Illustrations Of Mr. Gladstone's Controversial Methods
THE series of essays, in defence of the historical accuracy of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, contributed by Mr. Gladstone to " Good Words," having been revised and enlarged by their author, appeared last year as a separate volume, under the somewhat defiant title of " The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture."
The last of these Essays, entitled " Conclusion," contains an attack, or rather several attacks, couched in language which certainly does not err upon the side of moderation or of courtesy, upon statements and opinions of mine. One of these assaults is a deliberately devised attempt, not merely to rouse the theological prejudices ingrained in the majority of Mr. Gladsone's readers, but to hold me up as a person who has endeavoured to besmirch the personal character of the object of their veneration. For Mr. Gladstone asserts that I have undertaken to try "the character of our Lord " (p. 268) ; and he tells the many who are, as I think unfortunately, predisposed to place implicit credit in his assertions, that it has been reserved for me to discover that Jesus " was no better than a law-breaker and an evil-doer !" (p. 269).
It was extremely easy for me to prove, as I did in the pages of this Review last December, that, under the most favourable interpretation, this amazing declaration must be ascribed to extreme confusion of thought. And, by bringing art abundance of good-will to the consideration of the subject, I have now convinced myself that it is right for me to admit that a person of Mr. Glad-stone's intellectual acuteness really did mistake the reprobation of the course of conduct ascribed to Jesus, in a story of which I expressly say I do not believe a word, for an attack on his character and a declaration that he was "no better than a law-breaker, and an evil-doer." At any rate, so far as I can see, this is what Mr. Gladstone wished to be believed when he wrote the following passage :
I must, however, in passing, make the confession that I did not state with accuracy, as I ought to have done, the precise form of the accusation. I treated it as an imputation on the action of our Lord ; he replies that it is only an imputation on the narrative of three evangelists respecting Him. The difference, from his point of view, is probably material, and I there-fore regret that I overlooked it.
Considering the gravity of the error which is here admitted, the fashion of the withdrawal appears more singular than admirable. From my " point of view " not from Mr. Gladstone's apparently the little discrepancy between the facts and Mr. Gladstone's carefully offensive travesty of them is " probably " (only " probably ") material. However, as Mr Gladstone concludes with an official expression of regret for his error, it is my business to return an equally official expression of gratitude for the attenuated reparation with which I am favoured.
Having cleared this specimen of Mr. Gladstone's controversial method out of the way, I may proceed to the next assault, that on a passage in an article on Agnosticism (" Nineteenth Century," February 1889), published two years ago. I there said, in referring to the Gadarene story, " Everything I know of law and justice convinces me that the wanton destruction of other people's property is a misdemeanour of evil example." On this, Mr. Gladstone, continuing his candid and urbane observations, remarks ("Impregnable Rock," p., 273) that, " Exercising his rapid judgment on the text," and " not inquiring what anybody else had known or said about it," I had missed a point in support of that " accusation against our Lord " which he has now been con-strained to admit I never made.
The point " in question is that " Gadara was a city of Greeks rather than of Jews, from whence it might be inferred that to keep swine was innocent and lawful." I conceive that I have abundantly proved that Gadara answered exactly to the description here given of it ; and I shall show, by and by, that Mr. Gladstone has used language which, to my mind, involves the admission that the authorities of the city were not Jews. But I have also taken a good deal of pains to show that the question thus raised is of no importance in relation to the main issue). If Gadara was, as I maintain it was, a city of the Decapolis, Hellenistic in constitution and containing a predominantly Gentile population, my case is superabundantly fortified. On the other hand, if the hypothesis that Gadara was under Jewish government, which Mr. Gladstone seems sometimes to defend and sometimes to give up, were accepted, my case would be nowise weakened. At any rate, Gadara was not included within the jurisdiction of the tetrach of Galilee ; if it had been, the Galileans who crossed over the lake to Gadara had no official status ; and they had no more civil right to punish law-breakers than any other strangers.
In my turn, however, I may remark that there is a " point " which appears to have escaped Mr, Gladstone's notice. And that is somewhat unfortunate, because his whole argument turns upon it. Mr. Gladstone assumes, as a matter of course, that pig-keeping was an offence against the " Law of Moses"; and, therefore, that Jews who kept pigs were as much liable to legal pains and penalties as Englishmen who smuggle brandy (" Impregnable Rock," p. 274).
There can be no doubt that, according to the Law, as it is defined in the Pentateuch, the pig was an "unclean" animal, and that pork was a forbidden article of diet. Moreover, since pigs are hardly likely to be kept for the mere love of those unsavoury animals, pig-owning, or swine-herding, must have been, and evidently was regarded as a suspicious and degrading occupation by strict Jews, in the first century A.D. But I should like to know on what provision of the Mosaic Law, as it is laid down in the Pentateuch, Mr. Gladstone bases the assumption, which is essential to his casé, that the possession of pigs and the calling of a swineherd were actually illegal. The inquiry was put to me the other day ; and, as I could not answer it, I turned up the article "Schwein " in Riehm's standard " Handwörterbuch," for help out of my difficulty; but unfortunately without success. After speaking of the martyrdom which the Jews, under Antiochus Epiphanes, preferred to eating pork, the writer proceeds:
It may be, nevertheless, that the practice of keeping pigs may have found its way into Palestine in the Graeco-Roman time, in consequence of the great increase of the non-Jewish population ; yet there is no evidence of it in the New Testament ; the great herd of swine, 2,000 in number, mentioned in the narrative of the possessed, was feeding in the territory of Gadara, which belonged to the Decapolis ; and the prodigal son became a swineherd with the native of a far country into which he had wandered ; in neither of these cases is there reason for thinking that the possessors of these herds were Jews.'
Having failed in my search, so far, I took up the next work of reference at hand, Kitto's " Cyclopaedia " (vol, iii. 1876). There, under " Swine," the writer, Colonel Hamilton Smith, seemed at first to give me what I wanted, as he says that swine " appear to have been repeatedly introduced and reared by the Hebrew people, notwithstanding the strong prohibition in the Law of Moses (Is. lxv. 4)." But, in the first place, Isaiah's writings form no part of the "Law of Moses " and, in the second place, the people denounced by the prophet in this passage are neither the possessors of pigs, nor swineherds, but these "which eat swine's flesh and broth of abominable things is in their vessels." And when, in despair, I turned to the provisions of the Law itself, my difficulty was not cleared up. Leviticus xi. 8 (Revised Version) says, in reference to the pig and other unclean animals : Of their flesh ye shall not eat, and their carcasses ye shall not touch." In the revised version of Deuteronomy, xiv. 8, the words of the prohibition are identical, and a skilful refiner might possibly satisfy himself, even if he satisfied nobody else, that " carcase " means the body of a live animal as well as a dead one ; and that, since swineherds could hardly avoid contact with their charges, their calling was implicitly forbidden. Unfortunately, the authorised version expressly says " dead carcase " ; and thus the most rabbinically minded of reconcilers might find his casuistry foiled by that great source of surprises, the "original Hebrew." That such check is at any rate possible, is clear from the fact that the legal uncleanness of some animals, as food, did not interfere with their being lawfully possessed, cared for, and sold by Jews. The provisions for the ransoming of unclean beasts (Lev. xxvii. 27) and for the redemption of their sucklings (Numbers xviii. 15) sufficiently prove this. As the late Dr. Kalisch has observed in his " Commentary " on Leviticus, part ii. p. 129, note :
Though asses and horses, camels and dogs, were kept by the Israelites, they were, to a certain extent, associated with the notion of impurity ; they might be turned to profitable account by their labour or otherwise, but in respect to food they were an abomination.
The same learned commentator (loc. cit. p. 88) proves that the Talmudists forbade the rearing of pigs by Jews, unconditionally and everywhere ; and even included it under the same ban as the study of Greek philosophy, " since both alike were considered to lead to the desertion of the Jewish faith." It is very possible, indeed probable, that the Pharisees of the fourth decade of our first century took as strong a view of pig-keeping as did their spiritual descendants. But, for all that, it does not follow that the practice was illegal. The stricter Jews could not have despised and hated swineherds more than they did publicans ; but, so far as I know, there is no provision in the Law against the practice of the calling of a tax-gatherer by a Jew. The publican was in fact very much in the position of an Irish process-server at the present day more, rather than less, despised and hated on account of the perfect legality of his occupation. Except for certain sacrificial purposes, pigs were held in such abhorrence by the ancient Egyptians, that swineherds were not permitted to enter a temple, or to intermarry with other castes ; and any one who had touched a pig, even accidentally, was unclean. But these very regulations prove that pig-keeping was not illegal ; it merely involved certain civil and religious disabilities. For the Jews, dogs were typically " unclean animals ; but, when that eminently pious Hebrew, Tobit, " went forth " with the angel " the young man's dog " went" with them " (Tobit v. 16) without apparent remonstrance from the celestial guide. I really do not see how an appeal to the Law could have justified any one in drowning Tobit's dog, on. the ground that his master was keeping and feeding an animal quite as "unclean " as any pig. Certainly the excellent Raguel must have failed to see the harm of dog-keeping, for we are told that, on the travellers' return homewards, " the dog went after them" (xi. 4).
Until better light than I have been able to obtain is thrown upon the subject, therefore, it is obvious that Mr. Gladstone's argumentative house has been built upon an extremely slippery quicksand ; perhaps even has no foundation at all.
Yet another " point " does not seem to have occurred to Mr. Gladstone, who is so much shocked that I attach no overwhelming weight to the assertions contained in the synoptic Gospels, even when all three concur. These Gospels agree in stating, in the most express, and to some extent verbally identical, terms, that the devils entered the pigs at their own request,1 and the third Gospel (viii. 31) tells us what the motive of the demons was in asking the singular boon : " They intreated him that he would not command them to depart into the abyss." From this, it would seem that the devils thought to exchange the heavy punishment of transportation to the abyss for the lighter penalty of imprisonment in swine. And some commentators, more ingenious than respectful to the supposed chief actor in this extraordinary fable, have dwelt, with satisfaction, upon the very unpleasant quarter of an hour which the evil spirits must have had, when the headlong rush of their maddened tenements convinced them how completely they were taken in. In the whole story, there is not one solitary hint that the destruction of the pigs was intended as a punishment of their owners, or of the swineherds. On the contrary, the concurrent testimony of the three narratives is to the effect that the catastrophe was the consequence of diabolic suggestion. And, indeed, no source could be more appropriate for an act of such manifest injustice and illegality.
I can but marvel that modern defenders of the faith should not be glad of any reasonable excuse for getting rid of a story which, if it had been invented by Voltaire, would have justly let loose floods of orthodox indignation.
Thus, the hypothesis, to which Mr. Gladstone so fondly clings, finds no support in the provisions of the Law of Moses " as that law is defined in the Pentateuch ; while it is wholly inconsistent with .the concurrent testimony of the synoptic Gospels, to which Mr. Gladstone attaches so much weight. In my judgment, it is directly contrary to every-thing which profane history tells us about the constitution and the population of the city of Gadara ; and it commits those who accept it to a story which, if it were true, would implicate the founder of Christianity in an illegal and in-equitable act.
Such being the case, I consider myself excused from following Mr. Gladstone through all the meanderings of his late attempt to extricate himself from the maze of historical and exegetical difficulties in which he is entangled. I content myself with assuring those who, with my paper (not Mr. Gladstone's version of my arguments) in hand, consult the original authorities, that they will find full justification for every statement I have made. But in order to dispose those who cannot, or will not, take that trouble, to believe that the proverbial blindness of one that judges his own cause plays no part in inducing me to speak thus decidedly, I beg their attention to the following examination, which shall be as brief as I can make it, of the seven propositions in which Mr. Gladstone professes to give a faithful summary of my " errors."
When, in the middle of the seventeenth century, the Holy See declared that certain propositions contained in the works of Bishop Jansen were heretical, the Jansenists of Port Royal replied that, while they were ready to defer to the Papal authority about questions of faith and morals, they must be permitted to judge about questions of fact for themselves ; and that, really, the condemned propositions were not to be found in Jansen's writings. As everybody knows, His Holiness and the Grand Monarque replied to this, surely not unreasonable, plea after the manner of Lord Peter in the Tale of a Tub." It is, there-fore, not without some apprehension of meeting with a similar fate, that I put in a like plea against Mr. Gladstone's Bull. The seven propositions declared to be false and condemnable, in that kindly and gentle way which so pleasantly compares with the authoritative style of the Vatican (No. 5 more particularly), may or may not be true. But they are not to be found in anything I have written. And some of them diametrically contravene that which I have written. I proceed to prove my assertions.
PROP. 1. Throughout the paper he confounds together what I had distinguished, namely, the city of Gadara and the vicinage attached to it, not as a mere pomoerium, but as a rural district.
In my judgment, this statement is devoid of foundation. In my paper on " The Keepers of the Herd of Swine " I point out, at some length, that, " in accordance with the ancient Hellenic practice," each city of the Decapolis must have been "surrounded by a certain amount of territory amenable to its jurisdiction " : and, to enforce this conclusion, I quote what Josephus says about the "villages that belonged to Gadara and Hippos." As I understand the term pomerium or pomoerium,1 it means the space which, according to Roman custom, was kept free from buildings, immediately within and without the walls of a city ; and which defined the range of the auspicia urbana. The conception of a pomoerium as a " vicinage attached to " a city, appears to be something quite novel and original. But then, to be sure, I do not know how many senses Mr. Gladstone may attach to the word " vicinage."
Whether Gadara had a pomoerium, in the proper technical sense, or not, is a point on which I offer no opinion. But that the city had a very considerable "rural district " attached to it and notwithstanding its distinctness, amenable to the jurisdiction of the Gentile municipal authorities, is one of the main points of my case.
PROP. 2. He more fatally confounds the local civil government and its following, including, perhaps, the whole wealthy class and those attached to it, with the ethnical character of the general population.
Having survived confusion No. 1, which turns out not to be on my side, I am now confronted in No. 2 with a " more fatal " error and so it is, if there be degrees of fatality ; but, again, it is Mr. Gladstone's and not mine. It would appear, from this proposition (about the grammatical interpretation of which, however, I admit there are difficulties), that Mr. Gladstone holds that the "local civil government and its following among the wealthy," were ethnically different from the "general population." On p. 348, he further admits that the " wealthy and the local governing power " were friendly to the Romans. Are we then to suppose that it was the persons of Jewish ethnical character " who favoured the Romans, while those of Gentile " ethnical character" were opposed to them ? But, if that supposition is absurd, the only alternative is that the local civil government was ethnically Gentile. This is exactly my contention.
At pp. 379 to 391 of the essay on " The Keepers of the Herd of Swine " I have fully discussed the question of the ethnical character of the general population. I have shown that, according to Josephus, who surely ought to have known, Gadara was as much a Gentile city as Ptolemais ; I have proved that he includes Gadara amongst the cities " that rose up against the Jews that were amongst them," which is a pretty definite expression of his belief that the ethnical character of the general population" was Gentile. There is no question here of Jews of the Roman party fighting with Jews of the Zealot party, as Mr. Gladstone suggests. It is the non-Jewish and anti-Jewish general population which rises up against the Jews who had settled "among them."
PROP. 3. His one item of direct evidence as to the Gentile character of the city refers only to the former and not to the latter.
More fatal still. But, once more, not to me. I adduce not one, but a variety of "items" in proof of the non-Judaic character of the population of Gadara : the evidence of history ; that of the coinage of the city ; the direct testimony of Josephus, just cited to mention no others. I repeat, if the wealthy people and those connected with them the "classes " and the "hangers on" of Mr. Gladstone's well known taxonomy were, as he appears to admit they were, Gentiles ; if the civil government " of the city was in their hands, as the coinage proves it was ; what becomes of Mr. Gladstone's original proposition in " The Impregnable Rock of Scripture " that " the population of Gadara, and still less (if less may be) the population of the neighbourhood," were " Hebrews bound by the Mosaic law " ? And what is the importance of estimating the precise proportion of Hebrews who may have resided, either in the city of Gadara or in its dependent territory, when, as Mr. Gladstone now seems to admit (I am careful to say " seems "), the government, and consequently the law, which ruled in that territory and defined civil right and wrong was Gentile and not Judaic ? But perhaps Mr. Gladstone is prepared to maintain that the Gentile " local civil government" of a city of the Decapolis administered Jewish Law ; and showed their respect for it, more particularly, by stamping their coinage with effigies of the Emperors.
In point of fact, in his haste to attribute to me errors which I have not committed, Mr. Gladstone has given away his case.
PROP. 4. He fatally confounds the question of political party with those of nationality and of religion, and assumes that those who took the side of Rome in the factions that prevailed could not be subject to the Mosaic Law.
It would seem that I have a feline tenacity of life ; once more, a " fatal error." But Mr. Glad-stone has forgotten an excellent rule of controversy ; say what is true, of course, but mind that it is decently probable. Now it is not decently probable, hardly indeed conceivable, that any one who has read Josephus, or any other historian of the Jewish war, should be unaware that there were Jews (of whom Josephus himself was one) who " Romanised " and, more or less openly, opposed the war party. But, however that may be, I assert that Mr. Gladstone neither has produced, nor can produce, a passage of my writing which affords the slightest foundation for this particular article of his indictment.
PROP. 5. His examination of the text of Josephus is alike one-sided, inadequate, and erroneous.
Easy to say, hard to prove. So long as the authorities whom I have cited are on my side, I do not know why this singularly temperate and convincing dictum should trouble me. I have yet to become acquainted with Mr. Gladstone's claims to speak with an authority equal to that of scholars of the rank of Schürer, whose obviously just and necessary emendations he so unceremoniously pooh-poohs.
PROP. 6. Finally, he sets aside, on grounds not critical or historical, but partly subjective, the primary historical testimony on the subject, namely, that of the three Synoptic Evangelists, who write as contemporaries and deal directly with the subject, neither of which is done by any other authority.
Really this is too much ! The fact is, as anybody can see who will turn to my article of February 1889 [VII. supra], out of which all this discussion has arisen, that the arguments upon which I rest the strength of my case touching the swine-miracle, are exactly " historical " and " critical." Expressly, and in words that cannot be misunderstood, I refuse to rest on what Mr. Gladstone calls "subjective " evidence. I abstain from denying the possibility of the Gadarene occurrence, and I even go so far as to speak of some physical analogies to possession. In fact, my quondam opponent, Dr. Wace, shrewdly, but quite fairly, made the most of these admissions ; and stated that I had removed the only " consideration which would have been a serious obstacle " in the way of his belief in the Gadarene story.1
So far from setting aside the authority of the synoptics on " subjective " grounds, I have taken a great deal of trouble to show that my non-belief in the story is based upon what appears to me to be evident ; firstly, that the accounts of the three synoptic Gospels are not independent, but are founded upon a common source ; secondly, that, even if the story of the common tradition proceeded from a contemporary, it would still be worthy of very little credit, seeing the manner in which the legends about medieval miracles have been propounded by contemporaries. And in illustration of this position I wrote a special essay about the miracles reported by Eginhard.1
In truth, one need go no further than Mr. Gladstone's sixth proposition to be convinced that contemporary testimony, even of well-known and distinguished persons, may be but a very frail reed for the support of the historian, when theological prepossession blinds the witness.2
PROP. 7. And he treats the entire question, in the narrowed form in which it arises upon secular testimony, as if it were capable of a solution so clear and summary as to warrant the use of the extremest weapons of controversy against those who presume to differ from him.
The six heretical propositions which have gone before are enunciated with sufficient clearness to enable me to prove, without any difficulty, that, whosesoever they are, they are not mine. But number seven, I confess, is too hard for me. I cannot undertake to contradict that which I do not understand.
What is the " entire question " which " arises " in a "narrowed form " upon " secular testimony " ? After much guessing, I am fain to give up the conundrum. The "question " may he the owner-ship of the pigs; or the ethnological character of the Gadarenes ; or the propriety of meddling with other people's property without legal warrant. And each of these questions might be so "narrowed " when it arose on " secular testimony" that I should not know where I was. So I am silent on this part of the proposition.
But I do dimly discern, in the latter moiety of this mysterious paragraph, a reproof of that use of " the extremest weapons. of controversy " which is attributed to me. Upon which I have to observe that I guide myself, in such matters, very much by the maxim of a great statesman, "Do ut des." If Mr. Gladstone objects to the employment of such weapons in defence, he would do well to abstain. from them in attack. He should not frame charges which he has, afterwards, to admit are erroneous, in language of carefully calculated offensiveness ("Impregnable Rock," pp. 269-70); he should not assume that persons with whom he disagrees are so recklessly unconscientious as to evade the trouble of inquiring what has been said or known about a grave question ("Impregnable Rock," p. 273) ; he should not qualify the results of careful thought as "hand-over-head reasoning" (" Impregnable Rock," p. 274) he should not, as in the extraordinary propositions which I have just analysed, make assertions respecting his opponent's position and arguments which are contradicted by the plainest facts.
Persons who, like myself, have spent their lives outside the political world, yet take a mild and philosophical concern in what goes on in it, often find it difficult to understand what our neighbours call the psychological moment of this or that party leader, and are, occasionally, loth to believe in the seeming conditions of certain kinds of success. And when some chieftain, famous in political warfare, adventures into the region of letters or of science, in full confidence that the methods which have brought fame and honour in his own province will answer there, he is apt to forget that he will be judged by these people, on whom rhetorical artifices have long ceased to take effect ; and to whom mere dexterity in putting together cleverly ambiguous phrases, and even the great art of offensive misrepresentation, are unspeakably wearisome. And, if that weariness finds its expression in sarcasm, the offender really has no right to cry out. Assuredly, ridicule is no test of truth, but it is the righteous meed of some kinds of error. Nor ought the attempt to con-found the expression of a revolted sense of fair dealing with arrogant impatience of contradiction, to restrain those to whom " the extreme weapons of controversy " come handy from using them. The function of police in the intellectual, if not in the civil, economy may sometimes be legitimately discharged by volunteers.
Some time ago, in one of the many criticisms with which I am favoured, I met with the remark that, at our time of life, Mr. Gladstone and I might be better occupied than in fighting over the Gadarene pigs. And, if these too famous swine were the only parties to the suit, I, for my part, should fully admit the justice of the rebuke. But, under the beneficent rule of the Court of Chancery, in former times, it was not uncommon, that a quarrel about a few perches of worthless land, ended in the ruin of ancient families and the engulfing of great estates ; and I think that our admonisher failed to observe the analogy to note the momentous consequences of the judgment which may be awarded in the present apparently insignificant action in are the swineherds of Gadara.
The immediate effect of such judgment will be the decision of the question, whether the men of the nineteenth century are to adopt the demonology of the men of the first century, as divinely revealed truth, or to reject it, as degrading falsity. The reverend Principal of King's College has delivered his judgment in perfectly clear and candid terms. Two years since, Dr. Wace said that he believed the story as it stands ; and consequently he holds, as a part of divine revelation, that the spiritual world comprises devils, who, under certain circumstances, may enter men and be transferred from them to four-footed beasts. For the distinguished Anglican Divine and Biblical scholar, that is part and parcel of the teachings respecting the spiritual world which we owe to the founder of Christianity. It is an inseparable part of that Christian orthodoxy which, if a man rejects, he is to be considered and called an "infidel." According to the ordinary rules of interpretation of language, Mr. Gladstone must hold the same view.
If antiquity and universality are valid tests of the truth of any belief, no doubt this is one of the beliefs so certified. There are no known savages, nor people sunk in the ignorance of partial civilisation, who do not hold them. The great majority of Christians have held them and still hold them. Moreover the oldest records we possess of the early conceptions of mankind in Egypt and in Mesopotamia prove that exactly such demonology, as is implied in the Gadarene story, formed the substratum, and, among the early Accadians, apparently the greater part, of their supposed knowledge of the spiritual world. M. Lenormant's profoundly interesting work on Babylonian magic and the magical texts given in the Appendix to Professor Sayce's" Hibbert Lectures " leave no doubt on this head. They prove that the doctrine of possession, and even the particular case of pig possession,1 were firmly believed in by the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians before the tribes of Israel invaded Palestine. And it is evident that these beliefs, from some time after the exile and probably much earlier, completely interpenetrated the Jewish mind, and thus became inseparably interwoven with the fabric of the synoptic Gospels.
Therefore, behind the question of the acceptance of the doctrines of the oldest heathen demonology as part of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity, there lies the question of the credibility of the
The wicked, before being annihilated, returned to the world to disturb men; they entered into the body of unclean animals, " often that of a pig, as on the Sarcophagus of Seti I. in the Soane Museum."—Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, p. 88, Editorial Note.
Gospels, and of their claim to act as our instruct-ors, outside that ethical province in which they appeal to the consciousness of all thoughtful men. And still, behind this problem, there lies another —how far do these ancient records give a sure foundation to the prodigious fabric of Christian dogma, which has been built upon them by the continuous labours of speculative theologians, during eighteen centuries ?
I submit that there are few questions before the men of the rising generation, on the answer to which the future hangs more fatally, than this. We are at the parting of the ways. Whether the twentieth century shall see a recrudescence of the superstitions of mediaeval papistry, or whether it shall witness the severance of the living body of the ethical ideal of prophetic Israel from the car-case, foul with savage superstitions and cankered with false philosophy, to which the theologians have bound it, turns upon their final judgment of the Gadarene tale.
The gravity of the problems ultimately involved in the discussion of the legend of Gadara will, I hope, excuse a persistence in returning to the subject, to which I should not have been moved by merely personal considerations.
With respect to the diluvial invective which overflowed thirty-three pages of the " Nineteenth Century " last January, I doubt not that it has a catastrophic importance in the estimation of its author. I, on the other hand, may be permitted to regard it as a mere spate ; noisy and threatening while it lasted, but forgotten almost as soon as it was over. Without my help, it will be judged by every instructed and clear-headed reader; and that is fortunate, because, were aid necessary, I have cogent reasons for withholding it.
In an article characterised by the same qualities of thought and diction, entitled " A Great Lesson," which appeared in the "Nineteenth Century" for September 1887, the Duke of Argyll, firstly, charged the whole body of men of science, interested in the question, with having conspired to ignore certain criticisms of Mr. Darwin's theory of the origin of coral reefs ; and, secondly, he asserted that some person unnamed had " actually induced " Mr. John Murray to delay the publication of his views on that subject " for two years."
It was easy for me and for others to prove that the first statement was not only, to use the Duke of Argyll's favourite expression, " contrary to fact," but that it was without any foundation whatever. The second statement rested on the Duke of Argyll's personal authority. All I could do was to demand the production of the evidence for it. Up to the present time, so far as I know, that evidence has not made its appearance ; nor has there been any withdrawal of, or apology for, the erroneous charge.
Under these circumstances most people will understand why the Duke of Argyll may feel quite secure of having the battle all to himself, whenever it pleases him to attack me.
[See the note at the end of " Hasisadra's Adventure " (vol iv. p. 283). The discussion on coral reefs, at the meeting of the British Association this year, proves that Mr. Darwin's views are defended now, as strongly as in 1891, by highly competent authorities. October 25, 1893.]
( Originally Published 1894 )
Illustrations Of Mr. Gladstone's Controversial Methods
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