Let us compare the gems of Jehovah with Pagan paste. It may be that the best way to illustrate what I have said, is to compare the supposed teachings of Jehovah with those of persons who never wrote an inspired line. In all ages of which any record has been preserved, men have given their ideas of justice, charity, liberty, love and law. If the Bible is the work of God, it should contain the sublimest truths, it should excel the works of man, it should contain the loftiest definitions of justice, the best conceptions of human liberty, the clearest outlines of duty, the tenderest and noblest thoughts. Upon every page should be found the luminous evidence of its divine origin. It should contain grander and more wonderful things than man has written.
It may be said that it is unfair to call attention to bad things in the Bible. To this it may be replied that a divine being ought not to put bad things in his book. If the Bible now upholds what we call crimes, it will not do to say that it is not verbally inspired. If the words are not inspired, what is? It may be said, that the thoughts are inspired. This would include only thoughts expressed without words. If ideas are inspired, they must be expressed by inspired words--that is to say, by an inspired arrangement of words. If a sculptor were inspired of God to make a statue, we would not say that the marble was inspired, but the statue--that is to say, the relation of part to part, the married harmony of form and function. The language, the words, take the place of the marble, and it is the arrangement of the words that Christians claim to be inspired. If there is an uninspired word, or a word in the wrong place, until that word is known a doubt is cast on every word the book contains.
If it was worth God's while to make a revelation at all, it was certainly worth his while to see that it was correctly made--that it was absolutely preserved. Why should God allow an inspired book to be interpolated? If it was worth while to inspire men to write it, it was worth while to inspire men to preserve it; and why should he allow another person to interpolate in it that which was not inspired? He certainly would not have allowed the man he inspired to write contrary to the inspiration. He should have preserved his revelation. Neither will it do to say that God adapted his revelation to the prejudices of man. It was necessary for him to adapt his revelation to the capacity of man, but certainly God would not confirm a barbarian in his prejudices. He would not fortify a heathen in his crimes.
If a revelation is of any importance, it is to eradicate prejudice. They tell us now that the Jews were so ignorant, so bad, that God was compelled to justify their crimes, in order to have any influence with them. They say that if he had declared slavery and polygamy to be crimes, the Jews would have refused to receive the Ten Commandments. They tell us that God did the best he could; that his real intention was to lead them along slowly, so that in a few hundred years they would be induced to admit that larceny and murder and polygamy and slavery were not virtues. I suppose if we now wished to break a cannibal of the bad habit of devouring missionaries, we would first induce him to cook them in a certain way, saying: "To eat cooked missionary is one step in advance of eating your missionary raw. After a few years, a little mutton could be cooked with missionary, and year after year the amount of mutton could be increased and the amount of missionary decreased, until in the fullness of time the dish could he entirely mutton, and after that the missionaries would be absolutely safe."
If there is anything of value, it is liberty--liberty of body, liberty of mind. The liberty of body is the reward of labor. Intellectual liberty is the air of the soul, the sunshine of the mind, and without it, the world is a prison, the universe a dungeon.
If the Bible is really inspired, Jehovah commanded the Jewish people to buy the children of the strangers that sojourned among them, and ordered that the children thus bought should be an inheritance for the children of the Jews, and that they should be bondmen and bondwomen forever. Yet Epictetus, a man to whom no revelation was ever made, a man whose soul followed only the light of nature, and who had never heard of the Jewish God, was great enough to say: "Will you not remember that your servants are by nature your brothers, the children of God? In saying that you have bought them, you look down on the earth, and into the pit, on the wretched law of men long since dead, but you see not the laws of the gods."
We find that Jehovah, speaking to his chosen people, assured them that their bondmen and their bondmaids must be "of the heathen that were round about them." "Of them," said Jehovah, "shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids." And yet Cicero, a pagan, Cicero, who had never been enlightened by reading the Old Testament, had the moral grandeur to declare: "They who say that we should love our fellow- citizens but not foreigners, destroy the universal brotherhood of mankind, without which benevolence and justice would perish forever."
If the Bible is inspired, Jehovah, God of all worlds, actually said: "And if a man smite his servant or his maid with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall be sorely punished; not with- standing, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money." And yet Zeno, founder of the Stoics, centuries before, Christ was born, insisted that man could not be the owner of another, and that title was bad, whether the slave had become so by conquest or by purchase.
Jehovah ordered a Jewish general to make war, and gave, among others, this command; "When the Lord thy God shall drive them before thee, thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them." And yet Epictetus, whom we have already quoted, gave this marvelous rule for the guidance of human conduct: "Live with thy inferiors as thou wouldst have thy superiors live with thee."
Is it possible, after all, that a being of infinite goodness and wisdom said: "I will heap mischief upon them; I will send mine arrows upon them; they shall be burned with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction. I will send the tooth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and virgin, the suckling also, with the man of gray hairs:" while Seneca, an uninspired Roman, said: "The wise man will not pardon any crime that ought be punished, but he will accomplish, in a nobler way, all that is sought in pardoning. He will spare some and watch over some, because of their youth, and others on account of their ignorance. His clemency will not fall short of Justice, but will fulfill it perfectly."
Can we believe that God ever said to any one: Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow; let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg; them seek their bread also out of their desolate places; let the extortioner catch all that he hath, and let the stranger spoil his labor; let there be none to extend mercy unto him, neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children." If he ever said these words, surely he had never heard this line, this strain of music from the Hindu: "Sweet is the lute to those who have not heard the prattle of their own children."
Jehovah, "from the clouds and darkness of Sinai" said to the Jews: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. . . . Though shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them; for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." Contrast this with the words put by the Hindu in the mouth of Brahma: "I am the same to all mankind. They who honestly serve other gods involuntarily worship me, I am he who partakest of all worship, and I am the reward of all worshipers."
Compare these passages; the first a dungeon where crawl the things begot of jealous slime; the other, great as the domed firmament inlaid with suns.
Is it possible that the real God ever said:
"And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet; and I will stretch out my hand upon him and will destroy him from the midst of my people."
Compare that passage with one from a Pagan.
"It is better to keep silence for the remainder of your life than to speak falsely."
Can we believe that a being of infinite mercy gave this command:
"Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate, throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor; consecrate yourselves to-day to the Lord, even every man upon his son and upon his brother, that he may bestow a blessing upon you this day."
Surely, that God was not animated by so great and magnanimous a spirit as was Antoninus, a Roman emperor, who declared that, "he had rather keep a single Roman citizen alive than slay a thousand enemies."
Compare the laws given to the children of Israel, as it is claimed by the Creator of us all, with the following from Marcus Aurelius:
"I have formed the ideal of a state, in which there is the same law for all, and equal rights, and equal liberty of speech established; an empire where nothing is honored so much as the freedom of the citizen.
In the Avesta I fond this: "I belong to five: to those who think good, to those who speak good, to those who do good, to those who hear, and to those who are pure."
"Which is the one prayer which in greatness, goodness, and beauty is worth all that is between heaven and earth and between this earth and the stars? And he replied: To renounce all evil thoughts and words and works."