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paganism in the De Ciritate Dei. In one particular passage he ridicules the functions of one particular Roman god in language which according to modern taste would be called grossly indecent.

The truth is that effective discussion of subjects in which masses of men are really interested is impossible unless appeals to their passions are allowed. To say that you may discuss the truth of religion, but that you may not hold up its doctrines to contempt, ridicule, or indignation, is either to take away with one hand what you concede with another or to confine the discussion to a small and in many ways uninfluential class of persons. How can you expect men to discuss such questions as the doctrine of the atonement or the doctrine of eternal punishments as calmly as they might discuss questions of philology ?

There is one reflection which seems to me to prove with conclusive force that the law upon this subject can be explained and justified only on what I regard as its true principle—the principle of persecution. It is that if the law were really impartial, and punished blasphemy only because it offends the feelings of believers, it ought also to punish such preaching as offends the feelings of unbelievers. All the more earnest and enthusiastic forms of religion are extremely offensive to those who do not believe them. Why should not people who are not Christians be protected against the rough, coarse, ignorant ferocity with which they are often told that they and theirs are on the way to hell-fire for ever and ever? Such a doctrine, though necessary to be known if true, is, if false, revolting and mischievous to the last degree. If the law in no degree recognised these doctrines as true, if it were as neutral as the Indian Penal Code is between Hindoos and Mahometans, it would have to apply to the Salvation Army the same rule as it applies to the Freethinker and its contributors. It would say: "Keep your temper. Do not publicly use language which gives great pain to those who do not believe it to be true, which excites their nerves, disturbs the peace of their families, and often sends, not peace on earth, but a sword, and makes men of two minds in a house. Publish your opinions by all means, but do it decently.” Notoriously the law does not holà this language. It is equally notorious that no Act of Parliament passed in order to do so could be executed. Preachers of all sorts would delight in defying such an act. They would say that God had commanded them to preach the Gospel, and that no human prohibition should prevent them—that as to decency of language, the Gospel was not meant to please sinners, but to terrify and subdue them, and that the only true test of decency in its highest and truest sense is efficiency and suitability for the object in view. To these arguments nothing could or would be said. The mere possibility of urging them effectually prevents the question from being raised.

Mutatis mutandis, these very arguments may be used on behalf of the opponents of Christianity. If there is no hell and no God that we know of, and if the Christian religion is false, why is it to be attacked only in polite language—its goodness depends on its truth? Let its falsehood be conceded, and it is impossible to justify the extension to it of any special protection. But the law imposes no restraint on the Christian, however offensive his teaching may be to those who do not accept it. Therefore it is based not on an impartial desire to prevent the use of language which gives pain. Therefore it is based on the principle that Christianity is true, and is to be protected against attacks. And this is persecution.

What is the practical inference from all this? In my own opinion the practical inference is that blasphemy and blasphemous libel should cease to be offences at common law at all, that the statute of William III. should be repealed, and that it should be enacted that no one except beneficed clergymen of the Church of England should be liable to ecclesiastical censures for “ atheism, blasphemy, heresy, schism, or any other opinion.” Such an abolition would not only secure complete liberty of opinion on these matters, but it would prevent the recurrence at irregular intervals of scandalous prosecutions, which have never in any one instance benefited any one, least of all the cause which they were intended to serve, and which sometimes afford a channel for the gratification of private malice under the cloak of religion.

If this is thought too great a concession to make, nearly the same result might be attained by enacting that Lord Coleridge's doctrine should henceforth prevail, and that no one should henceforth be deemed to commit any offence by maintaining in decent language any religious opinion whatever. If Parliament wished to ratify Lord Coleridge's view, the Act might be made declaratory. This would at all events settle the question; whereas the reasons I have given are at least enough to show that a different view of the law from that taken by him is capable of being held in good faith by at least one judge who has studied the subject with all the care he could give to it.

This should be accompanied by a repeal of the statutes referred to, and particularly the statute of William III., which Lord Coleridge describes as “ ferocious ;” and it might be well to add that no prosecution for blasphemy or blasphemous libel should be instituted except by the Attorney or Solicitor-General. This would effectually prevent the abuses to which the law as it stands is open.

J. F. STEPHEN.

JOB AND HIS COMFORTERS: ELIHU'S PARABLE.

A Good man struggling with adversity has always been a spectacle for the gods. The accumulation of disaster which overwhelmed the Arabian emir of primeval days has seldom if ever been equalled, and can never be exceeded. His wealth snatched from him, his position destroyed, his entire family annihilated, his body smitten by a sore disease,-it might have been supposed that the catalogue of misfortune had been exhausted as he sat under the desert sky, amid the ruins of his former prosperity, scraping his wretched carcase with the broken potsherd which appeared to be the only thing which he could call his own. But even this state of misery admitted of aggravation. His wife had survived the ruin of her household, and was prompt to supply the sort of consolation with which more recent experience has made mankind familiar. And yet, after she had given expression to her views, the cup of calamity was not absolutely full. The afflicted patriarch had still to confront the condolences of his friends.

This history has won the admiration and sympathy of countless generations : but, in spite of the graphic and sublime language of the narrative, it might have ceased to possess more than a sort of antiquarian interest, were it not one of those episodes which constantly repeat themselves. Nor is it merely in the sphere of domestic life and personal experience that this repetition recurs with such frequency. On the larger stage of public events and political action, we are occasionally treated to some fresh adaptation of the plot. The scene is not necessarily cast in the plains of Yemen, nor is the time imperatively that of the nineteenth century 1.c. The actors are not obliged to wear the garb of the Bedouins of that remote epoch; there are plenty of Chaldeans and Sabæans to be discovered in London and other places in this island; and your friends are not bound to visit you on the backs of camels, when they can address you from the back benches or from below the gangway of the House of Commons, or even through the columns of a daily journal or a monthly magazine.

We must all be able instantly to recognise a score of representations of this drama within the limits of our own experience. But there is one particular instance which perhaps more nearly approaches the original in its pathos than any other recent exhibition of the kind. The manners of our playhouses are somewhat different and the taste of our audiences widely separated from those of our neighbours across the Channel ; but if France had ever witnessed a spectacle so piteous as the Front Opposition Bench as it now exists in the British House of Commons, the Parisian public would long since have been treated to a somewhat different version of Le Duc Job, with Sir Stafford Northcote as the principal character. Let us imagine the breakfast-table at Pynes on one of those dismal mornings in April, 1880. The herds and the flocks were being swept away by a ruthless rapacity. Constituency after constituency was reported as taken or missing. The Chaldeans were carrying off the Lancashire boroughs, and the Sabæans had appropriated a terrible number of safe county seats. Peace with Honour had been swept into the dust-bin ; and the most economical of Chancellors of the Exchequer found that he was only likely to be remembered as the author of deficits and the instigator of votes of credit.

Only a year later, and the crowning blow fell. The great leader whose genius had been the sword, as his fortitude was the shield of kis party, was taken from them. The majority had been destroyed; power and patronage had been transferred to the enemy, the chief on whose prestige his discomfited followers still sought to lean had earried with him to the grave all hopes of reviving the glories of his party, and poor Sir Stafford was left to scrape himself with the nearest broken potsherd he could find on the Front Opposition Bench, as he ruminated on the misfortunes thus heaped on his devoted head. Nor has he been suffered to brood over his woes altogether in solitude. The unkind Fates have supplied him with a partner of his sorrows. Nobody, indeed, could suspect Lord Salisbury of offering advice so shockingly profane as was tendered to the patriarch by bis helpmate; but it may be permitted to imagine that Sir Stafford, after a confidential colloquy with his noble colleague, may have sometimes felt himself almost irresistibly compelled to take any step which might terminate his troubles. Melancholy as is the picture which it has only been attempted to draw in rude and obscure outline, the darker features of the scene have yet to be added. Let us suppose the luckless leader of the Conservative party in the House of Commons returning hopelessly to his own domicile from an interview in Arlington Street. On the hall-table lie three telegrams. His friends have proved themselves equal to the emergency. Eliphaz has summoned the representatives of all the Constitutional Associations, in order to unfold to them his views on party organisation ; Zophar has bustled up from the seaside to interview various publicists more candid than friendly in their criticism of Conservative tactics; and, worst of all, Bildad has written a letter which fills a column of the Times in leader type, which may be accepted as a new departure in Tory policy. He has nothing wherewith to comfort himself except a note, more effusive, perhaps, than acceptable, testifying to the unalterable attachment of the owner of the yacht Pandora. Never mind ! Even this

may serve as a momentary distraction. A vision of dirty weather

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in the Irish Sea, of Orange favours and Kentish fire, may serve for a few minutes to distract the tortured mind from the pitiless pelting of advice, remonstrance, and objurgation which seems to come from every rter. But it is, after all, only a too transitory consolation. There is Bildad's letter to be answered, Eliphaz’s intrigues to be countermined, Zophar's lobby utterances to be stifled.

Wearily the forlorn leader sits himself down to meditate upon his position. On one point all his uninvited counsellors agree—that he has only himself to thank for it. You should have organised better, cries one ; you should have inherited the genius and the daring of your great predecessor, suggests another; you made an enormous blunder in going to Ireland as the ally of the Orangemen, declares the third. “What have I done”, meekly murmurs the sufferer, " to deserve all this? It is true that I do not trust myself, and still less do I trust my party ; least of all, perhaps, do I trust—but I will not breathe his name even to myself. But I have done what I could for organisation : I have committed it to the superintendence of an eminently practical intellect; and when I found that he made confusion worse confounded, I substituted for him somebody more intellectual, if less practical. Is it my fault if the experience of one who has fertilised great constituencies like a very Pactolus has proved unequal to this task, and if my dear young friend whose innocence is unsmirched by any electioneering experience has brought all our arrangements for the Dissolution into a state of incipient collapse just at the moment when a crisis is unavoidable ? I have done my best. Then, again, as to instituting a more vigorous and popular policy—I do not pretend to be cast in the heroic mould ; I do not claim to rival Gladstone in oratory, or Salisbury in policy ; but I think I speak better than Dodson, and I flatter myself that I sometimes can hold my own with Childers. Besides, who is there on our Bench more heroic than myself ? X is all very well in his way, but I fancy that most people like me better than him. Y is invaluable to me, because he always assures me that I am right, and is always ready to sustain my spirit by showing me the best way of shirking responsibility; but he is, I really fancy, even less of a hero than myself, and I also imagine that others think so too. Z perhaps has a more military figure and a more combative demeanour; but he cannot speak, and he seems to take no interest in business, Who else is there ? Boys-promising boys, I grant you; but can you expect maturity of mind from men under fifty. One, perhaps, there is whom I regard rather as St. Paul regarded Timothy—a very nice young man indeed, but more like a private secretary than a Cabinet Minister. I dare say he will be fit for the first place in a quarter of a century or thereabouts; but I am not sure whether anybody shares this opinion with him and me. So it comes back very much to the old storyje suis et j'y reste. I did not

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