"THE BIBLE WITHOUT NOTE OR COMMENT."
[TO THE EDITOR OP THE " SPECTATOR:1
Sia,—If you can spare me room, I should like to reply to my critics. In answer to the challenge of both (speaking not as a scholar, but as men speak of the leading facts of astronomy on the testi- mony of astronomers), I say that what I mean by " the real truth " about the Gospels is, that their age and origin axe matters of great doubt and controversy ; that their contents are as open to " the 'higher " or any other criticism as those of any other book, and require it in an especial degree ; and that the tendency of the freshest, most independent, most vigorous, and beat informed thought of the present day is to regard them as compilations, made at an uncritical period, of sufficienfly heterogeneous materials, not all of exactly the same age or tendency, and as to which it is at least an open question whether they do not embody much that is 'legendary, and another open question whether it is possible to separate the legendary from the historical with any confidence.
If this is so, I need not say what I hold to be the " real truth " about the views of their " authority " entertained by the supporters -of most of the denominational schools to which the education of 'the country is unfortunately to be so largely committed. 1 hold at also to be indubitable that on topics of first-rate importance, namely, the position of Judaism and its Messiah in the world, and the imminence of the end of the world, the Gospels are pervaded by much doctrine which mere history has proved to be erroneous, and much sentiment growing out of the doctrine.
Holding these views, and believing that religious prejudices folace our teaching class in a position of exceptional disadvantage in comparison with the Protestants of other countries, I cannot be expected to look for any sufficient result from the establish- ment of Biblical chairs in our Denominational Colleges, or from the attempts of their occupants to make " a living unity," " a divine history with apostolic commentaries," out of the body of 'literature which we call " the New Testament." I have suffi- -ciently shown that the results of modern scholarship to which I referred are not the small matters which "An Unsectarian Teacher" rightly treats as unimportant. And when I am in- dignantly told that humble schoolmasters will venture to tell the real truth as they see it (though indeed I do not wish them to do more in the case of children than to regulate their teaching by it), can but ask how long they will remain schoolmasters if they happen to see and teach these particular truths, and send your • correspondents to Dr. Davidson, Mr. Maurice (though his imputed 'heresies were of another kind), and Mr. Martineau for an answer.
You would not allow me the space, nor am I competent, to defend here the views which English churches and sects agree in pro- scribing. They are held by many, and by men who must be weighed as well as counted, and I am simply giving reasons why I think they -ought to resist an organized State system of Bible-teaching which they must hold fundamentally erroneous ; while, on the other land (and as my main point), I argue that those of opposite opinions wholly underrate the system on which both parties might find common ground. I do not gather that your other corre- spondents substantially dispute my positions with respect to the way the Bible has hitherto done its work. I only ask them to be satisfied with this.
Upon the letter of " An Unsectarian Teacher " I have a word -or two more to say. I am pressed by his argument that there are texts which seem to run counter to true ethical and political 'teaching. I do not think that much good will come of discussing these with children in a definite Bible-lesson, though I should be
• sorry to preclude a teacher from disembarrassing himself of them on those occasions for serious talk on charity and forgiveness of which it is plain your correspondent is highly qualified to avail himself. 1 do not know exactly what he would say to his little scholar about the texts in question, and if you, Sir, will try to give a short form, adapted to primary schools, for reconciling them as authoritative utterances with the lawfulness of a war for self- respect, such as the French are now waging, I think you will testify to the difficulty of the task. But whatever were said, I fancy the little scholar would not carry away much more than that " teacher had explained away the texts, and said that it did not mean we were really to go and do it." These elements of the Christian tradition have somehow received their needful qualifications in " the playground and the streets," the battle-field
and the market ; and yet in some way, better than the logical one, they have done much to soften the hearts of men. Let the gracious voices from the East still float around us in the air. The effect of the Sermon on the Mount will not be increased by having its sentences explained away as they are read.-1 am,