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books of a religions character, but without anything controversial. It was provided, however, that no child whose parents might object, should be obliged to use these books. And though it scarcely ever did happen that there was any call for the application of that rule, this provision for any—even excessive—scrapie, gave complete confidence and satisfaction for many years. But when some new Commissioners came into office, with different views, they discovered that the rule (which had been worded not very guardedly, or with any thought of special-pleadiug subtleties) might be brought to bear a sense quite unthought of. It might be interpreted to mean that, if any one child (in a school of, perhaps, hundreds) objected to these books, they were to be altogether withheld from the general instruction of all the rest! And the words certainly will bear that meaning, if you lay aside all regard for reason, and for justice, and the known design of the framers of the rale, and the constant practice of many years, and the fair expectations of the Public. The main object was, doubtless, the gratification of a certain Party. But some degree of exultation also was probably felt, at the ingenuity of hitting on an interpretation of a rule, so wide from its design. A witness who was examined as to this matter before a Parliamentary Committee, remarked to them that hardly any formula can be so framed as not to admit of being thus ingeniously wrested into a new meaning, by one who should set at nought common sense and common honesty. For instance, the 'Oath of Abjuration '—which many regard as a bulwark of Church and State, reprobates the doctrine 'that princes deprived by the Pope may be deposed or murdered by their subjects;' and declares that 'no foreign prelate, &c., has any authority' over us. Now, a subtle Jesuit might instruct his pupil to take this oath while meditating the overthrow of our Government and Religion. For— not to mention that the word ' Princes' is masculine, and therefore does not extend to a Queen—he might say that a sovereign deprived by the Pope cannot be deposed by his subjects, because he is already deposed, and has no subjects; nor can he be murdered, if the Pope (possessing rightful power) has declared his life forfeit; since murder always implies wrongful slaying; else, the public executioner would be guilty of it. And the Pope, if he is the legitimate Head of the whole christian Church, cannot be, anywhere, a 'foreign prelate.' As for his being, perhaps, a native of Italy, and temporal Sovereign of the Papal States, that is nothing to the purpose. For, our ancestors, while administering this very oath, were governed by a king who was a native German, and Sovereign of Hanover; but whom yet they certainly did not reckon a 'foreign potentate.'
Again, learned divines have maintained, with apparent seriousness, that all the 'tongues ' spoken by the Disciples on the day of Pentecost, were merely Greek, in a somewhat unusual style; Greek having been, it seems, the universal language of Jews, Romans, Parthians, Medes, &c., each of them, moreover, recognising with much wonder, this odd kind of Greek as their 'own tongue wherein they were born!' Pilate must, therefore, have been mistaken in affixing to the cross an inscription in three languages; and so must the chief Captain, Claudius Lysias, who wondered that Paul, whom he took for an Egyptian (Acts xxi.), could 'speak Greek 1'
Others, again, have maintained that the 'gift of tongues' consisted in the utterance of sounds which had no meaning at all, either to the hearers or the speaker.1
Again, any man of plain good sense would be likely to perceive, (at least when his attention is called to the point), that the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. i.) is dwelling on the humble and, humanly-speaking, powerless, instruments of the propagation of the Gospel:—' the weak things of the world, chosen by the Most High to confound the strong;' thus laying bare as it were the superhuman power which alone could have enabled them to succeed: and that the 'calling,' therefore, which he speaks of, must mean those thus chosen by their divine Master to call disciples. But some learned men, misled by their own ingenuity, have maintained that by the weak and unlearned of whom Paul is speaking, he meant the converts tltemselves; as if he could have been so silly as to bring forward, as a proof of divine power, that the Gospel was received by hardly any but the lowest and most ignorant 1 But this, we are told, he did, in order to rouse the emulation of the learned and great! it being just what would have excited their disgust and scorn.
As for the supposed miracle of walking on the water, that is explained to have been merely wading in a shallow part of the lake! And the multitudes who were fed in the wilderness, were supplied, it seems, by some of their own number, who had brought with them great plenty of provisions, and were induced by the example of Jesus and his Apostles, to supply their neighbours!
1 A similar instance of misapplied and absurd ingenuity, is noticed in a note to Lecture vi. on Good and Evil AngeU, p. 143.
To represent the whole of the Scripture-narrative as a string of mere fabrications, is a position which, untenable as it is, is a degree less absurd than such theories.
Ingenious explainers of this kind seem to have arisen in the earliest days of the Church. Such, no doubt, were those mentioned by the Apostle Paul as teaching that 'the Resurrection was past already ;' and to whom he probably alludes in 1 Cor. xv. For, the expression of 'the Resurrection' being 'pant,' implies that they did not avowedly deny the statements of the christian teachers, but explained them as a kind of Myth or Parable; representing the 'resurrection' as being a figurative term, to denote, perhaps, the raising up of mankind from ignorance to knowledge, or from vice to virtue. These men were probably the forerunners and first leaders of those Docetce we read of, who taught (as the Mahometans do to this day) that our Lord did not really suffer death and rise again, but that there was an optical illusion which deceived his enemies, and that the sacred narrative was a kind of Parable, containing a hidden meaning, relating to the rejection at first, and triumph afterwards, of Christianity. And in our own days we have been told by an ingenious Divine that 'the whole Bible is ONE Great
Now, to ordinary men of plain sense, the word Parable denotes a fictitious narrative that is known and designed to be understood not literally but figuratively. But as for a professed narrative of facts known to be understood as such, and yet, as such, untrue, though capable of being interpreted (as any conceivable story might) as a Parable, emblematically containing some secret meaning which few or none would suspect,—this is what any plain man would be likely to call by a very different name from 'Parable.'1
When a man has once begun to indulge in the exercise of perverted ingenuity, one can no more guess what extravagance he will next strike out, than one could foresee the course of a mettlesome but blind horse that has broken loose. For instance, perhaps some German professor, with Englishmen for his disciples, may hereafter devise a theory to explain and rationalize the transaction of Elijah's sacrifice. The prophet, he may suggest, had secretly invented the art of distilling Alcohol, or had discovered a spring of Naphtha (such as Herodotus describes), which is fluid and colourless like water, but highly inflammable; and then he instructed some accomplices to pour barrels of this seeming water over the wood on the altar; and having also forestalled the invention of lucifer-matchcs, he craftily kindled one, and thus set the pile in a blaze. Such a theory would not be a whit less plausible, or more absurd, than some—such as those above noticed—that are afloat.
1 See Lecturet on the Parables.
'But, in reference to the point immediately before us, he who is well read in history and in travels, should be warned of the danger (the more on account of the real high importance of such knowledge) of misapplying it;—of supposing that because Political-economy is conversant with human transactions, and he is acquainted with so much greater an amount of human transactions than the generality of men, he must have an advantage over them in precisely the same degree, in discussing questions of Political-economy. Undoubtedly he has a great advantage, if he is careful to keep in view the true principles of the science; but otherwise he may even labour under a iis-advantage, by forgetting that (as I have above observed) the kind of transactions which are made most prominent, and occupy the chief space, in the works of historians and travellers, are usually not those of every-day life, with which Political economy is conversant. It is in the same way that an accurate military survey of any district, or a series of sketches accompanying a picturesque tour through it, may even serve to mislead one who is seeking for a knowledge of its agricultural condition, if he does not keep in mind the different objects which different kinds of survey have in view.
'Geologists, when commissioning their friends to procure them from any foreign country such specimens as may convey an idea of its geological character, are accustomed to warn them against sending over collections of curiosities—i.e. specimens of spars, stalactites, &c., which are accounted, in that country, curious, from being rarities, and which consequently convey no correct notion of its general features. What they want is, specimens of the commonest strata,—the stones with which the roads are mended, and the houses built, &c. And some fragments of these, which in that country are accounted mere rubbish, they sometimes, with much satisfaction, find casually adhering to the specimens sent them as curiosities, and constituting, for their object, the most important part of the collection. Histories are in general, to the Political-economist, what such collections are to the geologist. The casual allusions to common, and what are considered insignificant matters, convey, to him, the most valuable information.
'An injudicious study of history, then, may even prove a hindrance instead of a help to the forming of right views of Political-economy. For not only are many of the transactions which are, in the historian's view, the most important, such as are the least important to the Political-economist, but also a great proportion of them consists of what are in reality the greatest impediments to the progress of a society in wealth: viz. wars, revolutions, and disturbances of every kind. It is not in consequence of these, but in spite of them, that society has made the progress which in fact it has made. So that in taking such a survey as history furnishes of the course of events, for instance, for the last eight hundred years, not only do we find little mention of the causes which have so greatly increased national wealth during that period, but what we do chiefly read of is, the counteracting causes; especially the wars which have been raging from time to time, to the destruction of capital, and the hindrance of improvement. Now, if a ship had performed a voyage of eight hundred leagues, and the register of it contained an account chiefly of the contrary winds and currents, and made little mention of favourable gales, we might well be at a loss to understand how she reached her destination; and might even be led into the mistake of supposing that the contrary winds had forwarded her in her course. Yet such is history!'
In reference to the study of history, I have elsewhere remarked upon the importance, among the intellectual qualifica