CHRIST'S COAT, NUMBER TWO.
JESUS CHRIST is urgently required on earth again, to settle the pious dispute between Trèves and Argenteuil as to which possesses the real seamless coat that was taken from him at the Crucifixion and raffled for by the Roman soldiers. No one but the second person of the Trinity, unless it be the first or third person of that three-headed monstrosity, is adequate to the settlement of this distracting quarrel. Even the Papacy, which represents the Holy Trinity on earth, is at variance with itself. Pope Leo favors Trèves, and the wicked pilgrims who visit that little old town are to obtain absolution, if they do not forget to "pray for the extirpation of erroneous doctrines." Pope Pius, his predecessor, however, favored Argenteuil. A portion of the Holy Coat treasured in the church there was sent to him, and in return for the precious gift he forwarded a well-blessed and marvellously-decorated wax taper, which is still on show in a fine state of preservation.
When Popes differ, ordinary people, like pious Christians, and even the editors of Freethought journals, may be excused if they hesitate to commit themselves. One of these coats may be the true one, though the evidence is all against it, being in fact of such a shaky nature that it would hardly suffice to substantiate a claim to a bunch of radishes. But both of them cannot be authentic, and the problem is, which is the very coat that Jesus wore? Now it is obvious that no one -- barring his two colleagues aforesaid -- can possibly determine this question but himself. His re-appearance on earth is therefore most desirable; nay, it is absolutely necessary, unless a lot of people who would fain bow before the cast-off clothes of their Redeemer are either to stay at home in a state of dubiety or to incur the risk of kneeling before a mouldy old rag that perchance belonged to a Moorish slave or a Syrian water-carrier -- in any case, to a dog of an infidel who spat at the very name of Christ, for such raiment was never worn by the worshippers of the Nazarene.
If Christ is coming to decide this great and grave problem, he will have to make haste, for Argenteuil is already on the war-path. Its Holy Coat is being exhibited before that of Trèves, and thousands of pilgrims are giving Number Two the preference. Presently the Trèves relic will attract its thousands, and the spectacle will be positively scandalous. Two Richmonds in the field were nothing to two Christ's Coats, each pretending to be the real article, and each blessed by a Pope. For the sake of decency as well as truth, Christ should peremptorily interfere. It is difficult to see how he can refrain. The Second Advent may therefore be expected before the date assigned by Prophet Baxter, and we shall probably soon hear the faithful singing "Lo he comes in clouds descending."
Why should he not come? we may ask the Catholics. His mother has often appeared, if we may believe the solemn affidavits of priests and bishops, backed up by the Holy See. Why should he not come? we may also ask the Protestants. His second coming is an article of their faith; it is plainly taught in the New Testament, and was recently propounded by Mr. Spurgeon as part of the irreducible minimum of the Christian faith. That he will come, then, may be taken for granted; and what better opportunity could be desired than the present? Surely the faithful, all over Europe -- ay, and in America, to say nothing of Asia, Africa, and Australia -- will cry like one man; "Come Lord Jesus, quickly come! Tell us, oh tell us, which of these mouldy old rags did once grace thy holy shoulders? Save us, oh save us, from the pain, the ignominy of adoring a dirty relic of some unknown sinner, who perhaps blasphemed thy holy name. Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord!"
Meanwhile we may point out that, if Christ does not come and
adjudicate between Trèves and Argenteuil, a multitude of
Christians will certainly go on a fool's errand. Our private
opinion is that all will do so who visit either of these places.
Nevertheless they will no doubt congratulate themselves, if they go
to Trèves, on winning absolution. The Holy Father at Borne,
who has a supernatural dispensing power, promises to wipe out the
record of their sins. Liars, cheats, seducers, adulterers, and
undetected assassins, may take a trip, perform genuflexions before
something in a glass case, and return home with a clean record. Who
can conceive an easier method of avoiding the consequences of
wickedness? As for the prayer which the pilgrims are to offer up
for "the extirpation of erroneous doctrines," it will cost them
very little effort, for sinners who are washed clean with such
delightful celerity are not likely to be in love with "erroneous
doctrines" that declare the Pope's dispensing power a sham, and
sternly tell men that the consequences of action, whether good or
bad, are inevitable. We very much doubt, however, if "erroneous
doctrines" will disappear through the prayers of the pilgrims or
the curses of the Pope. Scepticism will probably gain by the
spectacle of two rival Coats of Christ, both exhibited at the same
time, both attracting crowds of devotees, and both enjoying the
Papal blessing. It will bring superstition into still further
contempt, and promote the rejection of a creed which has ever
traded on ignorance and credulity.