Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Dr. Thomas Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby School and professor of Modern History at Oxford, at one time sought to begin a newspaper in order to help promote the Christian faith throughout England. The opening article stated “we think that in a Christian country the tone of a public journal ought to be decidedly Christian” and “that a newspaper should be thoroughly independent - independent of all undue influence, whether aristocratical or popular; for it is as base and as wicked to pander to the violence and ignorance of the people as to screen or palliate the follies and oppressions of the great.”
These words are strangely poignant, in the wake of the Jimmy Saville and Yewtree inquiry, which is starting to reveal considerable wickedness committed by that man, and the screening/shielding of it by the BBC and the police.
But I thought it might be worthwhile to reprint some of these articles from The Englishman Register, because the newspaper itself did not last long, and even though we now live 180 years after their publication - they still have relevance today. Abel’s faith still speaks, pointing to one far greater. Arnold’s faith still speaks, also pointing to one greater - Jesus Christ. The fifth article is reproduced below (click here to see the first one).
I have said that in the first chapters of Genesis there are some things which we cannot clearly understand; and that parts of them may possibly be a sort of allegory or parable, of which we have lost the key. Yet still I have always thought that what is called the Story of the Fall illustrates the actual state of the world in some remarkable points more than is commonly noticed.
The story literally taken represents the offence of the first man and woman to have consisted in eating of a certain fruit, which is called the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; and it goes on to state, that one consequence of this offence was the sense of personal shame, that sense of decency which has induced almost all nations, except some of the most ignorant savages, to wear at least certain portions of clothing. The account further states, that a part of the punishment for this offence consisted subjecting women to pain and danger in the birth of their children, and in imposing upon men the necessity of perpetual labour.
It is also mentioned - and this is a part of the history which is much more dwelt upon - that in consequence of having broken God’s commandments, man became afraid of God, and wished to escape from His presence; and that he was driven out of the Garden of Eden, that he might not eat of the Tree of Life and live for ever; for now he was not only to labour while he did live, instead of enjoy, but his life was after a few years to be at an end, and he was to return to the dust out of which he had been made.
Now that there are things in this account very hard to understand is plain to everybody. But looking at the whole carefully, it seems to show that man’s first offence was a mixture of the desires of the body with those of the mind or intellect; that it was longing after sensual pleasures and intellectual power. And our present condition in the world seems very much to throw light upon the particular nature of the punishment inflicted.
Mr. Malthus has said that men, if left to themselves, have a tendency to multiply faster than food can be raised to maintain them [perhaps akin to ardent environmentalists today]. Therefore, the population must be checked either by good means or bad, either by man’s own prudence and sense of duty before the evil begins, or by distress and various kinds of misery in the end. But it has been objected that this is accusing God of mismanaging the course of nature, and of putting an evil in it which must render happiness here impossible. The account in the beginning of Genesis seems here to step in, and to show that this state of things was in fact intended as a punishment; that it was ordered on purpose that there should be no happiness here unpurchased by self-denial. The tendency to multiply faster than food can be produced, or in other words, to multiply excessively, seems to be itself a part of the corruption of our nature; it is the dominion of the animal appetite. It is an evil, doubtless, but one not of God’s original design, but of man’s bringing in afterwards. He chose to give his animal passions an unnatural strength and power, and he takes the consequence. Hence the sufferings of childbirth in women and the necessity of labour in man, were at once the punishment and at the same time the check upon this evil. If a man multiplied his children, he must multiply his labours; while at the same time, he was not cursed to labour without fruit; but the support which he could not get without working, he yet might obtain if he did work for it - if not in one country, yet in another - that so, good might still be brought out of evil; and the very necessity of labour is always existing, and growing out of the very midst of prosperity and increasing numbers, might be too powerful even for man’s indolence and natural feelings, and might force him from the land of his fathers to go and subdue and replenish other, even the most distant parts of the world.
So far, then, as man’s first offence consisted in longing after forbidden animal pleasures, and so making his animal desires unnaturally strong, so far we see its punishment in that constant tendency to an excess of population which obliges him to constant labour and self-restraint. And so far as his offence consisted in longing after forbidden intellectual pleasure, and so making his intellectual desires, his curiosity, and thirst of knowledge in itself, unnaturally strong, so far we see its punishment in that sentence of death and bodily infirmity which of necessity humbles the pride and cuts short the inquiries of the wisest. On the very verge of strong intellectual excitement is madness, incurred too commonly by an absence of the wholesome control over our passions, intellectual as well as bodily - the natural termination of restless and selfish desires, whatever be their particular kind. And this is a disease which increases with the increase of civilisation; the greater the excitement produced by a strong competition in every thing, and by an almost feverish activity both of body and mind, the more is our reason endangered.
Thus far, then, the twofold character of the original offence, as recorded in the earliest chapters of Genesis, corresponds with what we see now daily before us; and what is described as having being adjudged as its punishment is, in fact, in daily operation, and rendering it impossible that this world should ever be a place of perfect bodily or perfect intellectual enjoyment. The other effects of the Fall, and what is meant by “Death” further than the mere extinction of our earthly being, I propose to consider hereafter.
Arnold’s observations are helpful as we consider the world around us. The historical reality of Adam’s sin is not a question in my mind - I am sure Adam lived, and sinned, along with his wife, as the Bible describes. The Fall accounts for so much - including the existence of good and evil in this world. More answers may be found by clicking here.
Posted by Ian Cameron at 10:03