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This church tells us that men under the guidance of the Holy Spirit upheld the inst.i.tution of polygamy–I deny it; that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit these men upheld wars of extermination and conquest–I deny it; that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit these men wrote that it was right for a man to destroy the life of his wife if she happened to differ with him on the subject of religion–I deny it.

And yet that is the book now upheld in this creed of the Congregational Church.

If the devil had written upon the subject of slavery, which side would he have taken? Let every minister answer. If you knew the devil had written a work on human slavery, in your judgment, would he uphold slavery, or denounce it? Would you regard it as any evidence that he ever wrote it, if it upheld slavery? And yet, here you have a work upholding slavery, and you say that it was written by an infinitely good G.o.d! If the devil upheld polygamy, would you be surprised? If the devil wanted to kill men for differing with him would you be astonished? If the devil told a man to kill his wife, would you be shocked? And yet, you say, that is exactly what G.o.d did. If there be a G.o.d, then that creed is blasphemy. That creed is a libel upon him who sits on heaven’s throne. If there be a G.o.d, I ask him to write in the book in which my account is kept, that I denied these lies for him.

I do not believe in a slaveholding G.o.d! I do not worship a polygamous Holy Ghost, nor a Son who threatens eternal pain; I will not get upon my knees before any being who commands a husband to slay his wife because she expresses her honest thought. Suppose a book should be found old as the Old Testament in which slavery, polygamy and war are all denounced, would Christians think that it was written by the devil?

Did it ever occur to you that if G.o.d wrote the Old Testament, and told the Jews to crucify or kill anybody that disagreed with them on religion, and that this G.o.d afterward took upon himself flesh and came to Jerusalem, and taught a different religion, and the Jews killed him–did it ever occur to you that he reaped exactly what he had sown?

Did it ever occur to you that he fell a victim to his own tyranny, and was destroyed by his own hand? Of course I do not believe that any G.o.d ever was the author of the Bible, or that any G.o.d was ever crucified, or that any G.o.d was ever killed, or ever will be, but I want to ask you that question.

Take this Old Testament, then, with all its stories of murder and ma.s.sacre; with all its foolish and cruel fables; with all its infamous doctrines; with its spirit of caste; with its spirit of hatred, and tell me whether it was written by a good G.o.d. If you will read the maledictions and curses of that book, you will think that G.o.d, like Lear, had divided heaven among his daughters, and then, in the insanity of despair, had launched his curses on the human race.

And yet, I must say–I must admit–that the Old Testament is better than the New. In the Old Testament, when G.o.d had a man dead, he let him alone. When he saw him quietly in his grave he was satisfied. The muscles relaxed, and the frown gave place to a smile. But in the New Testament the trouble commences at death. In the New Testament G.o.d is to wreak his revenge forever and ever. It was reserved for one who said, “Love your enemies,” to tear asunder the veil between time and eternity and fix the horrified gaze of man upon the gulfs of eternal fire. The New Testament is just as much worse than the Old, as h.e.l.l is worse than sleep; just as much worse, as infinite cruelty is worse than dreamless rest; and yet, the New Testament is claimed to be a gospel of love and peace.

Is it possible that: “_The Scriptures const.i.tute the authoritative standard by which religious teaching and human conduct are to be regulated and judged”?_

Are we to judge of conduct by the Old Testament, by the New, or by both?

According to the Old, the slaveholder was a just and generous man; a polygamist was a model of virtue. According to the New, the worst can be forgiven and the best can be lost. How can any book be a standard, when the standard itself must be measured by human reason? Is there a standard of a standard? Must not the reason be convinced? and, if so, is not the reason of each man the final arbiter of that man? If he takes a book as a standard, does he so take it because it is to him reasonable?

In what way is the human reason to be ignored? Why should a book take its place, unless the reason has been convinced that the book is the proper standard? If this is so, the book rests upon the reason of those who adopt it. Are they to be saved because they act in accordance with their reason, and are others to be d.a.m.ned because they act by the same standard–their reason? No two are alike. Can we demand of all the same result? Suppose the compa.s.ses were not constant to the pole–no two compa.s.ses exactly alike–would you expect all ships to reach the same harbor?

The Reign of Truth and Love.

I also find in this creed the following:

“_We believe that Jesus Christ came to establish among men the Kingdom of G.o.d, the reign of truth and love, of righteousness and peace!_”

Well, that may have been the object of Jesus Christ. I do not deny it.

But what was the result? The Christian world has caused more war than all the rest of the world beside. Most of the cunning instruments of death have been devised by Christians. All the wonderful machinery by which the life is blown from men, by which nations are conquered and enslaved–all these machines have been born in Christian brains. And yet he came to bring peace, they say; but the Testament says otherwise: “I came not to bring peace, but a sword.” And the sword was brought. What are the Christian nations doing to-day in Europe? Is there a solitary Christian nation that will trust any other? How many millions of Christians are in the uniform of forgiveness, armed with the muskets of love?

There was an old Spaniard on the bed of death, who sent for a priest, and the priest told him that he would have to forgive his enemies before he died. He said, “I have none.” “What! no enemies?” “Not one,” said the dying man; “I killed the last one three months ago.”

How many millions of Christians are now armed and equipped to destroy their fellow-Christians? Who are the men in Europe crying against war?

Who wishes to have the nations disarmed? Is it the church? No; the men who do not believe in what they call this religion of peace. When there is a war, and when they make a few thousand widows and orphans; when they strew the plain with dead patriots, Christians a.s.semble in their churches and sing “Te Deum Laudamus.” Why? Because he has enabled a few of his children to kill some others of his children. This is the religion of peace–the religion that invented the Krupp gun, that will hurl a ball weighing two thousand pounds through twenty-four inches of solid steel. This is the religion of peace that covers the sea with men-of-war, clad in mail, in the name of universal forgiveness. This is the religion that drills and uniforms five millions of men to kill their fellows.

The Wars It Brought.

What effect has this religion had upon the nations of the earth? What have the nations been fighting about? What was the Thirty Years’ War in Europe for? What was the war in Holland for? Why was it that England persecuted Scotland? Why is it that England persecutes Ireland even to this day? At the bottom of every one of these conflicts you will find a religious question. The religion of Jesus Christ, as preached by his church, causes war, bloodshed, hatred, and all uncharitableness; and why? Because, they say, a certain belief is necessary to salvation. They do not say, if you behave yourself you will get there; they do not say, if you pay your debts and love your wife and love your children, and are good to your friends, and your neighbors, and your country, you will get there; that will do you no good; you have got to believe a certain thing. No matter how bad you are, you can instantly be forgiven; and no matter how good you are, if you fail to believe that which you cannot understand, the moment you get to the day of judgment nothing is left but to d.a.m.n you, and all the angels will shout “hallelujah.”

What do they teach to-day? Nearly every murderer goes to heaven; there is only one step from the gallows to G.o.d, only one jerk between the halter and heaven. That is taught by this church.

I believe there ought to be a law to prevent the giving of the slightest religious consolation to any man who has been found guilty of murder.

Let a Catholic understand that if he imbrues his hands in his brother’s blood, he can have no extreme unction. Let it be understood that he can have no forgiveness through the church; and let the Protestant understand that when he has committed that crime the community will not pray him into heaven. Let him go with his victim. The victim, dying in his sins, goes to h.e.l.l, and the murderer has the happiness of seeing him there. If heaven grows dull and monotonous, the murderer can again give life to the nerve of pleasure by watching the agony of his victim.

The truth is, Christianity has not made friends; it has made enemies. It is not, as taught, the religion of peace, it is the religion of war.

Why should a Christian hesitate to kill a man that his G.o.d is waiting to d.a.m.n? Why should a Christian not destroy an infidel who is trying to a.s.sa.s.sinate his soul? Why should a Christian pity an unbeliever–one who has rejected the Bible–when he knows that G.o.d will be pitiless forever?

And yet we are told, in this creed, that “_we believe in the ultimate prevalence of the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth._”

What makes you? Do you judge from the manner in which you are getting along now? How many people are being born a year? About fifty millions.

How many are you converting a year, really, truthfully? Five or six thousand. I think I have overstated the number. Is orthodox Christianity on the increase? No. There are a hundred times as many unbelievers in orthodox Christianity as there were ten years ago. What are you doing in the missionary world? How long is it since you converted a Chinaman?

A fine missionary religion, to send missionaries with their Bibles and tracts to China, but if a Chinaman comes here, mob him, simply to show him the difference between the practical and theoretical workings of the Christian religion. How long since you have had an intelligent convert in India? In my judgment, never; there never has been an intelligent Hindoo converted from the time the first missionary put his foot on that soil; and never, in my judgment, has an intelligent Chinaman been converted since the first missionary touched that sh.o.r.e. Where are they?

We hear nothing of them, except in the reports. They get money from poor old ladies, trembling on the edge of the grave, and go and tell them stories, how hungry the average Chinaman is for a copy of the New Testament, and paint the sad condition of a gentleman in the interior of Africa without the works of Dr. McCosh, longing for a copy of _The Princeton Review_,–in my judgment, a pamphlet that would suit a savage.

Thus money is scared from the dying, and frightened from the old and feeble.

About how long is it before this kingdom is to be established? No one objects to the establishment of peace and good will. Every good man longs for the time when war shall cease. We are all hoping for a day of universal justice–a day of universal freedom–when man shall control himself, when the pa.s.sions shall become obedient to the intelligent will. But the coming of that day will not be hastened by preaching the doctrines of total depravity and eternal revenge. That sun will not rise the quicker for preaching salvation by faith. The star that shines above that dawn, the herald of that day, is Science, not superst.i.tion,–Reason, not religion.

To show you how little advance has been made, how many intellectual bats and mental owls still haunt the temple, still roost above the altar, I call your attention to the fact that the Congregational Church, according to this creed; still believes in the resurrection of the dead, and in their Confession of Faith, attached to the creed, I find that they also believe in the literal resurrection of the body.

The Resurrection.

Does anybody believe that, who has the courage to think for himself?

Here is a man, for instance, that weighs 200 pounds and gets sick and dies weighing 120; how much will he weigh in the morning of the resurrection? Here is a cannibal, who eats another man; and we know that the atoms you eat go into your body and become a part of you. After the cannibal has eaten the missionary, and appropriated his atoms to himself, and then dies, to whom will the atoms belong in the morning of the resurrection? Could the missionary maintain an action of replevin, and if so, what would the cannibal do for a body? It has been demonstrated, in so far as logic can demonstrate anything, that there is no creation and no destruction in Nature. It has been demonstrated, again and again, that the atoms in us have been in millions of other beings; have grown in the forests and in the gra.s.s, have blossomed in flowers, and been in the metals. In other words, there are atoms in each one of us that have been in millions of others; and when we die, these atoms return to the earth, again appear in gra.s.s and trees, are again eaten by animals, and again devoured by countless vegetable mouths and turned into wood; and yet this church, in the nineteenth century,’in a council composed of, and presided over by, professors and presidents of colleges and theologians, solemnly tells us that it believes in the literal resurrection of the body. This is almost enough to make one despair of the future–almost enough to convince a man of the immortality of the absurd. They know better. There is not one so ignorant but knows better.

The Judgment-Day.

And what is the next thing?

“_We believe in a final judgment, the issues of which are everlasting punishment and everlasting life!_”

At the final judgment all of us will be there. The thousands, and millions, and billions, and trillions, and quadrillions that have died will be there. The books will be opened, and each case will be called.

The sheep and the goats will be divided. The unbelievers will be sent to the left, while the faithful will proudly walk to the right. The saved, without a tear, will bid an eternal farewell to those who loved them here–to those they loved. Nearly all the human race will go away to everlasting punishment, and the fortunate few to eternal life. This is the consolation of the Congregational Church! This is the hope that dispels the gloom of life!

Pious Evasions.

When the clergy are caught, they give a different meaning to the words and say the world was not made in seven days. They say “good whiles”–“epochs.”

And in this same Confession of Faith and in this creed they say that the Lord’s day is holy–every seventh day. Suppose you lived near the North Pole where the day is three months long. Then which day would you keep?

If you could get to the North Pole you could prevent Sunday from ever overtaking you. You could walk around the other way faster than the world could revolve. How would you keep Sunday then? Suppose we invent something that can go one thousand miles an hour? We can chase Sunday clear around the globe. Is there anything that can be more perfectly absurd than that a s.p.a.ce of time can be holy? You might as well talk about a virtuous vacuum. We are now told that the Bible is not a scientific book, and that after all we cannot depend on what G.o.d said four thousand years ago–that his ways are not as our ways–that we must accept without evidence, and believe without understanding.

I heard the other night of an old man. He was not very well educated, and he got into the notion that he must have reading of the Bible and family worship. There was a bad boy in the family, and they were reading the Bible by course. In the fifteenth chapter of Corinthians is this pa.s.sage: “Behold, brethren, I show you a mystery; we shall not all die, but we shall all be changed.” This boy had rubbed out the “c” in “changed.” So when the old man put on his spectacles, and got down his Bible, he read: “Behold, brethren, I show you a mystery, we shall not all die, but we shall all be hanged.” The old lady said, “Father, I don’t think it reads that way.” He said, “Who is reading this?” “Yes mother, it says ‘hanged,’ and, more than that, I see the sense of it.

Pride is the besetting sin of the human heart, and if there is anything calculated to take the pride out of a man it is hanging.” It is in this way that ministers avoid and explain the discoveries of Science.

People ask me, if I take away the Bible what are we going to do? How can we get along without the revelation that no one understands? What are we going to do if we have no Bible to quarrel about What are we to do without h.e.l.l? What are we going to do with our enemies? What are we going to do with the people we love but don’t like?

“No Bible, No Civilization.”

They tell me that there never would have been any civilization if it had not been for this Bible. The Jews had a Bible; the Romans had not. Which had the greater and the grander government? Let us be honest. Which of those nations produced the greatest poets, the greatest soldiers, the greatest orators, the greatest statesmen, the greatest sculptors? Rome had no Bible. G.o.d cared nothing for the Roman Empire. He let the men come up by chance. His time was taken up with the Jewish people. And yet Rome conquered the world, including the chosen people of G.o.d. The people who had the Bible were defeated by the people who had not. How was it possible for Lucretius to get along without the Bible?–how did the great and glorious of that empire? And what shall we say of Greece?

No Bible. Compare Athens with Jerusalem. From Athens come the beauty and intellectual grace of the world. Compare the mythology of Greece with the mythology of Judea; one covering the earth with beauty, and the other filling heaven with hatred and injustice. The Hindoos had no Bible; they had been forsaken by the Creator, and yet they became the greatest metaphysicians of the world. Egypt had no Bible. Compare Egypt with Judea. What are we to do without the Bible? What became of the Jews who had a Bible? Their temple was destroyed and their city was taken; and they never found real prosperity until their G.o.d deserted them. The Turks attributed all their victories to the Koran. The Koran gave them their victories over the believers in the Bible. The priests of each nation have accounted for the prosperity of that nation by its religion.

The Christians mistake an incident for a cause, and honestly imagine that the Bible is the foundation of modern liberty and law. They forget physical conditions, make no account of commerce, care nothing for inventions and discoveries, and ignorantly give the credit to their inspired book.

The foundations of our civilization were laid centuries before Christianity was known. The intelligence of courage, of self-government, of energy, of industry, that uniting made the civilization of this century, did not come alone from Judea, but from every nation of the ancient world.

Miracles of the New Testament.

There are many things in the New Testament that I cannot accept as true.

I cannot believe in the miraculous origin of Jesus Christ. I believe he was the son of Joseph and Mary; that Joseph and Mary had been duly and legally married; that he was the legitimate offspring of that union.

n.o.body ever believed the contrary until he had been dead at least one hundred and fifty years. Neither Matthew, Mark, nor Luke ever dreamed that he was of divine origin. He did not say to either Matthew, Mark, or Luke, or to any one in their hearing, that he was the Son of G.o.d, or that he was miraculously conceived. He did not say it. It may be a.s.serted that he said it to John, but John did not write the gospel that bears his name. The angel Gabriel, who, they say, brought the news, never wrote a word upon the subject. The mother of Christ never wrote a word upon the subject. His alleged father never wrote a word upon the subject, and Joseph never admitted the story. We are lacking in the matter of witnesses. I would not believe such a story now. I cannot believe that it happened then. I would not believe people I know, much less would I believe people I do not know.

At that time Matthew and Luke believed that Christ was the son of Joseph and Mary. And why? they say he descended from David, and in order to show that he was of the blood of David, they gave the genealogy of Joseph. And if Joseph was not his father, why did they not give the genealogy of Pontius Pilate or of Herod? Could they, by giving the genealogy of Joseph, show that he was of the blood of David if Joseph was in no way related to Christ? And yet that is the position into which the Christian world is driven. In the New Testament we find that in giving the genealogy of Christ it says, “who was the son of Joseph?” and the church has interpolated the words “as was supposed.” Why did they give a supposed genealogy? It will not do. And that is a thing that cannot in any way, by any human testimony, be established.

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