To the Good Reads Club, Pall Mall, London
August 30, 1897
I trust you will not find me overly importunate as, for the second time in the space of a week, I write to sing the praises of the inestimable Professor White! Truth to tell, when I posted my earlier missive I had read but the first volume of his magnum opus
; but I have now made good this omission, and completed my perusal of the entire manuscript. It is a magnificent piece of work, which will stand for an age as a bulwark against the dreadful and absurd superstitions that have so long blighted our Christian Church. A century from now, should any man be foolish enough to aver that the Earth's age can be measured in scant thousands of years, or that the form of the geological strata can be explained by reference to the legend of the Deluge, it will suffice to take Professor White's book from the shelf and open it to the appropriate page. He has laboured long and well, and his arguments are as precise as they are irrefutable.
In chapter after chapter, my good friend describes how tired and outworn dogmas, born of pagan wickedness or childish misreadings of Holy Scripture, have been put to rout by the clear light of modern science. It has become hard to recall that, at the beginning of this our 19th century, there were still universities in Europe which refused the teaching of Newton's astronomy, or persisted in the absurd doctrine that all languages derive from the Hebrew tongue. So decisive and rapid has been the march of progress that the mind can scarcely encompass it.
And yet, in midst of triumph, I find myself seized with a strange melancholy. The most terrible and piteous aspect of Professor White's long tale is that many, nay, most of the men who mired down the Church in the mud of unreason did so from the best of motives. Not one hundred and fifty years ago, John Wesley declared that "unless witchcraft is true, nothing in the Bible is true". And if as great and noble a person as the founder of the Methodist Movement can fall into such grievous error as to hold that the teachings of Our Saviour sanction the torture and murder of defenceless women, what can not lesser men be led to believe? I hope and pray that that Professor White's calm optimism will prevail, and that my fears are without foundation; and yet I cannot dismiss them as I so gladly would.
The truth of this matter, only time will reveal. Meanwhile, I most heartily recommend Professor White's book, and humbly entreat that you lose no time in acquainting yourselves with its contents.
As ever, I remain,
Your faithful and devoted servant,