« ÎnapoiContinuați »
virtue.” You may ask whether there is a substantial difference between the words as written and the words as quoted. Yes; waiving the fact that when a man's veracity is to be tested he has a right to be tried by his exact words, there is this difference: as written the words referred to assert a logical conclusion, which, sound or unsound, is not regarded as a test of veracity, but involves merely a question of construction. The charge that the Bible taught or upheld polygamy as the highest form of virtue would imply that the Bible contained commands or precepts exceedingly favorable to it. Without averring this, we might still insist that as God's chosen people, and his especial favorites, who walked in his ways and were men after his own heart, were permitted to enjoy a multiplicity of wives without reproof, that such permission was equivalent to the divine sanction.
Yet we do not impeach the veracity of the good priest. He no doubt intended to be truthful, but in his anxiety to entrap Mr. Ingersoll got caught himself.
Ingersoll.—“ In the moral code (of the Old Testament), not one word is said on the subject of polygamy."
Lambert.-" Then why did you say that the Bible taught polygamy as the highest form of virtue?”
We have already shown that the Father has imputed to Mr. Ingersoll words which were not written by him. Here we have the same false charge the second time repeated.
Lambert.—“ If you look in Genesis, chap. ii., verse 24, you will find the following words: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife [not wives], and they shall be two in one flesh. This is the law of the case.
This text is sufficient to upset all your talk about the Bible teaching polygamy.”
Mark what Father Lambert is trying to disprove. His opponent had said: “In the moral code of the Old Testament not one word is said on the subject of polygamy.” Has this been disproved? What is a code ? A system or digest of
A laws. Does the one verse quoted answer to the definition ? Who wrote that one verse ? Some of the most orthodox scholars and divines now admit that Moses did not write it. Some years ago an able essayist wrote an article for the “Princeton Repertory and Review,” in which he argued that some ten different authors wrote the book of Genesis.
To whom was this command given? No one knows. Did the Jews regard it as a command ? It would seem not, for in the lifetime of Adam it is recorded (Genesis iv. 19): "And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.” Not a censure intimated from any quarter. No reproof of the vile practice is found from Genesis to Malachi; from the alpha to the omega of the Old Testament.
Moses is the reputed author of Genesis. Would he have recorded a law of God relating to the most sacred of relations, for the guidance of the human race of all nations and for all time, and then have shamelessly violated it? Was Davidthe man “who kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes” (1 Kings xiv. 8)—was he a gross violator of one of the first provisions of the divine “code ?”
But even if the clause referred to were prohibitory, the uninterrupted and unrebuked practice for thousands of years among God's own people, and even while he was their direct ruler, would certainly seem to be a practical repeal of the command. The injunction to keep the Sabbath day holy was thought of sufficient importance to be incorporated in the moral code, the ten commandments; and its violation was punished with death. At which would the Christian mind the more revolt—the picking of chestnuts on Sunday, or a harem a la Turk? Perhaps when Genesis, chapter ii., was written men were monogamists. That like men of the present day they may have thought one wife quite sufficientsometimes one too many. But the Jewish nature was covetous, and, though strict observers, in the main, of the ceremonial law, the Hebrews neglected marital proprieties as well as the weightier matters of the law, judgment and mercy. They grew, perchance, into polygamy, and if their Jehovah rebuked the practice they have failed to record the fact.
In what way was it " discouraged,” even, when the favorites of God were permitted to have wives ad libitum without admonition or reproof? Polygamy was
Polygamy was a concomitant of barbarism, and under the enlightening influence of civilization it faded away. It is not forbidden in the Old Testament, but the wisdom of experience condemned it and it was substantially, if not entirely, extirpated in Judea before the Christian
The Father says that slavery is not a sin per se (in itself); will he inform us whether polygamy and concubinage are sins per se, or sinless when practised for sanitary reasons ?
Lambert.—“But on what principle do you condemn polygamy? Christians say and believe it is wrong because God has forbidden it [when and where?], but by what right do you say it is wrong?
“Now in the light of this doctrine of liberty, how do you dare to obtrude yourself and notions between any man and woman? What right have you to limit a woman in her selection of a man, even though that man be the husband of other wives? ... Deny God and assert unlimited liberty, and where is the wrong in polygamy ?”
No one has pleaded for unlimited liberty, i. e., license. But how dare you obtrude,” etc. I answer for the same reason that we dare object to the immolation of witches and
heretics on the altar of superstition-because it injures those who practise it and outrages the rights of those who suffer from it; because it breeds domestic discord and visits wrongs innumerable upon innocent children who become its victims. For the same reason that we treat gambling as a crime, though the casting of lots was a scriptural method of deciding questions of ecclesiastical preferment, as it is now to raise money to maintain religious establishments. We see that games of chance played for money or things of value are injurious to society, and society has the right to protect itself. Our legislators did not pass laws against gambling because it was forbidden in the Bible, for there is there no command against it; but because injurious and immoral consequences are its uniform results. Slavery is not forbidden in the Bible, but sanctioned by it, yet nearly all civilized nations have abolished it by law. Why ask, then, how we dare interfere to prohibit polygamy?
Lambert.—"And if a man is a beast, and there is no future, what is to prevent him from following the instincts of his animal nature ? Reason?”
Yes, reason, were man all you suppose, which no claims; and also because he learns by experience that virtue is its own reward and conduces to happiness, even in this life, as well as because he is endued by nature with a sense of justice, and with affections which often make self-sacrifice a pleasure when it conduces to the happiness of others—that sense of justice and love of humanity which led deists and atheists to become prime movers in the war against polygamy and slavery. But you eloquently assert that the reason this sense of right restrains men "is because God's moral code permeates Christian thought, and makes a healthy public opinion which governs even those who deny this code."
What! when God's "moral code" established slavery and forbade not polygamy?
The doctrine, that if we had no revelation we would have neither moral sense nor moral law, not only antagonizes experience and sound philosophy but Scripture as well: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which show the work of the law, written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another” (Romans ii. 14, 15).
The Father quotes Rousseau, the French skeptic, to show the egotism of philosophers and the vanity of philosophy. We cite all our space will allow and refer to the “Notes" (which we hope all our readers may buy and read) for the balance.
"I have consulted our philosophers, I have perused their books, I have examined their several opinions, I have found them all proud, positive, and dogmatizing, even in their pretended skepticism; knowing everything, proving nothing, and ridiculing one another; and this is the only point in which they concur, and in which they are right.”
Too true of philosophy in Rousseau's day; and, although its spirit has been greatly elevated and chastened since he lived, there is yet room for a decided advance. Philosophy, alas! partakes of human infirmity. It is too often arrogant in dogmatism, and the food it offers to the hungry soul is but partially satisfying. We crave certainty and it proffers us doubt, and bids us further on. We sigh for “respite and nepenthe," and trust that theological science may allay our fears, and teach us lessons which shall make us wise and good; and we are met by a multitude of warring sects, which revile and persecute each other; each claiming to hold the only panacea, the genuine balm of Gilead, that alone can heal the wounds which ignorance and human infirmity have made. We find