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Mrs. Girling and the Bible
:PLACE, JANUARY 3, 1875, BY THE
MATTHEW VII., 5. “ First cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.”
The events which recently occurred at Lymington in Hanıpshire, have brought again into prominence questions which the professedly Christian world should forthwith face and, if possible, solve.
Mrs. Girling and her followers, whom I do not call "Shakers” because they do not desire to be confounded with that denomination, but call themselves “ Bible-Christians” instead, have been trying the experiment of living in strict accordance with the rules and examples laid down for the followers of Christ in the New Testament; and the result has been a hopeless failure to make such a life harmonize with the social conditions of the 19th century.
With every desire to be strictly honest, and to “owe no man anything," "to render unto all their dues,” they have been overwhelmed with debt which they could not pay, and have been consequently driven from home and forced to encounter exposure and comparative starvation in one of the bitterest winters we have had for many years.
By what would be deemed by some persons a strange anomaly, they are now rescued and being sheltered and fed by a man who has not the smallest sympathy with their creed, or any secret respect for their delusions.
Not caring a fig to be called a Christian, he is nevertheless
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acting in so generous and noble a manner as to excite the admiration of all Christians, one of whose prime delusions is that this kind of conduct is a monopoly of their own denomination.
Many of us have, I dare say, been invited to contribute to the temporary support of these poor people and have done so with a glad heart. But I allude to the conduct of the Hon. Auberon Herbert and his willing helpers merely to observe how intensely superior is natural human sympathy to the artificial barriers raised by false religion. At such a time it is impossible to forget that infamous dictum of one of the Apostolic Epistles ;"If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine (viz. the doctrine of Christ) receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed." The conduct of the heretic, I think, looks well beside this apostolic mandate ; and I may say in passing that it is a healthy sign of coming freedom from bibliolatry that there are many Christians who would be just as ready to shelter and feed an outcast heretic, as the heretic in this instance has been to shelter and feed the outcast Christian. Such conduct, however, seriously imperils the value of the New Testament as a Divinely-inspired book.
Now one of the principal questions raised by this Lymington episode which the orthodox world will have to face is, whether or not the New Testament is infallible ? If it be infallible, every precept it contains is equally binding on believers, every example set by infallible men is equally to be followed. If, on the other hand, it be found necessary to right conduct to obey some precepts and to disobey others; to copy some examples and to deviate from others, then the doctrine of New Testament infallibility must be given up. In which case again, the new question arises, on what principle is obedience or disobedience to be regulated? Are we to constitute ourselves the judges as to what we shall consent to follow and what we shall refuse? Or is a new interpreting authority to be introduced which shall supersede that of the book, yet bind us with an authority equally imperative and divine ?
Any one of these alternatives is perfectly logical, and no one could impute inconsistency to those who adopted one or the other. But we may reasonably reproach with inconsisthat every precept in it is alike binding on his obedience, and that every example in it is set forth for his imitation, and at the same time he disregards some of its teachings altogether, disobeys on principle some of its precepts, and would think himself a fool if he tried to follow some of its examples ; that man, I say, is monstrously inconsistent, and merits the ridicule usually poured upon persons in that dilemma. · While another who, accepting the book in its entirety, tries his best to believe all that it reveals, to do all that it prescribes, to become all that its examples indicate, merits the highest prize for consistency and sincerity, and instead of being greeted with ridicule ought to be crowned with honour.
tency those who try two alternatives at once ; e.g. If a mau y believes that every word of the New Testament is divine,
And yet here in this Christian England, we are witnessing a most astounding spectacle—that of Christians who believe, or say they believe, in the absolute, Divine infallibility and authority of the New Testament, deriding those who prove their profound belief in it by the utmost conscientious endeavours to live up to its requirements.
In all fairness we must say that the derision ought to come from the other side. If there be anything really ridiculous, it is the brazen and unconscious inconsistency of the mass of persons calling themselves Christians, and not the elaborate self-denying obedience on the part of Mrs. Girling and her followers.
It must be remembered that I am not now treating of the question as to which of the two parties is acting the more wisely or the more agreeably to the eternal principles of morality. I am speaking only of the respective exhibitions of conduct in two classes, both of whom agree in regarding as infallible and authoritative the same New Testament; and I am contrasting the conduct in each case entirely in its relation to the belief; the one being consistent; the other flagrantly inconsistent.
Šo obtuse on this subject are the orthodox, that it is necessary to give illustrations with the hope of bringing this inconsistency home to their minds.
In common with the sect called the “ Peculiar People," Mrs. Girling and her associates systematically refuse medical aid in sickness. She herself states that she has been miraculously cured, without medical aid, of partial paralysis, blindness of one eye, &c. Well, anyone who knows his Bible, must remember that Asa, one of the Kings of Judah,