THE CHURCH ACTUAL
I FEAR that in my last letter I allowed myself to become over-excited. The fact is, I lose all patience when I reflect on the fate with which the Anglican Establishment is threatened by people who affect to be a branch of the Catholic Church, and on the capacity for usefulness of the highest kind which, properly administered, the Establishment possesses.
It is not necessary to be superstitious to revolt from the idea of withdrawing that which has been dedicated to our highest uses, and applying it to lower ones. No one can deny that the material dedications of religion have been at least intended as an offering to what men deemed the highest in their nature; so that the application of the revenues, organisation and fabrics of the National Church to inferior purposes, that is, purposes which are felt to be not the highest, would constitute a sacrilege. And this, precisely as even the man least susceptible of refined sentiment would feel it to be a sacrilege to transfer to a wanton, gifts which have once been tokens of
a pure and ennobling love. Fancy one’s wife’s jewels decorating the person of a scullion! To give to purposes of sense that which has served the soul, and so to rob the ideal for the real, – this it is that constitutes the sin of sacrilege. For what is given to the ideal, is given to God, the soul’s perfection personified.
I spoke of a second cause for the failure of Catholicism to gather the world into its fold. This is not the narrowness of the human mind, nor the wickedness of the human heart, – that favourite theme of preachers who, knowing not that heart, find their ill-contrived appeals to it vain. The cause is twofold, and to the charge of the ecclesiastical authorities of the Church must each count of it be laid. These are the affectation of universal infallibility, and the assumption of temporal power.
Through its affectation of infallibility has come the substitution of the principle of authority for the voice of the individual conscience. The highest reach attainable by sentient existence is, so far as we can imagine, the production in finite beings of that sense of and impulse towards perfection which constitute the soul and the conscience. For, as I have insisted throughout, man’s sense of perfection is his recognition of God, and involves that union of the infinite with the finite which constitutes the supreme Incarnation. The Holy Eucharist, whereby the Church
seeks to symbolise this incarnation, has under the operation of authority become degraded, as I have already said, from a simple and exquisitely touching allegory, of purely spiritual significance, into the grossest of fetiches, and a banquet for carnivora. Thus converting faith into credulity, and exalting itself at the expense of the understanding, authority has itself to thank for the meagreness of its reception by mankind. The intellectual or analytic faculties – equally with the emotional or synthetic demanding exercise and recognition – recoil from the suicide imposed by the principle of authority. Had the Church appealed to both sets of faculties, and by avoiding concealment and mystery set forth the whole truth, it would have enlisted the support of reason on behalf of faith, and have become as universal in fact as it is in essence.
The Church therefore erred, not in regarding itself as infallible in matters pertaining to the ideal; but in asserting its infallibility and resting thereon its claim to supremacy. It is no impeachment of its infallibility in the ideal, that it should be liable to errors of judgment, and even of spirit, in the real.
It is in this latter respect also that the second count lies, namely the assumption of temporal power, of all its errors the most fatal to the growth and stability of true religion.
It is probably true that in the first instance the
Church gained by its investment with power. But the gain was outward, superficial, and temporary, and at the expense of its best interests; like the apparent gain of a trade or a plant through unnatural forcing. Its fibre was enfeebled, and its quality deteriorated. The proper function of the Church lying solely in the ideal, its kingdom being not of this material world, it cannot be invested with physical powers without belying the essential object of its existence. Only when crucified as to the arm of flesh, and ignoring all weapons save those of the spirit, can it hope to succeed in lifting up the ideal with whose culture it is charged, in such aspect of loveliness that it shall draw all men unto it.
The essence of love is spontaneousness; and to be won to the love of perfection, whether in things moral or things spiritual, the soul must be free. As perfect love casts out fear, so is fear in its turn an inevitable counteractive to love. Setting forth the ideal – the true eternal and substantial – the Church in seeking temporal power with the hope of obtaining all power, grasped at the shadow and, as the event proves, lost both substance and shadow together. It still remains to be proved whether when wholly dissevered, in wish as well as in fact, from that which hindered, the Church will ever recover even its legitimate sway. So long as it hankers after the fleshpots of worldly power, such an event is hopeless.
Had it renounced the ‘unclean thing’ voluntarily, the error might have been forgiven it. But mankind has a good memory, and what it has suffered under the material lash wielded by spiritual hands, can never be forgotten. Never to trust ecclesiastics with power has rightly become the maxim most deeply graven in the human mind. Their very habit of judging things from the standpoint of the ideal, unfits them for the control of the real. Small mercy has finite man to expect at the hands of the unconditioned and absolute, as witness the horrors of the creed of Calvin.
Doubtless the dream was a grand one, and the temptation to realise it overpowering. And even from the Church’s point of view it was not destitute of a certain, though illusive, logical propriety. For, had not Catholicism held forth to mankind the spectacle of two perfect yet incompatible natures – the real and the ideal – combined in one person? Why, then, should not the fleshly and the spiritual departments of humanity be equally blended?
The consciousness of its infallibility, however, in things spiritual proved too much for ecclesiastical equilibrium. There was no State but would gladly accept the Church as a friend and ally. But the Church would only tolerate the State as a slave. Importing the same pretensions into things secular, it lost its head altogether; and by arrogating supremacy in an element foreign to its nature, drove nation after
nation into lawful rebellion; – a rebellion, alas, which so far from stopping at the assertion of its proper rights for the real, has gone on to make war upon the ideal itself.
And so the true moral of the story of Peter’s sword has been lost upon the very Church that claims Peter as its founder and patron. Nay, and even the moral of the temptation of Christ himself, who when offered by ‘Satan’ the sovereignty of the real, refused it on the ground that the ideal only was worthy his aspirations.
MAN’S GOD AND NATURE’S GOD
YOUR resumé of my argument is perfectly correct. I deny neither God, nor revelation, nor immortality. But I assert that every doctrine of the system called Christianity can be arrived at by the natural mind and faculties of man. And I have to the best of my ability shown you the process by which the human mind has arrived at them.
I grant you that even if Christianity is demonstrably a product of the human mind, it does not follow that it is the less a revelation from some source more divine than that mind. The animating spirit of the universe may work through man from within, as well as on man from without. But it is impossible for man to prove that results thus attained are not the natural thoughts of his own mind. And when the suggesting causes of his thoughts are plainly ascertainable, as we have seen them to be, all pretext for ascribing them to aught supernatural vanishes; and we are compelled to acknowledge that
the theology set before us by the Church is but a sublimation of our own nature.
I will now reply to your question as to what I meant by saying that the God of the naturalist has nothing in common with the God of the theologian; and I shall thereby strengthen the proof that the latter is merely the reflection of ourselves, by showing how very much the former is the reverse of ourselves. Of course by ourselves I mean the best side of our nature. The worst side we have bestowed upon the Devil.
I must observe here, however, that the recognition of the principle I have stated is never suffered to be more than a tacit one. Ecclesiastical Councils, Synods, Congresses, and Convocations are far too wary to proclaim to the outside world the nature of the criterion or Canon whereby they determine the truth or falsehood of any doctrine. If any of their members show themselves so unsophisticated as to appeal to the Bible, they are covertly laughed at as simpletons, and overruled by the others who are in the secret, and who proceed to their decision on principles unsuspected by the worshippers of a text, sometimes, perhaps, unsuspected by themselves! Whenever you wish to check one of these decisions, all you have to do is to take the broadest possible view of human nature, project it in your imagination into the infinite, and regard it as divested of limitations.
If the doctrine in question prove proportionate and harmonious with the whole of human nature – on its good side – thus treated, it is an orthodox dogma, and predicable of the God of the Church.
But how little a deity thus constructed in the image of man’s best has in common with the actual creator of the world, becomes startlingly apparent when we think of Christ, the divine son of divine love, the Christ of the Sermon on the Mount, and of the Passion at Gethsemane, whose ardent love of perfection and sympathy with humanity led him to devote himself to the death in relieving suffering, denouncing cruelty and injustice, and preaching the régime of ideal perfection: and then think of him as creating a world in which the struggle for existence and its indispensable selfishness are the conditions of continuance, and the vast majority of living creatures are formed expressly to prey upon each other. Christ impose their habits on the Carnivora! Little attention could the learned and pious Alexandrian, or the spiritual enthusiast his disciple who composed the fourth Gospel – the profoundest and most exquisite piece of anthropotheistic idealism ever penned – have bestowed on the facts of animated nature, when they contemplated as the Divine Word him by whom all things were made and without whom was made nothing that was made.
Assuredly whatever the God of theology may be,
the author of nature finds no counterpart in man’s best, and is no product of his idealisations. For, lovely and delicious as nature is on one side, it has a side that is exquisitely horrible and revolting. Scanning nature’s universal untiring eagerness to appear in one form of life or another, the profoundest scrutiny of science is compelled to regard it as a vast mechanical apparatus working on principles utterly exclusive of moral considerations. Doubtless the sum total of pleasure is greater than that of pain. Hardly otherwise could the world go on. It would become a scene of universal suicide. But the struggle to become alive and to continue alive is carried on irrespective of justice, benevolence, or any kind of morality whatever; and beings innumerable are endowed with an irresistible instinct to perpetuate their kind, whose express function seems to be the infliction of misery upon others.
Such is especially the case with the enormous class of parasitical animals, which in the shape of insects, worms, and various other creatures, prey upon the outside or inside of the larger organisms, themselves wholly guiltless of having done aught to merit the torments thus inflicted on them. Naturalists assure us that there is scarce an individual creature, even among the animals used for food by man, but its system is riddled by myriads of loathsome intestinal worms whose function it is to inflict suffering; while
man himself is the victim of diseases innumerable of which living organisms are the agents, – each separate part of his body, to the very eyeball, having a species peculiar to itself to prey upon it.
This, however, for man is the consequence of his voluntary act in ranging himself in the ranks of the Carnivora. But let us take such a case as that of the horse and his tormentor, the œstrus equi, where no responsibility can be attached to the noble sufferer. This insect deposits its eggs on the skin of the horse. The irritation thereby set up causes the animal to lick the part. By means of the tongue the larvæ are introduced into the interior, where, attaching themselves to the membrane of the stomach at the cost of vast distress to the horse, they attain a development above that reached under any other conditions, and finally are ejected fully matured to perpetuate their race and their depredations. The very name of gadflies, to which the œstrus belongs, has become proverbial for the miseries they inflict on the Mammalia.
One member of the dreadful class of Entozoa is the Tænia Serrata. This animal makes its first appearance in the interior of dogs, where it lays its eggs. These, when dropped about on grass where sheep are pastured, are swallowed by the sheep, in whose body they change into a worm that has a special affinity for the brain. Tormented in this
region by these worms, the sheep vainly seeks relief by butting its head against trees. The Tænia is capable of a yet further development, but to attain that it must have a nobler abode and richer diet. When sheep thus infested are eaten by human beings, it enters the third and last stage in its metamorphosis. Boarded and lodged in the brain of man, it operates in like manner as in the sheep, inducing cerebral disease and madness.
For no breach, conscious or other, of the laws of their being, are such tortures inflicted on the lower animals, but in the legitimate use of their natural and necessary diet. And, what must strike us as an anomaly even more remarkable is the fact that, whereas the higher the development attained by ourselves, not only the less noxious but the more beneficial to others do we become, – many of these creatures actually improve, so far as they themselves are concerned, in proportion to the excellence of that which they destroy. As I before said, there is reason to believe that the general balance is in favour of happiness, and even largely so. But inasmuch as, on the hypothesis of an omnipotent, intelligent, and benevolent Creator, we can conceive of living beings as provided with instincts which would preserve them from liability to suffer or inflict misery, as easily as we can conceive of them as having instincts at all, – we are unable to recognise
in the author of nature the perfection which we are able to formulate in our own souls, and which religion exhibits as the God and Creator of all things.
I do not dwell on the evils incidental to man as an argument against the benevolence of the Creator; because the sufferings inflicted on us by nature are small compared with those we inflict on ourselves through our neglect of the laws of our being. It is impossible to conceive of our gaining any moral or intellectual education save by the effort to work ourselves up, through, and out of difficulties. So that although in man’s case there appear to be needless evils, from which he can obtain neither immunity nor advantage, it is impossible to assert positively that there are any which may not be turned to some high spiritual end. Were man alone upon earth, he might ascribe nature’s indifference to his sufferings to its supreme regard for the moral over the physical.
Here, however, we are met by the condition of animals. We cannot regard them as gainers morally or otherwise by the evils which afflict them. And their sufferings, being neither penal nor educational, are a puzzle as insoluble to us as to themselves. It is true that, on the whole, pleasure for them predominates over pain. Nature, as I have said, is one vast apparatus for the production of life. Wherever there is life, there is love in some sort, and the joys of love
are a compensation for many woes. But if pleasure be the end, why should it be qualified by so many drawbacks? And if there be – as it is scarcely possible for a wholehearted man to avoid thinking and hoping – some universal conscious Being to feel through all his creatures, would not he, as well as they, be the happier in their completer happiness?
But our inability to perceive the moral and physical perfection we would fain ascribe to every part and detail of the universe, does not justify us in taking the pessimist view of its author’s character or intentions. Our own ideal, with all its sublimity, is as much a product of nature as the real that so much revolts us. And if in human creations, when we find among the works of an artist who has reached the highest excellence, some things which we fail to appreciate, we reserve our judgment in deference to his proved genius; – still more so, when perplexed by some of the works of nature, ought the consideration of the absolute perfection we are compelled by our very definitions to ascribe to deity, as well as of the perfection attained in the idealisations of the human soul, – to make us pause in reverential humility, and trust with what confidence we can the nobler hope. It may be that a certain physical education of matter is necessary for its development into higher forms, as in mind.
But love and worship are impossible while the
mind is clouded by distrust. Nature veils its origin from us. So that if man must have a supreme object of worship, there is none to whom we can better render the unreserved homage of our hearts than the God set before us by the Church, – a being good as we imagine goodness, in every respect in which we can conceive it, even the personification of our own best. The supreme ideal of all human aspiration, it is he with whom our spirits must seek communion in prayer and in deeds; he whom, with the ideal man of our race, we must call Father; he whom we can see and approach only through the ideal; and who, thus approached and sought, will manifest himself to us, each in our own souls, though not to the world that lieth in sense: and who, if we love him with all our heart and with all our mind and with all our strength, and keep his commandments, will come to us and love us and make his abode with us, and teach us to be perfect even as he our heavenly Father is perfect.
Lofty as such an ideal of deity must appear to us, we have no right to assume that it represents the ultimate reach of creation. Man is but a single one of the multitudinous products of nature. Some of these are lower; some certainly in the future, possibly in the present, though unseen and unrecognised, higher. If one kind of creature may credit its best thought with being a representation of deity, others may do the same, down to the very lowest.
Man, moreover, has existed but for a comparatively brief space, and has seen of the universe but a comparatively limited portion. Whereas, in order to judge of the Creator fairly, we must take the whole of his work as it exists throughout infinity and eternity. To attempt to do otherwise is to judge the whole surface of the earth from, it may be, an acre of garden plot, a league of ocean, or a patch of the Sahara. But until we obtain a view that completely satisfies the requirements of our highest ideal, we have no choice but to withhold our adoration.
At present the utmost that can be predicated of the Creator in reference to ourselves is, that the highest perfection we can imagine does but represent the ideal standard towards which we and our particular kind are intended to aspire, and in no way the character of the Creator himself.
Every different species of beings, and nearly every different member of each species, has, if we may judge from the analogy of man, a different ideal of perfection towards which to aspire; each such ideal being founded on its own real.
Yet one more reflection. If we cannot credit the author of nature with being the God of our ideal, let us at least respect nature for being the producer of that God. It must have in it an element of divinity to be that.
THE CHURCH POSSIBLE
SO YOU have been studying Comte, and have come to the conclusion that, like him, I find nothing left to worship save Humanity. I thank you for having frankly stated your impression, as it involves a mistake on a point of much importance.
Although Catholicism sets before us a God made after the image of man, save in respect of his personality, it is a religion of humanity in quite another sense than that of Positivism. The latter indeed affects to preserve the best elements of Catholicism, and to reinforce it by adding the element of science. But inasmuch as it takes little account of individuals and individual amendment, and aims at regenerating the world by a mechanical adjustment of the relations between man and man, it falls infinitely short of the system it seeks to supplant.
Positivism claims to be the religion of humanity in that it posits the sum of human possibilities as the sole legitimate object of adoration. It thus sets before us an object at once finite and indefinite.
Catholicism, on the contrary, though constructing its God after a human pattern, does so on a scale infinitely transcending all human possibilities, and thus exalts a rule of absolute perfection, not a rule of something merely better than we now have. And this rule of perfection is imposed, not on man in the mass only, but on every individual man, requiring of him the awakening of the conscience, the purifying of the heart, an entire re-birth in short from the fleshly and real to the spiritual and ideal. However much the Church may seem to have erred by its depreciation of one side of man’s nature, namely the finite and real, Comtism commits a far greater error in ignoring the other side, namely the infinite and ideal. All the social and other science in the world can do little for us in the absence of that perfect ideal in the heart whereby alone we ourselves can be made perfect.
But Catholicism does more than supply us with a perfect rule of life and feeling. It sets before us a Person as the embodiment of its rule of perfection. This ideal incarnate becomes for the true Catholic who worships in spirit and in truth, God himself, present at once in heaven and on earth, in the heart and in the hands. The Human Possibilities of the Comtist must ever fluctuate with the conditions of humanity. Not so the infinite and eternal Ideal, the God-Man of Catholicism, who is ever present to
the soul of the worshipper who receives the Holy Eucharist in faith. Where there is no Person there is no worship, and where there is no worship there is no religion. And inasmuch as Positivism dispenses with a Person, it is a mockery to call it a religion either of humanity or of anything else. Religion is emphatically a function of sympathy, and sympathy can subsist only between individualities. If we are to have religion at all, it must be an affair between persons, even though on one side at least they exist only in the imagination.
The vast bulk of mankind recoils from abstractions. Why has Protestantism failed to obtain a hold on the masses to elevate and refine them, but that it offers them a symbol only instead of a Person? Men and women, especially those in whom the emotions are unmodified by education, cannot in their devotional moods be content with aught less than One in whom faith enables them to behold sacred feet at which they can kneel, knees which they can embrace, hands which they can kiss, eyes which can melt in tenderness and pity, lips which can speak pardon and encouragement. Take from the sacrament this divine Presence: tell them it is but a symbol; and their feeling will no more be evoked towards it than would the feeling of loyalty by a wax effigy of the Sovereign. And as Positivism is far more abstract than Protestantism, it possesses even fewer attractions for the world.
Positivism, however, has done the world admirable service in assigning a foremost place to science. And it is for the Church of the future to repair the error of the past by recognising the claim of science to share the throne of its highest regards. In this matter the theory of the Church condemns its practice. Recognising the union of two elements, the real and the ideal, in its god-man, it has virtually sacrificed one to the other by its exclusive exaltation of the ideal. The Church has now to learn that it must extend its recognition of this duality to man himself; and applying itself alike to the culture of the ideal and the improvement of the real, make religion and science the two wings whereon in the future man may mount upwards. After what I have said of the nature of the ideal, you can perceive how vain is the notion that there is any inherent antagonism between them, – at least, any greater than that which the Church teaches was overcome once and for all in the Incarnation. Man consists of soul and body; and joined together as these have been by Nature, the Church has no right to put them asunder. Hitherto it has sought to raise the ideal by depressing the real. The effect was, not to raise the ideal, but merely, at best, to extend the interval between them. Let it only recognise the truth that man’s ideal is but the projection of his real into the infinite, and then, no longer fearful of entrusting men with the
knowledge, it will proclaim as a new gospel the truth that the higher we raise our real, the higher the ideal which may be reared upon it. It is with the spirit in which this should be done that the future concern of the Church will lie.
For the present, in its attempt to obtain rule by dividing two elements, the Roman Church has sunk into imbecility. The recent enunciation of the Pope – that Christians owe no duty to the lower animals – exhibited gross ignorance even of the special function of the Church. For, setting aside the question as regards the animals themselves, it is manifest that if the culture of ideal perfection in man is compatible with the practice of cruelty to an humble and helpless servant, there is no vice whatever with which it is incompatible. The representative of the Gospel herein showed himself far behind the giver of the Law, who prohibited the muzzling of oxen while treading out the corn, the taking of the parent bird with the nest and eggs, and – by way of fostering kindly sentiments in man, even where no cruelty would be inflicted on the animal – the seething of a kid in its mother’s milk.
While the Papacy, under the cover of transcendental metaphysics, is aiming at universal dominion, the world at large is manifesting indications of an approach to a new era. The modern extension of the sympathetic sentiment beyond self, beyond family,
beyond caste, beyond party, beyond country, beyond race, beyond humanity itself, even to everything that has life, demonstrates perhaps more than any other phenomenon of modern society, the continued development of the soul in man. Is it not evident that when, under the substitution of the reign of sympathy for that of the selfishness which has hitherto prevailed, there shall be no more war of peoples, no more antagonism of classes or parties, no more indifference to suffering whether of man or beast, we shall in some measure realise the promise of those new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth justice?
But, to qualify itself to foster this new regeneration and lead the world on to so desirable a consummation, the Church must be true to its own principles, must return to its first love, and renounce as an unclean thing the worldly elements to which it is in bondage. Minister of the ideal, but one thing is needful to it. And when on part of the Roman branch of the Church, the Pope announces himself content with his spiritual functions and abdicates all worldly dominion, rank, and distinction; and on part of the Anglican branch, the bishops voluntarily and with a single eye to the spiritual, vacate their temporal privileges, then perchance may we say, ‘Io! here, and Io! there,’ and begin to hope that the grain of mustard seed is at length beginning to shoot
among whose branches, when grown into a tree, all may find a home and a rest for their souls.
It is through misconception on both sides that we see conflicts, such as that now raging in Germany and which may yet reach England, between the State and the Church, between the departments of the real and of the ideal. Though distinct in their functions, both rest on the same basis, – the collective conscience of the citizens. The State and Church of every country represent, though under different aspects, the aggregate of citizens, but the duty of each citizen to his own conscience is superior to the obligations imposed on him by his fellows under the name of either. His own ideal of perfection is to him the God whom, rather than man, he ought to obey. In all issues whatever his conscience must be supreme; and it is not as controller but as developer of that conscience that the Church should ever regard itself. The proper meaning of Papal supremacy in this relation is that, regarding the Roman pontiff as president of the council of conscience, the catholic citizen is bound to accept the coincidence between the dictates of his conscience and the decrees of the Pope as indicating his duty with a certainty otherwise unattainable, and to act accordingly. No man will be a worse citizen for thus regulating his conduct.
But, except through the free conscience of the citizen,
the Church should exert no influence whatever. Gathering up in itself all the threads of the threefold cord of human culture, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, the Church should no more seek to be entrusted with executive or legislative functions than should a guild of literature, art, or industry. Its business is to teach, and to illustrate by example, not to rule or to take possession. And the State when encouraging art and education, and whatever tends to the higher development of its members, must logically extend its control to the Church. And this, if for no other reason than to secure to it the largest freedom and possibilities of usefulness by bringing the practical secular mind to temper and correct the extravagancies to which a body under exclusively professional influence is liable. The ministers of the Church, charged with the cure of souls, or culture of the ideal, enter a province for which their special office unfits them, when they attempt to exercise power, even though it be only over their own material fabrics and organisation.
The notion that the Church has outlived its time, and that the world, having got science, can now dispense with religion, is wholly vain. All the science in the world is of small account in the absence of that perfect ideal in the heart through which alone we can ourselves be made perfect. Science may make our outward conditions perfect. But we are more
than our conditions; and who or what is to make us perfect?
The Church, it is true, may exchange its means for others. It may discard much that in the shape of doctrine or rite it has been accustomed to use; and especially should it discard and eradicate the notion that in dealing with the supernatural it deals with aught external to humanity. It must thus suffer truth to spring out of the earth, before it can hope to prove itself an efficient minister of the righteousness that looketh down from heaven.
So long as children are born ignorant, and men continue to be imperfect, will the necessity for a Church exist. As the world changes, the means employed by the Church must change. It will not in the developed future as in the rude past, require the aid of anthropomorphic theologies, or solar myths, symbolic ritual, or mysticism in any form whatever, to keep alive the light of the ideal. But, inasmuch as that light must be maintained so long as man is possessed of a soul and sense of perfection, the institution charged with the function of maintaining it will always possess the essential element of a Church, under whatever name it may be known, or by whatever means it may work, and its culture will constitute ‘religion.’
If, indeed, the existing Church ultimately fails and falls away into dissolution, it will be because
it has suffered the mystical and mythological elements in it to stifle and supplant the moral and spiritual. It is for want of the proper exaltation of the standard of personal perfection among us, that the idea of Duty is so feeble and dim, while that of ‘Rights’ is rampant. Family tyranny, social ill-nature, and cruelty to the human and the animal, are still rife, while the mass of workers of every degree think more of the amount of their wages than of the quality of their work, – as if conscience and perfection were vain things. The individualism of the Protestant spirit is accountable for much of this. And even if the Church is slow to abandon the old nomenclature, and, insists on regarding the revelation of which it is the medium and guardian as ‘supernatural’ and ‘divine,’ let us strive to look tenderly on it, considering that whatever proceeds from that part of man’s nature which is above the ordinary and secular – namely, from the ideal and spiritual – to the real and sensible, must ever be for us the divinest, and possess the highest sanction attainable. This and science constitute the only true ‘revelations.’
As with individuals, so with peoples. If nations are to flourish and endure, they must keep ever before them, burning clear on the altar of the national heart, that ideal from whose bosom springs the righteousness that alone exalteth a nation. Seeking power, honour, wealth, luxury, kingdoms innumerable
have risen up, endured for a space, and then passed away, because they followed the real and the transient – ends merely utilitarian and temporary – instead of that ideal which constitutes the Everlasting Perfection, even the God whose kingdom ruleth over all and abideth for ever.
* * * * *
And now, sweet friend of my life, adieu. The time appointed for my departure for the warmer seas and gentler airs of the southern hemisphere has come, and in a day or two I embark in further search of the San Graal most prized by mortals – physical health. I will not attempt to deceive you by feigning hopes which I do not entertain. Whatever amendment I am capable of has, I suspect, already been effected by this intercourse with you. For, all through our correspondence you have been a ‘real presence’ to me, and one fraught with tenderest blessings. What I have written, I leave wholly with you. The writing of it has been of infinite service to my own mind; and I prize beyond measure your assurance that it has brought peace and comfort to yours, that the stone has been rolled away for you from the door of the sepulchre, and that, secure of possessing within yourself a standard of perfection towards which to aspire, you can henceforth contemplate undismayed all chances of finite and infinite. Thus provided, you have indeed found a God who
will be to you a refuge and strength and very present help in trouble.
About your suggestion that others might derive benefit from my confessions, and your request for leave to publish my letters, I have hesitated greatly, though I can scarcely formulate the grounds of my hesitation. I now hesitate no longer. Not for worlds would I expose you to the woe pronounced against those who take away the key of knowledge; who enter not in themselves; and who hinder those who would enter in. I do not, however, ask you to publish them, but leave it to your discretion, suggesting only that you allow yourself to be guided by the wants of the times, so that, if spoken at all, they may be spoken in season. All that reaches me respecting the condition of thought and progress of events at home, makes it seem probable that such a time is near at hand. Thus do I make you a sharer in my responsibility! For myself I can now with all thankfulness say,
Liberavi animam meam.
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