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ENGLISH SECULARISM 



A CONFESSION OF BELIEF 



GEORGE JACOB HOLYOAKE 



THINK 



CHICAGO 

THE OPEN COURT PUBLISHING COMPANY 

1896 



Copyright by 

The Open Court Publishing Co. 

1896. 



^ «b7bb^(^/ 



AUTHOR'S PREFACE. 



THE OPEN COURT, in which the series of articles consti- 
tuting this work originally appeared, has given account of 
many forms of faith, supplementary or confirmatory of its own, 
and sometimes of forms of opinions dissimilar where there ap- 
peared to be instruction in them. It will be an advantage to the 
reader should its editor state objections, or make comments, as he 
may deem necessary and useful. English Secularism is as little 
known in America as American and Canadian Secularisation is un- 
derstood in Great Eritain. The new form of free thought known 
as English Secularism does not include either Theism or Atheism. 
Whether Monism, which I can conceive as a nobler and scientific 
form of Theism, might be a logical addition to the theory of Secu- 
larism, as set forth in the following pages, the editor of The Open 
Court may be able to show. If this be so, every open-minded 
reader will better see the truth by comparison. Contrast is the 
incandescent light of argument. 

George Jacob Holyoake. 
Eastern Lodge, Brighton, England, 
February, 1896. 



PUBLISHER'S PREFACE. 



AMONG the representative freethinkers of the world Mr. 
_ George J. Holyoake takes a most prominent position. He 
is a leader of leaders, he is the brain of the Secularist party in 
England, he is a hero and a martyr of their cause. 

Judged as a man, Mr. Holyoake is of sterling character ; he 
was not afraid of prison, nor of unpopularity and ostracism, nor 
of persecution of any kind. If he ever feared anything, it was be- 
ing not true to himself and committing himself to something that 
was not right. He was an agitator all his life, and as an agitator 
he was — whether or not we agree with his views — an ideal man. 
He is the originator of the Secularist movement that was started 
in England ; he invented the name Secularism, and he was the 
backbone of the Secularist propaganda ever since it began. Mr. 
Holyoake left his mark in the history of thought, and the influence 
which he exercised will for good or evil remain an indelible heir- 
loom of the future. 

Secularism is not the cause which The Open Court Publishing 
Co. upholds, but it is a movement which on account of its impor- 
tance ought not to be overlooked. Whatever our religious views 
may be, we must reckon with the conditions that exist, and Secu- 
larism is powerful enough to deserve general attention. 

What is Secularism ? 

Secularism espouses the cause of the world versus theology: 
of the secular and temporal versus the sacred and ecclesiastical. 
Secularism claims that religion ought never to be anything but a 



vi ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

private affair ; it denies the right of any kind of church to be as- 
sociated with the public life of a nation, and proposes to supersede 
the ofiBcial influence which religious institutions still exercise in 
both hemispheres. 

Rather than abolish religion or paralyse its influence, The 
Open Court Publishing Co. would advocate on the one hand to let 
the religious spirit pervade the whole body politic, together with 
all public institutions, and also the private life of every single in- 
dividual ; and on the other hand to carry all secular interests into 
the church, which would make the church subservient to the real 
needs of mankind. 

Thus we publish Mr. Holyoake's Confession of Faith, which is 
an exposition of Secularism, not because we are Secularists, which 
we are not, but because we believe that Mr. Holyoake is entitled 
to a hearing. Mr. Holyoake is a man of unusually great common 
sense, of keen reasoning faculty, and of indubitable sincerity. 
What he says he means, and what he believes he lives up to, what 
he recognises to be right he will do, even though the whole world 
would stand up against him. In a word, he is a man who accord- 
ing to our conception of religion proves by his love of truth that, 
however he himself may disclaim it, he is actually a deeply re- 
ligious man. His religious earnestness is rare, and our churches 
would be a good deal better off if all the pulpits were filled with 
men of his stamp. 

We publish Mr. Holyoake's Confession of Faith not for Sec- 
ularists only, but also and especially for the benefit of religious 
people, of his adversaries, of his antagonists ; for they ought to 
know him and understand him ; they ought to appreciate his mo- 
tives for dissenting from church views ; and ought to learn why so 
many earnest and honest people are leaving the church and will 
have nothing to do with church institutions. 

Why is it that Christianity is losing its hold on mankind ? Is 
it because the Christian doctrines have become antiquated, and 
does the church no longer adapt herself to the requirements of the 



PUBLISHER'S PREFACE. vii 

present age ? Is it that the representative Christian thinkers are 
lacking in intellectuality and moral strength ? Or is it that the 
world at large has outgrown religion and refuses to be gjaided by 
the spiritual counsel of popes and pastors ? 

Whatever the reason may be, the fact itself cannot be doubted, 
and the question is only, What will become of religion in the 
future? Will the future of mankind be irreligious (as for in- 
stance Mr. Lecky and M. Guyau prophesy) ; or will religion regain 
its former importance and become again the leading power in life, 
dominating both public and private affairs ? 

The first condition of a reconciliation between religion and 
the masses of mankind would be for religious men patiently to lis- 
ten to the complaints that are made by the adversaries of Christi- 
anity, and to understand the position which honest and sensible 
freethinkers, such as Mr. Holyoake, take. Religious leaders are 
too little acquainted with the world at large; they avoid their 
antagonists like outcasts, and rarely, if ever, try to comprehend 
their arguments. In the same way, freethinkers as a rule despise 
clergymen as hypocrites who for the sake of a living sell their souls 
and preach doctrines which they cannot honestly believe. In or- 
der to arrive at a mutual understanding, it would be necessary 
first of all that both parties should discontinue ostracising one an- 
other and become mutually acquainted. They should lay aside 
for a while the weapons with which they are wont to combat one 
another in the public press and in tract literature ; they should 
cease scolding and ridiculing one another and simply present their 
own case in terse terms. 

This Mr. Holyoake has done. His Confession of Faith is as 
concise as any book of the kind can be ; and he, being the origin- 
ator of Secularism and its standard-bearer, is the man who speaks 
with authority. 

For the sake of religion, therefore, and for promoting the mu- 
tual understanding of men of a different turn of mind, we present 
his book to the public and recommend its careful perusal especially 



[ 



▼ill ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

to the clergy, who will learn from this book some of the most im- 
portant reasons why Christianity has become unacceptable to a 
large class of truth-loving men, who alone for the sake of truth 
find it best to stay out of the church. 

The preface of a book is as a rule not deemed the right place 
to criticise an author, but such is the frankness and impartiality of 
Mr. Holyoake that he has kindly permitted the manager of The 
Open Court Publishing Co. to criticise his book freely and to state 
the disagreements that might obtain between publishers and author 
in the very preface of the book. There is no need of making an 
extensive use of this permission, as a few remarks will be sufficient 
to render clear the difference between Secularism and the views of 
The Open Court Publishing Co., which we briefly characterise as 
" the Religion of Science." 

Secularism divides life into what is secular and what is re- 
ligious, and would consign all matters of religion to the sphere of 
private interests. The Religion of Science would not divide life 
into a secular and a religious* part, but would have both the secu- 
lar and the religious united. It would carry religion into all secu- 
lar affairs so as to sanctify and transfigure them ; and for this pur- 
pose it would make religion practical, so as to be suited to the var- 
ious needs of life ; it would make religion scientifically sound, so 
as to be in agreement with the best and most scientific thought of 
the age ; it would reform church doctrines and raise them from 
their dogmatic arbitrariness upon the higher plain of objective 
truth. 

In emphasising our differences we should, however, not fail to 
recognise the one main point of agreement, which is our belief in 
science. Mr. Holyoake would settle all questions of doubt by the 
usual method of scientific investigation. But there is a difference 
even here, which is a different conception of science. While sci- 
ence to Mr. Holyoake is secular, we insist on the holiness and re- 
ligious significance of science. If there is any revelation of God, 
it is truth; and what is science but truth ascertained? Therefore 



PUBLISHER'S PREFACE. ix 

we would advise all preachers and all those to whose charge souls 
of men are committed, to take o£f their shoes when science speaks 
to them, for science is the voice of God. 

The statement is sometimes made by those who belittle science 
in the vain hope of exalting religion, that the science of yesterday 
has been upset by the science of to-day, and that the science of to- 
day may again be upset by the science of to-morrow. Nothing can 
be more untrue. 

Of course, science must not be identified with the opinion 
of scientists. Science is the systematic statement of facts, and 
not the theories which are tentatively proposed to fill out the gaps 
of our knowledge. What has once been proved to be a fact has 
never been overthrown, and the actual stock of science has grown 
slowly but surely. The discovery of new facts or the proposition 
of a new and reliable hypothesis has often shown the old facts of 
science in a new light, but it has never upset or disproved them. 
There are fashions in the opinions of scientists, but science itself 
is above fashion, above change, above human opinion. Science 
partakes of that stern immutability, it is endowed with that eter- 
nality and that omnipresent universality which have since olden 
times been regarded as the main attribute of Godhood. 

There appears in all religions, at a certain stage of the religious 
development, a party of dogmatists. They are people who, in their 
zeal, insist on the exclusiveness of their own religion, as if truth 
were a commodity which, if possessed by one, cannot be possessed 
by anybody else. They know little of the spirit that quickens, but 
believe blindly in the letter of the dogma. It is not faith in their 
opinion that saves, but the blindness of faith. They interpret 
Christ's words and declare that he who has another interpretation 
must be condemned. 

The dogmatic phase in the development of religion is as natu- 
ral as boyhood in a human life and as immaturity in the growth of 
fruit ; it is natural and necessary, but it is a phase only which will 
pass as inevitably by as boyhood changes into manhood, and as 



X ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

the prescientific stage in the evolution of civilisation gives way to 
a better and deeper knowledge of nature. 

The dogmatist is in the habit of identifying his dogmatism with 
religion ; and that is the reason why his definitions of religion and 
morality will unfailingly come in conflict with the common sense 
of the people. The dogmatist makes religion exclusive. In the at- 
tempt of exalting religion he relegates it to supernatural spheres, 
thus excluding it from the world and creating a contrast between 
the sacred and the profane, between the divine and the secular, 
between religion and life. Thus it happens that religion becomes 
something beyond, something extraneous, something foreign to 
man's sphere of being. And yet religion has developed for the 
sake of sanctifying the daily walks of man, of making the secular 
sacred, of filling life with meaning and consecrating even the most 
trivial duties of existence. 

Secularism is the reaction against dogmatism, but secularism 
still accepts the views of the dogmatist on religion ; for it is upon 
the dogmatist's valuations and definitions that the secularist rejects 
religion as worthless. 



The religious, movement, of which The Open Court Publish- 
ing Co. is an exponent, represents one further step in the evolution 
of religious aspirations. As alchemy develops into chemistry, and 
astrology into astronomy, as blind faith changes into seeing face to 
face, as belief changes into knowledge, so the religion of miracles, 
the religion of a salvation by magic, the religion of the dogmatist, 
ripens into the religion of pure and ascertainable truth. The old 
dogmas, which in their literal acceptance appear as nonsensical 
errors, are now recognised as allegories which symbolise deeper 
truths, and the old ideals are preserved not with less, but with 
more, significance than before. 

God is not smaller but greater since we know more about 
Him, as to what He is and what He is not, just as the universe is 



c 



C 



PUBLISHER'S PREFACE. xi 

not smaller but larger since Copernicus and Kepler opened our 
eyes and showed us what the relation of our earth in the solar sys- 
tem is and what it is not. 

Secularism is one of the signs of the times. It represents the 
unbelief in a religious alchemy ; but its antagonism to the religion 
of dogmatism does not bode destruction but advance. It repre- 
sents the transition to a purer conception of religion. It has not 
the power to abolish the church, but only indicates the need of its 
reformation. 

It is this reformation of religion and of religious institutions 
which is the sole aim of all the publications of The Open Court 
Publishing Co., and we see in Secularism one of those agencies 
that are at work preparing the way for a higher and nobler com- 
prehension of the truth. 

Mr. Holyoake's aspirations, in our opinion, go beyond the 
aims which he himself points out, and thus his Confession of Faith, 
although nominally purely secular, will finally, even by church- 
men, be recognised in its religious importance. It will help to 
purify the confession of faith of the dogmatist. 

In offering Mr.. Holyoake's best and maturest thoughts to the 
public, we hope that both the secularists and the believers in reli- 
gion will by and by learn to understand that Secularism as much 
as dogmatism is a phase — both are natural and necessary phases — 
in the religious evolution of mankind. There is no use in scolding 
either the dogmatist or the secularist, or in denouncing the one on 
account of his credulity and superstition, and the other on account 
of his dissent ; but there is a use in — nay, there is need of — un- 
derstanding the aspirations of both. 

There is a need of mutual exchange of thought on the basis of 
mutual esteem and good-will. Above all, there is a need of open- 
ing the church doors to the secularist. 

The church, if it has any right of existence at all, is for the 
, world, and not for believers alone. Church members can learn 
from the secularist many things which many believers seem to have 



c 



xii ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

forgotten, and, on the other hand, they can teach the unbeliever 
what be has overlooked in bis sincere attempts at finding the truth, 
May Mr. Holyoake's confession of faith be received in the 
spirit in which the author wrote it, which is a candid love of truth, 
and also in the spirit in which the publishers undertook its publi- 
cation, with the irenic endeavor of letting every honest aspiration 
be rightly understood and rightly valued. 

Paul Carus, 
Manager of The Open Court Publishing Co. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPIEK PAGE 

I. Open Thought the First Step to Intelligence ... i 
II. The Question Stated 5 

III, The First Stage of Free Thought : Its Nature and 

Limitation 9 

IV. The Second Stage of Free Thought : Enterprise . . 17 
V. Conquests of Investigation 22 

VI. Stationariness of Criticism 28 

VII. Third Stage of Free Thought : Secularism .... 34 

VIII. Three Principles Vindicated 38 

IX. How Secularism Arose 45 

X. How Secularism was Diffused 50 

XI. Secular Instruction Distinct from Secularism ... 56 

XII. The Distinctiveness Made Further Evident .... 60 

XIII. Self-Defensive for the People 66 

XIV. Rejected Tenets Replaced by Better 71 

XV. Morality Independent of Theology 76 

XVI. Ethical Certitude . 84 

XVII. The Ethical Method of Controversy go 

XVIII. Its Discrimination 95 

XIX. Apart from Christianism 100 

XX. Secularism Creates a New Responsibility .... 106 

XXI. Through Opposition to Recognition 112 

XXII. Self-Extending Principles 118 

Secularist Ceremonies 126 

On Marriage 127 

Naming Children 128 

Over the Dead : Reading at a Grave. At the Grave of a 
Child. On Men or Women. On a Career of Public 

Usefulness 131 



CHAPTER I. 



OPEN THOUGHT THE FIRST STEP TO INTELLI- 
GENCE. 

" It is not prudent to be in the right too 
soon, nor to be in the right against everybody 
else. And yet it sometimes happens that after 
a certain lapse of time, greater or lesser, you 
will find that one of those truths which you had 
kept to yourself as premature, but which has 
got abroad in spite of your teeth, has become 
the most commonplace thing imaginable. 

— Alphonse Karr. 

ONE purpose of these chapters is to explain how 
unfounded are the objections of many excellent 
Christians to Secular instruction in State, public, or 
board schools. The Secular is distinct from theology, 
which it neither ignores, assails, nor denies. Things 
Secular are as separate from the Church as land from 
the ocean. And what nobody seems to discern is that 
things Secular are in themselves quite distinct from 
Secularism. The Secular is a mode of instruction ; 
Secularism is a code of conduct. Secularism does con- 
flict with theology ; Secularist teaching would, but 
Secular instruction does not. 

Persuaded as I am that lack of consideration for 
the convictions of the reader creates an impediment 



2 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

in the way of his agreement with the writer, and even 
disinclines him to examine what is put before him ; 
yet some of these pages may be open to this objec- 
tion. If so, it is owing to want of thought or want of 
art in statement, and is no part of the intention of the 
author. 

He would have diffidence in expressing, as he does 
in these pages, his dissent from the opinions of many 
Christian advocates — for whose character and convic- 
tions he has great respect, and for some even affec- 
tion — did he not perceive that few have any diffidence 
or reservation (save in one or two exalted instances^) 
in maintaining their views and dissenting from his. 

Open thought, which in this chapter is brought 
under the reader's notice is sometimes called "self- 
thought," or "free thought," or "original thought" — 
the opposite of conventional second-hand thought — 
which is all that the custom-ridden mass of mankind 
is addicted to. 

Open thought has three stages : 

The first stage is that in which the right to think 
independently is insisted on ; and the free action of 
opinion — so formed — is maintained. Conscious power 
thus acquired satisfies the pride of some ; others limit 
its exercise from prudence. Interests, which would 
be jeopardised by applying independent thought to 
received opinion, keep more persons silent, and thus 
many never pass from this stage. 

lOf whom the greatest is Mr. Gladstone. 



OFEN THOUGHT. 3 

The second stage is that in which the right of self- 
thought is applied to the criticism of theology, with a 
view to clear the way for life according to reason. 
This is not the work of a day or year, but is so pro- 
longed that clearing the way becomes as it were a pro- 
fession, and is at length pursued as an end instead of 
a means. Disputation becomes a passion and the 
higher state of life, of which criticism is the necessary 
precursor, is lost sight of, and many remain at this 
stage when it is reached and go no further. 

The third stage is that where ethical motives of 
conduct apart from Christianity are vindicated for the 
guidance of those who are indifferent about theology, 
or who reject it altogether. Supplying to such persons 
Secular reasons for duty is Secularism, the range of 
which is illimitable. It begins where free thought 
usually ends, and constitutes a new form of construc- 
tive thought, the principles and policy of which are 
quite different from those acted upon in the preceding 
stages. Controversy concerns itself with what is \ Sec- 
ularism with what ought to be. 

It is pertinent here to say that Christianity does 
not permit eclecticism — that is, it does not tolerate 
others selecting portions of Christian Scriptures pos- 
sessing the mark of intrinsic truth, to which many 
could cheerfully conform in their lives. This rule 
compels all who cannot accept the entire Scriptures 
to deal with its teachings as they find them expressed, 
and- for which Christianity makes itself responsible. 



4 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

All the while it is quite evident that Christians do 
permit eclecticism among themselves. The great Con- 
gress of the Free Churches, recently held in Notting- 
ham, representing the personal and vital form of 
Christianity, had a humanness and tolerance unmani- 
fested by Christianity before, showing that humanity 
is stronger than historical integrity. If any one, there- 
fore, should draw up, as might be done, a theory of 
Christianity solely from such doctrines as are repre- 
sented in the elliptical preaching, practice, and social 
life of Christians of to-day, a very different estimate 
of the Christian system would have to be given from 
that with which the author deals in the subsequent 
chapters. In them Christianity is represented as Free- 
thought has found it, and as it exists in the Scriptures, 
in the law, in the pulpit, and in the school, which con- 
stitute its total force in the respects in which it re- 
presses and discourages independent thought. Sci- 
ence, truth, and criticism have engrafted themselves 
on historic Christianity. It has now new articles of 
belief. When it avows them it will win larger con- 
currence and respect than it can now command. . 



CHAPTER II. 



THE QUESTION STATED. - 

"Look forward — not backward; 
Look up — not down ; 
Look around : 
Lend a hand." 1 

— Edward Everett Hale, D. D. 

Where a monarchy is master, inquiry is apt to be 
a disturbing element ; and though exercised in the in- 
terest of the commonwealth it is none the less re- 
sented. Where the priest is master inquiry is sharply 
prohibited. The priest represents a spiritual monarchy 
in which the tenets of belief are fixed, assumed to be 
infallible, and to be prescribed by deity. Thus the 
priest regards inquiry as proceeding from an imperti- 
nent distrust, to which he is not reconciled on being 
assured that it is undertaken in the interest of truth. 
Thus the king denounces inquiry as sedition, and the 
priest as sin. In the end the inquirer finds himself an 
alien in State and Church, and laws are made against 
his life, his liberty, property, and veracity.* 

IDr. Hale did not popularise these energetic maxims of earnestness in 
the connexion in which they are here used; but their wisdom is of general 
application. 

S When martyrdoms and imprisonments ceased, disabling laws remained 
which'imposed the Christian oath on all who appealed to the courts, and any 



6 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

Thus from the time when monarch and priest first 
set up their pretensions in the world, the inquiring 
mind has had small encouragement. When Protes- 
tantism came it merely conceded inquiry under direc- 
tion, and only so far as it tended to confirm its own 
anti-papal tenets. But when inquiry claimed to be 
independent, unfettered, uncontrolled, — in fact to be 
free inquiry, — then Papist, Lutheran, and Dissenter, 
alike regarded it as dangerous, and stigmatised it by 
every term calculated to deter or dissuade people 
from it. 

But though this combined defamation of inquiry 
set many against it, it did not intimidate men entirely. 
There arose independent thinkers who held that un- 
fettered investigation was the discoverer of truth and 
dangerous to error only, and that the freer it was the 
more effective it must be. 

Still timorous-minded persons remained suspicious 
of free thought. At its best they found it involved 
conflict with false opinion, and conflict, to those with- 
out aspiration or conscience, is disquieting ; and where 
impartial investigation interfered with personal inter- 
ests it was opposed. No one could enter on the search 
for truth without finding his path obstructed by theo- 
logical errors and interdictions. Having taken the side 
of truth, all who were loyal to it, were bound like Bun- 
yan's Pilgrim to withstand the Apollyons who opposed 

who h«d the pride of veracity and declined so to swear, were denied protec- 
tion for property, or credence of their word. 



THE QUESTION STATED. 7 

it, and a combat began which lasted for centuries, and 
is not yet ended. But though theology was always in 
power, men of courage at length established the right 
of free inquiry, and established also a free press for 
the publication of the results arrived at. These rights 
were so indispensable for progress and were so long 
resisted, that generations fought for them as ends in 
themselves. Thus there grew up, as in military affairs, 
a class whose profession was destruction, and free 
thinkers came to be regarded as negationists. When 
I came into the field the combat was raging. Richard 
Carlile had not long been liberated from successive 
imprisonments of more than nine years duration in all. 
Charles Southwell was in Bristol gaol. Before his 
sentence had half expired I was in Gloucester gaol. 
George Adams was there ; Mrs. Harriet Adams was 
committed for trial from Cheltenham. Matilda Roalfe, 
Thomas Finlay, Thomas Paterson, and others were 
incarcerated in Scotland. Robert Buchanan and Lloyd 
Jones, two social missionaries — colleagues of my own 
— only escaped imprisonment by swearing they be- 
lieved what they did not believe, — an act I refused to 
imitate, and no mean inconvenience has resulted to 
me from it. I took part in the vindication of the free 
publicity of opinion until it was practically conceded. 
At the time when I was arrested in 1842, the Chel- 
tenham magistrates who were angered at defiant re- 
marks I made, had the power (and used it) of com- 
mitting me to the Quarter Sessions as a "felon," where 



8 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

the same justices could resent, by penalties, what I had 
said to them. On representations I made to Parlia- 
ment — through my friend John Arthur Roebuck and 
others — Sir James Graham caused a Bill to be passed 
which removed trials for opinion to the Assizes. I 
was the first person tried under this act. Thus for the 
first time heresy was ensured a dispassionate trial and 
was no longer subject to the jurisdiction of local preju- 
dice and personal magisterial resentment. 

When overt acts of outrage were no longer pos- 
sible against the adherents of free thought. Christians, 
some from fairness, and others from necessity, began 
to reason with them and asked: "Now you have 
established your claim to be heard. What have you 
to say?" The reply I proposed was : "Secularism — 
a form of opinion relating to the duty of this life which 
substituted the piety of useful men for the usefulness 
of piety." 



CHAPTER III. 



THE FIRST STAGE OF FREE THOUGHT : ITS NATURE 
AND LIMITATION. 

"He who cannot reason is defenceless; 
he who fears to reason has a coward mind; he 
who will not reason is willing to be deceived 
and will deceive all who listen to him. 

— Maxim of Free Thought. 

FREE THOUGHT is founded upon reason. It is 
the exercise of reason, without which free thought 
is free foolishness. Free thought being the precursor 
of Secularism, it is necessary first to describe its prin- 
ciples and their limitation. Free thought means inde- 
pendent self-thinking. Some say all thought is free 
since a man can think what he pleases and no one can 
prevent him, which is not true. Unfortunately think- 
ing can be prevented by subtle spiritual intimidation, 
in earlier and even in later life. 

When a police agent found young Mazzini in the 
fields of Genoa, apparently meditating, his father's at 
tention was called to the youth. His father was told 
that the Austrian Government did not permit thinking. 
The Inquisition intimidated nations from thinking. 
The priests by preventing instruction and prohibiting 



lo ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

books, limited thinking. Archbishop Whately shows 
that no one can reason without words, and since speech 
can be, and is, disallowed and made penal, the high- 
way of thought can be closed. No one can think to 
any purpose without inquiry concerning his subject, 
and inquiry can be made impossible. It is of little 
use that any one thinks who cannot verify his ideas by 
comparison with those of his compeers. To prevent 
this is to discourage thought. In fact thousands are 
prevented thinking by denying them the means and 
the facilities of thinking. 

Free thought means fearless thought. It is not 
deterred by legal penalties, nor by spiritual conse- 
quences. Dissent from the Bible does not alarm the 
true investigator, who takes truth for authority not au- 
thority for truth. The thinker who is really free, is 
independent ; he is under no dread ; he yields to no 
menace ; he is not dismayed by law, nor custom, nor 
pulpits, nor society — whose opinion appals so many. 
He who has the manly passion of free thought, has 
no fear of anything, save the fear of error. 

Fearlessness is the essential condition of effective 
thought. If Satan sits at the top of the Bible with 
perdition open underneath it, into which its readers 
will be pushed who may doubt what they find in its 
pages, the right of private judgment is a snare. A 
man is a fool who inquires at this risk. He had better 
accept at once the superstition of the first priest he 



FIRST STAGE OF FREE THOUGHT. \\ 

meets. It is not conceivable how a Christian can be 
z.free thinker. 

He who is afraid to know both sides of a question 
cannot think upon it. Christians do not, as a rule, 
want to know what can be said against their views, 
and they keep out of libraries all books which would 
inform others. Thus such Christians cannot think 
freely, and are against others doing it. Doubt comes 
of thinking ; the Christian commonly regards doubt as 
sin. How can he be a free thinker who thinks thinking 
is a sin ? 

Free thought implies three things as conditions of 
truth : 

1. Free inquiry, which is the pathway to truth. 

2. Free publicity to the ideas acquired, in order to 
learn whether they are useful — which is the encourage- 
ment of truth. 

3. The free discussion of convictions without which 
it is not possible to know whether they are true or 
false, which is the^verification of truth. 

A man is not a man unless he is a thinker ; he is a 
fool having no ideas of his own. If he happens to live 
among men who do think, he browses like an animal on 
their ideas. He is a sort of kept man being supported 
by the thoughts of others. He is what in England is 
called a pauper, who subsists upon "outdoor relief," 
allowed him by men of intellect. 

Without the right of publicity, individual thought, 
however praiseworthy and however perfect, would be 



xa ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

barren to the community. Algernon Sidney said : 
"The best legacy I can leave my children is free 
speech and the example of using it.*' 

The clergy of every denomination are unfriendly to 
its use. The soldiers of the cross do not fight adver- 
saries in the open. Mr. Gladstone alone among emi- 
nent men of piety has insisted upon the duty of the 
Church to prove its claims in discussion. In his In- 
troduction to his address at the Liverpool College 
(1872 or 1873) he said: "I wish to place on record 
my conviction that belief cannot now be defended by 
reticence any more than by railing, or by any privi- 
leges or assumption." Since the day of Milton there 
has been no greater authority on the religious wisdom 
of debate. 

Thought, even theological, is often useless, ill-in- 
formed, foolish, mischievous, or even wicked ; and he 
alone who submits it to free criticism gives guarantees 
that he means well, and is self-convinced. By criti- 
cism alone comes exposure, correction, or confirma- 
tion. The right of criticism is the sole protection of 
the community against error of custom, ignorance, 
prejudice, or incompetence. It is not until a proposi- 
tion has been generally accepted after open and fair 
examination, that it can be considered as established 
and can safely be made a ground of action or belief. ^ 

These are the implementary rights of thought. They 
are what grammar is to the writer, which teaches him 

ISc* Formation of Opinions, by Samael Bailty. 



FIRST STAGE OF FREE THOUGHT. 13 

how to express himself, but not what to say. These 
rights are as the rules of navigation to the mariner. 
They teach him how to steer a ship but do not instruct 
him where to steer to. 

The full exercise of these rights of mental freedom 
is what training in the principles of jurisprudence is to 
the pleader, but it does not provide him with a brief. 
It is conceivable that a man may come to be a master 
of independent thinking and never put his powers to 
use ; just as a man may know every rule of grammar 
and yet never write a book. In the same way a man 
may pass an examination in the art of navigation and 
never take command of a vessel; or he may qualify for 
a Barrister, be called to the Bar and never plead in any 
court. We know from experience that many persons 
join in the combat for the right of intellectual freedom 
for its own sake, without intending or caring to use 
the right when won. Some are generous enough to 
claim and contend for these rights from the belief that 
they may be useful to others. This is the first stage 
of free thought, and, as has been said, many never 
pass beyond it. 

Independent thinking is concerned primarily with 
removing obstacles to its own action, and in contests 
for liberty of speech by tongue and pen. The free 
mind fights mainly for its own freedom. It may be- 
gin in curiosity and may end in intellectual pride— 
unless conscience takes care of it. Its nature is icon- 



14 ENGLISH SECULARISM, 

oclastic and it may exist without ideas of reconstruc- 
tion. 

Though a man goes no further, he is a better man 
than he who never went as far. He has acquired a 
new power, and is sure of his own mind. Just as one 
who has learned to fence, or to shoot, has a confidence 
in encountering an adversary, which is seldom felt by 
one who never had a sword in hand, or practised at a 
target. The sea is an element of recreation to one who 
has learned to swim ; it is an element of death to one 
ignorant of the art. Besides, the thinker has attained a 
courage and confidence unknown to the man of ortho- 
dox mind. Since God (we are assured) is the God of 
truth, the honest searcher after truth has God on his 
side, and has no dread of the King of Perdition — the 
terror of all Christian people — since the business of 
Satan is with those who are content with false ideas ; 
not with those who seek the true. If it be a duty to seek 
the truth and to live the truth, honest discussion, which 
discerns it, identifies it, clears it, and establishes it, is 
a form of worship of real honor to God and of true 
service to man. If the clergyman's speech on behalf 
of God is rendered exact by criticism, the criticism is 
a tribute, and no mean tribute to heaven. Thus the 
free exercise of the rights of thought involve no risk 
hereafter. 

Moreover, so far as a man thinks he gains. Thought 
implies enterprise and exertion of mind, and the re- 
sult is wealth of understanding, to be acquired in no 



FIRST STAGE OF FREE THOUGHT. 15 

Other way. This intellectual property like other prop- 
erty, has its rights and duties. The thinker's right is 
to be left in undisturbed possession of what he has 
earned ; and his duty is to share his discoveries of 
truth with mankind, to whom he owes his opportuni- 
ties of acquiring it. 

Free expression involves consideration for others, 
on principle. Democracy without personal deference 
becomes a nuisance ; so free speech without courtesy 
is repulsive, as free publicity would be, if not mainly 
limited to reasoned truth. Otherwise every blatant 
impulse would have the same right of utterance as 
verified ideas. Even truth can only claim priority of 
utterance, when its utility is manifest. As the number 
and length of hairs on a man's head is less important 
to know, than the number and quality of the ideas in 
his brain. 

True free thought requires special qualities to in- 
sure itself acceptance. It must be owned that the 
thinker is a disturber. He is a truth-hunter, and there 
is no telling what he will find. Truth is an exile which 
has been kept out of her kingdom, and Error is a 
usurper in possession of it ; and the moment Truth 
comes into her right. Error has to give up its occu- 
pancy of her territory ; and as everybody consciously, 
or unconsciously harbors some of the emissaries of the 
usurper, they do not like owning the fact, and they 
dispute the warrant of truth to search their premises, 



i6 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

though to be relieved of such deceitful and costly in- 
mates would be an advantage to them. 

An inalienable attribute of free thought, which no 
theology possesses, is absolute toleration of all ideas 
put forward in the interests of public truth, and sub- 
mitted to public discussion. The true free thinker is 
in favor of the free action of all opinion which injures 
no one else, and of putting the best construction he 
can on the acts of others, not only because he has 
thereby less to tolerate, but from perceiving that he 
who lacks tolerance towards the ideas of others has no 
claim for the tolerance of his own. The defender of 
toleration must himself be tolerant. Condemning the 
coercion of ideas, he is pledged to combat error only by 
reason. Vindictiveness towards the erring is not only 
inconsistency, it is persecution. Thus free thought is 
not only self-defence against error but, by the tolera- 
tion it imposes, is itself security for respectfulness in 
controversy. 



CHAPTER IV. 



THE SECOND STAGE OF FREE THOUGHT : ENTER- 
PRISE. 

"Better wild ideas than no ideas at all." 
—Profettor Nichol at Horshatn. 

'T^HE emancipation of the understanding from in- 
-^ timidation and penal restraint soon incited think- 
ers of enterprise to put their new powers to use. The- 
ology being especially a forbidden subject and the 
greatest repressive force, inquiry into its pretensions 
first attracted critical attention. 

In every century forlorn hopes of truth had set out 
to storm one or other of the ramparts of theology. 
Forces had been marshalled by great leaders and bat- 
tle often given in the open field ; and unforeseen vic- 
tories are recorded, in the annals of the wars of infan- 
tine rationalism, against the full-grown powers of su- 
perstition and darkness. In every age valiant thinkers, 
scholars, philosophers, and critics, even priests in de- 
fiance of power, ecclesiastical and civil, have, at their 
own peril, explored the regions of forbidden truth. 

In Great Britain it was the courage of insurgent 
thinkers among the working class — whom no imprison 



i8 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

ment could intimidate — who caused the right of free 
speech and free publicity to be finally conceded. Thus 
rulers came round to the conclusion of Caballero, that 
"tolerance is as necessary in ideas as in social rela- 
tions." 

As soon as opinion was known to be emancipated, 
men began to think who never thought before. The 
thinker no longer had to obtain a "Ticket of Leave " 
from the Churches before he could inquire ; he was 
free to investigate where he would and what he would. 
Power is, as a rule, never imparted nor acquired in 
vain, and honest men felt they owed it to those who 
had won freedom for them, that they should extend 
it. Thus it came to pass that independence was an 
inspiration to action in men of intrepid minds. Pro- 
fessor Tyndall in the last words he wrote for publica- 
tion said, " I choose the nobler part of Emerson when, 
after various disenchantments, he exclaims, ' I covet 
truth !' " On printing these words the Wesiminsier 
Gazette added : "The gladness of true heroism visits 
the heart of him who is really competent to say this." 
The energies of intellectual intrepidity had doubtless 
been devoted to science and social progress ; but as 
philosophers have found, down to Huxley's day, all 
exploration was impossible in that direction. Murchi- 
son, Brewster, Buckland, and other pioneers of science 
were intimidated. Lyell held back his book, on the 
Antiquity of Man, twenty years. Tyndall, Huxley, 
and Spencer were waiting to be heard. As Huxley 



SECOND STAGE OF FREE THOUGHT. 19 

has justly said : "there was no Thoroughfare into the 
Kingdom of Nature — By Order — Moses." Hence, to 
examine theology, to discover whether its authority 
was absolute, became a necessity. It was soon seen 
that there was ground for scepticism. The priests re- 
sented criticism by representing the sceptic of their 
pretensions, as being sceptical of everything, whereas 
they were only sceptics of clerical infallibility. They 
indeed did aver that branches of human knowledge, 
received as well establisned, were really open to ques- 
tion, in order to show that if men could not be con- 
fident of things of which they had experience, how 
could the Churches be confident of things of which no 
man had experience — and which contradicted experi- 
ence? So far from disbelieving everything, scepticism 
went everywhere in search of truth and certainty. 
Since the Church could not be absolutely certain of 
the truth of its tenets, its duty was to be tolerant. 
But being intolerant it became as Julian Hibbert put 
it — "well-understood self-defence" to assail it. The 
Church fought for power, the thinker fought for truth. 
Free thought among the people may be likened to 
a good ship manned by adventurous mariners, who, 
cruising about in the ocean of theology came upon 
sirens, as other mariners had done before — dangerous 
to be followed by navigators bound to ports of pro- 
gress. Many were thereby decoyed to their own de- 
struction. The sirens of the Churches sang alluring 
songs whose refrains were : 



20 ENGLISH SECULARISM, 

1. The Bible the guide of God. 

2. The origin of the universe disclosed. 

3. The care of Providence assured. 

4. Deliverance from peril by prayer dependable. 

5. Original sin effaceable by grace. 

6. Perdition avoidable by faith in crucifixion. 

7. Future life revealed. 

These propositions were subjects of resonant 
hymns, sermons, and tracts, and were not, and are 
not, disowned, but still defended in discussion by or- 
thodox and clerical advocates. Save salvation by the 
blood of Christ (a painful idea to entertain), the other 
ideas might well fascinate the uninquiring. They had 
enchanted many believers, but the explorers of whom 
we speak had acquired the questioning spirit, and had 
learned prudently to look at both sides of familiar sub- 
jects and soon discovered that the fair-seeming propo- 
sitions which had formerly imposed on their imagina- 
tion were unsound, unsightly, and unsafe. The Syra- 
cusans of old kept a school in which slaves were taught 
the ways of bondage. Christianity has kept such a 
school in which subjection of the understanding was 
inculcated, and the pupils, now free to investigate, re- 
solved to see whether such things were true. 

Then began the reign of refutation of theological 
error, by some from indignation at having been im- 
posed upon, by others from zeal that misconception 
should end ; by more from enthusiasm for facts ; by 
the bolder sort from resentment at the intimidation 



SECOND STAGE OF FREE THOUGHT. 21 

and cruelty with which inquiry had been suppressed 
so long ; and by not a few from the love of disputation 
which has for some the delight men have for chess or 
cricket, or other pursuit which has conflict and con- 
quest in it. 

Self-determined thought is a condition of the pro- 
gress of nations. Where would science be but for open 
thought, the nursing mother of enterprise, of discov- 
ery, of invention, of new conditions of human better- 
ment? 

A modern Hindu writer^ tells us that : "The Hindu 
is sorely handicapped by customs which are prescribed 
by his religious books. Hedged in by minute rules 
and restrictions the various classes forming the Hindu 
community have had but little room for expansion and 
progress. The result has been stagnation. Caste has 
prevented the Hindus from sinking, but it has also 
preventing them from rising." 

The old miracle-bubbles which the Jews blew into 
the air of wonder two thousand years ago, delight 
churches still in their childhood. The sea of theology 
would have been stagnant centuries ago, had not in- 
surgent thinkers, at the peril of their lives, created 
commotion in it. Morals would have been poisoned 
on the shores of theology had not free thought purified 
the waters by putting the salt of reason into that sea, 
freshening it year by year. 

1 Pramatba Nath Bom. 



CHAPTER V. 



CONQUESTS OF INVESTIGATION. 

"The secret of Genius is to suffer no fic- 
tion to live." — Goethe. 

THEOLOGIANS had so choked the human mind 
with a dense undergrowth of dogmas that it was 
like cutting through an African forest, such as Stanley 
encountered, to find the paths of truth. 

On that path, when found, many things unforeseen 
before, became plain. The siren songs of orthodoxy 
were discovered to have strange discords of sense in 
them. 

I. The Guide of God seemed to be very human — not 
authentic, not consistent — containing things not read- 
able nor explainable in the family; pagan fictions, such 
as the Incarnation reluctantly believable as the device 
of a moral deity. Men of genius and of noble ethical 
sympathy do however deem it defensible. In any hu- 
man book the paternal exaction of such suffering as 
fell to Christ, would be regarded with alarm and re- 
pugnance. Wonder was felt that Scripture, purporting 
to contain the will of deity, should not be expressed 
so unmistakably that ignorance could not misunder- 



CONQUESTS OF INVESTIGATION. 23 

Stand it, nor perversity misconstrue it. The gods know 
how to write. 

2. The origin of all things has excited and dis- 
appointed the curiosity of the greatest exploring minds 
of every age. That the secret of the universe is un- 
disclosed, is manifest from the different and differing 
conjectures concerning it. The origin of the universe 
remains unknowable. What awe fills or rather takes 
possession of the mind which comprehends this ' Why 
existence exists is the cardinal wonder. 

3. Pleasant and free from anxiety, life would be 
were it true, that Providence is a present help in the 
day of need. Alas, to the poor it is evident that Prov- 
idence does not interfere, either to befriend the good 
in their distress, or arrest the bad in the act of crime. 

4. The power of prayer has been the hope of the 
helpless and the oppressed in every age. Every man 
wishes it was true that help could be had that way. 
Then every just man could protect himself at will 
against his adversaries. But experience shows that 
all entreaty is futile to induce Providence to change 
its universal habit of non-intervention. Prayer be- 
guiles the poor but provides no dinner. Mr. Spurgeon 
said at the Tabernacle that prayer filled his meal 
barrel when empty. I asked that he should publish 
the recipe in the interests of the hungry. But he made 
no reply. 

5. There is reason to think that original sin is 
not anything more than original ignorance. The be- 



24 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

lief in natural depravity discourages all efforts of pro- 
gress. The primal imperfection of human nature is only 
effaceable by knowledge and persistent endeavor. Even 
in things lawful to do, excess is sin, judged by human 
standards. There may be error without depravity. 

6. Eternal perdition for conscientious belief, 
whether erroneous or not, is humanly incredible. The 
devisors of this doctrine must have been unaware that 
belief is an affair of ignorance, prejudice, custom, 
education, or evidence. The liability of the human 
race to eternal punishment is the foundation on which 
all Christianity (except Unitarianism) rests. This 
awful belief, if acted upon with the sincerity that 
Christianity declares it should be, would terminate all 
enjoyment, and all enterprise would cease in the world. 
None would ever marry. No persons, with any hu- 
manity in their hearts would take upon themselves the 
awful responsibility of increasing the number of the 
damned. The registrar of births would be the most 
fiendish clerk conceivable. He would be practically 
the secretary of hell. 

The theory that all the world was lost through a 
curious and enterprising lady, eating an apricot or an 
apple, and that three thousand or more years after, 
mankind had to be redeemed by the murder of an in- 
nocent Jew, is of a nature to make men afraid to be- 
lieve in a deity accused of contriving so dreadful a 
scheme. 

Though this reasoning will seem to many an argu- 



CONQ U£S 2 S OF INVEST JG A TJON. 25 

ment against the existence of God whereas it is merely 
against the attributes of deity, as ascribed to him by 
Christianity. If God be not moral, in the human sense 
of the term, he may as well be not moral at all. It is 
only he whose principles of justice, men can under- 
stand, that men can trust. Prof. T. H. Huxley, con- 
spicuous for his clearness of view and dispassionate- 
ness of judgment, was of this opinion, and said : " The 
suggestion arises, if God is the cause of all things he is 
responsible for evil as well as for good, and it appears 
utterly irreconcilable with our notions of justice that 
he should punish another for that which he has in fact 
done himself." The poet concurs with the philoso- 
pher when he exclaims : 

"The loving worm within its clod, 
Were diviner than a loveless God 
Amid his worlds."* 

Christianity indeed speaks of the love of God in send- 
ing his son to die for the security of others. But not 
less is the heart of the intelligent and humane believer 
torn with fear, as he thinks what must be the charac- 
ter of that God who could only be thus appeased. The 
example of self-sacrifice is noble — but is it noble in 
any one who deliberately creates the necessity for it? 
The better side of Christianity seems overshadowed 
by the worse. 

7. Future life is uncertain, being unprovable and 
seemingly improbable, judging from the dependence 

l-Browaiai;. 



26 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

of life on material conditions. Christians themselves 
do not seem confident of another existence. If they 
were sure of it, who of them would linger here when 
those they love and honor have gone before? Ere we 
reach the middle of our days, the joy of every heart 
lies in some tomb. If the Christian actually believed 
that the future was real, would he hang black plumes 
over the hearse, and speak of death as darkness? No ! 
the cemeteries would be bung with joyful lights, the 
grave would be the gate of Paradise. Every one would 
find justifiable excuse for leaving this for the happier 
world. All tenets which are contradicted by reason 
had better not be. 

Many preachers now disown, in controversy, these 
doctrines, but until they carry the professions of the 
platform into the statute book, the rubric, and the pul- 
pit, such doctrines remain operative, and the Churches 
remain answerable for them. Nonconformists do not 
protest against a State Church on account of its doc- 
trines herein enumerated. When the doctrines which 
conflict with reason and humanity are disowned by 
authority, ecclesiastical and legal, in all denomina- 
tions, the duty of controverting them as impediments 
to progress will cease. 

It may be said in reply to what is here set forth as 
tenets of Christian Scripture, that the writer follows 
the letter and not the spirit of the word. Yes, that is 
what he does. He is well aware of the new practice 
of seeking refuge in the "spirit," of "expanding" the 



CONQUESTS OF INVESTIGATION. 27 

letter and taking a "new range of view." He however 
holds that to drop the "letter" is to drop the doc- 
trine. To "expand" the "letter" is to change it. 
New " range of view " is the term under which deser- 
tion of the text is disguised. But " new range" means 
new thought, which in this insidious way is put for- 
ward to supersede the old. The frank way is to say 
so, and admit that the "letter" is obsolete — is gone, 
is disproved, and that new views which are truer con- 
stitute the new letter of progress. The best thing to 
do with the "dead hand " is to bury it. To try to ex- 
pand dissolution is but galvanising the corpse and 
tying the dead to the living. , -4 - 



CHAPTER VI. 



STATIONARINESS OF CRITICISM. 

" Zt-i] without knowledge is like expedi- 
tion to a man in the dark." — /akn Newton. 

CRITICISM in theology, as in literature, is with 
many an intoxication. Zest in showing what is 
wrong is apt to blunt the taste for what is right, which 
it is the true end of criticism to discover. Lord Byron 
said critics disliked Pope because he afforded them so 
few chances of objection. They found fault with him 
because he had no faults. The criticism of theology 
begets complacency in many. There is a natural satis- 
faction in being free from the superstition of the vul- 
gar, in the Church as well as out of it. No wonder 
many find abiding pleasure in the intellectual refuta- 
tion of the errors of supernaturalism and in putting its 
priests to confusion. Absorbed in the antagonism of 
theology, many lose sight of ultimate utility, and re- 
gard error, not as a misfortune to be alleviated, so 
much as a fault to be exposed. Like the theologian 
whose color they take, they do not much consider 
whether their method causes men to dislike the truth 
through its manner of being offered to them. Their 



STATIONAKINESS OF CRITICISM. 29 

ambition is to make those in error look foolish. Free 
thinkers of zeal are apt to become intense, and like 
Jules Ferry (a late French premier), care less for power, 
than for conflict, and the lover of conflict is not easily 
induced to regard the disproof of theology as a means 
to an end' higher than itself. It is difficult to impart 
to uncalculating zealots a sense of proportion. They 
dash along the warpath by their own momentum. Rail- 
way engineers find that it takes twice as much power 
to stop an express train as it does to start it. 

When I first knew free thought societies they were 
engaged in Church-fighting — which is still popular 
among them, and which has led the public to confuse 
criticism with Secularism, an entirely different thing. 

Insurgent thought exclusively directed, breeds, as 
is said elsewhere, a distinguished class of men — among 
scholars as well as among the uninformed — who have 
a passion for disputation, which like other passions 
" grows by what it feeds upon." Yet a limited number 
of such paladins of investigation are not without uses 
in the economy of civilisations. They resemble the 
mighty hunters of old, they extirpate beasts of prey 
which roam the theological forests, and thus they ren- 
der life more safe to dwellers in cities, open to the 
voracious incursions of supernaturalism. 

Without the class of combatants described, in whom 
discussion is irrepressible, and whose courage neither 



1 Buckle truly says, " Liberty is not a means, it is an end in itself." But 
the uses of liberty are means to ends Else why do we want liberty ? 



3° 



ENGLISH SECULARISM. 



odium nor danger abates, many castles of supersti- 
tion would never be stormed. But mere intellectual- 
ism generates a different and less useful species of 
thinkers, who neither hunt in the jungles of theology 
nor storm strongholds. We all know hundreds in every 
great town who have freed themselves, or have been 
freed by others, from ecclesiastical error, who remain 
supine. Content with their own superiority (which 
they owe to the pioneers v/ho went before them more 
generous than they) they speak no word, and lend no 
aid towards conferring the same advantages upon such 
as are still enslaved. They affect to despise the ig- 
norance they ought to be foremost to dissipate. They 
exclaim in the words of Goethe's Coptic song : 

" Fools from their folly 'tis hopeless to stay, 

Mules will be mules by the laws of their mulishness, 
Then be advised and leave fools to their foolishness, 
What from an ass can be got but a bray." 

These Coptic philosophers overlook that they would 
have been "asses" also, had those who vindicated 
freedom before their day, and raised it to a power, 
been as indifferent and as contemptuous as believers 
in the fool-theory are. Coptic thinkers forget that 
every man is a fool in respect of any question on which 
he gives an opinion without having thought independ- 
ently upon it. With patience you can make a thinker 
out of a fool ; and the first step from the fool stage is 
accomplished by a little thinking. It is well to re- 
member the exclamation of Thackeray: "If thou hast 



STATIONARINESS OF CRITICISM. 31 

never been a fool, be sure thou wilt never be a wise 
man." 

It is, however, but justice to some who join the 
stationariness, to own that they have fared badly on 
the warpath against error, and are entitled to the 
sympathy we extend to the battered soldier who falls 
out of the ranks on the march. Grote indicates what 
the severity of the service is, in the following pas- 
sage from his Mischiefs of Natural Religion : — "Of all 
human antipathies that which the believer in a God 
bears to the unbeliever, is the fullest, the most un- 
qualified, and the most universal. The mere circum- 
stance of dissent involves a tacit imputation of error 
and incapacity on the part of the priest, who discerns 
that his persuasive power is not rated so highly by 
others as it is by himself. This invariably begets dis- 
like towards his antagonist." 

Nevertheless it is a reproach to those whom mili- 
tant thought has made free, if they remain unmindful 
of the fate of their inferiors. Yet Christian churches, 
with all self-complacent superiority to which many of 
them are prone, are not free from the sins of indif- 
ference and superfineness. This was conspicuously 
shown by Southey in a letter to Sir Henry Taylor, in 
which he says : — "Have you seen the strange book 
which Anastasius Hope left for publication and which 
his representatives, in spite of all dissuasion, have pub- 
lished? His notion of immortality and heaven is that 
at the consummation of all things he, and you, and I, 



32 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

and John Murray, and Nebuchadnezzar, and Lambert 
the fat man, and the Living Skeleton, and Queen 
Elizabeth, and the Hottentot, Venus, and Thutell, 
and Probert, and the Twelve Apostles, and the noble 
army of martyrs, and Genghis Khan and all his ar- 
mies, and Noah with all his ancestors and all his pos- 
terity, — yea, all men, and all women, and all children 
that have ever been, or ever shall be, saints and sin- 
ners alike, are all to be put together and made into 
one great celestial, eternal human being ... I do not 
like the scheme. I don't like the notion of being 
mixed up with Hume, and Hunt, and Whittle Harvey, 
and Philpotts, and Lord Althorp, and the Huns, and 
the Hottentots, and the Jews, and the Philistines, and 
the Scotch, and the Irish. God forbid ! I hope to be 
I, myself, in an English heaven, with you yourself, — 
you and some others without whom heaven would be 
no heaven to me." 

Most of these persons would have the same dislike 
to be mixed up with Mr. Southey. Lord Byron would 
not have been enthusiastic about it. The Comtists 
have done something to preach a doctrine of humanity, 
and to put an end to this pitiful contempt of a few 
men for their fellows, — fellows who in many respects 
are often superior to those who despise them. 

All superiority is apt to be contemptuous of inferi- 
ors, unless conscience and generosity takes care of it, 
and incites it to instruct inferior natures. The prayer 
of Browning is one of noble discernment : — 



STA TIONARINESS OF CRITICISM. 33 

" Make no more giants, God — 
But elevate the race at once." 

Even free thought, so far as it confines itself to it- 
self, becomes stationary. Like the squirrel in its cage: 

" Whether it turns by wood or wire, 
Never gets one hair's breadth higher." 

If any doubt whether stationariness of thought is 
possible, let them think of Protestantism which climbed 
on to the ledge of private judgment three centuries 
ago — and has remained there. Instead of mounting 
higher and overrunning all the plateaus of error above 
them, it has done its best to prevent any who would 
do it, from ascending. There is now, however, a new 
order of insurgent thought of the excelsior caste which 
seeks to climb the heights. Distinguished writers 
against theology in the past have regarded destructive 
criticism as preparing the way to higher conceptions 
of life and duty. If so little has been done in this 
direction among working class thinkers, it is because 
destructiveness is more easy. It needs only indigna- 
tion to perfect it, and indignation requires no effort. 
The faculty of constructiveness is more arduous in ex- 
ercise, and is later in germination. More men are 
able to take a state than to make a state. Hence Sec- 
ularism, though inevitable as the next stage of mili- 
tant progress, more slowly wins adherents and appre- 
ciation. 



CHAPTER VII. 



THIRD STAGE OF FREE THOUGHT— SECULARISM. 

" Nothing is destroyed until it has been re- 
placed." — Madame de Stael. 

SEEING this wise maxim in a paper by Auguste 
Comte, I asked my friend Wm. de Fonvielle, who 
was in communication with Comte, to learn for me the 
authorship of the phrase. Comte answered that it was 
the Emperor's (Napoleon III.). It first appeared, as I 
afterwards found, in the writings of Madame de Stael, 
and more fully expressed by her. 

Self-regard ing criticism having discovered the in- 
sufficiency of theology for the guidance of man, next 
sought to ascertain what rules human reason may sup- 
ply for the independent conduct of life, which is the 
object of Secularism. 

At first, the term was taken to be a "mask" con- 
cealing sinister features — a "new name for an old 
thing" — or as a substitute term for scepticism or athe 
ism. If impressions were always knowledge, men 
would be wise without inquiry, and explanations would 
be unnecessary. The term Secularism was chosen to 
express the extension of free thought to ethics. Free 



JIIIRD STAGE OF FREE THOUGHT. 35 

thinkers commonly go no further than saying, "We 
search for truth"'; Secularists say we have found it — 
at least, so much as replaces the chief errors and un- 
certainties of theology. 

Harriet Martineau, the most intrepid thinker among 
the women of her day, wrote to Lloyd Garrison a letter 
(inserted in the Liberator, 1853) approving " the term 
Secularism as including a large number of persons who 
are not atheists and uniting them for action, which has 
Secularism for its object. By the adoption of the new 
term avast amount of prejudice is got rid of." At 
length it was seen that the "new term" designated a 
new conception. 

Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life, 
founded on considerations purely human, and intended 
mainly for those who find theology indefinite or inade- 
quate, unreliable or unbelievable. 

Its essential principles are three : 

1. The improvement of this life by material means. 

2. That science is the available^ Providence of man. 

3. That it is good to do good. Whether there be 
other good or not, the good of the present life is good, 
and it is good to seek that good. 

1 M. Aurelius Antoninus said, " I seek the truth by which no maft was ever 
injured." It would be true had he said mankind. Men are continually in- 
jured by the truth, or how do martyrs come, or why do we honor them ? 

2This phrase was a suggestion of my friend the Rev. Dr. H. T. Crosskey 
about 1854. I afterwards used the word "available" which does not deny, 
nor challenge, nor affirm the belief in a theological Providence by others, 
who, therefore, are not incited to assail the effectual proposition that material 
resources are an available Providence where a spiritual Providence is inac- 
tive. 



36 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

Individual good attained by methods conducive to 
the good of others, is the highest aim of man, whether 
regard be had to human welfare in this life or personal 
fitness for another. Precedence is therefore given to 
the duties of this life. 

Being asked to send to the International Congress 
of Liberal Thinkers, (1886), an account of the tenets 
of the English party known as Secularists, I gave the 
following explanation to them. 

"The Secular is that, the issues of which can be 
tested by the experience of this life. 

**The ground common to all self-determined think- 
ers is that of independency of opinion, known as free 
thought, which though but an impulse of intellectual 
courage in the search for truth, or an impulse of ag- 
gression against hurtful or irritating error, or the ca- 
price of a restless mind, is to be encouraged. It is 
necessary to promote independent thought — whatever 
its manner of manifestation — since there can be no 
progress without it. A Secularist is intended to be a 
reasoner, that is as Coleridge defined him, one who 
inquires what a thing is, and not only what it is, but 
why it is what it is. 

"One of two great forces of opinion created in this 
age, is what is known as atheism,^ which deprives su- 
perstition of its standing-ground and compels theism. 
to reason for its existence. The other force is material- 



1 Huxley's term agnosticism implies a dillerent thing— unknowingness 
without denial. 



THIRD STAGE OF FREE THOUGHT. 37 

ism which shows the physical consequences of error, 
supplying, as it were, beacon lights to morality. 

"Though respecting the right of the atheist and 
theist to their theories of the origin of nature, the 
Secularist regards them as belonging to the debat- 
able ground of speculation. Secularism neither asks 
nor gives any opinion upon them, confining itself to 
the entirely independent field of study — the order of 
the universe. Neither asserting nor denying theism 
or a future life, having no sufficient reason to give if 
called upon ; the fact remains that material influences 
exist, vast and available for good, as men have the 
will and wit to employ them. Whatever may be the 
value of metaphysical or theological theories of morals, 
utility in conduct is a daily test of common sense, and 
is capable of deciding intelligently more questions of 
practical duty than any other rule. Considerations 
which pertain to the general welfare, operate without 
the machinery of theological creeds, and over masses 
of men in every land to whom Christian incentives are 
alien, or disregarded. " 



CHAPTER VIII. 



THREE PRINCIPLES VINDICATED. 

"Be -wisely worldly, but not worldly wise." 
— Francis Quarles. 

FIRST PRINCIPLE : Of material means as condi- 
tions of ivelfare in this world. — Theology works 
by "spiritual" means, Secularism by material means. 
Christians and Secularists both intend raising the char- 
acter of the people, but their methods are very differ- 
ent. Christians are now beginning to employ material 
agencies for the elevation of life, which science, and 
not theology, has brought under their notice. But the 
Christian does not trust these agencies; the Secularist 
does, and in his mind the Secular is sacred. Spiritual 
means can never be depended upon for food, raiment, 
art, or national defence. 

The Archbishop of York (Dr. Magee), a clear- 
headed and candid prelate, surprised his contempora- 
ries (at the Diocesan Conference, Leicester, October 
19, 1889") by declaring that "Christianity made no 
claim to rearrange the economic relations of man in 
the State, or in society. He hoped he would be un- 
derstood when he said plainly that it was his firm be- 



THREE PEINCJPLES VINDICATED. 39 

lief that any Christian State, carrying out in all its 
relations, the Sermon on the Mount, could not exist 
for a week. It was perfectly clear that a State could 
not continue to exist upon what were commonly called 
Christian principles." 

From the first. Secularism had based its claims to 
be regarded on the fact that only the rich could afford 
to be Christians, and the poor must look to other prin- 
ciples for deliverance. 

Material means are those which are calculable, 
which are under the control and command of man, 
and can be tested by human experience. No defini- 
tion of Secularism shows its distinctiveness which 
omits to specify material means as its method of pro- 
cedure. 

But for the theological blasphemy of nature, repre- 
senting it as the unintelligent tool of God, the Secular 
would have ennobled common life long ago. Sir God- 
frey Kneller said, "He never looked on a bad picture 
but he carried away in his mind a dirty tint." Secu- 
larism would efface the dirty tints of life which Chris- 
tianity has prayed over, but not removed. 

Second Principle : Of the providence of science. — 
Men are limited in power, and are oft in peril, and 
those who are taught to trust to supernatural aid are 
betrayed to their own destruction. We are told we 
should work as though there were no help in heaven, 
and pray as though there were no help in ourselves. 
Since, however, praying saves no ship, arrests no dis- 



40 ENGLISH SECULARISM, 

ease, and does not pay the tax-gatherer, it is better 
to work at once and without the digression of sinking 
prayer-buckets into empty wells, and spending life in 
drawing nothing up. The word illuminating secular 
life is self-help. The Secularist vexes not the ear of 
heaven by mendicant supplications. His is the only 
religion that gives heaven no trouble. 

Third Principle : Of goodness as fitness for this 
7vorId or another. — Goodness is the service of others 
with a view to their advantage. There is no higher 
human merit. Human welfare is the sanction of mo- 
rality. The measure of a good action is its conducive- 
ness to progress. The utilitarian test of generous right- 
ness in motive may be open to objection, — there is no 
test which is not, — but the utilitarian rule is one com- 
prehensible by every mind. It is the only rule which 
makes knowledge necessary, and becomes more lumi- 
nous as knowledge increases. A fool may be a be- 
liever,^ but not a utilitarian who seeks his ground of 
action in the largest field of relevant facts his mind is 
able to survey. 

Utility in morals is measuring the good of one by 
its agreement with the good of many. Large ideas 
are when a man measures the good of his parish by 
the good of the town, the good of the town by the 
good of the county, the good of the county by the 
good of the country, the good of the country by the 



ITtie Guardian told us about 1887 that the Bishop of Exeter confirmed 
fire idiots. 



THREE PRINCIPLES VINDICATED. 41 

good of the continent, the good of the continent by 
the cosmopolitanism of the world. 

Truth and solicitude for the social welfare of others 
are the proper concern of a soul worth saving. Only 
minds with goodness in them have the desert of future 
existence. Minds without veracity and generosity die. 
The elements of death are in the selfish already. They 
could not live in a better world if they were admitted. 

In a noble passage in his sermon on "Citizen- 
ship" the Rev. Stopford Brooks said: "There are 
thousands of my fellow-citizens, men, and women, and 
children, who are living in conditions in which they 
have no true means of becoming healthy in body, 
trained in mind, or comforted by beauty. Life is as 
hard for them as it is easy for me. I cannot help them 
by giving them money, one by one, but I can help 
them by making the condition of their life easier by a 
good government of the city in which they live. And 
even if the charge on my property for this purpose in- 
creases for a time, year by year, till the work is done, 
that charge I will gladly pay. It shall be my ethics, 
my religion, my patriotism, my citizenship to do it."^ 
The great preacher whose words are here cited, like 
Theodore Parker, the Jupiter of the pulpit in his day, 
as Wendell Phillips described him to me, is not a 
Secularist ; but he expresses here the religion of the 

1 Preached in reference to the London County Council election, March, 
189s. 



42 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

Secularist, if such a person can be supposed to have 
a religion. 

A theological creed which the base may hold, and 
usually do, has none of the merit of deeds of service 
to humanity, which only the good intentionally per- 
form. Conscience is the sense of right with regard to 
others, it is a sense of duty towards others which tells 
us that we should do justice to them ; and if not able 
to do it individually, to endeavor to get it done by 
others. At St. Peter's Gate there can be no passport 
so safe as this. He was not far wrong who, when 
asked where heaven lay, answered: "On the other 
side of a good action." 

If, as Dr. James Martineau says, "there is a 
thought of God in the thing that is true, and a will of 
God in that which is right," Secularism, caring for 
truth and duty, cannot be far wrong. Thus, it has a 
reasonable regard for the contingencies of another life 
should it supervene. Reasoned opinions rely for justi- 
fication upon intelligent conviction, and a well in- 
formed sincerity. 

The Secularist, is without presumption of an in- 
fallible creed, is without the timorous indefiniteness 
of a creedless believer. He does not disown a creed 
because theologians have promulgated Jew-bound, 
unalterable articles of faitli. The Secularist has a 
creed as definite as science, and as flexible as pro- 
gress, increasing as the horizon of truth is enlarged. 
His creed is a confession of his belief. There is more 



THREE PRINCIPLES VINDICA'lED. 43 

unity of opinion among self-thinkers than is supposed. 
They all maintain the necessity of independent opin- 
ion, for they all exercise it. They all believe in the 
moral rightfulness of independent thought, or they are 
guilty for propagating it. They all agree as to the 
right of publishing well-considered thought, otherwise 
thinking would be of little use. They all approve of 
free criticism, for there could be no reliance on thought 
which did not use, or could not bear that. All agree 
as to the equal action of opinion, without which opin- 
ion would be fruitless and action a monopoly. All 
agree that truth is the object of free thought, for many 
have died to gain it. All agree that scrutiny is the 
pathway to truth, for they have all passed along it. 
They all attach importance to the good of this life, 
teaching this as the first service to humanity. All are 
of one opinion as to the efficacy of material means in 
promoting human improvement, for they alone are 
distinguished by vindicating their use. All hold that 
morals are effectively commended by reason, for all 
self-thinkers have taught so. All believe that God, if 
he exists, is the God of the honest, and that he re- 
spects conscience more than creeds, for all free think- 
ers have died in this faith. Independent thinkers from 
Socrates to Herbert Spencer and Huxley^ have all 
agreed : 

In the necessity of free thought. 

1 See Biographical Dictionary of Free Thinkers of all Ages and Nations, by 
J. M. Wheeler, and Four Hundred Years of Free Thought from Columbus to 
Ingersoll, by Samuel Porter Putnam, containing upwards of 1,000 biographies. 



^4 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

In the rightfulness of it. 

In the adequacy of it. 

In the considerate pubHcity of it. 

In the fair criticism of it. 

In the equal action of conviction. 

In the recognition of this life, and 

In the material control of it. 

The Secularist, like Karpos the gardener, may say 
of his creed, " Its points are few and simple. They 
are : to be a good citizen, a good husband, a good 
father, and a good workman. I go no further," said 
Karpos, "but pray God to take it all in good part and 
have mercy on my soul."* 

1 Dialogue between Karpos the gardener and Bashiew Tucton, by Voltaire. 



CHAPTER IX. 



HOW SECULARISM AROSE. 

" We must neither lead nor leave men to 
mistake falsehood for truth. Not to undeceive 
is to deceive." — Archbishop Whately. 

T)EING one of the social missionaries in the propa- 
^ ganda of Robert Owen, I was, like H. Viewssiew, a 
writer of those days, a "student of realities." It soon 
became clear to me, as to others, that men are much 
influenced for good or evil, by their environments. 
The word was unused then, "circumstances" was the 
term employed. Then as now there were numerous 
persons everywhere to be met with who explained 
everything on supernatural principles with all the con- 
fidence of infinite knowledge. Not having this advan- 
tage, I profited as well as I could by such observation 
as was in my power to make. I could see that ma- 
terial laws counted for something in the world. This 
led me to the conclusion that the duty of watching the 
ways of nature was incumbent on all who would find 
true conditions of human betterment, or new reasons 
for morality — both very much needed. To this end 
the. name of Secularism was given to certain princi- 



46 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

pies which had for their object human improvement 
by material means, regarding science as the provi- 
dence of man and justifying morality by considera- 
tions which pertain to this life alone. 

The rise and development (if I may use so fine a 
term) of these views may be traced in the following 
records. 

1. "Materialism will be advanced as the only sound 
basis of rational thought and practice." (Prospectus 
of the Movement, 1843, written by me.) 

2. Five prizes awarded to me, for lectures to the 
Manchester Order of Odd-fellows. These Degree Ad- 
dresses (1846) were written on the principle that mo- 
rality, apart from theology, could be based on human 
reason and experience. 

3. The Reasoner restricts itself to the known, to 
the present, and seeks to realise the life that is. (Pref- 
ace to the Reasoner, 1846.) 

4. A series of papers was commenced in the i?^a- 
j^;«^r entitled "The Moral Remains of the Bible," one 
object of which was to show that those who no longer 
held the Bible as an infallible book, might still value 
it wherein it was ethically excellent. {Reasoner, Vol. 
v., No. 106, p. 17, 1848.) 

5. " To teach men to see that the sum of all knowl- 
edge and duty is Secular and that it pertains to this 
world alone." {Reasoner, Nov. 19, 1851. Article, 
"Truths to Teach," p. i. 

This was the first time the word "Secular "was 



HOiy SECULARISM AKOSE. 47 

applied as a general test of principles of conduct apart 
from spiritual considerations. 

6. " Giving an account of ourselves in the whole 
extent of opinion, we should use the word Secularist 
as best indicating that province of human duty which 
belongs to this life." {Reasoner, Dec. 3, 1851, p. 34. 

This was the first time the word "Secularist" ap- 
peared in literature as descriptive of a new way of 
thinking. 

7. " Mr. Holyoake, editor of the Reasoner, will lay 
before the meeting [then proposed] the present posi- 
tion of Secularism in the provinces." {Reasoner, Dec, 
10, 1851, p. 62.) 

This was the first time the word "Secularism " ap- 
peared in the press. 

The meeting above mentioned was held December 
29, 1851, at which the statement made might betaken 
as an epitome of this book. (See Reasoner, No. 294, 
Vol. 12, p. 129. 1852.) 

8. A letter on the "Future of Secularism" ap- 
peared in the Reasoner. {Reasoner, Feb. 4, 1852, p. 
187.) 

This was the first time Secularism was written upon 
as a movement. The term was the heading of a letter 
by Charles Frederick NichoUs. 

9. "One public purpose is to obtain the repeal of 
all acts of Parliament which interfere with Secular 
practice." (Article, "Nature of Secular Societies," 
Reasoner, No. 325, p. 146, Aug. 18, 1852.) 



43 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

This is exactly the attitude Secularism takes with 
regard to the Bible and to Christianity. It rejects 
such parts of the Scriptures, or of Christianism, or 
Acts of Parliament, as conflict with or obstruct ethical 
truth. We do not seek the repeal of all Acts of Parlia- 
ment, but only of such as interfere with Secular pro- 
gress. 

lo. "The friends of * Secular Education ' [the Man- 
chester Association was then so known] are not Secu- 
larists. They do not pretend to be so, they do not 
even wish to be so regarded, they merely use the word 
Secular as an adjective, as applied to a mode of in- 
struction. We apply it to the nature of all knowledge. " 
We use the noun Secularism. No one else has done 
it. With others the term Secular is merely a descrip- 
tive ; with us the term is used as a subject. With 
others it is a branch of knowledge ; with us it is the 
primary business of life, — the name of the province of 
speculation to which we confine ourselves.^ When so 
used in these pages the word "Secularism" or "Sec- 
ularist" is employed to mark the distinction. 

A Bolton clergyman reported in the Bolton Guard- 
ian that Mr. Holyoake had announced as the first sub- 
ject of his Lectures, "Why do the Clergy Avoid Dis- 
cussion and the Secularists Seek it? " {Reasoner, No. 
328, p. 294, Vol. 12, 1852. 

These citations from my own writings are sufficient 



iSee article "The Seculars — the Propriety of Their Name," by G.J. 
Holyoake. Reasoner, p. 177, Sep. i, 1852. 



HOW SECULARISM AROSE. 49 

to show the origin and nature of Secularism. Such 
views were widely accepted by liberal thinkers of the 
day, as an improvement and extension of free thought 
advocacy. Societies were formed, halls were given a 
Secular name, and conferences were held to organise 
adherents of the new opinion. The first was held in 
the Secular Institute, Manchester (Oct. 3, 1852). Del- 
egates were sent from Societies in Ashton-under-Lyne, 
Bolton, Blackburn, Bradford, Burnley, Bury, Glas- 
gow, Keighley, Leigh, London, Manchester, Miles 
Platting, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Oldham, Over Darwen, 
Owen's Journal, Paisley, Preston, Rochdale, Stafford, 
Sheffield, Stockport, Todmorden. 

Among the delegates were many well known, long 
known, and some still known — James Charlton (now 
the famous manager of the Chicago and Alton Rail- 
way), Abram Greenwood (now the cashier of the Co- 
operative Wholesale Bank of Manchester), William 
Mallalieu of Todmorden (familiarly known as the 
** Millionaire " of the original Rochdale Pioneers), 
Dr. Hiram Uttley of Burnley, John Crank of Stock- 
port, Thomas Hayes, then of Miles Platting, now 
manager of the Crumpsall Biscuit Works of the Co- 
operative Wholesale Society, Joseph Place of Notting- 
ham, James Motherwell of Paisley, Dr. Henry Travis 
(socialist writer on Owen's system), Samuel Ingham 
of Manchester, J. R. Cooper of Manchester, and the 
present writer. 



CHAPTER X. 



HOW SECULARISM WAS DIFFUSED. 

•'Only by varied iteration can alien con- 
ceptions be forced on reluctant minds." 

— Herbert Spencer, 

IN 1853 the Six-Night Discussion took place in 
Cowper Street School Rooms, London, with the 
Rev. Brewin Grant, B. A. A report was published by 
Partridge and Oakley at 2s. 6d , of which 45,900 were 
sold, which widely diffused a knowledge of Secularis- 
tic views. Our adversary had been appointed with 
clerical ceremony, on a "Three years' mission" against 
us. He had wit, readiness, and an electric velocity of 
speech, boasting that he could speak three times faster 
than any one else. But he proved to be of use to us 
without intending it, 

' ' His acrid words 
Turned the sweet milk of kindness into curds." 

whereby he set many against the cause he represented. 
He had the cleverness to see that there ought to be a 
"Christian Secularism," which raised Secularism to 
the level of Christian curiosity. In Glasgow, in 1854, 
I met Mr. Grant again during several nights' discus- 



HOIV SECULARISM WAS DIFFUSED. 51 

sion in the City Hall. This debate also was published, 
as was one of three nights with the Rev. J. H. Ruther- 
ford (afterwards Dr. Rutherford) in Newcastle on 
Tyne, who aimed to prove that Christianity contained 
the better Secularism. Thus that new form of free 
thought came to have public recognition. 

The lease of a house, 147 Fleet Street, was bought 
(1852), where was established a Secular Institute, con- 
nected with printing, book-selling, and liberal pub- 
lishing. Further conferences were held in July, 1854, 
one at Stockport. At an adjourned conference Mr. 
Joseph Barker (whom we had converted) presided.^ 
We had a London Secular Society which met at the 
Hall of Science, City Road, and held its Council meet- 
ings in Mr. Le Blond's handsome house in London 
Wall. This work, and much more, was done before 
and while Mr. Bradlaugh (who afterwards was con- 
spicuously identified with the movement) was in the 
army. 

It was in 1854 that I published the first pamphlet 
on Secularism the Practical Philosophy of the People. It 
commenced by showing the necessity of independent, 
self-helping, self-extricating opinions. Its opening 
passage was as follows : 

"In a state of society in which every inch of land, 
every blade of grass, every spray of water, every bird 
and flower has an owner, what has the poor man to 
do with orthodox religion which begins by proclaim- 

\Reasoner, No. 428, Vol. XVII., p. 87. 



Sa 



ENGLISH SECULARISM. 



ing him a miserable sinner, and ends by leaving him 
a miserable slave, as far as unrequited toil goes ? 

"The poor man finds himself in an armed world 
where might is God, and poverty is fettered. Abroad 
the hired soldier blocks up the path of freedom, and 
the priest the path of progress. Every penniless man, 
woman, and child is virtually the property of the cap- 
italist, no less in England than is the slave in New 
Orleans. 1 Society blockades poverty, leaving it scarce 
escape. The artisan is engaged in an imminent strug- 
gle against wrong and injustice ; then what has he 
the struggler, to do with doctrines which brand him 
with inherited guilt, which paralyse him by an arbit- 
rary faith, which deny saving power to good works, 
which menace him with eternal perdition?" 

The two first works of importance, controverting 
Secularist principles, were by the Rev. Joseph Parker 
and Dr. J. A. Langford; Dr. Parker was ingenious, 
Dr. Langford eloquent. I had discussed with Dr. 
Parker in Banbury. In his Six Chapters on Secularism'^ 
which was the title of his book, he makes pleasant 
references to that debate. The Christian Weekly News 
of that day said: "These Six Chapters have been 
written by a young provincial minister of great power 
and promise, of whom the world has not yet heard, 
but of whom it will hear pleasing things some day." 



1 Not entirely so. The English slave can run away — at his own peril, 
t Published by my, then, neighbour, William Freeman, of 69 Fleet Street, 
himself an energetic, pleasant-minded Christian. 



//OIV SECULARISM WAS DIFFUSED. 53 

This prediction has come true. I had told Mr. Free- 
man that the "young preacher" had given me that 
impression in the discussion with him. Dr. Parker 
said in his first Chapter that, "If the New Testament 
teachings oppose our own consciousness, violate our 
moral sense, lead us out of sympathy with humanity, 
then we shall abandon them." This was exactly the 
case of Secularism which he undertook to confute. 
Dr. Langford held a more rational religion than Dr. 
Parker. His Answer, which reached a "second thou- 
sand, had passages of courtesy and friendship, yet he 
contended with graceful vigor against opinions — three- 
fourths of which justified his own. 

In an address delivered Sept. 29, 1851, I had said 
that, "There were three classes of persons opposed 
to Christianity : — 

"I. The dissolute. 

"2. The indifferent. 

"3. The intellectually independent. 

"The dissolute are against Christianity because 
they regard it as a foe to sensuality. The indifferent 
reject it through being ignorant of it, or not having 
time to attend to it, or not caring to attend to it, or 
not being able to attend to it, through constitutional 
insensibility to its appeals. The intellectually inde- 
pendent avoid it as opposed to freedom, morality and 
progress." It was to these classes, and not to Chris- 
tians, that Secularism was addressed. Neither Dr. 
Parker nor Dr. Langford took notice that it was in- 



54 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

tended to furnish ethical guidance where Christianity, 
whatever might be its quality, or pretensions, or merit, 
was inoperative.^ 

The new form of free thought under the title of the 
** Principles of Secularism" was submitted to John 
Stuart Mill, to whose friendship and criticism I had 
often been indebted, and he approved the statement 
as one likely to be useful to those outside the pale of 
Christianity. 

A remarkable thing occurred in 1854. A prize of 
j^ioo was offered by the Evangelical Alliance for the 
best book on the "Aspects, Causes, and Agencies" of 
what they called by the odious apostolic defamatory 
name of " Infidelity."^ The Rev. Thomas Pearson of 
Eyemouth won the prize by a brilliant book, which I 
praised for its many relevant quotations, its instruc- 
tion and fairness, but I represented that its price (los. 
6d.) prevented numerous humble readers from pos- 
sessing it. The Evangelical Alliance inferred that the 
"relevancy" was on their side, altogether, whereas I 
meant relevant to the argument and to those supposed 
to be confuted by it. They resolved to issue twenty- 
thousand copies at one shilling a volume. The most 
eminent Evangelical ministers and congregations of the 

1 In 1857 Dr. Joseph Parker published a maturer and more important vol- 
ume, Helps to Truth Seekers, or, Christianity and Scepticism, containing "The 
Secularist Theory — A Critique." At a distance of more than thirty-five 
years it seems to tne an abler book, from the Christian point of view, than I 
thought it on its appearance. 

2 A term of intentional o£fence as here used. Infidelity means treachery 
to the truth, whereas the heretic has often sacrificed bis life from fidelity 
toil. 



JJOIV SECULARISM WAS DIFFUSED. 55 

day subscribed to the project. Four persons put down 
their names for one thousand copies each, and a strong 
list of subscribers was sent out. Unfortunately I pub- 
lished another article intending to induce readers of the 
Reasoner to procure copies, as they would find in its can- 
did pages a wealth of quotations of free-thought opin- 
ion with which very few were acquainted. The number 
of eminent writers, dissentients from Christianity, and 
the force and felicity of their objections to it, as cited 
by Mr. Pearson, would astonish and instruct Chris- 
tians who were quite unfamiliar with the historic litera- 
ture of heretical thought. This unwise article stopped 
the project. The "Shilling Edition" never appeared, 
and the public lost the most useful and informing book 
written against us in my time. The Rev. Mr. Pearson 
died not long after ; all too soon, for he was a minister 
who commanded respect. He had research, good 
faith, candor, and courtesy, qualities rare in his day. 



CHAPTER XI. 



SECULAR INSTRUCTION DISTINCT FROM 
SECULARISM. 

"A mariner must have his eye on the rock 
and the sand as well as upon the North Star." 
— Maxitn of the Sea. 

IT IS time now to point out, what many never seem 
to understand, that Secular instruction is entirely 
distinct from Secularism. In my earlier days the term 
** scientific" was the distressing word in connexion 
with education, but the trouble of later years is with 
the word "Secular." Theological critics run on the 
"rock" there. 

Many persons regard Secular teaching with dis- 
trust, thinking it to be the same as Secularism. Sec- 
ular instruction is known by the sign of separateness. 
It means knowledge given apart from theology. Sec- 
ular instruction comprises a set of rules for the guid- 
ance of industry, commerce, science, and art. Secular 
teaching is as distinct from theology as a poem from a 
sermon. A man may be a mathematician, an archi- 
tect, a lawyer, a musician, or a surgeon, and be a 



SECULAR INSTRUCTION. 57 

Christian all the same ; as Faraday was both a chem- 
ist and a devout Sandemanian ; as Buckland was a 
geologist as well as a Dean. But if theology be mixed 
up with professional knowledge, there will be muddle- 
headedness.^ At a separate time, theology can be 
taught, and any learner will have a clearer and more 
commanding knowledge of Christianity by its being 
distinctive in his mind. Secular instruction neither 
assails Christianity nor prejudices the learner against 
it; anymore than sculpture assails jurisprudence, or 
than geometry prejudices the mind against music. If 
the Secular instructor made it a point, as he ought to 
do, to inculcate elementary ideas of morality, he would 
confine himself to explaining how far truth and duty 
have sanctions in considerations purely human — leav- 
ing it to teachers of religion to supplement at another 
time and place, what they believe to be further and 
higher sanctions. 

Secular instruction implies that the proper busi- 
ness of the school-teacher is to impart a knowledge of 
the duties of this world ; and the proper business of 
chapel and church is to explain the duties relevant 
to another world, which can only be done in a second- 
hand way by the school-teacher. The wonder is that 
the pride of the minister does not incite him to keep 
his own proper work in his own hands, and protest 

1 Edward Baines (afterwards Sir Edward) was the ^i eatest opponent in 
his day, of national schools and Secular instruction, sent his son to a Secular 
school, because he wanted him to be clever as well as Christian. He was 
both as I well know. 



58 ENGLISH SECULARISM, 

against the school-teacher meddling with it. By doing 
so he would augment his own dignity and the distinc- 
tiveness of his office. 

By keeping each kind of knowledge apart, a man 
learns both, more easily and more effectually. Secu- 
lur training is better for the scholar and safer for the 
State ; and better for the priest if he has a faith that 
can stand by itself. 

If the reader does not distrust it as a paradox, he 
will assent that the Secular is distinct from Secularism, 
as distinct as an act is distinct from its motive. Secu- 
lar teaching comprises a set of rules of instruction in 
trade, business, and professional knowledge. Secular- 
ism furnishes a set of principles for the ethical con- 
duct of life. Secular instruction is far more limited in 
its range than Secularism which defends secular pur- 
suits against theology, where theology attacks them 
or obstructs them. But pure Secular knowledge is 
confined to its own pursuit, and does not come in con- 
tact with theology any more than architecture comes 
in contact with preaching. 

A man may be a shareholder in a gas company or 
a waterworks, a house owner, a landlord, a farmer, or 
a workman. All these are secular pursuits, and he 
who follows them may consult only his own interest. 
But if he be a Secularist, he will consider not only his 
own interest, but, as far as he can, the welfare of the 
community or the world, as his action or example may 
tell for the good of universal society. He will do "his 



SECULAR INSTRUCTJO.V. 59 

best," not as Mr. Ruskin says, '*the best of an ass," 
but "the best of an intelligent man." In every act he 
will put his conscience and character with a view so 
to discharge the duties of this life as to merit another, 
if there be one. Just as a Christian seeks to serve 
God, a Secularist seeks to serve man. This it is to be 
a Secularist. The idea of this service is what Secular- 
ism puts into his mind. Professor Clifford exclaimed : 
"The Kingdom of God has come — when comes the 
Kingdom of man ? A Secularist is one who hastens 
the coming of this kingdom : which must be agreeable 
to heaven if the people of this world are to occupy the 
mansions there. 



CHAPTER XII. 



THE DISTINCTIVENESS MADE FURTHER EVIDENT. 

"The cry that so-called secular education 
is Atheistic is hardly worth notice. Cricket is 
not theolo|;ical ; at the same time, it is not 
Atheistic."— ^«w. Joseph Parker, D. D., Times, 
October iz, 1894. 

ATOR is Secularism atheism. The laws of the uni- 
^ ^ verse are quite distinct from the question of the 
origin of the universe. The study of the laws of nature, 
which Secularism selects, is quite different from spec- 
ulation as to the authorship of nature. We may judge 
and prize the beauty and uses of an ancient edifice, 
though we may never know the builder. Secularism 
is a form of opinion which concerns itself only with 
questions the issues of which can be tested by the ex- 
perience of this life. It is clear that the existence of 
deity and the actuality of another life, are questions 
excluded from Secularism, which exacts no denial of 
deity or immortality, from members of Secularist so- 
cieties. During their day only two persons of public 
distinction — the Bishop of Peterborough and Charles 
Bradlaugh — maintained that the Secular was athe- 
istic. Yet Mr. Bradlaugh never put a profession of 



THE DISTINCTIVENESS MADE EVIDENT. 6i 

atheism as one of the tenets of any Secularist Society. 
Atheism may be a personal tenet, but it cannot be a 
Secularist tenet, from which it is wholly disconnected. 

No one would confuse the Secular with the atheistic 
who understood that the Secular is separate. Mr. 
Hodgson Pratt, a Christian, writing in Concord (Octo- 
ber, 1894), a description of the burial of Angelo Maz- 
zoleni, said "the funeral was entirely Secular," mean- 
ing the ceremony was distinct from that of the Church, 
being based on considerations pertaining to duty in 
this world. 

In the indefiniteness of colloquial speech we con- 
stantly hear the phrase, "School Board education." 
Yet School Boards cannot give education. It is be- 
yond their reach. Most persons confuse instruction 
with education. Instruction relates to industrial, com- 
mercial, agricultural, and scientific knowledge and like 
subjects. Education implies the complete training 
and "drawing out of the whole powers of the mind."^ 
Thus instruction is different from education. Instruc- 
tion is departmental knowledge. Education includes 
all the influences of life ; instruction gives skill, edu- 
cation forms character. 

The Rev. Dr. Parker is the first Nonconformist 
preacher of distinction who has avowed his concur- 
rence with Secular instruction in Board Schools. When 
Mr. W. E. Forster was framing his Education Act, I 

. 1 Henry Drummond gave this definition in the House of Commons, and it 
was adopted by W. J. Fox and other leaders of opinion in that day. 



63 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

besought him to raise English educational policy to 
the level of the much smoking, much-pondering Dutch. 
" The system of education in Holland dates from 1857. 
It is a Secular system, meaning by Secular that the 
Bible is not allowed to be read in schools, nor is any 
religious instruction allowed to be given. The use of 
the school-room is, however, granted to ministers of all 
denominations for the purpose of teaching religion out 
of school-hours. The schoolmaster is not allowed to 
give religious instruction, or even to read the Bible in 
school at any time."^ No State rears better citizens or 
better Christians than the Dutch. Mr. Gladstone, 
with his customary discernment, has said that "Sec- 
ular instruction does not involve denial of religious 
teaching, but merely separation in point of time." It 
seems incredible that Christian ministers, generally, 
do not see the advantage of this. I should probably 
have become a Christian preacher myself, had it not 
been for the incessantness with which religion was ob- 
truded on me in childhood and youth. Even now my 
mind aches when I think of it. For myself, I respect 
the individuality of piety. It is always picturesque. 
Looking at religion from the outside, I can see that 
concrete sectarianism is a source of religious strength. 
A man is only master of his own faith when he sees it 
clearly, distinctly, and separately. Rather than per- 
mit Secular instruction and religious education to be 

1 Report from the Hague, by Mr. (now Right Hon.) Jesse Collings, M. P., 
May, 187a 



THE DISTINCTIVENESS MADE EVIDENT. 63 

imparted separately, Christian ministers permit the 
great doctrines they profess to maintain to be whittled 
down to a School Board average, in which, when done 
honestly towards all opinions, no man can discern 
Christianity without the aid of a microscope. And this 
passes, in these days, for good ecclesiastical policy. 
In a recent letter (November, 1894) Mr. Gladstone 
has re-affirmed his objection to "an undenominational 
system of religion framed by, or under the authority 
of, the State." He says : "It would, I think, be better 
for the State to limit itself to giving Secular instruc- 
tion, which, of course, is no complete education." Mr. 
Gladstone does not confound Secular instruction with 
'education, but is of the way of thinking of Miltou, 
who says: "I call a complete and generous education 
that which fits a man to perform justly^ skilfully, and 
magnanimously all the offices, both private and pub- 
lic, of peace and war." Secular instruction touches 
no doctrine, menaces no creed, raises no scepticism in 
the mind. But an average of belief introduces the 
aggressive hand of heresy into every school, tampering 
with tenets rooted in the conscience, wantonly alarm- 
ing religious convictions, and substituting for a clear, 
frank, and manly issue a disastrous, blind, and timid 
policy, wriggling along like a serpent instead of walk- 
ing with self-dependent erectness. This manly erect- 
ness would be the rule were the formula of the great 
preacher accepted who has said: "Secular education 
by the State, and Christian education by the Chris- 



64 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

tian Church is my motto. "^ Uniformity of truth is de- 
sirable, and it will come, not by contrivance, but by 
conviction. 

Some one quoted lately in the Daily News (Sep- 
tember 19, 1895) the following sentences I wrote in 
1870: 

"With secular instruction only in the day school, religion 
will acquire freshness and new force. The clergyman and the 
minister will exercise a new influence, because their ministrations 
will have dignity and definiteness. They will no longer delegate 
things declared by them to be sacred to be taught second-hand by 
the harassed, overworked, and oft-reluctant schoolmaster and 
schoolmistress, who must contradict the gentleness of religion by 
the peremptoriness of the pedagogue, and efface the precept that 
' God is love ' by an incontinent application of the birch. ... It is 
not secular instruction which breeds irreverence, but this ill-timed 
familiarity with the reputed things of God which robs divinity of 
its divineness." 

The Bible in the school-room will not always be to 
the advantage of clericalism, as it is thought to be 
now. 

Mr. Forster's Education Act created what Mr. 
Disraeli contemptuously described as a new "sacer- 
dotal caste," — a body of second-hand preachers, who 
are to be paid by the money of the State to do the 
work which the minister and the clergyman avow they 
are called by heaven to perform, — namely, to save 
the souls of the people. According to this Act, the 
clergy are really no longer necessary ; their work can 

1 The Rev. Joseph Parker, D. D. 



THE DISTINCTIVENESS MADE EVIDENT. 65 

be done by a commoner and cheaper order of artificer. 
Mr. Forster insisted that the Bible be introduced into 
the school-room, which gives great advantage to the 
Freethinker, as it makes a critical agitation against 
its character and pretensions a matter of self-defence 
for every family. Another eminent preacher, Mr. C. 
H. Spurgeon, wrote, not openly in the Times as Dr. 
Parker did, but in The Sword and Trowel thus : "We 
should like to see established a system of universal 
application, which would give a sound Secular educa- 
tion to children, and leave the religious training to 
the home and the agencies of the Church of Christ." 
It is worthy of the radiant common sense of the fa- 
mous orator of the Tabernacle that he should have 
said this anywhere. 



CHAPTER XIII. 



SELF-DEFENSIVE FOR THE PEOPLE. 

"What suits the gods above 
Only the gods can know ; 
What we want is This World's sense 
How to live below." 

BY its nature, Secularism is tolerant with regard to 
religions. I once drew up a code of rules for an 
atheistic school. One rule was that the children should 
be taught the tenets of the Christian, Catholic, Mos- 
lem, Jewish, and the leading theological systems of 
the world, as well as Secularistic and atheistic forms 
of thought ; so that when the pupil came to years of 
discretion he might be able, intelligently, to choose a 
faith for himself. Less than this would be a fraud 
upon the understanding of a man. In matters wiiich 
concern himself alone, he must be free to choose for 
himself, and know what he is choosing from. That 
form of belief which has misgivings as to whether it 
can stand by itself, is to be distrusted. 

It is the scandal of Christianity that, for twenty- 
five years, it has paralysed School Board instruction 
by its discord of opinion as to the religious tenets to 



SELF-DEFENSIVE FOR THE PEOPLE. 67 

be imparted ; while in Secularity there is no disunity. 
Everybody is agreed upon the rules of arithmetic. The 
laws of grammar command general assent. There are 
no rival schools upon the interpretation of geometrical 
problems. It is only in divinity that irreconcilable 
diversity exists. When Secular instruction is con- 
ceded, denominational differences will be respected, 
as aspects of the integrity of conscience, which no 
longer obstruct the intellectual progress of the peo- 
ple. 

But there are graver issues than the pride and pref- 
erence of the preacher; namely, the welfare of the 
children of the people. What the working classes want 
is an industrial education. Poverty is a battle, and 
the poor are always in a conflict — a conflict-in which 
the most ignorant ever go to the wall. The accepted 
policy of the State leaves the increase of population to 
chance. It suffers none to be killed ; it compels people 
to be kept alive, and abandons their subsistence to the 
accident of capitalists requiring to hire their services. 
Thus our great towns are crowded with families, im- 
pelled there by the wild forces of hunger and of pas- 
sion. From the workingman thus situated, the gov- 
erning class exacts four duties : 

1. That he shall give the parish no disquietude by 
asking it to maintain his family. 

2. That he shall pay whatever taxes are leyied 
upon him. 

3. That he shall give no trouble to the police. 



68 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

4. That he shall fight generally whomsoever the 
Government may see fit to involve the nation in war 
with. 

Whatever knowledge is necessary to enable the 
future workman to do these things, is his right, and 
should be given to him in his youth in the speediest 
manner ; and any other inculcation which shall delay 
this knowledge on its way, or confuse the learner in 
acquiring it, is a cruelty to him and a peril to the com- 
munity which permits it ; and the State, were it dis- 
cerning and just, would forbid it. 

In April, 1870, in a letter which appeared in the 
Spectator y I wrote as follows : 

"In the speech of the Bishop of Peterborough, delivered at 
the Educational Conference at Leicester, and published in a sep- 
arate form by the National Education Union, his Lordship quotes 
from a recent letter of mine to the Daily News some words in 
which I explained that ' unsectarian education amounts to a new 
species of parliamentary piety.' It is a satisfaction to find that the 
Bishop of Peterborough is able to * entirely endorse these words. ' 
The Bishop asks : ' Whose words do you suppose they are ? They 
are the words of that reactionary maintainer of creeds and dogmas 
— Mr. Holyoake. ' So far from being a ' reactionary ' in this mat- 
ter, I have always maintained that every form of sincere opinion, 
religious or secular, should have free play and fair play. I have 
never varied in advocating the right of free utterance and free ac- 
tion of all earnest conviction. The State requires a self-support- 
ing and tax-paying population. But the State cannot insure this, 
except by imparting productive knowledge to the people. It is 
necessary for the people to receive, it is the interest of the State to 
give, productive instruction in national schools." 



SELF-DEFENSIVE FOR THE PEOPLE. 69 

If people realised how much extended secular in- 
struction is needed, they would be impatient with the 
obstruction of it by contending sects. Children want 
industrial education to fit them for emigrants. A 
knowledge of soils, of cattle, of climate, and crops, 
and how to nail up a wigwam and grow pork and 
corn, is what they need. For want of such knowledge 
Clerkenwell watchmakers, Northampton shoemakers, 
Lancashire weavers, and Durham miners perish as 
emigrants, and their bones bleach the prairies. Yet 
all orthodox teaching turns out its pupils uninstructed, 
for, as Tillottson has said, "He that does not know 
those things which are of use and necessity for him 
to know, is but an ignorant man, whatever he may 
know beside." To know this world, and the Secular 
conditions of prosperity in it, is indispensable to the 
people. 

Christianity is entirely futile in industry. If a 
workman cannot pay his taxes, the most devout Chan- 
cellor of the Exchequer will not abate sixpence in con- 
sideration of the defaulter's piety. The poor man may 
believe in the Thirty-nine Articles, be able to recite 
all the Collects ; he may spend his Sundays at church, 
and his evenings at prayer- meeting; but the reverend 
magistrate, who has confirmed him and preached to 
him, will send him to gaol if he does not pay. The 
sooner workmen understand that Christianity has no 
commercial value, the better for them. 

Why should purely Secular instruction be regarded 



70 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

with distrust, when purely religious education does 
not answer ? It does not appear in human experience 
that purely religious teaching, even when dispensed 
in a clergyman's family, is a security for good con- 
duct. It is matter of common remark that the sons 
of clergymen turn out worse than the sons of parents 
in other professions. 

We want no whining or puling population. The 
elements of science and morality will give children 
the use of their minds, and minds to use, and teach 
justice and kindness, self-direction, self-reliance, forti- 
tude, and truth. There is piety in this instruction, — 
piety to mankind, — exactly that sort of piety for the 
want of which society suffers. 

The principles for which during two centuries Non- 
conformity in England has contended are, that the 
State should forbid no religion, impose no religion, 
teach no religion, pay no religion. In 1870, the year 
in which Mr. Forster's Act came into operation, I was 
the only person who issued a public address to the 
"School Board Electors" in favor of free compulsory, 
and Secular instruction. Two of the proposals, the 
least likely to be favorably received, have since been 
adopted. The turn of the third must be near, unless 
fools are always at the polls* 



CHAPTER XIV. 



REJECTED TENETS REPLACED BY BETTER. 

"False ideas can be confuted by argument, 
but it is only by true ideas they can be ex- 
pelled." — Cardinal Newman. 

ERROR will live wherever vermin of the mind may 
burrow ; and error, if expelled, will return to its 
accustomed haunt, unless its place be otherwise occu- 
pied by some tenant of truth. Suppose that criticism 
has established : 

1. That God is unknown. 

2. That a future life is unprovable. 

3. That the Bible is not a practical guide. 

4. That Providence sleeps. 

5. That prayer is futile. 

6. That original sin is untrue. 

7. That eternal perdition is unreal. 

What is free thought going to do? All these the- 
ological ideas, however untrue, are forces of opinion 
on the side of error. After taking these doctrines out 
of the minds of men, as far as reasoning criticism may 
do it, what is proposed to be put in their place? When 
we call out to men that they are going down a wrong 



7a ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

road, we are more likely to arrest their attention if we 
can point out the right road to take. 

No mind is ever entirely empty. The objection to 
ignorance is not that it has no ideas, but that it has 
wrong ones. Its ideas are narrow, cramped, vicious. 
It likes without reason, hates without cause, and is 
suspicious of what it might trust. It is not enough to 
tell a man who is eating injurious food that it will harm 
him. If he has no other aliment, he must go on feed- 
ing upon what he has. If you cannot supply better, 
you cannot reproach him who takes the bad. But if 
you have true principles, they should be offered as 
substitutes for the false. Secularist truth should tread 
close upon the heels of theological error. 

1. For the study of the origin of the universe Sec- 
ularism substitutes the study of the laws and uses of 
the universe, which. Cardinal Newman admitted, might 
be regarded as consonant to the will of its author. 

2. For a future state Secularism proposes the wise 
use of this, as he who fails in this "duty nearest hand " 
has no moral fitness for any other. 

3. For revelation it offers the guidance of observa- 
tion, investigation, and experience. Instead of taking 
authority for truth, it takes truth for authority. 

4. For the providence of Scripture, Secularism di- 
rects men to the providence of science, which provides 
against peril, or brings deliverance when peril comes. 

5. For prayer it proposes self-help and the em- 
ployment of all the resources of manliness and indus- 



REJECTED TENETS REPLACED BY BETTER. 73 

try. Jupiter himself rebuked the waggoner who cried 
for aid, instead of putting his own shoulder to the 
wheel. 

6. For original depravity, which infuses hopeless- 
ness into all effort for personal excellence, Secularism 
counsels the creation of those conditions, so far as 
human prevision can provide them, in which it shall 
be "impossible for a man to be depraved or poor." 
The aim of Secularism is to promote the moralisation 
of this world, which Christianity has proved ineffec- 
tual to accomplish. 

7. For eternal perdition, which appals every human 
heart, Secularism substitutes the warnings and pen- 
alties of causation attending the violation of the laws 
of nature, or the laws of truth — penalties inexorable 
and unevadable in their consequences. Though they 
extend to the individual no farther than this life, they 
are without the terrible element of divine vindictive- 
ness, yet, being near and inevitable — following the 
offender close as the shadow of the offence — are more 
deterrent than future punishment, which ' ' faith " may 
evade without merit. 

The aim of Secularism is to educate the conscience 
in the service of man. It puts duty into free thought. 
Men inquired, for self-protection, and from dislike of 
error. But if a man was in no danger himself, and was 
indifferent whether an error — which no longer harmed 
him — prevailed or not. Secularism holds that it is still 
a duty to aid in ending it for the sake of others. It 



74 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

was W. J. Fox, the most heretical preacher of his day, 
who said (1824): "I believe in the right of religion 
and the duty of free inquiry." He is a very exceptional 
person — as we know in political as well as in questions 
of mental freedom — who cares for a right he does not 
need himself. A man is generally of opinion, as I 
have seen in many agitations, that nobody need care 
for a form of liberty he does not want himself. It is as 
though a man on the bank should think that a man in 
the water does not want a rope. Duty is devotion to 
the right. Right in morals is that which is morally 
expedient. That is morally expedient which is con- 
ducive to the happiness of the greatest numbers. The 
service of others is the practical form of duty. "He," 
says Buddha, "who was formerly heedless, and after- 
wards becomes earnest, lights up the world like the 
moon escaped from a cloud." 

Constructiveness is an education which attains suc- 
cess but slowly. Some men have no distinctive notion 
whatever of truth. It seems never to have occurred 
to them that there is anything intrinsic in it, and they 
only fall into it by accident. Others have a wholesome 
idea that truth is essential, and that, as a rule, you 
ought to tell it, and some do it. This is a small con- 
ception of truth, but it is good as far as it goes, and 
ought to be valued, as it is scarce. If any one asks 
such a person whether what he says is what he thinks, 
or what he knows, to be true, he is perplexed. The 
difference between the two things has not occurred to 



REJECTED TENETS REPLACED BY BETTER. 75 

him. He has been under the impression that what he 
believes is the same thing as what he knows, and 
when he finds the two things are very different, his 
idea of truth is doubled and is twice as large as it was 
before. 

There is yet a larger view, to which many never 
attain. To them all truth is truth of equal value. All 
geese are geese, but all are not equally tender. Though 
all horses are horses, all are not equally swift. Yet 
many never observe that all facts are not equally suc- 
culent or swift, nor all truth of equal value or useful- 
ness. 

Social truth has three marks, — it must be explicit, 
relevant to the question in hand, and of use for the 
purpose in hand. But it requires some intelligence to 
observe this, and judgment to act upon it. 



CHAPTER XV. 



MORALITY INDEPENDENT OF THEOLOGY. 

" Religion, as dealing with the confessedly 
incomprehensible, is not the basis for human 
union, in social, or industrial, or political cir- 
cles, but only that portion of old religion 
which is now called moral." 

— Professor Francis Williant Newman, 

BISHOP ELLICOTT was the first prelate whom I 
heard admit (in a sermon to the members of the 
British Association for the Advancement of Science) 
that men might be moral from other motives than 
those furnished by Christianity. Renan says that Jus- 
tin Martyr "in his Apology, never attacks the principle 
of the empire. He wants the empire to examine the 
Christian doctrines." A Secularist would have at- 
tacked the principle, regarding freedom as of more 
consequence to progress than any doctrine without.it. 
Those who seek to guide life by reason are not 
without a standard of appeal. "Secularism accepts 
no authority but that of nature, adopts no methods 
but those of science and pnilosophy, and respects in 
practice no rule but that of the conscience, illustrated 
by the common sense of mankind. It values the les- 
sons of the past, and looks to tradition as presenting 



MORALITY INDEPENDENT OF THEOLOGY. 77 

a storehouse of raw materials for thought, and in many 
cases results of high wisdom for our reverence ; but it 
utterly disowns tradition as a ground of belief, whether 
miracles and supernaturalism be claimed or not claimed 
on its side. No sacred Scripture or ancient Church 
can be made a basis of belief, for the obvious reason 
that their claims always need to be proved, and can- 
not without absurdity be assumed. The association 
leaves to its individual members to yield whatever re- 
spects their own good sense judges to be due to the 
opinions of great men, living or dead, spoken or writ- 
ten ; as also to the practice of ancient communities, 
national or ecclesiastical. But it disowns all appeal 
to such authorities as final tests of truth. "^ 

Morality can be inspired and confirmed by percep- 
tion of the consequences of conduct. Theology regards 
free will as the foundation of responsibility. But free 
will saves no man from material consequences, and 
diverts attention from material causes of evil and good. 
Under the free will doctrine the wonder is that any 
morality is left in the world. It is a doctrine which 
gives scoundrels the same chance as a saint. When 
a man is assured that he can be saved when he be- 
lieves, and that, having free will, he can believe when 
he pleases, he, as a rule, never does please until he 
has had his fill of vice, or is about to die, — either of 
disease or by the hangman. If by the hangman, he is 

1 1 owe the expression of this passage, whose comprehensiveness and 
felicity of phrase exceed the reach of my pen, to Professor Francis William 
Kewman. 



78 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

told that, provided he repents before eight o'clock in 
the morning, he may find himself nestling in Abra- 
ham's bosom before nine. Free will is the doctrine of 
rascalism. It is time morality had other foundation 
than theology. The relations of life can be made as 
impressive as ideas of supernaturalism. But in this 
Christians not only lend no help, they disparage the 
attempt to control life by reason. When Secularism 
was first talked of, the President of the Congregational 
Union, the Rev. Dr. Harris, commended to the Union 
the words of Bishop Lavington of a century earlier 
(1750): "My brethren, I beg you will rise up with 
me against mere moral preaching. "^ A writer of dis- 
tinction, R. H. Hutton, writing on *< Secularism" in 
the Expositor so late as 1881, argues strenuously that 
moral government is impossible without supernatural 
convictions. The egotism of Christianity is as con- 
spicuous as that of politics. No ethic is genuine un- 
less it bears the hall-mark of the Church. Secularism 
does not deny the efficacy of other theories of life 
upon those who accept them, and only claims to be of 
use as commending morality on considerations purely 
human, to those who reject theories purely spiritual. 
Any one familiar with controversy knows that 
Christianity is advertised like a patent medicine which 
will cure all the maladies of mankind. Everybody 
who tries reasoned morality is encouraged to condemn 
it, and is denounced if he commends it. 

IBritith Banner, October 27, 185J. 



MORALITY INDEPENDENT OF THEOLOGY. 79 

It is a maxim of Secularism that, wherever there 
is a rightful object at which men should aim, there is 
a Secular path to it. 

Nearly all inferior natures are susceptible of moral 
and physical improvability, which improvability can 
be indefinitely advanced by supplying proper material 
conditions. 

Since it is not capable of demonstration whether 
the inequalities of human condition will be compen- 
sated for in another life, it is the business of intelli- 
gence to rectify them in this world. The speculative 
worship of superior beings, who cannot need it, seems 
a lesser duty than the patient service of known inferior 
natures and the mitigation of harsh destiny, so that 
the ignorant may be enlightened and the low elevated. 

Christians often promote projects beneficial to men; 
but are they not mainly incited thereto by the hope of 
inclining the hearts of those they aid to their cause? 
Is not their motive proselytism? Is it not a higher 
morality to do good for its own sake, careless whether 
those benefited become adherents or not? 

Going to a distant town to mitigate some calamity 
there, will illustrate the principle of Secularism. One 
man will go on this errand from pure sympathy with 
the unfortunate ; this is goodness. Another goes be- 
cause the priest bids him ; this is obedience. Another 
goes because the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew tells 
him that all such persons will pass to the right hand 
of the Father ; this is calculation. Another goes be- 



8o ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

cause he believes God commands him ; this is theo- 
logical piety. Another goes because he is aware that 
the neglect of suffering will not answer ; this is utili- 
tarianism. But another goes on the errand of mercy 
because it is an immediate service to humanity, know- 
ing that material deliverance is piety and better than 
spiritual consolation ; this is Secularism. 

One whose reputation for spirituality is in all the 
Churches says : ' ' Properly speaking, all true work is 
religion, and whatsoever religion is not work may go 
and dwell among the Brahmins, the Antinomians, 
Spinning Dervishes, or where it will. Admirable was 
that maxim of the old monks. Labor are est or are (Work 
is worship). 1 In his article on Auguste Comte, Mr. 
J. S. Mill says he "uses religion in its modern sense 
as signifying that which binds the convictions, whether 
to deity or to duty, — deity in the theological sense, or 
duty in the moral sense." This is the only sense in 
which a Secularist would employ the term. Religious 
moralism is a term I might use, since it binds a man 
to humanity, which religion does not. *' Without 
God," said Mazzini to the Italian workingmen forty 
years ago, — "without God you may compel, but not 
persuade. You may become tyrants in your turn ; 
you cannot be educators or apostles." One night, 
when Mazzini was speaking in this way, in the hear- 
ing of Garibaldi, arguing that there was no ground of 
duty unless based on the idea of God, the General 

ICar'.y'e, Past ^md Present, 



MORALITY INDEPENDENT OF THE OLOGV. 81 

turned round and said : "I am an Atheist. Am I de- 
ficient in the sense of duty ?" "Ah," replied Mazzini, 
"you imbibed it with your mother's milk." All around 
smiled at the quick-witted evasion. 

In one sense Mazzini was as atheistic in mind as 
orthodox Christians. He disbelieved that truth, duty, 
or humanity could have any vitality unless derived 
from belief in God. Devout as few men are, in the 
Church or out of it, yet Mazzini believed alone in 
God. Dogmas of the Churches were to him as though 
they were not ; yet there were times when he seemed 
to admit that other motives than the one which in« 
spired him might operate for good in other minds. In 
a letter he once addressed to me there occurred this 
splendid passage : — 

"We pursue the same end, — progressive improvement, asso- 
ciation, transformation of the corrupted medium in which we are 
now living, the overthrow of all idolatries, shams, lies, and con- 
ventionalities. We both want man to be, not the poor, passive, 
cowardly, phantasmagoric unreality of the actual time, thinking 
in one way and acting in another; bending to power which he 
hates and despises ; carrying empty popish or Thirty-nine Article 
formulas on his brow, and none within ; but a fragment of the liv- 
ing truth, a real individual being linked to collective humanity, — 
the bold seeker of things to come ; the gentle, mild, loving, yet 
firm, uncompromising, inexorable apostle of all that is just and 
heroic, — the Priest, the Poet, and the Prophet." 

Mazzini saw in the conception of God the great 
"Indicator" of duty, and that the one figure, "the 
morst deeply inspired of God, men have seen on the 



8a ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

earth was Jesus." Mazzini's impassioned protest 
against unbelief was itself a form of unbelief. He be- 
lieved only in one God, not in three. If Jesus was 
inspired of God, he was not God, or he would have 
been self-inspired. But, apart from this repellent 
heresy, if Theism and Christianism are essential to 
those who would serve humanity, all propaganda of 
freedom must be delayed until converts are made to 
this new faith. 

The question will be put. Has independent moral- 
ity ever been seen in action ? 

Voltaire, at the peril of his liberty and life, rescued 
a friendless family from the fire and the wheel the 
priests had prepared for them. Paine inspired the in- 
dependence of America, and Lloyd Garrison gave lib- 
erty to the slaves whose bondage the clergy defended. 
The Christianity of three nations produced no three 
men in their day who did anything comparable to the 
achievement of these three sceptics, who wrought this 
splendid good, not only without Christianity, but in 
opposition to it. Save for Christian obstruction, they 
had accomplished still greater good without the peril 
they had to brave. 

None of the earlier critics of Secularism, as has 
been said (and not many in the later years), realised 
that it was addressed, not to Christians, but to those 
who rejected Christianity, or who were indifferent to 
it, and were outside it. Christians cannot do anything 
to inspire them with ethical principles, since they do 



MORALITY INDEFENDENT OF THEOLOGY. Zi 

not believe in morality unless based on their super- 
natural tenets. They have to convert men to Theism, 
to miracles, prophecy, inspiration of the Scriptures, 
the Trinity, and other soul-wearying doctrines, before 
they can inculcate morality they can trust. We do 
not rush in where they fear to tread. Secularism 
moves where they do not tread at all. 



CHAPTER XVI. 



ETHICAL CERTITUDE. 

" You can tell more about a man's charac* 
ter by trading horses with him once than you 
can by hearing him talk for a year in prayer 
meeting." — American Maxim, 

A FORM of thought which has no certitude can 
*^^ command no intelligent trust. Unless capable 
of verification, no opinion can claim attention, nor re- 
tain attention, if it obtains it. 

If a sum in arithmetic be wrong, it can be discov- 
ered b}' a new way of working ; if a medical recipe is 
wrong, the effect is manifest in the health ; if a polit- 
ical law is wrong, it is sooner or later apparent in the 
mischief it produces ; if a theorem in navigation is er- 
roneous, delay or disaster warns the mariner of his 
mistake ; if an insane moralist teaches that adherence 
to truth is wrong, men can try the effects of lying, 
when distrust and disgrace soon undeceive them. But 
if a theological belief is wrong, we must die to find it 
out. Secularism, therefore, is safer. It is best to 
follow the double lights of reason and experience than 
the dark lantern of faith. "In all but religion," ex- 



ETHICAL CERTITUDE. 85 

claims a famous preacher,^ "men know their true in- 
terests and use their own understanding. Nobody 
takes anything on trust at market, nor would anybody 
do so at church if there were but a hundredth part the 
care for truth which there is for money." 

Mr. Rathbone Greg has shown, in a memorable 
passage, that ** the lot of man — not perhaps altogether 
of the individual, but certainly of the race — is in his 
own hands, from his being surrounded by ^jr^// /awj, 
on knowledge of which, and conformity to which, his 
well-being depends. The study of these and obedience 
to them form, therefore, the great aim of public in- 
struction. Men must be taught : 

"I. 1h.Q physical laws on which health depends. 

"2. The moral laws ow.^\\\^ happiness depends. 

"3. The intellectual laws on which knowledge de- 
pends. 

* * 4. The social and political laws on which national 
prosperity and advancement depend. 

"5. The economic laws on vihich. wealth depends." 

Mr. Spurgeon had flashes of Secularistic inspira- 
tion, as when engaging a servant, who professed to 
have taken religion, he asked "whether she swept 
under the mats." It was judging piety by a material 
test. 

There is no trust surer than the conclusions of rea- 
son and science. What is incapable of proof is usually 

IW. J. Fox. 



86 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

decided by desire, and is without the conditions of 
uniformity or certitude. 

Duty consists in doing the right because it is just 
to others, and because we must set the example of 
doing right to others, or we have no claim that others 
shall do right to us. Certitude is best obtained by the 
employment of material means, because we can better 
calculate them, and because they are less likely to 
evade us, or betray us, than any other means available 
to us. 

Orthodox religions are pale in the face now. They 
still keep the word of material promise to the ear, and 
break it to the heart ; and a great number of people 
now know it, and many of the clergy know that they 
know it. The poor need material aid, and prayer is 
the way not to get it ; while science, more provident 
than faith, has brought the people generous gifts, and 
inspired them with just expectations. What men need 
is a guide which stands on a business footing. The 
Churches administer a system of foreign affairs in a 
very loose way, quite inconsistent with sound commer- 
cial principles. For instance, a firm giving checks on 
a bank in some distant country — not to be found in 
any gazetteer of ascertained places, nor laid down in 
any chart, and from which no persons who ever set out 
in search of it were ever known to return — would do 
very little business among prudent men. Yet this is 
precisely the nature of the business engaged in by or- 
thodox firms. 



ETHICAL CERTITUDE. 87 

On the other hand, Secularism proposes to trans- 
act the business of life on purely mercantile princi- 
ples. It engages only in that class of transactions the 
issue of which can be tested by the experience of this 
life. Its checks, if I may so speak, are drawn upon 
duty, good sense, and material effort, and are to be 
cashed from proceeds arising in our midst — under our 
own eyes — subject to ordinary commercial tests. Na- 
ture is the banker who pays all notes held by those 
who observe its laws. To use the words of Macbeth, 
it is here, "on this bank and shoal of time" upon 
which we are cast, that nature pays its checks, and 
not elsewhere ; which are honored now, and not in an 
unknown world, in some unknown time, and in an en- 
tirely unknown way. By lack of judgment, or sense, 
the Secularist may transact bad business ; but he gives 
good security. His surety is experience. His ref- 
erences are to the facts of the present time. He puts 
all who have dealings with him on their guard. Sec- 
ularism tells men that they must look out for them- 
selves, act for themselves, within the limits of neither 
injuring nor harming others. Secularism does not 
profess to be infallible, but it acts on honest prin- 
ciples. It seeks to put progress on the business foot- 
ing of good faith. ^ Adherents who accept the theory 
of this life for this life dwell in a land of their own — 
the land of certitude. Science and utilitarian morality 
are kings in that country, and rule there by right of 

- 1 See Secularism a Religion which Gives Heaven no Trouble, 



h8 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

conquest over error and superstition. In the kingdom 
of Thought there is no conquest over men, but over 
foolishness only. Outside the world of science and 
morality lies the great Debatable Ground of the ex- 
istence of Deity and a Future State. The Ruler of 
the Debatable Ground is named Probability, and his 
two ministers are Curiosity and Speculation. Over 
that mighty plain, which is as wide as the universe 
and as old as time, no voice of the gods has ever been 
heard, and no footsteps of theirs have ever been traced. 
Philosophers have explored the field with telescopes 
of a longer range than the eyes of a thousand saints, 
and have recognised nothing save the silent and dis- 
tant horizon. Priests have denounced them for not 
perceiving what was invisible. Sectaries have clam- 
ored, and the most ignorant have howled — as the most 
ignorant always do — that there is something there, 
because they want to see it. All the while the white 
mystery is still unpenetrated in this life. 

But a future being undisclosed is no proof that 
there is no future. Those who reason through their 
desires will believe there is ; those who reason through 
their understanding may yet hope that there is. In 
the meantime, all stand before the portals of the un- 
trodden world in equal unknowingness. If faith can 
be piety, work is more so. To bring new beauty out 
of common life — is not that piety? To change blank 
stupidity into intelligent admiration of any work of 
nature — is not that piety? If our towns and streets be 



ETHICAL CERTITUDE. 89 

made to give gladness and cheerfulness to all who live 
or walk therein — is not that piety? If the prayer of 
innocence ascend to heaven through a pure atmos- 
phere, instead of through the noisome and polluted 
air of uncleanness common in the purlieus of towns 
and of churches, and even cathedrals — is not that 
piety ? Can we, in these days, conceive of refigious 
persons being ignorant and dirty? Yet they abound. 
If, therefore, we send to heaven clean, intelligent, 
bright-minded saints — is not that piety? It is no bad 
religion — as religions go — to believe in the good God 
of knowledge and cleanliness and cheerfulness and 
beauty, and offer at his altar the daily sacrifice of in- 
telligent sincerity and material service. 

We leave to others their own way of faith and wor- 
ship. We ask only leave to take our own. Carlyle 
has told us that only two men are to be honored, and 
no third — the mechanic and the thinker : he who works 
with honest hand, making the world habitable ; and 
he who works with his brain, making thought artistic 
and true. "All the rest," he adds with noble scorn, 
**are chaff, which the wind may blow whither it list- 
eth." The certainty of heaven is for the useful alone. 
Mere belief is the easiest, the poorest, the shabbiest 
device by which conscientious men ever attempted to 
scale the walls of Paradise. 



CHAPTER XVII. 



THE ETHICAL METHOD OF CONTROVERSY. 

"It was one of the secrets of my craft in 
the old days, when I wanted to weld iron or 
work steel to a fine purpose, to begin gently. 
If I began, as all learners do, to strike my heav- 
iest blows at the start, the iron would crumble 
instead of welding, or the steel would suffer 
under my hammer, so that when it came to be 
tempered it would 'fly,' as we used to say, and 
rob the thing I had made of its finest quality." 
—Robert Coliyer, D. D. 

'* 'T^HEY who believe that they have truth ask no 
J- favor, save that of being heard ; they dare the 
judgment of mankind ; refused co-operation, they in- 
voke opposition, for opposition is their opportunity." 
This was the maxim I wrote at the beginning of the 
Secularistic movement, to show that we were willing 
to accept ourselves the controversy, which we con- 
tended was the sole means of establishing truth. No 
proposition, as Samuel Bailey showed, is to be trusted 
until it has been tested by very wide discussion. We 
soon found that the free and open field of Milton was 
not sufficient. It needed a "fair" as well as a "free 
and open encounter." Disputants require to be equally 
matched in debate as in arms. 



THE ETHICAL METHOD OF CONTROVEkSY. 91 

The Secularist policy is to accept the purely moral 
teaching of the Bible, and to controvert its theology, 
in such respects as it contradicts and discourages eth- 
ical effort. Yet theological questions are always sought 
to be forced upon us. The Rev. Henry Townley fol- 
lowed me to the Leader office (1853-1854) to induce 
me to discuss the question of the "existence of God." 
I never had done so, and objected that it would give 
the impression that Secularism was atheistic. He was 
so insistent and importunate that I consented to dis- 
cuss the question with him. Never after did I do so 
with any one. The Rev. Brewin Grant endeavored 
to get my acceptance of propositions which pledged 
me to a wild opposition to Christianity. Mr. Samuel 
Morley, honorable in all things, admitted I had ob- 
jected to it, but in the end I assented to it, that the 
discussion might not be broken off. Thomas Cooper 
was persistent that I should discuss with him the au- 
thenticity of the Scriptures. What I proposed was 
the proposition that the authenticity of the Scripture, 
its miracles, and prophecies are quite apart from moral 
truth. 

The discussion took place in the city of York, last- 
ing five nights. Canon Robinson and Canon Hey 
presided alternately. Mr. Cooper was an able man in 
dealing with the stock propositions of Christianity; but 
their relevance as tests of morality was an entirely new 
subject to him. He protested rather than reasoned, 
and declared he would never discuss the question of 



93 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

the ethical test of the truth of Scriptures ; nor have I 
ever found any responsible minister willing to do so 
down to this day. Thus Christians should condemn 
with reservation the tendency in Secularists to debate 
theology, seeing how reluctant they are to do other- 
wise themselves. Christians seem incapable of under- 
standing how much the objection to their cause arises 
in the revolt of the moral sense against it. 

On first meeting Richard Carlile in 1842, some 
years before Secularism took a distinctive form, he in- 
vited me to hear him lecture upon the principles of 
the Christian Warrior,^ of which he was editor, and to 
give my opinion thereon. In doing so I explained the 
ideas from which I have never departed ; namely, that 
no theologic, astronomic, or miraculous mode of prov- 
ing Scriptural doctrine could ever be made even intel- 
ligible, except to students of very considerable re- 
search. Such theories, I contended, must rest, more 
or less, on critical and conjectural interpretation, and 
could never enable a workingman to dare the under- 
standing of others in argument. Scientific interpre- 
tation laid entirely outside Christian requirements, 
and seemed to Christians as disingenuous evasion of 
what they took to be obvious truths. My contention 
was that the people have no historic or critical knowl- 
edge enabling them to determine the divine origin of 
Christianity. 

On the platform he who has most knowledge of 

ITbe last periodical Mr. Carlile edited. 



THE ETHICAL METHOD OF CONTROVERSY. 93 

Hebrew, Greek, and Latin will always be able to si- 
lence any dissentient who has not equal information. 
If by accident a controversialist happen to possess 
this knowledge, it goes for nothing unless he has credit 
for classical competency. In controversy of this na- 
ture it is not enough for a man to know ; he must be 
known to know before his conclusions can command 
attention. To myself it was not of moment whether 
the Scriptures were authentic or inspired. My sole 
inquiry was. Did they contain clear moral guidance ? 
If they did, I accepted that guidance with gratitude. 
If I found maxims obviously useful and true, judged 
by human experience, I adopted them, whether given 
by inspiration or not. If precepts did not answer to 
this test, they were not acceptable, though all the 
apostles in session had signed them. To miracles I 
did not object, nor did I see any sense in endeavoring 
to explain them away. We all have reason to regret 
that no one performs them now. It was our misfor- 
tune that the power, delegated with so much pomp of 
promise to the saints, had not descended to these days. 
If any preacher or deacon could, in our day, feed five 
thousand men on a few loaves and a few small fishes, 
and leave as many baskets of fragments as would run 
a workhouse for a month, the Poor Law Commission- 
ers would make a king of that saint. But if a precept 
enjoined me to believe what was not true, it would be 
a base precept, and all the miracles in the Scriptures 
could not alter its character ; while, if a precept be 



94 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

honest and just, no miracle is wanted to attest it ; in- 
deed, a miracle to allure credence in it would only 
cast suspicion on its genuineness. The moral test of 
the Scriptures was sufficient, since it had the com 
manding advantage of appealing to the common sense 
of all sorts and conditions of men, of Christian or of 
Pagan persuasion. Ethical criticism has this further 
merit, that on the platform of discussion the miner, 
the weaver, or farm-laborer is on the same level as the 
priest. A man goes to heaven upon his own judg- 
ment ; whereas, if his belief is based on the learning 
of others, he goes to heaven second-hand. 

When Mr. J. A. Froude wrote for John Henry 
Newman the Life of St. Belletin, he ended with the 
words : "And this is all that is known, and more than 
all, of the life of a servant of God." In the Bible there 
appears to be a great deal more than was ever known. 
This does not concern the Secularist, though it does 
the scholar. If there be moral maxims in the Scrip- 
ture, what does it matter how they got there? 



CHAPTER XVIII. 



ITS DISCRIMINATION. 

"There is nothing so terrible as activity 
without insight." — Goethe, 

TN 1847 I commenced in the Reasoner what I entitled 
^ "The Moral Remains of the Bible," — a selection 
of some splendid moral stories, incidents, and sen- 
tences having ethical characteristics such as I doubted 
not would "remain" when the Bible came to be re- 
garded as a human book. I wrote a " Logic of Life."^ 
My Trial of Theism was only <' as accused of obstruct- 
ing Secular life," as stated on the title-page. The 
object was to show how much useful criticism could 
be entered upon without touching the questions of 
authenticity, or miracles, or the existence of deity. 
Thus it was left to opponents to declare that things 
morally incredible were inspired by God. In this case 
it was not I, but they, who blasphemed. 

Take the case of Samson's famous engagement 
with the Philistines at Ramath, — Lehi surrounded by 
a band of warlike Philistines (though, as the text im- 

-ICompanion to the "Logic of Death," both contained in The Trial oj 
Theism. 



96 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

plies, 3,000 of his own armed countrymen were at 
hand). Samson, who had no weapon, was not given 
one by them, but had to look about for a "new jaw- 
bone of an ass." With this singular instrument he 
killed, one after the other, a thousand Philistine sol- 
diers, who were big, strong men, and, unless every 
blow was fatal, it must have taken several blows to 
kill some of them. 

Are there three places in the human body where 
a single blow will be sure to kill a man ? Did Samson 
know those places ? And was he always able to direct 
his blow with unerring precision to one or other of 
those particular spots? If the thousand Philistines 
"surrounded" him, how did he keep the others off 
while he struggled with the one he was killing ? It is 
not conceivable that the Philistines stood there to be 
killed, and meekly submitted to ignoble blows, death, 
and degradation. The jawbone must have been of 
strange texture to have crashed through armor, and 
have turned aside spears and swords of stalwart war- 
riors without chipping, splitting, or breaking in two. 
What time it must have taken Samson to pursue each 
man, beat off his comrades, drag him from their midst, 
give him the asinine coup de grdce, drag and cast his 
dead body upon the "heaps" of slain he was piling 
up ! What struggling, scuffling, and turmoil of blood 
and blows Samson must have gone through ! Spurted 
all over with blood, Barnum would have bought him 
for a Dime Museum as the deepest-colored Red Indian 



ITS DISCRIMINA TION. 97 

known. No Deerfoot could have been nimbler than 
Samson must have been on this mighty day. When 
this Herculean fight was over, which, with the utmost 
expedition, must have occupied Samson six days, — 
which would give 166 killed single-handed per day, — 
the only effect produced upon Samson appears to have 
been that he was "sore athirst." Even after this 
extraordinary use of the jawbone it was in such good 
condition that, a hollow place being "clave" in it, a 
fount of water gushed forth for refreshing this remark- 
able warrior. Were it not recorded in the Bible, it 
would be said that the writer intended to imply that 
the jawbone of the ass is to be found only in the mouth 
of the reader. 

Can it need miracle or prophecy, authenticity, or 
inspiration, to attest this story of the Jewish Jack-the- 
Giant-killer ? What moral good can arise from a nar- 
ration which it is reverence to reject? By leaving it 
to the Christian to say it is given by "inspiration" of 
God, it is he who blasphemes. But if the question of 
authenticity were raised, the character of the narrative 
would be lost sight of, and would not come into ques- 
tion ; while the test of moral probability decides the 
invalidity of the story within the compass of the knowl- 
edge of an ordinary audience. 

In the same manner, keeping to the policy of af- 
firmation, he who maintains the self- existence, the 
self-action, and eternity of the universe can be met 
only by those who defame nature as a second-hand 



g8 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

tool of God. Such are atheists towards nature, the 
author of their existence, and God must so regard 
them. 

A single precept of Christ's, "Take no thought 
for the morrow," has bred swarms of mendicants in 
every age since this day ; but a far more dangerous 
precept is "Resist not evil," which has made Christi- 
anity welcome to so many tyrants. Christ, whatever 
other sentiments he had, had a slave heart. Every 
friend of freedom knows that "resistance is the back- 
bone of the world." The patriot poet^ exclaims : 

•'Land of oar Fathers — in their hour of need 
God help them, guarded by the passive creed." 

No miracle could make these precepts true, and 
he who proved their authenticity would be the enemy 
of mankind. 

Whether Christ existed or not affects in no way 
what excellence and inimitableness there was in his 
delineated character. His offer of palpable material- 
istic evidence to Thomas showed that he recognised 
the right of scepticism to relevant satisfaction. His 
concession of proof in this case needed no supernatu- 
ral testimony to render it admirable. 

The reader will now see what the policy of Secu- 
larist advocacy is, — mainly to test theology by its eth- 
ical import. To many all policy is restraint; they 
cry down policy, and erect blundering into a virtue. 

1 Pr. Oliver Wendell Holmes. 



ITS DISCRIMINATION. 99 

Whereas policy is guidance to a chosen end. Mathe- 
matics is but the policy of measurement ; grammar but 
the policy of speech ; logic but the policy of reason ; 
arithmetic but the policy of calculation ; temperance 
but the policy of health ; trigonometry but the policy 
of navigation ; roads but the policy of transit ; music 
but the policy of controlling sound ; art but the policy 
of beauty ; law but the policy of protection ; discipline 
but the policy of strength ; love but the policy of af- 
fection. An enemy may object to an adversary having 
a policy, because he is futile without one. The policy 
adopted may be bad, but no policy at all is idiocy, 
and commits a cause to the providence of Bedlam. 



CHAPTER XIX. 



APART FROM CHRISTIANISM. 

"What is written by Moses can only be 
read by God." — Bikar Proverb. 

SECULARISM differs from Christianism in so far 
as it accepts only the teachings which pertain to 
man, and which are consonant with reason and ex- 
perience. 

Parts of the Bible have moral splendor in them, 
but no Christian will allow any one to take the parts 
he deems true, and reject as untrue those he deems 
false. He who ventured to be thus eclectic would be 
defamed as Paine was. Thus Christians compel those 
who would stand by reason to stand apart from them. 

To accept a part, and put that forward as the whole 
— to pretend or even to assume it to be the whole — is 
dishonest. To retain a portion, and reject what you 
leave, and not say so, is deceiving. To contend that 
what you accept as the spirit of Christianity is in ac- 
cordance with all that contradicts it, is to spend your 
days in harmonising opposite statements — a pursuit 
demoralising to the understanding. The Secularist 
has, therefore, to choose between dishonesty, the de- 



APART FROM CHRISTIANISM. loi 

ception of others and deception of himself, or ethical 
principles independent of Christianity — and this is 
what he does : 

The Bible being a bundle of Hebrew tracts on 
tribal life and tribal spite, its assumed infallibility is a 
burden, contradicting and misleading to all who ac- 
cept it as a divine handbook of duty. 

In papers issued by religious societies upon the 
Bible it is declared to be " so complete a system that 
nothing can be added to it, or taken from it," and that 
"it contains everything needful to be known or done." 
This is so false that no one, perceiving it, could be 
honest and not protest against it in the interest of 
others. Recently the Bishop of Worcester said: "It 
was of no use resisting the Higher Criticism. God 
had not been pleased to give us what might be called 
a perfect Bible. "^ Then it is prudence to seek a more 
trustworthy guide. 

If money were bequeathed to maintain the eclectic 
criticism of the Scripture, it would be confiscated by 
Christian law. So to stand apart is indispensable self- 
defence. Individual Christians, as I well know, de- 
vote themselves with a noble earnestness to the service 
of man, as they understand his interests ; but so long 
as Christianity retains the power of fraud, and uses it, 
Christianism as a system, or as a cause, remains out- 
side the pale of respect. Prayer, in which the op- 
pressed and poor are taught to trust, is of no avail for 

\ Midland Evening News, 1893. 



loa ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

protection or food, and the poor ought to know it. 
The Bishop of Manchester declared, in my hearing, 
that the Lord's Prayer will not bring us "daily bread," 
but that "it is an exercise of faith to ask for what we 
shall not receive." But if prayer will not bring "daily 
bread," it is a dangerous deception to keep up the be- 
lief that it will. The eyes of forethought are closed 
by trust in such aid, thrift is an affront to the generos- 
ity of heaven, and labor is fooHshness. But, alas ! aid 
does not come by supplication. The prayer-maker 
dies in mendicancy. It is not reverence to pour into 
the ears of God praise for protection never accorded. 
Dean Stanley, admirable as a man as well as a saint, 
was killed in the Deanery, Westminster, by a bad 
drain, in spite of all his Collects. Dean Farrar has 
been driven from St. Margaret's Rectory, in Dean's 
Yard, by another drain, which poisons in spite of the 
Thirty-nine Articles ; and Canon Eyton refuses to take 
up his residence until the sanitary engineers have 
overhauled^ the place, which, notwithstanding the in- 
vocations of the Church, Providence does not see to. 
To keep silence on the non-intervention of Providence 
would be to connive at the fate of those who come to 
destruction by such dependence. 

"O mother, praying God will save 

Thy sailor ! While thy head is bowed, 
His heavy-shotted hammock-shroud 
Drops in his vast and wandering grave 1 " 

1 See Wettmintter Ganatte London Letter, November xg, 1895. 



APART FROM CHRISTIANISM. 103 

True respect would treat God as though at the least 
he is a gentlemen. Christianity does not do this. No 
gentleman would accept thanks for benefits he had 
not conferred, nor would he exact thanks daily and 
hourly for gifts he had really made, nor have the van- 
ity to covet perpetual thanksgivings. He who would 
respect God, or respect himself, must seek a faith 
apart from such Christianity. 

A divine, who excelled in good sense, said : "Dan- 
gerous it were for the feeble brain of man to wade far 
into the doings of the Most High. Our soundest knowl- 
edge is, to know that we know him not ; and our safest 
eloquence concerning Him is our silence ; therefore it be- 
hoveth our words to be wary and few."^ 

Mrs. Barbauld may have borrowed from Richard 
Hooker her fine line : 

" Silence is our least injurious praise."' 

An earnest Christian, not a religious man (for all 
Christians are not religious), assuming the professional 
familiarity with the mind of God, said to me : "Should 
the Lord call you to-day, are you prepared to meet 
Him ?" I answered : Certainly ; for the service of man 
in some form is seldom absent from my thoughts, and 
must be consonant with his will. Were I to pray, I 
should pray God to spare me from the presumption of 

\ Ecclesiastical Polity, book i., § 2- 

X Charles Lamb was of this opinion when he remarked: "Had I to say 
grace, I would rather say it over a good book than over a mutton chop." 
Christians say grace over an indigestible meal. But perhaps they are right, 
since they need supernatural aid to assimilate it. 



104 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

expecting to meet him, and from the vanity and con- 
ceit of thinking that the God of the universe will take 
an opportunity of meeting me. 

Who can have moral longing for a religion which 
represents God as hanging over York Castle to receive 
the soul of Dove, the debauchee, who slowly poisoned 
his wife, and whose final spiritual progress was posted 
day by day on the Castle gates until the hour of the 
hangman came ? Dove's confession was as appalling 
as instructive. It ran thus : 

' ' I know that the Eternal One, 
Upon His throne divine, 
Gorged with the blood of His own Son, 
No longer thirsts for mine. 

Many a man has passed his life 

In doing naught but good, 
Who has not half the confidence I have 

In Jesus Christ, His blood. " ^ 

By quoting these lines, which Burns might have writ- 
ten, the writer is sorry to portray, in their naked form, 
principles which so many cherish. But the anatomy 
of creeds can no more be explained, with the garments 
of tradition and sentiment upon them, than a surgeon 
can demonstrate the structure of the body with the 
clothes on. Divine perdition is an ethical impossi- 
bility. 

Christianism is too often but a sour influence on 



IFrom a volume of verse privately circulated in Liverpool at the time, by 
W. H. Rathbone. 



APART FROM CHRISTIANISM. 105 

life. It tolerates nature, but does not enjoy it. In- 
stead of giving men two Sundays, as it might, — one 
for recreation and one for contemplation, — it converts 
the only day of the poor into a penal infliction. It is 
always more or less against art, parks, clubs, sanita- 
tion, equity to labor, freedom, and many other things. 
If any Christians eventually accept these material 
ideas, they mostly dislike them. Art takes attention 
from the Gospel. In parks many delight to walk, 
when they might be at chapel or church. Clubs teach 
men toleration, and toleration is thought to beget in- 
difference. Sanitation is a form of blasphemy. Every 
Christian sings : — 

' ' Diseases are Thy servants, Lord ; 
They come at Thy command." 

But sanitation assassinates these "servants of the 
Lord." In every hospital they are tried, condemned, 
and executed as the enemies of mankind. If labor 
had justice, it would be independent, and no longer 
hopeless, as the poor always are. Freedom renders 
men defiant of subjection, which all priests are prone 
to exercise. Secularism has none of this distrust and 
fear. It elects to be on the side of human progress, 
and takes that side, withstand it who may. Thus, 
those who care for the improvement of mankind must 
act on principles dissociated from doctrines repellent 
to humanity and deterrent of ameliorative enterprise. 



CHAPTER XX. 



SECULARISM CREATES A NEW RESPONSIBILITY. 

" Mankind is an ass, who kicks those who 
endeavor to take oS his panniers." 

— Spanish Proverb. 

1VT0 ONE need go to Spain to meet with animals 
^ ^ who kick you if you serve them. Spanish asses 
are to be found in every land. Could we see the legs 
of truth, we should find them black and blue with the 
kicks received in unloosening the panniers of error, 
strapped by priests on the backs of the people. Even 
philosophers kick as well as the ignorant, when new 
ideas are brought before them. No improvement 
would ever be attempted if friends of truth were afraid 
of the asses' hoofs in the air. 

He who maintains that mankind can be largely 
improved by material means, imposes on himself the 
responsibility of employing such means, and of pro- 
moting their use as far as he can, and trusting to their 
efficacy, — not being discouraged because he is but 
one, and mankind are many. No man can read all 
the books, or do all the work, of the world. It is 
enough that each reads what he needs, and, in matter 



A NEW RESPONSIBILITY. 107 

of moral action, does all he can. He who does less, 
fails in his duty to himself and to others. 

Christian doctrine has none of the responsibility 
which Secularism imposes. If there be vice or rapine, 
oppression or murder, the purely Christian conscience 
is absolved. It is the Lord's world, and nothing could 
occur unless he permitted it. If any Christian heart 
is moved to compassion, it commonly exudes in prayer. 
He " puts the matter before the Lord and leaves it in 
His hands." The Secularist takes it into his own. 
What are his hands for ? The Christian can sit still 
and see children grow up with rickets in their body 
and rickets in their soul. He will see them die in a 
foul atmosphere, where no angel could come to receive 
their spirit without first stopping his nose with his 
handkerchief, as I have seen Lord Palmerston do on 
entering Harrow on Speech Day. The Christian can 
make money out of unrequited labor. When he dies, 
he makes no reparation to those who earned his 
wealth, but leaves it to build a church, as though he 
thought God was blind, not knowing (if Christ spake 
truly) that the Devil is sitting in the fender in his 
room, ready to carry his soul up the chimney to bear 
Dives company. Why should he be anxious to miti- 
gate inequality of human condition ? It is the Lord's 
will, or it would not be. When it was seen that I was 
ceasing to believe this, Christians in the church to 
which I belonged knelt around me, and prayed that I 
might be influenced not to go out into the world to 



io8 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

see if these things could be improved. It was no light 
duty I imposed on myself. 

A Secularist is mindful of Carlyle's saying, "No 
man is a saint in his sleep." Indeed, if any one takes 
upon himself the responsibility of bettering by reason 
the state of things, he will be kept pretty well awake 
with his understanding. 

Many persons think their own superiority sufficient 
for mankind, and do not wish their exclusiveness to 
be encroached upon. Their plea is that they distrust 
the effect of setting the multitude free from mental 
tyranny, and they distrust democracy, which would 
sooner or later end political tyranny. 

These men of dainty distrust have a crowd of imi- 
tators, in whom nobody recognises any superiority to 
justify their misgivings as to others. The distrust of 
independence in the hands of the people arises mainly 
from the dislike of the trouble it takes to educate the 
ignorant in its use and limit. The Secularist under- 
takes this trouble as far as his means permit. As an 
advocate of open thought and the free action of opin- 
ion, he counts the responsibility of trust in the people 
as a duty. 

It will be asked. What are the deterrent influences 
upon which Secularism relies for rendering vice, of 
the major or minor kind, repellent ? It relies upon 
making it clear that in the order of nature retribution 
treads upon the heels of transgression, and, if tardy 
in doing it, its steps should be hastened. 



A NEW RESPONSIBILITY. 109 

The mark of error of life is — disease. Science can 
take the body to pieces, and display mischief palpable 
to the eyes, when the results of vice startle, like an 
apparation, those who discern that : 

"Their acts their angels are, — if good ; if ill, 
Their fatal shadows that walk by them still." 

A man is not so ready to break the laws of nature 
when he sees he will break himself in doing it. He 
may not fear God, but he fears fever and consumption. 
He may have a gay heart, but he will not like the oc- 
cupation of being his own sexton and digging his own 
grave. When he sees that death lurks in the frequent 
glass, for instance, that spoils the flavor of the wine. 
He takes less pride in the beeswing who sees the 
shroud in the bottle. He may hope that God will for- 
give him, but he knows that death will not. He who 
holds the scythe is accustomed to cut down fools, 
whether they be peers or sweeps. Death knows the 
fool at a glance. To prevent any mistake, Disease 
has marked him with her broad arrow. The young 
man who once has his eyes well open to this state of 
the case, will be considerate as to the quality of his 
pleasures, especially when he knows that alluring but 
unwholesome pleasure is in the pay of death. Tem- 
perance advocates made more converts by exhibiting 
the biological effects of alcohol than by all their ex- 
hortations. 

The moral nature of man is as palpable as the 
physical to those who look for its signs. There is a 



HO ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

moral squint in the judgment, as plain to be seen as 
a cast in the eyes. The voice is not honest ; it has 
the accent of a previous conviction in it. The speech 
has contortions of meaning in it. The sense is limp 
and flaccid, showing that the mind is flabby. Such a 
one has the backbone of a fish ; he does not stand 
upright. As the Americans say, he does not "stand 
square" to anything. There is no moral pulse in his 
heart. If you could take hold of his soul, it would 
feel like a dead oyster, and would slip through your 
fingers. Everybody knows these people. You don't 
consult them ; you don't trust them. You would 
rather have no business transactions with them. If 
they are in a political movement, you know they will 
shuffle when the pinch of principle comes. 

Crime has its consequences, and criminals, little 
and great, know it. When Alaric A. Watts wrote of 
the last Emperor of the French : — 

"Safe art thou, Louis ! — for a time ; 
But tremble ! — never yet was crime, 

Beyond one little space, secure. 
The coward and the brave alike 
Can wait and watch, can rush and strike. 

Which marks thee ? One of them, be sure, — " 

few thought the bold prediction true; but it came to 
pass, and the Napoleonic name and race became ex- 
tinct, to the relief of Europe. 

Trouble comes from avowing unpopular ideas. 
Diderot well saw this when he said : ** There is less 



A NEW RESPONSIBILITY. iii 

inconvenience in being mad with the mad than in be- 
ing wise by oneself." One who regards truth as duty 
will accept responsibilities. 
It is the American idea 

" To make a man and leave him be." 

But we must be sure we have made him a man, — self- 
acting, guided by reasoned proof, and one who, as 
Archbishop Whately said, "believes the principles he 
maintains, and maintains them because he believes 
them." 

A man is not a man while under superstition, nor 
is he a man when free from it, unless his mind is built 
on principles conducive and incentive to the service 
of man. 



CHAPTER XXI. 



THROUGH OPPOSITION TO RECOGNITION. 

" So many gods, so many creeds — 

So many paths that wind and wind, 
While just the art of being kind 
Is all the sad world needs." 

—Ella Wheeler Wilcox. 

LADY HESTER STANHOPE said she knew 
"Lord Byron must be a bad man, for he was 
always intending something. " Any improvement in the 
method of life is ''intending something," and society 
ought to be tolerant of those whose badness takes 
no worse form. The rules Secularism prescribes for 
human conduct are few, and no intelligent preacher 
would say they inchoate a dangerous form of "bad- 
ness. " They are : 

1. Truth in speech. 

2. Honesty in transaction. 

3. Industry in business. 

4. Equity in according the gain among those whose 
diligence and vigilance help to produce it. 

"Though this world be but a bubble, 
Two things stand like stone — 
Kindness in another's trouble, 
Courage in your own." 



THROUGH OPPOSITION TO RECOGNITION. 113 

Learning and fortune do but illuminate these virtues. 
They cannot supersede them. The germs of these 
qualities are in every human heart. It is only neces- 
sary that we cultivate them. Men are like billiard 
balls — they would all go into the right pockets in a 
few generations, if rightly propelled. Yet these prin- 
ciples, simple and unpretending as they are, being 
founded on considerations apart from modes of ortho- 
dox thought, have had a militant career. The Span- 
ish proverb has been in request : "Beware of an ox 
before, of a mule behind, and of a monk on every 
side." The monk, tonsured and untonsured, is found 
in every religion. 

In Glasgow I sometimes delivered lectures on the 
Sunday in a quaint old hall situated up a wynd in 
Candleriggs. On the Saturday night I gave a woman 
half-a-crown to wash and whiten the stairs leading to 
the hall, and the passage leading to the street and 
across the causeway, so that the entrance to the hall 
should be clean and sweet. Sermons were preached 
in the same hall when the stairs were repulsively dirty. 
The woman remarked to a neighbor that "Mr. Holy- 
oake's views were wrang, but he seemed to have clean 
principles." He who believes in the influence of ma- 
terial conditions will do what he can to have them 
pure, not only where he speaks, but where he frequents 
and where he resides. The theological reader, who 
by accident or curiosity looks over these pages, will 
find much from which he will dissent ; but I hope he 



114 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

will be able to regard this book as one of ** clean prin- 
ciples," as far as the limited light of the author goes. 
Accepting the "golden rule" of Huxley — "Give 
unqualified assent to no propositions but those the 
truth of which is so clear and distinct that they cannot 
be doubted " — causes the Secularist to credit less than 
his neighbors, and that goes against him ; being, as it 
were, a reproach of their avidity of belief. One reason 
for writing this book is to explain — to as many of the 
new generation as may happen to read it — the dis- 
crimination of Secularism. Newspapers and the cler- 
ical class, who ought to be well informed, continually 
speak of mere free-thinking as Secularism. How this 
has been caused has already been indicated. Two or 
three remarkable and conspicuous representatives of 
free thought, who found iconoclasticism easier, less 
responsible, and more popular, have given to many 
erroneous impressions. When Mr. Bradlaugh, Mrs. 
Besant, and Mr. Foote came into the Secularistic 
movement, which preceded their day, they gave proof 
that they understood its principles, which they after- 
wards disregarded or postponed. I cite their opinions 
lest the reader should think that this book gives an 
account of a form of thought not previously known. 
One wrote : 

" From very necessity, Secularism is afiSrmative and construc- 
tive ; it is impossible to thoroughly negate any falsehood without 
making more or less clear the opposing truth. "^ 

1" Secularism: What Is It?" National Secular Society's Tracts— tio. j . 
By Charles Bradlaugh. 



THROUGH OPPOSITION TO RECOGNITION. 115 

Again : 

"Secularism conflicts with theology in this : that the Secular- 
ist teaches the improvability of humanity by human means ; while 
the theologian not only denies this, but rather teaches that the Sec- 
ular effort is blasphemous and unavailing unless preceded and ac- 
companied by reliance on divine aid."* 

Mrs. Besant said : 

' ' Still we have won a plot of ground — men's and women's 
hearts. To them Secularism has a message ; to them it brings a 
rule of conduct ; to them it gives a test of morality, and a guide 
through the difficulties of life. Our morality is tested only — be it 
noted — by utility in this life and in this world."' 

Mr. Foote was not less discerning and usefully ex- 
plicit, saying : 

"Secularism is founded upon the distinction between the 
things of time and the things of eternity. . . . The good of others 
Secularism declares to be the law of morality ; and although cer- 
tain theologies secondarily teach the same doctrine, yet they differ 
fiom Secularism in founding it upon the supposed will of God, thus 
admitting the possibility of its being set aside in obedience to some 
other equally or more imperative divine injunction."' 

For several years the National Reformer bore the 
subtitle of "Secular Advocate." 

We could not expect early concurrence with the 
policy of preferring ethical to theological questions of 

1 " Why Are We Secularists? ' ' National Secular Stciety's Tracts — No. 8. 
By Charles Bradlaugh. 

S " Secular Morality." National Secular Society's Trad* — Ne. 3. By Annie 
Besant. 

i Secularism and Its Misrepresentatian, by G. W. Foote, who subsequently 
succeeded Mr. Bradlaugb as President of the National Secular Society. 



1X6 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

theism and unprovable immortality. We accepted 
the maxim of Sir Philip Sydney — namely, that " Rea- 
son cannot show itself more reasonable than to leave 
reasoning on things above reason." We are not in the 
land of the real yet, common sense is not half so ro 
mantic to the average man as the transcendental, and 
an atheistical advocacy got the preference with the 
impetuous. The Secularistic proposal to consult the 
instruction of an adversary proved less exciting than 
his destruction. The patience and resource it implies 
to work by reason alone are not to the taste of those 
to whom a kick is easier than a kindness, and less 
troublesome than explanation. Those who have the 
refutatory passion intense say you must clear the 
ground before you can build upon it. Granted ; never- 
theless, the signs of the times show that a good deal 
of ground has been cleared. The instinct of progress 
renders the minority, who reflect, more interested in 
the builder than the undertaker. What would be 
thought of a general who delayed occupying a country 
he had conquered until he had extirpated all the in- 
habitants in it? So, in the kingdom of error, he who 
will go on breaking images, without setting statues up 
in their place, will give superstition a long life. The 
savage man does not desert his idols because you call 
them ugly. It is only by slow degrees, and under the in- 
fluence of better-carved gods, that his taste is changed 
and his worship improved. The reader will see that 
Secularism leaves the mystery of deity to the chartered 



THROUGH OPPOSITION TO RECOGNITION. 117 

imagination of man, and does not attempt to close the 
door of the future, but holds that the desert of another 
existence belongs only to those who engage in the 
service of man in this life. Prof. F. W. Newman 
says : ** The conditions of a future life being unknown, 
there is no imaginable means of benefiting ourselves 
and others in it, except by aiming after present good- 
ness. "^ 

Men have a right to look beyond this world, but 
not to overlook it. Men, if they can, may connect 
themselves with eternity, but they cannot disconnect 
themselves from humanity without sacrificing duty. 
The purport of Secularism is not far from the tenor 
of the famous sermon by the Rev. James Caird, of 
which the Queen said : 

"He explained in the most simple manner what real religion 
is — not a thing to drive us from the world, not a perpetual moping 
over ' good ' books ; but being and doing good."' 

This end we reach not by a theological, but by a 
Secular, path. 

iProf. F. W. Newman, who is always clear beyond all scholars, and can- 
did beyond all theologians, has published a Palinode retracting former con- 
clusions he had published, and admitting the uncertainty of the evidence in 
favor of after-existence. 

2The Queen on the Rev. J. Caird's sermon, Leaves from the Journal of Our 
Life in the Highlands. 



CHAPTER XXII. 



SELF-EXTENDING PRINCIPLES. 

" Prodigious actions may as well be done 
By weaver's issue as by prince's son." 

— Dry den. 

SO FAR as Secularism is reasonable, it must be 
self- extending among all who think. Adherents 
of that class are slowly acquired. Accessions begin 
in criticism, though that, as we have seen, is apt to 
stop there. In all movements the most critical per- 
sons are the least suggestive of improvements. Con- 
structiveness only excites enthusiasm in fertile minds. 
After the Cowper Street Discussion with the Rev. 
Brewin Grant in 1853, see Chapter X, page 50, socie- 
ties, halls, and newspapers adopted the Secular name. 
In 1863 appeared the Christian Reasoner, edited by the 
Rev. Dr. Rylance, a really reasoning clergyman, whom 
I afterwards had the pleasure to know in New York. 
His publication was intended to be a substitute for 
the Reasoner^ which I had then edited for seventeen 
years. But when the Reasoner commenced, in 1846, 
Christian believing was far more thought of than 
Christian reasoning. One line in Dr. Rylance's Chris- 



SELF-EXTENDING PRINCIPLES. xig 

tian Reasoner was remarkable, which charged us with 
"forgetfulness of the necessary incompleteness of Re- 
velation." So far from forgetting it, it was one of the 
grounds on which Secularism was founded. However, 
it is to the credit of Dr. Rylance that he should have 
preceded, by thirty years, the Bishop of Worcester 
in discerning the shortcomings of Revelation, as cited 
in Chapter XIX, page loi. 

In 1869 we obtained the first Act of Secular affir- 
mation, which Mr. J. S. Mill said was mainly due to 
my exertions, and to my example of never taking an 
oath. In obtaining the Act, I had no help from Mr. 
Bradlaugh, he being an ostentatious oath-taker at 
that time. It was owing to Mr. G. W. Hastings 
(then, or afterwards, M. P.), the founder of the Social 
Science Association, that the Affirmation clause was 
added to the Act of 1869. One of the objects we 
avowed was "to procure a law of affirmation for per- 
sons who objected to take the oath. "^ 

Another of our aims was stated to be : "To con- 
vert churches and chapels into temples of instruction 
for the people .... to solicit priests to be teachers of 
useful knowledge."' We strove to promote these 
ends by holding in honor all who gave effect to such 
human precepts as were contained in Christianity. 
This fairness and justice has led many to suppose 

ISectUarism the Practical Philosophy of the People, p. la; 1854. Fifteen 
years before the first Act was passed. 

^Secularism the Practical Philosophy of the People, by G. J. Holyoake, p. la ; 

1854. 



120 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

that I accepted the theological as well as the ethical 
passages in the Scriptures. But how can a Christian 
preacher be inclined to risk the suspicion of the nar- 
rower-minded members of his congregation, if no one 
gives him credit for doing right when he does it? 

With our limited means and newness of doctrine, 
we could not hope to rival an opulent hierarchy and 
occupy its temples ; but we knew that the truth, if we 
had it, and could diffuse it in a reasonable manner, 
would make its way and gradually change the convic- 
tions of a theological caste. The very nature of Free- 
thought makes it impossible for a long time yet, that 
we should have many wealthy or well-placed support- 
ers. Where the platform is open to every subject 
likely to be of public service — subjects suppressed 
everywhere else, and open to the discussion of the 
wise or foolish present who may arise to speak, out- 
rages of good taste will occur. Persons who forget 
that abuse does not destroy use, and that freedom is 
more precious than propriety, cease to support a free- 
speaking Society. The advocacy of slave emancipa- 
tion was once an outrage in America. It is now re- 
garded as the glory of the nation. In an eloquent 
passage it has been pointed out what society owes to 
the unfriended efforts of those who established and 
have maintained the right of free speech. 

" Theology of the old stamp, so far from encouraging tw to 
love nature, teaches us that it is under a curse. It teaches us to 
look upon the animal creation with shuddering disgust ; upon the 



SELF-EXTENDING PRINCIPLES. 121 

whole race of man, outside our narrow sect, as delivered over to 
the Devil ; and upon the laws of nature at large as a temporaury 
mechanism, in which we have been caught, but from which we 
are to anticipate a joyful deliverance. It is science, not theology, 
which has changed all this ; it is the atheists, infidels, and ration- 
alists, as they are kindly called, who have taught us to take fresh 
interest in our poor fellow denizens of the world, and not to des- 
pise them because Almighty Benevolence could not be expected to 
admit them to Heaven. To the same teaching we owe the recog- 
nition of the noble aspirations embodied in every form of religion, 
and the destruction of the ancient monopoly of divine influences. "^ 

Those who, in storm and stress, bring truth into 
the world may not be able to complete its triumph, 
but it makes its own way, and finally conquers the 
understanding of mankind. 

Priestley, without fortune, with only the slender 
income of a Unitarian minister, created and kept up a 
chemical laboratory. There alone he discovered oxy- 
gen. Few regarded him, few applauded him ; only a 
few Parisian philosophers thanked him. He had no 
disciples to spread his new truth. He was not even 
tolerated in the town which he endowed with the fame 
of his priceless discovery. His house was burnt by a 
Church-and-King mob ; his instruments, books, and 
manuscripts destroyed ; and he had to seek his fortune 
in a foreign land. 

Yet what has come out of his discovery ? It has 
become part of the civilisation of the world, and man- 
kind owe more to him than they yet understand. 

1 Leslie Stephens's Fretthinking and Plain Speaking. 



122 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

When a young man, he forsook the Calvinism in 
which he was reared. "I came," he said, "to em- 
brace what is called heterodox views on every ques- 
tion."^ He cared for this world as well as for another, 
and hence was distrusted by all <'true believers." 
Though he had "spiritual hopes," he agreed that he 
should be called a materialist. 

We have now had (1895) a London Reform Sun- 
day, more than two hundred and fifty (one list gave 
four hundred) preachers of all denominations taking 
for their unprecedented text, "The Duties and Re- 
sponsibilities of Citizenship," — a thing the most san- 
guine deemed incredible when suggested by me in 
1854.'^ Within twenty years Dr. Felix Adler has 
founded noble Ethical Societies. Dr. Stanton Coit is 
extending them in Great Britain. They are Secular- 
ist societies in their nature. South Place Chapel now 
has taken the name of Ethical Society. Since the 
days of W. J. Fox, who first made it famous, it has 
been the only successor in London of the Moral 
Church opened by Thomas Holcroft. Though mod- 
ern Secular societies, to which these pages relate, 
have been anti-theological mainly, the Secular So- 
ciety of Leicester is a distinguished exception. It has 
long had a noble hall of its own, and from the earliest 
inception of Secularism it has been consistent and 

1 See Chambers's Encycloptedia {1888) ; article : Priestley. 

2 We have now a Museum Sunday. Even twenty years ago those who ad- 
vocated the Sunday opening of museums were counted irreverent and beyond 
the pale of grace. Their opening is now legalised (1896). 



SELF-EXTENDING PRINCIPLES. 123 

persistent in its principles. As stated elsewhere,' the 
"Principles of Secularism " were submitted to John 
Stuart Mill in 1854, and his approval was of impor- 
tance in the eyes of their advocates. In the first issue 
of Chambers's Encyclopedia a special article appeared 
upon these views, and in the later issue of that work 
in 1888 a new article was written on Secularism. In 
the Rev. Dr. Molesworth's History of England a very 
clear account was given of the rise of Secularist opin- 
ions. This will be sufficient information for readers 
unacquainted with the subject. 

The cause of reason has had more to confront than 
the cause of Christianity, which has always been on 
the side of power since the days of Christ. The two 
most influential ideas which, in every age since Chris- 
tianity arose, have given it currency among the ignor- 
ant and the credulous, have been the ideas of Hell 
and prayer. Hell has been the terror, and prayer the 
bribe, which have won the allegiance of the timid and 
the needy. These two master passions of alarm and 
despair have brought the unfortunate portions of man- 
kind to the foot of the Cross. 

The cause of reason has no advantages of this na- 
ture, and only the intelligent have confidence in its 
progress. If we have expected to do more than we 
have, we are not the only party who have been pre- 
maturely sanguine. The Rev. David Bogue, preach- 
ing in Whitfield's Tabernacle, Tottenham-Court Road, 

1 Sixty Years of an Agitatm't Life, Chap. CX. 



124 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

at the foundation of the Foreign Missionary Society 
(1790) of the Congregational denomination, exclaimed 
amid almost unequalled enthusiasm: "We are called 
together this evening to the funeral of bigotry." Judg- 
ing from what has happened since, bigotry was not 
dead when its funeral was prepared, or it was not ef- 
fectually buried, as it has been seen much about since 
that day. 

Bigotry, like Charles II., takes an unconscionable 
time in dying. Down to Sir Charles Lyell's days, so 
harmless a study as geology was distrusted, and Lyell, 
like Priestley, had to seek auditors in America. While 
he lectured at Boston to 1,500 persons, 2,000 more 
were unable to obtain tickets, which were bought at 
a guinea each extra. At our great ancient seat of 
learning, Oxford, Buckland lectured on the same in- 
teresting subject to an audience of three. 

Secularism keeps the lamp of free thought burning 
by aiding and honoring all who would infuse an ethi- 
cal passion into those who lead the growing army of 
independent thinkers. Our lamp is not yet a large 
one, and its supply of oil is limited by Christian law ; 
but, like the fire in the Temple of Montezuma, we 
keep it burning. In all the centuries since the torch 
of free thought was first lighted, though often threat- 
ened, often assailed, often dimned, it has never been 
extinguished. We could not hope to captivate society 
by splendid edifices, nor many cultivated advocates ; 
but truth of principle will penetrate where those who 



SELF-EXTENDING PRINCIPLES. 125 

maintain it will never be seen and never heard. The 
day Cometh when other torches will be lighted at the 
obscure fire, which, borne aloft by other and stronger 
hands, will shed lasting illumination where otherwise 
darkness would permanently prevail. As Elizabeth 
Barrett Browning has said : "Truth is like sacramen- 
tal bread, — we must pass it on." 



SECULARIST CEREMONIES. 



" Death is the decisive test of the value of 
the education and morality of society; Secular 
funerals are the symbol of the social renova- 
tion." — J. P. Proudhon. 

CERTAIN ceremonies are common to all human so- 
ciety, and should be consistent with the opinions 
of those in whose name the ceremonies take place. 
The marriage service of the Church contains things 
no bride could hear without a blush, if she understood 
them ; and the Burial Service includes statements the 
minister ought to know to be untrue, and by which 
the sadness of death is desecrated. The Secularist 
naturally seeks other forms of speech. It being a 
principle of Secularism to endeavor to replace what it 
deems bad by something better — or more consistent 
with its profession — the following addresses are given. 
Other hands may supply happier examples ; but, in 
the meantime, these which follow may meet with the 
needs of those who have no one at hand to speak for 
them, and are not accustomed to speak for them- 
selves. 



SECULARIST CEREMONIES. 127 



ON MARRIAGE. 

Marriage involves several things of which few per- 
sons think beforehand, and which it is useful to call 
their attention to at this time. The bridegroom, by 
the act of marriage, professes that he has chosen out 
of all the women of the world, known to him, the one 
to whom he will be faithful while life shall last. He 
declares the bride to be his preference, and, whoever 
he may see hereafter, or like, or love, the door of as- 
sociation shall be shut upon them in his heart for 
ever. The bride, on her part, declares and promises 
the same things. The belief in each other's perfection 
is the most beautiful illusion of love. Sometimes the 
illusion happily continues during life. It may happen 
— it does happen sometimes — that each discovers 
that the other is not perfect. The Quaker's advice 
was: **Open your eyes wide before marriage, but 
shut them afterwards." Those who have neglected 
the first part of this counsel will still profit by observ- 
ing the second. Let those who will look about, and 
put tormenting constructions on innocent acts : be- 
ware of jealousy, which kills more happiness than ever 
Love created. 

The result of marriage is usually offspring, when 
society will have imposed upon it an addition to its 
number. It is necessary for the credit of the parents, 
as well as for the welfare of the children, that they 



128 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

should be born healthy, reared healthy, and be well 
educated ; so that they may be strong and intelligent 
when the time comes for them to encounter, for them- 
selves, the vicissitudes of life. Those who marry are 
considered to foreknow and to foresee these duties, 
and to pledge themselves to do the best in their power 
to discharge them. 

In the meantime, and ever afterwards, let love 
reign between you. And remember the minister of 
Love is deference towards each other. Ceremonial 
manners are conducive to affection. Love is not a 
business, but the permanence of love is a business. 

Unless there are good humor, patience, pleasant- 
ness, discretion, and forbearance, lo^'e will cease. 
Those who expect perfection will lose happiness. A 
wise tolerance is the sunshine of love, and they who 
maintain the sentiment will come to count their mar- 
riage the beginning of the brightness of life. 

NAMING CHILDREN. 

In naming children it is well to avoid names whose 
associations pledge the child, without its consent, to 
some line of action it may have no mind to, or capa- 
city for, when grown up. A child called "Brutus" 
would be expected to stab Caesar — and the Caesars are 
always about. The name " Washington " destroyed 
a politician of promise who bore it. He could never 
live up to it. A name should be a pleasant mark to 
be known by, not a badge to be borne. 



SECULARIST CEREMONIES. 129 

In formally naming a child it is the parents alone 
to whom useful words can be addressed. 

Heredity, which means qualities derived from par- 
entage, is a prophecy of life. Therefore let parents 
render themselves as perfect in health, as wise in 
mind, and as self-respecting in manners as they can ; 
for their qualities in some degree will appear in their 
offspring. One advantage of children is that they con- 
tribute unconsciously to the education of parents. No 
parents of sense can fail to see that children are aa 
imitative as monkeys, and have better memories. Not 
only do they imitate actions, but repeat forms of ex- 
pression, and will remember them ever after. The 
manners of parents become more or less part of the 
manners and mind of the child. Sensible parents, 
seeing this, will put a guard upon their conduct and 
speech, so that their example in act and word may be 
a store-house of manners and taste from which their 
children may draw wisdom in conduct and speech. 
The minds of children are as photographic plates on 
which parents are always printing something which 
will be indelibly visible in future days. Therefore 
the society, the surroundings, the teachers of the child, 
so far as the parents can control them, should be well 
chosen, in order that the name borne by the young 
shall command respect when their time comes to play 
a part in the drama of life. To this end a child should 
be taught to take care what he promises, and that 
when he has given his promise he has to keep it, for 



I30 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

he whose word is not to be trusted is always suspected, 
and his opinion is not sought by others, or is disre- 
garded when uttered. A child should early learn that 
debt is dependence, and the habit of it is the mean- 
ness of living upon loans. There can be no independ- 
ence, no reliance upon the character of any one, who 
will buy without the means of payment, or who lives 
beyond his income. Such persons intend to live on 
the income of some one else, and do it whether they 
intend it or not. He alone can be independent who 
trusts to himself for advancement. No one ought to 
be helped forward who does not possess this quality, 
or will not put his hand to any honest work open to 
him. Beware of the child who has too much pride to 
do what he can for his own support, but has not too 
much pride to live upon his parents, or upon friends. 
Such pride is idleness, or thoughtlessness, or both, 
unless illness causes the inability. 

Since offspring have to be trained in health and 
educated in the understanding, there must not be many 
in the family unless the parents have property. The 
poor cannot afford to have many children if they in- 
tend to do their duty by them. It is immoral in the 
rich to have many because the example is bad, and 
because they are sooner or later quartered upon the 
people to keep them ; or, if they are provided for by 
their parents, they are under no obligation to do an)- 
thing for themselves, which is neither good for them 



SECULARIST CEREMONIES. 131 

nor good for the community, to which they contribute 
nothing. 

Believing this child will be trained by its parents 
to be an honor to them, and a welcome addition to the 
family of humanity, it is publicly named with pleasure. 



_. - OVER THE DEAD. 

I. READING AT A GRAVE. 

Esdras and Uriel. 

[An argument in which the Prophet speaks as a Secnlartst.] 

And the angel that was sent unto me, whose name 
was Uriel, said : — I am sent to show thee three ways, 
and to set forth three similitudes before thee : whereof, 
if thou canst declare me one, I will show thee also 
the way that thou desirest to see .... 

And I said. Tell on, my Lord. 

Then said he unto me, Go thy way ; weigh me the 
weight of the fire, or measure me the blast of the wind, 
or call me again the day that is past. 

Then answered I and said, What man is able to 
do that, that thou shouldest ask such things of me ? 

And he said unto me. If I should ask thee how 
great dwellings are in the midst of the sea, or how 
many springs are in the beginning of the deep, or how 
many springs are above the firmament, or which are 
the outgoings of Paradise, peradventure thou wouldst 
say unto me, I never went down into the deep, nor 



132 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

as yet into Hell, neither did I ever climb up into 
Heaven. 

Nevertheless, now have I asked thee but only of 
the fire, and wind, and of the day wherethrough thou 
hast passed, and of things from which thou canst not 
be separated, and yet canst thou give me no answer 
of them. 

He said, moreover, unto me. Thine own things, 
and such as are grown up with thee, canst thou not 
know ? How should thy vessel, then, be able to com- 
prehend the way of the Highest ? . . . . 

Then said I unto him. It were better that we were 
not at all than that we should live still in wickedness 
and to suffer, and not to know wherefor. 

He answered me and said, I went into a forest, 
into a plain, and the trees took counsel, and said, 
Come, let us go and make war against the sea, that it 
may depart away before us, and that we may make us 
more woods. 

The floods of the sea also in like manner took 
counsel, and said, Come, let us go up and subdue the 
woods of the plain : that there also we may make us 
another country. 

The thought of the wood was in vain, for the fire 
came and consumed it. The thought of the floods of 
the sea came likewise to nought, for the sand stood 
up and stopped them. 

If thou wert judge now betwixt these two, whom 



SECULARIST CEREMONIES. 133 

wouldest thou begin to justify ? or whom wouldest 
thou condemn ? 

I answered, and said, Verily it is a foolish thought 
that they both have devised ; for the ground is given 
unto the wood, and the sea also hath his place to bear 
his floods. 

Then answered he me and said, Thou hast given a 
right judgment ; but why judgest thou not thyself 
also ? For like as the ground is given unto the woods, 
and the sea to his floods, even so they that dwell upon 
the earth may understand nothing but that which is 
upon the earth : and he that dwelleth upon the heavens 
may only understand the things that are above the 
height of the heavens. 

Then answered I and said, I beseech thee, O Lord, 
let me have understanding. 

For it was not my mind to be curious of the high things, 
but of such as pctss by us daily. 

Harriet Martineau^s Hymn. ^ 

[The only hymn known to me in which a Supreme Cause is implied with- 
out being asserted or denied, or the reader committed to belief in it.] 

Beneath this starry arch 
Nought resteth or is still, 
' But all things hold their march 

' , As »/ by one great will : 

' ' ' Moves one, move all : 

Hark to the footfall 1 
On, on, for ever I 

1 Which may be sung where it can be so arranged. 



134 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

Yon sheaves were once but seed ; 
Will ripens into deed. 
As eave-drops swell the streams, 
Day-thoughts feed nightly dreams ; 
And sorrow tracketh wrong, 
As echo follows song, 
On, on, for ever 1 

By night, like stars on high, 
The hours reveal their train ; 
They whisper and go by ; 
I never watch in vain : 
Moves one, move all : 
Hark to the footfall ! 
On, on, for ever I 

They pass the cradle-head, 
And there a promise shed ; 
They pass the moist new grave, 
And bid bright verdure wave ; 
They bear through every clime, 
The harvests of all time, 
On, on, for ever I 



II. AT THE GRAVE OF A CHILD. 

The death of a child is alone its parents' sorrow. 
Too young to know, too innocent to fear, its life is a 
smile and its death a sleep. As the sun goes down 
before our eyes, so a mother's love vanishes from the 
gaze of infancy, and death, like evening, comes to it 
with quietness, gentleness, and rest. We measure the 



SECULARIST CEREMONIES. 135 

loss of a child by the grief we feel. When its love is 
gone, its promise over, and its prattle silent, its fate 
excites the parents' tears ; but we forget that infancy, 
like the rose, is unconscious of the sweetness it sheds, 
and it parts without pain from the pleasure it was too 
young to comprehend, though engaging enough to 
give to others. The death of a child is like the death 
of a day, of which George Herbert sings : 

" Sweet day, so clear, so calm, so bright 
Bridal of the earth and sky ; 
The dew shall weep thy fall to-night— 
For thou must die." 

It is no consolation to say, "When a child dies it 
is taken from the sorrows of life." Yes ! it is taken 
from the sorrows of life, and from its joys also. When 
the young die they are taken away from the evil, and 
from good as well. What parents' love does not in- 
clude the happiness of its offspring ? No ! we will 
not cheat ourselves. Death is a real loss to those who 
mourn, and the world is never the same again to those 
who have wept by the grave of a child. Argument 
does not, in that hour, reach the heart. It is human 
to weep, and sympathy is the only medicine of great 
grief. The sight of the empty shoe in the corner will 
efface the most relevant logic. Not all the preaching 
since Adam has made death other than death. Yet, 
though sorrow cannot be checked at once by reason, 
it may be chastened by it. Wisdom teaches that all 



136 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

human passions must be subordinate to the higher 
purposes of life. We must no more abandon ourselves 
to grief than to vice. The condition of life is the lia- 
bility to vicissitude, and, while it is human to feel, it 
is duty to endure. The flowers fade, and the stars go 
down, and youth and loveliness vanish in the eternal 
change. Though we cannot but regret a vital loss, it 
is wisdom to love all that is good for its own sake ; to 
enjoy its presence fully, but not to build on its con- 
tinuance, doing what we can to insure its continuance, 
and bearing with fortitude its loss when it comes. If 
the death of infancy teaches us this lesson, the past 
may be a charmed memory, with courage and dignity 
in it. 

III. MEN OR WOMEN. 

The science of life teaches us that while there is 
pain there is life. It would seem, therefore, that 
death, with silent and courteous step, never comes 
save to the unconscious. A niece of Franklm's, known 
for her wit and consideration for others, arrived at her 
last hour at the age of ninety-eight. In her compo- 
sure a friend gently touched her. "Ah," murmured 
the old lady, "I was dying so beautifully when you 
brought me back ! But never mind, my dear ; I shall 
try it again." This bright resignation, worthy of the 
niece of a philosopher, is making its way in popular 
affection. 



SECULARIST CEREMONIES. 137 

Lord Tennyson, when death came near to him, 
wrote : 

" Sunset and evening star, 
And one clear call for me ! 
And may there be no moaning of the bar 
' ' " When I put out to sea. 

Twilight and evening bell, 

And after that the dark, 
And may there be no sadness of farewell 

When I embark." 

There is just a touch of superstition in these genial 
lines. He writes : "After death the dark." How did 
he know that ? What evidence is there that the un- 
known land is "dark"? Why not light? The un- 
known has no determinate or ascertained color. 

Where we know nothing, neither priest nor poet 
has any right to speak as though he had knowledge. 
Improbability does not imply impossibility. That 
which invests death with romantic interest is, that it 
may be a venture on untried existence. If a future 
state be true, it will befall those who do not expect it 
as well as those who do. Another world, if such there 
be, will come most befittingly and most agreeably to 
those who have qualified themselves for it, by having 
made the best use in their power of this. By best use 
is meant the service of man. Desert consists alone in 
the service of others. Kindness and cheerfulness are 
the two virtues which most brighten human life. 



138 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

Wide-eyed philanthropy is not merely money-giving 
goodness, but the wider kindness which aids the as- 
cendancy of the right and minimises misery every- 
where. 

Death teaches, as nothing else does, one useful 
lesson. Whatever affection or friendship we may have 
shown to one we have lost, Death brings to our mem- 
ory countless acts of tenderness which we had neg- 
lected. Conscience makes us sensible of these omis- 
sions now it is too late to repair them. But we can 
pay to the living what we think we owe to the dead ; 
whereby we transmute the dead we honor into bene- 
factors of those they leave behind. This is a useful 
form of consolation, of which all survivors may avail 
themselves. 

Mrs. Ernestine Rose — a brave advocate of un- 
friended right — when age and infirmity brought her 
near to death, recalled the perils and triumphs in 
which she had shared, the slave she had helped to set 
free from the bondage of ownership, and the slave 
minds she had set free from the bondage of author- 
ity ; she was cheered, and exclaimed: "But I have 
lived." 

The day will come when all around this grave shall 
meet death ; but it will be a proud hour if, looking 
back upon a useful and generous past, we each can 
say : "I have lived.** 



SECULARIST CEREMONIES. 139 



IV. — ON A CAREER OF PUBLIC USEFULNESS. 

In reasoning upon death no one has surpassed the 
argument of Socrates, who said: "Death is one of 
two things : either the dead may be nothing and have 
no feeling — well, then, if there be no feeling, but it be 
like sleep, when the sleeper has no dream, surely 
death would be a marvellous gain, for thus all futurity 
appears to be nothing more than one night. If, on 
the other hand, death be a removal hence to another 
place, and what is said be true, that all the dead are 
there, what greater blessing can there be than this ? " 

Sir Edwin Arnold, in his Secret of Death, writes : 

' ' Nay, but as when one layetb 
His worn-out robes away, 
And, taking new ones, sayetb, 
' These will I wear to-day I * 

So putteth by the spirit 

Lightly its garb of flesh, 
And passeth to inherit 

A residence afresh." 

This may be true, and there is no objection to it if it 
is. But the pity is, nobody seems to be sure about it. 
At death we may mourn, but duty ceaseth not. If we 
desist in endeavors for the right because a combatant 
falls at our side, no battle will ever be won. " Life," 
Mazzini used to say, " is a battle and a march." Those 
who serve others at their own peril are always in 



I40 ENGLISH SECULARISM. 

"battle." Let us honor them as they pass. Some of 
them have believed : 

" Though love repine and reaison chafe, 
There came a voice without reply — 
' 'Tis man's perdition to be safe, 
When for the truth he ought to die.' " 

They are of those who, as another poet has said, "are 
not to be mourned, but to be imitated."^ The mystery 
of death is no greater than the mystery of life. All 
that precedes our existence was unseen, unimaginable, 
and unknown to us. What may succeed in the future 
is unprovable by philosopher or priest : 

• ' A flower above and the mould below : 
And this is all that the mourners know."* 

The ideal of life which gives calmness and confi- 
dence in death is the same in the mind of the wise 
Christian as in the mind of the philosopher. Sydney 
Smith says : "Add to the power of discovering truth 
the desire of using it for the promotion of human hap- 
piness, and you have the great end and object of our 
existence."" Putting just intention into action, a man 
fulfils the supreme duty of life, which casts out all fear 
of the future. 

A poet who thought to reconcile to their loss those 
whose lines have not fallen to them in pleasant places 
wrote : 

1 W. J. Linton. « Barry Cornwall. 8 Moral Philotophy. 



SECULARIST CEREMONIES. 141 

"A little rule, a little sway, 
A sunbeam on a winter's day. 
Is all the proud and mighty have 
Between the cradle and the grave." 

This is not true ; the proud and mighty have rest at 
choice, and play at will. The "sunbeam" is on them 
all their days. Between the cradle and the grave is 
the whole existence of man. The splendid inheritance 
of the "proud and mighty " ought to be shared by all 
whose labor creates and makes possible the good for- 
tune of those who "toil not, neither do they spin"; 
and whoever has sought to endow the industrious with 
liberty and intelligence, with competence and leisure, 
we may commit to the earth in the sure and certain 
hope that they deserve well, and will fare well, in any 
"land of the leal" to which mankind may go. 



INDEX. 



Act, the, which accorded heresy a 
State trial, 8. 

Adams, Mrs. Harriet, imprisoned 
1842, 7- 

Adams, George, imprisoned, 7. 

Adier, Dr. Felix, founder of Ethical 
Societies, 122. 

Adversaries of inquiry, the monarch 
and the priest, 5. 

American maxim, 84. 

Archbishop of York regards Chris- 
tian principles fatal to the State, 38. 

Archbishop Whately, on primary es- 
sential of reasoning, ro ; his thor- 
oughness, 45. 

Arnold, Sir Edwin, on the transition 
of death, 139. 

Atheism intrinsically tolerant, 66. 

Aurelius Antoninus, his famous 
quest, 35, footnote. 

Bailey, Samuel, examination the jus- 
tifier of belief, 12. 

Baines, Edward, his Secular choice, 
57, footnote. 

Barker, Joseph, 51. 

Besant's, Mrs. Annie, description of 
Secularism, 115. 

Bihar Proverb, 100. 

Bishop of Exeter confirms idiots, 40, 
footnote. 

Bishop of Manchester, his remark- 
able admission, 102. 

Bishop of Peterborough, regards the 
Secular as atheistic, 60; the au- 
thor's answer to, 68. 

Bogue, Rev. David, bis premature- 
ness, 123. 



Bose, Pramatha Nath, on Hindu 

thought, 21. 
Bradlaugh, C, never made atheism 

a Secular tenet, 60 ; his description 

of Secularism, 115. 
Bridal promises, 127. 
Brooke, Rev. Stopford A., Secular 

acts religious, 41. 
Browning, E. B., truth to be passed 

on, 125. 
Browning, Robert, against a " love- 
less God," 25; his wise prayer, 32, 

33- 
Buchanan, Robert, escapes by the 

oath, 7. 
Buckland, deserted at Oxford, 124. 
Buckle, T. H., liberty an end, 29, 

footnote. 
Buddha, saying of, 74. 
Byron, Lord, his choice of company, 

32; a "bad man," 112. 

Caballero's maxim of tolerance, 18. 
Carlile, Richard, first debate with 

him, 92. 
Carlyle, T., the maxim of the monks, 

80, 89; "No man a saint in his 

sleep," 108. 
Chambers's Encyclopaedia, 123. 
Charlton, James, 49. 
Christian distrust of morality, 78. 
Christianity, three classes stand 

apart from it, 53. 
Church sirens, their seven songs, 19, 

20. 
Clean principles, 113. 
Clifford, Prof., on the " Kingdom of 

Man," 59. 



144 



INDEX. 



Coit, Dr. Stanton, ethical advocate, 

122. 

Coleridge, S. D., bis definition of a 
reasoner, 36. 

Collings, Right Hon. Jesse, his letter 
from the Hague, 62. 

Collyer, Dr. Robert, his advice to 
propagandists, 90. 

Comte Augusta, services of his disci- 
ples, 34. 

Cooper, J. R., 49. 

Cooper, Thomas, defender of stock 
propositions, 91. 

Cornwall, Barry, on all we know, 140. 

Crank, John, 49. 

Criticism, seven things established 
by it, 71. 

Critics, their universal error, 84. 

Crosskey, Rev. Dr. Henry, his sug- 
gestion, 35, footnote. 

Dead band, the, 27. 

Death, discerning sympathy the chief 

consolation, 135 ; sometimes a duty, 

140. 
Debatable ground of theology, 88. 
Democracy connotes deference, 15. 
De Stagl, Madame, her saying, 34. 
Diderot's perspicacity, no. 
Diseases divine, 105. 
Disputants should be equally 

matched, 90. 
Disraeli, B., objects to Board-school 

preachers, 64. 
Dryden. John, his democratic lines, 

118. 
Duty defined, 74. 

Eclecticism, not permitted by Chris- 
tians, 3. 

Ellicot, Bishop, his admission, 76. 

Emerson, R. W., his noble choice, 18. 

Expanding the letter, 26. 

Eyton, Canon, distrusts Providence, 
102. 

Farrar, Dean, distrusts the Thirty- 
nine Articles, 102. 

Finlay, Thomas, imprisoned, 7. 

Fleet Street House commeuced 1852, 
51- 



Foote, G. W., his description of Sec- 
ularism, 115. 

Foreign affairs of theology, 86. 

Forster, W. E., letter to him, 61 ; his 
injurious insistance, 65 ; creates a 
new sacerdotal caste, 64. 

Fox, W. J., defines education, 61; the 
market and the Church, 85, 122. 

Franklin's niece, 136. 

Free mind, its quality and security, 
13- 

Free thought, the field in 1842, 7; de- 
fined, 10; its three conditions, 11. 

Froude, J. A., his life of Saint Belle- 
tin, 94. 

Garibaldi, his question to Mazzini, 
80. 

Garrison, L., frees the slave without 
Christian aid, 82. 

Gladstone, W. E., his defence of dis- 
cussion, 12 ; in favor of Secular in- 
struction, 62. 

Goethe, his secret of genius, 22 ; his 
Coptic song, 30 ; his warning say- 
ing, 95- 

Graham, Sir James, confers legal ad- 
vantages on heresy, 8. 

Grant, Rev. Brewin, B. A., 50. 

Greenwood, Abraham, 49. 

Greg, Rathbone, his five laws of life, 

85. 
Grote, George, on the resentment of 
the priest, 31. 

Hastings, G. W., his services to Sec- 
ular a£Brmation, 119. 

Herbert, George, on the death of a 
day, 135. 

Hey, Canon, 91. 

Hibbert, Julian, regarded criticism 
as self-defence, 19. 

Holcroft, Thomas, his moral Church, 
122. 

Holmes, Dr. Oliver Wendell, his re- 
ply to Christ, 98. 

Hooker, Richard, his wise warning, 
103. 

Hutton, R. H., his distrust of moral- 
ity, 78. 

Huxley, T. H., makes a new thof- 



INDEX. 



MS 



oughfare, 19; defines God's justice, 
25 ; his definition of agnosticism, 
36, footnote; bis golden rule, 114. 

Infidelity, a term intentionally offen- 
sive, 54. 

Ingersoll, Colonel R. G., orator of 
free thought, 43, footnote. 

Instruction confused with education, 
61. 

Jones, Lloyd, escapes by the oath, 7. 

Karr, Alphonse, his prediction, i. 
Kneller, Sir Godfrey, his confession, 
39- 

Lamb, Charles, his taste in grace, 

103, footnote. 
Langford, Dr. J. A., 52. 
Le Blond, Robert, 51. 
Leicester Secular Society, 122. 
Linton, W. J., his heroic saying, 140. 
Lyell, Sir C, his geology exiled, 124. 

Marriage, new ceremony of, 127, 128. 
Martineau, Dr. James, a fine sentence 

from, 42. 
Martineau, H., defends the term 

" Secularism," 35 ; her hymn of the 

grave, 133, 134. 
Martyr, Justin, his servile prudence, 

76. 
Maxim, of free thought, 9; of the sea, 

56. 
Mazzini forbidden to think, 9; his 

absolute Theism, 81 ; his letter to 

the author, 81; a heretic himself, 82. 
Mendicancy of prayer, 102. 
Mill, J. S., his definition of religion, 

80; bis testimony, 119; approves of 

the principles of Secularism, 54, 

123. 
Milton, 63; his " free and open field " 

deficient, 90. 
Molesworth, Rev. Dr., his historical 

account of Secularism, 123. 
Montezuma, the fire in his temple, 

124. 
Moral nature palpable as the physi- 
cal, 109. 



Morley, Samuel, his honorablencss, 

91. 
Morley, John, holds independent 

thinking to be conceded, z. 
Motherwell, James, 49. 
Murderers thrust on God, 104. 

Naming children, suggestions there- 
on, 128, 129. 

Napoleon III., 34. 

''New range of view" misleading, 
27- 

Newman, Cardinal, on destruction 
by replacement, 71. 

Newman, F.W., morals, not religion, 
the basis of union, 76, 77; present 
goodness the chief aim, 117. 

Newton, John, on ignorant zeal, 28. 

Nicholls, Charles Frederick, 47. 

Nicol, Professor, wild ideas better 
than none, 17. 

Oddfellows' Prize Lectures, the prin- 
ciple on which they were written, 
46. 

Open thought, its three stages, 2, 3. 

Owen, Robert, 45. 

Paine, Thomas, greater than any 
priest, 82. 

Palmerston, Lord, at Harrow Speech 
Day, 107. 

Parents, obligations of, 129. 

Parker, Rev. Dr. J., gives an onder- 
taking, 53; his Critique 0/ the Secu- 
larist Theory, 54, footnote ; declares 
Secular education not atheistic, 60: 
his motto, 63, 64. 

Parker, Theodore, the "Jupiter of 
the pulpit," 41. 

Partridge and Oakley, 50. 

Patersou, Thomas, imprisoned, 7. 

Pearson, Rev. T., fate of bis Prize 
Essay, 54. 

Phillips, Wendell, bis description of 
Theodore Parker, 41. 

Place, Joseph, 49. 

Policy in practice, 98. 

Pratt, Hodgson, on Mazzoleni's bur- 
ial, 61. 

Priestley, Dr., a materialist, I2Z. 



146 



INDEX. 



Principle in the young, 130. 
Proudhon, P. J., regards Secular fu- 
nerals as symbols, 126. 
Putnam, Samuel Porter, 43, footnote. 

Quarles, Francis, on wise worldli- 

ness, 38. 
Queen, the, on Rev. James Caird's 

Secular sermon, 117. 

Rathbone, W. H., the murderer be- 
fore the philosopher, 104, footnote. 

Reading, its limits, 106. 

Restitution to the dead, 138. 

Right defined, 74. 

Roalfe, Matilda, imprisoned in Scot- 
land, 7. 

Robinson, Canon, gi. 

Roebuck, John Arthur, always vindi- 
cated free speech, 8. 

Rose, Mrs. Ernestine, her last words, 
138. 

Rutherford, Dr. J. H., 51. 

Rylance, Rev. Dr., his Christian Rea- 
soner, 118, iig. 

Samson, his famous engagement at 
Ramath-Lehi, 95. 

Secular, the, distinct from Secular- 
ism, 56; instruction neutral, 57. 

Secularism defined, 8; individuality 
in piety, 62; its three principles, 
38, 39, 40; its origin, 45, 46, 47; not 
atheism, 60 ; seven errors it re- 
places, 71; its moral path, 76; its 
aim, 73; the revolt of the moral 
sense, 92. 

Secularist tenets provable, 84 ; piety, 
88, 89; maxim of controversy, 90; 
accepts Christian morality, 100; 
four rules of conduct, 112. 

Self-determined thought, 21. 

Sidney, Algernon, his legacy, 12. 

Smith, Sydney, on end and object of 
existence, 140. 

Social Truth, its three marks, 75. 

Socrates, his argument on death, 139. 

Sophistry on death, 141. 

South Place Chapel, 12a. 



Southey's self-complacent letter, 31. 
Southwell, Charles, in prison at 

Bristol, 7. 
Spanish proverb, 106. 
Spencer, Herbert, varied iteration a 

necessity, 18, 50. 
Spirit, an evasive refuge, 26. 
Spurgeon, C. H., in favor of Secular 

instruction, 65. 
Stanhope, Lady Hester, "she knew," 

112. 
Stanley, Dean, how he perished, 102. 
Stanley, H. M., 22. 
Stephen, Leslie, his testimony, 120, 

121. 

Superfine distrust, 108. 
Sydney, Sir Philip, on reasonable- 
ness, 116. 
Syracusan, the school of, bondage, 



Taylor, Sir Henry, 31. 

Tennyson, Lord, his cheerful re- 
quest, 137. 

Thinker, the, a disturber, 17. 

Townley, Rev. Henry, his compro- 
mising pertinacity, 91. 

Travis, Dr. Henry, 49. 

Tyndall, Professor, his noble choice, 
18. 

Uriel's Secularist argument with 

Esdras, 131. 
Uttley, Dr. Hiram, 49. 

Voltaire, who withstood the priests 
of his day, 82. 

Watts, Alaric A., his warning to Na- 
poleon HL, no. 

Westminster Gazette, i8. 

Wheeler, J. M., 43, footnote. 

When a man is not a man, 11. 

Wilcox, Ella W., on the want of the 
world, 112. 

Worcester, Bishop of, his candid 
admission, loi. 

Workingman, bis four State duties, 
67, 63. 



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