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Meditation 1094
Faith or Fact

Abou Ben Adhem Ingersoll

by: Henry M. Taber

Comment by JT: It's fairly obvious throughout Faith and Fact that Taber is a huge fan of Ingersoll, "The Great Agnostic." This is a letter to the editor he included in the book.

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DEAR MR. GREEN: – I have read, with the greatest interest the article on page 409 of the July number of your Magazine taken from the Chicago Tribune (and which I see is copied in the N.Y. Telegram of 5th inst. giving an account of Frederick Douglass’ introduction of Col. Ingersoll on Emancipation day in Washington twelve years ago, when Mr. Douglass, stepping to the front of the platform and discarding the usual formulas of introduction quoted the followlng lines: –

“ ABOU BEN ADHEM (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An Angel, writing in a book of gold; –
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
‘What writest thou? ’ the vision raised its head,
And, with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered ‘The names of those who love the Lord.’
‘And is mine one?’ said Abou. ‘Nay, not so,’
Replied the angel, Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, ‘I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow-men.’

“The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had bless’d,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.”

It was a truly graceful, most fitting and well earned tribute from the foremost of those who were emancipated from the thraldom of bodily slavery to the grandest of those who have fought against both bodily and mental slavery.

Leigh Hunt must have had some such loving nature as that of Col. Ingersoll in his mind when he penned his ABOU BEN ADHEM.

I must confess, in reading the article, to having experienced considerable of the emotional, even, almost, to the tearful point.

The appropriateness of Mr. Douglass’ introduction of Col. Ingersoll is appreciated by all who know the large heartedness of the latter. He embraces in his love of the human family persons of every color, nationality and creed.

He has his hates, but not for any human being. He hates superstition (supernaturalism) as does every one else who is a thorough believer in natural law.

It is because of his love of his fellow men and his desire for their well-being and happiness that he would fain open the eyes of their understandings to the truth, which is to be found only outside of superstitious beliefs. He would drive the gaunt spectre of fear from every hearthstone. He would (to quote his own words) “take from the cradle its curse and from the coffin its terror;” and in place of sadness and mournfulness, which these beliefs occasion, he would substitute hope, trust, harmony and all the reasonable pleasures of life.

As Edgar Fawcett has expressed it in his ode to Ingersoll, (in the Arena, December, 1893.)

“For thy soul in its large love of man,
In its heed of his welfare and cheer,
Bids him hurl to the dust whence they spring,
All idolatries fashioned by fear.”

Like Voltaire, Col. Ingersoll’s intellectual greatness is much lost sight of in the bigotry of ecclesiasticism; and, like Thomas Paine, his services to his country and to humanity, to principle, to justice and to truth, are largely forgotten in the prejudice which an unreasoning belief in tradition, legend, fable and miracle engenders.

No man lives who has made greater sacrifices for what he conscientiously believed to be true. There is scarcely any position to which he might not have attained had he subscribed to a theology which his intelligence had rejected.

I believe that, in the generations to come, of all the grand characters who have marked epochs in history, who have striven to-elevate the condition of their fellow-men, and who, by brilliancy of thought, kindly utterance, convincing logic, beauty of imagery and inspiriting eloquence, have impressed their worth and greatness on the world of intelligence, none will stand out in bolder relief than that of Col. Robert G. Ingersoll.

I lent the magazine to my friend and Col. Ingersoll’s friend, Frederick Taylor, who, being an orator himself, knows what oratory is. He sent me the enclosed letter in reply.

Yours truly,

New York, July 8, 1895.


NEW YORK, June 6, 1895.

DEAR MR. TABER: – I have read the article to which you called my attention and enjoyed it immensely. The incident was certainly delightful and I do not wonder that the great orator was “visibly affected.” It reminds me of another occasion in his career, – when one of the greatest orators that ever lived, Henry Ward Beecher, facing an audience of thousands in the city of Brooklyn, introduced Col. Ingersoll in these words: –

“Fellow Citizens: – I now have the pleasure to introduce to you the best talker of the English language on the globe, my friend, Col Robert G. Ingersoll.”

 Yours truly,


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