Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/85

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AGNOSTICISM.

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��But I am forced to conclude that Prof. Huxley can not liave taken the pains to understand the point I raised, not only by the irrelevance of his argument on these considerations, but by a mis- quotation which the superior accuracy of a man of science ought to have rendered impossible. Twice over in the article he quotes me as saying that " it is, and it ought to be, an unpleasant thing for a man to have to say plainly that he does not believe in Jesus Christ." As he winds up his attack upon my paper by bringing against this statement his rather favorite charge of " immorality " — and even " most profound immorality " — he was the more bound to accuracy in his quotation of my words. But neither in the ofB- cial report of the congress to which he refers, nor in any report that I have seen, is this the statement attributed to me. What I said, and what I meant to say, was that it ought to be an unpleas- ant thing for a man to have to say plainly " that he does not believe Jesus Christ." By inserting the little word "in," Prof. Huxley has, by an unconscious ingenuity, shifted the import of the statement. He goes on to denounce "the pestilent doctrine on which all the churches have insisted, that honest disbelief in their more or less astonishing creeds is a moral offense, indeed a sin of the deepest dye." * His interpretation exhibits, in fact, the idea in his own mind, which he has doubtless conveyed to his readers, that I said it ought to be unpleasant to a man to have to say that he does not believe in the Christian creed. I cer- tainly think it ought, for reasons I will mention ; but that is not what I said. I spoke, deliberately, not of the Christian creed as a whole, but of Jesus Christ as a person, and regarded as a witness to certain primary truths which an agnostic will not acknowledge. It was a personal consideration to which I appealed, and not a dogmatic one ; and I am sorry, for that reason, that Prof. Huxley will not allow me to leave it in the reserve with which I hoped it had been sufficiently indicated. I said that " no criticism worth mentioning doubts the story of the Passion ; and that story in- volves the most solemn attestation, again and again, of truths of which an agnostic coolly says he knows nothing. An agnosticism which knows nothing of the relation of man to God must not only refuse belief to our Lord's most undoubted teaching, but must deny the reality of the spiritual convictions in which he lived and died. It must declare that his most intimate, most intense beliefs, and his dying aspirations were an illusion. Is that supposition tolerable?" I do not think this deserves to be called " a propo- sition of the most profoundly immoral character." I think it ought to be unpleasant, and I am sure it always will be unpleas- ant, for a man to listen to the Saviour on the cross uttering such words as " Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," and to

  • "Popular Science Monthly" for April, 1889, p. 766.

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