Rushden Echo, Friday, December 22, 1905, transcribed by Greville Watson
MEN'S MEETING AT RUSHDEN
Rev.H.J.Atkinson on “Doubts and Doubters”
Addressing a well-attended men’s meeting in the Park-road Wesleyan Church, Rushden, on Sunday afternoon, the Rev.H.J.Atkinson spoke on “Doubts and Doubters.”
Unquestionably, he said, there were many honest doubters, and with such he had the greatest sympathy. As to the causes of honest doubt, one was in the mental idiosyncrasies of different people, some being so constituted that they could not help passing through a period of questioning; some found difficulty in believing the supernatural at all, and held that the resurrection of Christ and other miracles could not be comprehended. The objection to miracles was an old one, and had often been answered. It was long ago pointed out that a thing was not incredible in itself just because it might seem incredible to some people. The cause of doubt was often to be found in hasty, superficial reasoning, men assuming the incredibility of miracles and then refusing to examine the evidence which had satisfied minds more powerful than their own. The perplexities arising from modern science were connected mainly with astronomy, geology, evolution, and comparative religion. He did not know that there was anything contradictory between the Old Testament and the discoveries of modern science, but even if there were he did not see any reason why they should be disturbed. The Bible was not designed to teach science, and the suggestion was that the writers were inspired as religious teachers, and were left to the notions of their own times for science. Inspiration must be for some particular purpose, and anyone with any acquaintance with Biblical literature would not speak of the teaching of the Bible as shattered. He had personally never been satisfied that the theory of evolution was true, and even if true it would not necessitate giving up one’s faith in Christianity, which did not stand or fall with any particular theory of the origin of man, but with the miraculous facts connected with the name of Christ. And it was possible to hold a view of evolution which would leave the old view of the dignity of man’s origin untouched, for a Dr.Dallinger had told them that there were two great breaks in the theory, one touching the appearance of life on the earth, and the other the appearance of man. As to comparative religions, they were told that what was supposed to be peculiar to the Christian religion was met with in more ancient faiths. But that was no reason why their faith in Christianity should be disturbed, for all the religions of the world came from one common source, the primitive patriarchal religion. Again, was it incredible that God should have guided some heathen philosophers to certain modern and religious truths? And so, those truths were from the same source as Christianity itself. But Christianity was built upon the works of Christ as explained by those who knew Him, and grew out of their faith in His miracles and resurrection. Mr.Atkinson then spoke on the problem of pain. He did not think that, apart from man, there was nearly so much pain and suffering as some supposed. Further, so far as the suffering of the human race was concerned the greater part of it was not caused by God, but by man’s foolish violation of thenatural and moral laws of the world. God could not prevent the evils they saw around them without destroying themoral government of the world. They could not have moral government without moral freedom and if they had moral freedom some might be wrong and bring suffering into the world. But let them never forget that Christianity was the only thing that really professed to deal with those evils. Christianity set in motion forces which if allowed to work would destroy nearly all the evils of the world and as for the others it promised to all who accepted it that all tears should be wiped away in the rest that remained for the people of God.
At the close Mr.Atkinson answered several questions.