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INDEX .... 







ClIAFrKll I 

freedom of thouont and the forces 
against it 


It is a common saying that thouglit is free. 
A man can never be hindered from thinking 
white ver he chooses so long as he conceals 
what he thinks. The working of his mind is 
limited only by the bounds of his experience 
and the power of his imagination. But this 
natural liberty of private thinking is of little 
value. It is unsatisfactory and even painful 
to the thinker himself, if he is not permitted to 
communicate his thoughts to others, and it is 
obviously of no value to his neighbours. More- 
over it is extremely difficult to hide thoughts 
that have any power over the mind. If a man's 
thinking leads him to call in question ideas and 
customs which regulate the behaviour of those 
about him, to reject beliefs which they hold, to 
see better ways of life than those they follow, 





it is almost impossible for him, if he is con- 
vinced of the truth of his own reasoning, not 
to betray by silence, chance words, or general 
attitude that he is different from them and 
does not share their opinions. Some have 
preferred, like Socrates, some would prefer 
to-day, to face death rather than conceal their 
thoughts. Thus freedom of thought, in any 
valuable sense, includes freedom of speech. 

At present, in the nost civilized countries, 
freedom of speech is taken as a matter of 
course and seems a perfectly simple thing. We 
are so accustomed to it that we look on it as 
a natural right. But this right has been 
acquired only in quite recent times, an<^ the 
way to its attainment has lain through lakes 
of blood. It has taken centuries to persuade 
the most enlightened peoples that liber ly to 
publish one's opinions and to discuss all 
questions is a good and not a bad thing. 
Human societies (there are some brilliant 
exceptions) have been generally opposed to 
freedom of thought, or, in other words, to 
new ideas, and it is easy to see why. 

The average brain is naturally lazy and 
tends to take the line of least resistance. The 
mental world of the ordinary man consists of 
beliefs which he has accepted without ques- 
tioning and to which he is firmly attached; 
he is instinctively hostile to anything which 

■VL.T V»».%*. 



would upset the established order of tliis 
familiar world. A new idea, inconsistent with 
some of the beliefs which he holds, means the 
necessity of rearranging his mind; and this 
process is laborious, requiring a painful ex- 
penditure of brain-energy. To him and his 
fellows, who form the vast majority, new 
ideas, and opinions which cai^t doubt on 
established beliefs and institutions, seem evil 
because they are disagreeable. 

The repugnance due to mere mental laziness 
is increased by a positive feeling of fear. The 
conservative instinct hardens into the conser- 
vative doctrine that the foundations of society 
are endangered by any alterations in the struc- 
ture. It is only recently that men have been 
abandoning the belief that the welfare of a 
state depends on rigid stability and on the 
preservation of its traditions and institutions 
unchanged. Wherever that belief prevails, 
novel opinions are felt to be dangerous as well 
as annoying, and any one who asks incon- 
venient questions about the why and the 
wherefore of accepted principles is considered 
a pestilent person. 

The conservative instinct, and the conser* 
vative doctrine which is its consequence, are 
strengthened by superstition. If the social 
structure, including the whole body of customs 
and opinions, is associated intimately with 




religious belief and is supposed to be under 
divine patronage, criticism of the social order 
savours of impiety, while criticism of the re- 
ligious belief is a direct challenge to the wrath 
of supernatural powers. 

The psychological motives which produce 
a conservative spirit hostile to new ideas 
are reinforced by the active opposition of 
certain powerful sections of the community, 
such as a class, a caste, or a priesthood, whose 
interests are bound up with the maintenance 
of the established order and the ideas on which 
it rests. 

Let us suppose, for instance, that a people 
believes that solar eclipses are signs employed 
by their Deity for the special purpose of com 
municating useful information to them, and 
that a clever man discovers the true cause of 
eclipses. His compatriots in the first place 
dislike his discovery because they find it ver> 
difficult to reconcile with their other ideas ; in 
the second place, it disturbs them, because it 
upsets an arrangement which they consider 
highly advantageous to their community; 
finally, it frightens them, as an offence to their 
Divinity. The priests, one of whose functions 
is to interpret the divine signs, are alarmed 
and enraged at a doctrine which menaces their 

In prehistoric days, these motives, operating 

i^TCB^'um.**:''"" ~«*_w 



strongly, must have made change slow in 
communities which progressed, and hindered 
some communities from progressing at all. 
But they have continued to operate more or 
less throughout history, obstructing know- 
ledge and progress. We can observe them at 
work to-day even in the most advanced 
societies, where they have no longer the 
power to arrest development or repress the 
publication of revolutionary opinions. We 
still meet people who consider a new idea an 
annoyance and probably a danger. Of those 
to whom socialism is repugnant, how many 
are there who have never examined the 
arguments for and against it, but turn away 
in disgust simply because the notion disturbs 
their mental universe and implies a drastic 
criticism on the order of things to which they 
are accustomed? And how many are there 
who would refuse to consider any proposals 
for altering our imperfect matrimonial institu- 
tions, because such an idea offends a mass of 
prejudice associated with religious sanctions ? 
They may be right or not, but if they are, it 
is not their fault. They are actuated by the 
same motives which were a bar to progress 
in primitive societies. The existence of people 
of this mentality, reared in an atmosphere of 
freedom, side by side with others who are 
always looking out for new ideas and regret- 




ting that there are not more about, enables us 
to realize how, when public opinion was formed 
by the views of such men, thought was fettered 
and the impediments to knowledge enormous. 

Although the liberty to p Llish one's 
opinions on any subject without regard to 
authority or the prejudices of one's neighbours 
is now a well-established principle, I imagine 
that only the minority of those who would 
be ready to fight to the death rather than 
surrender it could defend it on rational 
grounds. We are apt to take for granted that 
freedom of speech is a natural and inalienable 
birthright of man, and perhaps to think that 
this is a sufficient answer to all that can be 
said on the other side. But it is difficult to see 
how such a right can be established. 

If a man has any " natural rights," the 
right to preserve his life and the right to 
reproduce his kind are certainly such. Yet 
human societies impose upon their members 
restrictions in the exercise of both these rights. 
A starving man is prohibited from taking 
food which belongs to somebody else. Pro- 
mise s reproduction is restricted by various 
laws oi customs. It is admitted tL\t society 
is justified in restricting these eltnentary 
rights, because without such restrictions an 
ordered society could not exist. If then we 
concede that the expression of opinion is a 

■'-'Vki ^' tfi .- 



rlgiit of tlie same kind, it is impossible to 
contend that on this ground it can claim 
immunity from interference or that society 
acts unjustly in regulating it. But the con- 
cession is too large. For whereas in the other 
cases the limitations affect the conduct of 
every one, restrictions on freedom of opinion 
affect only the comparatively small number 
who have any opinions, revolutionary or 
unconventional, to express. The truth is that 
no valid argument can be founded on the 
conception of natural rights, because it 
involves an untenable theory of the relations 
between society and its members. 

On the other hand, those who have the 
responsibility of governing a society can 
argue that it is as incumbent on them to 
prohibit the circulation of pernicious opinions 
as to prohibit any anti-social actions. They 
can argue that a man may do far more harm 
by propagating anti-social doctrines than by 
stealing his neighbour's horse or making love 
to his neighbour's wife. They are responsible 
for the welfare of the State, and if they are 
convinced that an opinion is dangerous, by 
menacing the political, religious, or moral 
assumptions on which the society is based, it 
is their duty to protect society against it, as 
against any other danger. 

The true answer to this argument for 




limiting freedom of thought will appear in 
due course. It was far from obvious. A long 
time was needed to arrive at the conclusion 
that coercion of opinion is a mistake, and 
only a part of the world is yet convinced. 
That conclusion, so far as I can judge, is the 
most important ever reached by men. It was 
the issue of a continuous struggle between 
authority and reason — the subject of this 
volume. The word authority requires some 

If you ask somebody how he knows some- 
thing, he may say, " I have it on good 
authority," or, " I read it in a book," or, " It 
is a matter of common knowledge," oi, " I 
learned it at school." Any of these replies 
means that he has accepted information from 
ethers, trusting in their knowledge, without 
verifying their statements or thinking the 
matter out for himself. And the greater part 
of most men's knowledge and beliefs is of this 
kind, taken without verification from their 
parents, teachers, acquaintances, books, news- 
pa^ )ers. When an English boy learns French, 
he takes the conjugations and the meanings 
of the words on the authority of his teacher 
or his grammar. The fact that in a certain 
place, marked on the map, there is a populous 
city called Calcutta, is for most people a fact 
accepted on authority. So is the existence 




of Napoleon or Julius Cesar. Familiar 
astronomical facts are known only in the same 
way, except by those who have studied 
astronomy. It is obvious that every one's 
knowledge would be very limited indeed, if 
we were not justified in accepting facts on 
the authority of others. 

But we are justified only under one con- 
dition. The facts which we can safely accept 
must be capable of demonstration or verifica- 
tion. The examples I have given belong to 
this class. The boy can verify when he goes 
to France or is able to read a French book that 
the facts which he took on authority are true. 
I am confronted every day with evidence 
which proves to me that, if I took the trouble, 
I could verify the existence of Calcutta for 
myself. I cannot convince myself in this 
way of the existence of Napoleon, but if I 
have doubts about it, a simple process of 
reasoning shows me that there are hosts of 
facts which are incompatible with liis non- 
existence. I have no doubt that the earth is 
some 98 millions of miles distant from the 
sun, because all astronomers agree that it 
has been demonstrated, and their agreement is 
only explicable on the supposition that this 
has been demonstrated and that, if I took the 
trouble to work out the calculation, I should 
reach the same result. 


I -.mam v.if a.u;''. . ■ ^af-* , -^ rKtaw -.t^r . 


But all our mental furniture is not of this 
kind. The thoughts of the average man 
consist not only of facts open to verification , 
but also of many beliefs and opinions which 
he has accepted on authority and cannot 
verify or prove. Helief in the Trinity depends 
on the authority of the Church and is clearly 
o a different order from belief in the existence 
of Calcutta. We cannot go behind the 
authority and verify or prove it. If ^vc accept 
it we do so because we have such implic t 
faith in the authority that we credit its 
assertions though incapable of proof. 

The distinction may seem so obvioub as 
to be hardly worth making. But it .s im- 
,K)rtant to be quite clear al>out it. Ihc 
"imitive man who had learned from h.s 
elders that there were bears in tlic lulls and 
Lwise evil spirits, soon verified the former 
statement by seeing a bear, but i he did not 
happen to meet an evil spirit, it did not occur 
to him, unless he was a prodigy, that there 
was a distinction between the two statements ; 
lie would rather have argued, if he argued at 
all that as his tribesmen were right about the 
btrthey were sure to be right also about 
the spirits. In the Middle Ages a man who 
believed on authority that there is a city called 
Constantinople and that comets are portents 
s^^ls divine wrath, would not distinguish 




the nature of the evidence in the two cases. 
You may still sometimes hear arguments 
amounting to this : since I beheve in Calcutta 
on authority, am I not entitled to believe in 
the Devil on authority ? 

Now people at all times have been com- 
manded or expected or invited to accept on 
authority alone — the authority, for instance, 
of public opinion, or a Church, or a sacred 
l)ook — doctrines which are not proved or are 
not capable of proof. Most beliefs about 
nature and man, which were not founded on 
scientific observation, have served directly or 
indirectly religious and social interests, and 
hence they have been protected by force 
against the criticisms of persons who have 
the inconvenient habit of using their reason. 
Nobody minds if his neighbour disbelieves a 
demonstrable fact. If a sceptic denies that 
Napoleon existed, or that water is composed 
of oxygen and hydrogen, he causes amusement 
or ridicule. But if he denies doctrines which 
cannot be demonstrated, such as the exist- 
ence of a personal God or the immortality of 
the soul, he incurs serious disapprobation 
and at one time he might have been put to 
death. Our mediaeval friend would have only 
been called a fool if he doubted the existence 
of Constantinople, but if he had questioned 
the significance of comets he might have got 



into rouble. It is possible iliat if he had 
been so mad as to deny the existence of 
Jerusalem he would not have escaped with 
ridicule, for Jerusalem is mentioned in the 


In the Middle Ages a large field was covered 
by beliefs which authority claimed to impose 
as true, and reason was warned off the ground. 
But reason cannot recognize arbitrary pro- 
hibitions or barriers, without being untrue to 
herself. The universe of experience is her 
province, and as its parts are all linked 
together and interdependent, it is impossible 
for her to recognize any territory on which 
she may not tread, or to surrender any of her 
rights to an authority whose credentials she 
has not examined and approved. 

The uncompromising assertion by reason 
of her absolute rights throughout the whole 
domain of thought is termed rationalism, and 
the slight stigma which is still attached to the 
word reflects the bitterness of the struggle 
between reason and the forces arrayed against 
her. The term is limited to the field of 
theology, because it was in that field that the 
self-assertion of reason was most violently and 
pertinaciously opposed. In the same way 
free thought, the refusal of thought to be con- 
trolled by any authority but its own, has a 
definitely theological reference. Throughout 



the conflict, authority h&n had great advan- 
tages. At any time the people who really 
care about reason have been a small tninority, 
and probably will be so for a long time 
to come. Reason's only weaf>on has been 
argument. Authority has employed physical 
and moral violence, legal coercion and social 
displeasure. Sometimes she has attempted 
to use the sword of her adversary, thereby 
wounding herself. Indeed the weakest point 
in the strategical position of authority was 
that her champions, being human, could not 
help making use of reasoning processes and 
the result was that they were divided among 
themselves. This gave reason her clience. 
Operating, as it were, in the enemy's np 
and professedly in the enemy's cause, she 
wa» preparing her own victory. 

It may be objected that there is a legitimate 
domain for authority, consisting of doctrines 
which lie outside human experience and 
therefore cannot be proved or verified, but 
at the same time cannot be disproved. Of 
course, any number of propositions can be in- 
vented which cannot be disproved, and it is 
open to any one who possesses exuberant faith 
to believe them ; but no one will maintain that 
they all deserve credence so long as their 
falsehood is not demonstrated. And if only 
some deserve credence, who, except reason. 



^*' ^-'^ 

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is to decide which 't H the reply is, 
Authority, we are confronted by the difficulty 
that many beliefs backed by authority have 
been finally dispro'^ed and arc universally 
abandoned. Yet some people speak as if we 
were not justified in rejecting a theological 
doctrine unless we can prove it false. Hut 
the burden of proof does not lie upon the 
rejecter. I remember a conversation in which, 
when some disrespectful remark was made 
about hell, a loyal friend of that establish- 
ment said triumphantly, ** liut, absurd as it 
may seem, you cannot disprove it." If you 
were told that in a certain planet revolving 
round Sirius there is a race of donkeys who 
talk the English language and spend their 
time in discussing eugenics, you could not 
disprove the statement, but would it, on that 
account, have any claim to be believed? 
Some minds would be prepared to accept it, 
if it were reiterated often enough, through 
the potent force of suggestion. This force, 
exercised largely by emphatic repetition (the 
theoretical basis, as has been observed, of the 
modern practice of advertising), has played 
a great part in establishing authoritative 
opinions and propagating religious creeds. 
Reason fortunately is ble to avail herself of 
the same help. 

The following sketch is confined to Western 



civilization. It begins with Greece and 
attempts to indicate the cfiicf phases. It in 
the merest introduction to a vast and intricate 
subject, which, treated adequately, would 
involve not only the history of religion, of the 
Churches, of heresies, of persecution, but also 
the history of philosophy, of the natural 
sciences and of political theories. From the 
sixteenth century to the French Revolution 
nearly all important historical events bore in 
some way on the struggle for freedom of 
thought. It would require a lifetime to 
calculate, and many books to describe, all thr 
directions anu »ceractions of the intellectual 
and social foices which, since the fall of 
ancient civilization, have hindered aiid helped 
the emancipation of reason. All one can do, 
all one could do even in a much bigger volume 
than this, is to indicate the general course of 
the struggle and dwell on some particilar 
aspects which the writer may happen to Have 
specially studied. 



When we are asked to specify the debt 
which civilization owes to the Greeks, their 

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L' »B3C*'.^¥ti 



i I. 

': i! 

achievements in literature and art naturally 
occur to us first of all. But a truer answer 
may be that our deepest gratitude is due to 
them as the originators of liberty of thought 
and discussion. For this freedom of spirit 
was not only the condition of their speculations 
in philosophy, their progress in science, their 
experiments in political institutions; it was 
also a condition of their literary and artistic 
excellence. Their literature, for instance, 
could not have been what it is if they had been 
debarred from free criticism of life. But 
apart from what they actually accomplished, 
even if they had not achieved the wonderful 
things they did in most of the realms of 
human activity, their assertion of the prin- 
ciple of liberty would place them in the 
highest lank among the benefactors of the 
race; for it was one of the greatest steps in 
huraan progress. 

W J do not know enough about the earliest 
history of the Greeks to explain how it was 
that they attained their free outlook upon the 
world and came to possess the will and courage 
to set no bounds to the range of their criticism 
and curiosity. We have to take this character 
as a fact. But it must be remembered that 
the Greeks consisted of a large number of 
separate peoples, who varied largely in temper, 
customs and trnditions, though they had 



importaat features common to all. Some 
were conservative, or backward, or unmtel- 
lectual compared with others. In this chapter 
" the Greeks " does not mean all the lareeKS, 
but only those who count most in the history 
of civilization, especially the lonians and 

Athenians. . 

Ionia in Asia Minor was the cradle of free 
speculation. The history of European science 
and European philosophy begins m Ionia. 
Here (in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.) 
the early phUosophers by using their reason 
sought to penetrate into the ongm and 
structure of the world. They coul4 not of 
course free their minds entirely from received 
notions, but they began the work of destroying 
orthodox views and religious faiths. Aeno- 
phanes may specially be named among these 
pioneers of thought (though he was not the 
most important or the ablest) because the 
toleration of his teaching illustrates the 
freedom of the atmosphere in which these men 
lived He went about from city to city, 
calling in question on moral grounds the 
popular beliefs about the gods and goddesses, 
and ridiculing the anthropomorphic concep- 
tions which the Greeks had formed of their 
divinities. "If oxen had hands and the 
capacities of men, they would make gods m 
the shape of oxen." This attack on received 





theology was an attack on the veracity of the 
old poets, especially Homer, who was con- 
sidered the highest authority on mythology. 
Xenophanes criticized him severely for ascrib- 
ing to the gods acts which, committed by men, 
would be considered highly disgraceful. We 
do not hear that any attempt was made to 
restrain him from thus assailing traditional 
behefs and branding Homer as immoral. We 
must remember that the Homeric poems were 
never supposed to be the word of God. It 
has been i»aid that Homer was the Bible of 
the Greeks. The remark exactly misses the 
truth. The Greeks fortunately had no Bible, 
and this fact was both an expression and 
an important condition of their freedom. 
Homer's poems were secular, not religious, 
and it may be noted that they are freer from 
inmiorality and savagery than sacred books 
that one could mention. Their authority was 
immense; but it was not binding like the 
authority of a sacied book, and so Homeric 
criticism was never hampered like Biblical 

In this connexion, notice may be taken of 
another expression and condition of freedom, 
the absence of sacerdotalism. The priests of 
the temples never became powerful castes, 
tyrannizing over the community in their own 
interests and able to silence voices raised 



against religious beliefs. The civil authorities 
kept the general control of public worship in 
their own hands, and, if some priestly families 
might have considerable influence, yet as a 
rule the priests were virtually State servants 
whose voice carried no weight except con- 
cerning the technical details of ritual. 

To return to the early philosophers, who 
were mostly materialists, the record of their 
speculations is an interesting chapter in the 
history of rationalism. Two great names 
may be selected, Heraclitus and Democritus, 
beci\use they did more perhaps than any of 
the others, by sheer hard thinking, to train 
reason to look upon the universe in new ways 
and to shock the unreasoned concer''ons of 
common sense. It was startling to be ^aught, 
for the first time, by Heraclitus, that the 
appearance of stability and permanence which 
material things present to our senses is a false 
appearance, and that the world and every- 
thing in it are changing every instant. 
Democritus performed the r;naz'ng feat of 
working out an atomic theoij of the universe, 
which was revived in the seventeenth century 
and is connected, in the history of specula- 
tion, with the most modern physical and 
chemical theories of matter. No fantastic 
tales of creation, imposed by sacred authority, 
hampered these powerful brains. 




l^ i 

I' : 

[ f 
I! ^* 

All this philosophical speculation prepared 
the way for the educationalists who were 
known as the Sophists. They begin to appear 
after the middle of the fifth century. They 
worked here and there throughout Greece, 
constantly travelling, training young men for 
public life, and teaching them to use their 
reason. As educators they had practical ends 
in view. They turned away from the problems 
of the physical universe to the problems of 
human life — morality and politics. Here they 
were confronted with the difficulty of distin- 
guishing between truth and error, anc the 
ablest of them investigated the nature of 
knowledge, the method of reason — logic — 
and the instrument of reason — speech. What- 
ever their particular theories might be, their 
general spirit was that of free inquiry and 
discussion. They sought to test everything 
by reason. The second half of the fifth 
century might be called the age of Illumina- 

It may be remarked that the knowledge 
of foreign countries which the Greeks had 
acquired had a considerable effect in promot- 
ing a sceptical attitude towards authority. 
When a man is acquainted only with the 
/habits of his own country, they seem so much 
a mtiiter of course that he ascribes them to 
nature, but when he travels abroad and finds 




totally different habits and standards of 
conduct prevailing, ' e begins to understand 
the power of custom, and leams that 
morality and religion are matters of latitude. 
This discovery tends to weaken authority, 
and to raise disquieting reflections, as in the 
case of one who, brought up as a Christian, 
comes to realize that, if he had been born on 
the Ganges or the Euphrates, he would have 
firmly believed in entirely different dogmas. 

Of course these movements of intellectual 
freedom were, as in all ages, confined to the 
minority. Everywhere the masses were 
exceedingly superstitious. They believed that 
the safety of their cities depended on the 
good-will of their gods. If this superstitious 
spirit were alarmed, there was always a 
danger that philosophical speculations might 
be persecuted. And this occurred in Athens. 
About the middle of the fifth centuiry Athens 
had not only becoine the most powerful State 
in Greece, but was also taking the highest 
place in literature and art. She was a full- 
fledged democracy. Political discussion was 
perfectly free. At this time she was guided 
by the statesman Pericles, who was person- 
ally a freethinker, or at least was in touch 
with all the subversive speculations of the 
day. He was especially intimate with the 
philosopher Anaxagoras who had come from 


If I 

li ; 

If I 



. I 

I! r 



teach at Athens. In regard to the 
popular gods Anaxagoras was a thorough- 
going unbehever. The political enemies of 
Pericles struck at him by attacking his friend. 
They introduced and carried a blasphemy 
law, to the effect that unbelievers and those 
who taught theories about the celestial world 
might be impeached. It was easy to prove 
that Anaxagoras was a blasphemer who 
taught that the gods were abstractions and 
that the sun, to which the ordinary Athenian 
said prayers morning and evening, was a mass 
of flaming matter. The influence of Pericles 
saved him from death; he was heavily fined 
and left Athens for Lampsacus, where he was 
treated with consideration and honour. 

Other cases are recorded which show that 
anti-religious thought was liable to be perse- 
cuted. Protagoras, one of the greatest of the 
Sophists, published a book On the Gods, 
the object of which seems to have been to 
prove that one cannot know the gods by 
reason. The first words ran : " Concerning 
the gods, I cannot say that they exist nor 
yet that they do not exist. There are more 
reasons than one why we cannot know. There 
is the obscurity of the subject and there is the 
brevity of human life." A charge of blas- 
phemy was lodged against him and he fled 
from Athens. But there was no systematic 




policy of suppressing free tliought. Copies 
of the work of Protagoras were collected and 
burned, but the book of Anaxagoras setting 
forth the views for which he had been con- 
demned was for sale on the Athenian book- 
stalls at a popular pncc. Rationalistic ideas 
moreover were venturing to appear on the 
stage, though the dramatic performances, at 
the feasts of the god Dionysus, were religious 
solemnities. The poet Euripides was saturated 
with modern speculation, and, while different 
opinions may be held as to the tendencies of 
some of his tragedies, he often allows his 
characters to express highly unorthodox 
views. He was prosecuted for impiety by a 
popular politician. We may suspect that 
during the last thirty years of the fifth 
century unorthodoxy spread considerably 
among the educated classes. There was a 
large enough section of influential rationalists 
to render impossible any organized repression 
of liberty, and the chief evil of the blasphemy 
law was that it could be used for personal 
or party reasons. Some of the prosecutions, 
about which we know, were certainly due to 
such motives, others may have been prompted 
by genuine bigotry and by the fear lest 
sceptical thought should extend beyond the 
highly educated and leisured class. It was a 
generally accepted principle among the Greeks, 




II J- 


and afterwards among the Romans, that re- 
ligion was a good and necessary thing for the 
common people. Men who did not believe in 
its truth believed in its usefulness as a political 
institution, and as a rule philosophers did not 
seek to diffuse disturbing " truth " among 
the masses. It was the custom, much more 
than at the present day, for those who did not 
believe in the established cults to conform to 
them externally. Popular higher education 
was not an article in the programme of Greek 
statesmen or thinkers. And perhaps it may 
be argued that in the circumstances of the 
ancient world it would have been hardly 

There was, however, one illustrious Athen- 
ian, who thought differently—Socrates, the 
philosopher. Socrates was the greatest of 
the educationalists, but unlike the others he 
taught gratuitously, though he was a poor 
man. His teaching always took the form of 
discussion; the discussion often ended in no 
positive result, but had the effect of showing 
that some received opinion was untenable 
and that truth is difficult to ascertain. He 
had indeed certain definite views about 
knowledge and virtue, which are of the 
highest importance in the history of philo- 
sophy, but for our present purpo. 5 his 
significance lies in his enthusiasm for discus- 





sion anci criticism. He taught those with 
whom he conversed — and he conversed indis- 
criminately with all who would listen to him 
— to hring all popular beliefs before the bur 
of reason, to approach every inquiry witli an 
open mind, and not to judge by the opinion 
of majorities or the dictate of authority; in 
short to seek for other tests of the truth of an 
opinion than the fact that it is Iield by a great 
many people. Among his disciples were all 
the young men who were to become the 
leading philosophers of the next generation 
and some who played prominent parts in 
Athenian history. 

If the Athenians had had a daily press, 
Socrates would have been denounced by the 
journalists as a dangerous person. They had 
a comic drama, which constantly held up to 
ridicule philosophers and sophists and their 
vain doctrines. We possess one play (the 
Clouds of Aristophanes) in which Socrates 
is pilloried as a typical representative of 
impious and destructive speculations. Apart 
from annoyances of this kind, Socrates 
reached old age, pursuing the task of instruct- 
ing his fellow-citizens, without any evil 
befalling him. Then, at the age of seventy, 
he was prosecuted as an atheist and corrupter 
of youth and was put to death (399 B.C.). 
It is strange that if the Athenians really 







thought him dangerous they sliould have 
suffered him so long. There can, I think, be 
Uttle doubt that the motives of the accusation 
were political.* Socrates, looking at things 
as he did, could not be sympathetic with 
unlimited democracy, or approve of the prin- 
ciple that the will of the ignorant majority 
was a good guide. He was probably known 
to sympathize with those who wished to limit 
the franchise. When, after a struggle in which 
the constitution had been more than once 
overthrown, democracy emerged triumphant 
(408 B.C.), there was a bitter feeling against 
those who had not been its friends, and of 
these disloyal persons Socrates was chosen as 
a victim. If he had wished, he could easily 
have escaped. If he had given an under- 
taking to teach no more, he would almost 
certainly have been acquitted. As it was, of 
the 501 ordinary Athenians who were his 
judges, a very large minority voted for his 
acquittal. Even then, if he had adopted a 
different tone, he would not have been 
condemned to death. 

He rose to the great occasion and vindi- 
cated freedom of discussion in a wonder- 
ful unconventional speech. The Apology of 

I This has been shown very clearly by Professor 
Jackson in the article on " Socrates *' in the Enq/clo- 
ptxdia BHiannka, last edition. 

r! r=i..^i--r 



Socraks, which was coin{M>8€d by hist most 
brilliant pupil, Tlato the philosopher, repro« 
duces the general tenor of his defence. It is 
clear that he was not able to meet satis- 
factorily the charge that he did not acknow- 
ledge the gods worshipped by the city, and 
his explanations on this point are the weak 
part of his speech. But he met the accusation 
that he corrupted the minds of the young by 
a splendid plea for free discussion. This is 
the most /aluable section of the Apology; 
it is as impressive to-day as ever. I think the 
two principal points which he makes are 
these — 

(1) He maintains that the individual should 
at any cost refuse to be coerced by any human 
authority or tribunal into a course which his 
own mind condemns as wrong. That is, he 
asserts the supremacy of the individual 
conscience, as we should say, over human 
law. He represents his own life-work as a 
sort of religious quest; he feels convinced 
that in devoting himself to philosophical 
discussion he has done the bidding of a super- 
human guide; and he goes to death rather 
thon be untrue to this personal conviction. 
" If you propose to acquit me," he says, " on 
condition that I abandon my search for 
truth, I will say : I thank you, O Athenians, 

but I will obey God, who, as I believe, set me 




tliis tusk, rather than you, and so long as I 
liavc breath and strength I will never cease 
from my occupation with philoHophy. I will 
continue the practice of accosting whomever 
I meet and saying to him, * Are you not 
ashamed of setting your heart on wealth and 
honours while you Iwve no care for wisdom 
and truth and making your • ul better ? * 1 
know not what death is—it may be a good 
thing, and I am not afraid of it. Hut 1 do 
know that it is a bad thing to desert one's 
|)08t and I prefer what may be go^d to what 
I know to be bad." 

(2) He insists on the public value of free 
discussion. ** In me you have a stinmlating 
critic, persistently urging you with persuasion 
and reproaches, persistently testing your 
opinions and ♦-ying to show you that you are 
really ignorant of what y^M su}>j)ose you 
know. Daily discussion of the matters about 
which you hear me conversing is the highest 
good for man. Life that is not tested by such 
discussion is not worth living." 

Thus in what we may call the earliest 
justification of liberty of thought wr have 
two significant claims affirmed : the inde- 
feasible right of the conscience of the in- 
dividual—a claim on which later struggles 
for liberty were to turn; and the social 
importance of discussion and criticism. The 



furnifr claim is not based on urKunicnt but 
on intuition ; it rests in fact on the assump- 
tion o( M>nie son of su[)erhuinan moral 
prineiplf. und to those who, not having the 
same personal experience as Socrates, reject 
this assumption, liis pleading does not carry 
weiglit. The second claim, after the ex[)eri- 
ence of more than 2,000 years, can be formu- 
lated more comprehensively now wit li bearingK 
of which he did not dream. 

The circumstances of the trial of Socrates 
illustrate both the tolerance and the intoler- 
ance which prevailed at Athens. Ilis long 
immunity, the fact that he was at last indicted 
from imlitical motives an<l perhaps personal 
also, the large minority in his favour, all show 
tliat thought was normally free, and that the 
mass of intolerance which existed was only 
fitfully invoked, and perhaps most often to 
serve other purposes. I n.^iy mention the 
case of the philosopher Aristotle, who some 
seventy years later left Athens because he 
was menaced by a prosecution for blasphemy, 
the charge being a pretext for attacking one 
who belonged to a certain political party. 
The j)ersecution of opinion was never 

It may seem curious that to find the 
persecuting spirit in Greece we have to turn 
to the philosophers. Piato, the most brilliant 







disciple of Socrates, constructed in his later 
years an ideal State. In this State he insti- 
tuted a religion considerably different from the 
current religion, and proposed to compel all 
the citizens to believe in his gods on pain 
of death or imprisonment. All freedom of 
discussion was excluded under the cast-iron 
system which he conceived. But the point 
of interest in his attitude is that he did not 
care much whether a religion was true, but 
only whether it was morally useful; he was 
prepared to promote morality by edifyin^,' 
fables; and he condemned the popular 
mythology not because it was false, but 
because it did not make for righteousness. 

The outcome of the large freedom permitted 
at Athens was a series of philosop; les which 
had a common source in the conversations 
of Socrates. Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, the 
Epicureans, the Sceptics — it may be main- 
tained that the efforts of thought represented 
by these names have had a deeper influence 
on the progress of man than any other con- 
tiguous intellectual movement, at least until 
the rise of modern science in a new epoch of 

The doctrines of the Epicureans, Stoics, and 
Sceptics all aimed at securing peace and 
guidance for the individual soul. They were 
widely propagated throughout the Greek 




world from the third century B.C., and we 
may say that from this time onward most 
well-educated Greeks were more or less 
rationalists. The teaching of Epicurus had 
a distincl anti-icl'f^ir'us tendency. He con- 
sidered U Y \o he tiic fundamental motive of 
religion, ino to frcv men's minds from this 
fear was a principal object of his teaching. 
He was a Materialist, explaining the world by 
the at ^mic theory of Democritus and denying 
any divine government of the universe.^ He 
did indeed hold the existence of gods, but, 
so far as men are concerned, his gods are as 
if they were not — living in some remote 
abode and .'n joying a " sacred and everlasting 
calm." They just served as an example of 
the realization of the ideal Epicurean life. 

There was something in this philosophy 
which had the power to inspire a poet of 
singular genius to expound it in verse. The 
Roman Lucretius (first century B.C.) regarded 
Epicurus as the great deliverer of the human 
race and determined to proclaim the glad 
tidings of his philosophy in a poem On the 

^ He stated the theolo; cal diflBculty as to the origin 
of evil in this form : God either wishes to abolish evil and 
cannot, or can and will not, or neither can nor will, or 
both can and will. The first three are unthinkable, if 
he is a God worthy of the name ; therefore the last alterna- 
tive must be true. Why then does evil exist? The 
inference is that there is no God, in the sense of a governor 
of the world. 



i : 

Nature of the World.^ With all the fervour 
of a religious enthusiast he denounces religion, 
sounding every note of defiance, loathing, 
and contempt, and branding in burning words 
the crimes to which it had urged man o^i. He 
rides forth as a leader of the hosts of atheism 
against the walls of heaven. He explains the 
scientific arguments as if they were the 
radiant revelation of a new world; and the 
rapture of his enthusiasm is a strange accom- 
paniment of a doctrine which aimed at perfect 
calm. Although the Greek thinkers had done 
all the work and the Latin poem is a hymn of 
triumph over prostrate deities, yet in the 
literature of free though* it must always hold 
an eminent place by the sincerity of its 
audacious, defiant spirit. In the histor" of 
rationalis 11 its interest would be greater if it 
had exploded in the midst of an orthodox 
community. But the educated Romans in 
the days of Lucretius were sceptical in 
religious matters, some of them were Epicu- 
reans, and we may suspect that not many 
of those who read it were shocked or in- 
fluenced by the audacities of the champion 
of irreligion. 

The Stoic philosophy made notable con- 
tributions to the cause of liberty and could 

* An admirable appreciation of the poem will be 
found in R. Y. Tyrrell's Lectures on Latin Poetry. 



hardly have flourished in an atmosphere 
wheio discussion was not free. It asserted 
the rights of individuals against public 
authority. Socrates had seen that laws may be 
unjust and that peoples may go wrong, but he 
had found no principle for the guidance of 
society. The Stoics discovered it in the law 
of nature, prior and superior to all the customs 
and written laws of peoples, and this doctrine, 
spreading outside Stoic circles, caught hold 
of the Roman world and affected Roman 

These philosophies have carried us from 
Greece to Rome. In the later Roman Repub- 
lic and the early Empire, no restrictions were 
imposed on opinion, and these philosophies, 
which made the individual the first considera- 
tion, spread widely. Most of the leading men 
were unbelievers in the official religion of the 
State, but they considered it valuable ftr *ne 
purpose of keeping the uneducated po^^ulace 
in order. A Greek historian expresses high 
approval of the Roman policy of cultivating 
superstition for the benefit of the masses. 
This was the attitude of Cicero, and the view 
that a false religion is indispensable as a social 
machine was general among ancient un- 
believers. It is common, in one form or 
another, to-day; at least, religions are con- 
stantly defended on the ground not of truth 











but of utility. This defence .ongs to the 
statecraft of Machiavelli. w< . taught that 
religion if necessary for government, and 
that It ma be the duty of a ruler to support 
a religion which he believes to be false. 

A word must be said of Lucian (second 
century a.d.). the last Creek man of letters 
whose writings appeal to ever>'body. He 
attacked the popular mythology with open 
ridicule. It IS impossible to say whether his 
satires had any effect at the time beyond 
affording enjoyment to educated infidels who 
read them. Zeus in a Tragedy Part is one 
of the most effective. The situation which 
Iwucinn imagined here would be paralleled if a 
modern writer were blasphemously to repre- 
sent the Persons of the Trinity with some 
emment angels and saints discussing in a 
celestial smoke-room the alarming growth of 
unbelief in England and then by means of a 
telephonic apparatus overhearing a dispute 
between a freethinker and a parson on a 
public platform in London. The absurdities 
of anthropomorphism have never been the 
subject of more brilliant jesting than in 
Lucian s satires. 

The general rule of Roman policy was to 
tolerate throughout the Empire all religions 
and al opinions. Blasphemy was not 
punished. The principle was expressed in the 



maxim ol the Emperor Tiberius : " If the 
gods are insulted, let them see to it them- 
selves." An exception to the rule of tolerance 
was made in the case of the Christian sect, and 
the treatment of this Oriental religion may be 
said to have inaugurated religious persecution 
in Europe. It is a matter > f interest to 
imderstand why Emperors who were able, 
humane, and not in the least fanatical, 
adopted this exceptional policy. 

For a long time the Christians were only 
known to those Romans who happened to 
hear of them, as a sect of the Jews. The 
Jewish was the one religion which, on account 
of its exclusiveness and intolerance, was 
regarded by the tolerant pagans with dis- 
favour and suspicion. But though it some- 
times came into collision with the Roman 
authorities and some ill-advised attacks upon 
it were made, it was the constant policy of 
the Emperors to let it alone and to protect 
the Jews against the hatred which their own 
fanaticism aroused. But while the Jewish 
religion was endured so long as it wcs confined 
to those who were born into it» the prospect 
of its dissemination raised a new question. 
Grave misgivings might arise in the mind of a 
ruler at seeing a creed spreading which was 
aggressively hostile to all the other creeds of 
the world — creeds which lived together in 






amity — and had earned for its adherents the 
reputation of being the enemies of the human 
race. Might not its expansion beyond the 
Israelites involve ultimately a danger to the 
Empire? For its spirit was incompatible 
with the traditions and basis of Roman 
society. The Emperor Domitian seems to 
have seen the question in this light, and he 
took severe measures to hinder the proselyt- 
izing of Roman citizens. Some of those whom 
he struck may have been Christians, but if he 
was aware of the distinction, there was from 
his point of view no difference. Christianity 
resembled Judaism, from which it sprang, in 
intolerance and in hostility towards Roman 
society, but it differed by the fact that it made 
many proselytes while Judaism made few. 

Under Trajan we find that the principle 
lias been laid down that to be a Christian is an 
offence punishable by death. Henceforward 
Christianity remained an illegal religion. 
But in practice the law was not applied 
rigorously or logically. The Emperors desired, 
if possible, to extirpate Christianity with- 
out shedding blood. Trajan laid down 
that Christians were not to be sought out, 
that no anonymous charges were to be 
noticed, and that an informer who failed to 
make good his charge should be liable to be 
punished under the laws against calumny. 





Christians themselves recognized that this 
edict practically protected them. There were 
some executions in the second century — not 
many that are well attested — and Christians 
courted the pain and glory of martyrdom. 
There is evidence to show that when they were 
arrested their escape was often connived at. 
In general, the persecution of the Christians 
was rather provoked by the populace than 
desired by the authorities. The populace 
felt a horror of this mysterious Oriental sect 
which openly hated all the gods and i)rayed 
for the destruction of the world. When floods, 
famines, and especially fires occurred they 
were apt to be attributed to the black magic 
of the Christians. 

When any one was accused of Christianity, 
he was required, as a means of testing the 
truth of the charge, to offer incense to the 
gods or to the statues of deified Emperors. 
His compliance at once exonerated him. The 
objection of the Christians — they and the 
Jews were the only objectors — to the worship 
of the Emperors was, in the eyes of the 
Romans, one of the most sinister signs that 
their religion was dangerous. The purpose 
of this worship was to symbolize the unity 
and solidarity of an Empire which embraced 
so many peoples of different oeliefs and 
different gods; its intention was political, 



to promote union and loyalty ; and it is not 
surprising that those who denounced it should 
be suspected of a disloyal spirit. Hut it rrust 
be noted that there was no necessity for any 
citizen to take part in this worship. No 
conformity was required from any inhabitants 
of the Empire who were not serving the State 
as soldiers or civil functionaries. Thus the 
effect was to debar Christians from military 
and official careers. 

The Apologies for Christianity which 
appeared at this period (second century) 
might have helped, if the Emperors (to whom 
some of them were addressed) had read them, 
to confirm the view that it was a political 
danger. It would have been easy to read 
between the lines that, if the Christians ever 
got the upper hand, they would not spare the 
cults of the State. The contemporary work of 
Tatian (A Discourse to the Greeks) reveals 
what the Apologists more or less sought 
to disguise, invincible hatred towards the 
civilization in which they lived. Any reader 
of the Christian literature of the time could 
not fail to see that in a State where Christians 
had the power there ./ould be no tolerance of 
other religious practices.^ If the Emperors 

1 For the evidence of the Apologists see A, Bouoh6. 
Leclercq, Religious Intolerance and Politics (French, 1911) 
— a Taluable review of the whole subject. 



made an exception to their tolerant j)(>licy in 
the ease of Christianity, their pur|)ose was to 
safegnard tolerance. 

In the third century the religioi., though 
still forbidden, was quite openly tolerated; 
the Church organized itself without conceal- 
ment; ecclesiastical councils assembled with- 
out interference. There were some brief and 
local attempts at repression, there was only 
one grave persecution (begun by Decius, 
A.D. 250, and continued by Valerian). In 
fact, throughout this century, tliere were not 
many victims, though afterwards the Chris- 
tians invented a whole mythology of martyr- 
doms. Many cruelties were imputed to 
Emperors under whom we know that the 
Church enjoyed perfect peace. 

A long period of civil confusion, in wliich 
The Empire seemed to be tottering to its 
fall, had been terminated by the Emperor 
Diocletian, who, by his radical administrative 
reforms, 1 Iped to preserve the Roman power 
in ito integrity for another century. He 
desired to support his work of political 
consolidation by reviving the Roman spirit, 
and he attempted to infuse new hfe into the 
official religion. To *his end he determmed 
to suppress the growing influence of the 
Christians, who, though a minority, were very 
numerous, and lie organized a persecution. 



) i 


It was long, cruel and bloody; it was the 
most whole-hearted, general antl systematic 
effort to crush the forbidden faith. It was a 
failure, the Christians were now too numerous 
to be crushed. After the abdication of 
Diocletian, the Emperors who reigned in 
different parts of the realm did not agree as 
to the expediency of his [Jolicy, and the 
persecution ended by edicts of toleration 
(a.i>' 811 and 818). These documents have 
an interest for the history of religious liberty. 
The first, issued in the eastern provinces, 
ran as follows : — 

*' We were particularly desirous of reclaim- 
ing into the way of reason and nature the 
< -eluded Christians, who had renounced the 
religion anc' ceremonies instituted by their 
fathers and, presumptuously despising the 
practice of antiquity, had invented extrava- 
gent laws and opinions according to the dictates 
of their fancy, and had collected a various 
society from the different provinces of our 
Empire. The edicts which we have published 
to enforce the worship of the gods, having ex- 
posetl many of the Christians to danger and 
distress, many having suffered death and 
many more, who still persist in their impious 
folly, being left destitute of any public exercise 
of religion, we are disposed to extend to those 
unhiippy men the effects of our wonted clein- 



ency. We |>€rmit thcni, tlierefore, freely to 
profess their private opinions, and to aascmble 
in their conventicles without fear or molesta- 
tion, provided always that they preserve a due 
respect to the estabUshcd hiws and govern- 
ment." ' 

The second, of which C'onstantine was th(r 
author, known as the Edict of Milan, was to ii 
&imilnr effect, and based toleration on the 
Emperor's cure for the peace and happiness 
of his subjects and on the hope of appeasing 
the Deity whose seat is in heaven. 

The relations between the Roman govern- 
ment and the Christians raised the general 
question of persecution and freedom of 
conscience. A State, with an oflicial religion, 
but i)erfectly tolerant of all creeds and cults, 
fmds that a society had arisen in its midst 
which is uncompromisingly hostile to all 
creeds but its own and which, if it had the 
power, would suppress all but its own. The 
government, in self-defence, decides to check 
the dissemination of these subversive ideas 
and makes the profession of that creed a 
crime, not on account of its particular tenets, 
but on account of the social consequences of 
those tenets. The members of the society 
cannot without violating their consciences 
and incurring damnation abandon their exclu- 
^ This is Gibbon's translation. 




Hive doctrine. The prineiple o' freeclom of 
conscience is* asserted as superior to all 
obiiffations to the State, and the State, 
confronted by this new claim, is unable to 
admit it. Persecution is the result. 

Even from the standpoint of an orthodox 
and loyal {tagan the persecution of the 
Christians is indefensible, because blow! was 
shed uselessly. In other words, it was a great 
mistake because it was unsuccessful. For 
persecution is a choice between two evils. The 
alternatives are violence (which no reasonable 
defender of persecution would deny to be an 
evil in itself) and the spread of dangerous 
opinions. The first is chosen simply to avoid 
the second, on the ground that the second is 
the greater evil. But if the persecution is not 
so devised and tarried out as to accomplish 
its end, then you have two evils instead of 
one, and notliing can justify this. From their 
point of view, the Emperors had good reasons 
for regarding Christianity as dangerous and 
anti-social, but they should either have let it 
alone or taken systematic measures to destroy 
it. If at an early stage they had established 
a drastic and systematic inquisition, they 
might possibly have exterminated it. This at 
least would have been statesmanlike. But 
they had no conception of extreme measures, 
and they did not understand — thty had no 



experience to guide thcm—thc sort of problem 
they had to deal with. They hoped to succeed 
by intimidation. Their attempts at suppres- 
sion were vaciUating, fitful, and ricHculousIy 
ineffectual. The later persecutions (of a.d. 230 
and 803) had no prospect of success. It 
is particularly to be observed that no effort 
was made to suppress Christian literature. 

The higher problem wliethcr persecution, 
even if it attains the desired end, is justifiable, 
was not considered. The struggle hinged on 
antagonism between the conscience of the 
individual and the authority and supposed 
interests of the State. It was the question 
which had been raised by Socrates, nvised 
now on a wider platform in a more pressing 
and formidable shape : what is to happen 
when obedience to the law is inconsistent 
with obedience to an invisible master ? Is it 
incumbent on the State to respect the con- 
science of the individual at all costs, or within 
what Umits ? The Christians did not attempt 
a solution, the general problem did not 
interest them. They claimed the right of 
freedom exclusively for themselves from a 
non-Christian government; and it is hardly 
going too far to suspect that they would have 
applauded the government if it had suppressed 
the Gnostic sects whom they hated and 
caiumniated. In any case, when a Christian 









State was established, they would completely 
forget the principle which they had invoked. 
The maityrs died lor conscience, but not for 
liberty. To-day the greatest of the Churches 
demands freedom of conscience in the modem 
States which she does not control, but refuses 
to admit that, where she had the power, it 
would be incumbent on her to concede it. 

If we review the history of classical 
antiquity as a whole, we may almost say that 
freedom of thought was like the air men 
breathed. It was taken for granted and 
nobody thought about it. If seven or eight 
thinkers at Athens were penalized for hetero- 
doxy, in some and perhaps in most of these 
cases heterodoxy was only a pretext. They 
do not invalidate the general facts that the 
advance of knowledge was not impeded by 
prejudice, or science retarded by the weight 
of unscientific authority. The educated 
Greeks were tokrant because they were 
friends of reason and did not set up any 
authority to overrule reason. Opinions were 
not imposed except by argument; you were 
not expected to receive some " kingdom of 
heaven " like a little child, or to prostrate 
your intellect before an authority claiming 
to be infallible. 

But this liberty was not the result of a 
conscious policy or deliberate conviction, and 





therefore it was precarious. The problems of 
freedom of thought, religious liberty, tolera- 
tion, had not been forced upon society and 
were never seriously considered. When Chris- 
tianity confronted the Roman government, 
no one saw that in the treatment of a small, 
obscure, and, to pagan thinkers, uninteresting 
or repugnant sect, a principle of the deepest 
social importance was involved. A long 
experience of the theory and practice of 
persecution was required to base securely the 
theory of freedom of thought. The lurid 
policy of coercion which the Christian Church 
adopted, and its consequences, would at last 
compel reason to wrestle with the problem 
and discover the justification of intellectual 
liberty. The spirit of the Greeks and Romans, 
alive in their works, would, after a long period 
of obscuration, again enlighten the world and 
aid in re-establishing the reign of reason, 
which they had carelessly enjoyed without 
assuring its foundations. 


reason in prison 

(the middle ages) 

About ten years after the Edict of Tolera- 
tion, Constantine the Great adopted Christi- 






; i 

anity. This momentous decision inaugurated 
a millennium in which reason was enchained, 
thought was enslaved, and knowledge made 
no progress. 

During the two centuries in which they had 
been a forbidden sect the Christians had 
claimed toleration on the ground that religious 
belief is voluntary and not a thing which can 
be enforced. When their faith became the 
predominant creed and had the power of the 
State behind it, they abandoned this view. 
They embarked on the hopeful enterprise of 
bringing about a complete uniformity in men's 
opinions on the mysteries of the universe, and 
began a more or less definite policy of coerc- 
ing thought. This policy was adopted by 
Emperors and Governments partly on political 
grounds; religious divisions, bitter as they 
were, seemed dangerous to the unity of the 
State. But the fundamental principle lay in 
the doctrine that salvation is to be found 
exclusively in the Christian Church. The 
profound conviction that those who did not 
believe in its doctrines would be damned 
eternally, and that God punishes theological 
error as if it were the most heinous of crimes, 
led naturally to persecution. It was a duty 
to impose on men the only true doctrine, 
seeing that their own eternal interests were 
at stake, and to hinder errors from spreading. 



II 9 


Heretics were more than ordinary criminals 
and the pains that man could inflict on them 
were as nothing to the tortures awaiting them 
in hell. To rid the earth of men who, however 
virtuous, were, through their religious errors, 
enemies of the Almighty, was a plain duty. 
Their virtues were no excuse. We must 
remember that, according to the humane 
doctrine of the Christians, pagan, that is, 
merely human, virtues were vices, and infants 
who died unbaptized passed the rest of time 
in creeping on the floor of hell. The intoler- 
ance arising from such views could not but 
differ in kind and intensity f r m anything 
that the world had yet witnessed. 

Besides the logic of its doctrines, the 
character of its Sacred Book must also be 
held partly accountable for the intolerant 
principles of the Christian Church. It was 
unfortunate that the early Christians had 
included in their Scripture the Jewish writings 
which reflect the ideas of a low stage of 
civilization and are full of savagery. It would 
be difficult to say how much harm has been 
done, in corrupting the morals of men, by the 
precepts and examples of inhumanity, vio- 
lence, and bigotry which the reverent reader 
of the Old Testament, implicitly believing 
in its inspiration, is bound to approve. It 
furnished an armoury for the theory of 

fi ; 



persecution. The truth is that Sacred Books 
are an obstacle to moral and intellectual 
progress, because they consecrate the ideas 
of a given epoch, and its customs, as divinely 
appointed. Christianity, by adopting books 
of a long past age, placed in the path of 
human development a particularly nasty 
stumbling-block. It may occur to one to 
wonder how history might have been altered 
— altered it surely would have been — if the 
Christians had cut Jehovah out of their 
programme and, content with the New 
Testament, had rejected the inspiration of 
the Old. 

Under Constantine the Great and his 
successors, edict after edict fulminated 
against the worship of the old pagan gods 
and against heretical Christian sects. Julian 
the Apostate, who in his brief reign (a.d. 
861-8) sought to revive the old order of things, 
proclaimed universal toleration, but he placed 
Christians at a disadvantage by forbidding 
them to teach in schools. This was only 
a momentary check. Paganism was finally 
shattered by the severe laws of Theodosius I 
(end of fourth century). It lingered on here 
and there for more than another century, 
especially at Rome and Athens, but had little 
importance. The Christians were more con- 
cerned in striving among themselves than in 



crushing the prostrate spirit of antiquity. 
The execution of the heretic PriscilUan in 
Spain (fourth century) inaugurated the punish- 
ment of heresy by death. It is interesting to 
see a non-Christian of this age teaching the 
Christian sects that they should suffer one 
another. Themistius in an address to the 
Emperor Valens urged him to repeal his 
edicts against the Christians with whom he 
did not agree, and expounded a theory 
of toleration. *' The religious beliefs of in- 
dividuals are a field in which the authority 
of a government cannot be effective; com- 
pliance can only lead to hypocritical profes- 
sions. Every faith should be allowed; the 
civil government should govern orthodox and 
heterodox to the common good. God himself 
plainly shows that he wishes various forms of 
worship; there are many roads by which one 
can reach him." 

No father of the Church has been more 
esteemed or enjoyed higher authority than 
St. Augustine (died a.d. 410). He formu- 
lated the principle of persecution for the 
guidance of future generations, basing it on 
the firm foundation of Scripture — on words 
used by Jesus Christ in one of his parables, 
" Compel them to come in." Till the end of 
the twelfth century the Church worked hard 
to suppress heterodoxies. There was much 


persecution, but it was not systematic. There 
IS reason to think that in the pursuit of heresy 
the Church was mainly guided by considera- 
tions of Its temporal interest, and was roused 
to severe action only when the spread of 
false doctrine threatened to reduce its revenues 
or seem^ a menace to society. At the end of 
the twelfth century Innocent HI became Pope 
and under him the Church of Western Europe 
reached the he-ght of its power. He and his 
immediate successors are responsible for 
imagining and beginning an organized move- 
ment to sweep heretics out of Christendom. 
Languedoc m South-western France was 
largely populated by heretics, whose opinions 
were considered particularly offensive, known 
a^ the Albigeois. They were the subjects of 
the Count of Toulouse, and were an indus- 
toous and respectable people. But the Church 
got far too httle money out of this anti- 
clerical population, and Innocent called upon 
the Count to extirpate heresy from his 
dominion. As he would not obey, the 
Pope announced a Crusade against the 
Albigeois and offered to all who would 
bear a hand the usual rewards granted to 
Crusaders, including absolution from all 
their sms. A series of sanguinary wars 

StTi^'t^^' '""^ Englishman, s7mon d" 
Montfort, took part. There were wholesale 



burnings and hangings of men, women and 
children. The resistance of the people was 
broken down, though the heresy was not 
eradicated, and the struf»gle ended in 1229 
with the complete humihation of the Coimt 
of Toulouse. The important point of the 
episode is this ; the Church introduced into 
the public law of Europe the new principle 
that a sovran held his crown on the condition 
that he should extirpate heresy. If he 
hesitated to persecute at the command of 
the Pope, he must be coerced; his lands 
were forfeited; and his dominions were 
thrown open to be seized by any one whom 
the Church could induce to attack him. The 
Popes thus established a theocratic system 
in which all other interests were to be sub- 
ordinated to the grand duty of maintaining 
the purity of the Faith. 

But in order to root out heresy it was 
necessary to discover it in its most secret 
retreats. The Albigeois had been crushed, 
but the poison of their doctrine was not yet 
destroyed. The organized system of searching 
out heretics known as the Inquisition was 
founded by Pope Gregory IX about a.d. 1288, 
and fully established by a Bull of Innocent IV 
(a.d. 1252) which regulated the machinery 
of persecution "as an integral part of the 
social edifice in every city and every State." 




This powerful engine for the suppression of the 
freedom of men's religious opinions is unique 
in history. 

The bishops were not equal to the new task 
undertaken by the Church, and in every 
ecclesiastical province suitable monks were 
selected and to them was delegated the 
authority of the Pope for discovering heretics. 
These inquisitors had unlimited authority, 
iiey were subject to no supervision and 
responsible to no man. It would not have 
been easy to establish this system but for 
the fact that contemporary secular rulers 
had inaugurated independently a merciless 
legislation against heresy. The Emperor 
Frederick II, who was himself undoubtedly 
a freethinker, made laws for his exten- 
sive dominions in Italy and Germany (be- 
tween 1220 and 1285), enacting that all 
heretics should be outlawed, that those who 
did not recant should be burned, those who 
recanted should be imprisoned, but if they 
relapsed should be executed; that their 
property should be confiscated, their houses 
destroyed, and their children, to the second 
generation, ineligible to positions of emolu- 
ment unless they had betrayed their father 
or some other heretic. 

Frederick's legislation consecrated the stake 
as the proper punishment for heresy. This"'' 




cruel form of death for that crime seems to 
have been first inflicted on heretics by a 
French king (1017). We must remember that 
in the Middle Ages, and much later, crimes 
of all kinds were punished with the utmost 
cruelty. In England in the reign of 
Henry VIII there is a case of poisoners 
being boiled to death. Heresy was the foulest 
of all crimes; and to prevail against it was 
to prevail against the legions of hell. The 
cruel enactments against heretics were 
strongly supported by the public opinion of 
the masses. 

When the Inquisition was fully developed 
it covered Western Christendom with a net 
from the meshes of which it was difficult for 
a heretic to escape. The inquisitors in the 
various kingdoms co-operated, and communi- 
cated information ; there was " a chain of 
tribunals throughout continental Europe." 
England stood outside the system, but from 
the age of Henry IV and Henry V the govern- 
ment repressed heresy by the stake under a 
special statute (a.d. 1400; repealed 1588; 
revived under Mary ; finally repealed in 1676). 

In its task of imposing unity of belief the 
Inquisition was most successful in Spain. 
Here towards the end of the fifteenth century 
a system was instituted which had peculiarities 
of its own and was very jealous of Roman 




abolished till the nineteenth century) was 
wh^^'i '^'. ^**"'^» ^' converted Moo.^ 

•aid to have eradicated Judaism and to 
^^flTT*^.**^^ ^^"'^^'y '">«> the zeal 

nmw^ c '* *^''"'^'' *^" «^*^^»* *>' having 
protected Spam against Protestantism, tor 
It IS quite possible that if the seeds of Pro- 
testant opmion had been sown they would 

LIT T' ^^'. '""^'^ ^^^ ^"^ «" "neon-' 
genial soil. Freedom of thought however was 
entirely suppressed. 

hunfL^'^A ^^^ i""^* efficacious means for 
hunting down heresy was the "Edict of 
Faith, which enlisted the people in the 
service of the Inquisition and l^^Sired ever^ 
man to be an informer. From time to time 
a certain district was visited and an edict 
issued commanding those who knew anything 
of any heresy to come forward and reveal it 
under fearful penalties temporal and spiritual' 
m consequence, no one was free from the 
suspicion of his neighbours or even of his own 

inS'^ * ^^"^'^ ingenious device has been 
mvented to subjugate a whole population, to 
paralyse it« intellect, and to reduce it to blind 





obedience. It elevated ddation to the rank 
of high religiouit duty." 

The process employed in the trials of those 
accused of heresy in Spain rejected every 
reasonable means for the ascertainment of 
truth. The prisoner was assumed to be 
guilty, the burden of proving his innocence 
rested on him; his judge was virtually his 
prosecutor. All witnesses against him, how- 
ever mfamous. were admitted. The rules 
for allowing witnesses for the piosecution 
were lax; those for rejecting witnesses for 
the defence were rigid. Jews. Moriscos, and 
servants could give evidence against the 
prisoner but not for him, and the same rule 
applied to kinsmen to the fourth degree. The 
principle on which the Inquisition proceeded 
was that better a hundred innocent should 
suffer than one guilty person escape. Indul- 
gences were granted to any one who contri- 
buted wood to the pile. But the tribunal of 
the Inqmsition did not itself condemn to the 
stake, for the Church must not be guilty of 
the shedding of blood. The ecclesiastical 
judge pronounced tl^e prisoner to be a heretic 
of whose conversion there was no hope, and 
h^ded him over (" relaxed » him was the 
official term) to the secular authority, ask- 
mg and charging the magistrate " to treat 
him benignantly and mercifully." But this 



formal pica for mercy could not be entertained 
by the civil jwwer; it Imd no choice but to 
inflict death; if it did otherwise, it was a 
promoter of heresy. All princes and ofllcials, 
according to the Canon Law, must punish 
duly and promptly heretics handed over to 
them by the Inquisition, under |min of 
excommunication. It is to he noted i»iat 
the number of deaths at the stake has been 
nuich over-estimated by popular imagination ; 
but the sum of suffering caused by the methods 
of the system and the punishments that fell 
short of death can hanlly be exaggerated. 

The legal processes employed by the Church 
in these persecutions exercised a corrupting 
influence on the criminal jurisprudence of 
the Continent. Lea, the historian of the 
Inquisition, observes : " Of all the curses 
which the Inquisition brought in its train, 
this perhaps was the greatest — that, until 
the closing years of the eighteenth century, 
throughout the greater part of Europe, the 
inquisitorial process, us developed for the 
destruction of heresy, became the customary 
method of dealing with all who were under 
any accusation." 

The Inquisitors who, us Gibbon says, 
" defended nonsense by cruelties," are often 
regarded as monsters. It may be said for 
them and for the kings who did'thcir will that 






tlicy were not a hit wurHc than tic [triests and 
monarch^ of primitive ages nho Kacriflccd 
human beings to their deities. The Greek 
king, Agamemnon, who inin olatcd his 
daughter Iphigenia to obtain iV/ourabk* 
winds from the gods, was perhaps a mott 
affectionate fatfier, and the seer wtio advised 
him to do so may have been a man of nigh 
integrity. They acted according to their 
l)eHef8. And so in the Middle Ages and after- 
wards men of kindly temper p .d the purest 
zeal for moraUty were absolutely devoid of 
mercy where heresy was suspected. Hatred 
of heresy was a sort of infectious germ, 
generated by the doctrine of exclusive salva- 

It has been observed that this dogma also 
injured the sense of truth. As man's eternal 
fate was at stake, it seemed plainly legitimate 
or rather imperative to use any means to 
enforce the true belief— even falsehood and 
imposture. There was no scruple about the 
invention of miracles or any fictions that were 
edifying. A disinterested appreciation of 
truth will not begin to prevail till the 
seventeenth century. 

While this principle, with the associated 
doctrines of sin, hell and the last judgment, 
led to such consequences, there were other 
doctrines and implications in Christianity 




' 4 

» I! 

I ^ 

I if 

i t 


: f 

which, forming a solid rampart against the 
advance of knowledge, blocked the paths of 
science in the Middle Ages, and obstructed 
its progress till the latter half of the nine- 
teenth century. In every important field 
of scientific research, the ground was occupied 
by false views which the Church declared to 
be true on the infallible authority of the Bible. 
The Jewish account of Creation and the Fall 
of Man, inextricably bound up with the 
Christian theory of Redemption, excluded 
from free inquiry geology, zoology, and anthro- 
pology. The literal interpretation of the 
Bible involved the truth that the sun revolves 
round the earth. The Church condenmed 
the theory of the antipodes. One of the 
charges agamst Servetus (who was burned 
in the sixteenth century; sec below, p. 79) 
was that he believed the statement of a Gveek 
geographer that Judea is a ¥rretched barren 
country in spite of the fact that the Bible 
describes it as a land flowing with milk and 
honey. The Greek physician Hippocrates 
had based the study of medicine and disease 
on experience and methodical research. In 
the Middle Ages men relapsed to the primitive 
notions of a barbarous age. Bodily ailments 
were ascribed to occult agencies — ^the malice 
of the Devil or the wrath of God. St. 
Augustine said that the diseases of Christians 



were caused by demons, and Luther in the 
same way attributed them to Satan. It was 
only logical that supernatural remedies should 
be sought to counteract the effects of super- 
natural causes. There was an immense traffic 
in relics with miraculous virtues, and this 
had the advantage of bringing in a large 
revenue to the Church. Physicians were often 
exposed to suspicions of sorcery and unbelief. 
Anatomy was forbidden, partly perhaps on 
account of the doctrine of the resurrection 
of the body. The opposition of ecclesiastics 
to uioculation in the eighteenth century was 
survival of the mediaeval view of disease. 
Chemist (alchemy) was considered a dia- 
bolical art and in 1817 was condemned by the 
Pope. The long imprisonment of Roger 
Bacon (thirteenth century) who, while he 
i:rofessed zeal for orthodoxy, had an incon- 
venient instinct for scientific research, illus- 
trates the mediaeval distrust of science. 

it is possible that the knowledge of nature 
would have progressed little, even if this 
distrust of science on theological grounds had 
not prevailed. For Greek science had ceased 
to advance five hundred years before Chris- 
tianity became powerful. After about 200 b.c. 
no important discoveries were made. The 
explanation of this decay is not easy, but 
we may be sure that it is to be sought in the 



IL ft 

f I 



J i 

'■ I 

social conditions of the Greek and Roman 
world. And we may suspect that the social 
conditions of the Middle Ages would have 
proved unfavourable to the scientific spirit — 
the disinterested quest of facts — even if the 
controlling beliefs had not been hostile. We 
may suspect that the rebirth of science 
would in any case have been postponed till 
new social conditions, which began to appear 
in the thirteenth century (see next chapter), 
had reached a certain maturity. Theological 
prejudice may have injured knowledge prin- 
cipally by its survival after the Middle Ages 
had passed away. In other words, the harm 
done by Christian doctrines, in this respect, 
may lie less in the obscurantism of the dark 
interval between ancient and modem civiUza- 
tion, than in the obstructions which they 
offered when science had revived in spite of 
them and could no longer be crushed. 

The firm belief in witchcraft, magic, and 
demons was inherited by the Middle Ages 
from antiquity, but it became far more lurid 
and made the world terrible. Men believed 
that they were surrounded by fiends watching 
for every opportunity to harm them, that 
pestilences, storms, eclipses, and famines were 
the work of the Devil ; but they believed as 
firmly that ecclesiastical rites were cf.pable 
of coping with these enemies. Some of die 




early Christian Emperors legislated against 
magic, but till the fourteenth centurv there 
was no systematic attempt to root out witch- 
craft. The fearful epidemic, known as the 
Black Death, which devastated Europe in 
that century, seems to have aggravated the 
haunting terror of the invisible world of 
demons. Trials for witchcraft multiplied, 
and for three hundred years the discovery 
of witchcraft and the destruction of those 
who were accused of practising it, chiefly 
women, was a standing feature of European 
civihzation. Both the theory and the persecu- 
tion were supported by Holy Scripture. 
" Thou Shalt not suffer a witch to live " was 
the clear injunction of the highest authority. 
Pope Innocent VIII issued a Bull on the 
matter (1484) in which he asserted that 
plagues and storms are the work of witches, 
and the ablest minds believed in the reality 
of their devilish powers. 

No story is more painful than the persecu- 
tion of witches, and nowhere was it more 
atrocious than in England and Scotland. I 
mention it because it was the direct result 
of theological doctrines, and because, as we 
shall see, it was rationalism which brought 
the long chapter of horrors to an end. 

In the period, then, in which the Church 
exercised its greatest influence, reaton was 


enchained in the prison which Christianity 
had built around the human mind. It was 
not indeed inactive, but its activity took the 
form of heresy ; or, to pursue the metaphor, 
those who broke chains were unable for the 
most r^rt to scale the walls of the prison; 
their freedom extended only so far as to arrive 
at beliefs, which, like orthodoxy itself, were 
based on Christian mythology. There were 
some exceptions to the rule. At the end of 
the twelfth century a stimulus from another 
world began to make itself felt. The philo- 
sopljy of Aristotle became known to learned 
men in Western Christendom ; their teachers 
were Jews and Mohammadans. Among the 
Mohammadans there was a certain amount 
of free thought, provoked by their knowledge 
of ancient Greek speculation. The works of 
the freethinker Averroes (twelfth century) 
which were based on Aristotle's philosophy, 
propagated a small wave of rationalism in 
Christian countries. Averroes held the 
eternity of matter and denied the immortality 
of the soul ; his general view may be described 
as pantheism. But he sought to avoid 
difficulties with the orthodox authorities of 
Islam by laying down the doctrine of double 
truth, that is the coexistence of two inde- 
pendent and contradictory truths, the one 
philosophical, and the other religious. This 



did not save him from being banished from 
the court of the Spanish caliph. In the 
University of Paris his teaching produced a 
school of freethinkers who held that the 
Creation, the resurrection of the body, and 
other essential dogmas, might be true from 
the standpoint of religion but are false from 
the standpoint of reason. To a plain mind 
this seems much as if one said that the 
doctrine of immortality is true on Sundays 
but not on week-days, or that the Apostles' 
Creed is false in the drawing-room and true 
in the kitchen. This dangerous movement 
was crushed, and the saving principle of 
double truth condemned, by Pope John XXI. 
The spread of Averroistic and similar specula- 
tions called forth the Theology of Thomas, of 
Aquino in South Ita^y (died 1274), a most 
subtle thinker, whose mind had a natural 
turn for scepticism. He enlisted Aristotle, 
hitherto the guide of infidelity, on the side 
of orthodoxy, and constructed an ingenious 
Christian philosophy which is still authori- 
tative in the Roman Church. But Aristotle 
and reason are dangerous allies for faith, and 
the treatise of Thomas is perhaps more 
calculated to unsettle a believing mind by 
the doubts which it powerfully states than to 
quiet the scruples of a doubter by its solutions. 
There must always have been some private 



■ - 



and underground unbelief here and there, 
which did not lead to any serious conse- 
quences. The blasphemous statement that 
the world had been deceived by three 
impostors, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad, 
was current in the thirteenth century. It 
was attributed to the freethinking Emperor 
Frederick II (died 1250), who has been 
described as " the first modem man." The 
same idea, in a milder form, was expressed 
in the story of the Three Rings which is at 
least as old. A Mohammadan ruler, desiring to 
extort money from a rich Jew, summoned him 
to his court and laid a snare for him. " My 
friend," he said, "I have often heakd it 
reported that thou art a very wise man. Tell 
me therefore which of the three religions, that 
of the Jews, that of the Mohammadans, and 
that of the Christians, thou believest to be the 
truest." The Jew saw that a trap was laid 
for him and answered as follows : " My lord, 
there was once a rich man who among his 
treasures had a ring of such great value that 
he wished to leave it as a perpetual heirloom 
to his successors. So he made a will that 
whichever of his sons should be found in 
possession of this ring after his death should 
be considered his heir. The son to whom he 
gave the ring acted in the same way as his 
father, and so the ring passed from hand to 



hand. At last it came into the possession of 
a man who had three sons whom he loved 
equally. Unable to make up his mind to 
which of them he should leave the ring, he 
promised it to each of them privately, and 
then in order to satisfy them all caused a 
goldsmith to make two other rings so closely 
resembling the true ring that he was unable 
to distinguish them himself. On his death-bed 
he gave each of them a ring, and each claimed 
to be his heir, but no one could prove his title 
because the rings were indistinguishable, and 
the suit at law lasts till this day. It is even so, 
my lord, with the three religions, given by God 
to the three peoples. They each think they 
have the true religion, but which of them 
really has it, is a question, like that of the 
rings, still undecided." This sceptical story 
became famous in the eighteenth century, 
when the German poet, Lessing, built upon it 
his drama Nathan the Sage, which was intended 
to show the imreasonableness of intolerance. 


prospect of deliverance 

(the renaissance and the reformation) 

The intellectual and social movement which 
was to dispel the darkness of the Middle Ages 



E ^ 


'i =: 

and prepare the way for those who would 
ultimately deliver reason from her prison, 
began in Italy in the thirteenth century. The 
misty veil woven of credulity and infantile 
naivete which had hung over men's souls and 
protected them from understanding either 
themselves or their relation to the world began 
to lift. The individual began to feel his 
separate individuality, to be conscious of his 
0"WTi value as a person apart from his race or 
country (as in the later ages of Greece and 
Rome); and the world around him began to 
emerge from the mists of mediaeval dreams. 
The change was due to the political and social 
conditions of the little Italian States, of which 
some were republics and others governed by 

To the human world, thus unveiling itself, 
the individual who sought to make it serve 
his purposes required a guide ; and the guide 
was found in the ancient literature of Greece 
and Rome. Hence the whole transformation, 
which presently extended from Italy to 
Northern Europe, is known as the Renaissance, 
or rebirth of classical antiquity. But the 
awakened interei>t in classical literature while 
it coloured the character and stimulated the 
groT^-th of the movement, supplying new ideals 
and suggesting new points of view, was only 
tiie form in which the change of spirit began 





to express itself in the fourteenth century. 
The chanjfc might conceivabl} have taken 
some other shape. Its true name is Humanism. 
At the time men hardly felt that they were 
passing into a new age of civilization, nor did 
the culture of the Renaissance immediately 
produce any open or general intellectual 
rebellion against orthodox beliefs. The world 
was gradually assuming an aspect decidedly 
unfriendly to the teaching of mediaeval 
orthodoxy; but there was no explosion of 
hostility; it was not till the seventeenth 
century that war between religion and 
authority was systematically waged. The 
humanists were not hostile to theological 
authority or to the claims of religious dogma ; 
but they had discovered a purely human 
curiosity about this world and it absorbed 
their interest. They idolized pagan literature 
which abounded in poisonous germs; the 
secular side of education became all-important ; 
religion and theology were kept in a separate 
compartment. Some speculative minds, which 
were sensitive to the contradiction, might 
seek to reconcile the old religion with new 
ideas; but the general tendency of thinkers 
in the Renaissance period was to keep the 
two worlds distinct, and to practise outward 
conformity to the creed without any real 
intellectual submission. 




I ^ 


I inay illustrate this double-facedness of 
the Renaissance by Montaigne (second half 
of sixteenth century). His Easaya make for 
rationalism, but contain frequent professions 
of orthodox Catholicism, in which he was 
perfectly iiincere. There is no attempt to 
reconcile the two points of view; in tact, he 
takes the sceptical position that there is no 
bridge between reason and religion. The 
human intellect is incapable in the domain of 
theology, and religion must be placed aloft, 
out of reach and beyond the interference 
of reason; to be humbly accepted. But 
while he humbly accepted it, on sceptical 
grounds which would have induced him to 
accept Mohammadanism if he had been bom 
in Cairo, his soul was not in its dominion. It 
^»ras the philosophers and wise men of anti- 
quity, Cicero, and Seneca, and Plutarch, who 
moulded and possessed his mind. It is to 
them, and not to the consolations of Chris- 
tianity, that he turns when he discusses the 
problem of death. The religious wars in 
France which he witnessed and the Massacre 
of St. Bartholomew's Day (1572) were calcu- 
lated to confirm him in his scepticism. His 
attitude to persecution is expressed in the 
remark that " it is setting a high value on one's 
opinions to roast men on account of them." 
The logical results of Montaigne's scepti- 


cism were m&dc visible !)y liis friend Charron, 
who publiihed a book On Wisdom in IdOl. 
Here it is tauglit that true morality is not 
founded on religion, and the author surveys 
the history of Christianity to show the evils 
which it had produced. He says of immor- 
tality that it is tl.e most generally received 
doctrine, the most usefully believed, and the 
most weakly established by human reasons; 
but he modified this and some other passages 
in a second « lition. A contemporary Jesuit 
placed Charron in the catalogue of the most 
dangerous and wicked atheists. He was 
really a deist; but in those days, and long 
after, no one scrupled to call a non-Christian 
deist an atheist. His book would doubtless 
have been suppressed and he would have 
suffered but for the support of King Henry IV. 
It has a particular interest because it trans- 
ports us directly from the atmosphere of 
the Renaissance, represevited by Montaigne, 
into the new age of more or less aggressive 

What Humanism did in the fourteenth, 
fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, at first in 
Italy, then in other countries, was to create 
an intellectual atmosphere in which the 
emancipation of reason could begin and 
knowledge could resume its progress. The 
period saw the invention of printing and 



the discovery of new parta of the g1ol)e, and 
these things were to aid powerfully in the 
future defeat of authority. 

But the triumph of freedom depended on 
othe4 causes also; it was not to be brought 
about by the intellect alone. The chief 
ftolitieal facts of the period were the decline 
of the power of the Pope in Europe, the 
decay of the Holy Koman Empire, Aud the 
growth of strong monarchies, in which worldly 
interests determined and dictated ecclesi- 
astical policy, and from which the modem 
State was to develop. The success of the 
Fie formation was made possible by these 
conditions. Its victory in North Germary 
was due to the secular interest of the princes, 
who profited by the confiscation of Church 
lands. In England there was no popular 
movement; the change was carried through 
by the government for its own purposes. 

The principal cause of the Reformation was 
the general corruption of the Church and the 
flagrancy of its oppression. For a long time 
the Papacy had had no higher aim than ti) 
be a secular power exploiting its spiritual 
authority for the purpose of promoting its 
worldly interests, by which it was exclusively 
governed. All the European States based 
their diplomacy on this assumption. Since 
the fourteenth century ever}- one aeknow 





Icdgctl the need of reforming; the Church, and 
reform liad l)een promised, but things went 
from had ♦» worse, and there was no resource 
but rebellion. The rebellion led by Luther 
was the result not of a revolt of reason against 
dogmas, but of widely spread anti-elerieal 
feeling due to the ecclesiastical metho<ls of 
extorting money, imr^io :l;ui> by the sale of 

Indulgences, the mos' 
time. It was his s 
Papal Indulgences 1' :. 
theological heresit... 

It is an element s > 
still sharcfi by maiiv | 
history superficially, 




1. ! 


of the 

ory of 

• to his 

1 r 


♦ l)ii( 


>H! which is 
\'.. . bi've read 
i'\ tl»" right of 

established religious libtn 
pri\*;ve judgment. What it did was to bring 
about a new uct of political and social condi- 
tions, under which religious liberty could 
ultimately be secured, and, by virtue of its 
inherent inconsistencies, to lead to results at 
which its leadei-s would have shuddered. 
But nothing was further from the minds of 
the leading Ileformera than the toleration of 
doctrines differing from their own. T^ ey 
replaced one authority by another. They : :t 
up the authority of the Bible instead of tuat 
of the Church, but it was the Bible accoiding 
to Luther or the Bible according to Calvin. 
So far as the spirit of intolciance went, there 







WB8 nothing to choose between the new and 
the old Churches. The religious wars were not 
fo^ the cause of freedom, but for p' rticular sets 
o^ doctrines ; and in France, if the Protestants 
had been victorious, it is certain that they 
would not have given more liberal terms to the 
Catholics than the Catholics gave to them. 

Luther was quite opposed to liberty of 
conscience and worship, a doctrine which was 
inconsistent with Scripture as he read it. He 
might protest against coercion and condemn 
the burning of heretics, when he was in fear 
that he and his party might be victims, but 
when he was safe and in power, he asserted 
his real view that it was the duty of the State 
to impose the true doctrine and exterminate 
heresy, which was an abomination, that un- 
Umited obedience to their prince in religious 
as in other matters was the duty of subjects, 
and that the end of the State was to defend 
the faith. He held that Anabaptists should 
be put to the sword. With Protestants 
and Catholics alike the dogma of exclusive 
salvation led to the same place. 

Calvin's fame for intolerance is blackest. 
He did not, like Luther, advocate the absolute 
power of the civil ruler; he stood for the 
control of the State by the Church — a form of 
government which is commonly called theo- 
cracy; and he established a theocracy at 




Geneva. .- iere liberty was completely crushed ; 
false doctrines were put down by imprison- 
ment, exile, and death. The punishment of 
Servetus is the most famous exploit of Calvin's 
warfare against heresy. The Spaniard Serve- 
tus, who had written ag; inst the dogma of 
the Trinity, was imprisoned at Lyons (partly 
through the machinations of Calvin) and 
having escaped came rashly to Geneva. He 
was tried for heresy and committed to the 
flames (1568), though Geneva had no juris- 
diction over him. Melan*. hthon, who formu- 
lated the principles of persecution, praised 
this act as a memorable example to posterity. 
Posterity however was o iC day to be ashamed 
of that example. In 1903 the Calvinists of 
Geneva felt impelled to erect an expiatory 
monument, in which Ca?-'in '* our great 
Reformer " is excused as guilty of an error 
" which was that of his century." 

Thus the Reformers, like the Church from 
which they parted, cared nothing for freedom, 
they only cared for " truth." If the medieeval 
ideal was to purge the world of heretics, the 
object of the Protestant wac to exclude all 
dissidents from his own land. The people at 
large were to be driven into a fold, to accept 
their faith at the command of their sovran. 
This was the principle laid down i- the 
religious peace which (1555) composed the 



. i 


1 1 

ii I 

i I 



struggle between the Catholic Fiiii^oror and 
the Protestant German princes. It was 
recognized by Catherine de' M'^dici when 
she massacred the Fren.'ih Protestants and 
signified to Queen Elizabeth that she might 
do Hkewise with English Catholics. 

Nor did the Protestant creeds represent 
enlightenment. The Reformation on the 
Continent was as hostile to enlightenment as 
it was to liberty; and science, if it seemed 
to contradict the Bible, has as little chance 
with Luther as with the Pope. The Bible, 
interpreted by the Protestants or the Roman 
Church, was equally fatal to witches. In 
Germany the development of learning received 
a long set-back. 

Yet the Reformation involuntarily helped 
the cause of liberty. The result was contrary 
to tht intentions of its leaders, was indirect, 
and long delayed. In the first place, the 
great rent in Western Christianity, substi- 
tuting a number of theological authorities 
instead of one — several gods, v,e may saj', 
instead of one God — produced a weakening 
of ecclesiastical authority in general. The 
religious tradition was broken. In the second 
place, in the Protestant States, the supreme 
ecclesiastical power was vested in the sovran ; 
the sovran had other interests Ijesides those of 
the Church to consider; and [)olitical reasons 


would compel him sooner or later to modify 
the principle of ecclesiastical intolerance. 
Catholic States in the same way were forced to 
depart from the duty of not suffering heretics. 
The religious wars in France ended in a 
limited toleration of Protestants. The policy 
of Cardinal Richelieu, who supported the 
Protestant carse in Germany, illustrates how 
secular interests obstructed the cause of faith. 
Again, the intellectual justification of the 
Protestant rebellion against the Church had 
been the right of private judgment, that is, 
the principle of religious liberty. But the 
Reformers had asserted it only for them- 
selves, an<l as soon as they had framed their 
own articles of faith, they had practically 
repudiated it. This was the most glaring 
inconsistency in the Protestant position ; and 
the claim which they had thrust aside could 
not be permanently suppressed. Once more, 
the Protestant doctrines rested on an insecure 
foundation which no logic could defend, and 
inevitably led from one untenable position to 
another. If wc are to believe on authority, 
why should we prefer the upstart dictation of 
the Lutheran Confession of Augsburg or the 
English Thirty-nine Articles to the venerable 
authority of the Church of Rome? If we 
decide against Rome, we must do so by means 
of reason ; but once we exercise reason in the 




\ I. 

i I 

matter, why should we stop where Luther or 
Calvin or any of the other rebels stopped, 
unless we assume that one of them was 
inspired? If we reject superstitions which 
they rejected, there is nothing except their 
authority to prevent us from rejecting all or 
some of the superstitions which they retained. 
Moreover, their Bible - worship promoted 
results which they did not foresee.^ The 
inspired record on which the creeds depend 
became an open book. Public attention was 
directed to it as never before, though it cannot 
be said to have been universally read before 
the nineteenth century. Study led to criti- 
cism, the difficulties of the dogma of inspira- 
tion were appreciated, and the Bible was 
ultimately to be submitted to a remorseless 
dissection which has altered at least the quality 
of its authority in the eyes of intelligent 
believers. This process of Biblical criticism 
has been conducted mainly in a Protestant 
atmosphere and the new position in which the 
Bible was placed by the Reformation must be 
held partly accountable. In these ways. 
Protestantism was adapted to be a stepping- 
stone to rationalism, and thus served the 
cause of freedom. 


1 The danger, however, was felt in Germany, and in 
the seventeenth century the study of Scripture was not 
encouraged at German Universities. 


That cause however was powerfully arwi 
directly promoted by one sect of Reformers, 
who in the eyes of all the others were blas- 
phemers and of whom most people riever 
think when they talk of the Reformation. I 
mean the Socinians. Of their far-reaching 
influence something will be said in the next 

Another result of the Reformation has still 
to be mentioned, its renovating effect on the 
Roman Church, which had now to fight for its 
existence. A new series of Popes who were in 
earnest about religion began with Paul III 
(1584) and reorganized the Papacy and its 
resources for a struggle of centuries.^ The 
institution of the Jesuit order, the establish- 
ment of the Inquisition at Rome, the Council 
of Trent, the censorship of the Press (Index of 
Forbidden Books) were the expression of the 
new spirit and the means to cope with the 
new situation. The reformed Papacy was 
good fortune for believing children of the 
Church, but what here concerns us is that one 
of its chief objects was to repress freedom 
more effectually. Savonarola who preached 
right living at Florence had been executed 
(1498) under Pope Alexander VI who was a 
notorious profligate. If Savonarola had lived 

'See Barry, Papacy and Modern Times (in this series), 
l\3 aeq. ' 



ri * 


I > 

in the new era he might have been canonized, 
but Giordano Bruno was burned. 

Giordano Bruno had constructed a religious 
philosophy, based partly upon Epicurus, 
from whom he took the theory of the infinity 
of the universe. But Epicurean materialism 
was transformed into a pantheistic mysticism 
by the doctrine that God is the soul of matter. 
Accepting the recent discovery of Copernicus, 
which Catholics and Protestants alike re- 
jected, that the earth revolves round the 
sun, Bruno took the further step of regarding 
the fixed stars as suns, each with its invisible 
satellites. He sought to come to an imder- 
standing with the Bible, which (he held) I>eing 
intended for the vulgar had to accommodate 
itself to their prejudices. Leaving Italy, 
because he was suspected of heresy, he lived 
successively in Switzerland, France, England, 
and Germany, and in 1302, induced by a false 
friend to return to Venice he was seized by 
order of the Inquisition. Finally condemned 
in Rome, he was burned (1600) in the Campo 
de' Fiori, where a monument now stantis in 
his honour, erected some years ago, to the 
great chagrin of the Roman Church. 

Much is made of the fate of Bruno beeausr 
he is one of the world's famous nun. No 
country has so illustrious a victim of that era 
to commemorate as Italy, but in other lands 


blood just as innocent was shed for heterodox 
opinions. In France there was rather more 
freedom than elsewhere under the relatively 
tolerant government of Henry IV and of the 
Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin, till about 
1660. But at Toulouse (1619) Lucilio Vanini, 
a learned Italian who like Bruno wandered 
af)out Europe, was convicted as an atheist 
and blasphemer; his tongue was torn out 
and he was burned. Protestant England, 
under Elizabeth and James I, did not lag 
behind the Roman Inquisition, but on account 
of the obscurity of the victims her zeal for 
faith has been unduly forgotten. Yet, but 
for an accident, she might have covered 
herself with the glory of having done to death 
a heretic not less famous than Giordano Bruno. 
The jwet Marlowe was accused of atheism, 
but while the prosecution was hanging over 
him he was killed in a sordid quarrel in a 
tavern (1598). Another dramatist (Kyd) who 
was implicated in the charge was put to the 
torture. At the same time Sir Walter Raleigh 
was prosecuted for unbelief but not con- 
victed. Others were not so fortunate. Three 
or four persons were burned at Norwich 
in the reign of Elizabeth for unchristian 
doctrines, among them Francis Kelt who had 
been a Fellow of Corpus Christi. Cambridge. 
Uiuler James I, who interested himself j)erson- 






ally in such matters, Bartholomew Legate 
waa charged with holding various pestilent 
opinions. The king summoned him to his 
presence and asked him whether he did not 
pray daily to Jesus Christ. Legate replied 
he had prayed to Christ in the days of his 
ignorance, but not for the last seven years. 
"Away, base fellow," said James, spuming 
him with his foot, " it shall never be said 
that one stayeth in my palace that hath 
never prayed to our Saviour for seven years 
together." Legate, having been imprisoned 
for some time in Newgate, was declared an 
incorrigible heretic and burned at Smith field 
(1611). Just a month later, one Wightman 
was burned at Lichfield, by the Bishop of 
Coventry, for heterodox doctrines. It is 
possible that public opinion was shocked 
by these two burnings. They were the last 
cases in England of death for unbelief. 
Puritan intolerance, indeed, passed an ordin- 
ance in 1648, by which all who denied the 
Trinity, Christ's divinity, the inspiration of 
Scripture, or a future state, were liable to 
death, and persons guilty of other heresies, 
to imprisonmtnt. But this did not lead to 
any executions. 

The Renaissance age saw the first signs of 
the beginning of modem science, but the 
mediaeval prejudices against the investigation 

1 1 


of nature were nut diiisipatcti till the §even- 
teenth century, and in Italy they continued 
to a much later period. The history of modem 
astronomy begins in 1548, with the publica- 
tion of the work of Copernicus revealing the 
truth about the motions of ♦he earth. The 
appearance of this work is important in the 
history of free thought, because it raised a 
clear and defniitc issue between science and 
Scripture; and Osiander, who edited it 
(Copernicus was dying), foreseeing the outcry 
it would raise, stated untruly in the {)reface 
that the earth's motion was put forward only 
as a hy|M)thesis. The theory was denounced 
by Catholics and Ueformers, and it did not 
convince some men (e. g. Bacon) who were 
not influenced by theological prejudice. The 
observations of the Italian astronomer Galileo 
de' Galilei demonstrated the Copemican 
theory beyond question. His telescope dis- 
covered the moons of Jupiter, and his observa- 
tion of the spots in the sun confirmed the 
earth's rotation. In the pulpits of Florence, 
where he lived under the protection of the 
Grand Duke, his sensational discoveries were 
condemned. " Men of Galilee, why stand 
ye gazing up into heaven? " He was then 
denomiced to the Holy Office of the Inquisi- 
tion by two Dominican monks. Learning that 
his investigations were being considered at 



* f 


Rome. Galileo went thither, confident that he 
would be able to convince the ccclesiaitical 
authorities of the manifest truth of Coper- 
nicanism. He did not realize ^vhat theoloirv 
waa capable of. In February 1616 the Holy 
Office decided that the CojK^rnican Hvj»tem was 
m Itself absurd, and, in respect of Scripture 
heretical. Cardinal Bellarmin, by the Pope's 
direction, summoned (;aIileo and officiallv 
admonished him to abandon his opinion and 
cease to teach it. otherwise the Inquisition 
would proceed against him. Galileo promised 
to obey. The book of Copernicus was placed 
on the Index. It has been remarked that 
Galileos book on Solar Sjwh contains no 
mention of Scripture, and thus the Holy 
Office, m its decree which related to that 
book passed judgment on a seicntifie, not a 
theological, question. 

Galileo was silenced for a while, but it was 
impossible for him to be mute for ever. Under 
a new Pope (Urban VIII) he looked for 
greater liberty, and there were many in the 
Papal circle who were well dis|K)sed*to him 
He hoped to avoid difficulties by the device 
of placing the arguments for the old and the 
new theories side by side, and pretending not 
to judge between them. He wrote a treatise 
on the two systems (the Ptolemaic and the 
topemican) in the form of Dialogue,'^, of which 



the preface deelareii that the purpose in to 
explain the pros and conn of the two views. 
But the spirit of the work is Copemican. 
He reeeived {)emii»iion. quite definite an he 
thought, from Father Riccardi (master of the 
Soered Palaee) to print it. and it appeared in 
1682. The Pope however disapproved of it, 
the lK>ok was examined by a eommission. anii 
Galileo was summoned before the Inquisition. 
He was old and ill, and the humiliations which 
he had to endure are a painful story. H« 
wouhl probably have lieen more severely 
trrnttMJ, if one of the members of the tribunal 
had not been a man of scientinc training 
(Maeolano, a Dominican), who was able to 
appreciate his ability. Under examination. 
Galileo denied that he had uj)held the njotiim 
of the earth in the Dialogues, and asserted that 
he had shown the reasons of Coj>emieus to \w 
inconclusive. This defence was in accordance 
with the statement in his preface, but contra- 
dicted his deepest conviction. In struggling 
with such a tribunal, it was the only line which 
a man who was not a hero could take. At a 
later session, he forced himself ignominiously 
to confess that some of the arguments on the 
C opernican side had been put too strongly and 
to declare himself ready to confute the theory. 
In the final examination, he was threatened 
with torture. He said that before the decree 

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of 1616 he had held the truth of the Copemican 
system to be arguable, but since then he had 
held the PtoK maic to be true. Next day, he 
publicly abjured the scientific truth which he 
had demonstrated. He was allowed to retire 
to the country, on condition that he saw no 
one. In the last months of his life he wrote to 
a friend to this effect : " The falsity of the 
Copemican system cannot be doubted, espe- 
cially by us Catholics. It is refuted by the 
irrefragable authority of Scripture. The 
conjectures of Copernicus and his disciples 
were all disposed of by the one solid argument : 
God's omnipotence can operate in infinitely 
various ways. If something appears to our 
observation to happen in one particular way, 
we must not curtail God's arm, and sustain a 
thing in which we may be deceived." The 
irony is evident. 

Rome did not permit the truth about the 
solar system to be taught till after the middle 
of the eighteenth century, and Galileo's books 
remained on the Index till 1835. The pro- 
hibition was fatal to the study of natural 
science in Itnly. 

The Roman Index reminds us of the 
significance of the invention of printing in 
the struggle for freedom of thought, by 
making it easy to propagate new ideas far 
and wide. Authority speedily realized the 

* I 




danger, and took measures to place its yoke 
on the new contrivance, which promised to 
be such a powerful ally of reason. Pope 
Alexander VI inaugurated censorship of the 
Press by his Bull against unlicensed printing 
(1501). In Trance King Henry II made 
printing without official permission punishable 
by death. In Germany, censorship was intro- 
duced in 1529. In England, under Elizabeth, 
books could not be printed without a licence, 
and printing presses were not allowed except 
in London, Oxford, and Cambridge; the 
regulation of the Press was under the authority 
of the Star Chamber. Nowhere did the Press 
become really free till the nineteenth century. 
While the Reformation and the renovated 
Roman Church meant a reaction against the 
Renaissance, the vital changes which the 
Renaissance signified— individualism, a new 
intellectual attitude to the world, the cultiva- 
tion of secular knowledge— were permanent 
and destined to lead, amid the compet- 
mg mtolerances of Catholic and Protestant 
powers, to the goal of liberty. We shall see 
how reason and the growth of knowledge 
undermmed the bases of theological authority. 
At each step in this process, in which philo- 
sophical speculation, historical criticism, 
natural science have all taken part, the op- 
position between reason and faith deepened • 








doubt, clear or vague, increased; and secu- 
larism, derived from the Humanists, and 
always implying scepticism, whether latent 
or conscious, substituted an interest in the 
fortunes of the human race upon earth for 
the interest in a future world. And along 
with this steady intellectual advance, tolera- 
tion gained ground and freedom won more 
champions. In the meantime the force of 
)X)]itical circumstances was compelling govem- 
mtats to mitigate their ma.nteuance of one 
leligious creed by measures of relief to other 
Christian sects, and the r^rinciplc of exclu- 
siveness was broken down for reasons of 
worldly expediency. Religious liberty was an 
important step towards complete freedom of 



In the third century b.c. the Indian king 
Asoka, a man of religious zeal but of tolerant 
spirit, confronted by the struggle between two 
hostile religions (Brahmanism and Buddhism), 
decided that both should be equally privileged 
and honoured in his dominions. His ordin- 
ances on the matter are memorable as the 
earliest existing Edicts of toleration. In 






Europe, as we saw, the principle of toleration 
was for the first time definitely expressed in 
the Roman Imperial Edicts which terminated 
the persecution of the Christians. 

The religious strife of the sixteenth century 
raised the question in its modern form, and 
for many generations it was one of the chief 
problems of statesmen and the subject of 
endless controversial pamphlets. Toleration 
means incomplete religious liberty, and there 
are many degrees of it. It might be granted 
to certain Christian sects ; it might be granted 
to Christian sects, but these alone; it might 
be granted to all religions, but not to free- 
thinkers ; or to deists, but not to atheists. It 
might mean the concession of some civil 
rights, but not of others; it might mean the 
exclusion of those who are tolerated from 
public offices or from certain professions. The 
religious liberty now enjoyed in Western lands 
has been gained through various stages of 

We owe the 'nodern principle of toleration 
to the Italian group of Reformers, who 
rejected the doctrine of the Trinity and were 
the fathers of Unitarianism. The Reforma- 
tion movement had spread to Italy, but Rome 
was successful in suppressing it, and many 
heretics fied to Switzerland. The anti- 
Trinitarian group were forced by the intoler- 





ance of Calvin to flee to Transylvania and 
Poland where they propagated their doctrines. 
The Unitarian creed was moulded by Fausto 
Sozzir.i, generally known as Socinus, and in 
the catechism of his sect (1574) persecution 
is condemned. This repudiation of the use 
of force in the interest of religion is a conse- 
quence of the Socinian doctrines. For, unlike 
Luther and Calvin, the Socinians conceded 
such a wide room to individual judgment in 
the interpretation of Scripture that to impose 
Socinianism would have been inconsistent 
with its principles. In other words, there 
was a strong rationalistic element ./hich was 
lacking in the Trinitarian creeds. 

It was under the influence of the Socinian 
spirit that Castellion of Savoy sounded the 
trumpet of toleration in a pamphlet denounc- 
ing the burning of Servetus, whereby he earned 
the malignant hatred of Calvin. He main- 
tained the innocence of error and ridiculed 
the importance which the Churches laid on 
obscure questions such as predestination and 
the Trinity. " To discuss the difference 
between the Law and the Gospel, gratuitous 
remission of sins or imputed righteousness, is 
as if a man were to discuss whether a prince 
was to come on horseback, or in a chariot, or 
dressed in white or in red." ^ Religion is 
^ Translated bv Lecky. 







a curse if persecution is a necessary part 
of it. 

For a long time the Socinians and those 
wlio came under their influence when, driven 
from Poland, they passed into Germany and 
Holland, were the only sects which advocated 
toleration. It was adopted from them by the 
Anabaptists and by the Arminian section of 
the Reformed Church of Holland. And in 
Holland, the founder of the English Congre- 
gationalists, who (under the name of Inde- 
pendents) played such an important part in 
the history of the Civil War and the Common- 
wealth, learned the principle of liberty of 

Socinus thought that this principle could 
be realized without abolishing the State 
Church. He contemplated a close union 
between the State and the prevailing Church, 
combined with complete toleration for other 
sects. It is under this system (which has been 
called jurisdictional) that religious liberty 
has been realized in European States. But 
there is another and simpler method, that of 
separating Church from State and placing all 
religions on an equality. This was the solu- 
tion which the Anabaptists would have pre- 
ferred. They detested the State; and the 
doctrine of religious liberty was not precious 
to them. Their ideal system would have been 



-i> "• 



an Anabaptist theocracy ; separation was the 
second best. 

In Eiirojie, pubhc opinion was not ripe for 
separation, inasmuch as the most powerful 
religious bodies were ahke in regarding tolera- 
tion as wicked indifference. But it was intro- 
duced in a small corner of the new world 
beyond the Atlantic in the seventeenth 
centUi. . The Puritans who fled from the 
intolerance of the English Church and State 
and founded colonies in New England, were 
themselves equally intolerant, not only to 
Anglicans and Catholics, but to Baptists and 
Quakers. They set up theocratical govern- 
ments from which all who did not belong to 
their own sect were excluded. Roger Williams 
had imbibed from the Dutch Arminians the 
idea of separation of Church from State. On 
account of this heresy he was driven from 
Massachusetts, and he founded Providence 
to be a refuge for those whom the Puritan 
colonists persecuted. Here he set up a demo- 
cratic constitution in which the magistrates 
had power only in civil matters and could not 
interfere with religion. Other towns werr 
presently founded in Rhode Island, and a 
charter of Charles II (1668) confirmed the 
constitution, which secured to all citizens 
professing Christianity, of whatever form, the 
full enjoyment of political rights. Non- 


Christians were tolerated, but were not 
admitted to the poHtical rights of Christians. 
So far, the new State fell short of perfect 
liberty. But the fact that Jews were soon 
admitted, notwithstanding, to full citizenship 
shows how free the atmosphere was. To 
Roger Williams belongs the glory of having 
founded the first modern State which was 
really tolerant and was based on the principle 
of taking the control of religious matters 
entirely out of the hunds of the civil govern- 

Toleration was also established in the 
Roman Catholic colony of Maryland, but in 
a different way. Through the influence of 
Lord Baltimore an Act of Toleration was 
passed in 1649, notable as the first decree, 
voted by a legal assembly, granting complete 
freedom to all Christians. No one professing 
faith in Christ was to be molested in regard 
to his religion. But the law was heavy on all 
outside this pale. Any one who blasphemed 
God or attacked the Trinity or any member 
of the Trinity was threatened by the penalty 
of death. The tolerance of Maryland 
attracted so maiiy Protestant settlers from 
Virginia that the Protestants became a 
majority, and as soon as they won political 
preponderance, they introduced an Act (1654) 
excluding Papists and Prelatists from tolera- 





tion. The rule of the Baltimorcs was restored 
after 1600, and the old reliKious freedom was 
revived, but with the accession of William HI 
the Protestants again came into power and 
the toleration which the Catholics had insti- 
tuted in Maryland came to an end. 

It will be observed that in both these cases 
freedom was incomplete; but it was nmch 
larger and more fundamental in Rhode 
Island, where it had been ultimately derived 
from the doctrine of Socinus.* When th<' 
colonies became independent of England th« 
Federal Constitution which they set up was 
absolutely secular, but it was left to each 
member of the Union to adopt Separation or 
not (1789). If separation has become the rule 
in the American States, it may be largely due to 
the fact that on any other system the govern- 
ments would have found it difficult to impose 
nmtual tolerance on the sects. It must b< 
added that in Maryland and a few southern 
Stetes atheists still suffer from some political 

In England, the experiment of Separation 
would have been tried under the Common- 
wealth, if the Independents liad had their 
way. This policy was overruled by Cromwell. 
The new national Church included Presby- 

» Complete toleration was established by Penn in tlie 
Quaker Colony of Pennsylvania in 1682. 



terians, Independents, and KaptiKts, but 
liberty of worHhip was granted to all Christian 
sects, except Uoniun Catholics and Anglicans. 
If the parliament had had the power, this 
toleration would have been a mere name. 
T!ie Presbyterians regarded toleration as a 
work of the Devil, and would have persecuted 
the Independents if they could. Ilut under 
Cromwell's autocratic rule even the Anglicans 
lived in peace, and toleration was extended 
to the Jews. In these days, voices were 
raised from various quarters advocating 
toleration on general grounds.^ The most 
illustrious advocate was Milton, the poet, 
who was in favour of the severance of Church 
from State. 

In Milton's Areopagitica : a .speech for 
the liberty of unlicensed printing (1644), 
the freedom of the Press is eloquently sus- 
tained by arguments which are valid for 
freedom of thought in general. It is sihown 
that the censorship Avill conduce *' to the (k«- 
couragement of all learning and the sU^^ of 
truth, not only by disexercising and blunting 
our abilities in what we know already, but by 
hindering and cropping the discovery that 
might be yet further made, both in religioufe 
and civil wisdom." For knowledge 


* Especially Chillingworth's Religion of Protestants 

(1637), and Jeremy Taylor's Libciiy of Proj^esying (lC4o;. 




t tf 


advuticcd through the utterance of new 
opinionH, unci truth in discovered by free 
discuKsiun. H the waters of truth *' How not 
in a perpetual progression they sieken into a 
muddy pool of conformity and tradition." 
Book.H which arc authorized by the liccnserh 
are apt to be, as Bacon said, '' but the 
language of the times," and do not con- 
tribute to progress. The examples of the 
countries where the censorship is severe do 
not suggest that it is useful for morals : 
'* look into Italy and Spain, whether those 
places be one scruple the better, the honester. 
the wiser, the chaster, since all the in- 
quisitional rigour that hath been executed 
upon books." Spain indf ed could reply, ** We 
are, what is more important, more orthodox." 
It is interesting to notice that Milton places 
freedom of thought above civil liberty : 
" Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and 
to argue freely according to conscience, above 
all other liberties." 

With the restoration of the Monarchy and 
the Anglican Church, religious liberty was 
extinguished by a series of laws against 
Dissenters. To the Revolution wc owe the 
Act of Toleration (1689) from which the 
religious freedom which England enjoys at 
present is derived. It granted freedom of 
worship to Presbj^rians, Congregationalists, 



Uaptisis and Quakers, but only to these; 
Catholics and Unitarians were expressly 
excepted and the repressive lefl^islation of 
Charles II remained in force ai^ainst them. 
It was a chamcteristically English measure, 
logically inconsistent and absurd, a mixture 
of tolerance and intolerance, but suitable to 
the circumstances and the state of public 
opinion at the time. 

In the same year John Locke's famous 
(first) Letter concerning Toleration appeared 
in Latin. Three subsequent letters deve- 
loped and illustrated his thesis. The main 
arj(umont is based on the principle that 
the business of civil government is quite 
distinct from that of religion, that the State 
is a society constituted only for preserving 
and promoting the civil interests of its mem- 
bers — civil interests meaning life, liberty, 
health, and the possession of property. The 
care of souls is not committed to magistrates 
more than to other men. For the magistrate 
can only use outward force; but true religion 
means the inward persuasion of the mind, 
and the mind is so made that force cannot 
compel it to believe. So too it is absurd 
for a State to make laws to enforce a religion, 
for laws are useless without penalties, and 
penalties are impertinent because they cannot 





Moreover, even if penalties could change 
men's beliefs, this would not conduce to the 
salvation of souls. Would more men be saved 
if all blindly resigned themselves to the will 
of their rulers and accepted the religion of 
their country? For as the princes of the 
world are divided in religion, one countrj- 
alone would be in the right, and all the rest 
of the world would have to follow their princes 
to destruction ; " and that which heightens 
the absurdity, and very ill suits the notion of 
a deit>, men would owe their eternal happiness 
or their eternal misery to the places of their 
nativity." This is a principle on which Locke 
repeatedly insists. If a State is justified in 
imposing a creed, it follows that in all the 
lands except the one or few in which the true 
faith prevails, it is the duty of the subjects to 
embrace a false religion. If Protestantism is 
promoted in England, Popery by the same 
rule will be promoted in France. " What is 
true and good in England will be true and 
good at Rome too, in China, or Geneva." 
Toleration is the principle which gives to the 
true faith the best chance of prevailing. 

Locke would concede full liberty to idolaters, 
by whom he means the Indians of North 
America, and he makes some scathing remarks 
on the ecclesiastical zeal which forced these 
*' innocent pagans " to forsake their ancient 

.'I l-,-,. v _-j.'^ 





religion. But his toleration, though it extends 
beyond the Christian pale, is not complete. 
He excepts in the first place Roman Catholics, 
not on account of their theological dogmas 
but because they " teach that faith is not to 
be kept with heretics," that " kings excom- 
municated forfeit their crowns and king- 
d». ns," and because they deliver themselves 
up to the protection and service of a foreign 
prince— the Pope. In other words, they are 
Ijolitically dangerous. His other exception is 
atheists. " Those are not all to be tolerated 
who deny the being of God. Promises, 
covenants and oaths, which are the bonds of 
human society, can have no hold upon an 
atheist. The taking away of God, though 
but even in thought, dissolves all. Besides 
also, those that by their atheism undermine 
and destroy ail religion, can have no pretence 
of religion to challenge the privilege of a 

Thus Locke is not free from the prejudices 
of his time. These exceptions contradict his 
own principle that "it is absurd that things 
should be enjoined by laws which are not in 
men's power to perform. And to believe this 
or that to be true does not depend upon our 
will." This applies to Roman Catholics as to 
Protestants, to atheists as to deists. Locke, 
however, perhaps thought that the speculative 


.- I 

r 1 





opinion of atheism, which was uncommon in 
his day, does depend on the will. He would 
have excluded from his State his great con- 
temporary Spinoza. 

But in spite of its limitations Locke's 
Toleration is a work of the highest value, and 
its argument takes us further than its author 
went. It asserts unrestrictedly the secular 
principle, and its logical issue is Disestab- 
lishment. A Church is merely " a free and 
voluntary society." I may notice the remark 
that if infidels were to be converted by force, 
it was easier for God to do it " with armies 
of heavenly legions than for any son of the 
Church, how potent soever, with all his 
dragoons." This is a polite way of stating 
a maxim analogous to that of the Emperor 
Tiberius (above, p. 41). If false beliefs are 
an offence to God, it is, really, his affair. 

The toleration of Nonconformists was far 
from pleasing extreme Anglicans, and the 
influence of this party at the beginning of the 
eighteenth century menaced the liberty of 
Dissenters. The situation provoked Defoe, 
who was a zealous Nonconformist, to write his 
pamphlet. The Shortest Way with the Dis- 
senters (1702), an ironical attack upon the 
principle of toleration. It pretends to show 
that the Dissenters are at heart incorrigible 
rebels, that a gentle policy is useless, and 



suggests that all preachers at conventicles 
should be hanged and all persons found 
attending such meetings should be banished. 
This exceedingly amusing but terribly earnest 
caricature of the sentiments of the High 
Anglican party at first deceived and alarmed 
the Dissenters themselves. But the High 
Churchmen were furious. Defoe was fined, 
exposed in the pillory three times, and sent 
to Newgate prison. 

But the Tory reaction was only temporary. 
During the eighteenth century, a relatively 
tolerant spirit prevailed among the Christian 
sects and new sects were founded. The official 
Church became less fanatical; many of its 
ler.ding divines were influenced by rationalistic 
thought. If it had not been for the opposi- 
tion of King George III, the Catholics might 
have been freed from their disabilities before 
the end of the century. This measure, 
eloquently advocated by Burke and desired 
by Pitt, was not carried till 1829 and then 
under the threat of a revolution in Ireland. 
In the meantime legal toleration had been 
extended to the Unitarians in 1818, but they 
were not relieved from all disabilities till the 
forties. Jews were not admitted to the full 
rights of citizenship till 1858. 

The achievement of religious liberty in 
England in the nineteenth century has been 




i- H 

■ u 

! f: 

f- ^ I' 


mainly the work of Liberals. The Liberal 
party has been moving towards the ultimate 
goal of complete secularization and the 
separation of the Church from the State — 
i'.e logical results of Locke's theory of civil 
government. The Disestablishment of the 
Church in Ireland in 1869 partly realized this 
ideal, and now more than forty years later the 
Liberal party is seeking to apply the principle 
to Wales. It is highly characteristic of English 
j)olitics and English psychology that the 
change should be carried out in this piecemeal 
fashion. In the other countries of the British 
Empire the system of Separation prevails; 
there is no connection between the State and 
any sect; no Church is anything more than 
a voluntary society. But secularization has 
advanced under the State Church system. It 
is enough to mention the Education Act of 
1870 and the abolition of religious tests at 
Universities (1871). Other gains for freedom 
will be noticed when I come to speak in 
another chapter of the progress of ration- 

If we compare the religious situation in 
Fr» nee in the seventeenth with that in the 
eigh eenth century, it seems 'o be sharply 
contrasted with the development in England. 
In England there was a great advance to- 
wards religious liberty, in France there was a 


falling away. Until 1676 the French Protes- 
tants (Huguenots) were tolerated ; for the next 
hundred years they were outlaws. Hut the 
toleration, which their charter (the Edict of 
Nantes, 1598) secured them, was of a limited 
kind. They were excluded, for instance, from 
the army ; they were excluded from Paris and 
other cities and districts. And the liberty 
which they enjoyed was confined to them; 
it was not granted to any other sect. The 
charter was faithfully maintained by the two 
great Cardinals (Richelieu and Mazarin) who 
governed France under Louis XIII and 
Louis XIV, but when the latter assumed the 
active power in 1661 he began a series of laws 
against the Protestants which culminated in 
the revoking of the charter (1676) and the 
beginning of a Protestant persecution. 

The French clergy justified this policy by the 
notorious text " Compel them to come in," 
and appealed to St. Augustine. Their argu- 
ments evoked a defence of toleration by Bnyle, 
a French Protestant who had taken refuge in 
Holland. It was entitled a Philosophical 
Commentary on the text " Compel them to come 
in " (1686) and in importance stands beside 
Locke's work which was being composed at 
the same time. Many of the arguments urged 
by the two writers are identical. They agreed, 
and for the same reasons, in excluding Roman 



* s 

r -* 


II !.,! 


Catholics. The most characteristic thing in 
Bayle*8 treatise is his sceptical argument that, 
even if it were a right principle to suppress 
error by force, no truth is certain enough to 
justify us in applying the theory. We shall 
see (next chapter) this eminent scholar's 
contribution to rationaiism. 

Though there was an immense exodus of 
Protestants from France, Louis did not suc- 
ceed in his design of extirpating heresy from 
his lands. In the eighteenth century under 
Louis XV, the presence of Protestants was 
tolerated though they were outlaws; their 
marriages were not recognized as legal, and 
they were liable at any moment to persecu- 
tion. About the middle of the century, a 
literary agitation began, conducted mainly 
by rationalists, but finally supported by 
enlightened Catholics, to relieve the affliction 
of the oppressed sect. It resulted at last in 
an Edict of Toleration (1787), which made the 
position of the Protestants endurable, though 
it excluded them from certain careers. 

The most energetic and forceful leader in 
the campaign against intolerance was Voltaire 
(see next chapter), and his exposure of some 
glaring cases of unjust persecution did mere 
than general arguments to achieve the object. 
The most infamous case was that of Jean 
Calas, a Protestant merchant of Toulouse, 




whose son committed suicide. A report was 
set abroad that the young man had decided 
to join the Catholic Church, and that his 
father, mother and brother, filled with Protes- 
tant bigotry, killed him, with the help of a 
friend. They were all put in irons, tried, and 
condemned, though there were no arguments 
for their guilt, except the conjecture of 
bigotry. Jean Calas was broken on the wheel, 
his son and daughter cast into convents, his 
wife left to starve. Through the activity of 
Voltaire, then living near Geneva, the widow 
was induced to go to Paris, where she was 
kindly received, and assisted by eminent 
lawyers; a judicial inquiry was made; the 
Toulouse sentence was reversed and the King 
granted pensions to those who had suffered. 
This scandal could only have happened in 
the provinces, according to Voltaire : " at 
Paris," he says, " fanaticism, powerful though 
it may be, is always controlled by reason." 

The case of Sirven, though it did not end 
tragically, was similar, and the government 
of Toulouse was again responsible. He was 
accused of having drowned his daughter in a 
well to hinder her from becoming a Catholic, 
and was, with his wife, sentenced to death. 
Fortunately he and his family had escaped to 
Switzerland, where they persuaded Voltaire of 
their innocence. To get the sentence reversed 






I I 

was the work of nine years, and this time it 
was reversetl at Toulouse. Wfien Voltaire 
visitetl Paris in 1778, he was acelaimed by 
crowds as the '* defender of Calas and the 
Sirvens." His disinterested practical activity 
against persecution was of far more value 
than the treatise on Toleration which he 
wrote in connexion with the Calas episode. 
It is a poor work compared with those of 
Locke and Hayle. The tolerance which he 
advocates is of a limited kind; he would 
i-onfinc public olHces and dignities to those 
who belong to the State religion. 

But if Voltaire's system of toleration is 
limited, it is wide compared with the religious 
establishment advocated by his contemporary, 
Rousseau. Though of Swiss birth, Rousseau 
belongs to the literature and history of France ; 
but it was not for nothing that he was brought 
up in the traditions of Calvinistic Geneva. 
His ideal State would, in its way, have been 
little better than any theocracy. He proposed 
to establish a *' civil religion " which was to 
be a sort of undogmatic Christianity. Rut 
certain dogmas, which he considered essential, 
were to be imposed on all citizens on pain of 
banishment. Such were the existence of a 
deity, the future bliss of the good and punish- 
ment of the bad, the duty of tolerance towards 
all those who accepted the fundamental 


articles of fuith. It may be said that a State 
founded on this basis would be fairly inclusive 
— that all Christian sects and many deists 
could find a place in it. Hut by im|K)sin^ 
indispensable beliefs, it denies the principle 
of toleration. The importance of Rousseau's 
idea lies in the fact that it insi)ired one of the 
experiments in religious p<ilicy which were 
made durinjf the French Revolution. 

The Revolution established religious liberty 
in France. Most of the leaders were unortho- 
dox. Their rationalism was naturally of tlu 
eighteenth- century type, and in the preamble 
to the Declaration ol Rights (1789) deism wa^ 
asserted by the words " in the presence and 
under the auspices of the Supreme Being '' 
(against which only one voice protested). 
The Declaration laid down that no one was 
to be vexed on account of his religious 
opinions pi-ovided he did not thereby trouble 
public order. Catholicism was retained as 
the "dominant" religion; Protestants (but 
not Jews) were admitted to public office. 
Mirabeau, the greatest statesman of the day, 
protestetl strongly against the use of words 
hke " tolerance " and " dominant." He said : 
" The most unlimited liberty of religion is 
in my eyes a right so sacred that to express 
it by the word toleration seems to me itself 
a sort of tyranny, since tiie authority which 



' i 
. I 

I ! 

i i 
I • 


toleratefi might also not tolerate." The samt; 
protest was made in Thomas Paine's Rights 
of Man which appeared two years later: 
" Toleration is not the ofypoaite of Intolerance, 
but is the counterfeit of it. Both are despot- 
isms. The one assumes itself the right of 
withholding liberty of conscience, and the 
other of granting it." Paine was an ardent 
deist, and he added : " Were a bill brought 
into any parliament, entitled * An Act to 
tolerate or grant liberty to the Almighty to 
receive the worship of a Jew or a Turk,' or 
♦ to prohibit the Almighty from receiving it,' 
all men would startle and call it blasphemy. 
There would be an uproar. The presumption 
of toleration in religious matters would then 
present itself unmasked." 

The Revolution began well, but the spirit 
of Mirabeau was not in the ascendant through- 
out its course. The vicissitudes in religious 
policy from 1789 to 1801 have a particular 
interest, because they show that the principle 
of liberty of conscience was far from possess- 
ing the minds of the men who were proud of 
abolishing the intolerance of the government 
which they had overthrown. The State 
Church was reorganized by the Civil Constitu- 
tion of the Clergy (1790), by which Frencli 
citizens were forbidden to acknowledge the 
authority of the Pope and the appointment of 


Bishops was transferred to the Electors of the 
Departments, so that the commanding influ- 
ence passed from the Crown to the nation. 
Doctrine and worship were not touched. 
Under the democratic Repubhc which suc- 
ceeded tlie fall of the monarchy (1702-5) this 
Constitution was nmintained, but a move- 
ment to dechristianize France was inau- 
gurated, and the Commune of Paris ordered 
the churches of all religions to be closed. The 
worship of Reason, with rites modelled on the 
Catholic, was organized in Paris and the 
provinces. The government, violently anti- 
Catholic, did not care to use force against the 
prevalent faith; direct r^rsecution would 
liave weakf the national defence and 

scandaUzedE. ope. They naively honed that 
the superstition would disappear by u «s. 
Robespierre declared against the policy oi ..ii- 
christianizing France, and when he had the 
power (April 1795), he established as a State 
religion the worship of the Supreme Being. 
" The French people recognizes the existence 
of the Supreme Being and the immortp.lity 
of the Soul " ; the liberty of other ults 
was maintained. Thus, for a few mcaths, 
Rousseau's idea was more or less reaUzed. It 
meant intolerance. Atheism was regarded as 
a vice, and " all were atheists, who did not 
think like Robespierre." 

! ■ 


i • 

\ i 
: t 








The democratic was luccerdecl by the 
middlc-clajw Republic (1795-9). and the 
nohcy of its government was to hinder the 
preponderance of any one rehgious group; 
to hold the Iwilance among all the crcetls. 
but with a certain jmrtiality against the 
strongest, the Catholic, which threatened, as 
was thought, to destroy the others or even 
the Republic. Tlie plan was to favour the 
growth of new rationalistic cults, and to 
undermine revealed religion by a secular 
system of education. Accordingly the Church 
was separated from the SUtc by the Constitu- 
tion of 1793, which affirmed the libt. y of all 
worship and withdrew from the CathoUe 
clergy the salaries which the State had 
hitherto paid. The elemenUry schools were 
laicized. The Declaration of Rights, the 
articles of the Constitution, and republican 
morality were taught instead of religion. An 
enthusiast declared that "the religion of 
Socrates, Marcus Aurelius and Cicero would 
soon be the religion of the world." 

A new rationalistic religion was introduced 
under the name of Theophilanthropy. It was 
the "natural religion" of the philosophers 
and poets of tlie century, of Voltaire and the 
English deists— not the purified Christianity 
of Rousseau, but anterior and superior to 
Christianity. Its doctrines, briefly formulate -1 


f ! 



wtrc : GckI, iminortiiHty, fraternity, human- 
ity ; no attacks on other religions, but res(>cct 
ami honour towards all; gatherings in a 
family, or in a temple, to encourage on*' 
another to practise morality. Protected by 
the government sometimes secretly, sometinu s 
openly, it had a certain success among the 
cultivated classes. 

The idea of the lay State was j>opularized 
under this rule, and by the em. of the Cv-^ntury 
there was virtually religious peace in France. 
Under the Consulate (from 1799) the same 
system continued, but Napoleon ceased to 
protect Theophilanthropy. In 1801, though 
there seems to have been little discontent 
with the existing arrangement, Na{>oleon 
decided to upset it and bring the Pope upon 
the scene. The Catholic religion, as that of 
the majority, was again taken under the 
special protection of tlie State, the salaries of 
the clergy again paitl by the nation, and the 
Papal authority over the Church again recog- 
nized within well-defined limits; while full 
toleration of other religions was maintained. 
This was the effect of the Concordat between 
the French Republic and the Pope. It is the 
judgment of a high authority that the nation, 
if it had been consulted would have pro- 
nounced against the el i,nge. It may be 
doubted whether this is true. But Napoleon's 


I . 


2 i' 


; 5 


policy seems to have been prompted by the 
calculation that, using the Pope as an instru- 
ment, he could control the consciences of men, 
and more easily carry out his plans of empire. 

Apart from its ecclesiastical policies and its 
experiments in new creeds based on the 
principles of rationalistic thinkers, the Frencli 
Revolution itself has an interest, in connexion 
with our subject, as an example of the coercion 
of reason by an intolerant faith. 

The leaders believed that, by applying 
certain principles, they could regenerate 
France and show the world how the lasting 
happiness of mankind can be secured. They 
acted in the name of reason, but their prin- 
ciples were articles of faith, which were 
accepted just as blindly and irrationally as 
the dogmas of any supernatural creed. One 
of these dogmas was the false doctrine of 
Rousseau that man is a being who is naturally 
good and loves justice and order. Another 
was the illusion that all men are equal by 
nature. The puerile conviction prevailed that 
legislation could completely blot out the past 
and radically transform the character of a 
society. " Liberty, equality, and fraternity " 
was as much a creed as the Creed of the 
Apostles; it hypnotized men's minds Hke a 
revelation from on high; and reason had as 
little part in its propagation as in the spread 

I 1 

i. ! 



of Christianity or of Protestantism. It meant 
anything but equality, fraternity, or liberty, 
especially liberty, when it was translated into 
action by the fanatical apostles of " Reason," 
who were blind to the facts of human nature 
and defied the facts of economics. Termor, 
the usual instrument in propagating religions, 
was never more mercilessly applied. Any one 
who questioned the doctrines was a heretic 
and deserved a heretic's fate. And, as in 
most religious movements, the milder and 
less unreasonable spirits succumbed to the 
fanatics. Never was the name of reason 
more grievously abused than by those who 
believed they were inaugurating her reign. 

Religious liberty, however, among other 
good things, did emerge from the Revolu- 
tion, at first in the form of Separation, and 
then under the Concordat. The Concordat 
lasted for more than a century, under 
monarchies and republics, till it was abolished 
in December 1905, when the system of 
Separation was introduced again. 

In the German States the history of religious 
liberty differs in many ways, but it resembles 
the development in France in so far as toleia- 
tion in a limited form was at first brought 
about by war. The Thirty Years' War, 
which divided Germany in the first half of the 
seventeenth century, and in which, as in the 

i 4> 


;■ i 

i J 

• ' I 




English Civil War, religion and politics were 
mixed, was terminated by the Peace of 
Westphalia (1648). By this act, three 
religions, the Catholic, the Lutheran, and 
the Reformed * were legally recognized by 
the Holy Roman Empire, and placed on an 
equality; all other religions were excluded. 
But it was left to each of the German States, 
of which the Empire consisted, to tolerate or 
not any religion it pleased. That is, every 
prince could impose on his subjects whichever 
of the three religions he -••hose, and refuse to 
tolerate the others in his territory. But he 
might also admit one or both of the others, 
and he might allow the followers of other 
creeds to reside in his dominion, and practise 
their religion within the precincts of their 
own houses. Thus toleration varied, from 
State to State, according to the policy of each 
particular prince. 

As elsewhere, so in Germany, considera- 
tions of political expediency promoted the 
growth of toleration, especially in Prussia; 
and as elsewhere, theoretical advocates exer- 
cised great influence on public opinion. But 
the case for toleration was based by its defenders chiefly on legal, not, as in 
England and France, on moral and intel- 

^ The Reformed Chiircli consists of the followers of 
Calvin and Zwindi. 


lectual grounds. They regarded it as a ques- 
tion of law, and discussed it from the point of 
view of the legal relations between State and 
Church. It had been considered long ago 
from this standpoint by an origmal Italian 
thinker, Marsilius of Padua (thirteenth cen- 
tury), who had maintained that the Church 
had no power to employ physical coercion and 
that if the lay authority punished heretics, 
the punishment was inflicted for the violation 
not of divine ordinances but of the law of 
the State, which excluded heretics from its 


Christian Thomasius may be taken as a 
Icadin- xponent of the theory that religious 
liberty .ogically follows from a right concep- 
tion of law. He laid down in a series of 
pamphlets (1693-1697) that the prince, who 
alone has the power of coercion, has no right 
to interfere in spiritual matters, while the 
clergy step beyond their province if they 
interfere in secular matters or defend their 
faith bv any other means than teaching. But 
the secular power has no legal right to coerce 
heretics unless heresy is a crime. And heresy 
is not a crime, but an error ; for it is not a 
matter of will. Thomasius, moreover, urges 
the view that the public welfare has nothmg 
to gain from unity ot faith, that it makes no 
difference what faith a man professes so long 







as he is loyal to the State. His toleration 
indeed is not complete. He was much influ- 
enced by the writings of his contemporary 
Locke, and he excepts from the benefit of 
toleration the same classes which Locke 

Besides the influence of the jurists, we 
may note that the Pietistic movement — a 
reaction of religious enthusiasm against the 
formal theology of the Lutheran divines — was 
animated by a spirit favourable to tolera- 
tion; p*>d that the cause was promoted by 
the leading men of letters, especially by 
Lessing, in the second half of the ei:^hteenth 

But perhaps the most important fact of 
all in hastening the realization of religious 
liberty in Germany was the accession of a 
rationalist to the throne of Prussia, in the 
person of Frederick the Great. A few months 
after his accession (1740) he wrote in the 
margin of a State paper, in which a question 
of religious policy occurred, that every one 
should be allowed to get to heaven in his own 
way. His view that morality was independent 
of religion and therefore compatible with all 
religions, and tnat thus a man could be a good 
citiren— the only thing which the State was 
entitled to demand — ^whatever faith he might 
profess, led to the logical consequence of com- 


plete religious liberty. Catholics were placed 
on an equality with Protestants, and the 
Treaty of Westphalia was violated by the 
extension of full toleration to ali the forbidden 
sects. Frederick even conceived the idea of 
introducing Mohammadan settlers into some 
parts of his realm. Contrast England under 
George III, France under Louis XV, Italy 
under the shadow of the Popes. It is an 
important fact in history, which has hardly 
been duly emphasized, that full religious 
liberty was for the first time, in any country 
in modem Europe, realized under a free- 
thinking ruler, the friend of the great " blas- 
phemer " Voltaire. 

The policy and principles of Frederick were 
formulated in the Prussian Territorial Code of 
1794, by which unrestricted liberty of con- 
science was guaranteed, and the three chief 
religions, the Lutheran, the Reformed, and 
the Catholic, were placed on the same footing 
and enjoyed the same privileges. The system 
is " jurisdictional " ; only, three Churches 
here occupy the position which the Anglican 
Church alone occupies in England. The rest 
of Germany did not begin to move in the 
direction pointed out by Prussia until, by one 
of the last acts of the Holy Roman Empire 
(1808), the Westphalian settlement had been 
modified. Before the foundation of the new 





r i ■■ 
f* - lis i ; 

11 '^^ 



I ) 


Empire (1870), freedom was established 
throughout Germany. 

In Austria, the Emperor Joseph II issued 
an Edict of Toleration in 1781, which may be 
considered a broad measure for a Catholic 
State ut that time. Joseph was a sincere 
Catholic, but he was not impervious to the 
enlightened ideas of his age; he was an 
admirer of Frederick, and his edict was 
prompted by a genuinely tolerant spirit, such 
as had not inspired the English Act of 1689. 
It extended only to the Lutheran and Re- 
formed sects and the communities of the 
Cireek Church which had entered into union 
with Rome, and it of a limited kind. 
Ueligious liberty was not established till 1867. 

The measure of Joseph applied to the 
Austrian States in Italy, and helped to prepare 
that country for the idea of religious freedom. 
It is notable that in Italy in the eignteenth 
century toleration found its advocate, not in 
a rationalist or a philosopher, but in a Catholic 
ecclesiastic, Tamburini, who (under the name 
of his friend Trautmansdorf) published a work 
On Ecclesiastical and Civil Toleration (1783). 
A sharp line is drawn between the provinces 
of the Church and the State, persecution and 
the Inquisition are condemned, coercion of 
conscience is declared inconsistent with the 
Christian spirit, and the principle is laid down 


that the sovran should only exercise coercion 
where the interests of public safety arc con- 
cerned. Like Locke, the author thinks that 
atheism is a legitimate case for such coercion. 
The new States which Napoleon set up in 
Italy exhibited toleration in various degrees, 
but* real liberty was first introduced in 
Piedmont by Cavour (1848), a measure which 
prepared the way for the full liberty which was 
one of the first-fruits of the foundation of the 
Italian kingdom in 1870. The union of Italy, 
with all that it meant, is the most signal and 
dramatic act in the triumph of the ideas of the 
modern State over the traditional principles 
of the Christian Church. Rome, which pre- 
served those principles most faithfully, has 
offered a steadfast, we may say a heroic, 
resistance to the liberal ideas which swept 
Europe in the nineteenth century. The guides 
of her policy grasped thoroughly the danger 
which liberal thought meant for an institution 
which, founded in a remote past, claimed to 
bo unchangeable and never out of date. 
Gregory XVi issued a solemn protest main- 
taining authority against freedom, the 
mcdi'-^'val against the modern ideal, in an 
Encyclical Letter (1832), which was intended 
as a rebuke to some young French Catholics 
(Lanicnnais and his friends) who had con- 
ceived the promising iaea of transforming 


: \ 


i i 





It. ■ 


1 ! 


the Church by the Liberal spirit of the day. 
The Pope denounces " the absurd and erro- 
neous maxim, or rather insanity, that liberty 
of conscience should be procured and guaran- 
teed to every one. The path to this pernicious 
error is prepared by that full and unlimited 
liberty of thought which is spread abroad to 
the misfortune of Church and State and which 
certain persons, with excessive impudence, 
venture to represent as an advantage for 
religion. Hence comes the corruption of 
youth, contempt for religion and for the most 
venerable laws, and a general mental change 
in the world — in short the most deadly scourge 
of society ; since the experience of history has 
shown that the States which have shone by 
their wealth and power and glory have 
perished just by this evil — immoderate free- 
dom of opinion, licence of conversation, and 
love of novelties. With this is connected the 
liberty of publishing any writing of any kind 
This is a deadly and execrable liberty for which 
we cannot feel sufficient horror, though some 
men dare to acclaim it noisily and enthusiastic- 
ally." A generation later Pius IX was to 
astonish the world by a similar manifesto — 
his SyMabus of Modem Errors (1864). Yet, 
notwitxistanding the fundamental antagonism 
between the principles of the Church and the 
drift of modern civilization, the Papacy sur- 




vives, powerful and respected, in a world 
where the ideas which it condemned have 
become the commonplace conditions of life. 
The progress of Western nations from the 
system of unity which prevailed in the 
fifteenth, to the system of liberty which was 
the rule in the nineteenth century, was slow 
and painful, illogical and wavering, generally 
dictated by political necessities, seldom 
inspired by deliberate conviction. We have 
seen how religious liberty has been realized, 
so far as the law is concerned, under two 
distinct systems, "Jurisdiction " and " Separa- 
tion." But legal toleration may coexist with 
much practical intolerance, and liberty before 
the law is compatible with serious disabilities 
of which the law cannot take account. For 
instance, the expression of unorthodox opin- 
ions may exclude a man from obtaining a 
secular post or hinder his advancement. The 
question has been asked, which of the two 
systems is more favourable to the creation 
of a tolerant social atmosphere. Ruffini (of 
whose excellent work on Religious Liberty I 
have made much use in this chapter) decides 
in favour of Jurisdiction. He points out that 
while Socinus, a true friend of liberty of 
thought, contemplated this system, the Ana- 
baptists, whose spirit was intolerant, sought 
Separation. More important is the observa- 

' t f 





» ! 


tion that in Germany, England, and Italy, 
where the most jKiwcrfuI (!hurch or Churches 
are under the control of the State, there is 
more freedom, more tolerance of opinion, tluui 
in many of the American States where 
Separation prevails. A hundred years ago the 
Americans showed appalling ingratitude to 
Thomas Paine, who had clone them eminent 
service in the War of Independence, simply 
because he published a very anorthodox book. 
It is notorious that free thought is still a 
serious hindrance and handicap to an Ameri- 
can, even in most of the Universities. This 
proves that Separation is not an infallible 
receipt for producing tolerance. But I sec 
no reason to suppose that public opinion in 
America would be different, if either the 
Federal Repui 'ic or the particular States had 
adopted Jurisdiction. Given legal liberty 
under cither system, I should say that the 
tolerance of public opinion depends on social 
conditions and especially on the degree of 
culture among the educated classes. 

From this sketch it will be seen that tolera- 
tion was the outcome of new political circum- 
stances and necessities, brought about by the 
disunion of the Church through the Reforma- 
tion. But it meant that in those States which 
granted toleration the opinion of a sufficiently 
influential group of the governing class was 


ripe for the rlmnge, ami this new mental 
attitude was in a great n.easure due to thr 
scepticism and rationalism which were diffused 
by the Renaissance movement, and whieh 
subtly and unconsciously had affected the 
minds of many who were sincerely devoted to 
rigidly orthodox Miefs; so effective is the 
force of suggestion. In the next two chapters 
the advance of reason at the expense of faith 
will be traced through the seven teentii, 
eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 


(seventeenth and EIGHTEENTH 


During the last three hundred years reason 
has been slowly but steadily destroying Chris- 
tian mythology and exposing the pretensions 
of supernatural revelation. The progress of 
rationalism falls naturally into two periods. 
(1) In the seventeenth and eighteenth cen- 
turies those thinkers who rejected Christian 
theology and the book on which it relies were 
mainly influenced by the inconsistencies, 
contradictions, and absurdities which they 
discovered in the evidence, and by the moral 
difficulties of the creed. Some scientific facts 

t if 



i H 


were known which seemed to reflect on the 
accuracy of Hcvelation, but argument* bai»ed 
on science were subsidiary. (2) In the nine- 
teenth century the discoveries of science in 
many fields bore with full force upon fabrics 
which had been constructed in a naive and 
Ignorant age; and historical criticism under- 
mined methodically the authority of the 
sacred documents which had hitherto been 
exposed chiefly to the acute but unmethodical 
criticisms of common sense. 

A disinterested love of facts, without any 
regard to the bearing which those facts may 
have on one's hopes or fears or destiny, is a 
rare quality in all ages, and it had been very 
rare indeed since the ancient days of Greece 
and Rome. It means the scientific spirit. 
Now in the seventeenth century we may say 
(without disrespect to a few precursors) thut 
the modem study of natural science began, 
and in the same period we have a series of 
famous thinkers who were guided by a dis- 
interested love of truth. Of the most acute 
minds some reached the conclusion that the 
Christian scheme of the world is irrational, 
and according to their temperament some 
rejected it, whilst others, like the great 
Frenchman Pascal, fell back upon an 
unreasoning act of faith. Bacon, who pro- 
fessed orthodoxy, was perhaps at heart a 






deist, but in any cmc the whole spirit of his 
writings was to exchidc authority from the 
domain of scientific investigation which he did 
so much to stimulate. Descartes, illustrious 
not only as th«- founder of modem meta- 
pliysics but also by his original eontribrtions 
to science, might seek to conciliate the cede- 
HJastieal authorities— his teni|)er was timid— 
but his philosophical method was a {)ower- 
ful incentive to rationalistic thought. The 
RcMieral tendency of superior intellects was 
to exalt reason at the expense of authority; 
and in Kngland this principle was established' 
so finnly by Locke, that throughout the theo- 
logical warfare of the eighteenth century both 
parties relied on reason, and no theologian of 
repute assumed faith to be a higher faculty. 

A striking illustration of the gradual 
I ucioachments of reason is the change which 
was silently wrought in public opinion on the 
subject of witehcraft. The famous efforts of 
James I to carry out the Biblical command, 
' Thou shalt not suffer a witch to nve," were 
outdone by the zeal of the Puritans under the 
Commonwealth to suppress the wicked old 
women who had commerce with Satan. After 
the Restoration, the belief in witchcraft 
declined among educated people— though 
some able writers maintained it— and there 
were few exeeutio , The last trial of a witch 

I I 



J ' 


'i 'I 



i . 

I' > I 


was in 1712, when some clergymen in Hert- 
fordshire prosecuted Jane Wenham. The jury 
found her guilty, but the ju.^-c, v.i.o had 
summed up in her favour, was a »lc to procu^-e 
the remission of her sentence; .id the la',vs 
against witchcraft were repealed in IJSS. 
John Wesley said with perfect truth that to 
disbelieve in witchcraft is to disbelieve m the 
Bible. In France and in Holland the decline 
of belief and interest in this particular form of 
Satan's activity was simultaneous. In Scot- 
land, where theology was very i)owerful, a 
woman was burnt in 1722. ^ can be no 
raere coincidence that the general decline of 
this superstition belongs to the age which 
saw the rise of modern science and modern 

philosophy. . u n- *. 

Hobbes, who was perhaps the most brilliant 
English thinker of the seventeenth century, 
was a freethinker and materialist. He had 
come under the influence of his friend the 
French philosopher Gassendi, who had revived 
materiaUsm in its Epicurean shape. Yet he 
was a champion not of freedom of conscience 
but of coercion in its most uncompromising 
form. In the political theory which he 
expounded in Leviathan, the sovran has auto- 
cratic power in the domain of doctrme, as in 
everything else, and it is the duty of subjects 
to conform to the religion which the sovran 


imposes. Religious persecution is thus de- 
fended, but no independent power is left to 
the Church. But the principles on which 
Hobhes built up his theory were rationalistic. 
He separated morality from religion and 
identified " the true moral philosophy " with 
the " true doctrine of the laws of nature." 
What he really thought of religion could be 
inferred from his remark that the fanciful fear 
of things invisible (due to ignorance) is the 
natural seed of that feeling which, in himself, 
a man calls religion, but, in those who fear 
or worship the invisible power differently, 
superstitiv i. In the reign of Charles II 
Hobbes was silenced and his books were 

Spinoza, the Jewish philosopher of Holland, 
owed a great deal to Descartes and (in political 
speculation) to Hobbes, but his philosophy 
meant a far wider and more open breach with 
orthodox opinion than either of his masters 
had ventured on. He conceived ultimate 
reality, which he called God, as an absolutely 
perfect, impersonal Being, a substance whose 
nature is constituted by two " attributes" — 
thought an d spatial extension. When Spinoza 
speaks of love of God, in which he considered 
happiness to consist, he means knowledge and 
contemplation of the order of nature, including 
human nature, which is subject to fixed. 







invariable laws. He rejects free-will and the 
" superstition," as he calls it, of final causes in 
nature If we want to label his philosophy, 
we may say that it is a form of pantheism. 
It has often been described as atheism. 
If atheism means, as I suppose in ordinary 
use it is generally taken to mean, rejection of 
a personal God, Spinoza was an atheisi. It 
should be observed that in the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries atheist was used m the 
wildest way as a term of abuse for free- 
thinkers, and when we read of atheists (except 
in careful writers) we may generally assume 
that the persons so stigmatized were really 
deists, that is, they believed in a personal God 
but not in Revelation.^ . 

Spinoza's daring philosophy was not in 
harmony with the general trend of specula- 
tion at the time, and did not exert any 
profound influence on thought till a much 
later period. The thinker whose writings 
appealed most to the men of his age and were 
niost opportune and effective was John Locke, 
who professed more or less orthodox Angli- 
cmism. His great contribution to philosophy 
is equivalent to a very powerful defence ol 
reason against the usurpations of authority. 
The object of his Essaij on the Human Vnder- 

1 For the sake of simplicity 1 use deist in this sense 
throughout, though theist is now the usual term. 


standing (1690) is to show that all knowledpe 
is derived from experience. He subordinated 
faith completely to reason. Vhile he accepted 
the Christian revelation, he held that revela- 
tion if it contradicted the higher tribunal of 
reason must be rejected, and that revelation 
cannot give us knowledge as certain as the 
knowledge which reason gives. " He that 
takes away reason to make room for revela- 
tion puts out the light of both ; and does much 
what the same as if he would persuade a man 
to put out his eyes, the better to receive the 
remote light of an invisible star by a tele- 
scope." He wrote a book to show that the 
Christian revelation is not contrary to reason, 
and its title. The Reasonableness of Chris- 
tianity, sounds the note of all religious con- 
troversy li England during the next hundred 
years. "Poth the orthodox and their opponents 
warmly agreed that reasonableness was the 
only test of the claims of revealed religion. 
It was under the direct influence of Locke 
that Toland, an Irishman who had been 
converted from Roman Catholicism, com- 
posed a sensational book, Christianity Not 
Mysterious (1696). He assumes that Chris- 
tianity is true and argues that there can be 
no mysteries in it, because mysteries, that is, 
unintelligible dogmas, cannot be accepted by 
reason. And if a reasonable Deity gave a 




ri r 





revelation, its purpose must be to enlighten, 
not to puzzle. The assumption of the truth of 
Christianity was a mere pretence, as an intelli- 
gent reader could not fail to see. The work was 
important because it drew the logical inference 
from Locke's philosophy, and it had a wide 
circulation. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu 
met a Turkish Effendi at Belgrade who 
asked her for news of Mr. Toland. 

It is characteristic of this stage of the 
struggle between re9,son and authority that 
(excepting the leading French thinkers in the 
eighteenth century) the rationalists, who 
attacked theology, generally feigned to 
acknowledge the truth of the ideas which 
they were assailing. They pretended that 
their speculations did not affect religion; 
they could separate the domains of reason 
and of faith; they could show that Revela- 
tion was superfluous without questioning it; 
they could do homage to orthodoxy and lay 
down views with which orthodoxy was irre- 
concilable. The errors which they exposed 
in the sphere of reason were ironically allowed 
to be truths in the sphere of theology. The 
mediaeval principle of double truth and other 
shifts were resorted to, in self-protection 
against the tyranny of orthodoxy — ^though 
they did not always avail ; and in redding 
much of the rationalistic literature of this 


-I.:-- %■■ ;■--'- = 


period we have to read between the Hnes. 
Bayle is an interesting instance. 

If Locke's philosophy, by setting authority 
in its place and deriving all knowledge from 
experience, was a powerful aid to rationalism, 
his contemporary Bayle worked in the sam- 
direction by the investigation of history. 
Driven from France (see above, p. 107), he 
lived at Amsterdam, where he published his 
Philosophical Dictionary. He was really a 
freethinker, but he never dropped the dis- 
guise of orthodoxy, and this lends a particular 
piquancy to his work. He takes a delight 
in marshalling all the objections which 
heretics had made to essential Christian 
dogmas. He exposed without mercy the 
crimes and brutalities of David, and showed 
that this favourite of the Almighty was a 
person with whom one would refuse to shake 
hands. There was a great outcry at this 
unedifying candour. Bayle, in replying, 
adopted the attitude of Montaigne and 
Pascal, and opposed faith to reason. 

The theological virtue of faith, he said, 
consists in believing revealed truths simply 
and solely on God's authority. If you 
believe m the immortality of the soul for 
philosophical reasons, you are orthodox, but 
you have no part in faith. The merit of 
faith becomes greater, in proportion as the 






?! i 






revealed truth surpasses all the powers of 
our mind; the more incomprehensible the 
truth and the more repugnant to reason, tlir 
greater is the sacrifice we make in accepting 
it, the deeper our submission ' o God. There- 
fore a merciless inventory of the objections 
which reason has to urge against fundamental 
doctrines serves to exalt the merits of faith. 
The Dictionary was also criticized for 
the justice done to the moral excellences of 
persons who denied the existence of God. 
Bayle replies that if he had been able to find 
any atheistical thinkers, who lived bad lives, 
he would have been delighted to dwell on 
their vices, but he knew of none such. As 
for the criminals you meet in history, whose 
abominable actions make you tremble, their 
impieties and blasphemies prove they believed 
in a Divinity. This is a natural consequence 
of the theological doctrine that the Devil, who 
is incapable of atheism, is the instigator of 
all the sins of men. For man's wickedness 
must clearly resemble that of the Devil and 
must therefore be joined to a belief in God's 
existence, since the Devil is not an atheist. 
And is it not a proof of the infinite wisdom of 
God that the worst criminals are not atheists, 
and that most of the atheists whose names 
are recorded have been honest men? By 
this arrangement Providence sets bounds to 



the corruption of man; for if atheism and 
moral wickedness were united in the same 
persons, the societies of earth would be 
exposed to a fatal inundation of sin. 

There was much more in the same vein; 
and the upshot was, under the thin veil of 
serving faith, to show that the Christian 
dogmas were essentially unreasonable. 

Bayle's work, marked by scholarship and 
extraordinary learning, had a great influence 
in England as well as in France. It supplied 
weapons to assailants of Christianity in both 
countries. At fust the assault was carried 
on with most vigour and ability by the 
English deists, who, though their writings 
are little read now, did memorable work by 
their polemic against the authority of revealed 

The controversy between the deists and 
their orthodox opponents turned on the 
question whether the Deity of natural religion 
— the God whose existence, as was thought, 
could be proved by reason — can be identified 
with the author of the Christian revelation. 
To the deists this seemed impossible. The 
nature of the alleged revelation seemed 
inconsistent with the character of the God 
to whom reason pointed. The defenders of 
revelation, at least all the most competent, 
agreed with the deists in making reason 



i : t 







supreme, anil through this reliance on reason 
some of them fell into heresies. Clarke, for 
instance, one of the ablest, was very unsoiuul 
on the dogma of the Trinity. It is also to be 
noticed that with both sections the interest 
of morality was the principal motive. The 
orthodox held that the revealed doctrine of 
future rewards and punishments is neces- 
sary for morality; the deists, that morality 
depends on reason alone, and that revela- 
tion contains a great deal that is repugnant 
to moral ideals. Throughout the eighteenth 
century morality was the guiding considera- 
tion with Anglican Churchmen, and religious 
emotion, finding no satisfaction within the 
Church, was driven, as it were, outside, and 
sought an outlet in the Methodism of Wesley 
and Whitefield. 

Spinoza had laid down the principle that 
Scripture must be interpi ed like any 
other book (1670),^ and with the deists this 
principle was fundamental. In order to 
avoid persecution they generally veiled their 
conclusions under sufficiently thin disguises. 
Hitherto the Press Licensing Act (1662) had 
very effectually prevented the publication 
of heterodox works, and it is from orthodox 

1 Spinoza's Theological Political Treatise, which deaU 
with the interpretation of Sciipturo, was translated into 
English in 1689. 

I 3 


works denouncing infidel opinions that we 
know how rationalism was spreadinK. But 
in 1695, the Press Law was allowed to drop, 
and immediately deistic literature began to 
appear. There was. however, the danger 
of prosecution under the Blasphemy laws. 
There were three legal weapons for coercmg 
those who attacked Christianity: (1) The 
Ecclesiastical Courts had and have the power 
of imprisoning for a maximum term of six 
months, for atheism, blasphemy, heresy and 
damnable opinions. (2) The common law 
as interpreted by Lord Chief Justice Hale in 
1676, when a certain Taylor was charged 
with having said that religion was a cheat 
and blasphemed against Christ. The accused 
was condemned to a fine and the pillory by 
the Judge, who ruled that the Court of King s 
Bench has jurisdiction in such a case, inas- 
much as blasphemous words of the kind are 
an offence against the laws and the State, and 
to speak against Christianity is to speak in 
subversion of the law, since Christianity is 
" parcel of the laws of England." (8) The 
Statute of 1698 enacts that if any person 
educated in the Christian religion " shall by 
writing, printing, teaching, or advised speak- 
ing deny any one of the persons m the Holy 
Trinity to be God, or shall assert or maintain 
there are more gods than one, or shall deny 

p ■' 

lit ■: s 


the Christian rcUgion to be true, or shall aeny 
the Holy Scriptures of the OKI and New 
Testament to be of divine authority," is con- 
vieted, he shall for thr ^rst offence be adjudge.l 
incapable to hold any public oiriees or employ- 
ments, and on the second shall lose his civil 
rights and be in»|>risonctl for three years. 
This Statute expressly states as its motiv« 
the fact that '' many persons have of late 
years openly avowed and published many 
blasphemous and impious opinions contrary 
to the doctrine and principles of the Christian 


As a matter of fact, most trials for blas- 
phemy during the past two hundred years fall 
under the second head. But the new Statute 
of 1698 was very intimidating, and we can 
easily understand how it drove heterodox 
writers to ambiguous disguises. One of these 
disguises was allegorical interpretation of 
Scripture. They showed that literal inter- 
pretation led to absurdities or to incon- 
sistencies with the wisdom and justice of God, 
and pretended to infer that allegorical inter- 
pretation must be substituted. But they 
meant the reader to reject their pretended 
solution and draw a conclusion damaging to 

Among the arguments used in favour of the 
truth of Revelation the fulfilment of prophecit- 



and the miracles of the New Testament w«re 
conspicuous. Anthony Collins, u country 
mntUman who was a disciple of I^K-ke. pub- 
lislied in 1733 his Discourse on the Grounds 
and Reasons of the Christian Religion, m 
whicii he drastically exposed the weakness 
of the evidence for fulfilment of prophecy, 
depending as it does on forced antl unnatural 
fiaurative interpretations. Twenty years 
Infore he had written a Discnurse of tree- 
thinking (in which Bayle's induence is evident) 
pleading for free discussion and the reference 
(.r all religious questions to reason. He com- 
plained of the general intolerance which prc- 
vailcil; but the same facts which testify 
to intolerance testify also to the spread of 

t ollins escaped with comparative impunity, 
i but Thomas Woolston, a Fellow of Sidney 
! Sus«icx College, Cambridge, who wrote six 
! ijygrcssivc Discourses on the Miracles oj our 
1 S^aiiour (1727-1780) paid the penalty for his 
^ audacity. Deprived of his Fellowship, he 
t was prosecuted for libel, and sentenced to a 
^ fine of £100 and a year's imprisonment. 
Unable to pav, he died in prison. He does not 
adopt the line of arguing that miracles are 
I incredible or impossible. He examines tlie 
j chief miracles related in the Gospels, and 

5ho^^'s with great ability and shrewd commou 








1 ' 

i! I 

sense that thry are absurd or unworthy of the 
performer, lie pointed out, as Huxley was 
to point out in a co'itroversy with Gladstone, 
that the miraculous driving of devils into a 
herd of swine was an unwarrantable injury 
to sonieliody's property. On the story of the 
Divine blasting of the fig tree, he remarks: 
*' What if a yeoman of Kent should go to look 
for pippins in his orchard at Easter (the 
supposed time that Jesus sought for these 
figs) and because of a disap|M>intment cut 
down his trees? What then would his 
neighbours make of him ? Nothing less than 
a laughing-stock; and if the story got into 
our Publick News, he would be the jest ami 
ridicule of mankind." 

Or take his comment on the miracle of the 
Pool of Bethcsda, where an angel used tu 
trouble the waters and the man who first 
entered the pool was cured of his infirmity. 
" An odd and a merry way of conferring a 
Divine mercy. And one would think that 
the angels of God did this for their own 
diversion more than to do good to mankind. 
Just as some throw a bone among a kennel 
of hounds for the pleasure of seeing them 
quarrel for it, or as others cast a piece of 
money among a company of boys for the 
sport of seeing them scramble for it, so was 
tie pastime of the angels here." In dealing 




with the henliuK of the wimiun who sufferttl 
from tt bloody flux, he osks : " What if wc 
liad »)een tohl of the Vo\w'h imr'xuy, an hucnior- 
rhage hkc this before us, what would Pro- 
testants have said to it ? Why, ' that a 
foolish, credulous and sujurstitious wonmn 
had fancied herself cured of some slight 
indisposition, and the crafty Po|)c and his 
adherents, aspiring after poi)uIar applause, 
magnified the presumed cure into a miracle.' 
The application of such a supposed story of 
a miracle wrought by the Pope is easy; and 
if Infidels, Jews and Mahometans, who have 
no better opinion of Jesus than we have of the 
Poi)e, should nmke it, there's no help for it." 
Woolston professed no doubts of the in- 
spiration of Scripture. While he argued 
that it was out of the question to suppose the 
miracles literally true, he pretended to believe 
in the fantastic theory that they were 
intended allcgorically as figures of Christ's 
mysterious operations in the soul of man 
Origen, a not very orthodox Christian Father, 
had employed the allegorical method, and 
Woolston quotes him in his favour. His 
vigorous criticisms vary in value, but many 
of them hit the nail on the head, and the 
fashion of some modern critics to pass over 
Woolston's productions as unimportant be- 
cause they arc "ribald" or "coarse, is 



i'i. tn 







-1; ^ 




' f ^: 

: f 

I- i 

n i 







perfectly unjust. The pamphlets had an 
enormous sale, and Woolston's notoriety is 
illustrated by the anecdote of the " jolly 
young woman " who met him walking abroad 
and accosted him with " You old rogue, are 
you not hanged yet?" Mr. Woolston 
answered, "Good woman, I know you not; 
pray what have I done to offend you?" 
" You have writ against my Saviour," she 
said ; " what would become of my poor sinful 
soul if it was not for my dear Saviour ? " 

About the same time, Matthew Tindal (a 
Fellow of All Souls) attacked Revelation 
from a more general point of view. In his 
Christianity as old as the Creation (1780) he 
undertook to show that the Bible as a revela- 
tion is superfluous, for it adds nothing to 
natural religion, which God revealed to man 
from the very first by the sole light of reason. 
Ho argues that those who defend Revealed 
religion by its agreement with Natural 
religion, and thus set up a double govern- 
ment of reason and authority, fall between 
the two. " It's an odd jumble," he observes, 
" to prove the truth of a book by the truth 
of the doctrines it contains, and at the same 
time conclude those doctrines to be true 
beeai-.e contained in that book." He goes 
on to criticize the Bible in detail. In order 
to maintain its infallibility, without doing 



violence to reason, you have, when you find 
irrational statements, to torture them and 
depart from the literal sense. Would you 
think that a Mohammadan was governed by 
his Koran, who on all occasions departed 
from the literal sense ? " Nay, would you 
not tell him that his inspired book fell 
infinitely short of Cicero's uninspired 
writings, where there is no such occasion to 
recede from the letter? " 

As to chronological and physical errors, 
which seemed to endanger the infallibility 
of the Scriptures, a bishop had met the 
argument by saying, reasonably enough, that 
in the Bible God speaks according to the 
conceptions of those to whom he speaks, and 
that it is not the business of Revelation to 
rectify their opinions in such matters. Tindal 
made this rejoinder : — 

" Is there no difference between God's not 
rectifying men's sentiments in those matters 
and using himself such sentiments as needs 
be rectified; or between God's not mending 
men's logic and rhetoric where 'tis defective 
and using such himself; or between God's 
not contradicting vulgar notions an^ confirm- 
ing them by speaking according ^ j them. 
Can infinite wisdom despair of gaining or 
keeping people's affections without having 
recourse to such mean acts ? " 

> I- 

1 I- 

U i 


He exposes with considerable effect the 
monstrosiTy of the doctrine of exclusvve 
salvation. Must we not consider, he asks, 
whether one en be said to be sent as a 
Saviour of mankind, if he comes to shut 
Heaven's gate against those to whom, before 
he came, it was open provided they foi- 
lowed the dictates of their reason? He 
criticizes the inconsistency of the impartial 
and universal goodness of God, known to us 
by the light of nature, with acts committed 
by Jehovah or his prophets. Take the cases 
in which the order of nature is violated to 
punish men for crimes of which they were not 
^ty. such as Elijah's hindering rain from 
falling for three years and a half. If ^od 
could break in upon the ordinary rules of his 
providence to punish the innocent for the 
miUty. we have no guarantee that if he deals 
thus with us in this life, he will not act in 
the same way in the life to come, since if 
the eternal rules of justice are once broken 
how can we imagine any stop? But the 
ideals of holiness and justice in the Old iesta- 
ment are strange indeed. The hoUer men 
are represented to be, the more cruel they 
seem and the more addicted to cursing. How 
surprising to find the holy prophet Elisha 
cursing in the name of the Lord little children 
for calling him Bald-pate! And, what is 

I 3 


still more surprising, two she-bears imme- 
diately devoured forty-two little children. 

I have remarked that theologians at this 
time generally took the line of basing Christ- 
ianity on reason and not on faith. An in- 
teresting little book, Christianity not founded 
on Argument^ couched in the form of a letter 
to a young gentleman at Oxford, by Henry 
Dodwell (Junior) appeared in 1741, and 
pointed out the dangers of such confidence 
in reason. It is an ironical development of 
tiie principle of Bayle, working out the thesis 
that Christianity is essentially unreasonable, 
and that if you want to believe, reasoning is 
fatal. The cultivation of faith and reasoning 
produce contrary effects; the philosopher is 
disqualified for Divine influences by his very 
progress in carnal wisdom; the Gospel must 
be received with all the obsequious submis- 
sion of a babe who has no other disposition 
but to learn his lesson. Christ did not pro- 
pose his doctrines to investigation; he did 
not lay the arguments for his mission before 
his disciples aud give them time to consider 
calmly of their force, and liberty to deter- 
mine as their reason should direct them ; the 
apostles had no qualifications for the task, 
being the most artless and illiterate persons 
living. Dodwell exposes the absurdity of the 
Protestant position. To give all men liberty 

''o?mj~^fli-^r?xrx:'-':£aT«BS^BCxit — 



If tf 

1 1 



to judge for themselves and to expect at the 
same time that they shall be of the Preacher's 
mind is such a scheme for unanimity as one 
would scarcely imagine any one could be weak 
enough to devise in speculation and much 
less that any could ever be found hardy 
enough to avow and propose it to practice. 
The men of Rome " shall rise up in the judg- 
ment (of all considering persons) against this 
generation and shall condemn it; for they 
invented but the one absurdity of infalli- 
bility, and behold a greater absurdity than 
infallibility is here." 

I have still to speak of the (Third) Earl of 
Shaftesbury, whose style has rescued his writ- 
ings from entire neglect. His special interest 
was ethics. While the valuable work of most 
of the heterodox writers of this period lay in 
their destructive criticism of supernatural 
religion, they clung, as we have seen, to what 
was called natural religion— the belief in a 
kind and wise personal God, who created the 
world, governs it by natural laws, and desires 
our happiness. The idea was derived from 
ancient philosophers and had been revived by 
Lord Herbert of Cherbury in his Latin trea- 
tise On Truth (in the reign of James I). The 
deists contended that this was a sufficient 
basis for morality and that the Christian 
inducements to good beliaviour were unncces- 

■i. St 


sary. Shaftesbury in his Inquiry concerning 
Virtue (1699) debated the question and argued 
that the scheme of heaven and hell, with the 
selfish hopes and fears which they inspire, 
corrupts morality and that the only worthy 
motive for conduct is the beauty of virtue in 
itself. He does not even consider deism a 
necessary assumption for a moral code; he 
admits that the opinion of atheists does not 
undermine ethics. But he thinks that the 
belief in a good governor of the universe is 
a powerful support to the practice of virtue. 
He is a thorough optimist, and is perfectly 
satisfied with the admirable adaptation of 
means to ends, whereby it is the function of 
one animal to be food for another. He makes 
no attempt to reconcile the red claws and 
teeth of nature with the beneficence of its 
powerful artist. " In the main all things are 
kindly and well disposed." The atheist might 
have said that he preferred to be at the mercy 
of blind chance than in the hands of an auto- 
crat who, if he pleased Lord Shaftesbury's 
sense of order, had created flies to be devoured 
by spiders. But this was an aspect of the 
universe which did not much trouble thinkers 
in the eighteenth century. On the other hand, 
the character of the God of the Old Testa- 
lent roused Shaftesbury's aversion. Ho 
attacks Scripture not directly, but by allu- 



sion or with irony. He hints that if there is 
a God, he would be less displeased with 
atheists than with those who accepted hini 
in the guise of Jehovah. As Plutarch said, 
" I had rather men should say of me that 
there neither is nor ever was such a one as 
Plutarch, than they should say 'There was 
a Plutarch, an unsteady, changeable, easily 
provokable and revengeful man.* " Shaftes- 
bury's significance is that he built up a posi- 
tive theory of morals, and although it had 
no philosophical depth, his influence on French 
and German thinkers of the eighteenth century 
was immense. 

In some ways perhaps the ablest of the 
deists, and certainly the most scholarly, was 
Rev. Conyers Middleton, who remained within 
the Church. He supported Christianity on 
groimds of utility. Even if it is an imposture, 
he said, it would be wrong to destroy it. For 
it is established by law and it has a long 
tradition behind it. Some traditional religion 
is necessary and it would be hopeless to sup- 
plant Christianity by reason. But his writ- 
ings contain effective arguments which go to 
undermine Revelation. The most important 
was his Free Inquiry into Christian miracles 
(1748), which put in a new and dangerous 
light an old question : At what time did the 
Church cease to have the power of performing 


miracles ? We shall see presently how Gibbon 
applied Middleton's method. 

The leading adversaries of the deists 
appealed, like them, to reason, and, in appeal- 
ing to reason, did much to undermine author- 
ity. The ablest defence of the faith, Bishop 
Butler's Analogy (1786), is suspected of having 
raised more doubts than it appeased. This 
was the experience of William Pitt the 
Younger, and the Analogy made James Mill 
(the utilitarian) an unbeliever. The deists 
argued that the unjust and cruel God of 
Revelation could not be the God of nature; 
Butler pointed to nature and said. There you 
behold cruelty and injustice. The argument 
was perfectly good against the optimism of 
Shaftesbury, but it plainly admitted of the 
conclusion— opposite to that which Butler 
wished to establish— that a just and bene- 
ficent God does not exist. Butler is driven 
to fall back on the sceptical argument that 
we are extremely ignorant; that all things 
are possible, even eternal hell fire; and that 
therefore the safe and prudent course is to 
accept the Christian doctrine. It may be 
remarked that this reasoning, with a few 
modifications, could be used in favour of other 
religions, at Mecca or at Timbuctoo. He has, 
ui effect, revived the argument used by 
Pascal that if there is one chance in any very 






large number that Christianity is true, it is 
a man's interest to be a Christian; for, if it 
prove false, it will do him no harm to have 
believed it; if it prove true, he will be in- 
finitely the gainer. Butler seeks indeed to 
show that the chances in favour amount to 
a probability, but his argument is essentially 
of the same intellectual and moral value as 
Pascal's. It has been pointed out that it 
leads by an easy logical step from the Anglican 
to the Roman Church. Catholics and Protes- 
tants (as King Henry IV of France argued) 
agree that a Catholic may be saved; the 
Catholics assert that a Protestant will be 
damned; therefore the safe course is to 
embrace Catholicism.^ 

I have dwelt at some length upon some 
of the English deists, because, while they 
occupy an important place in the history of 
rationalism in England, they also supplied, 
along with Bayle, a great deal of the thought 
which, manipulated by brilliant writers on 
the other side of the Channel, captured the 
educated classes in France. We are now in 
th^ age of Voltaire. He was a convinced 
deist. He considered that the nature of the 
universe proved that it was made by a con- 

* See Benn, Rationalism in the Nineteenth Century, 
vol. i, p. 138 seq., for a good exposure of the fallacies 
And aophistries of Butier. 


'^^^ ill! 



scious architect, he held that God was re- 
quired in the interests of conduct, and he 
ardently combated atheism. His great 
achievements were his efficacious labour in 
the cause of toleration, and his systematic 
warfare against superstitions. He was pro- 
foundly influenced by English thinkers, espe- 
cially Locke and Bolingbroke. This states- 
man had concealed his infidelity during his 
lifetime except from his intimates; he had 
lived long as an exile in France; and his 
rationalistic essays were published (1754) 
after his death. Voltaire, whose literary 
genius converted the work of the English 
thinkers into a world-force, did not begin his 
campaign against Christianity till after the 
middle of the century, when superstitious 
practices and religious persecutions were 
becoming a scandal in his country. He 
assailed the Catholic Church in every field 
with ridicule and satire. In a little work called 
The Tomb of Fanaticism (written 1786, pub- 
lished 1767), he begins by observing that a 
man who accepts his religion (as most people 
do) without examining it is like an ox which 
allows itself to be harnessed, and proceeds to 
review the difficulties in the Bible, the rise of 
Christianity, and the course of Church his- 
tory; from which he concludes that every 
sensible man should hold the Christian sect 


in horror. " Men are blind to prefer an absurd 
and ■anguinar)'- creed, supported by execu- 
tioners and surrounded by fiery faggots, a 
creed which can only be approved by those to 
whom it gives power and riches, a particular 
creed only accepted in a small part of tho 
world — to a simple and universal religion." 
In the Sermon of the Fifty and the Questions 
of Zapata we can see what he owed to Baylc 
and English critics, but his touch is lighter 
and his irony more telling. His comment on 
geographical mistakes in the Old Testament 
is : " God was evidently not strong in geo- 
graphy." Having called attention to the 
" horrible crime " of Lot's wife in looking 
backward, and her conversion into a pillar of 
salt, he hopes that the stories of Scripture 
will make us better, if they do not make us 
more enlightened. One of his favourite 
methods is to approach Christian doctrines 
as a person who had just heard of the exist- 
ence of Christians or Jews for the first time 
in his life. 

His drama, Saul (1768), which the police 
tried to suppress, presents the career of 
David, the man after God's own heart, in 
all its naked horror. The scene in which 
Samuel reproves Saul for not having slain 
Agag will give an idea of the spirit of the 



Samubl: God commands me to tell you 
that he repents of having made you king. 

Saul : God repents I Only they who com- 
mit errors repent. His eternal wisdom cannot 
be unwise. God cannot commit errors. 

Samuel : He can repent of having set on 
the throne those who do. 

Saul: Well, who does not? Tell me, 
what is my fault? 

Samuel : You have pardoned a kmg. 

AoAO : What I Is the fairest of virtues 
considered a crime in Judea ? 

Samuel (to Agag) : Silence I do not blas- 
pheme. (To Saul.) Saul, formerly king of 
the Jews, did not God command you by my 
mouth to destroy all the Amalekites, without 
sparing women, or maidens, or children at the 


AoAO : Your god— gave such a command I 
You are mistaken, you meant to say, your 


Samuel : Saul, did you obey God ? 

Saul : I did not suppose such a command 
was positive. I thought that goodness was 
the first attribute of the Supreme Being, and 
that a compassionate heart could not displease 


Samuel : You are mistaken, unbeliever. 
God reproves you, your sceptre will pass into 
other hands. 









Perhaps no writer has ever roused more 
hatred in Christendom than Voltaire. He 
wfiH looked on as a sort of anti-Christ. That 
wns natural; his attacks were so trem-n- 
dously effective at the time. But he has been 
sometimes decried on the ground that he only 
demolished and made no effort to build up 
where he had pulled down. This is a narrow 
complaint. It might be replied that when a 
sewer is spreading plague in a town, we cannot 
wait to remove it till we have a new system of 
drains, and it may fairly be said that religion 
as practised in contemporary France was a 
poisonous sewer. But the true answer is that 
knowledge, and therefore civilization, arc 
advanced by criticism and negation, as well 
as by construction and positive discovery. 
When a man has the talent to attack with 
effect falsehood, prejudice, and imposture, it 
is his duty, if there are any social duties, to 
use it. 

For constructive thinking we must go to 
the other great leader of French thought, 
Rousseau, who contributed to the growth of 
freedom in a different way. He was a deist, 
but his deism, unlike that of Volttirc, was 
religious and emotional. He regarded Chris- 
tianity with a sort of reverent scepticism. 
But his thought was revolutionary and repug- 
nant to orthodoxy; it made against autho- 


ritv ill every sphere; and it had an enormous 
inliicnce. The clergy perhaps dreaded his 
theoricn more than the scoffs and negations 
of Voltaire. For some years he was a fugitive 
on the ft " of the earth. £miU, his brilliant 
contribution to the theory of education, 
fip|)cared in 1702. It contains some remark- 
able pages on religion, " the profession of 
faith of a Savoyard vicar," in which the 
author's deistic faith is strongly affirmrd and 
revelation and theology rejected, 'i'he book 
was publicly burned in Paris and an order 
issued for Rousseau's arrest. Forced by his 
friends to flee, he was debarred from return- 
ing to Geneva, for the government of that 
canton followed the example of Pa>-is. He 
sought refuge in the canton of Bern and was 
ordered to quit. He then fled to the princi- 
pality of Neufehatcl which belonged to 
Prussia. Frederick the Great, the one really 
tolerant ruler of the age, gave him protection, 
but he was persecuted and calumniated by the 
local clergy, who but for Frederick would have 
expelled him, and he went to England for a 
few months (1766), then returning to France, 
where he was left unmolested till his death. 
The religious views of Rousseau are only a 
minor point in his heretical speculations. It 
was by his daring social and political theories 
that he set the world on fir«». His Social 

1 '' 

11 'i 


Contract in which these theories were set forth 
was burned at Geneva. Though his prin- 
ciples will not stand criticism for a moment, 
and though his doctrine worked mischief by 
its extraordinary power of turning men into 
fanatics, yet it contributed to progress, by 
helping to discredit privilege and to estab- 
lish the view that the object of a State is to 
secure the weljbeing of all its members. 

Deism — whether in the semi-Christian form 
of Rousseau or .le anti-Christian form of 
Voltaire — was a house bu on the sand, and 
thinkers arose in France, England and Ger- 
many to shatter its foundations, in France, 
it proved to be or ly a half-way inn to atheism. 
In 1770, French readers were startled by the 
appearance of Baron D'Holbach's System of 
Nature^ in which God's existence and the 
immortality of the soul were denied and the 
world declared to be matter spontaneously 


Holbach was a friend of Diderot, who had 
also come to reject deism. All the leading 
ideas in the revolt against the Church had a 
place in Diderot's great work, the Encyclo- 
pedia, in which a number of leading thinkers 
collaborated with him. It was not merely a 
scientific book of reference. It was repre- 
sentative of the whole movement of the 
enemies of faith. It was intended to lead 



a I 


men from Christianity with its original sin to 
a new conception of the world as a place 
which can be made agreeable and in which the 
actual evils are due not to radical faults ol 
human nature but to perverse institutions 
and perverse education. To divert interest 
from the dogmas of religion to the improve- 
ment of society, to persuade the world that 
man's felicity depends not on Revelation 
but on social transformation — ^this was what 
Diderot and Rousseau in their different ways 
did so much to effect. And their work influ- 
enced those who did not abandon orthodoxy ; 
it affected the spirit of the Church itself. Con- 
trast the Catholic Church in France in the 
eighteenth, and in the nineteenth century. 
Without the work of Voltaire, Rousseau, 
Diderot and their feUow-combatants, would 
it have been reformed? "The Christian 
Churches" (I quote Lord Morley) "are 
assimilating as rapidly as their formulae will 
permit, the new light and the more generous 
moral ideas and the higher spirituality of 
teachers who have abandoned all churches 
and who are systematically denounced as 
enemies of the souls of men." 

In England the prevalent deistic thought 
did not lead to the same intellectual conse- 
quences as in France ; yet Hume, the greatest 
English philosopher of the century, showed 

% • 




S i: 


that the arguments commonly adduced for a 
personal God were untenable. I may first 
speak of his discussion on miracles (in his 
Essay on Miracles and in his philosophical 
Inquiry concerning Human Understanding, 
(1748). Hitherto the credibility of miracles 
had not been submitted to a general examina- 
tion independent of theological assumptions. 
Hume, pointing out that there must be a 
uniform experience against every miraculous 
event (otherwise it would not merit the name 
of miracle), and that it will require stronger 
testimony to establish a miracle than an event 
which is not contrary to experience, lays dowr 
the general maxim that " no testimony is 
sufficient to establish a miracle unless the 
testimony is of such a kind that its falsehood 
would be more miraculous than the fact which 
it endeavours to establish." But, as a matter 
of fact, no testimony exists of which the false- 
hood would be a prodigy. We cannot find 
in history any miracle attested by a sufficient 
number of men of such unquestionable good 
sense, education and learning, as to secure us 
against all delusion in themselves; of such 
undoubted integrity as to place them beyond 
all suspicion of any design to deceive others; 
of such credit in the eyes of mankind as to 
have a great deal to lose in case of their being 
detected in any falsehood, and at the same 


time attesting facts performed in such a public 
manner as to render detection unavoidable 
— all which circumstances are requisite to 
give us a full assurance in the testimony of 

In the Dialogues on Natural Religion which 
were not published till after his death (1776), 
Hume made an attack on the " argument 
from design," on which deists and Christians 
alike relied to prove the existence of a Deity. 
The argument is that the world presents clear 
marks of design, endless adaptation of means 
to ends, which can only be explained as due 
to the deliberate plan of a powerful intelli- 
gence. Hume disputes the inference on the 
ground that a mere intelligent being is not a 
sufficient cause to explain the effect. For the 
argument must be that the system of the 
material world deman^Is as a cause a corre- 
sponding system of interconnected ideas ; but 
such a mental system would demand an ex- 
planation of its existence just as much as the 
material world; and thus we find ourselves 
committed to an endless series of causes. But 
in any case, even if the argument held, it 
would prove only the existence of a Deity 
whose powers, though superior to man's, 
might be very limited and whose workman- 
ship might be very imperfect. For this world 
may be very faulty, compared to a superior 



standard. It may be the first rude experi- 
ment " of some infant Deity who afterwards 
abandoned it, ashamed of his lame perform- 
ance " ; or the work of some inferior Deity at 
which his superior would scoff; or the pro- 
duction of some old superannuated Deity 
which since his death has pursued an adven- 
turous career from the first impulse which he 
gave it. An argument which leaves such 
deities in the running is worse than useless 
for the purposes of Deism or of Christianity. 
The sceptical philosophy of Hume had less 
influence on the general public than Gibbon's 
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 
Of the numerous freethinking books that 
appeared in England in the eighteenth cen- 
tury, this is the only one which is still a widely 
read classic. In what a lady friend of Dr. 
Johnson called " the two offensive chapters " 
(XV and XVI) the causes of the rise and suc- 
cess of Christianity are for the first time 
critically investigated as a simple historical 
phenomenon. Like most freethinkers of the 
time Gibbon thought it well to protect him- 
self and his work against the possibility of 
prosecution by paying ironical lip-homage to 
the orthodox creed. But even if there had 
been no such danger, he could not have chosen 
a more incisive weapon for his merciless 
criticism of orthodox opinion than the iron) 


which he wielded with superb ease. Having 
pointed out that the victory of Christianity 
is obviously and satisfactorily explained by 
the convincing evidence of the doctrine and 
by the ruling providence of its great Author, 
he proceeds " with becoming submission " to 
inquire into the secondary causes. He traces 
the history of the faith up to the time of 
Constantine in such a way as clearly to suggest 
that the hypothesis of divine interposition is 
superfluous and that we have to do with a 
purely human development. He marshals, 
with ironical protests, the obvious objections 
to the alleged evidence for supernatural con- 
trol. He does not himself criticize Moses and 
the prophets, but he reproduces the objec- 
tions which were made against their authority 
by *' the vain science of the gnostics." He 
notes that the doctrine of immortality is 
omitted in the law of Moses, but this doubt- 
less was a mysterious dispensation of Provi- 
dence. We cannot entirely remove " the im- 
putation of ignorance and obscurity which has 
been so arrogantly cast on the first proselytes 
of Christianity," but we must " convert the 
occasion of scandal into a subject of edifica- 
tion " and remember that "the lower we 
depress the temporal condition of the first 
Christians, the more reason we shall find to 
admire their merit and success." 

-. -I 





Gibbon's treatment of miracles from the 
purely historical point of view (he owed a 
great deal to Middleton, see above, p. 150) was 
particularly disconcerting. In the early age 
of Christianity " the laws of nature were fre- 
quently suspended for the benefit of the 
Church. But the sages of Greece and Rome 
turned aside from the awful spectacle, and, 
pursuing the ordinary occupations of life and 
study, appeared unconscious of any altera- 
tions in the moral or physical government of 
the wi>rld. Under the reign of Tiberius, the 
whole earth, or at least a celebrated province 
of the Roman Empire, was involved in a 
praetematural darkness of three hours. Even 
this miraculous event, which ought to have 
excited the wonder, the curiosity, and the 
devotion of mankind, passed without notice 
in an age of science and history. It happened 
during the lifetime of Seneca and the elder 
Pliny, who must have experienced the imme- 
diate effects, or received the earliest intelli- 
gence, of the prodigy. Each of these philo- 
sophers in a laborious work has recorded all 
the great phenomena of nature, earthquakes, 
meteors, comets, and eclipses, which his inde- 
fatigable curiosity could collect. Both the 
one and the other have omitted to mention 
the greatest phenomenon to which the mortal 
eye has been witness since the creation of the 


fflobe " How " shall we excuse the supine 
inattention of the pagan and philosophic 
world to those evidences which were pre- 
sented by the hand of Omniiwtencc, not to 
their reason, but to their senses ? " 

Again, if every believer is convinced of the 
reality of miracles, every reasonable man is 
convinced of their cessation. Yet every age 
bears testimony to miracles, and the testi- 
mony seems no less ^^T^^^^t ^^^'^i^tLv 
the preceding generation. When did they 
cease? How was it that the generation 
which saw the last genuine miracles per- 
formed could not distinguish them from the 
impostures which followed? Ha^ "len so 
soon forgotten "the style of the divme 
artist"? The mference is that genuine and 
spurious miracles are indistii guishable. But 
the credulity or ' softness of temper among 
earlv believers was beneficial to the cause of 
truth and religion. "In modem times, a 
latent and even involuntary scepticism ad- 
heres to the most pious dispositions. Iheir 
admission of supernatural truths is much less 
an active consent than a cold and passive 
acquiescence. Accustomed long since to 
observe and to respect the invariable order of 
nature, our reason, or at least our imagina- 
tion, is not sufficiently prepared to sustam the 
visible action of the Deity." 





Gibbon had not the advantage of t)ie 
minute critical labours which in the following 
century were expended on his sources of 
information, but his masterly exposure of the 
conventional history of the early Church 
remains in many of its most important points 
perfectly valid to-dpy. I suspect that his 
artillery has produced more effect on intel- 
ligent minds in subsequent generations than 
the archery of Voltaire. For his book became 
indispensable as the great history of the 
Middle Ages; the most orthodox could not 
do without it; and the poison must have 
often worked. 

We have seen how theological controversy 
in the first half of the eighteenth century had 
turned on the question whether the revealed 
religion was consistent and compatible with 
natural religion. The deistic attacks, on this 
line, were almost exhausted by the middle of 
the century, and the orthodox thought that 
they had been satisfactorily answered. Hut 
it was not enough to show that the revelation 
is reasonable; it was necessary to prove that 
it is real and rests on a solid historical basis. 
This was the question raised in an acute form 
by the criticisms of Hume and Middleton 
(1748) on miracles. The ablest answer was 
given by Paley in his Evidences of Chris- 
tianity (1794), the only one of the apologies of 



that age which is still read, though it has 
ceased to have any value. Paley's theology 
illustrates how orthodox opinions are coloured, 
unconsciously, by the spirit of the time. He 
proved (in his Natural Theology) the existence 
of God by the argument from design— with- 
out taking any account of the criticisms of 
Hume on that argument. Just as a watch- 
maker is inferred from a watch, so a divine 
workman is inferred from contrivances in 
nature. Paley takes his instances of such 
contrivance largely from the organs and con- 
stitution of the human body. His idea of God 
is that of an ingenious contriver dealing with 
rather obstinate material. Paley's "God 
(Mr. Leslie Stephen remarked) "has been 
civilized like man; he has become scientific 
and ingenious ; he is superior to Watt or 
Priestley in devising mechanical and chemical 
contrivances, and is therefore made in the 
image of that generation of which WaAt and 
Priestley were conspicuous lights." When a 
God of this kind is established there is no 
difficulty about miracles, and it is on miracles 
that Paley bases the case for Christianity- 
all other arguments are subsidiary. And his 
proof of the New Testament miracles is that 
the apostles who were eye-witnesses believed 
in them, for otherwise they would not have 
acted and suffered in the cause of their new 

\ ti . 



religion. Palcy*8 defence is the performance 
of an able legal adviser to the Almighty. 

The list of the English dcistic writers of 
the eighteenth century closes with on*^ whose 
name is more familiar than any of his pre- 
decessors, Thomas Paine. A Norfolk man, he 
migrated to America and played a leading 
part in the Revolution. Then he returned 
to England and in 1701 published his Rights 
of Man in two parts. I have been consider- 
ing, almost exclusively, freedom of thought 
in religion, because it may be taken as the 
thermometer for freedom of thought in 
general. At this period it was as dangerous 
to publish revolutionary opinions in politics 
as in theology. Paine was an enthusiastic 
admirer of the American Constitution and a 
supporter of the French Revolution (in which 
also he was to play a part). His Rights of Man 
is an indictment of the monarchical form of 
government and a plea for representative 
democracy. It had an enormous sale, a cheaj) 
edition was issued, and the government, find- 
ing that it was accessible to the poorer classes, 
decided to prosecute. Paine escaped to 
France, and received a brilliant ovation at 
Calais, which returned him as deputy to the 
National Convention. His trial for high 
treason came on at the end of 1792. Among 
the passages in his book, on which the charge 


was founded, were these : ** All hereditary 
government is in its nature tyranny." '* The 
time is not very distant when England will 
laugh at itself for sending to Holland, Han- 
over, Zell, or Brunswick, for men " [meaning 
King William HI. and King George I] " at the 
expense of a million a year who understood 
neither her laws, her language nor her interest, 
and whose capacities would scarcely have 
fitted them for the office of a parish constable. 
If government could be trusted to such hands, 
it must be some easy and simple thing indeed, 
and materials fit for all the purposes may be 
found in every town and village in England." 
Erskine was Paine's counsel and he made a 
fine oration in defence of freedom of speech. 
"Constraint," he said, "is the natural 
parent of resistance, and a pregnant proof 
that reason is not on the side of those who 
use it. You iiiust all remember, gentlemen, 
Lucian*8 pleasant story : Jupiter and a 
countryman were walking together, convers- 
ing with great freedom and familiarity upon 
the subject of heaven and earth. The country- 
man listen* d with attention and acquiescence 
while Jupiter strove only to convince him; 
but happening to hint a doubt, Jupiter turned 
hastily around and threatened him with his 
thunder. ' Ah, ha ! * says the countryman, 
'now, Jupiter, I know that you are wrong; 

; ■& 




you are always wrong when you appeal to 
you*- thunder.* This is the case with me. 
I can reason with the people of England, 
but I cannot fight against the thunder of 

Pfa'nc was found guilty and outlawed, il- 
soon committed a new offence by the pul n<-,\- 
tion of an anti-Christian work, The .!; 
Reason (1794 and 1796), which he Yto. . t 
write in the Paric prison into which ^ ■ '^ * 
been thrown by Robespierre. This b<M,h 
remarkable as the fir&t important E.igii>., 
publication in which the Christian scheme • 
salvation and the Bih>o are assailed in plain 
language vtrithout any disguise or reserve. In 
the second place it was written in such a way 
as to reach the masses. And, thirdly, while 
the criticisms on the Bible are in the same 
vein as those of the earlier deists, Paine is the 
first to present with force the incongmity of 
the Christian scheme with the concept'on oi 
the universe attained by astronomical science. 

" Though it is not a direct article of the 
Christian system that this world that we 
inhabit is the whole of the inhabitable globe, 
yet it is so worked up therewith — from what 
is called the Mosaic account of the creation, 
the story of Eve end the apple, and the 
counterpart of that story, the death of the 
Son of God — that to believe otherwise (that 


'1 I 


is, to believe that God created a plurality of 
world* at least as numerous as what we call 
stars) renders the Christian system of fuith 
at once little and ridiculous, and scatters it 
in the mind like feathers in the air. The two 
» '«t cannot be held together in the same 
HM . and he who thinks that he btlieves 
s thought but little of either." 
I'* ardent deist, who regarded nature 
(."U's revelation, Paine was able to press 
'i jirgumcnt with particular force. Refer- 
I ii ^ to some of the tales in the Old Testament, 
he s lys : " When we contemplate the immen- 
sity of tliat Being who directs and governs the 
incomprehensible Whole, of which the utmost 
ken of human sight can discover but a part, 
we ought to feel shame at calling such paltry 
stories the Word of God." 

The book drew a reply from Bishop Watson, 
one of those admirable eighteenth-century 
divines, who admitted the right of private 
judgment and thought that argument should 
be met b argument and not by force. His 
reply ha. the rather significant title. An 
Apology for the Bible. George III remarked 
that he was not aware that any apology was 
needed for that book. It is a weak defence, 
but is remarkable for the concessions which 
it makes to several of Pai-:-'s criticisms of 
Scripture — admissions which were ca!eu!ate<i 





to damage the doctrine of the infaUibility of 
the Bible. 

It was doubtless in consequence ot the 
enormous circulation of the Age of Reason 
that a Society for the Suppression of Vice 
decided to prosecute the publisher. Un- 
belief was common among the ruling class, 
but the view was firmly held that ve'igion 
was necessary for the populace and that any 
attempt to disseminate unbelief among the 
lower classes must be suppressed. Religion 
was regarded as a valuable instrument to keep 
the poor in order. It is notable that of the 
earlier rationalists (apart from the case cf 
Woolston) the only one who was punished 
was Peter Annet, a schoolmaster, who tried 
to popularize freethought and was sentenced 
for diffusing " diabolical " opinions to the 
pillory and hard labour (1768). Paine held 
that the people at large had the right of access 
to all new ideas, and he wrote so as to reach 
the people. Hence his book must be sup- 
pressed. At the trial (1797) the judge placed 
every obstacle in the way of the defence. 
The publisher was sentenced to a year's 

This was not the end of Paine prosecutions. 
In 1811 a Third Part of the Age of Reason 
appeared, and Eaton the publisher was 
condemned to eighteen months' imprison- 



ment and to stand in the pillory once a month. 
The judge, Lord Ellenborough, said in his 
charge, that " to deny the truths of the book 
which is the foundation of our faith has never 
been permitted." The poet Shelley addressed 
to Lord Ellenborough a scathing letter. " Do 
you think to convert Mr. Eaton to your 
religion by embittering his existence? You 
might force him by torture to profess your 
tenets, but he could not believe them except 
you should make them credible, which perhaps 
exceeds your power. Do you think to please 
the God you worship by this exhibition of 
your zeal? If so, the demon to whom some 
nations offer human hecatombs is less bar- 
barous than the deity of civilized society 1 " 
In 1819 Richard Carlisle was prosecuted Ikt 
publishing the Age of Reason and sentenced 
to a large fine and three years* imprisonment. 
Unable to pay the fine he was kept in prison 
for three years. His wife and sister, who 
carried on the business and continued to sell 
the book, were fined and imprisoned soon 
afterwards and a whole host of shop assistants. 

If his publishers suffered in England, the 
authc- himself suffered in America where 
bigotry did all it could to make the last years 
of his life bitter 

The age of enlightenment began in Germany 
in the middle of the eighteenth century. In 

■-1 £ 


most of the Gennan States, thought was 
considerably less free than in England. Under 
Frederick the Great's father, the philosopher 
Wolff was banished from Prussia for according 
to the moral teachings of the Chinese sage 
Confucius a praise which, it was thought, 
ought to be reserved for Christianity. He 
returned after the accession of Frederick, 
under whose tolerant rule Prussia was an 
asylum for those writers who suffered for 
their opinions in neighbouring States. 
Frederick, indeed, held the view which was 
held by so many English rationalists of the 
time, and is still held widely enough, that 
freethought is not desirable for the multitude, 
because they are inccpable of understanding 
philosophy. Germany felt the influence of 
the English Deists, of the French free- 
thinkers, and of Spinoza ; but in the German 
rationalistic propaganda of this period there 
is nothing very original or interesting. The 
names of Edelmann and Bahrdt may be 
mentioned. The works of Edelmann, who 
attacked the inspiration of the Bible, were 
burned in various cities, and he was forced 
to seek Frederick's protection at Berlin. 
Bahrdt was more aggressive than any other 
AVTiter of the time. Originally a preacher, it 
was by slow degrees that he moved away from 
the orthodox faith. His translation of the 


New Testament cut short his ecclesiastical 
career. His last years were spent as an inn- 
keeper. His writings, for instance his popular 
Letters on the Bible, must have had a con- 
siderable effect, if we may judge by the hatred 
which he excited among theologians. 

It was not, howe\er, in direct rationalistic 
propaganda, but in literature and philosophy 
that the German enlightenment of this 
century expressed itself. The most illustrious 
men of letters, Goethe (who was profoundly 
influenced by Spinoza) and Schiller, stood 
outside the Churches, and the effect of their 
writings and of the whole literary movement 
of the time made for the freest treatment of 
human experience. 

One German thinker shook the world — the 
philosopher Kant. His Critic of Pure Reason 
demonstrated that when we attempt to prove 
by the light of the intellect the existence of 
God and the immortality of the Soul, we fall 
helplessly into contradictions. His destruc- 
tive criticism of the argument from design 
and all natural theology was more complete 
tlian that of Hume; and his philosophy, 
different though his system was, issued in the 
same practical result as that of Locke, to 
confine knowledge to experience. It is true 
that afterwards, in the interest of ethics, he 
tried to smuggle in by a back-door the Deity 


whom he had turned out by the front gate, 
but the attempt was not a success. His 
philosophy — while it led to new speculative 
systems in which the name of God was used 
to mean something very different from the 
Deistic conception — ^was a significant step 
further in the deliverance of reason from the 
yoke of authority. 

r ':■ J 


the progress of rationalism 

(nineteenth century) 

Modern science, heralded by the researches 
of Copernicus, was founded in the seventeenth 
century, which saw the demonstration of 
the Copemican theory, the discovery of 
gravitation, the discovery of the circulation 
of the blood, and the foundation of modern 
chemistry and physics. The true nature of 
comets was ascertained and they ceased to 
be regarded as signs of heavenly wrath. But 
several generations were to pass before science 
became, in Protestant countries, an involun- 
tary arch-enemy of theology. Till the nine- 
teenth century, it was only in minor points, 
such as the movement of the earth, that 
proved scientific facts seemed to conflict with 


Scripture, and it was easy enough to explain 
away tb^e inconsistencies by a new inter- 
pretation of the sacred texts. Yet remarkable 
facts were accumulating which, though not 
explained by fteience, seemed to menace the 
credibiUty of Bibliea! hwtory. If the story 
of Noah's Ark and ttoe Flood is true, how was 
it that bcasts unable to smim or fly inhabit 
America and the islands of the Ocean ? And 
what about the new species which were 
constantly being found in the New World 
and did not exist in the Old? Where did 
the kangaroos of Australia drop from? The 
only explanation compatible with received 
theology seemed to be the hypothesis of in- 
numerable new acts of creation, later than 
the Flood. It was in the field of natural 
history that scientific men of the eighteenth 
century suffered most from the coercion of 
authority. Linnaeus felt it in Sweden, Buffon 
in France. Buffon was compelled to retract 
hypotheses which he put forward about the 
formation of the earth in his Natural History 
(1749), and to state that he believed implicitly 
in the Bible account of Creation. 

At the beginning of the nineteenth century 
Laplace worked out the mechanics of the 
universe, on the nebular hypothesis. His 
results dispensed, as he said to Napoleon, 
with the hypothesis of God, and were duly 




denounced. His theory involved a long 
physical process before the earth and solar 
system came to be formed ; but this was not 
fatol, for a little ingenuity might preserve 
the credit of the first chapter of Genesis. 
Geology was to prove a more formidable 
enemy to the Biblical story of the Creation 
and the Deluge. The theory of a Frcncli 
naturalist (Cuvier) that the earth had re- 
peatedly experienced catastrophes, each of 
which necessitated a new creative act, helped 
for a time to save the belief in divine inter- 
vention, and Lyell, in his Principles of Geology 
(1880), while he undermined the assumption 
of catastrophes by showing that the earth's 
history could be explained by the ordinary 
processes which we still see in operation, 
yet held fast to successive acts of creation. 
it was not till 1868 that he presented fully, 
in his Antiquity of Man, the evidence whioli 
showed that the human race had inhabited 
the earth for a far longer period than could 
be reconciled with the record of Scripturo. 
That record might be adapt'd to the results 
of science in regard not only to the earth 
itself but also to the plants and lower animals, 
by explaining the word " day " in the Jewish 
story of creation to signify some long period 
of time. But this way out was impossible 
in the case of the creation of man, for the 




sacred chronology is quite definite. An 
English divine of the seventeenth century 
ingeniously calculated that man was created 
by the Trinity on October 28, B.C. 4004, at 
9 o'clock in the morning, and no reckoning 
of the Bible dates could put the event much 
further back. Other evidence reinforced the 
conclusions from geology, but geology alone 
was sufficient to damage irretrievably the 
historical truth of the Jewish legend of 
Creation. The only means of rescuing it 
was to suppose that God had created mis- 
leading evidence for the express purpose of 
deceiving man. 

Geology shook the infallibility of the Bible, 
but left the creation of some prehistoric Adam 
and Eve a still admissible hypothesis. Here 
however zoology stepped in, and pronounced 
ui)on the origin of man. It was an old con- 
jecture that the higher forms of life, including 
man, had developed out of lower forms, and 
advanced thinkers had been reaching the 
conclusion that the universe, as we find it, 
is the result of a continuous process, unbroken 
by supernatural interference, and explicable 
by uniform natural laws. But while the 
rtign of law in the world of non-li' ig matter 
seemed to be established, the world of life 
could be considered a field in which the theorv 
of divine intervention is perfectly valid, so 




f! i 




long as science failed to assign satisfactory 
causes for the origination of the various kinds 
of animals and plants. The publication of 
Darwin's Origin ofSpeciea in 1859 is, thcrcfurc, 
a landmark not only in science but in the 
war between science and theology. When 
this book appeared, Bishop Wilberforce truly 
said that " the principle of natural seU^ciion 
is incompatible with the word of God," and 
theologians in Germany and France as well 
as in England cried aloud against the threat- 
ened dethronement of the Deity. The appear- 
ance of the Descent of Man (1871), in which 
the evidence for the pedigree of the human 
race from lower animals was marshalled with 
masterly force, renewed the outcry. The 
Bible said that God created man in his own 
image, Darwin said that man descended from 
an ape. The feelings of the orthodox world 
may be expressed in the words of^Mr. Glad- 
stone : " Upon the grounds of what is called 
evolution God is relieved of the labour of 
creatifui, and in the name of unchangeable 
laws is dischargctl from governing the world." 
It was a discharge which, as Spencer observed, 
had begun with Newton's discovery of gravita- 
tion. If Darwin did not, as is now recognized, 
supply a complete explanation of the orij-iii 
of species, his researches shattered the sup« r- 
aatural theory and eontirmed the view to 



which many able thinkers had been led that 
development is continuous in the living as 
in the non-living world. Another nail was 
driven into the coffin of Creation and the Fall 
of Adam, and the doctrine of redemption 
could only be rescued by making it inde- 
pendent of the Jewish fable on which it was 

Darwinism, as it is called, has had the larger 
effect of discrediting the theory of the adapta- 
tion of means to ends in nature by an external 
and infinitely powerful intelligence. The in- 
adequacy of the argument from design, as a 
proof of God's existence, had been shown by 
the logic of Hume and Kant ; but the observa- 
tion of the life-processes of nature shows that 
the very analogy between nature and art, 
on which the argument depends, breaks down. 
The impropriety of the analogy has been 
pointed out, in a telling way, by a German 
writer (Lange). If a man wants to shoot a 
hare which is in a certain field, he does not 
procure thousands of guns, surround the 
field, and cause them all to be fired off; or 
if he wants a house to live in, he does not 
build a whole town and abandon to weather 
and decay all the houses but one. If he did 
cither of these things we should say he was 
mad or amazingly unintelligent; his actions 
certainly would not be held to indicate a 

r II 



1 1 


1 rl 


1 , I 



powerful mind, expert in adapting means tu 
ends. But these are the Hort of things that 
nature does. Her wastefulness in the pro- 
pagation of life is reckless. For the production 
of one life she sacrifices innumerable germs. 
The " end " is achieved in one case out of 
thousands; the rule is destruction and failure. 
If intelligence had anything to do with tins 
bungling process, it would be an intelligence 
infinitely low. And the finished product, 
if regarded as a work of design, points to 
incompetence in the designer. Take tlu- 
human eye. An illustrious man of science 
(Helmholtz) said, ** If an optician sent it to 
me as an instrument, I should send it baek 
with reproaches for the carelessness of his 
work and demand the return of my money. " 
Darwin showed how the phenomena might 
be explained as events not brought about 
intentionally, but due to exceptional con- 
currences of circumstances. 

The phenomena of nature are a system of 
things which co-exist and follow each other 
according to invariable laws. This deadly 
proposition was asserted early in the nine- 
teenth century to be an axiom of science. 
It was formulated by Mill (in his System of 
Logic, 1848) as the foundation on which 
scientific induction rests. It means that at 
any moment the state of the whole universe 



is the effect of its itate at the preceding 
moment; the causal sequence between two 
successive states is not broken by any arbi- 
trary interference suppressing or altering the 
relation between cause and effect. Some 
ancient Greek philosophers were convinced 
of this principle ; the work done by mo<icni 
science iu every field seems to be a verification 
of it. But it need not be stated in such an 
absolute form. Recently, scientific men have 
been inclined to express the axiom with more 
reserve and less dogmaticflly. They are 
prepared to recognize that it is simply a 
postulate without which the scientific com- 
prehension of the universe would be impossible, 
and they are inclined to state it not as a 
law of causation— for the idea of causation 
leads into metaphysics— but rather as uni- 
formity of experience. But they are not 
readier to admit exceptions to this uniformity 
than their predecessors were to admit excep- 
tions to the law of causation. 

The idea of development has been applied 
not only to nature, but to the mind of nian 
and to the history of civilization, including 
thought and religion. The first who attempted 
to apply this idea methodically to the whole 
universe was not a student of natural science, 
but a metaphysician, Hegel. His extremely 
difficult philosophy had such a wide influence 


la. J-iS 

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II :i S 




on thought that a few words must be said 
about Its tendency. He conceived the whole 
of existence as what he called the Absolute 
Idea, which is not in space or time and is com- 
pelled by the laws of its being to manifest 
Itself in the process of the world, firct external- 
izing itself in nature, and then becominc 
conscious of itself as spirit in individual 
minds. His system is hence called Absolute 
Ideahsm The attraction which it exercised 
has probably been in great measure due to 
the fact that it was in harmony with nine- 
teenth century thought, in so far as it con- 
ceived the process of the world, both in nature 
and spirit, as a necessary development from 

^""T^^ ^l^^^' '^^«^^' ^"^ t^is respect 
mdeed Hegel s vision was limited. He treats 
the process as if it were practically complete 
already, and does not take into account 
the probability of further development in 
the future, to which other thinkers of his 
own time were turning their attention. But 
what concerns us here is that, while Hcffel's 
system is; Mealistic," finding the explanation 
^/ *^^^"^^«^« in thought and not in matter, 
It tended as powerfully as any materialistic 
system to subvert orthodox beliefs. It is true 
that some have claimed it as supporting 
Chr^tianity. A certain colour is lent to this 
by Hegel s view that the Christian creed, as 




the highest religion, contains doctrines whicii 
express imperfectly some of the ideas of the 
highest philosophy — his own; along with the 
fact that he sometimes speaks of the Absolute 
Idea as if it were a person, though personality 
would be a limitation inconsistent with his 
conception of it. But it is sufficient to observe 
that, whatever value he assigned to Christi- 
anity, he regarded it from the superior stand- 
point of a purely intellectual philosophy, not 
as a special revelation of truth, but as a 
certain approximation to the truth which 
philosophy alone can reach; and it may be 
said with some confidence that any one who 
comes under Hegel's spell feels that he is in 
possession of a theory of the universe which 
relieves him from the need or desire of any 
revealed religion. His influence in Germany, 
Russia, and elsewhere has entirely made for 
highly unorthodox thought. 

Hegel was not aggressive, he was superior. 
His French contemporary, Comte, who also 
thought out a comprehensive system, aggres- 
sively and explicitly rejected theology as an 
obsolete way of explaining the universe. He 
rejected metaphysics likewise, and all that 
Hegel stood for, as equally useless, on the 
ground that metaphysicians explain nothing, 
but merely describe phenomena in abstract 
terms, and that questions about the origin 





Hi iS!^ 


of the world and why it exists are quite beyond 
the reach of reason. Both theology and 
metaphysics are superseded by science — the 
investigation of causes and effects and co- 
existences; and the future progress of society 
will be guided by the scientific view of the 
world which confines itself to the positive 
data of experience. Comte was convinced 
that religion is a social mcessity, and, to 
supply the place of the theological religions 
which he pronounced to bj doomed, he in- 
vented a new religion — the religion of Human- 
ity. It differs from the great religions of the 
world in having no supernatural or non-rational 
articles of belief, and on that account he had 
few adherents. But the " Positive Philo- 
sophy " of Comte has exercised great influence, 
not least in England, where its principles have 
been promulgated especially by Mr. Frederic 
Harrison, who in the latter half of the nine- 
teenth century has been one of the most 
indefatigable workers in the cause of reason 
against authority. 

Another comprehensive system was worked 
out by an Englishman, Herbert Spencer. Like 
Comte's, it was based on science, and attempts 
to show how, starting with a nebular universe, 
the whole knowable world, psychical and social 
as well as physical, can be deduced. His 
Synthetic Philosophy perhaps did more than 


anything else to make the idea of evolution 
familiar in England. 

I must mention one other modem explana- 
tion of the world, that of Haeckel, the zoolo- 
gist, professor at Jena, who may be called 
the prophet of evolution. His Creation of 
Man (1868) eovered the same ground as 
Darwin's Descent, had an enormous circula- 
tion, and was translated, I believe, into 
fourteen languages. His World-riddles (1899) 
enjoys the same popularity. He has taught, 
like Spencer, that the principle of evolution 
applies not only to the history of nature, but 
also to human civilization and human thought. 
He differs from Spencer and Comte in not 
assuming any unknowable reality behind 
natural phenomena. His adversaries com- 
monly stigmatize his theory as materialism, 
but this is a mistake. Like Spinoza he recog- 
nizes matter and mind, body and thought, as 
two inseparable sides of ultimate reality, 
which he calls God; in fact, he identifies his 
philosophy with that of Spinoza. And he 
logically proceeds to conceive material atoms 
as thinking. His idea of the physical world 
is based on the old mechanical conception 
of matter, which in recent years has been 
discredited. But Haeckel's Monism,^ as he 
called his doctrine, has lately been reshaped 

1 From Greek monos, alone. 




and in its new form promises to exercise wide 
influence on thoughtful people in Germany. 
I will return later to this Monistic movement. 
It had been a fundamental principle of 
Comte that human actions and human history 
are as strictly subject as nature is, to the law 
of causation. Two psychological works ap- 
peared in England in 1855 (Bain's Senses and 
Intellect and Spencer's Principles of Psychology) 
which taught that our volitions are completely 
determined, being the inevitable consequences 
of chains of causes and effects. £it a far 
deeper impression was produced two years 
later by the first volume of Buckle's History 
of Civilization in England (a work of much 
less permanent value), which attempted to 
apply this principle to history. Men act in 
consequence of motives; their motives are 
the results of preceding facts ; so that " if we 
were acquainted with the whole of the ante- 
cedents and with all the laws of their move- 
ments, we could with unerring certainty 
predict the whole of their immediate results." 
Thus history is an unbroken chain of causes 
and effects. Chance is excluded ; it is a mere 
name for the defects of our knowledge. 
Mysterious and providential interference is 
excluded. Buckle maintained God's exist- 
ence, but eliminated him from history; and 
his book dealt a resounding blow at the theory 

3li it 

1 • I H 



that human actions are not submitted to the 
law of universal causation. 

The science of anthropology has in recent 
years aroused wide interest. Inquiries into 
the condition of early man have shown 
(independently of Darwinism) that there is 
nothing to be said for the view that he fell 
from a nigher to a lower state; the evidence 
points to a slow rise from mere animality. 
The origi.i of religious beliefs has been in- 
vestigated, with results disquieting for ortho- 
doxy. The researches of students of anthro- 
pology and comparative religion — such as 
Tylor, Robertson Smith, and Frazer — have 
gone to show that mysterious ideas and dogma 
and rites which were held to be peculiar to 
the Christian revelation are derived from the 
crude ideas of primitive religions. That the 
mystery of the Eucharist comes from the 
common savage rite of eating a dead god, 
that the death and resurrection of a god in 
human form, which form the central fact of 
Christianity, and the miraculous birth of a 
Saviour are features which it has in common 
with pagan religions — such conclusions are 
supremely unedifying. It may be said that 
in themselves they are not fatal to the claims 
of the current theology. It may be held, for 
instance, that, as part of Christian revelation, 
such ideas acquired a new significance and 









that God wisely availed himself of familiar 
beliefs — which, though false and leading to 
cruel practices, he himself had inspired and 
permitted — in order to construct a scheme 
of redemption which should appeal to the 
|)rejudices of man. Some minds may find 
satisfa.* '>n in this sort of explanation, but 
it may be suspected that most of the few 
who study modem researches into the origin 
of religious beliefs will feel the lines which 
were supposed to mark off the Christian from 
all other faiths dissolving before their eyes. 

The general result of the advance of science, 
including anthropology, has been to create 
a coherent view of the world, in which the 
Christian scheme, based on the notions of 
an unscientific age and on the arrogant 
assumption that the universe was made for 
man, has no suitable or reasonable place. If 
Paine felt this a hundred years ago, it is far 
more apparent now. All minds however are 
not equally impressed with this incongruity. 
There are many who will admit the proofs 
furnished by science that the Biblical record 
as to the antiquity of man is false, but are 
not affected by the incongruity between the 
scientific and theological conceptions of the 

For such minds science has only succeeded 
in carrying some entrenchments, which may 



be abandoned without much liarm. It has 
made the old orthodox view of the infaUibility 
of the Bible untenable, and upset the doctrine 
of the Creation and Fall. But it would still 
be possible for Christianity to maintain the 
supernatural claim, by modifying its theory 
of the authority of the Bible and revising its 
theory of redemption, if the evidence of 
natural science were the only group of facts 
with which it collided. It might be argued 
that the law of universal causation is a 
hypothesis inferred from experience, but that 
experience includes the testimonies of history 
and must therefore take account of the clear 
evidence of miraculous occurrences in the 
New Testament (evidence which is valid, 
even if that book was not inspired). Thus, 
a stand could be taken against the generaliza- 
tion of science on the firm ground of historical 
fact. That solid ground, however, has given 
way, undermined by historical criticism, which 
has been more deadly than the common-sense 
criticism of the eighteenth century. 

The methodical examination of the records 
contained in the Bible, dealing with them 
as if they were purely human documents, is 
the work of the nineteenth century. Some- 
thing, indeed, had already been done. Spinoza, 
for instance (above, p. 138) and Simon, a 
Frenchman whose books were burnt, were 


pioneers; and the modem criticism o! the 
Old Testament was begun by Astruc (pro- 
fessor of medicine at Paris), who discovered 
an important clue for distinguishing different 
documents used by the compiler of the Book 
of Genesis (1768). His German contemporary, 
Reimarus, a student of the New Testament, 
anticipated the modem conclusion that Jesus 
had no intention of founding a new religion, 
and saw that the Gospel of St. John presents 
a different figure from the Jesus of the other 

But in the nineteenth century the methods 
of criticism, applied by German scholars to 
Homer and to the records of early Roman 
history, were extended to the investigation 
of the Bible. The work has been done 
principally in Germany. The old tradition 
that the Pentateuch was written by Moses 
has been completely discredited. It is now 
agreed unanimously by all who have studied 
the facts that the Pentateuch was put together 
from a number of different documents of 
different ages, the earliest dating from the 
ninth, the last from the fifth, century B.C.; 
and there are later minor additions. An 
important, though undesigned, contribution 
was made to this exposure by an English- 
man, Colenso, Bishop of Natal. It had been 
held that the oldest of the documents which 



had been distinguished was a narrative which 
l)egins in Genesis, Chapter I, but there was 
the difliculty that this narrative seemed to 
be closely associated with the legislation of 
Leviticus which could be proved to belong to 
the fifth century In 1862 Colenso published 
the first part of his Pentateuch and the Book 
of Joshua Critically Examined. His doubts 
of the truth of Old Testament history had 
l>een awakened by a converted Zulu who asked 
the intelligent question whether he could 
really believe in the story of the Fir :d, *' that 
all the beasts and birds and creeping things 
u[)on the earth, large and small, from hot 
countries and cold, came thus by pairs and 
entered into the ark with Noah? And did 
Noah gather food for them all, for the beasts 
and birds of prey as well as the rest? " The 
Bishop then proceeded to test the accuracy 
of the inspired books by examining tbe 
numerical statements which they cont*»n. 
The results were fatal to them as historical 
records. Quite apart from miracles (tlie 
|K)Ssibility of which he did not question), he 
showed that the whole story of the sojourn 
of the Israelites in Egypt and the wilderness 
was full of absurdities and impossibilities. 
Colenso' s book raised a storm of indignation 
in England — he was known as " the wicked 
bishop " ; but on the Continent its reception 




\ !• 



i » 


was very different. The portions of th*- 
Pentateuch and Joshua, which he proved to 
be unhistorical, belonged precisely to the 
narrative which had caused perplexity ; an«l 
critics were led by his results to conclude that, 
like the I^vitical laws with which it was 
connected, it was as late as the ftfth century. 
One of the most striking results of the 
researches on the Old Testament has been 
that the Jews themselves handled their 
traditions freely. Each of the successive 
documents, which were afterwards woven 
together, was written by men who adoptetl 
a perfectly free attitude ♦x)wards the older 
traditions, and having no suspicion that they 
were of divme origin did not bow down 
before their authority. It was reserved for 
the Christians to invest with infallible authority 
the whole indiscriminate lump of these Jewish 
documents, inconsistent not only in their 
tendencies (since they reflect the spirit of 
different ages), but also in some respects m 
substance. The examination of most of the 
other Old Testament books has led to con- 
clusions likewise adverse to the orthodox view 
of their origin and character. New know- 
ledge on many points has been deiived from 
the Babylonian literature which has been 
recovered during the last half century. One 
of the earliest (1872) and most sensational 


discoveries was that the Jews got their story 
of the Flood from Babylonian mythology. 

Modem criticism of the New Testament 
began with the stimulating works of Baur 
and of Strauss, whose Life of Jetus (1885), 
in which the supernatural was entirely 
rejected, had an immense success and caused 
furious controversy. Both these rationalists 
were influenced by Hegel. At the same time 
a classical scholar, Lachmann, laid the foun- 
dations of the criticism of the Greek text 
of the New Testament, by issuing the first 
scientific edition. Since then seventy years 
of work have led to some certain results which 
are generally accepted. 

In the first place no intelligent person who 
has studied modem criticism holds the old 
view that each of the four biographies of 
Jesus is an independent work and an in- 
dependent testimony to the facts which are 
related. It is acknowledged that those por- 
tions which are common to more than one 
and are written in identical language have the 
same origin and represent only one testimony. 
In the second place, it is allowed that the 
first Gospel is not the oldest and that the 
apostle Matthew was not its author. There 
is also a pretty general agreement that Mark's 
book is the oldest. The authorship of the 
fourth Gospel, which like the first was sup- 



11 rl 


? ■ 

!< i 

S Si 




posed to have been written by an eye-witness, 
is still contested, but even those who adhere 
to the tradition admit that it represents a 
theory about Jesus which is widely different 
from the view of the three other biographers. 
The lesult is that it can no longer be said 
that for the life of Jesus there is the evidence 
of eye-witnesses. The oldest account (Mark) 
was composed at the earliest some thirty years 
after c' • Crucifixion. If such evidence is 
considered good enough to establish the 
supernatural events described in that docu- 
ment, there are few alleged supernatural 
occurrences which we shall not be equally 
entitled to believe. A^. a matter of fact, an 
interval of thirty years makes little difference, 
for we know that legends require little time 
to grow. In the East, you will hear of 
miracles which happened the day before 
yesterday. The birth of religions is always 
enveloped in legend, and the miraculous thing 
would be, as M. Salomon Reinach has observed, 
if the story of the birth of Christianity were 
pure history. 

Another disturbing result of unprejudiced 
examination of the first three Gospels is that, 
if you take the recorded words of Jesus to be 
genuine tradition, he had no idea of founding 
a new religion. And he was fully persuaded 
that the end of the world was at hand. At 


present, the chief problem of advanced 
criticism seems to be whether his entire 
teaching was not determined by this delusive 

It may be said that the advance of know- 
ledge has thrown no light on one of the most 
imp. -tant beliefs that we are asked to accept 
on authority, the doctrine of immortality. 
Physiology and psychology have indeed 
emphasized the difficulties of conceiving a 
thinking mind without a nervous system. 
Some are sanguine enough to think that, b/ 
scientific examination of psychical phenomena, 
we may possibly come to know whether 
the "spirits" of dead people exist. If the 
existence of such a world of spirits were ever 
established, it would possibly be the greatest 
blow ever sustained by Christianity. For the 
great appeal of this and of some other religions 
lies in the promise of a future life of which 
otherwise we should have no knowledge. If 
existence after death were proved and became 
a scientific fact like the law of gravitation, a 
revealed religion might lose its power. For the 
whole point of a revealed religion is that it is 
not based on scientific facts. So far as I know, 
those who arc convinced, by spiritualistic 
experiments, that they have actual converse 
with spirits of the dead, and for whom 
this converse, however delusive the evidence 



may be, is a fact proved by experience, cease 
to feel any interest in religion. They possess 
knowledge and can dispense with faith. 

The havoc which science and historical 
criticism have wrought among orthodox 
beliefs during the last hundred years was 
not tamely submitted to, and controversy 
was not the only weapon employed. Strauss 
was deprived of his professorship at Tubingen, 
and his career was ruined. Renan, whose 
sensational Life of Jesus also rejected the 
supernatural, lost his chair in the College de 
France. Biichner was driven from Tubingen 
(1855) for his book on Force and Matter, 
which, appealing to the general public, set 
forth the futility of supernatural explanations 
of the universe. An attempt was made to 
chase Haeckel from Jena. In recent years, 
a French Catholic, the Abb^ Loisy, has made 
notable contributions to the study of the 
New Testament and he was rewarded by 
major excommunication in 1907. 

Loisy is the most prominent figure in a 
growing movement within the Catholic Church 
known as Modernism — a movement which 
some think is the gravest crisis in the history 
of the Church since the thirteenth century. 
The Modernists do not form an organized 
party; they have no programme. They are 
devoted to the Church, to its traditions and 



associations, but they look on Christianity as 
a religion which has developed, and whose 
vitality depends upon its continuing to 
develop. They are bent on reinterpreting 
the dogmas in the light of modem science 
and criticism. The idea of development had 
already been applied by Cardinal Newman to 
Catholic theology. He taught that it was a 
natural, and therefore legitimate, development 
of the primitive creed. But he did not draw 
the conclusion which the Modernists draw that 
if Catholicism is not to lose its power of 
growth and die, it must assimilate some of 
the results of modem thought. This is what 
they are attempting to do for it. 

Pope Pius X has made every effort to 
suppress the Modernists. In 1907 (July) he 
issued a decree denouncing various results 
of modem Biblical criticism which are de- 
fended in Loisy's works. The two fundamen- 
tal propositions that " the organic constitution 
of the Church is not immutable, but that 
Christian society is subject, like every human 
society, to a perpetual evolution," and that 
"the dogmas which the Church regards as 
revealed are not fallen from heaven but are 
an interpretation of religious facts at which 
the human mind laboriously arrived "—both 
of which might be deduced from Newman's 
writings — are condemned. Three months 

k J 




i, i 





later the Pope issued a long Encyclical letter, 
containing an elaborate study of Modernist 
opinions, and ordaining various measures for 
. 'damping out the evil. No Modernist would 
admit that this document represents his 
views fairly. Yet some of the remarks seem 
very much to the point. Take one of their 
books: "one page might be signed by a 
Catholic; turn over and you think you are 
reading the work of a rationalist. In writing 
history, they make no mention of Christ's 
divinity; in the pulpit, they proclaim it 

A plain man may be puzzled by these 
attenipts to retain the letter of old dogmas 
emptied of their old meaning, and may think 
it natural enough that the head of the Catholic 
Church should take a clear and definite stand 
against the new learning which seems fatal to 
its fundamental doctrines. For many years 
past, liberal divines in the Protestant Churches 
have been doing what the Modernists are doing. 
The phrase " Divinity of Christ " is used, but 
is 'nterpreted so as not to imply a miraculous 
bin'\. The Resurrection is preached, but is 
inter^ reted so as not to imply a miraculous 
bodily resurrection. The Bible is said to be 
an inspired book, but inspiration is used in 
a vague sense, much as when one says that 
Plato was inspired; and the vagueness of this 


new idea of inspiration is even put forward as 
a merit. Between the extreme views which 
discard the miraculous altogether, and the old 
orthodoxy, there are many gradations of 
belief. In the Church of England to-day it 
would be difficult to say what is the minimum 
belief required either from its members or 
from its clergy. Probably every leading 
ecclesiastic would give a different answer. 

The rise of rationalism within the English 
Church is interesting and illustrates the 
relations between Church and State. 

The pietistic movement known as Evan- 
gehcalism, which Wilberforce's Practical View 
of Christianity (1797) did much to make 
popular, introduced the spirit of Methodism 
within the Anglican Church, and soon put an 
end to the delightful type of eighteenth-century 
divine, who, as Gibbon says, " subscribed with 
a sigh or a smile " the articles of faith. The 
rigorous taboo of the Sabbath was revived, the 
theatre was denounced, the corruption of human 
nature became the dominant theme, and the 
Bible more a fetish than ever. The success 
of this religious " reaction," as it is called, 
was aided, though not caused, by the common 
belief that the French Revolution had been 
mainly due to infidelity; the Revolution was 
taken for an object lesson showing the value 
of religion for keeping the people in order. 



■ t' 

( I 







Tlierc was also a religious '* reaction " in 
France itself. But in both cases this means 
not that free thought was less prevalent, but 
that the beliefs of the majority were more 
aggressive and had |X)werful spokesmen, while 
the eighteenth-century form of rationalism 
fell out of fashion. A new form of rationalism, 
which sought to interpret orthodoxy in sucl» 
a liberal way as to reconcile it with philosophy, 
was represented by Coleridge who was in- 
fluenced by German philosophers. Coleridge 
was a supporter of the Church, and he con- 
tributed to the foundation of a school of 
liberal theology which was to make itself felt 
after the middle of the century. Newman, 
the most eminent of the new High Church 
party, said that he indulged in a liberty of 
speculation which no Christian could tolerate. 
The High Church movement which marked 
the second quarter of the century was as 
hostile as Evangelicalism to the freedom of 
religious thought. 

The change came after the middle of tlie 
century, when the effects of the philosophies 
of Hegel and Comte, and of foreign Biblical 
criticism, began to make themselves felt 
within the English Church. Two remarkable 
freethinking books appeared at this period 
which were widely read, F. W. Newman's 
Phases of Faith and W. R. Greg's Creed 



of Christendom (both in 1850). Newman 
(brother of Cardinal Newman) entirely broke 
with Christianity, and in his book he describes 
the mental proeess by whieh he came to 
abandon the beliefs he had once held. Per- 
haps the most interesting point he makes is 
the deficiency of the New Testament teaching 
as a system of morals. Greg was a unitarian. 
He rejected dogma and inspiration, but he 
regarded himself as a Christian. Sir J. F. 
Stephen wittily described his position as that 
of a disciple " who had heard the Sermon on 
the Mount, whose attention had not been 
called to the Miracles, and who died before 
the Resurrection." 

There were a few English clergymen 
(chiefly Oxford men) who were interested in 
German criticism and leaned to broad views, 
which to the Evangelicals and High Church- 
men seemed indistinguishable from infidelity. 
We may call them the Broad Church — though 
the name did not come in till later. In 1855 
Jowett (afterwards Master of Balliol) pub- 
lished an edition of some of St. Paul's Epistles, 
in which he showed the cloven hoof. It 
contained an annihilating criticism of the 
doctrine of the Atonement, an explicit 
rejection of original sin, and a rationalistic 
discussion of the question of God's existence. 
But this and some other unorthodox works 




of liberal theologians attracted little public 
attention, though their authors had to endure 
petty persecution. Five years later, Jowett 
and some other members of the small liberal 
group decided to defy the "abominable 
system of terrorism which prevents the 
statement of the plainest fact," and issued 
a volume of Essays and Reviews (1860) by 
seven writers of whom six were clergymen. 
The views advocated in these essayiF. seem 
mild enough to-day, and many of them 
would be accepted by most well-educated 
clergymen, but at the time they produced 
a very painful impression. The authors were 
called the "Seven against Christ." It was 
laid down that the Bible is to be interpreted 
like any other book. " It is not a useful 
lesson for the young student to apply to 
Scripture principles which he would hesitate 
to apply to other books; to make formal 
reconcilements of discrepancies which he 
would not think of reconciling in ordinary 
history; to divide simple words into double 
meanings ; to adopt the fancies or conjectures 
of Fathers and Commentators as real know- 
ledge." It is suggested that the Hebrew 
prophecies do not contain the element of 
prediction. Contradictory accounts, or ac- 
counts which can only be reconciled by 
conjecture, cannot possibly have been dictated 




by God. The (iiscrepftncies between the 
genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, 
or between the accounts of the Resurrection 
can be attributed *' neither to any defect in 
our capacities nor to any reasonable presump- 
tion of a hidden wise design, nor to any 
partial spiritual endowments in the narrators." 
The orthodox arguments which lay stress on 
the assertion of witnesses as the supreme 
evidence of fact, in support of miraculous 
occurrences, are set aside on the ground that 
testimony is a blind guide and can avail 
nothing against reason and the strong grounds 
we have for believing in permanent order. 
It is argued that, under the Thirty-nine 
Articles, it is permissible to accept as " parable 
or poetry or legend " such stories as that of 
an ass speaking with a man's voice, of waters 
standing in a solid heap, of witches and a 
variety of apparitions, and to judge for 
ourselves of such questions as the personality 
of Satan or the primeval institution of the 
Sabbath. The whole spirit of this volume is 
perhaps expressed in the observation that if 
any one perceives " to how great an extent 
the origin itself of Christianity rests upon 
probable evidence, his principle will relieve 
him from many difficulties which might 
otherwise be very disturbing. For relations 
which may repose on doubtful grounds as 


i n 1 


matters of history, and, as history, be incap* 
able of being ascertained or verified, may yi t 
be equally suggestive of true ideas with facts 
absolutely certain "—that is, they may have 
a spiritual significance although they are 
historically false. 

The most daring Essay was the Rev. Baden 
Powell's Study of the Evidences of ChnstianUi/. 
He was a believer in evolution, who accepttd 
Darwinism, and considered miracles impos- 
sible. The volume was denounced by the 
bishops, and in 1862 two of the contributors, 
who were beneficed clergymen and thus open 
to a legal attack, were prosecuted and tried 
in the Ecclesiastical Court. Condemned on 
certain points, acquitted on others, they were 
sentenced to be suspended for a year, and 
they appealed to the Privy Council. Lord 
Westbury (Lord Chancellor) pronounced the 
judgment of the Judicial Committee of the 
Council, which reversed the decision of the 
Ecclesiastical Court. The Committee held, 
iimong other things, that it is not essential for 
a clergyman to believe in eternal punishment. 
This prompted the following epitaph on Lord 
Westbury : " Towards the close of his earthly 
career he dismissed Hell with costs and took 
away from Orthodox members of the Chureh 
of England their last hope of everlasting 


This was a great triumph for the Broad 
Church party, and it is an interesting event 
in the history of the EngUsh State-Church. 
Laymen decided (overruUng the opinion of 
the Archbishops of Canterbury and York) 
what theological doctrines are and arc not 
binding on a clergyman, and granted within 
the Churcfi a lil>erty of opinion which the 
majority of the Church's representatives 
regarded as pernicious. This liberty was 
formally established in 1805 by an Act of 
Parliament, which altered the form in which 
clergymen were requirec' to subscribe the 
Thirty-nin .-tides. The episode of Essays 
and Review*, is a landmark in th'" history 
of religious thought in England. 

The liberal views of the Uroad Churc. .len 
and their attitude to the Bible gradually 
produced some effect upon those who differed 
most from them; and nowadays there is 
probably no one who would not admit, at 
least, that such a passage us Genesis, Chapter 
XIX might have been composed with' it the 
direct inspiration of the Deity. 

During the next few years orthodox public 
opinion was shocked or disturbed by the 
appearance of several remarkable books which 
criticized, ignored, or defied authority — Ly ell's 
Antiquity of Man, Seelcy's Ecce Homo (which 
the pious Lord Shaftesbury said was " vomited 




from the jaws of hell "), Lecky'i History of 
Rationalism. And a new poet of liberty arose 
whu did not fear to Kound the loudest not< s 
of defiance af^ainst all that authority held 
sacred. AH tlic great poets of the nineteenth 
century were more or less unorthodox j 
Wordsworth in the years of his highest inspirtf 
tion was a pantheist; and the greatest of all,; 
Shelley, was a declared atheist. In fearless 
utterance, in unfaltering zeal against the 
tyranny of Go<ls and Governments, Swinburne 
was like Shelley. His drama .. lanta in 
Calydon (1865), even though a poet »s strictly 
not answerable for what the persons in his 
drama say, yet with its denunciation of " the 
supreme evil, God," heralded the coming of 
a new champion who would defy the fortresses 
of authority. And in the following year his 
Poems and Ballads expressed the spirit of 
a pagan who flouted all the prejudices antt 
sanctities of the Christian world. 

But the most intense and exciting period 
of literary warfare against orthodoxy in 
England began about 1860, and lasted for 
about a dozen years, during which enemiis 
of dogma, of all complexions, were less reticent 
and more aggressive than at any other time 
in the century. Lord Morlcy has observed 
that "the force of speculative literature 
always liungs on practical opportuneness, 


and this remark is illustrated by the rational- 
istic literature of the seventies. It was a 
time of hope and fear, of progress and danger. 
Secularists and rationalists were encouraged 
by the Disestablishment of the Church in 
Ireland (180U). by the Act which allowed 
atheists to give evidence in a court of justice 
(1869), by the abolition of religious tests at 
all the Universities (a measure frequently 
attempted in vain) in 1H71. On the other 
hund, the Education Act of 1870, progressive 
though it was, disappointed the advocates 
of secular education, and was an unwelcome 
sign of the strength of ecclesiastical influence. 
Then there was the general alarm felt in 
Europe by all outside the Roman Church, 
and by some within it, at the decree of the 
infallibility ff the Pope(by the Vatican Coun- 
cil 1869-70), and an Englishman (Cardinal 
Manning) was one of the most active spirits 
in bringing about this decree. It would 
perhaps have caused less alarm if the Pope's 
denunciation of modern errors had not been 
fresh in men's memories. At the end of 1864 
he startled the world by issuing a Syllabus 
*' embracing the principal errors of our age." 
Among these were the pro^ ositions, that every 
man is free to adopt and profess the religion 
he considers true, according to the light of 

reason; that the Church has no right to 



employ force ; that metaphysics can and ought 
to be pursued without reference to divine and 
ecclesiastical authority; that Catholic statts 
are right to allow foreign immigrants to 
exercise their own religion in public; that 
the Pope ought to make terms with progress, 
liberalism, and modern civilization. TIk 
document was taken as a declaration of 
war against enlightenment, and the Vatican 
Council as the first strategic move of the hosts 
of darkness. It seemed that the powers ol 
obscurantism were lifting up their heads with 
a new menace, and there was an instinctive 
feeling that all the forces of reason should bo 
brought into the field. The history of tlu 
last forty years shows that the theory ol 
Infallibility, since it has become a dogma, is 
not more harmful than it was before. But 
the efforts of the Catholic Church in the years 
following the Council to overthrow the French 
Republic and to rupture the new German 
Empire were sufficiently disquieting. Against 
this was to be set the destruction of tliCj 
temporal power of the Popes and the com- 
plete freedom of Italy. This event was the 
sunrise of Swinburne's Songs before Sunrise 
(which appeared in 1871), a seedplot of atheism | 
and revolution, sown with implacable hatred 
of creeds and tyrants. The most wonderful j 
poem in the volume, the Hymn of Man, was 


F. ->»•*•* 


written while the Vatican Council was sitting. 
It is a song of triumph over the God of the 
priests, stricken by the doom of the Pope's 
temporal power. The concluding versc^ will 
show the spirit. 

" Uy thy name that in licllfire was written, 

and burned at the point of thy sword, 
Thou art smitten, thou God, thou art 

smitten ; thy death is upon thee, O 

And the lovesong of earth as thou diest 

resounds through the wind of her 

wings — 
Glory to Man in the highest ! for Man is the 

master of things." 

The fact that such a volume could appear 
with impunity vividly illustrates the English 
policy of enforcing the laws for blasphemy 
only in the case of publications addressed to 
the masses. 

Political circumstances thus invited and 
stimulated rationalists to come forward boldly, 
but we must not leave out of account the 
influence of the Broad Church movement and 
of Darwinism. Ihe Descent of Man appeared 
precisely in 1871. A new, undogmatic Chris- 
tianity was being preached in pulpits. Mr. 
Leslie Stephen remarked (1873) that " it may 
be said, with little exaggeration, that there 




i i x- 



is not only no article in the creeds which may 
not be contradicted with impunity, but that 
there is none which may not be contradicted 
in a sermon calculated to win the reputation 
of orthodoxy and be regarded as a Judicious 
bid for a bishopric. The popular state of 
mind seems to be typified in the well-known 
anecdote of the captious churchwarden, who, 
whilst commendii.j the general tendency of 
his incumbent's sermon, felt bound to hazard 
a protest uj)on one point. ' You see, sir,' as 
he apologetically explained, ' I think there 
be a God.' He thought it an error of taste 
or perhaps of judgment, to hint a doubt as to 
the first article of the creed." 

The influence exerted among the cultivated 
classes by the aesthetic movement (Ruskin, 
Morris, the Pre-Raphaelite painters; then 
Pater's Lectures on the Renaissance, 1873) './as 
also a sign of the times. For the attitude of 
these critics, artists, and poets was essentially 
pagan. The saving truths of theology were 
for them as if they did not exist. The ideal 
of happiness was found in a region in which 
hea'en was ignored. 

The time then seemed opportune for speak- 
ing out. Of the unorthodox books and 
essavs,^ which influenced the young and 

^ Besides the works referred to in the text, may be 
mentioned: Win wood Reade, Martyrdum of Man, lS7i; 


alarmed believers, in these exciting years, 
most were the works of men who may be 
most fairly described by the comprehensive 
term agnostics — a name which had been 
recently invented by Professor Huxley. 

The agnostic holds that there are limits to 
human reason, aiid that theology lies outside 
those limits. Within those limits lies the 
world with which science (including i)sycho- 
logy) deals. Science deals entirely with 
phenomena, and has nothing to say to the 
nature of the ultimate reality which may lie 
behindrphenomena. There are four possible 
attiti sXto2,this ultimate reality. There is 
the attitude of the metaphysician and theo- 
logian who are convinced not only that it 
exists but that it can be at least partly 
known. There is the attitude of the man 
who denies that it exists; but he must be 
also a metaphysician, for its existence can 
only be disproved by metaphysical arguments. 
Then thee are those who assert that it exists 
but deny that we can know anything about 
it. And finally there are those who say that 
we cannot know whether it exists or not. 
These last are " agnostics " in the strict 

Mill, Three Essays on Religion; W. R. Cassels, Super- 
natural Religion; Tyndall, Address to British Association 
at Belfast; Huxley, Animal Automatism; W. K. Clifford, 
Body and Mind; all in 1874. 




sense of the term, men who profess not to knoxv. 
The third class go beyond phenomena in s'» 
far as they assert that there is an ultimate 
though unknowable reality beneath pheno- 
mena. But agnostic is commonly used in 
a wide sense so as to include tlie third as well 
as the fourth class — those who assume an 
unknowable, as well as those who do not 
know whether there is an unknowable or not. 
Comte and Spencer, for instance, who be- 
lieved iii an unknowable, are counted as 
agnostics. The difference between an agnostic 
and an atheist is that the atheist positively 
denies the existence of a personal God, the 
agnostic does not believe in it. 

The writer of this period who held agnosti- 
cism in its purest form and who turned the dry 
light of reason on to theological opinions n-ith 
the most merciless logic, was Mr. Leslie 
Stephen. His best-known essay, "An Agnos- 
tic's Apology" {Fortnightly Review, 1876), 
raises the question, have the dogmas of 
orthodox theologians any meaning ? Do they 
offer, for this is what we want, an intelligible 
reconciliation of die discords in the universe ? 
It is shown in detail that the various theo- 
logical explanations of the dealings of God 
with man, when logically pressed, issue in 
a confession of ignorance. And what is this 
but agnosticism? You mav cal! vour doubt 



a mystery, but mystery is only the theological 
phrase for agnosticism. " Wny, when no 
honest man will deny in private that every 
ultimate problem is wrapped m the pro- 
foundest mystery, do honest men proclaim m 
pulpits that unhesitating certainty is the 
duty of the most foolish and ignorant? We 
are a company of ignorant beings, dimly 
discerning light enough for our daily needs 
but hopelessly differing whenever we attempt 
to describe the ultimate origin or end of our 
paths; and yet, when one of us ventures 
io declare that we don't know the map 
of the Universe as well as the map of our 
infinitesimal parish, he is hooted, reviled and 
perhaps told that he will be damned to all 
eternitv for his faithlessness." The character- 
istic of Leslie Stephen's essays is that they 
are less directed to showing that orthodox 
theology is untrue as that there is no reality 
about it, and that its solutions of difficulties 
are sham solutions. If it solved any part 
of the mystery, it would be welcome, but it 
does not, it only adds new difficulties. It is 
" a mere edifice of moonshine." The writer 
makes no attempt to prove by logic that 
ultimate reality lies outside the imits of 
human reason. He bases this conclusion on 
the fact that all philosophers hopJessly 
contradict one another; if the subject-matter 

i> I 


: i 




f ^it'4'' 

;f - 


withm the reach of the intelligenee, son.^ 
agreement must have been reached. 

Ihe Broad Church movement, the attempts 
to hberalue Christianity, to pour its old wine 
into new bottles, to make it unscctarian and 
undogmatic. to find compromises between 
theology and science, found no favour in 
Ijcshe Stephen's eyes, and he criticized all 
this with a certain contempt. There was a 
controversy about the efficacy of prayer. Is 
It reasonable, for instance, to pray for rain ' 
Here science and theology were at issue on 
a practical point which comes within the 
domain of science. Some theologians adopted 
the compromise that to pray against an 
eclipse would be foolish, but to pray for rain 
might be sensible. "One phenoi.enon " 
Stephen wrote, "is just as much the resu t 
of fixed causes as the other; but it is easier 
tor the imagination to suppose the interfer- 
ence of a divine agent to be hidden away 
somewhere amidst the infinitely complex 
play of forces, which elude our calculations in 
meteorological phenomena, than to believe 
m It where the forces are simple enough 
to admit of prediction. The distinction is 
of course invalid in a scientific sense. Al- 
mighty power can interfere as easily with 
the events which are, as with those wliich are 



not, in the Nautical Almanac. One cannot 
suppose that God retreats as science advances, 
and that he spoke in thunder and lightning 
till Franklin unravelled the laws of their 

Again, when a controversy about hell 
engaged public attention, and some otherwise 
orthodox theologians bethought themselves 
that eternal punishment was a horrible 
doctrine and then found that the evidence for 
it was not quite conclusive and were bold 
enough to say so, Leslie Stephen stepped in to 
point out that, if so, historical Christianity 
deserves all that its most virulent enemies 
have said about it in this respect. When the 
Christian creed really ruled men's consciences, 
nobody could utter a word against the truth 
of the dogma of hell. If that dogma had not 
an intimate organic connection with the creed, 
if it had been a mere unimj)ortant accident, 
it could not have been so vigorous and 
persistent wherever Christianity was strongest. 
The attempt to eliminate it or soften it down 
is a sign of decline. " Now, at last, your 
creed is decaying. People have discovered 
that you know nothing about it; that 
heaven and hell belong to dreamland; that 
the impertinent young carate who tells me 
that I shall be burnt everlastingly for not 
sharing his superstition is just as ignorant 



OS I am myself, and that I know as mucli as 
my dog. And then you calmly say again, 
' It is all a mistake. Only believe in a some- 
thing — and we will make it as easy for you 
as ]>ossible. Hell shall have no more tliaii 
a fine equable temperature, really good for 
the constitution ; there shall be nobody in it 
except Judas Iscariot and one or two others ; 
and even the poor Devil shall have a chance 
if he will resolve to mend his ways.' " 

Mr. Matthew Arnold may, I suppose, be 
numbered among the agnostics, but he was 
of a very different type. He introduced u 
new kind of criticism of the Bible — literary 
criticism. Deeply concerned for morality and 
religion, a supporter of the Established Church, 
he took the Bible under his special protection, 
and in three works, St. Paul and Protestantism, 
1870, Literature and Dogma, 1873, and God 
and the Bible, 1875, he endeavoured to rescue 
that book from its orthodox exponents, 
whom he regarded as the corrupters of 
Christianity. It would be just, he says, 
" but hardly perhaps Christian " to fling 
back the word infidel at the orthodox theo- 
loTians for their bad literary and scientific 
criticisms of the Bible and to speak of "the 
torrent of infidelity which pours every Suntlay 
from our pulpits ! " The corruption of 
Christianity has been due to theology " with 


its insane licence of aflkmution ulwut Ciod. 
its insane licence of uflirination alwut im- 
mortality " ; to the hypothesis of " a magni- 
fied and non-natural man at the head of 
mankind's and the world's affairs " ; and the 
fancy account of God " made uj) by putting 
scattered expressions of the Uiblc together 
and taking them literally." lie chastises 
♦vith urbane persiflage the knowledge which 
the orthodox think they j)ossess about the 
proceedings and plans of God. " To think 
they know what passed in the Council of the 
Trinity is not hard to them; they could 
easily think they even knew what were the 
hangings of the Trinity's council-chamber." 
Yet " the very expression, the Trinity, jars 
with the whole idea and character of Bible- 
religion; but, lest the Socinian should be 
unduly elated at hearing this, let us hasten 
to add that so too, and just as much, does 
the expression, a great Personal First Cause." 
He uses God as the least inadequate name for 
that universal order which the intellect feels 
after as a law, and the heart feels after as 
a benefit; and defines it as "the stream of 
tendency by which all things strive to fulfil 
the law of their being." He defined it further 
as a Power that makes for righteousness, 
and thus went considerably beyond the 
agnostic position. He was impatient of the 


^m^:^lk .^1 





II r 



minute criticisiu which analyses the liibheal 
<ioeninent8 and discovers inconsistencies and 
absurdities, and he did not appreciate the 
ini|M)rtanee of the comparative study of 
rehj^ions. Hut when we read of a dignitary 
in a recent Church conjjress hiying down that 
the narratives in the books of Jonah and 
Daniel must be accepted bc-ause Jesus quoted 
them, we may wish that Arnold were here to 
reproach the orthodox for " want of intellec- 
tii'il seriousness.'* 

These years also saw the appearance of Mr. 
John Morley's sympathetic studies of the 
French freethinkers of the eighteenth century, 
Voltaire (1872), Rousseau (1878), and Diderot 
(1878). He edited the Fortnightly Review, 
and for sotne years this journal was dis- 
tinguished by brilliant criticisms on the 
popular religion, contributed by able men 
writing from many points of view. A part 
of the book which he afterwards published 
under the title Compromise appeared in the 
Fortnightly in 1874. In Compromise "' the 
whole system of objective propositions which 
make up the popular belief of the day " is 
condemned as mischievous, and it is ur«;(cl 
that those who disbelieve should speak out 
plainly. Speaking out is an intellectual duty. 
Englishmen have a strong sense of i)olitical 
responsibility, and a coi'iespondingiy weak 


sense of intellectual res|K>nsil)ility. Kvcn 
minds that urc nc»t conunonplncc are affected 
for the worse by the political spirit which " is 
the j(rcat force in throwinj? love of truth and 
accurate reasoning into a secondary place." 
And the principles which have prevailed in 
|)olitics have been adopted by theology for 
lier own use. In the one case, convenience 
first, truth second; in the other, emotional 
comfort first, truth second. If the inunor- 
ality is less gross in the case of religion, there 
is " the stain of intellectual improbity." And 
this is a crime against society, for " they who 
tami>er with veracity from whatever motive 
arc tampering with the vital force of human 
progress." The intellectual insincerity which 
is here blamed is just as prevalent to-day. 
The English have not changed their nature, 
tlie " political " spirit is still rampant, and 
we are ruled by the view that because com- 
promise is necessary in politics it is also a good 
thing in the intellectual domain. 

The Fortnightly under Mr. Morley's guid- 
ance was an effective organ of enlighten- 
ment. I have no space to touch on the works 
of other men of letters and of men of science 
in these combative years, but it is to be noted 
that, while denunciations of modern thought 
poured from the pulpits, a popular diffusion 
of free thought was carried on, especially 







by Mr. Bradlaugh in public lectures and in 
bin paptr, the Xational Htformtr, not withotit 
collisions with the civil authorities. 

If we take the cases in which the civil 
authorities in KuRland have intervened t«» 
repress the publication of unorthodox opinions 
during the last two centuries, we fhul that 
the object has always Im'cu to prevent thn 
spread of free thought among the masses. 
The victims have Ijccn either |KM)r, unedti- 
catcd people, or men who propagated free 
thought in a |K)pular form. I touched upon 
this before in speaking of I'aine, and it is 
borne out by the prosecutions of the nineteenth 
and twentieth centuries. The unconfesscd 
i!iotivc has l)ccn fear of the people. Theology 
has been regarded as a good instrument for 
keeping the poor in order, and unbelief as a 
cause or accompaniment of dangerous political 
opinions. The idea has not altogether dis- 
appeared that free thought is peculiarly in- 
decent in the poor, that it is highly desirable 
to keep them superstitious in order to keep 
them contented, that they should be duly 
tharJcful for all the theobgical as well as social 
arrangements which have been made for them 
by their betters. I may quote from an 
essay of Mr. Frederic Harrison an anecdote 
which admirably expresses the becominj? 
attitude of the poor towards ecclesiastical 

■-1 :-., 


institutions. '* The nmj*ti'r of a workhouse in 
Ksscx was once calle<l in ♦o net ns chaplain 
to a clyinR jmuiMjr. Thr iKK)r soul fnintly 
nuiri.iurni some hopes of heavrn. Rut this 
the master abruptly cut sliort aid warnetl 
him to turn his last thoughts towards hell. 

* And thankful you ought to in,' said he, 

* that you have a hell to go to.* " 

The most im|)ortant Knglish freethinkers 
who apjH'aled to the masses were Holyoake,' 
the apostle of '* secularism," and Rradlaugh. 
The great achievement for which Rradlaugh 
will Im* best remembere<l was the securing of 
the right c' unbelievers to sit in Parliament 
without taking an oath (1888). The chief 
work to which Holyoakc (who in his early 
years was imprisoned for blasphemy) con- 
tributed was the abolition of taxes on the 
Press, which seriously hampered the popular 
diffusion of knowledge.- In England, censor- 
ship of the Press had long ago disappeared 

' It may l»c noted that Holyoake towartls tlie rn»l <>( 
hiH life lieliH'tl to found tho Rationalist Press Association, 
of which Mr. Edward Clodd has l>een for many vearti 
Chairman. This is the chief nociety in England for 
propagating rationalism, and it« main object is to diffuse 
in a cheap form the works of freethinkers of mark (cp. 
Bibliography). I understand that more than two million 
copiee "f ;« ch'ip reprints have been sold. 

' The adv- iiement tax was abolished in 1853. tlie 
stamp tax in l85d, tho paper duty in 1861, and the 
upliuitai duly in 1870. 






(above, p. 189); in most othc European 
countries it was abolished in t' « loursc of the 
nineteenth century.^ 

In the progressive eounti. - oi Europe 
there has been a marked growth ol vi.lcrauee 
(I do not mean legal toleration, but the 
tolerance of public opinion), during the last 
thirty years. A generation ago Lord Morley 
wrote : " T!ie preliminary stage has scarcely 
been reached — the stage in which public 
opinion grants to every one the unrestricted 
right of shaping his own beliefs, independently 
of those of the people who surround him." 
I Jiink this preliminary stage has now been 
passed. Take England. We are now far 
from the days when Dr. Arnold would have 
sent the elder Mill to Botany Bay for ir- 
religious opinions. But we are also far from 
the days when Darwin's Descent created an 
uproar. Darwin has been buried in West- 
minster Abbey. To-day books can appear 
denying the historical existence of Jesus with- 
out causing any commotion. It may be 
doubted whether what Lord Acton wrote in 
1877 would be true now : " There are in our 
day many educated men who think it right to 

1 In Austria-Hungary the police have the power to 
suppress printed matter provisionally. In Russia the 
Press was declared free in 1905 by an Imperial decree, 
which, however, has become a dead letter. The news- 
papers are completely imder the control of the police. 

i :i 


persecute." In 1895, Lecky was a candidate 
for the representation of Dublin University. 
His rationalistic opinions were indeed brought 
up against him, but he was successful, though 
the majority of the constituents were orthodox. 
In the seventies his candidature would have 
been hopeless. The old commonplace that 
a freethinker is sure to be immoral is no longer 
heard. We may say that we have now 
reached a stage at which it is admitted by 
every one who counts (except at the Vatican), 
that there is nothing in earth or heaven which 
may not ] 'jitimately be treated without any 
of the assunptions which in old days authority 
used to impose. 

In this brief review of the triumphs of 
reason in the nineteenth century, we have been 
considering the discoveries of science and 
criticism v hich made the old orthodoxy 
logically untenable. But the advance in 
freedom of thought, the marked difference 
in the general attitude of men in all lands 
towards theological authority to-day from 
the attitude of a hundred years ago, cannot 
altogether be explained by the power of logic. 
It is not so much criticism of old ideas as the 
appearance of new ideas and interests that 
changes the views of men at large. It is not 
logical demonstrations but new social con- 
ceptions that bring about a general trans- 


formation of attitude towards ultimate pro- 
blem, . Now the idea of the progress of the 
human race must, I think, be held largely 
answerable for this change of attitude. It 
must, I think, be held to have operated power- 
fully as a solvent of theological beliefs. I 
have spoken of the teaching of Diderot and' 
his friends that man's energies should bo 
devoted to making the earth pleasant. A 
new ideal was substituted for the old ideal 
based on theological propositions. It in- 
spired the English Utilitarian philosophers 
(Beritham, James Mill, J. S. Mill, Grote) who 
preached the greatest happiness of the greatest 
number as the supreme object of action ami 
the basis of morality. This ideal was power- 
fully reinforced by the doctrine of historical 
progress, which was started in France (1750) 
by Turgot, who made progress the organitj 
principle of history. It was developed by 
Condorcet (1793), and put forward by 
Priestley in England. The idea was seizeii 
upon by the French sociaHstic philosophers. 
Saint-Simon and Fourier. The optimism ofi 
Fourier went so far as to anticipate the tiincj 
when the sea would be turned by mau's; 
ingenuity into lemonade, when there would bel 
37 million poets as great as Homer, 37 million! 
writers as great as Moli^re, 37 million men of 
science equal to Newton. But it was Comte 


who gave the doctrine w 'ght and power. 
His social philosophy anu his religion of 
Humanity are based ui)on it. The triumphs 
of siuence endorsed it : it has been associated 
with, though it is not necessarily implied in, 
the scientific theory of evolution; and it is 
perhapj; fair to say that it has been the guiding 
spiritual force of the nineteenth century. It 
has introduced the new ethical principle of 
duty to posterity. We shall hardly be far 
wrong if we say tiiat the new interest in the 
future and the progress of the race has done 
a great deal to undermine unconsciously the 
old interest in a life beyond the grave; and 
it has dissolved the blighting doctrine of the 
radical corruption of man. 

Nowhc*^ nas the theory of progress been 
more er\ j^hatically recognized than in the 
Monistic movement which has been exciting 
great interest in Germany (1910-12). This 
movement is based on the ideas of Haeckel, 
who is looked up to as the master, but those 
ideas have been considerably changed under 
the influence of Ostwald, the new leader. 
While Haeckel is a biologist, Ostwald's 
brilliant work was done in chemistry and 
physics. The new Monism diffeis from the 
old, in the first place, in being much less 
dogmatic. It declares that all that is in our 
experience can be the object of a corresponding 



science. It is much more a method than a 
system, for its sole ultimate object is to com- 
prehend all human experience in unified 
knowledge. Secondly, while it maintains, 
vath Haeckel, evolution as the guiding prin- 
ciple in the history of living things, it rejects 
his pantheism and his theory of thinking 
atoms. The old mechanical theory of the 
physical world has been gradually supplanted 
by the theory of energy, and Ostwald, who 
was one of the foremost exponents of energy, 
has made it a leading idea of Monism. What 
has been called matter is, so far as wc know 
now, simply a complex of energies, and he has 
sought to extend the " energetic " principle 
from physical or chemical to biological, psy- 
chical, and social phenomena. But it is to 
be observed that no finality is claimed for 
the conception of energy; it is simply an 
hypothesis which corresponds to our present 
stage of knowledge, and may, as knowledfre 
advances, be superseded. 

Monism resembles the positive philosophy 
and religion of Comte in so far as it means an 
outlook on life based entirely on science and 
excluding theology, mysticism, and meta- 
physics. It may be called a religion, if we 
adopt Mr. MacTaggart's definition of religion 
as *' an emotion resting on a conviction of 
the harn.ony between ourselves and the 

ruoc;REss of rationalism 229 

universe at large." But it is much better not 
to use the word religion in connexion with it, 
and the Monists have no thought of finding 
a Monistic, as Comte founded a Positivist. 
church. They insist upon the sharp opposi- 
tion between the outlook of science and the 
outlook of religion, and find the mark of 
spiritual progress in the fact that religion is 
gradually becoming less indispensable. The 
further we go back in the past, the more 
valuable is religion as an element in civiliza- 
tion; as we advance, it retreats more and 
more into the background, to be replaced by 
science. Religions have been, in principle, 
pessimistic, so far as the present world is 
concerned; Monism is, in principle, opti- 
mistic, for it recognizes that the process of 
his evolution has overcome, in increasing 
measure, the bad element in man, and will go 
on overcoming it still more. Monism pro- 
claims that development and progress are 
the practical principles of human conduct, 
while the Churches, especially the Catholic 
Church, have been steadily conservative, 
and though they have been unable to put a 
stop to progress have endeavoured to suppress 
its symptoms — to bottle up the steam.^ The 

* I have taken these points, illustrating the Monistic 
attitude to the Churches, from Ostwald's Monistic Sunday 
Sermon>> (German), 1911, 1912. 



Monistic congress at Hamburg in 1911 had a 
success which surprised its promoters. The 
movement bids fair to be a powerful influence 
in diffusing rationalistic thought.^ 

n we take the three large States of 
Western Europe, in which the majority of 
Christians are Catholics, we see how the ideal 
of progress, freedom of thought, and the 
decline of ecclesiastical power go together. 
In Spain, where the Church has enormous 
power and wealth and can still dictate to the 
Court and the politicians, the idea of pro- 
gress, which is vital in France and Italy, has 
not yet made its influence seriously felt. 
Liberal thought indeed is widely spread in 
the small educated class, but the great majority 
of the whole population are illiterate, and it is 
the interest of the Church to keep them so. 
The education of the people, as all enlightened 
Spaniards confess, is the pressing need of ti.o 
country. How formidable are the obstacles 
which will have to be overcome before modern 
education is allowed to spread was shown 
four years ago by the tragedy of Francisco 
Ferrer, which reminded everybody that in 
one corner of Western Europe the mediaeval 

^ I may note here that, as this is not a history of thought, 
I meke ao reference to recent philosopiiical speculations 
(in America, England, and France) which are sometimes 
claimed as tending tn bolp.ter up theology. But they are 
all profoundly unorthodox. 



spirit is still vigorous. Ferrer had devoted 
himself to the founding of modern sehools in 
the proviuce of Catalonia (since 1901). He 
was a rationalist, and his schools, which had 
a marked success, were entirely secular. The 
ecclesiastical authorities execrated him, and 
in the summer of 1909 chance gave them the 
means of destroying him. A strike of work- 
men at Barcelona developed into a violent 
revolution, Ferrer happened to be in Barcelona 
for some days at the beginning of the move- 
ment, with which he had no connection 
whatever, and his enemies seized the oppor- 
tunity to make him responsible for it. False 
evidence (including forged documents) was 
manufactured. Evidence which would have 
helped his ease was suppressed. The Catholic 
papers agitated against him, and the leading 
ecclesiastics of Barcelona urged the Govern- 
ment not to spare the man who founded the 
modern schools, the root of all the trouble. 
Ferrer was condemned by a military tribunal 
and shot (Oct. 13). He suffered in the cause 
of reason and freedom of thought, though, as 
there is no longer an Inquisition, his enemies 
had to kill him under the false charge of 
anarchy and treason. It is possible that the 
indignation which was felt in Europe and was 
most loudly expressed in France may prevent 
the repetition of sueii extreme measures, but 




almost anything may happen in a country 
where the Church is so powerful and so 
bigoted, and the politicians so cornipt. 



Most men who have been brought up in 
the free atmosphere of a modern State sympa- 
thize witli liberty in its long stru<]fgle with 
authority and may find it difficult to see that 
anything can be said for the tyrannical, and 
as they think extraordinarily perverse, policy 
by which communities and governments per- 
sistently sought to stifle new ideas and sup- 
press free speculation. The onflict sketched 
in these pages appears as a war between light 
and darkness. We exclaim that altar an<l 
throne formed a sinister conspiracy against 
the progress of humanity. We look back 
with horror at the things which so many 
champions of reason endured at the hanas of 
blind, if not malignant, bearers of authority. 

But a more or less plausible case can be 
made out for coercion. Let us take the most 
limited view of the lawful powers of society 
over its individual members. Let us lay 



down, with Mill, that " the sole end for which 
mankind are warranted, individually and 
collectively, in interfering with the liberty of 
action of any of their members is self-pro- 
tection." and that coercion is only justilit-d 
for the prevention of harm to others. This is 
the minimum claini the State can make, and 
it will be admitted that it is not only the right 
but the duty of the State to prevent harm ti' 
its members. That is what it is for. Now no 
abstract or independent principle is discover- 
able, why liberty of si)cech should be a privi- 
leged form of liberty of action, or why society 
should lay down its arms of defence and fold 
its hands, when it is persuaded that harm is 
threatened to it through the speech of any of 
its members. The Ciovernment has to judge 
of the danger, and its judgment may be 
wrong; but if it is convinced that harm is 
being done, is it not its plain duty to interfere ? 
This argument supplies an apology for the 
suppression of free opinion by Governments 
in ancient and modern times. It can be 
urged for the Inquisition, for Censorship of the 
Press, for Blasphemy laws, for all coercive 
measures of the kind, that, if excessive or ill- 
judged, they were intended to protect society 
against what their authors sincerely believed 
to be grave injury, and were simple acts of 
duty. (This apology, of course, dees not 


'■ t. 

^Jj^i. T. -mf^ijTK'~ ' 


extend to nets done for the sake of the alleged 
good of the victims themselves, namely, to 
seeure their future salvation.) 

Nowadays we i ondemn all sueh measures 
an<i disallow the right of the State to interfere 
with the free expression of opinion. So deeply 
is the doctrine of lihcrty seated in our minds 
that we find it difficult to make allowances 
for the coercive practices of our misguided 
ancestors. How is this doctrine justified? 
It rests on no abstract basis, on no principle 
independent of society itself, but entirely on 
considerations of utility. 

We saw how Socrates indicated the social 
value of freedom of discussion. We saw how 
Milton observed that such freedom was neces- 
sary for the advance of knowledge. But in 
the period during which the cause of toleration 
wns fought for and practically won, the argu- 
ment more generally used was the injustice of 
punishing a man for opinions which he honestly 
held and could not help holding, since con- 
viction is not a matter of will ; in other words, 
the argument that error is not a crime and 
that it is therefore unjust to punish it. This 
argument, however, docs not prove the case 
for freedom of discussion. The advocate of 
coercion may reply : We admit that it is 
unjust to punish a man for private erroneous 
beliefs; but it is not unjust to forbid the 



propagation of such beliefs if wc nrc- con- 
vineed that t!»ey nrv harmful ; it is not unjust 
to punish him, not for them, but for 
pubUshing them. The truth is that, in 
examining principles, the word jiist is mis- 
leading. All the virtues arc based on experi- 
ence, physiological or social, and justice is no 
exception. Just designates a class of rules 
or principles of which the social utility has 
been found by experience to be paramount 
and which arc recognized to be so important 
as to override all considerations of immediate 
expediency. And social utility is the only 
test. It is futile, therefore, to say to a CJovem- 
ment that it acts unjustly in coercing opinion, 
unless it is shown that freedom of opinion is a 
principle of such overmastering social utility 
as to render other considerations negligible. 
Socrates had a true instinct in taking the 
line that freedom is valuable to society. 

The reasoned justification of liberty of 
thought is due to J. S. Mill, who set it forth 
in his work On Liberty, published in 1859. 
This book treats of liberty in general, and 
attempts to fix the frontier of the region in 
which individual freedom should be con- 
sidered absolute and unassailable. The 
second chapter considers liberty of thought 
and discussion, and if many may think that 
Mill unduly minimized the functions of 


if -i 








swicty, undcrratiiiR itN claims as against tlu- 
iiuiividual, few will deny the justice of the 
eliief arffiiments or question the general 
soundness of his conclusions. 

Pointing out that no fixed standard was 
recognized for testing the propriety of the 
interference on the part of the community 
with its individual members, he finds the 
test in self-protection, that is, the prevention 
of liarm to others. He bases the projmsition 
not on abstract rights, but on " utility, in thr 
largest sense, grounded on the permanent 
interests of man as a progressive being." He 
then uses the following argument to show that 
to silence opinion and discussion is always 
contrary to those permanent interests. Those 
who would suppress an opinion (it is assumed 
that they are honest) deny its truth, but they 
are not infallible. They may be wrong, or 
right, or partly wrong and partly right. (1) If 
they are wrong and the opinion they would 
crush is true, they have robbed, or done their 
utmost to rob, mankin(' of a truth. They w ill 
say : But we were justified, for we exercised 
our judgment to the best of our ability, and are 
we to be told that because our judgment is 
fallible we arc not to use it ? We forbade the 
propagation of an opinion which we were sure 
was false and pernicious; this implies no 
greater claim to infallibility than any act done 



by public authority. H wc arc to act ut all, 
we must assume our own opinion to be true. 
To this Mill acutely replies : " There is the 
jjreatest cliffcrcnce Ixitween ossuminK an 
opinion to be true, bt^cause with every opp«)r- 
tunity for contestiuj? it it has nut been re- 
futed, and assuminji its truth for the [)urposc 
of not permitting its refutation. Complete 
liberty of contradicting and disproving our 
opinion is the very condition wliich justifies 
us in assuming its truth for punM)ses of action, 
anti on no other terms can a being with hunian 
faculties have any rational assurance of being 


(2) If the received opinion which it is 
sought to protect against the intrusion of 
error, is true, the suppression of discussion is 
still contrary to general utility. A received 
opinion may happen to be true (it is very 
seldom entirely true) ; but a rational certainty 
that it is so can only be secured by the fact 
that it has been fully canvassed but has not 
been shaken. 

Commoner and more important is (3) the 
ease where the conflicting doctrines share the 
truth between them. Here Mill has little 
difficulty in proving the utility of supplement- 
ing one-sided popular truths by ther truths 
which popular opinion omits to consider. 
And he observes that if either of the opinion^; 


'•.^,f ■.-«:->. 






which share the truth has a claim not merely 
to be tolerated but to be encouraged, it is 
the one which happens to be held by the 
minority, since this is the one " which for the 
time being represents the neglected interests." 
He takes the doctrines of Rousseau, whicli 
might conceivably have been suppressed as 
pernicious. To the self-complacent eighteenth 
century those doctrines came as " a salutary 
shock, dislocating the compact mass of one- 
sided opinion." The current opinions were 
indeed nearer to the truth than Rousseau's, 
they contained much less of error; "never- 
theless there lay in Rousseau's doctrine, and 
has floated down the stream of opinion along 
with it, a considerable amount of exactly 
those truths which the popular opinion 
wanted ; and these are the deposit which was 
left behind when the flood subsided." 

Such is the drift of Mill's main argument. 
The present writer would prefer to sta*<e the 
justification of freedom of opinion in a some- 
what different form, though in accordance 
with Mill's reasoning. The progress of civiliza- 
tion, if it is partly conditioned by circum- 
stances beyond man's coiitrol, depends more, 
anr" in an increasing measure, on things 
which are within his own power. Prominent 
among these are the advancement of know- 
ledge and the deliberate adaptation of his 



habits and institutions to new conditions. 
To advance knowledge and to correct errors, 
unrestricted freedom of discussion is required. 
History shows that knowledge grew when 
speculation was perfectly free in Greece, 
and that in modern times, since restrictions 
on inquiry have been entirely removed, 
it has advanced with a velocity which would 
seem diabolical to the slaves of the mediaeval 
Church. Then, it is obvious that in order to 
readjust social customs, institutions, and 
methods to r^^w needs and circumstances, 
there must be unlimited freedom of canvassing 
and criticizing them, of expressing the most 
unpopular opinions, no matter how offensive 
to prevailing sentiment they may be. If 
the history of civilization has any lesson to 
teach it is this : there is one supreme con- 
dition of mental and moral progress which it 
is completely within the power of man himself 
to secure, and that is perfect liberty of thought 
and discussion. The establishment of this 
liberty may be considered the most valuable 
achievement of modem civilization, and as a 
condition of social progress it should be 
deemed fundamental. The ecu ^iderations of 
permanent utility on which it rests must 
outweigh any calculations of present advan- 
tage which from time to time might be thought 
to demand its violation. 


.! I 


It is evident that this whole argument 
depends on the assumption that the progress 
of the race, its intellectual and moral develop- 
ment, is a reality and is valuable. The 
argument will not appeal to any one who holds 
with Cardinal Newman that "our race's 
progress and perfectibility is a dream, because 
revelation contradicts it"; and he may 
consistently subscribe to the same writer's 
conviction that " it would be a gain to this 
country were it vastly more superstitious, 
more bigoted, more gloomy, more fierce in 
its religion, than at present it shows itself 

to be." 

While Mill was writing his brilliant Essay, 
which every one should read, the English 
Government of the day (1858) instituted 
prosecutions for the circulation of the doctrine 
that it is lawful to put tyrants to death, on 
the ground that the doctrine is immoral. 
Fortunately the prosecutions were not per- 
sisted in. Mill refers to the matter, and main- 
tains that such a doctrine as tyrannicide 
(and, let us add, anarchy) does not form any 
exception to the rule that " there ought to 
€xist the fullest liberty of professing and 
discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, 
any doctrine, however immoral it may be 

Exceptions, cases where the mterference 





of the authorities is proper, arc only apparent, 
for they really come under another rule. 
For instance, if there is a direct instigation 
to particular acts of violence, there may be 
a legitimate case for interference. But the 
incitement must be deliberate and direct. If 
I write a book condemning existing societies 
and defending a theory of anarchy, and a man 
who reads it presently commits an outrage, 
it may clearly be established that my book 
made the man an anarchist and induced him 
to commit the crime, but it would be illegiti- 
mate to punish me or suppress the book unless 
it contained a direct incitement to the specific 
crime which he committed. 

It is conceivable that difficult cases might 
arise where a government might be strongly 
tempted, and might be urged by public 
clamour, to violate the principle of liberty. 
Let us suppose a case, very improbable, but 
which will make the issue clear and definite. 
Imagine that a man of highly magnetic per- 
sonality, endowed with a wonderful power of 
infecting others with his own ideas however 
irrational, in short a typical religious leader, 
is convinced that the world will come to an 
end in the course of a few months. He goes 
about the country preaching and distributing 
pamphlets; his words have an electrical 
effect; and the masses of the uneducated 



i .» 


if i 




and half-educated are persuaded that they 
have indeed only a few weeks to prepare for 
the day of Judgment. Multitudes leave their 
occupations, abandon their work, in order to 
spend the short time that remains m prayer and 
listening to the exhortations of the prophet, 
The country is paralysed by the gigantic 
strike ; traffic and industries come to a stand- 
still. The peopk have a perfect legal nght 
to give up their work, and the prophet has 
a perfect legal right to propagate his opinion 
that the end of the world is at hand— an 
opinion which Jesus Christ and his followers 
in their day held quite as erroneously. It 
would be said that desperate ills have desperate 
remedies, and there would be a strong tempta- 
tion to suppress the fanatic. But to arrest 
a man who is not breaking the law or exhorting 
any one to break it, or causing a breach of the 
pekce, would be an act of glaring tyranny. 
Many will hold that the evil of setting back 
the clock of liberty would outbalance all the 
temporary evils, great as they might be, 
caused by the propagation of a delusion 
It would be absurd to deny that liberty ol 
speech may sometimes cause particular harm 
Every good thing sometimes does harm 
Government, for instance, which makes fata 
mistakes; law, which so often bears hardlj 
and inequitably in individual cases. An( 




can the Christians urge any other plea for 
their rcHgion when they are unpleasantly 
reminded that it has caused untold suffering 
by its principle of exclusive salvation? 

Once the principle of hberty of thought is 
accepted as a supreme condition of social 
progress, it passes from the sphere of ordinary 
expediency into the sphere of higher ex- 
pediency which we call justice. In other words 
it becomes a right on which every man should 
be able to count. The fact that this right is 
ultimately based on utility does not justify a 
Government in curtailing it, on the gromid of 
utility, in particular cases. 

The recent rather alarming inflictions of 
penalties for blasphemy in England illustrate 
this point. It was commonly supposed that 
the Blasphemy lawc (see above, p. 139), though 
unrepealed, were a dead letter. But since 
December 1911 half a dozen persons have been 
imprisoned for this offence. In these cases 
Christian doctrines were attacked by poor 
and more or less uneducated persons in 
language which may be described as coarse 
and offensive. Some of the judges seem to 
have taken the line that it is not blasphemy to 
attack the fundamental doctrines provided 
" the decencies of controversy " are preserved, 
but that " indecent " attacks constitute blas- 
phemy. This implies a new definition of 


d i 

H * 

1 !: 




legal blasphemy, and is entirely contrary to 
the intention of the laws. Sir J. F. Stephen 
pointed out that the decisions of judges from 
the time of Lord Hale (XVIIth century) to the 
trial of Foote (1888) laid down the same doc- 
trine and based it on the same principle : 
the doctrine being that it is a crime either 
to deny the truth of the fundamental doc- 
trines of the Christian religion or to hold 
them up to contempt or ridicule; and the 
principle being that Christianity is a part of 
the law of the land. 

The apology offered for such prosecutions 
is that their object is to protect religious 
sentiment from insult and ridicule. Sir J. F. 
Stephen observed : "If the law were really 
impartial and punished blasphemy only, 
because it offends the feelings of believers, 
it ought also to punish such preaching as 
offends the feelings of unbelievers. All the 
more earnest and enthusiastic forms of religion 
are extremely offensive to those who do not 
believe them." If the law does not in any 
sense recognize the truth of Christian doctrine, 
it would have to apply the same rule to the 
Salvation Army. In fact the law " can be 
explained and justified only on what I 
regard as its true principle — the principle of 
persecution." The opponents of Christianity 
may justly say : If Christianity is false, why 



is it to be attacked only in polite language? 
Its goodness depends on its truth. If you 
grant its falsehood, you cannot maintain 
that it deserves special protection. But the 
law imposes no restraint on the Christian, 
however offensive his teaching may be to 
those who do not agree with him; there- 
fore it is not based on an impartial desire to 
prevent the use of language which causes 
offence; therefore it is based on the hypo- 
thesis that Christianity is true ; and therefore 
its principle is persecution. 

Of course, the present administration of 
the common law in regard to blasphemy does 
not endanger the liberty of those unbelievers 
who have the capacity for contributing to 
progress. But it violates the supreme prin- 
ciple of liberty of opinion arai discussion. 
It hinders uneducated people from saying 
in the only ways in which they know how 
to say it, what those who have been brought 
up differently say, with impunity, far more 
effectively and far more insidiously. Some 
of the men who have been imprisoned during 
the last two years, only uttered in language of 
deplorable taste views that are expressed 
more or less politely in books which are in 
the library of a bishop unless he is a very 
ignorant person, and against which the law, if it 
has any validity, ought to have been enforced. 

1 1 

li ! 


* , u 


E I 



Thus the law, as now administered, simply 
penalizes bad taste and places disabilities 
upon uneducated freethinkers. If their words 
offend their audience so far as to cause a 
disturbance, they should be prosecuted for 
a breach of public order,* not because their 
words are blasphemous. A man who robs 
or injures a church, or even an episcopal 
palace, is not prosecuted for sacrilege but 
for larceny or malicious damage or something 
of the kind. 

The abolition of penalties for blasphemy 
was proposed in the House of Commons (by 
Bradlaugh) in 1889 and rejected. The reform 
is urgently needed. It would " prevent the 
recurrence at irregular intervals of scandalous 
prosecutions which have never in any one 
instance benefited any one, least of all the 
cause which they were intended to serve, 
and which sometimes afford a channel for 
the gratification of private malice under the 
cloak of religion."* 

The struggle of reason against authority 
has ended in what appears now to be a decisive 
and permanent victory for liberty. In the 

* Blasphemy is an offence in Germany ; but it must \>e 
pro-^ed that offence has actually been given, and the 
penalty does not exceed imprisonment for three days. 

• The quotations are from Sir J. F. Stephen's article, 
" Blasphemy and Blasphemous Libel," in the FortniyMy 
Review, March, 1884, pp. 289-318. 



most civilized and progressive countries, 
freedom of discussion is recognized as a 
fundamental principle. In fact, we may say 
it is accepted as a test of enlightenment, and 
the man in the street is forward in acknow- 
ledging that countries like Russia and Spain, 
where opinion is more or less fettered, must 
on that account be considered less civilized 
than their neighbours. AH intellectual people 
who count teke it for granted that there is 
no subject in heaven or earth which ought 
not to be investigated without any deference 
or reference to theological assumptions. No 
man of science has any fear of pubUshing 
his researches, whatever consequences they 
may involve for current beliefs. Criticism 
of religious doctrines and of political and social 
institutions is free. Hopeful people may feel 
confident that the victory is permanent; 
that intellectual freedom is now assured to 
mankind as a possession for ever; that the 
future will see the collapse of those forces 
which still work against it and its gradual 
diffusion in the more backward parts of the 
earth. Yet history may suggest that this 
prospect is not assured. Can we be certain 
that there may not come a great set-back? 
For freedom of discussion and speculation 
was, as we saw, fully realized in the Greek 
and Roman world, and then an unforeseen 

' ;!• 



> i 




force, in the shape of Christianity, came in and 
laid chains upon the human mind and sup- 
pressed freedom and imposed upon man a 
weary struggle to recover the freedom which he 
had lost. Is it not conceivable that some- 
thing of the same kind may occur again? 
that some new force, emerging from the un- 
known, may surprise the world and cause a 
similar set-back? 

The possibility cannot be denied, but there 
are some considerations which render it 
improbable (apart from a catastrophe sweep- 
ing away European culture). There are 
certain radical differences between the intel- 
lectual situation now and in antiquity. The 
facts known to the Greeks about the nature 
of the physical universe were few. Much 
that was taught was not proved. Compare 
what they knew and what we know about 
astronomy and geography — to take the two 
branches in which (besides mathematics) 
they made most progress. When there were 
so few demonstrated facts to work upon there 
was the widest room for speculation. Now 
to suppress a number of rival theories in 
favour of one is a very different thing from 
suppressing whole systems of established facts. 
If one school of astronomers holds that the 
earth goes round the sun, another that the 
sun goes round the earth, but neither is 



able to demonstrate its proposition, it is easy 
for an authority, which has coercive power, 
to suppress one of them successfully. But 
once it is agreed by all astronomers that the 
earth goes round the sun, it is a hopelcsa 
task for any authority to compel men to 
accept a false view. In short, because she 
is in possession of a vast mass of ascertained 
facts about the nature of the universe, reason 
holds a much stronger position now than at 
the time when Christian theology led her cap- 
tive. All these facU are her fortifications. 
Again, it is difficult to see what can arrest 
the continuous progress of knowledge in 
the future. In ancient times this progress 
depended on a few; nowadays, many nations 
take part in the work. A general convic- 
tion of the importance of science prevails 
to-day, which did not prevail in Greece. 
And the circumstance that the advance of 
material civilization depends on science is 
perhaps a practical guarantee that scientific 
research will not come to an abrupt halt. 
In fact science is now a social institution, 
as much as religion. 

But if science seems pretty safe, it is always 
possible that in countries where the scientific 
spirit is held in honour, nevertheless, serious 
restrictions may be laid on speculations touch- 
ing social, political and religious questions. 







HussiR has men of science inferior to none, 
and HusKia haii its notorious censorship. It 
is by no means inconceivable that in lands 
where opinion is now free coercion might be 
introduced. If a revolutionary social move- 
ment prevailed, led by men inspired by faith 
in formulas (like the men of the French 
Revolution) and resolved to impose th- ir 
creed, experience shows that coercion would 
almost inevitably be resorted to. Never- 
theless, while it would be silly to suppose that 
attempts may not be made in the future 
to put back the clock, liberty is in a far more 
favourable position now than under the Roman 
Empire. For at that time the social import- 
ance of freedom of opinion was not appreciated, 
whereas now, in consequence of the long 
conflict which was necessary in order to re- 
establish it, men consciously realize its valve. 
Perhaps this conviction will be strong enough 
to resist all conspiracies against liberty. 
Meanwhile, nothing should be left undone 
to impress upon the young that freedom of 
thought is an axiom of human progress. It 
may be feared, however, that this is not likely 
to be done for a long time to come. For our 
methods of early education are founded on 
authority. It is true that children are soi > 
times exhorted to think for themselves. 
But the parent or instructor who gives \\\'\s 



excellent advice is confldcnt that the results 
of the child's thinking; for himself will agree 
with the opinions which his elders consider 
Jcsirable. It is assumed that he will reason 
from principles which have already been 
instilled into him by authority. Hut if his 
thinking for himself takes the form of ques- 
tioning these principles, whether moral or 
religious, his parents and teachers, unless they 
are very exceptional persons, will be extremely 
displeased, and will certainly discourage him. 
It is, of course, only singularly promise ng 
children whose freedom of thought will go so 
far. In this sense it might be said that " dis- 
trust thy father and mother " is the first com- 
mandment with promise. It should be a part 
of education to explain to children, as soon as 
they are old enough to understand, when it 
is reasonable, and when it is not, to accept 
what they are told, on authority. 



LKfKY, W. E. H., Hutirry of the Rise and Infliunce of the 
Spirit of lUUiomliftm in Europe 2 vols. (oriKinally \n\h- 
linhed in 1865.) Whitb, A. D., A HiMonj oftht Warfar* 
uf Science with Throlof/y in ChriMtendom, 2 vols., 1896. 
R0HERT8ON, J. M., A Short HinU/ry of Freethotight, Ancient 
and Modem, 2 vols., 1906. [Coniidtlipusivc, but tlie 
iiotie<s of tin- li'iwlinj? frcctliiiikoift arc iicocsHnrily brief, ns 
xlie tiold covfitd in »o laij^i^ The juilgiuentH are always 
iiitlepeodent.] Benn, A. W., The Jfidory of Em/lish 
llrUionnliiia in the NinetftiUh Centimj, 2 vols., 1906. 
[Very full and valuable.] 

Oreek Thought 

GOMPRR/, Tir., Greek Thinkers (English tiaiiHlutif)!!), 4 vols. 


Engliah Deists 
Stephen,, TTiitori/ </ English ThouyM in the Eighteenth 

Century, vol. i, 1881. 

French Freethinkers of Eighteenth Century 

Moiit.EY, J., Voltaire : DidntA and the Encyclnpsetliiti; 
Jiousneaii (see alwvc, Chajitir VI). 

Rationalistic Criticism of the Bible 
(Nineteenth Century) 
Articles in Encyclcpmdia Jiihliea, 4 vols. ])ikk, A., Jlistoi-y of 
Old Testament Criticism, 1910. Coxyhkakk, Y. C, History 
of New Testament Criiicitm, 1910. 

Persecution and Inquisition 
Lba, H., a History of the Inquisition of the Midttle A'jes, 3 
vols., 1888 ; A History of the Iiujuisitiun of Spain, 4 vols., 
1906. Hayneh, K. S. p., Heliyious Pcrsrcntim, 1904. 
For the case of Ferrer see AlicliKi:, W., The Life, Trial 
and Death of Francisco Ferrer, 1911, and McOaue, J., 
The Martynlotn of Ferrer, 1909. 


RuFFiNi, F., Jieliyious Liberty (English translation), 1912. 
The essays of L. LuzzATii, Liberty of Conscience a )id Science 
(Italian), are sufQ<estive. 

Cheap raprints of some of the iiui>oi-tant modern 1>ooks men- 
tioned in this volume (such as Hume's Inquiry, ililVa Liberty), 
have been published by the Rationalist Press Association. 





ABSTHrric movement, 212 
AgiiostictHm, moaning of, 213 tq. 
Albigeula, pentootition of, M 
AnabttptlnU, 78, 95, 125 
Anatomy, 05 
AnaxaKODM, 27 
Annet, Puter, 172 
Anthropology, 189 
AnthiojMjmoriihiBni, 23 
Artatotfo, 3ft, «8, m 
Arni'W, Matthew, 218 ffi. 
Aaoka, (Kt 
Astronomy, 87-'.»0 
AtheUm, 103, 113, 123, 132, 158 
Athens, 27 Kiq. 
Augustine, St., 55 
AuatriH-Huugivry, I'sA -iJ* 
Authority, meaning ol, 14 iqq. 
Averroisni, 08 

Hacon, Roger, 65 

Hfthrdt, 174 

Uaiu, A., 188 

Bayle, l->7 «/., 185 »<n- 

Benn, A. W., 152 

Bible, O. T., 102 »'//•; >>■ T., U'J 

Bible-worship, 82, 201 
BUaphenjy Uws, 28, 80, 13? oq., 

248 ffi. 
Bolingbroke, 153 
Bradlaugh, 223, 240 
Bruno, Giordano, 84 
Buchnei , 11»8 
Buclcle, 1S8 
Butler, Bishop, Anah;i>i, 1j1 "q. 

Ctt'.vin "S )"i., 94 
OuMO-.H, W.R., 213 
Castellion, 9i 
Causation, I^w of, 182 $q. 
Charron, 75 
Cicero, 39 

aifford, W. K., 213 
Clodd, Edward, 228 
Colenso, Bishop, 193 
rollins. Anthony, 141 

Comtc, Auguste, 185 $q., 228 
Concordat of 1801, Kreiich, 115 
Condorcet, ii26 

95, 99, 100 
CuuMtautine I., Emperor, 47, 51 
Copernicus, 87 

Darwin; Darwinism, 180, 1S2, 

Defoe, Daniel, 104 «'/. 
Deism, 187 tgq. 
DemouritUH, 25« 
Dosiartes, 129, 131 
Design, argument from, 101, 175 
D'Holtoach, 158 
Diderot, 158 tq. 
Diocletian, Emperor, 45 
DiseHtablishuient, 104, 100 
Dodwell, Henry, 147 
Domitiiin, Empenir, 42 
DuM/U Tmtn, 68 »q., 134 

Edehtiann, 174 
Kpicureanism, 86 iqq., 84 
K»*atii nnd Kevietci, 204 tiq. 
Euripides, 29 
KxcUisive salvation, 52 sq., 63, 7S 

Ferrer, Fi-anclsco, 230 »q. 
Fortnightli/ JUvieur, 220 
Fourier, 220 

France, 74, 100 tqq., 152 »'/'/. 
Frederick the Great, 120 >q. 
Frederick 11, Emperor, 58, 70 
Freethought, meaning of, 18 

GaliiKO de' Galilei, 87 »qq. 

Gassendi, 130 

Geology, 178 tq. 

Germany, 76 »qq., 117 *qq., 173 i/^. 

Gibbon, 02, 162 »qq. 

Quutbe, 175 

Greg, W. B., 202 

Gregory IX, Pope, 57 

Gregory XVI, Encyclical of, 123 






Ua«ckel, 1S7, 227 

lUle, I»rd Chief Ju«tic«, 130 

Hirriaoa, Frederic, 180, 'in 

Hegel. 183 *7<j. 

Holl, controvemy on, 217 

HeliuholU, l**: 

HonicUtui, 25 

Horlwrt of Cherbury, Lord, 148 

HiiiixwrateH, rt4 

HoWjm, 180 «/. 

Holland, 95, 107, 130, 131 

Uolyoake, 223 

Homer, 2-» 

Hume, 15i< »ii<i. 

Huxley, 213 

Ind'jpendeuts, 05, !«8 i'/. 
InfaUlblltty, Pupiil, 20i), 210 
Innocent III, Vope, b^\ 
Innocent IV, Poje, 57 
Innocent VIII, Fopo, G7 
Inquisition, 57 t>iq. ; 8p*Ml»li, 59 

$qq. ; Koman, 83, 84, 87 tqq. 
lUly, 122 iqq., 210 

Jamea I (England), 85 iq. 
Jew», 41 iqn., 08, 9i\ 105, 111, 1'.'4 
Joaeph II, EniiMjror, 122 
Jowett, Ilisnjatnin, 204 »/. 
Julian, Emperor, 54 
JuNtice, iirgumenti from, 235 

Kant, 175 »</. 
Rett, Francis, 85 
Kyd, 85 

Laplace, 177 

Lecky. W. H., 208, 225 

Letfate, Bartholomew, 8t> 

Lewlng, 71, 120 

IjinnwuH, 177 

I^ke, 101 */9.. 120, 132 «q. 

LoUy, Abbe, 200 iq. 

LucUn, 40 

LacretiuB, 87 $q. 

Luiher.n $q., 81 

LyeU, 178, 207 

Manning, Cardinal, 209 
Marlowe, Chriatophor, 85 
MarsUiiia, 119 
Maryland, 97 tq- 
Maearin, Cardinal, 85, 107 
Middleton, Conyera, 150, 104 
Mill, Jamea, 151, 220 

, J. S., 182, 213, 226, 233, 235 

Milton, 99 sq. 

Mirabouu, 112 

MiraclcH, 141 *</-/•. »«>. 1<J0. !«< -i-> 

ModcnilHm, l'.* iqq. 
Moharamadan frcuthuught, 08 
MimiNm, 187, 227 xfi. 
Mimtaigiiu, 74 
Morlcy. Lord (Mr. John), IW, 208, 


Naiiton, Kdict of, 107 
NhimiIuoii I, 115 
Newnmii, Canllnal, li>9, 240 
, k\ W., 2U2 

Ostwald, I'lofeauor, 227 */7. 

Piiine, Tl»oinii», 112, 108 *i7. 
Pajpy, It'^ I'/'/. 
PiiHciil, 128, 151 iq. 
Puter, 213 
Pentateuch, 192 «</. 

Persecution, theory of, 17 *qq., 232 

Pitt, William, 151 

Piuii IX, Svllabus, 209 »y. 

Pius X, PoIh;, 199 .«■;. 

Plato, 86 «./. 

PlnUrch, 150 

Prayer, controversy on, 210 

PiasB, cenRorship, 90 »q., 223 tq. 

P- iPHtley, 220 

PriHcillian, 55 

Projfretw, idea of, 220 tq'i. 

Protugoi-aa, 28 

Rrtleigh, Sir W., 85 
KiitioiialiHm, meaning of, 18 
Keade, Winwo«xl, 213 
Roinach, 8., 190 
Kenan, 198 

Kevolution, French, 111 r/7. 
Rhode Island, 90 
Richelieu, Cardinal, 85, 107 
Rousseau, 111, 150 iqq., 238 
RufBnl, Professor, 125 
Russia, 224 

Bacred books, 24, 53 tq., 191 
Science, physical, 04 «/., 170 tqq. 
Suculaiiani, 223 
Seeley, J. R.,207 
Servetus, 79 

Shaftesbury, 148 */</., 151 
SheUey. 173, 208 
Socinianinm, 83, 93 tqq. 
Socrates, 30 iqq., 39, 284, .35 





BophlitJi, Orc«k, 2d 

SMDCer, Herbert, IM 
BpteoM. 181 *o., 138, 191 
flUphen, LeM; 167, 814 -il. 

T, J. r., 208, 244-19., 240 

StolclMIi, 8»J. 88 -i. 
Straium, Datld, lOS, l!>« 
8wlnbume, 208, 210 $q. 

Tamburini, 12-2 
Tatian, 44 
Thein'itltw, •'>'> 
Tljcodoiiiuii I, Kiupcror, 54 
ThetiphlUuthropy, 114 $q. 
ThomM AqulnM, titt 
ThouiMiui, Chr., 119 
Three Hlnm, itory of. .0 
TibcriuH, Ernpcror, 41 
TUidal. Mattliew, 144 iq'j. 
Tnlaiid, 133 kj. 
Toleration, 4<5 »«., 92 »q-i' 


Trajan, ICmperor, 48 
Turgot, 226 
Tyndall, 218 

UnlUtlanii, M, 105 
United Mute*, 96 fiU; 120 
Uutvrntitieii, tente at, 10« 
UttlitarlanlKiB, 220 

Vanliil, Luctllo, S-'i ,^ 

Vati. au Omncll (1870-1), 200 
Voltjvlre, 108 mM; 11*. l^l- ^^^ -• 

Wealey, 180 
Wosthxiry, l-ord, 20t5 
Wilberforce. 200 
Willlama, H<).er, 90 ».;. 
Witchcraft, M -/., 80, 120 #v. 
Wooldtou, 141 */•/. 

XciiophaneK, 23 tq. 


■. : f 


ii.v/4«ra tt«y i- S»n», iiniiJrf, lander, avd »u«nay. 


Home University 

Library °k^„m°'"" 


Jl Comprehensive Series of New 
and Specially Written ^ooks 


Prof. GILBERT MURRAY. D.Utt., LL.D., F.B.A. 
Prof. WM. T. BREWSTER. M.A. 

The Home University Library 

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-' ». W.LU». BAH... D.D. "P . tor, !». . -Id. ;.»!« o< ta^wMg- 


SSi «55 «r«r^.dventura for th. reader', r^tea.ion. -Sp*cUUr. 


-2: r-T. ilj A r «: A Wvkeham Profatwr of Ancient History, Oxford. 

A Study in PtliticcU Evolution 


:Ld': ic^"'e?oTs.p«tti^"-''-^ i/^/ ^«'- 

4^=^^o. Fowu„. M,A. » A ^;.y .Uetch of Roa« ch«act« a=d 
of what it did for the world."- Th* SptctatT. 





r. L. Paxsom, pTofauor of Amcfican HUiorr, Wbconaia UaivwaiiT. 



By lIiLAias Bblloc, M.A. 
—Sdimhirg-k Svtmin£ Sru'i 


Kicfa in MiggtatioB foe tht hktoriakl itudtat.' 

By J. R. SrsARs. "A cootinuuus uory af tbipptng prograu and advaotttra. . . 
It taada lika « ttmiMas*."—Giiugaui H*raU. 


By HiaaaaT Fishrr, M.A., F.B.A. (With Maps.) Tb« story of the creat 
Bonapart*'* youth, hif career, and hit downfall, with loma layins* oi NbpuTeon, 
a gtaaaiogy of hi* family, and a bibliography. 


By Davio Hannav. The suibor traces tbe growth of naval power from early 
tiaMS,and discusses its principlasand afftcu upon the history of thsWcktcro world. 

In Preparation 

AirCtBlTT GREECB. By Prof GiLaarr Mummav, D.Litt.. LL.D., F.B.A. 
ANCIENT EGYPT. By F. U. Grippith, MA. 
THE ANCIENT EAST. By D. G. Hogarth, UJi., F.B.A. 
PREHISTORIC BRITAIN. »y Robbrt .Munro. M.A., M.U., LL.D. 
THE REFORM A HON. By Principal Linmav. LL.D. 
A SHOR T HIS TOR Y OP R USSIA . By Prof. M ilvouko*. 
MODERN TURKEY. By D. G. Hogarth, MA. 
FRANCE OF TO-DAY. By Albert Thoma*. 
GERMANY OF TO-DA Y. By Charlbs Towta, 
SOUTH AMERICA. By Prof. W. R. Shehmerd. 
LONDON. By Sir Laurence Gommb, F.S.A. 

Kblly, F.B.A., Litt.D. 

Literature and ^rt 


By John M asbpiblo. " The book is a joy. We have bad half-a.dozen mora 
learned books on Shakcspear* in the last few years, but not one so wise." — 
Mtmcktsttr Guardimn. 


Bv G. H. Mair, M.A. " Altogether a fresh and individual hotAt..''—Ois*rvtr. 


By G L. Strachey. "It is difficult to imagine how a better account of 
French Literataic could be given in sjo small pages."— TiW Timut. 


By Prof. W. R. Lbthabv. (Over forty Illustrations.) " Popular fniidchonkt 
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voii."—BuiUitif Ntwt. " Delightfully bright reading."— C4rw/MM W^rU. 

-. ■ " 



Md hU ttyl« U «ff«ctl*«. »lmpl., y.t n«yw dry. -Th* AtM*mm»m. 

^ .; r///? ENGLISH LANG UA GE 

By L. P.A..ALL Smith. U.K. " ^ -•-»« ••« 

"^ — S — ITTTT •• A wholly (MciMiing iWdy of lh« dMfwjM 


Bv Prof. J. KMKlHitand Pm/. */• *"5''\«_!jr,"_. j/4,-*«iw. 
rJJiklin to MmW Twin, .nli»««d by • dxy htt»ow. -AUum^m. 

From th« 


'BySirF«o.«.«W,D-o;.. (WiU. .6 halMoo. Ul«tr«k«.) 
Primiiivw W th« Impc«irioBi»u. 


By JoHK Bailbv, M.A. ^ ., ,, 


Bv Prof.«or J. G. Ro..«t;oh. MA. Ph.D. A rovi.w of o«o ot th. fre.wt 
liur. ur^f th. world by » high .othorlty. . ^„ „ „. 


~ix r Vi ''•i«rrm«TON. " Tho Vietorion CompromUo wd «»^"«*"f.*x^ 
"tf.Gre."; vS^ No«lUu"-''Th. Gr«t V«tod« PooU - The 

BrctJc'Upof tha Compromi**." 

In Preparation 

'InCUSH composition. By Prof. Wm. T. B««wrrwi. 
^gi;^^^/y/^^/A^)/yrgi^KyZ/^ ByT.CS.ow.M.A 



Kew. (Fully .Uustrated.) ''l^^^^^^X^A f*mili~ «y'« '-»'« ^ 
Itnowledito c«n make it. . . .. Ur aco" • ^~^JIj,-^.> rjkrMueU. 
Sfffi^iubject both fMCtn^ing «id e«y. -<;-rrf«.«r, C*r»»««. 


By W. Lbslib Mackimib, M.1>., Local Oovtmmwrt Rowd. Edlnbwgli. 
•• br MAcknuW m1<U to a iborottfh |r»p of tb« problem* an illuoiiMUng Mylc, 
aad aa arrMliag maniMr of trMUng a tubjact eftaa dull and aoaiaiuaaa 
oaMvounr."— At««i««M/j/. 


B»A. H.Whit«h«aD. Sc.b.. F.k.S. TWi.h Pu^r.m,.) "kfr .Wbt««b^ 
hatdUchargad witb conipicuoui >ucc«m tbr utk h* it h> aiiccpiianally qualinad 
to ttudartaka. For be in one of oar ^raat auiberitiet upon th« fouodatioaa of 
tb« Kianca."— ff«r/MiVw/«f- Gm4IU. 


It Pro/«»ior r. W flAMaLK, b.Sc., i''.k.S. WUh latrodoctioi, by Sir OHvw 
lidga. (Many ItluMrationa.) " A dtliihiful and in.tructivt cpitoma of animal 
(and vagaubic) Ufa. ... A faKinaliogandtuggcativaMtrvay."— Af#r«iv^/>Mf. 


" By J>ro/csM>r J. AaTMOa Thomsom and Profaawr Patiick G«DOlia. "A 
■any-coloarad and romantic panorama, opening up, like no oiljar book wa 
know, a rational vision of world-development."— ^#t'*" N*vii-Lttt*r. 


By br (i. A. MaMCkaa. " Furnithe* much valuable information from ona 
occupying tba highaat position among medico-tegal p«ycbologiM«."— ^{t/bm 


"By Sir W. f. bAaaarr, P.A.S., Pro/eiior of Phyiici, Royal Collaga of 
Science, Dublin, 1873-1910. "What he has to say on thought ■reading, 
hypnoiiun, telepathy, crystal- vision, spiritualism, divininga, and so on, will bo 
read with avidity."— /)i»i«<<»* Conritr. 


By A. R. HiNKS, M.A., Chief Assistant, Cambridge Observatory. 
ia thought, eclectic in substance, and critical in treatmaaL . . 
Uttla book it avaiUbta."— 5cA«#/ World. 

" Original 
No better 


by J. AaTMua Thomson, M.A., Regius Profe»»or of Natural History, Abardaaa 
University. " Professor Thomson's deliKhtful literary style is well known ; and 
here he diacoarse* freshly and easily on the methods of science and iu relaUons 
with philoao|Ay, art, religion, and practical \\ft."—At*r)U*nJ»um»l. 


By ^o/. H. N. biCKsoN, b.Sc.6xon., M.A., F.R.S.E., President of the 
Royal Meteorological Society. (With Duigrams.) " The author ba.« succeaded 
In presenting in a very lucid and agreeable manner the causes of the moyemeata 
of ue atmoaphere aiM of the more stable winds." — M»nch4tttr Gumt^dimm. 


By R. R. MAarrr, M.A., Reader in Social Anthropology in Oxford University. 
"An absolutely perfect handbook, so clear that a child could undersUnd it, so 
fascinating and human that it beats fiction ' to a fraulc.'"— ^'tmv^*^'^- 


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comprehensive handling of a subject which, while of imporunce to all, docs 
not readily lend iuelf to untechnical explanation. . . . Upon every page of it 
is stamped the impress of a creative imagination." — Ciatgiw /ftraia. 


By F, SoDpy, M^A--. F-R,S: " Prof. Soddy has successfully accompUshed 
the very diiticult task of making physics of absorbing interest on pt^nlar 
Unas."— iVa/»r». 







By Prof W'- ««:43""*';'lJJtt(M^^MI-«»«f^««'»»««»"«"^^ 




iei«i»««-"— ^*»**'»"' <;•»«»*••. 


of ib« 

and by tb« gr««t number of »'«*'f"".*7^J|L,,,, Utrmid, 

■ By Or B.H..AM.H Moo«^ Prof— of Bto-U— i-ry. Umv.,U.r CoU^^ 

67. CH h:\nsTny 

'-^- In Preparation 

r///r ^f/^'£i?-4/:„'*'0>f/:f • By sir T. H. Holla«». K.C1.K.. D.Se. 

_. . ..-^ t II. c Do Praf. I. B. Fa 

PLANT LlhR._ By Prof. J 




B. FARMBa, K.R-S. 

By rroi. J. o. r«»— , ■ . ■"-_ - 
'^"ciri'PK Bv Prof. D. F«Ai»m Hakmiv M.U., 
NEE* f-^; ^J A^g^ t. n._/ I A TunKftoM and Pro 

Bv Prof. J. A. THOMtoM .nd Prof. PaTBICK Obddrj 
^;)j^'^%'^i^V^''0> iE^>?0/'i. By Prof. q;.^-v,Lu« On... 

By Sir Jomm Mubbat, K.CB , F.R.S. 

Philosophy and T^ligion 



j. jrj v^. - __ _ »> I •„ "This ffeneroui ihniint 

.o r//£ ponnruxf^ OF PHILOSOPHY 

*» — ^ ; » p c "A book that lh« 'rtwn «n t 

By the Hon. Bkh.tbahd »"**«"•• "i;!^*- . Coo»»t«nHy lucid »nd nc 
J„t • will r.coi,.is. ;tonce.oh. ^boon. Con««« 

technicBl ihroughout. -CkruttM W^rta. 

47. BUDDHISM . , .. 

j^' ^ ■ M . •• TV- .ttthor pre««nu very attr«ctiv«ly *» » 

Bv Mr» Xhvs David*. MA. ^T** ""*J,P^^J^ jtr/.tMt ichoUr* of 

d»y interpret it.^-X>-«<r^««»- - 




■» IHwcipal W. R. SiLail, M A. " Th. hUiofW:.! p«rt i. bflHUini in iu 

Klfh.. CU.U,. .nd pfoporiU ; .mi ^* }^^'*±^^"l^J:'^\^,'l'Z 
^ZmVt XoUvk IdMlMptHMMU •« •«Mm4 mmI awilwaM »tow«. -Ckrttimm 


BrG i-.. Mo.>iia, MA.. Uct«r«r «« Moml Sd«iic« in CambrWft Unlw«i»y. 
"A vtry liH i.l ihottih eloi-rly r««o««J ot.ilin« of «b« l..«ic of i.-«l ««»"«''^«- 
Tbi» non tcclmical lilil« book »ho«kl Mk« fof e»«i thinking •ml wmJw 
i^«ni)C«."— Cjlrfj/ia<* W0rld. 


By Pr^. B. W. Bacon, LUD., DD. " Pro/«»«if 

r™ M " — ^w-, , f***"" •*'* ''"'•liy, •»»<> 

wLTyTukan hU own'T^«.'m«»»«i<>»'ni opposing •*••» o^'r occ**"""*!!/. and 
llM^^odii«.d. M • re.ul«. M «Hf«or.irnwily »l»ia, Mimul-urg. and lucid 


By M.. CiiBitiMTO*.. •' V«ry IniwMiinily don«. . . Iu .iyl« U ilmpK 
d^Ki, unh«ckn«y«d, and tlioutd «nd apprKUiuw wh«« • ■«• f«n'«nily 
pioM Myk of writing f^\%:'—M*tk»4ut R«*9rMr. 


By Prot J. KnLtM Carpintbb, D.Liti., Prineipid of MuickMMr Collogo, 

In Preparation 

THK < /.£) TESTAMENT. By Prof. Gborcr Moour D.D., LL D. 

A HtsTORYt/ FREEDOM, /THOUGHT. By Prof. J B^ Bout, LL.D. 

Social Science 


lu History, Con.iiiution, and Pr«ctic«. By Sir CootT«wA> P. Ii.bbut, 
G.C.B., K.C.S.I., Clerk of th« Houi« of Common*. "Thehe^i book on th« 
history and practice of tb« Houm of Common* lioc* Bagchot't 'CooMiiutiea.' ' 
-YTkskirt Foit. 


By F. W HiMT, Editor of "Tha Kconomiit." " To an un«nancia1 mind mutt 
bt ■ 'tvttation Tbt book i« at clear, vigorous, and «an« a> lURchots Lorn- 
bar- Sir«t,' tban which ib«r* it no higbar compliment."— .*/*rm»(/ Ltmdtr. 


By Mr» J. R C-UBM. " A* glowing •■ it it leam«l. No bo^ cotild b« mora 
timely."— £>«!/>' A'nvf. 


By J Ra .mv MacUonald, M.P. "Admirably adapted for the purpose of 
ajiposition."— rA« Timtt- 


By Lo«D Hugh Cecil, M.A., M.P. "One of thoda fTe«« ""'• ^>oo\u which 
iaitiwiu apitcai bum* Ui*u wTiCa ia a gcncxaiion."~ ifeming Fvil. 







't '^'ff'J^O L^TION OF IN DUSTR 


M tfe« UnivwMiy •cc«t*ibi« lo iIm practical t»x' 


> « 



olf^ M.l..aoA«T, M .. B.C.L., VlnwU 
hrtoi ih« nil«i of Knilbti Uw."_Jfrt, i^ii; jim . 
38. THE SCHOOL: An Intr^uctwn H .U Sru.v .y .. ..., 


Un«»«tH, lu imporUiica u not to ba ■■aiurtJ b-r u orW I 
tha b«M racM criticaJ ..portion of th.^SU^ •',«hSlk it^"; 

tba baal raeaat critical aipoMi 
•riwica.'' -Ctmigmm HtrmUL 

69. r//^ NEWSPAPER 



In Preparation 

:» KtfGLASD 

Tka baal accoont axunt of \\ 
■ ■ ikarkaa, ta 


rTsrf^fffsUrci:''Sro^^^^^^^ ^c.l, 

^NGUSH y/i./.AG£L/"i''*Brm^NB^'M^\t A 
TXXfAT PLANNt m. By rIAISId U^JT ' •^' "^'^ ^• 


-rfiK^ e/M Be9ksk»pt and BotkiUOIt.