It was the most brilliant of all his efforts. He took as his text the words, "All Scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable," and he had no difficulty in showing how vast was the profit to be derived from a consideration of every portion of the sacred volume, it appeared to him, than the account given of the early history of the Hebrew race. That account appealed as an object lesson to all nations on the face of the earth. It allowed every people to see the course which the children of Israel had pursued at various periods of their existence and to profit by such observation. The Hebrews were a terrible example to all the world. If they were slaves when in the land of Egypt, that was their own fault. Milton had magnificently expressed the origin of slavery:
"He that hath light within his own clear breast May walk i' the noontide and enjoy bright day, But he that hides dark deeds and foul thoughts . . . Himself is his own dungeon."
The bondage of Egypt was, he believed, self-imposed. There is no account available, he said, of the enslavement of the Children of Israel by the Egyptians, but a careful consideration of the history of various peoples shows beyond the possibility of a mistake being made, that only those become enslaved who are best fitted for enslavement. A king arose that knew not Joseph--a king who could not believe that at any time there was belonging to that race of strangers a man of supreme intelligence. The Israelites bowed their heads to the yoke of the superior race, the Egyptians, and took their rightful place as slaves. After many days a man of extraordinary intelligence appeared in the person of Moses. A patriot of patriots, he gave the race their God--they seemed to have lived in a perfectly Godless condition in Egypt; and their theology had to be constructed for them by their leader, as well as their laws: the laws for the desert wanderers, and a decalogue for all humanity. He was equal to any emergency, and he had no scruples. He almost succeeded in making a great nation out of a horde of superstitious robbers. Had he succeeded the record would have thrown civilization back a thousand years. Happy it was for the world that the triumph of crime was brief. The cement of bloodshed that kept the kingdom of Israel together for a time soon dissolved. Captivity followed captivity. For a thousand years no improvement whatever took place in the condition of the people--they had no arts; they lived in mud huts at a period when architecture reached a higher level than it had ever attained to previously. When the patriot prophets arose, endeavoring to reform them with words of fire--the sacred fire of truth--they killed them. One chance remained to them. They were offered a religion that would have purified them, in place of the superstition that had demoralized them, and they cried with one voice, as everyone who had known their history and their social characteristics knew they would cry, "Not this Man, but Barabbas." That was from the earliest period in the history of the race the watchword of the Hebrews. Not the man, but the robber. All that is good and noble and true in manhood--the mercy, the compassion, the self-sacrifice that are comprised in true manhood--they cast beneath their feet, they spat upon, they crucified; but all of the Barabbas in man they embraced. Thus are they become a hissing in the earth, and properly so; for those who hiss at the spirit which has always animated Judaism show that they abhor a thing that is abhorrent. "All Scripture is profitable," continued the preacher, "and practically all that is referred to in the text is an indictment of Judaism. The more earnestly we hold to this truth the greater will be the profit accruing to us from a consideration of the Scripture. But what more terrible indictment of the Hebrew systems could we have than that which is afforded us in the record that the father of the race had twelve sons? He had. But where are ten of them now? Swept out of existence without leaving a single record of their destruction even to their two surviving brethren." He concluded his sermon by stating that he hoped it would be clearly understood that he recognized the fact that in England those members of the Hebrew community who had adopted the methods, the principles, the truths of Christianity even though they still maintained their ancient form of worship in their synagogues, were on a line with civilization. They searched their scriptures and these scriptures had been profitable to them, inasmuch as they had been taught by those scriptures how impossible it was for that form of superstition known as Judaism to be the guide for any people on the face of the earth.
I HOPE THAT YOU WILL NOT EVENTUALLY MARRY AN INFIDEL.
Some of the congregation were greatly disappointed. They had expected a brilliant and startling attack upon some other Bible personages who had hitherto been looked on with respect and admiration. But the sermon had only attacked the Jewish system as a whole, and everyone knows that there is nothing piquant in an attack, however eloquent it may be, upon a religious system in the abstract. One might as well find entertainment in an attack upon the Magnetic Pole or a denunciation of the Precession of the Equinoxes. No one cared, they said, anything more about the failure of the laws of Moses than one did about such abstractions as the Earth's Axis, or the Great Glacial Epoch. It was quite different when the characters of well-known individuals were subjected to an assault. People could listen for hours to an attack upon celebrated persons. If Mr. Holland's book had only dealt with the characteristics of the religion of the Jews, it would never have attracted attention, these critics said. It had called for notice simply because of its trenchant remarks in regard to some of those Bible celebrities who, it was generally understood, were considered worthy of admiration.
Why could Mr. Holland not have followed up the course indicated in his book by showing up some of the other persons in the Bible? it was asked. There were quite a number of characters in the Bible who were regarded as estimable. Why could he not then have followed up his original scheme of "showing them up?"--that was the phrase of the critics. There was Solomon, for instance. He was usually regarded as a person of high intellectual gifts; but there was surely a good deal in his career which was susceptible of piquant treatment. And then someone said that Noah should have a chapter all to himself, also Lot; and what about the spies who had entered Jericho? Could the imagination not suggest the story which they had told to their wives on their return to the camp, relative to the house in which they had passed all their spare time? They supposed that Jericho was the Paris of the high class Jews of those days.
Then the conversation of these critics drifted on to the Paris of to-day, and the sermon and its lessons were forgotten as easily as is an ordinary sermon. But all the same it was plain that the clergyman had fallen short of what was expected of him upon this occasion. His book had gone far, and it was felt that he should have gone one better than his book, so to speak. Instead of that his sermon had been one to which scarcely any exception could be taken.
But the bishop's chaplain, who had watched at intervals of praying, came to the conclusion that the rector of St. Chad's was a good deal cleverer than the majority of youngish clergymen who endeavor to qualify for prosecution. It may be unorthodox to cross one's arms with the regularity of clockwork on coming to certain words in the service, and young clergymen had been prosecuted for less; but it was not unorthodox to speak evil of the Jews--for did not the Church pray for the Jews daily? and can anyone insult a man more than by praying for him--unless, of course, he is a king, in which case it is understood that no insult is intended?