle of thought, that as all sorts of perfection coexist in God,
so is no sort of perfection possible to man. I do not know how for
a moment to imagine an Omniscient Being who is not Almighty, or
an Almighty who is not All-Righteous. So neither do I know how to
conceive of Perfect Holiness anywhere but in the Blessed and only

Man is finite and crippled on all sides; and frailty in one kind
causes frailty in another. Deficient power causes deficient knowledge,
deficient knowledge betrays him into false opinion, and entangles him
into false positions. It may be a defect of my imagination, but I do
not feel that it implies any bitterness, that even in the case of
one who abides in primitive lowliness, to attain even negatively an
absolutely pure goodness seems to me impossible; and much more, to
exhaust all goodness, and become a single Model-Man, unparalleled,
incomparable, a standard for all other moral excellence. Especially
I cannot conceive of any human person rising out of obscurity, and
influencing the history of the world, unless there be in him forces
of great intensity, the harmonizing of which is a vast and painful
problem. Every man has to subdue himself first, before he preaches to
his fellows; and he encounters many a fall and many a wound in winning
his own victory. And as talents are various, so do moral natures vary,
each having its own weak and strong side; and that one man should
grasp into his single self the highest perfection of every moral
kind, is to me at least as incredible as that one should preoccupy
and exhaust all intellectual greatness. I feel the prodigy to be so
peculiar, that I must necessarily wait until it is overwhelmingly
proved, before I admit it. No one can without unreason urge me to
believe, on any but the most irrefutable arguments, that a man, finite
in every other respect, is infinite in moral perfection.

My friend is "at a loss to conceive in what way a superhuman physical
nature could tend in the least degree to render moral perfection more
credible." But I think he will see, that it would entirely obviate the
argument just stated, which, from the known frailty of human nature
in general, deduced the indubitable imperfection of an individual. The
reply is then obvious and decisive: "This individual is _not_ a mere
man; his origin is wholly exceptional; therefore his moral perfection
may be exceptional; your experience of _man's_ weakness goes for
nothing in his case." If I were already convinced that this person was
a great Unique, separated from all other men by an impassable chasm in
regard to his physical origin, I (for one) should be much readier to
believe that he was Unique and Unapproachable in other respects: for
all God's works have an internal harmony. It could not be for nothing
that this exceptional personage was sent into the world. That he was
intended as head of the human race, in one or more senses, would be
a plausible opinion; nor should I feel any incredulous repugnance
against believing his morality to be if not divinely perfect, yet
separated from that of common men so far, that he might be a God to
us, just as every parent is to a young child.

This view seems to my friend a weakness; be it so. I need not press
it. What I do press, is,--whatever _might_ or might _not_ be conceded
concerning one in human form, but of superhuman origin,--at any
rate, one who is conceded to be, out and out, of the same nature as
ourselves, is to be judged of by our experience of that nature, and is
therefore to be _assumed_ to be variously imperfect, however eminent
and admirable in some respects. And no one is to be called an imaginer
of deformity, because he takes for granted that one who is Man has
imperfections which were not known to those who compiled memorials of
him. To impute to a person, without specific evidence, some definite
frailty or fault, barely because he is human, would be a want of good
sense; but not so, to have a firm belief that every human being is
finite in moral as well as in intellectual greatness.

We have a very imperfect history of the apostle James; and I do not
know that I could adduce any fact specifically recorded concerning him
in disproof of his absolute moral perfection, if any of his Jerusalem
disciples had chosen to set up this as a dogma of religion. Yet no
one would blame me, as morose, or indisposed to acknowledge genius and
greatness, if I insisted on believing James to be frail and imperfect,
while admitting that I knew almost nothing about him. And why?--Singly
and surely, because we know him to be _a man_: that suffices. To set
up James or John or Daniel as my Model, and my Lord; to be swallowed
up in him and press him upon others for a Universal Standard, would
be despised as a self-degrading idolatry and resented as an obtrusive
favouritism. Now why does not the same equally apply, if the name
Jesus is substituted for these? Why, in defect of all other knowledge
than the bare fact of his manhood, are we not unhesitatingly to take
for granted that he does _not_ exhaust all perfection, and is at best
only one among many brethren and equals?

II. My friend, I gather, will reply, "because so many thousands
of minds in all Christendom attest the infinite and unapproachable
goodness of Jesus." It therefore follows to consider, what is the
weight of this attestation. Manifestly it depends, first of all, on
the independence of the witnesses: secondly, on the grounds of their
belief. If all those, who confess the moral perfection of Jesus,
confess it as the result of unbiassed examination of his character;
and if of those acquainted with the narrative, none espouse the
opposite side; this would be a striking testimony, not to be despised.
But in fact, few indeed of the "witnesses" add any weight at all to
the argument. No Trinitarian can doubt that Jesus is morally perfect,
without doubting fundamentally every part of his religion. He believes
it, _because_ the entire system demands it, and _because_ various
texts of Scripture avow it: and this very fact makes it morally
impossible for him to enter upon an unbiassed inquiry, whether that
character which is drawn for Jesus in the four gospels, is, or is not,
one of absolute perfection, deserving to be made an exclusive model
for all times and countries. My friend never was a Trinitarian, and
seems not to know how this operates; but I can testify, that when I
believed in the immaculateness of Christ's character, it was not
from an unbiassed criticism, but from the pressure of authority, (the
authority of _texts_,) and from the necessity of the doctrine to the
scheme of Redemption. Not merely strict Trinitarians, but all who
believe in the Atonement, however modified,--all who believe that
Jesus will be the future Judge,--_must_ believe in his absolute
perfection: hence the fact of their belief is no indication whatever
that they believe on the ground which my friend assumes,--viz. an
intelligent and unbiassed study of the character itself, as exhibited
in the four narratives.

I think we may go farther. We have no reason for thinking that _this_
was the sort of evidence which convinced the apostles themselves, and
first teachers of the gospel;--if indeed in the very first years the
doctrine was at all conceived of. It cannot be shown that any one
believed in the moral perfection of Jesus, who had not already adopted
the belief that he was Messiah, and _therefore_ Judge of the human
race. My friend makes the pure immaculateness of Jesus (discernible
by him in the gospels) his foundation, and deduces _from_ this the
quasi-Messiahship: but the opposite order of deduction appears to have
been the only one possible in the first age. Take Paul as a specimen.
He believed the doctrine in question; but not from reading the four
gospels,--for they did not exist. Did he then believe it by hearing
Ananias (Acts ix. 17) enter into details concerning the deeds and
words of Jesus? I cannot imagine that any wise or thoughtful person
would so judge, which after all would be a gratuitous invention. The
Acts of the Apostles give us many speeches which set forth the grounds
of accepting Jesus as Messiah; but they never press his absolute moral
perfection as a fact and a fundamental fact. "He went about doing
good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil," is the utmost

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