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The Keepers Of The Herd Of Swine
by [?]

[1890]

I had fondly hoped that Mr. Gladstone and I had come to an end of disputation, and that the hatchet of war was finally superseded by the calumet, which, as Mr. Gladstone, I believe, objects to tobacco, I was quite willing to smoke for both. But I have had, once again, to discover that the adage that whoso seeks peace will ensue it, is a somewhat hasty generalisation. The renowned warrior with whom it is my misfortune to be opposed in most things has dug up the axe and is on the war-path once more. The weapon has been wielded with all the dexterity which long practice has conferred on a past master in craft, whether of wood or state. And I have reason to believe that the simpler sort of the great tribe which he heads, imagine that my scalp is already on its way to adorn their big chief’s wigwam. I am glad therefore to be able to relieve any anxieties which my friends may entertain without delay. I assure them that my skull retains its normal covering, and that though, naturally, I may have felt alarmed, nothing serious has happened. My doughty adversary has merely performed a war dance, and his blows have for the most part cut the air. I regret to add, however, that by misadventure, and I am afraid I must say carelessness, he has inflicted one or two severe contusions on himself.

When the noise of approaching battle roused me from the dreams of peace which occupy my retirement, I was glad to observe (since I must fight) that the campaign was to be opened upon a new field. When the contest raged over the Pentateuchal myth of the creation, Mr. Gladstone’s manifest want of acquaintance with the facts and principles involved in the discussion, no less than with the best literature on his own side of the subject, gave me the uncomfortable feeling that I had my adversary at a disadvantage. The sun of science, at my back, was in his eyes. But, on the present occasion, we are happily on an equality. History and Biblical criticism are as much, or as little, my vocation as they are that of Mr. Gladstone; the blinding from too much light, or the blindness from too little, may be presumed to be equally shared by both of us.

Mr. Gladstone takes up his new position in the country of the Gadarenes. His strategic sense justly leads him to see that the authority of the teachings of the synoptic Gospels, touching the nature of the spiritual world, turns upon the acceptance, or the rejection, of the Gadarene and other like stories. As we accept, or repudiate, such histories as that of the possessed pigs, so shall we accept, or reject, the witness of the synoptics to such miraculous interventions.

It is exactly because these stories constitute the key-stone of the orthodox arch, that I originally drew attention to them; and, in spite of my longing for peace, I am truly obliged to Mr. Gladstone for compelling me to place my case before the public once more. It may be thought that this is a work of supererogation by those who are aware that my essay is the subject of attack in a work so largely circulated as the “Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture”; and who may possibly, in their simplicity, assume that it must be truthfully set forth in that work. But the warmest admirers of Mr. Gladstone will hardly be prepared to maintain that mathematical accuracy in stating the opinions of an opponent is the most prominent feature of his controversial method. And what follows will show that, in the present case, the desire to be fair and accurate, the existence of which I am bound to assume, has not borne as much fruit as might have been expected.