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NOTES ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF SHEEPFOLDS.

NOTES,

ETC., ETC.

182. The following remarks were intended to form part of the appendix to an essay on Architecture: but it seemed to me, when I had put them into order, that they might be useful to persons who would not care to possess the work to which I proposed to attach them: I publish them, therefore, in a separate form; but I have not time to give them more consistency than they would have had in the subordinate position originally intended for them. I do not profess to teach Divinity, and I pray the reader to understand this, and to pardon the slightness and insufficiency of notes set down with no more intention of connected treatment of their subject than might regulate an accidental conversation. Some of them are simply copied from my private diary; others are detached statements of facts, which seem to me significative or valuable, without comment; all are written in haste, and in the intervals of occupation with an entirely different subject. It may be asked of me, whether I hold it right to speak thus hastily and insufficiently respecting the matter in question? Yes. I hold it right to speak hastily; not to think hastily. I have not thought hastily of these things; and, besides, the haste of speech is confessed, that the reader may think of me only as talking to him, and saying, as shortly and simply as I can, things which, if he esteem them foolish or idle, he is welcome to cast aside; but which, in very truth, I cannot help saying at this time.

183. The passages in the essay which required notes, described the repression of the political power of the Venetian Clergy by the Venetian Senate; and it became necessary for me in supporting an assertion made in the course of the inquiry, that the idea of separation of Church and State was both vain and impious to limit the sense in which it seemed to me that the word “Church” should be understood, and to note one or two consequences which would result from the acceptance of such limitation. This I may as well do in a separate paper, readable by any person interested in the subject; for it is high time that some definition of the word should be agreed upon. I do not mean a definition involving the doctrine of this or that division of Christians, but limiting, in a manner understood by all of them, the sense in which the word should thenceforward be used. There is grievous inconvenience in the present state of things. For instance, in a sermon lately published at Oxford, by an anti-Tractarian divine, I find this sentence, “It is clearly within the province of the State to establish a national church, or external institution of certain forms of worship.” Now suppose one were to take this interpretation of the word “Church,” given by an Oxford divine, and substitute it for the simple word in some Bible texts, as, for instance, “Unto the angel of the external institution of certain forms of worship of Ephesus, write,” etc. Or, “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the external institution of certain forms of worship which is in his house,” what awkward results we should have, here and there! Now I do not say it is possible for men to agree with each other in their religious opinions, but it is certainly possible for them to agree with each other upon their religious expressions; and when a word occurs in the Bible a hundred and fourteen times, it is surely not asking too much of contending divines to let it stand in the sense in which it there occurs; and when they want an expression of something for which it does not stand in the Bible, to use some other word. There is no compromise of religious opinion in this; it is simply proper respect for the Queen’s English.

184. The word occurs in the New Testament, as I said, a hundred and fourteen times. In every one of those occurrences, it bears one and the same grand sense: that of a congregation or assembly of men. But it bears this sense under four different modifications, giving four separate meanings to the word. These are

I. The entire Multitude of the Elect; otherwise called the Body of Christ; and sometimes the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife; including the Faithful in all ages; Adam, and the children of Adam yet unborn.

In this sense it is used in Ephesians v 25, 27, 32; Colossians i 18; and several other passages.

II. The entire multitude of professing believers in Christ, existing on earth at a given moment; including false brethren, wolves in sheep’s clothing, goats and tares, as well as sheep and wheat, and other forms of bad fish with good in the net.

In this sense it is used in 1 Cor. x 32, xv 9; Galatians i 13; 1 Tim. iii 5, etc.

III. The multitude of professed believers, living in a certain city, place, or house. This is the most frequent sense in which the word occurs, as in Acts vii 38, xiii 1; 1 Cor. i 2, xvi 19, etc.

IV. Any assembly of men: as in Acts xix 32, 41.

185. That in a hundred and twelve out of the hundred and fourteen texts, the word bears some one of these four meanings, is indisputable. But there are two texts in which, if the word had alone occurred, its meaning might have been doubtful. These are Matt. xvi 18, and xviii 17.

The absurdity of founding any doctrine upon the inexpressibly minute possibility that, in these two texts, the word might have been used with a different meaning from that which it bore in all the others, coupled with the assumption that the meaning was this or that, is self-evident: it is not so much a religious error as a philological solecism; unparalleled, so far as I know, in any other science but that of divinity.

Nor is it ever, I think, committed with open front by Protestants. No English divine, asked in a straightforward manner for a Scriptural definition of “the Church,” would, I suppose, be bold enough to answer “the Clergy.” Nor is there any harm in the common use of the word, so only that it be distinctly understood to be not the Scriptural one; and therefore to be unfit for substitution in a Scriptural text. There is no harm in a man’s talking of his son’s “going into the Church; “meaning that he is going to take orders: but there is much harm in his supposing this a Scriptural use of the word, and therefore, that when Christ said, “Tell it to the Church,” He might possibly have meant, “Tell it to the Clergy.”

186. It is time to put an end to the chance of such misunderstanding. Let it but be declared plainly by all men, when they begin to state their opinions on matters ecclesiastical, that they will use the word “Church” in one sense or the other; that they will accept the sense in which it is used by the Apostles, or that they deny this sense, and propose a new definition of their own. We shall then know what we are about with them we may perhaps grant them their new use of the term, and argue with them on that understanding; so only that they will not pretend to make use of Scriptural authority, while they refuse to employ Scriptural language. This, however, it is not my purpose to do at present. I desire only to address those who are willing to accept the Apostolic sense of the word Church; and with them, I would endeavor shortly to ascertain what consequences must follow from an acceptance of that Apostolic sense, and what must be our first and most necessary conclusions from the common language of Scripture respecting these following points:

(1) The distinctive characters of the Church, (2) The Authority of the Church. (3) The Authority of the Clergy over the Church. (4) The Connection of the Church with the State.

187. These are four separate subjects of question; but we shall not have to put these questions in succession with each of the four Scriptural meanings of the word Church, for evidently its second and third meaning may be considered together, as merely expressing the general or particular conditions of the Visible Church, and the fourth signification is entirely independent of all questions of a religious kind. So that we shall only put the above inquiries successively respecting the Invisible and Visible Church; and as the two last of authority of Clergy, and connection with State can evidently only have reference to the Visible Church, we shall have, in all, these six questions to consider:

(1) The distinctive characters of the Invisible Church. (2) The distinctive characters of the Visible Church. (3) The Authority of the Invisible Church. (4) The Authority of the Visible Church, (5) The Authority of Clergy over the Visible Church. (6) The Connection of the Visible Church with the State.

188. (1) What are the distinctive characters of the Invisible Church? That is to say, What is it which makes a person a member of this Church, and how is he to be known for such? Wide question if we had to take cognizance of all that has been written respecting it, remarkable as it has been always for quantity rather than carefulness, and full of confusion between Visible and Invisible: even the Article of the Church of England being ambiguous in its first clause: “The Visible Church is a congregation of Faithful men.” As if ever it had been possible, except for God, to see Faith, or to know a Faithful man by sight! And there is little else written on this question, without some such quick confusion of the Visible and Invisible Church; needless and unaccountable confusion. For evidently, the Church which is composed of Faithful men is the one true, indivisible, and indiscernible Church, built on the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone. It includes all who have ever fallen asleep in Christ, and all yet unborn, who are to be saved in Him: its Body is as yet imperfect; it will not be perfected till the last saved human spirit is gathered to its God.

A man becomes a member of this Church only by believing in Christ with all his heart; nor is he positively recognizable for a member of it, when he has become so, by any one but God, not even by himself. Nevertheless, there are certain signs by which Christ’s sheep may be guessed at. Not by their being in any definite Fold for many are lost sheep at times; but by their sheeplike behavior; and a great many are indeed sheep, which, on the far mountain side, in their peacefulness, we take for stones. To themselves, the best proof of their being Christ’s sheep is to find themselves on Christ’s shoulders; and, between them, there are certain sympathies (expressed in the Apostles’ Creed by the term “communion of Saints"), by which they may in a sort recognize each other, and so become verily visible to each other for mutual comfort.

189. (2) The Limits of the Visible Church, or of the Church in the Second Scriptural Sense, are not so easy to define: they are awkward questions, these, of stake-nets. It has been ingeniously and plausibly endeavored to make Baptism a sign of admission into the Visible Church: but absurdly enough; for we know that half the baptized people in the world are very visible rogues, believing neither in God nor devil; and it is flat blasphemy to call these Visible Christians; we also know that the Holy Ghost was sometimes given before Baptism, and it would be absurdity to call a man, on whom the Holy Ghost had fallen, an Invisible Christian. The only rational distinction is that which practically, though not professedly, we always assume. If we hear a man profess himself a believer in God and in Christ, and detect him in no glaring and willful violation of God’s law, we speak of him as a Christian; and, on the other hand, if we hear him or see him denying Christ, either in his words or conduct, we tacitly assume him not to be a Christian. A mawkish charity prevents us from outspeaking in this matter, and from earnestly endeavoring to discern who are Christians and who are not; and this I hold to be one of the chief sins of the Church in the present day; for thus wicked men are put to no shame; and better men are encouraged in their failings, or caused to hesitate in their virtues, by the example of those whom, in false charity, they choose to call Christians. Now, it being granted that it is impossible to know, determinedly, who are Christians indeed, that is no reason for utter negligence in separating the nominal, apparent, or possible Christian, from the professed Pagan or enemy of God. We spend much time in arguing about efficacy of sacraments and such other mysteries; but we do not act upon the very certain tests which are clear and visible. We know that Christ’s people are not thieves not liars not busybodies not dishonest not avaricious not wasteful not cruel. Let us then get ourselves well clear of thieves liars wasteful people avaricious people cheating people people who do not pay their debts. Let us assure them that they, at least, do not belong to the Visible Church; and having thus got that Church into decent shape and cohesion, it will be time to think of drawing the stake-nets closer.

I hold it for a law, palpable to common sense, and which nothing but the cowardice and faithlessness of the Church prevents it from putting in practice, that the conviction of any dishonorable conduct or willful crime, of any fraud, falsehood, cruelty, or violence, should be ground for the excommunication of any man: for his publicly declared separation from the acknowledged body of the Visible Church: and that he should not be received again therein without public confession of his crime and declaration of his repentance. If this were vigorously enforced, we should soon have greater purity of life in the world, and fewer discussions about high and low churches. But before we can obtain any idea of the manner in which such law could be enforced, we have to consider the second respecting the Authority of the Church. Now authority is twofold: to declare doctrine, and to enforce discipline; and we have to inquire, therefore, in each kind,

190. (3) What is the authority of the Invisible Church? Evidently, in matters of doctrine, all members of the Invisible Church must have been, and must ever be, at the time of their deaths, right in the points essential to Salvation. But, (A), we cannot tell who are members of the Invisible Church.

(B) We cannot collect evidence from death-beds in a clearly stated form.

(C) We can collect evidence, in any form, only from some one or two out of every sealed thousand of the Invisible Church. Elijah thought he was alone in Israel; and yet there were seven thousand invisible ones around him. Grant that we had Elijah’s intelligence; and we could only calculate on collecting one seven-thousandth part of the evidence or opinions of the part of the Invisible Church living on earth at a given moment: that is to say, the seven-millionth or trillionth of its collective evidence. It is very clear, therefore, we cannot hope to get rid of the contradictory opinions, and keep the consistent ones, by a general equation. But, it has been said, these are no contradictory opinions; the Church is infallible. There was some talk about the infallibility of the Church, if I recollect right, in that letter of Mr. Bennett’s to the Bishop of London. If any Church is infallible, it is assuredly the Invisible Church, or Body of Christ: and infallible in the main sense it must of course be by its definition. An Elect person must be saved, and therefore cannot eventually be deceived on essential points: so that Christ says of the deception of such, “If it were possible” implying it to be impossible. Therefore, as we said, if one could get rid of the variable opinions of the members of the Invisible Church, the constant opinions would assuredly be authoritative: but, for the three reasons above stated, we cannot get at their constant opinions: and as for the feelings and thoughts which they daily experience or express, the question of Infallibility -which is practical only in this bearing is soon settled. Observe, St. Paul, and the rest of the Apostles, write nearly all their epistles to the Invisible Church: those epistles are headed, Romans, “To the beloved of God, called to be saints; “1 Corinthians, “To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus; “2 Corinthians, “To the saints in all Achaia;” Ephesians, “To the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus; “Philippians, “To all the saints which are at Philippi; “Colossians, “To the saints and faithful brethren which are at Colosse;” 1 and 2 Thessalonians, “To the Church of the Thessalonians, which is in God the Father, and the Lord Jesus; “1 and 2 Timothy, “To his own son in the faith; “Titus, to the same; 1 Peter, “To the Strangers, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God;” 2 Peter, “To them that have obtained like precious faith with us; " 2 John, “To the Elect lady; " Jude, " To them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.”

191. There are thus fifteen epistles, expressly directed to the members of the Invisible Church. Philemon and Hebrews, and 1 and 3 John, are evidently also so written, though not so expressly inscribed. That of James, and that to the Galatians, are as evidently to the Visible Church: the one being general, and the other to persons “removed from Him that called them.” Missing out, therefore, these two epistles, but including Christ’s words to His disciples, we find in the Scriptural addresses to members of the Invisible Church, fourteen, if not more, direct injunctions “not to be deceived." So much for the “Infallibility of the Church.”

Now, one could put up with Puseyism more patiently, if its fallacies arose merely from peculiar temperaments yielding to peculiar temptations. But its bold refusals to read plain English; its elaborate adjustments of tight bandages over its own eyes, as wholesome preparation for a walk among traps and pitfalls; its daring trustfulness in its own clairvoyance all the time, and declarations that every pit it falls into is a seventh heaven; and that it is pleasant and profitable to break its legs; with all this it is difficult to have patience. One thinks of the highwayman with his eyes shut in the “Arabian Nights”; and wonders whether any kind of scourging would prevail upon the Anglican highwayman to open “first one and then the other.”

192. (4) So much, then, I repeat, for the infallibility of the Invisible Church, and for its consequent authority. Now, if we want to ascertain what infallibility and authority there is in the Visible Church, we have to alloy the small wisdom and the light weight of Invisible Christians, with the large percentage of the false wisdom and contrary weight of Undetected Anti-Christians. Which alloy makes up the current coin of opinions in the Visible Church, having such value as we may choose its nature being properly assayed to attach to it.

There is, therefore, in matters of doctrine, no such thing as the Authority of the Church. We might as well talk of the authority of a morning cloud. There may be light in it, but the light is not of it; and it diminishes the light that it gets; and lets less of it through than it receives, Christ being its sun. Or, we might as well talk of the authority of a flock of sheep for the Church is a body to be taught and fed, not to teach and feed: and of all sheep that are fed on the earth, Christ’s Sheep are the most simple, (the children of this generation are wiser): always losing themselves; doing little else in this world but lose themselves; never finding themselves; always found by Some One else; getting perpetually into sloughs, and snows, and bramble thickets, like to die there, but for their Shepherd, who is forever finding them and bearing them back, with torn fleeces and eyes full of fear.

193. This, then, being the No-Authority of the Church in matter of Doctrine, what Authority has it in matters of Discipline?

Much, every way. The sheep have natural and wholesome power (however far scattered they may be from their proper fold) of getting together in orderly knots; following each other on trodden sheepwalks, and holding their heads all one way when they see strange dogs coming; as well as of casting out of their company any whom they see reason to suspect of not being right sheep, and being among them for no good. All which things must be done as the time and place require, and by common consent. A path may be good at one time of day which is bad at another, or after a change of wind; and a position may be very good for sudden defense, which would be very stiff and awkward for feeding in. And common consent must often be of such and such a company on this or that hillside, in this or that particular danger, not of all the sheep in the world: and the consent may either be literally common, and expressed in assembly, or it may be to appoint officers over the rest, with such and such trusts of the common authority, to be used for the common advantage. Conviction of crimes, and excommunication, for instance, could neither be effected except before, or by means of, officers of some appointed authority.

194. (5) This then brings us to our fifth question. What is the Authority of the Clergy over the Church?

The first clause of the question must evidently be, Who are the Clergy? And it is not easy to answer this without begging the rest of the question.

For instance, I think I can hear certain people answering, that the Clergy are folk of three kinds; Bishops, who overlook the Church; Priests, who sacrifice for the Church; Deacons, who minister to the Church: thus assuming in their answer, that the Church is to be sacrificed for, and that the people cannot overlook and minister to her at the same time; which is going much too fast. I think, however, if we define the Clergy to be the “Spiritual Officers of the Church,” meaning, by Officers, merely People in office, we shall have a title safe enough and general enough to begin with, and corresponding too, pretty well, with St. Paul’s general expression [Greek: proistamenoi], in Rom. xii 8, and 1 Thess. v 13.

Now, respecting these Spiritual Officers, or office-bearers, we have to inquire, first, What their Office or Authority is, or should be? secondly, Who gave, or should give, them that Authority? That is to say, first, What is, or should be, the nature of their office? and secondly, What the extent, or force, of their authority in it? for this last depends mainly on its derivation.

195. First, then, What should be the offices, and of what kind should be the authority, of the Clergy?

I have hitherto referred to the Bible for an answer to every question. I do so again; and, behold, the Bible gives me no answer. I defy you to answer me from the Bible. You can only guess, and dimly conjecture, what the offices of the Clergy were in the first century. You cannot show me a single command as to what they shall be. Strange, this; the Bible gives no answer to so apparently important a question! God surely would not have left His word without an answer to anything His children ought to ask. Surely it must be a ridiculous question a question we ought never to have put, or thought of putting. Let us think of it again a little. To be sure, It is a ridiculous question, and we should be ashamed of ourselves for having put it: What should be the offices of the Clergy? That is to say, What are the possible spiritual necessities which at any time may arise in the Church, and by what means and men are they to be supplied? evidently an infinite question. Different kinds of necessities must be met by different authorities, constituted as the necessities arise. Robinson Crusoe, in his island, wants no Bishop, and makes a thunderstorm do for an Evangelist. The University of Oxford would be ill off without its Bishop; but wants an Evangelist besides; and that forthwith. The authority which the Vaudois shepherds need is of Barnabas, the Son of Consolation; the authority which the city of London needs is of James, the Son of Thunder. Let us then alter the form of our question, and put it to the Bible thus: What are the necessities most likely to arise in the Church? and may they be best met by different men, or in great part by the same men acting in different capacities? and are the names attached to their offices of any consequence? Ah, the Bible answers now, and that loudly. The Church is built on the Foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the corner-stone. Well; we cannot have two foundations, so we can have no more Apostles nor Prophets: then, as for the other needs of the Church in its edifying upon this foundation, there are all manner of things to be done daily; rebukes to be given; comfort to be brought; Scripture to be explained; warning to be enforced; threatenings to be executed; charities to be administered; and the men who do these things are called, and call themselves, with absolute indifference, Deacons, Bishops, Elders, Evangelists, according to what they are doing at the time of speaking. St. Paul almost always calls himself a deacon, St. Peter calls himself an elder, 1 Peter v 1; and Timothy, generally understood to be addressed as a bishop, is called a deacon in 1 Tim. iv 6 forbidden to rebuke an elder, in v 1, and exhorted to do the work of an evangelist, in 2 Tim. iv 5. But there is one thing which, as officers, or as separate from the rest of the flock, they never call themselves, which it would have been impossible, as so separate, they ever should have called themselves; that is Priests.

196. It would have been just as possible for the Clergy of the early Church to call themselves Levites, as to call themselves (ex-officio) Priests. The whole function of Priesthood was, on Christmas morning, at once and forever gathered into His Person who was born at Bethlehem; and thenceforward, all who are united with Him, and who with Him make sacrifice of themselves; that is to say, all members of the Invisible Church become, at the instant of their conversion, Priests; and are so called in 1 Peter ii 5, and Rev i 6, and xx 6, where, observe, there is no possibility of limiting the expression to the Clergy; the conditions of Priesthood being simply having been loved by Christ, and washed in His blood. The blasphemous claim on the part of the Clergy of being more Priests than the godly laity that is to say, of having a higher Holiness than the Holiness of being one with Christ, is altogether a Romanist heresy, dragging after it, or having its origin in, the other heresies respecting the sacrificial power of the Church officer, and his repeating the oblation of Christ, and so having power to absolve from sin: with all the other endless and miserable falsehoods of the Papal hierarchy; falsehoods for which, that there might be no shadow of excuse, it has been ordained by the Holy Spirit that no Christian minister shall once call himself a Priest from one end of the New Testament to the other, except together with his flock; and so far from the idea of any peculiar sanctification, belonging to the Clergy, ever entering the Apostles’ minds, we actually find St. Paul defending himself against the possible imputation of inferiority: “If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s” (2 Cor. x 7). As for the unhappy retention of the term Priest in our English Prayer-book, so long as it was understood to mean nothing but an upper order of Church officer, licensed to tell the congregation from the reading-desk, what (for the rest) they might, one would think, have known without being told, that “God pardoneth all them that truly repent,” there was little harm in it; but, now that this order of Clergy begins to presume upon a title which, if it mean anything at all, is simply short for Presbyter, and has no more to do with the word Hiereus than with the word Levite, it is time that some order should be taken both with the book and the Clergy. For instance, in that dangerous compound of halting poetry with hollow Divinity, called the “Lyra Apostolica,” we find much versification on the sin of Korah and his company: with suggested parallel between the Christian and Levitical Churches, and threatening that there are “Judgment Fires, for high-voiced Korahs in their day.” There are indeed such fires. But when Moses said, “a Prophet shall the Lord raise up unto you, like unto me,” did he mean the writer who signs [Greek: g] in the “Lyra Apostolica”? The office of the Lawgiver and Priest is now forever gathered into One Mediator between God and man; and THEY are guilty of the sin of Korah who blasphemously would associate themselves in His Mediatorship.

197. As for the passages in the “Ordering of Priests” and “Visitation of the Sick” respecting Absolution, they are evidently pure Romanism, and might as well not be there, for any practical effect which they have on the consciences of the Laity; and had much better not be there, as regards their effect on the minds of the Clergy. It is indeed true that Christ promised absolving powers to His Apostles: He also promised to those who believed, that they should take up serpents; and if they drank any deadly thing, it should not hurt them. His words were fulfilled literally; but those who would extend their force to beyond the Apostolic times, must extend both promises or neither.

Although, however, the Protestant laity do not often admit the absolving power of their clergy, they are but too apt to yield, in some sort, to the impression of their greater sanctification; and from this instantly results the unhappy consequence that the sacred character of the Layman himself is forgotten, and his own Ministerial duty is neglected. Men not in office in the Church suppose themselves, on that ground, in a sort unholy; and that, therefore, they may sin with more excuse, and be idle or impious with less danger, than the Clergy: especially they consider themselves relieved from all ministerial function, and as permitted to devote their whole time and energy to the business of this world. No mistake can possibly be greater. Every member of the Church is equally bound to the service of the Head of the Church; and that service is pre-eminently the saving of souls. There is not a moment of a man’s active life in which he may not be indirectly preaching; and throughout a great part of his life he ought to be directly preaching, and teaching both strangers and friends; his children, his servants, and all who in any way are put under him, being given to him as special objects of his ministration. So that the only difference between a Church officer and a lay member is either a wider degree of authority given to the former, as apparently a wiser and better man, or a special appointment to some office more easily discharged by one person than by many: as, for instance, the serving of tables by the deacons; the authority or appointment being, in either case, commonly signified by a marked separation from the rest of the Church, and the privilege or power of being maintained by the rest of the Church, without being forced to labor with his hands, or incumber himself with any temporal concerns.

198. Now, putting out of the question the serving of tables, and other such duties, respecting which there is no debate, we shall find the offices of the Clergy, whatever names we may choose to give to those who discharge them, falling mainly into two great heads: Teaching; including doctrine, warning, and comfort: Discipline; including reproof and direct administration of punishment. Either of which functions would naturally become vested in single persons, to the exclusion of others, as a mere matter of convenience: whether those persons were wiser and better than others or not; and respecting each of which, and the authority required for its fitting discharge, a short inquiry must be separately made.

199. i Teaching. It appears natural and wise that certain men should be set apart from the rest of the Church that they may make Theology the study of their lives: and that they should be thereto instructed specially in the Hebrew and Greek tongues; and have entire leisure granted them for the study of the Scriptures, and for obtaining general knowledge of the grounds of Faith, and best modes of its defense against all heretics: and it seems evidently right, also, that with this Scholastic duty should be joined the Pastoral duty of constant visitation and exhortation to the people; for, clearly, the Bible, and the truths of Divinity in general, can only be understood rightly in their practical application; and clearly, also, a man spending his time constantly in spiritual ministrations, must be better able, on any given occasion, to deal powerfully with the human heart than one unpracticed in such matters. The unity of Knowledge and Love, both devoted altogether to the service of Christ and His Church, marks the true Christian Minister; who, I believe, whenever he has existed, has never failed to receive due and fitting reverence from all men, of whatever character or opinion; and I believe that if all those who profess to be such were such indeed, there would never be question of their authority more.

200. But, whatever influence they may have over the Church, their authority never supersedes that of either the intellect or the conscience of the simplest of its lay members. They can assist those members in the search for truth, or comfort their over-worn and doubtful minds; they can even assure them that they are in the way of truth, or that pardon is within their reach: but they can neither manifest the truth, nor grant the pardon. Truth is to be discovered, and Pardon to be won, for every man by himself. This is evident from innumerable texts of Scripture, but chiefly from those which exhort every man to seek after Truth, and which connect knowing with doing. We are to seek after knowledge as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures; therefore, from every man she must be naturally hid, and the discovery of her is to be the reward only of personal search. The kingdom of God is as treasure hid in a field; and of those who profess to help us to seek for it, we are not to put confidence in those who say, Here is the treasure, we have found it, and have it, and will give you some of it; but in those who say, We think that is a good place to dig, and you will dig most easily in such and such a way.

201. Farther, it has been promised that if such earnest search be made, Truth shall be discovered: as much truth, that is, as is necessary for the person seeking. These, therefore, I hold, for two fundamental principles of religion, that, without seeking, truth cannot be known at all; and that, by seeking, it may be discovered by the simplest. I say, without seeking it cannot be known at all. It can neither be declared from pulpits, nor set down in Articles, nor in anywise “prepared and sold” in packages, ready for use. Truth must be ground for every man by himself out of its husk, with such help as he can get, indeed, but not without stern labor of his own. In what science is knowledge to be had cheap? or truth to be told over a velvet cushion, in half an hour’s talk every seventh day? Can you learn chemistry so? zoology? anatomy? and do you expect to penetrate the secret of all secrets, and to know that whose price is above rubies; and of which the depth saith, It is not in me, in so easy fashion? There are doubts in this matter which evil spirits darken with their wings, and that is true of all such doubts which we were told long ago they can “be ended by action alone."

202. As surely as we live, this truth of truths can only so be discerned: to those who act on what they know, more shall be revealed; and thus, if any man will do His will, he shall know the doctrine whether it be of God. Any man, not the man who has most means of knowing, who has the subtlest brains, or sits under the most orthodox preacher, or has his library fullest of most orthodox books, but the man who strives to know, who takes God at His word, and sets himself to dig up the heavenly mystery, roots and all, before sunset, and the night come, when no man can work. Beside such a man, God stands in more and more visible presence as he toils, and teaches him that which no preacher can teach no earthly authority gainsay. By such a man, the preacher must himself be judged.

203. Doubt you this? There is nothing more certain nor clear throughout the Bible: the Apostles themselves appeal constantly to their flocks, and actually claim judgment from them, as deserving it, and having a right to it, rather than discouraging it. But, first notice the way in which the discovery of truth is spoken of in the Old Testament: “Evil men understand not judgment; but they that seek the Lord understand all things,” Proverbs xxviii 5. God overthroweth, not merely the transgressor or the wicked, but even “the words of the transgressor,” Proverbs xxii 12, and “the counsel of the wicked,” Job v 13, xxi 16; observe again, in Proverbs xxiv 14, “My son, eat thou honey, because it is good so shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul, when thou hast found it, there shall be a reward;” and again, “What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall He teach in the way that He shall choose;” so Job xxxii 8, and multitudes of places more; and then, with all these places, which express the definite and personal operation of the Spirit of God on every one of His people, compare the place in Isaiah, which speaks of the contrary of this human teaching: a passage which seems as if it had been written for this very day and hour. “Because their fear towards me is taught by the precept of men; therefore, behold, the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (xxix 13,14). Then take the New Testament, and observe how St. Paul himself speaks of the Romans, even as hardly needing his epistle, but able to admonish one another: “Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind” (xv 15). Anyone, we should have thought, might have done as much as this, and yet St. Paul increases the modesty of it as he goes on; for he claims the right of doing as much as this, only “because of the grace given to me of God, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.” Then compare 2 Cor. v 11, where he appeals to the consciences of the people for the manifestation of his having done his duty; and observe in verse 21 of that, and I of the next chapter, the “pray” and “beseech,” not “command”; and again in chapter vi verse 4, “approving ourselves as the ministers of God.” But the most remarkable passage of all is 2 Cor. iii 1, whence it appears that the churches were actually in the habit of giving letters of recommendation to their ministers; and St. Paul dispenses with such letters, not by virtue of his Apostolic authority, but because the power of his preaching was enough manifested in the Corinthians themselves. And these passages are all the more forcible, because if in any of them St. Paul had claimed absolute authority over the Church as a teacher, it was no more than we should have expected him to claim, nor could his doing so have in anywise justified a successor in the same claim. But now that he has not claimed it, who, following him, shall dare to claim it? And the consideration of the necessity of joining expressions of the most exemplary humility, which were to be the example of succeeding ministers, with such assertion of Divine authority as should secure acceptance for the epistle itself in the sacred canon, sufficiently accounts for the apparent inconsistencies which occur in 2 Thess. iii 14, and other such texts.

204. So much, then, for the authority of the Clergy in matters of Doctrine. Next, what is their authority in matters of Discipline? It must evidently be very great, even if it were derived from the people alone, and merely vested in the clerical officers as the executors of their ecclesiastical judgments, and general overseers of all the Church. But granting, as we must presently, the minister to hold office directly from God, his authority of discipline becomes very great indeed; how great, it seems to me most difficult to determine, because I do not understand what St. Paul means by “delivering a man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” Leaving this question, however, as much too hard for casual examination, it seems indisputable that the authority of the Ministers or court of Ministers should extend to the pronouncing a man Excommunicate for certain crimes against the Church, as well as for all crimes punishable by ordinary law. There ought, I think, to be an ecclesiastical code of laws; and a man ought to have jury trial, according to this code, before an ecclesiastical judge; in which, if he were found guilty, as of lying, or dishonesty, or cruelty, much more of any actually committed violent crime, he should be pronounced excommunicate; refused the Sacrament; and have his name written in some public place as an excommunicate person until he had publicly confessed his sin and besought pardon of God for it. The jury should always be of the laity, and no penalty should be enforced in an ecclesiastical court except this of excommunication.

205. This proposal may seem strange to many persons; but assuredly this, if not much more than this, is commanded in Scripture, first in the (much-abused) text, “Tell it unto the Church;” and most clearly in 1 Cor. v 11-13; 2 Thess. iii 6 and 14; 1 Tim. v 8 and 20; and Titus iii 10; from which passages we also know the two proper degrees of the penalty. For Christ says, Let him who refuses to hear the Church, “be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican,” But Christ ministered to the heathen, and sat at meat with the publican; only always with declared or implied expression of their inferiority; here, therefore, is one degree of excommunication for persons who “offend” their brethren, committing some minor fault against them; and who, having been pronounced in error by the body of the Church, refuse to confess their fault or repair it; who are then to be no longer considered members of the Church; and their recovery to the body of it is to be sought exactly as it would be in the case of an heathen. But covetous persons, railers, extortioners, idolaters, and those guilty of other gross crimes, are to be entirely cut off from the company of the believers; and we are not so much as to eat with them. This last penalty, however, would require to be strictly guarded, that it might not be abused in the infliction of it, as it has been by the Romanists. We are not, indeed, to eat with them, but we may exercise all Christian charity towards them, and give them to eat, if we see them in hunger, as we ought to all our enemies; only we are to consider them distinctly as our enemies: that is to say, enemies of our Master, Christ; and servants of Satan.

206. As for the rank or name of the officers in whom the authorities, either of teaching or discipline, are to be vested, they are left undetermined by Scripture. I have heard it said by men who know their Bible far better than I, that careful examination may detect evidence of the existence of three orders of Clergy in the Church. This may be; but one thing is very clear, without any laborious examination, that “bishop” and “elder” sometimes mean the same thing; as, indisputably, in Titus i 5 and 7, and I Peter v I and 2, and that the office of the bishop or overseer was one of considerably less importance than it is with us. This is palpably evident from I Timothy iii, for what divine among us, writing of episcopal proprieties, would think of saying that bishops “must not be given to wine,” must be “no strikers,” and must not be “novices”? We are not in the habit of making bishops of novices in these days; and it would be much better that, like the early Church, we sometimes ran the risk of doing so; for the fact is we have not bishops enough by some hundreds. The idea of overseership has been practically lost sight of, its fulfillment having gradually become physically impossible, for want of more bishops. The duty of a bishop is, without doubt, to be accessible to the humblest clergymen of his diocese, and to desire very earnestly that all of them should be in the habit of referring to him in all cases of difficulty; if they do not do this of their own accord, it is evidently his duty to visit them, live with them sometimes, and join in their ministrations to their flocks, so as to know exactly the capacities and habits of life of each; and if any of them complained of this or that difficulty with their congregations, the bishop should be ready to go down to help them, preach for them, write general epistles to their people, and so on: besides this, he should of course be watchful of their errors ready to hear complaints from their congregations of inefficiency or aught else; besides having general superintendence of all the charitable institutions and schools in his diocese, and good knowledge of whatever was going on in theological matters, both all over the kingdom and on the Continent. This is the work of a right overseer; and I leave the reader to calculate how many additional bishops and those hard-working men, too we should need to have it done, even decently. Then our present bishops might all become archbishops with advantage, and have general authority over the rest.

207. As to the mode in which the officers of the Church should be elected or appointed, I do not feel it my business to say anything at present, nor much respecting the extent of their authority, either over each other or over the congregation, this being a most difficult question, the right solution of which evidently lies between two most dangerous extremes insubordination and radicalism on one hand, and ecclesiastical tyranny and heresy on the other: of the two, insubordination is far the least to be dreaded for this reason, that nearly all real Christians are more on the watch against their pride than their indolence, and would sooner obey their clergyman, if possible, than contend with him; while the very pride they suppose conquered often returns masked, and causes them to make a merit of their humility and their abstract obedience, however unreasonable: but they cannot so easily persuade themselves there is a merit in abstract disobedience.

208. Ecclesiastical tyranny has, for the most part, founded itself on the idea of Vicarianism, one of the most pestilent of the Romanist theories, and most plainly denounced in Scripture. Of this I have a word or two to say to the modern “Vicarian.” All powers that be are unquestionably ordained of God; so that they that resist the Power, resist the ordinance of God. Therefore, say some in these offices, We, being ordained of God, and having our credentials, and being in the English Bible called ambassadors for God, do, in a sort, represent God. We are Vicars of Christ, and stand on earth in place of Christ. I have heard this said by Protestant clergymen.

209. Now the word ambassador has a peculiar ambiguity about it, owing to its use in modern political affairs; and these clergymen assume that the word, as used by St. Paul, means an Ambassador Plenipotentiary; representative of his King, and capable of acting for his King. What right have they to assume that St. Paul meant this? St. Paul never uses the word ambassador at all. He says, simply, “We are in embassage from Christ; and Christ beseeches you through us.” Most true. And let it further be granted, that every word that the clergyman speaks is literally dictated to him by Christ; that he can make no mistake in delivering his message; and that, therefore, it is indeed Christ Himself who speaks to us the word of life through the messenger’s lips. Does, therefore, the messenger represent Christ? Does the channel which conveys the waters of the Fountain represent the Fountain itself? Suppose, when we went to draw water at a cistern, that all at once the Leaden Spout should become animated, and open its mouth and say to us, See, I am Vicarious for the Fountain. Whatever respect you show to the Fountain, show some part of it to me. Should we not answer the Spout, and say, Spout, you were set there for our service, and may be taken away and thrown aside if anything goes wrong with you? But the Fountain will flow forever.

210. Observe, I do not deny a most solemn authority vested in every Christian messenger from God to men. I am prepared to grant this to the uttermost; and all that George Herbert says, in the end of “The Church-porch,” I would enforce, at another time than this, to the uttermost. But the Authority is simply that of a King’s Messenger; not of a King’s Representative. There is a wide difference; all the difference between humble service and blasphemous usurpation.

Well, the congregation might ask, grant him a King’s messenger in cases of doctrine, in cases of discipline, an officer bearing the King’s Commission. How far are we to obey him? How far is it lawful to dispute his commands?

For, in granting, above, that the Messenger always gave his message faithfully, I granted too much to my adversaries, in order that their argument might have all the weight it possibly could. The Messengers rarely deliver their message faithfully; and sometimes have declared, as from the King, messages of their own invention. How far are we, knowing them for King’s messengers, to believe or obey them?

211. Suppose, for instance, in our English army, on the eve of some great battle, one of the colonels were to give his order to his regiment: “My men, tie your belts over your eyes, throw down your muskets, and follow me as steadily as you can, through this marsh, into the middle of the enemy’s line,” (this being precisely the order issued by our Puseyite Church officers). It might be questioned, in the real battle, whether it would be better that a regiment should show an example of insubordination, or be cut to pieces. But happily in the Church there is no such difficulty; for the King is always with His army: not only with His army, but at the right hand of every soldier of it. Therefore, if any of their colonels give them a strange command, all they have to do is to ask the King; and never yet any Christian asked guidance of his King, in any difficulty whatsoever, without mental reservation or secret resolution, but he had it forthwith. We conclude then, finally, that the authority of the Clergy is, in matters of discipline, large (being executive, first, of the written laws of God, and secondly, of those determined and agreed upon by the body of the Church), in matters of doctrine, dependent on their recommending themselves to every man’s conscience, both as messengers of God, and as themselves men of God, perfect, and instructed to good works.

212. (6) The last subject which we had to investigate was, it will be remembered, what is usually called the connection of “Church and State.” But, by our definition of the term Church, throughout the whole of Christendom, the Church (or society of professing Christians) is the State, and our subject is therefore, properly speaking, the connection of lay and clerical officers of the Church; that is to say, the degrees in which the civil and ecclesiastical governments ought to interfere with or influence each other.

It would of course be vain to attempt a formal inquiry into this intricate subject; I have only a few detached points to notice respecting it.

213. There are three degrees or kinds of civil government. The first and lowest, executive merely; the government in this sense being simply the National Hand, and composed of individuals who administer the laws of the nation, and execute its established purposes.

The second kind of government is deliberative; but in its deliberation, representative only of the thoughts and will of the people or nation, and liable to be deposed the instant it ceases to express those thoughts and that will. This, whatever its form, whether centered in a king or in any number of men, is properly to be called Democratic. The third and highest kind of government is deliberative, not as representative of the people, but as chosen to take separate counsel for them, and having power committed to it, to enforce upon them whatever resolution it may adopt, whether consistent with their will or not. This government is properly to be called Monarchical, whatever its form.

214. I see that politicians and writers of history continually run into hopeless error, because they confuse the Form of a Government with its Nature. A Government may be nominally vested in an individual; and yet if that individual be in such fear of those beneath him, that he does nothing but what he supposes will be agreeable to them, the Government is Democratic; on the other hand, the Government may be vested in a deliberative assembly of a thousand men, all having equal authority, and all chosen from the lowest ranks of the people; and yet if that assembly act independently of the will of the people, and have no fear of them, and enforce its determinations upon them, the Government is Monarchical; that is to say, the Assembly, acting as One, has power over the Many, while in the case of the weak king, the Many have power over the One.

A Monarchical Government, acting for its own interest, instead of the people’s, is a tyranny. I said the Executive Government was the hand of the nation: the Republican Government is in like manner its tongue. The Monarchical Government is its head.

All true and right government is Monarchical, and of the head. What is its best form, is a totally different question; but unless it act for the people, and not as representative of the people, it is no government at all; and one of the grossest blockheadisms of the English in the present day, is their idea of sending men to Parliament to “represent their opinions.” Whereas their only true business is to find out the wisest men among them, and send them to Parliament to represent their own opinions, and act upon them. Of all puppet-shows in the Satanic Carnival of the earth, the most contemptible puppet-show is a Parliament with a mob pulling the strings.

215. Now, of these three states of Government, it is clear that the merely executive can have no proper influence over ecclesiastical affairs. But of the other two, the first, being the voice of the people, or voice of the Church, must have such influence over the Clergy as is properly vested in the body of the Church. The second, which stands in the same relation to the people as a father does to his family, will have such farther influence over ecclesiastical matters, as a father has over the consciences of his adult children. No absolute authority, therefore, to enforce their attendance at any particular place of worship, or subscription to any particular Creed. But indisputable authority to procure for them such religious instruction as he deems fittest, and to recommend it to them by every means in his power; he not only has authority, but is under obligation to do this, as well as to establish such disciplines and forms of worship in his house as he deems most convenient for his family: with which they are indeed at liberty to refuse compliance, if such disciplines appear to them clearly opposed to the law of God; but not without most solemn conviction of their being so, nor without deep sorrow to be compelled to such a course.

216. But it may be said, the Government of a people never does stand to them in the relation of a father to his family. If it do not, it is no Government. However grossly it may fail in its duty, and however little it may be fitted for its place, if it be a Government at all, it has paternal office and relation to the people. I find it written on the one hand, “Honor thy Father; “on the other, “Honor the King:” on the one hand, “Whoso smiteth his Father, shall be put to death;" on the other, “They that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Well, but, it may be farther argued, the Clergy are in a still more solemn sense the Fathers of the People, and the People are their beloved Sons; why should not, therefore, the Clergy have the power to govern the civil officers?

217. For two very clear reasons.

In all human institutions certain evils are granted, as of necessity; and, in organizing such institutions, we must allow for the consequences of such evils, and make arrangements such as may best keep them in check. Now, in both the civil and ecclesiastical governments there will of necessity be a certain number of bad men. The wicked civilian has comparatively little interest in overthrowing ecclesiastical authority; it is often a useful help to him, and presents in itself little which seems covetable. But the wicked ecclesiastical officer has much interest in overthrowing the civilian, and getting the political power into his own hands. As far as wicked men are concerned, therefore, it is better that the State should have power over the Clergy, than the Clergy over the State.

Secondly, supposing both the Civil and Ecclesiastical officers to be Christians; there is no fear that the civil officer should underrate the dignity or shorten the serviceableness of the minister; but there is considerable danger that the religious enthusiasm of the minister might diminish the serviceableness of the civilian. (The History of Religious Enthusiasm should be written by someone who had a life to give to its investigation; it is one of the most melancholy pages in human records, and one of the most necessary to be studied.) Therefore, as far as good men are concerned, it is better the State should have power over the Clergy than the Clergy over the State.

218. This we might, it seems to me, conclude by unassisted reason. But surely the whole question is, without any need of human reason, decided by the history of Israel. If ever a body of Clergy should have received independent authority, the Levitical Priesthood should; for they were indeed a Priesthood, and more holy than the rest of the nation. But Aaron is always subject to Moses. All solemn revelation is made to Moses, the civil magistrate, and he actually commands Aaron as to the fulfillment of his priestly office, and that in a necessity of life and death: “Go, and make an atonement for the people.” Nor is anything more remarkable throughout the whole of the Jewish history than the perfect subjection of the Priestly to the Kingly Authority. Thus Solomon thrusts out Abiathar from being priest, I Kings ii 27; and Jehoahaz administers the funds of the Lord’s House, 2 Kings xii 4, though that money was actually the Atonement Money, the Hansom for Souls (Exod. xxx 12).

219. We have, however, also the beautiful instance of Samuel uniting in himself the offices of Priest, Prophet, and Judge; nor do I insist on any special manner of subjection of Clergy to civil officers, or vice versa; but only on the necessity of their perfect unity and influence upon each other in every Christian kingdom. Those who endeavor to effect the utter separation of ecclesiastical and civil officers, are striving, on the one hand, to expose the Clergy to the most grievous and most subtle of temptations from their own spiritual enthusiasm and spiritual pride; on the other, to deprive the civil officer of all sense of religious responsibility, and to introduce the fearful, godless, conscienceless, and soulless policy of the Radical and the (so-called) Socialist. Whereas, the ideal of all government is the perfect unity of the two bodies of officers, each supporting and correcting the other; the Clergy having due weight in all the national councils; the civil officers having a solemn reverence for God in all their acts; the Clergy hallowing all worldly policy by their influence; and the magistracy repressing all religious enthusiasm by their practical wisdom. To separate the two is to endeavor to separate the daily life of the nation from God, and to map out the dominion of the soul into two provinces one of Atheism, the other of Enthusiasm. These, then, were the reasons which caused me to speak of the idea of separation of Church and State as Fatuity; for what Fatuity can be so great as the not having God in our thoughts; and, in any act or office of life, saying in our hearts, “There is no God”?

220. Much more I would fain say of these things, but not now: this only I must emphatically assert, in conclusion: That the schism between the so-called Evangelical and High Church Parties in Britain, is enough to shake many men’s faith in the truth or existence of Religion at all. It seems to me one of the most disgraceful scenes in Ecclesiastical history, that Protestantism should be paralyzed at its very heart by jealousies, based on little else than mere difference between high and low breeding. For the essential differences in the religious opinions of the two parties are sufficiently marked in two men whom we may take as the highest representatives of each George Herbert and John Milton; and I do not think there would have been much difficulty in atoning those two, if one could have got them together. But the real difficulty, nowadays, lies in the sin and folly of both parties; in the superciliousness of the one, and the rudeness of the other. Evidently, however, the sin lies most at the High Church door, for the Evangelicals are much more ready to act with Churchmen than they with the Evangelicals; and I believe that this state of things cannot continue much longer; and that if the Church of England does not forthwith unite with herself the entire Evangelical body, both of England and Scotland, and take her stand with them against the Papacy, her hour has struck. She cannot any longer serve two masters; nor make courtesies alternately to Christ and Antichrist. That she has done this is visible enough by the state of Europe at this instant. Three centuries since Luther three hundred years of Protestant knowledge and the Papacy not yet overthrown! Christ’s truth still restrained, in narrow dawn, to the white cliffs of England and white crests of the Alps; the morning star paused in its course in heaven; the sun and moon stayed, with Satan for their Joshua.

221. But how to unite the two great sects of paralyzed Protestants? By keeping simply to Scripture. The members of the Scottish Church have not a shadow of excuse for refusing Episcopacy; it has indeed been abused among them, grievously abused; but it is in the Bible; and that is all they have a right to ask.

They have also no shadow of excuse for refusing to employ a written form of prayer. It may not be to their taste it may not be the way in which they like to pray; but it is no question, at present, of likes or dislikes, but of duties; and the acceptance of such a form on their part would go half-way to reconcile them with their brethren. Let them allege such objections as they can reasonably advance against the English form, and let these be carefully and humbly weighed by the pastors of both churches: some of them ought to be at once forestalled. For the English Church, on the other hand, must cut the term Priest entirely out of her Prayer-book, and substitute for it that of Minister or Elder; the passages respecting Absolution must be thrown out also, except the doubtful one in the Morning Service, in which there is no harm; and then there would be only the Baptismal question left, which is one of words rather than of things, and might easily be settled in Synod, turning the refractory Clergy out of their offices, to go to Rome if they chose. Then, when the Articles of Faith and form of worship had been agreed upon between the English and Scottish Churches, the written forms and articles should be carefully translated into the European languages, and offered to the acceptance of the Protestant churches on the Continent, with earnest entreaty that they would receive them, and due entertainment of all such objections as they could reasonably allege; and thus the whole body of Protestants, united in one great Fold, would indeed go in and out, and find pasture; and the work appointed for them would be done quickly, and Antichrist overthrown.

222. Impossible: a thousand times impossible! I hear it exclaimed against me. No not impossible. Christ does not order impossibilities, and He has ordered us to be at peace one with another. Nay, it is answered He came not to send peace, but a sword. Yes, verily: to send a sword upon earth, but not within His Church; for to His Church He said, “My Peace I leave with you.”

THE LORDS PRAYER AND THE CHURCH.

LETTERS.

I

BRANTWOOD, CONISTON, LANCASHIRE, 20th June, 1879.

223. DEAR MR. MALLESON, I could not at once answer your important letter; for, though I felt at once the impossibility of my venturing to address such an audience as you proposed, I am unwilling to fail in answering to any call relating to matters respecting which my feelings have been long in earnest, if in any wise it may be possible for me to be of service therein. My health or want of it now utterly forbids my engagement in any duty involving excitement or acute intellectual effort; but I think, before the first Tuesday in August, I might be able to write one or two letters to yourself, referring to, and more or less completing, some passages already printed in Fors and elsewhere, which might, on your reading any portions you thought available, become matter of discussion during the meeting at some leisure time, after its own main purposes had been answered.

At all events, I will think over what I should like, and be able, to represent to such a meeting, and only beg you not to think me insensible of the honor done me by your wish, and of the gravity of the trust reposed in me.

Ever most faithfully yours,
J. RUSKIN.

THE REV. F. A. MALLESON.

II

BRANTWOOD, CONISTON, 23rd June, 1879.

224. DEAR MR. MALLESON, Walking, and talking, are now alike impossible to me; my strength is gone for both; nor do I believe talking on such matters to be of the least use except to promote, between sensible people, kindly feeling and knowledge of each other’s personal characters. I have every trust in your kindness and truth; nor do I fear being myself misunderstood by you; what I may be able to put into written form, so as to admit of being laid before your friends in council, must be set down without any question of personal feeling as simply as a mathematical question or demonstration.

225. The first exact question which it seems to me such an assembly may be earnestly called upon by laymen to solve, is surely axiomatic: the definition of themselves as a body, and of their business as such.

Namely: as clergymen of the Church of England, do they consider themselves to be so called merely as the attached servants of a particular state? Do they, in their quality of guides, hold a position similar to that of the guides of Chamouni or Grindelwald, who, being a numbered body of examined and trustworthy persons belonging to those several villages, have nevertheless no Chamounist or Grindelwaldist opinions on the subject of Alpine geography or glacier walking; but are prepared to put into practice a common and universal science of Locality and Athletics, founded on sure survey and successful practice? Are the clergymen of the Ecclesia of England thus simply the attached and salaried guides of England and the English, in the way, known of all good men, that leadeth unto life? or are they, on the contrary, a body of men holding, or in any legal manner required, or compelled to hold, opinions on the subject say, of the height of the Celestial Mountains, the crevasses which go down quickest to the pit, and other cognate points of science differing from, or even contrary to, the tenets of the guides of the Church of France, the Church of Italy, and other Christian countries?

Is not this the first of all questions which a Clerical Council has to answer in open terms?

Ever affectionately yours,
J. RUSKIN.

III

BRANTWOOD, 6th July.

226. My first letter contained a Layman’s plea for a clear answer to the question, “What is a clergyman of the Church of England?” Supposing the answer to this first to be, that the clergy of the Church of England are teachers, not of the Gospel to England, but of the Gospel to all nations; and not of the Gospel of Luther, nor of the Gospel of Augustine, but of the Gospel of Christ, then the Layman’s second question would be:

Can this Gospel of Christ be put into such plain words and short terms as that a plain man may understand it? and, if so, would it not be, in a quite primal sense, desirable that it should be so, rather than left to be gathered out of Thirty-nine Articles, written by no means in clear English, and referring, for further explanation of exactly the most important point in the whole tenor of their teaching, to a “Homily of Justification," which is not generally in the possession, or even probably within the comprehension, of simple persons?

Ever faithfully yours,
J. RUSKIN.

IV

BRANTWOOD, 8th July.

227. I am so very glad that you approve of the letter plan, as it enables me to build up what I would fain try to say, of little stones, without lifting too much for my strength at once; and the sense of addressing a friend who understands me and sympathizes with me prevents my being brought to a stand by continual need for apology, or fear of giving offense.

But yet I do not quite see why you should feel my asking for a simple and comprehensible statement of the Christian Gospel at starting. Are you not bid to go into all the world and preach it to every creature? (I should myself think the clergyman most likely to do good who accepted the [Greek: pase the ktisei] so literally as at least to sympathize with St. Francis’ sermon to the birds, and to feel that feeding either sheep or fowls, or unmuzzling the ox, or keeping the wrens alive in the snow, would be received by their Heavenly Feeder as the perfect fulfillment of His “Feed my sheep” in the higher sense.)

228. That’s all a parenthesis; for although I should think that your good company would all agree that kindness to animals was a kind of preaching to them, and that hunting and vivisection were a kind of blasphemy to them, I want only to put the sterner question before your council, how this Gospel is to be preached either [Greek: pantachou]” or to “[Greek: panta ta ethne] if first its preachers have not determined quite clearly what it is? And might not such definition, acceptable to the entire body of the Church of Christ, be arrived at by merely explaining, in their completeness and life, the terms of the Lord’s Prayer the first words taught to children all over the Christian world?

I will try to explain what I mean of its several articles, in following letters; and in answer to the question with which you close your last, I can only say that you are at perfect liberty to use any, or all, or any parts of them, as you think good. Usually, when I am asked if letters of mine may be printed, I say: “Assuredly, provided only that you print them entire.” But in your hands, I withdraw even this condition, and trust gladly to your judgment, remaining always

Faithfully and affectionately yours,
J. RUSKIN.

THE REv F. A. MALLESON.

V

Pater noster qui es in caelis.

BRANTWOOD, 10th July.

229. My meaning, in saying that the Lord’s Prayer might be made a foundation of Gospel-teaching, was not that it contained all that Christian ministers have to teach; but that it contains what all Christians are agreed upon as first to be taught; and that no good parish-working pastor in any district of the world but would be glad to take his part in making it clear and living to his congregation.

And the first clause of it, of course rightly explained, gives us the ground of what is surely a mighty part of the Gospel its “first and great commandment,” namely, that we have a Father whom we can love, and are required to love, and to desire to be with Him in Heaven, wherever that may be.

And to declare that we have such a loving Father, whose mercy is over all His works, and whose will and law is so lovely and lovable that it is sweeter than honey, and more precious than gold, to those who can “taste” and “see” that the Lord is Good this, surely, is a most pleasant and glorious good message and spell to bring to men as distinguished from the evil message and accursed spell that Satan has brought to the nations of the world instead of it, that they have no Father, but only “a consuming fire” ready to devour them, unless they are delivered from its raging flame by some scheme of pardon for all, for which they are to be thankful, not to the Father, but to the Son.

Supposing this first article of the true Gospel agreed to, how would the blessing that closes the epistles of that Gospel become intelligible and living, instead of dark and dead: “The grace of Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost,” the most tender word being that used of the Father?

VI

Sanctificetur nomen tuum.

BRANTWOOD, 12th July, 1879.

230. I wonder how many, even of those who honestly and attentively join in our Church services, attach any distinct idea to the second clause of the Lord’s Prayer, the first petition of it, the first thing that they are ordered by Christ to seek of their Father?

Am I unjust in thinking that most of them have little more notion on the matter than that God has forbidden “bad language,” and wishes them to pray that everybody may be respectful to Him?

Is it any otherwise with the Third Commandment? Do not most look on it merely in the light of the statute of swearing? and read the words “will not hold him guiltless” merely as a passionless intimation that however carelessly a man may let out a round oath, there really is something wrong in it?

On the other hand, can anything be more tremendous than the words themselves double-negatived:

For other sins there is washing; for this, none! the seventh verse, Ex xx, in the Septuagint, marking the real power rather than the English, which (I suppose) is literal to the Hebrew.

To my layman’s mind, of practical needs in the present state of the Church, nothing is so immediate as that of explaining to the congregation the meaning of being gathered in His name, and having Him in the midst of them; as, on the other hand, of being gathered in blasphemy of His name, and having the devil in the midst of them presiding over the prayers which have become an abomination.

231. For the entire body of the texts in the Gospel against hypocrisy are one and all nothing but the expansion of the threatening that closes the Third Commandment. For as “the name whereby He shall be called is THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS,” so the taking that name in vain is the sum of “the deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.”

Without dwelling on the possibility which I do not myself, however, for a moment doubt of an honest clergyman’s being able actually to prevent the entrance among his congregation of persons leading openly wicked lives, could any subject be more vital to the purposes of your meetings than the difference between the present and the probable state of the Christian Church which would result, were it more the effort of zealous parish priests, instead of getting wicked poor people to come to church, to get wicked rich ones to stay out of it?

Lest, in any discussion of such question, it might be, as it too often is, alleged that “the Lord looketh upon the heart,” etc., let me be permitted to say with as much positiveness as may express my deepest conviction that, while indeed it is the Lord’s business to look upon the heart, it is the pastor’s to look upon the hands and the lips; and that the foulest oaths of the thief and the street-walker are, in the ears of God, sinless as the hawk’s cry, or the gnat’s murmur, compared to the responses in the Church service, on the lips of the usurer and the adulterer, who have destroyed, not their own souls only, but those of the outcast ones whom they have made their victims.

It is for the meeting of clergymen themselves not for a layman addressing them to ask further, how much the name of God may be taken in vain, and profaned instead of hallowed in the pulpit, as well as under it.

Ever affectionately yours,
J. RUSKIN.

VII

Adveniat regnum tuum.

BRANTWOOD, 14th July, 1879.

232. DEAR MR. MALLESON, Sincere thanks for both your letters and the proofs sent. Your comment and conducting link, when needed, will be of the greatest help and value, I am well assured, suggesting what you know will be the probable feeling of your hearers, and the point that will come into question.

Yes, certainly, that “His” in the fourth line was meant to imply that eternal presence of Christ; as in another passage, referring to the Creation, “when His right hand strewed the snow on Lebanon, and smoothed the slopes of Calvary,” but in so far as we dwell on that truth, “Hast thou seen Me, Philip, and not the Father?" we are not teaching the people what is specially the Gospel of Christ as having a distinct function namely, to serve the Father, and do the Father’s will. And in all His human relations to us, and commands to us, it is as the Son of Man, not as the “power of God and wisdom of God,” that He acts and speaks. Not as the Power; for He must pray, like one of us. Not as the Wisdom; for He must not know “if it be possible” His prayer should be heard.

233. And in what I want to say of the third clause of His prayer (His, not merely as His ordering, but His using), it is especially this comparison between His kingdom, and His Father’s, that I want to see the disciples guarded against. I believe very few, even of the most earnest, using that petition, realize that it is the Father’s not the Son’s kingdom, that they pray may come, although the whole prayer is foundational on that fact: “For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory.” And I fancy that the mind of the most faithful Christian is quite led away from its proper hope, by dwelling on the reign or the coming again of Christ; which, indeed, they are to look for, and watch for, but not to pray for. Their prayer is to be for the greater kingdom to which He, risen and having all His enemies under His feet, is to surrender His, “that God may be All in All.”

And, though the greatest, it is that everlasting kingdom which the poorest of us can advance. We cannot hasten Christ’s coming. “Of the day and hour, knoweth none.” But the kingdom of God is as a grain of mustard seed: we can sow of it; it is as a foam-globe of leaven: we can mingle it; and its glory and its joy are that even the birds of the air can lodge in the branches thereof.

Forgive me for getting back to my sparrows; but truly, in the present state of England, the fowls of the air are the only creatures, tormented and murdered as they are, that yet have here and there nests, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. And it would be well if many of us, in reading that text, “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink,” had even got so far as to the understanding that it was at least as much, and that until we had fed the hungry, there was no power in us to inspire the unhappy.

Ever affectionately yours,
J. RUSKIN.

I will write my feeling about the pieces of the Life of Christ you have sent me, in a private letter. I may say at once that I am sure it will do much good, and will be upright and intelligible, which how few religious writings are!

VIII

Fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra.

BRANTWOOD, 9th August, 1879.

234. I was reading the second chapter of Malachi this morning by chance, and wondering how many clergymen ever read it, and took to heart the “commandment for them.”

For they are always ready enough to call themselves priests (though they know themselves to be nothing of the sort) whenever there is any dignity to be got out of the title; but, whenever there is any good, hot scolding or unpleasant advice given them by the prophets, in that self-assumed character of theirs, they are as ready to quit it as ever Dionysus his lion-skin, when he finds the character of Herakles inconvenient. “Ye have wearied the Lord with your words” (yes, and some of His people, too, in your time): “yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied Him? When ye say, Everyone that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?”

How many, again and again I wonder, of the lively young ecclesiastics supplied to the increasing demand of our west-ends of flourishing Cities of the Plain, ever consider what sort of sin it is for which God (unless they lay it to heart) will “curse their blessings, and spread dung upon their faces,” or have understood, even in the dimmest manner, what part they had taken, and were taking, in “corrupting the covenant of the Lord with Levi, and causing many to stumble at the Law”?

235. Perhaps the most subtle and unconscious way which the religious teachers upon whom the ends of the world are come, have done this, is in never telling their people the meaning of the clause in the Lord’s Prayer, which, of all others, their most earnest hearers have oftenest on their lips: “Thy will be done.” They allow their people to use it as if their Father’s will were always to kill their babies, or do something unpleasant to them, instead of explaining to them that the first and intensest article of their Father’s will was their own sanctification, and following comfort and wealth; and that the one only path to national prosperity and to domestic peace was to understand what the will of the Lord was, and to do all they could to get it done. Whereas one would think, by the tone of the eagerest preachers nowadays, that they held their blessed office to be that, not of showing men how to do their Father’s will on earth, but how to get to heaven without doing any of it either here or there!

236. I say, especially, the most eager preachers; for nearly the whole Missionary body (with the hottest Evangelistic sect of the English Church) is at this moment composed of men who think the Gospel they are to carry to mend the world with, forsooth, is that, “If any man sin, he hath an Advocate with the Father;” while I have never yet, in my own experience, met either with a Missionary or a Town Bishop who so much as professed himself “to understand what the will of the Lord” was, far less to teach anybody else to do it; and for fifty preachers, yes, and fifty hundreds whom I have heard proclaiming the Mediator of the New Testament, that “they which were called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance,” I have never yet heard so much as one heartily proclaiming against all those “deceivers with vain words” (Eph. v 6), that “no covetous person which is an idolater hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, or of God;” and on myself personally and publicly challenging the Bishops of England generally, and by name the Bishop of Manchester, to say whether usury was, or was not, according to the will of God, I have received no answer from any one of them.

13th August.

237. I have allowed myself, in the beginning of this letter, to dwell on the equivocal use of the word Priest in the English Church, because the assumption of the mediatorial, in defect of the pastoral, office by the clergy fulfill itself, naturally and always, in their pretending to absolve the sinner from his punishment, instead of purging him from his sin; and practically, in their general patronage and encouragement of all the iniquity of the world, by steadily preaching away the penalties of it. So that the great cities of the earth, which ought to be the places set on its hills, with the temple of the Lord in the midst of them, to which the tribes should go up, centers to the Kingdoms and Provinces of Honor, Virtue, and the Knowledge of the law of God, have become, instead, loathsome centers of fornication and covetousness the smoke of their sin going up into the face of Heaven like the furnace of Sodom, and the pollution of it rotting and raging through the bones and the souls of the peasant people round them, as if they were each a volcano whose ashes broke out in blains upon man and upon beast.

And in the midst of them, their freshly-set-tip steeples ring the crowd to a weekly prayer that the rest of their lives may be pure and holy, while they have not the slightest intention of purifying, sanctifying, or changing their lives in any the smallest particular; and their clergy gather, each into himself, the curious dual power, and Janus-faced majesty in mischief, of the prophet that prophesies falsely, and the priest that bears rule by his means.

And the people love to have it so.

BRANTWOOD, 12th August.

I am very glad of your little note from Brighton. I thought it needless to send the two letters there, which you will find at home; and they pretty nearly end all I want to say; for the remaining clauses of the prayer touch on things too high for me. But I will send you one concluding letter about them.

IX

Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie.

BRANTWOOD, 19th August.

238. I retained the foregoing letter by me till now, lest you should think it written in any haste or petulance; but it is every word of it deliberate, though expressing the bitterness of twenty years of vain sorrow and pleading concerning these things. Nor am I able to write, otherwise, anything of the next following clause of the prayer; for no words could be burning enough to tell the evils which have come on the world from men’s using it thoughtlessly and blasphemously, praying God to give them what they are deliberately resolved to steal. For all true Christianity is known as its Master was in breaking of bread, and all false Christianity in stealing it.

Let the clergyman only apply with impartial and level sweep to his congregation the great pastoral order: “The man that will not work, neither should he eat;” and be resolute in requiring each member of his flock to tell him what day by day they do to earn their dinners; and he will find an entirely new view of life and its sacraments open upon him and them.

239. For the man who is not day by day doing work which will earn his dinner, must be stealing his dinner; and the actual fact is that the great mass of men, calling themselves Christians, do actually live by robbing the poor of their bread, and by no other trade whatsoever: and the simple examination of the mode of the produce and consumption of European food who digs for it, and who eats it will prove that to any honest human soul.

Nor is it possible for any Christian Church to exist but in pollutions and hypocrisies beyond all words, until the virtues of a life moderate in its self-indulgence, and wide in its offices of temporal ministry to the poor, are insisted on as the normal conditions in which, only, the prayer to God for the harvest of the earth is other than blasphemy.

In the second place. Since in the parable in Luke, the bread asked for is shown to be also, and chiefly, the Holy Spirit (Luke xi 13), and the prayer, “Give us each day our daily bread,” is, in its fullness, the disciples’, “Lord, evermore give us this bread,” the clergyman’s question to his whole flock, primarily literal: “Children, have ye here any meat?” must ultimately be always the greater spiritual one: “Children, have ye here any Holy Spirit?” or, “Have ye not heard yet whether there be any? and, instead of a Holy Ghost the Lord and Giver of Life, do you only believe in an unholy mammon, Lord and Giver of Death?”

The opposition between the two Lords has been, and will be as long as the world lasts, absolute, irreconcilable, mortal; and the clergyman’s first message to his people of this day is if he be faithful “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.”

Ever faithfully yours,
J. RUSKIN.

X

Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.

BRANTWOOD, 3rd September.

240. DEAR MR. MALLESON, I have been very long before trying to say so much as a word about the sixth clause of the Pater; for whenever I began thinking of it, I was stopped by the sorrowful sense of the hopeless task you poor clergymen had, nowadays, in recommending and teaching people to love their enemies, when their whole energies were already devoted to swindling their friends.

But, in any days, past or now, the clause is one of such difficulty, that, to understand it, means almost to know the love of God which passeth knowledge.

But, at all events, it is surely the pastor’s duty to prevent his flock from misunderstanding it; and above all things to keep them from supposing that God’s forgiveness is to be had simply for the asking, by those who “willfully sin after they have received the knowledge of the truth.”

241. There is one very simple lesson also, needed especially by people in circumstances of happy life, which I have never heard fully enforced from the pulpit, and which is usually the more lost sight of, because the fine and inaccurate word “trespasses” is so often used instead of the single and accurate one “debts.” Among people well educated and happily circumstanced it may easily chance that long periods of their lives pass without any such conscious sin as could, on any discovery or memory of it, make them cry out, in truth and in pain, “I have sinned against the Lord.” But scarcely an hour of their happy days can pass over them without leaving were their hearts open some evidence written there that they have “left undone the things that they ought to have done,” and giving them bitterer and heavier cause to cry, and cry again forever, in the pure words of their Master’s prayer, “Dimitte nobis debita nostra.”

In connection with the more accurate translation of “debts” rather than “trespasses," it would surely be well to keep constantly in the mind of complacent and inoffensive congregations that in Christ’s own prophecy of the manner of the last judgment, the condemnation is pronounced only on the sins of omission: “I was hungry, and ye gave Me no meat.”

242. But, whatever the manner of sin, by offense or defect, which the preacher fears in his people, surely he has of late been wholly remiss in compelling their definite recognition of it, in its several and personal particulars. Nothing in the various inconsistency of human nature is more grotesque than its willingness to be taxed with any quantity of sins in the gross, and its resentment at the insinuation of having committed the smallest parcel of them in detail. And the English Liturgy, evidently drawn up with the amiable intention of making religion as pleasant as possible, to a people desirous of saving their souls with no great degree of personal inconvenience, is perhaps in no point more unwholesomely lenient than in its concession to the popular conviction that we may obtain the present advantage, and escape the future punishment, of any sort of iniquity, by dexterously concealing the manner of it from man, and triumphantly confessing the quantity of it to God.

243. Finally, whatever the advantages and decencies of a form of prayer, and how wide soever the scope given to its collected passages, it cannot be at one and the same time fitted for the use of a body of well-taught and experienced Christians, such as should join the services of a Church nineteen centuries old, and adapted to the needs of the timid sinner who has that day first entered its porch, or of the remorseful publican who has only recently become sensible of his call to a pew.

And surely our clergy need not be surprised at the daily increasing distrust in the public mind of the efficacy of Prayer, after having so long insisted on their offering supplication, at least every Sunday morning at eleven o’clock, that the rest of their lives hereafter might be pure and holy, leaving them conscious all the while that they would be similarly required to inform the Lord next week, at the same hour, that “there was no health in them!”

Among, the much-rebuked follies and abuses of so-called “Ritualism,” none that I have heard of are indeed so dangerously and darkly “Ritual” as this piece of authorized mockery of the most solemn act of human life, and only entrance of eternal life Repentance.

Believe me, dear Mr. Malleson,

Ever faithfully and respectfully yours,
J. RUSKIN.

XI

Et ne nos inducas in tentationem; sed libera nos a malo; quia tuum est regnum, potentia, et gloria in sceeula sceculorum. Amen.

BRANTWOOD, 14th September, 1879.

244. DEAR MR. MALLESON, The gentle words in your last letter referring to the difference between yourself and me in the degree of hope with which you could regard what could not but appear to the general mind Utopian in designs for the action of the Christian Church, surely might best be answered by appeal to the consistent tone of the prayer we have been examining.

Is not every one of its petitions for a perfect state? and is not this last clause of it, of which we are to think to-day if fully understood a petition not only for the restoration of Paradise, but of Paradise in which there shall be no deadly fruit, or, at least, no tempter to praise it? And may we not admit that it is probably only for want of the earnest use of this last petition that not only the preceding ones have become formal with us, but that the private and simply restricted prayer for the little things we each severally desire, has become by some Christians dreaded and unused, and by others used faithlessly, and therefore with disappointment?

245. And is it not for want of this special directness and simplicity of petition, and of the sense of its acceptance, that the whole nature of prayer has been doubted in our hearts, and disgraced by our lips; that we are afraid to ask God’s blessing on the earth, when the scientific people tell us He has made previous arrangements to curse it; and that, instead of obeying, without fear or debate, the plain order, “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full,” we sorrowfully sink back into the apology for prayer, that “it is a wholesome exercise, even when fruitless,” and that we ought piously always to suppose that the text really means no more than “Ask, and ye shall not receive, that your joy may be empty”?

Supposing we were first all of us quite sure that we had prayed, honestly, the prayer against temptation, and that we would thankfully be refused anything we had set our hearts upon, if indeed God saw that it would lead us into evil, might we not have confidence afterwards that He in whose hand the king’s heart is, as the rivers of water, would turn our tiny little hearts also in the way that they should go, and that then the special prayer for the joys He taught them to seek would be answered to the last syllable, and to overflowing?

246. It is surely scarcely necessary to say, farther, what the holy teachers of all nations have invariably concurred in showing, that faithful prayer implies always correlative exertion; and that no man can ask honestly or hopefully to be delivered from temptation, unless he has himself honestly and firmly determined to do the best he can to keep out of it. But, in modern days, the first aim of all Christian parents is to place their children in circumstances where the temptations (which they are apt to call “opportunities”) may be as great and as many as possible; where the sight and promise of “all these things” in Satan’s gift may be brilliantly near; and where the act of “falling down to worship me” may be partly concealed by the shelter, and partly excused, as involuntary, by the pressure, of the concurrent crowd.

In what respect the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, differ from the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, which are God’s forever, is seldom, as far as I have heard, intelligibly explained from the pulpit; and still less the irreconcilable hostility between the two royalties and realms asserted in its sternness of decision.

Whether it be, indeed, Utopian to believe that the kingdom we are taught to pray for may come verily come for the asking, it is surely not for man to judge; but it is at least at his choice to resolve that he will no longer render obedience, nor ascribe glory and power, to the Devil. If he cannot find strength in himself to advance towards Heaven, he may at least say to the power of Hell, “Get thee behind me;” and staying himself on the testimony of Him who saith, “Surely I come quickly,” ratify his happy prayer with the faithful “Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

Ever, my dear friend,
Believe me affectionately and gratefully yours,
J. RUSKIN.

NOTE. The following further letters from Mr. Ruskin to Mr. Malleson were printed in “Letters to the Clergy.”

Sept 13th.

247. DEAR MR. MALLESON, I am so very grateful for your proposal to edit the letters without any further reference to me. I think that will be exactly the right way; and I believe I can put you at real ease in the doing of it, by explaining, as I can in very few words, the kind of carte blanche I should rejoicingly give you.

Interrupted to-day! more to-morrow with, I hope, the last letter.

J. RUSKIN.

14th Sept

I’ve nearly done the last letter, but will keep it till to-morrow, rather than finish hurriedly, for the first post. Your nice little note has just come; and I can only say that you cannot please me better than by acting with perfect freedom in all ways; and that I only want to see, or reply to, what you wish me for the matter’s sake. And surely there is no occasion for any thought or waste of type about me personally, except only to express your knowledge of my real desire for the health and power of the Church, More than this praise you must not give me; for I have learned almost everything, I may say, that I know, by my errors.

I am affectionately yours,
J. RUSKIN.

17th Oct.

248. I am thankful to see that the letters read clearly and easily, and contain all that was in my mind to get said; and nothing can possibly be more right in every way than the printing and binding, nor more courteous and firm than your preface.

Yes, there will be a chasm to cross a tauriformis Aufidus greater than Rubicon, and the roar of it for many a year has been heard in the distance, through the gathering fog on the earth, more loudly.

The River of spiritual Death to this world, and entrance to Purgatory in the other, come down to us.

When will the feet of the Priests be dipped in the still brim of the water? Jordan overflows his banks already.

When you have put your large edition, with its correspondence, into press, I should like to read the sheets as they are issued; and put merely letters of reference to be taken up in a short “Epilogue.” But I don’t want to do or say anything more till you have all in perfect readiness for publication. I should merely add my reference letters in the margin, and the shortest possible notes at the end.

J. RUSKIN.

EPILOGUE.

BRANTWOOD, CONISTON, June 1880.

249. MY DEAR MALLESON, I have glanced at the proofs you send; and can do no more than glance, even if it seemed to me desirable that I should do more, which, after said glance, it does in no wise. Let me remind you of what it is absolutely necessary that the readers of the book should clearly understand that I wrote these Letters at your request, to be read and discussed at the meeting of a private society of clergymen. I declined then to be present at the discussion, and I decline still. You afterwards asked leave to print the Letters, to which I replied that they were yours, for whatever use you saw good to make of them: afterwards your plans expanded, while my own notion remained precisely what it had been that the discussion should have been private, and kept within the limits of the society, and that its conclusions, if any, should have been announced in a few pages of clear print, for the parishioners’ exclusive reading.

I am, of course, flattered by the wider course you have obtained for the Letters, but am not in the slightest degree interested by the debate upon them, nor by any religious debates whatever, undertaken without serious conviction that there is a jot wrong in matters as they are, or serious resolution to make them a tittle better. Which, so far as I can read the minds of your correspondents, appears to me the substantial state of them.

250. One thing I cannot pass without protest the quantity of talk about the writer of the Letters. What I am, or am not, is of no moment whatever to the matters in hand. I observe with comfort, or at least with complacency, that on the strength of a couple of hours’ talk, at a time when I was thinking chiefly of the weatherings of slate you were good enough to show me above Goat’s Water, you would have ventured to baptize me in the little lake as not a goat, but a sheep. The best I can be sure of, myself, is that I am no wolf, and have never aspired to the dignity even of a Dog of the Lord.

You told me, if I remember rightly, that one of the members of the original meeting denounced me as an arch-heretic meaning, doubtless, an arch-pagan; for a heretic, or sect-maker, is of all terms of reproach the last that can be used of me. And I think he should have been answered that it was precisely as an arch-pagan that I ventured to request a more intelligible and more unanimous account of the Christian Gospel from its preachers.

251. If anything in the Letters offended those of you who hold me a brother, surely it had been best to tell me between ourselves, or to tell it to the Church, or to let me be Anathema Maranatha in peace, in any case, I must at present so abide, correcting only the mistakes about myself which have led to graver ones about the things I wanted to speak of.

The most singular one, perhaps, in all the Letters is that of Mr. Wanstall’s, that I do not attach enough weight to antiquity. I have only come upon the sentence to-day (29th May), but my reply to it is partly written already, with reference to the wishes of some other of your correspondents to know more of my reasons for finding fault with the English Liturgy.

252. If people are taught to use the Liturgy rightly and reverently, it will bring them all good; and for some thirty years of my life I used to read it always through to my servant and myself, if we had no Protestant church to go to, in Alpine or Italian villages. One can always tacitly pray of it what one wants, and let the rest pass. But, as I have grown older, and watched the decline in the Christian faith of all nations, I have got more and more suspicious of the effect of this particular form of words on the truthfulness of the English mind (now fast becoming a salt which has lost his savor, and is fit only to be trodden underfoot of men). And during the last ten years, in which my position at Oxford has compelled me to examine what authority there was for the code of prayer, of which the University is now so ashamed that it no more dares compel its youths so much as to hear, much less to utter it, I got necessarily into the habit of always looking to the original forms of the prayers of the fully developed Christian Church. Nor did I think it a mere chance which placed in my own possession a manuscript of the perfect Church service of the thirteenth century, written by the monks of the Sainte Chapelle for St. Louis; together with one of the same date, written in England, probably for the Diocese of Lincoln; adding some of the Collects, in which it corresponds with St. Louis’s, and the Latin hymns so much beloved by Dante, with the appointed music for them.

253. And my wonder has been greater every hour, since I examined closely the text of these and other early books, that in any state of declining, or captive, energy, the Church of England should have contented itself with a service which cast out, from beginning to end, all these intensely spiritual and passionate utterances of chanted prayer (the whole body, that is to say, of the authentic Christian Psalms), and in adopting what it timidly preserved of the Collects, mangled or blunted them down to the exact degree which would make them either unintelligible or inoffensive so vague that everybody might use them, or so pointless that nobody could be offended by them. For a special instance: The prayer for “our bishops and curates, and all congregations committed to their charge,” is, in the Lincoln Service-book, “for our bishop, and all congregations committed to his charge.” The change from singular to plural seems a slight one. But it suffices to take the eyes of the people off their own bishop into infinite space; to change a prayer which was intended to be uttered in personal anxiety and affection, into one for the general good of the Church, of which nobody could judge, and for which nobody would particularly care; and, finally, to change a prayer to which the answer, if given, would be visible, into one of which nobody could tell whether it were answered or not.

254. In the Collects, the change, though verbally slight, is thus tremendous in issue. But in the Litany word and thought go all wild together. The first prayer of the Litany in the Lincoln Service-book is for the Pope and all ranks beneath him, implying a very noteworthy piece of theology that the Pope might err in religious matters, and that the prayer of the humblest servant of God would be useful to him: “Ut Dompnum Apostolicum, et omnes gradus ecclesie in sancta religione conservare digneris.” Meaning that whatever errors particular persons might, and must, fall into, they prayed God to keep the Pope right, and the collective testimony and conduct of the ranks below him. Then follows the prayer for their own bishop and his flock then for the king and the princes (chief lords), that they (not all nations) might be kept in concord and then for our bishops and abbots, the Church of England proper; every one of these petitions being direct, limited, and personally heartfelt; and then this lovely one for themselves:

Ut obsequium servitutis nostre rationabile facias.” “That Thou wouldst make the obedience of our service reasonable” ("which is your reasonable service").

This glorious prayer is, I believe, accurately an “early English” one. It is not in the St. Louis Litany, nor in a later elaborate French fourteenth century one; but I find it softened in an Italian MS. of the fifteenth century into “ut nosmet ipsos in tuo sancto servitio confortare et conservare digneris,” “that Thou wouldst deign to keep and comfort us ourselves in Thy sacred service” (the comfort, observe, being here asked for whether reasonable or not!); and in the best and fullest French service-book I have, printed at Rouen in 1520, it becomes, “ut congregationes omnium sanctorum in tuo sancto servitio conservare digneris;” while victory as well as concord is asked for the king and the princes, thus leading the way to that for our own Queen’s victory over all her enemies, a prayer which might now be advisedly altered into one that she and in her, the monarchy of England might find more fidelity in their friends.

255. I give one more example of the corruption of our Prayer-Book, with reference to the objections taken by some of your correspondents to the distinction implied in my Letters between the Persons of the Father and the Christ.

The “Memoria de Sancta Trinitate,” in the St. Louis service-book, runs thus:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui dedisti famulis tuis in confessione vere fidei eterne Trinitatis gloriam agnoscere, et in potentia majestatis adorare unitatem, quesumus ut ejus fidei firmitate ab omnibus semper muniemur adversis. Qui vivis et regnas Deus, per omnia secula seculorum. Amen.”

“Almighty and everlasting God, who has given to Thy servants, in confession of true faith to recognize the glory of the Eternal Trinity, and in the power of Majesty to pray to the Unity; we ask that by the firmness of that faith we may be always defended from all adverse things, who livest and reignest God through all ages. Amen.”

256. Turning to our Collect, we find we have first slipped in the word “us” before “Thy servants,” and by that little insertion have slipped in the squire and his jockey, and the public-house landlord and anyone else who may chance to have been coaxed, swept, or threatened into Church on Trinity Sunday, and required the entire company of them to profess themselves servants of God, and believers in the mystery of the Trinity. And we think we have done God a service!

“Grace.” Not a word about grace in the original. You don’t believe by having grace, but by having wit.

“To acknowledge.” “Agnosco” is to recognize, not to acknowledge. To see that there are three lights in a chandelier is a great deal more than to acknowledge that they are there.

“To worship.” “Adorare” is to pray to, not to worship. You may worship a mere magistrate; but you pray to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

The last sentence in the English is too horribly mutilated to be dealt with in any patience. The meaning of the great old collect is that by the shield of that faith we may quench all the fiery darts of the devil. The English prayer means, if it means anything, “Please keep us in our faith without our taking any trouble; and, besides, please don’t let us lose our money, nor catch cold.”

“Who livest and reignest.” Right; but how many of any extant or instant congregations understand what the two words mean? That God is a living God, not a dead Law; and that He is a reigning God, putting wrong things to rights, and that, sooner or later, with a strong hand and a rod of iron; and not at all with a soft sponge and warm water, washing everybody as clean as a baby every Sunday morning, whatever dirty work they may have been about all the week.

257. On which latter supposition your modern Liturgy, in so far as it has supplemented instead of corrected the old one, has entirely modeled itself, producing in its first address to the congregation before the Almighty precisely the faultfulest and foolishest piece of English language that I know in the whole compass of English or American literature. In the seventeen lines of it (as printed in my old-fashioned, large-print Prayer-Book), there are seven times over two words for one idea.

1. Acknowledge and confess.

2. Sins and wickedness.

3. Dissemble nor cloke.

4. Goodness and mercy.

5. Assemble and meet.

6. Requisite and necessary.

7. Pray and beseech.

There is, indeed, a shade of difference in some of these ideas for a good scholar, none for a general congregation; and what difference they can guess at merely muddles their heads: to acknowledge sin is indeed different from confessing it, but it cannot be done at a minute’s notice; and goodness is a different thing from mercy, but it is by no means God’s infinite goodness that forgives our badness, but that judges it.

258. “The faultfulest,” I said, “and the foolishest.” After using fourteen words where seven would have done, what is it that the whole speech gets said with its much speaking? This Morning Service of all England begins with the assertion that the Scripture moveth us in sundry places to confess our sins before God. Does it so? Have your congregations ever been referred to those sundry places? Or do they take the assertion on trust, or remain under the impression that, unless with the advantage of their own candor, God must remain ill-informed on the subject of their sins?

“That we should not dissemble nor cloke them.” Can we then? Are these grown-up congregations of the enlightened English Church in the nineteenth century still so young in their nurseries that the “Thou, God, seest me” is still not believed by them if they get under the bed?

259. Let us look up the sundry moving passages referred to.

(I suppose myself a simple lamb of the flock, and only able to use my English Bible.)

I find in my concordance (confess and confession together) forty-two occurrences of the word. Sixteen of these, including John’s confession that he was not the Christ, and the confession of the faithful fathers that they were pilgrims on the earth, do indeed move us strongly to confess Christ before men. Have you ever taught your congregations what that confession means? They are ready enough to confess Him in church, that is to say, in their own private synagogue. Will they in Parliament? Will they in a ballroom? Will they in a shop? Sixteen of the texts are to enforce their doing that.

The most important one (1 Tim. vi 13) refers to Christ’s own good confession, which I suppose was not of His sins, but of His obedience. How many of your congregations can make any such kind of confession, or wish to make it?

The eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth (1 Kings viii 33, 2 Chron. vi 26, Heb. xiii 15) speak of confessing thankfully that God is God (and not a putrid plasma nor a theory of development), and the twenty-first (Job x speaks of God’s own confession, that no doubt we are the people, and that wisdom shall die with us, and on what conditions He will make it.

260. There remains twenty-one texts which do speak of the confession of our sins very moving ones indeed and Heaven grant that some day the British public may be moved by them.

(1.) The first is Lev v 5, “He shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing.” And if you can get any soul of your congregation to say he has sinned in anything, he may do it in two words for one if he likes, and it will yet be good liturgy.

(2.) The second is indeed general Lev xvi 21: the command that the whole nation should afflict its soul on the great day of atonement once a year. The Church of England, I believe, enjoins no such unpleasant ceremony. Her festivals are passed by her people often indeed in the extinction of their souls, but by no means in their intentional affliction.

(3, 4, 5.) The third, fourth, and fifth (Lev xxvi 40, Numb. v 7, Nehem. i 6) refer all to national humiliation for definite idolatry, accompanied with an entire abandonment of that idolatry, and of idolatrous persons. How soon that form of confession is likely to find a place in the English congregations the defenses of their main idol, mammon, in the vilest and cruelest shape of it usury with which this book has been defiled, show very sufficiently.

261. (6.) The sixth is Psalm xxxii 5 virtually the whole of that psalm, which does, indeed, entirely refer to the greater confession, once for all opening the heart to God, which can be by no means done fifty-two times a year, and which, once done, puts men into a state in which they will never again say there is no health in them; nor that their hearts are desperately wicked; but will obey forever the instantly following order, “Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous, and shout for joy, all ye that are true of heart.”

(7.) The seventh (Acts xxiv 14) is the one confession in which I can myself share: “After the way which they call heresy, so worship I the Lord God of my fathers.”

(8.) The eighth (James v 16) tells us to confess our faults not to God, but “one to another” a practice not favored by English catechumens (by the way, what do you all mean by “auricular” confession confession that can be heard? and is the Protestant pleasanter form one that can’t be?)

(9.) The ninth is that passage of St. John (i 9), the favorite evangelical text, which is read and preached by thousands of false preachers every day, without once going on to read its great companion, “Beloved, if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things; but if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” Make your people understand the second text, and they will understand the first. At present you leave them understanding neither.

262. And the entire body of the remaining texts is summed in Joshua vii 19 and Ezra x 11, in which, whether it be Achan, with his Babylonish garment, or the people of Israel, with their Babylonish lusts, the meaning of confession is simply what it is to every brave boy, girl, man, and woman, who knows the meaning of the word “honor” before God or man namely, to say what they have done wrong, and to take the punishment of it (not to get it blanched over by any means), and to do it no more which is so far from being a tone of mind generally enforced either by the English, or any other extant Liturgy, that, though all my maids are exceedingly pious, and insist on the privilege of going to church as a quite inviolable one, I think it a scarcely to be hoped for crown and consummation of virtue in them that they should tell me when they have broken a plate; and I should expect to be met only with looks of indignation and astonishment if I ventured to ask one of them how she had spent her Sunday afternoon.

“Without courage,” said Sir Walter Scott, “there is no truth; and without truth there is no virtue.” The sentence would have been itself more true if Sir Walter had written “candor” for “truth,” for it is possible to be true in insolence, or true in cruelty. But in looking back from the ridges of the Hill Difficulty in my own past life, and in all the vision that has been given me of the wanderings in the ways of others this, of all principles, has become to me surest that the first virtue to be required of man is frankness of heart and lip: and I believe that every youth of sense and honor, putting himself to faithful question, would feel that he had the devil for confessor, if he had not his father or his friend.

263. That a clergyman should ever be so truly the friend of his parishioners as to deserve their confidence from childhood upwards, may be flouted as a sentimental ideal; but he is assuredly only their enemy in showing his Lutheran detestation of the sale of indulgences by broadcasting these gratis from his pulpit.

The inconvenience and unpleasantness of a catechism concerning itself with the personal practice as well as the general theory of duty, are indeed perfectly conceivable by me: yet I am not convinced that such manner of catechism would therefore be less medicinal; and during the past ten years it has often been matter of amazed thought with me, while our President at Corpus read prayers to the chapel benches, what might by this time have been the effect on the learning as well as the creed of the University, if, forty years ago, our stern old Dean Gaisford, of the House of Christ, instead of sending us to chapel as to the house of correction, when we missed a lecture, had inquired, before he allowed us to come to chapel at all, whether we were gamblers, harlot-mongers, or in concealed and selfish debt.

264. I observe with extreme surprise in the preceding letters the unconsciousness of some of your correspondents, that there ever was such a thing as discipline in the Christian Church. Indeed, the last wholesome instance of it I can remember was when my own great-great uncle Maitland lifted Lady  from his altar-rails, and led her back to her seat before the congregation, when she offered to take the Sacrament, being at enmity with her son. But I believe a few hours honestly spent by any clergyman on his Church history would show him that the Church’s confidence in her prayer has been always exactly proportionate to the strictness of her discipline; that her present fright at being caught praying by a chemist or an electrician, results mainly from her having allowed her twos and threes gathered in the name of Christ to become sixes and sevens gathered in the name of Belial; and that therefore her now needfulest duty is to explain to her stammering votaries, extremely doubtful as they are of the effect of their supplications either on politics or the weather, that although Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, he had them better under command; and that while the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, the formal and lukewarm one of an iniquitous man availeth much the other way.

Such an instruction, coupled with due explanation of the nature of righteousness and iniquity, directed mainly to those who have the power of both in their own hands, being makers of law, and holders of property, would, without any further debate, bring about a very singular change in the position and respectability of English clergymen.

265. How far they may at present be considered as merely the Squire’s left hand, bound to know nothing of what he is doing with his right, it is for their own consciences to determine.

For instance, a friend wrote to me the other day, “Will you not come here? You will see a noble duke destroying a village as old as the Conquest, and driving out dozens of families whose names are in Domesday Book, because, owing to the neglect of his ancestors and rackrenting for a hundred years, the place has fallen out of repair, and the people are poor, and may become paupers. A local paper ventured to tell the truth. The duke’s agent called on the editor, and threatened him with destruction if he did not hold his tongue.” The noble duke, doubtless, has proper Protestant horror of auricular confession. But suppose, instead of the local editor, the local parson had ventured to tell the truth from his pulpit, and even to intimate to his Grace that he might no longer receive the Body and Blood of the Lord at the altar of that parish! The parson would scarcely in these days have been therefore made bonfire of, and had a pretty martyr’s memorial by Mr. Scott’s pupils; but he would have lighted a goodly light, nevertheless, in this England of ours, whose pettifogging piety has now neither the courage to deny a duke’s grace in its church, nor to declare Christ’s in its Parliament.

266. Lastly. Several of your contributors, I observe, have rashly dipped their feet in the brim of the water of that raging question of Usury; and I cannot but express my extreme regret that you should yourself have yielded to the temptation of expressing opinions which you have had no leisure either to sound or to test. My assertion, however, that the rich lived mainly by robbing the poor, referred not to Usury, but to Rent; and the facts respecting both these methods of extortion are perfectly and indubitably ascertainable by any person who himself wishes to ascertain them, and is able to take the necessary time and pains. I see no sign, throughout the whole of these letters, of any wish whatever, on the part of one of their writers, to ascertain the facts, but only to defend practices which they hold to be convenient in the world, and are afraid to blame in their congregations. Of the presumption with which several of the writers utter their notions on the subject, I do not think it would be right to speak farther, in an epilogue to which there is no reply, in the terms which otherwise would have been deserved. In their bearing on other topics, let me earnestly thank you (so far as my own feelings may be permitted voice in the matter) for the attention with which you have examined, and the courage with which you have ratified, or at least endured, letters which could not but bear at first the aspect of being written in a hostile sometimes even in a mocking spirit. That aspect is untrue, nor am I answerable for it: the things of which I had to speak could not be shortly described but in terms which might sound satirical; for all error, if frankly shown, is precisely most ridiculous when it is most dangerous, and I have written no word which is not chosen as the exactest for its occasion, whether it move sigh or smile. In my earlier days I wrote much with the desire to please, and the hope of influencing the reader. As I grow older and older, I recognize the truth of the Preacher’s saying, “Desire shall fail, and the mourners go about the streets;” and I content myself with saying, to whoso it may concern, that the thing is verily thus, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear. No man more than I has ever loved the places where God’s honor dwells, or yielded truer allegiance to the teaching of His evident servants. No man at this time grieves more for the danger of the Church which supposes him her enemy, while she whispers procrastinating pax vobiscum in answer to the spurious kiss of those who would fain toll curfew over the last fires of English faith, and watch the sparrow find nest where she may lay her young, around the altars of the Lord.

Ever affectionately yours,
J. RUSKIN.

THE NATURE AND AUTHORITY OF MIRACLE.

267. Every age of the world has its own special sins, and special simplicities; and among our own most particular humors in both kinds must be reckoned the tendency to parade our discoveries of the laws of Nature, as if nobody had ever heard of a law of Nature before.

The most curious result of this extremely absurd condition of mind is perhaps the alarm of religious persons on subjects of which one would have fancied most of the palpable difficulties had been settled before the nineteenth century. The theory of prayer, for instance, and of Miracles. I noticed a lengthy discussion in the newspapers a month or two ago, on the propriety of praying for, or against rain. It had suddenly, it seems, occurred to the public mind, and to that of the gentlemen who write the theology of the breakfast-table, that rain was owing to natural causes; and that it must be unreasonable to expect God to supply on our immediate demand what could not be provided but by previous evaporation. I noticed farther that this alarming difficulty was at least softened to some of our Metropolitan congregations by the assurances of their ministers, that, although, since the last lecture by Professor Tyndall at the Royal Institution, it had become impossible to think of asking God for any temporal blessing, they might still hope their applications for spiritual advantages would occasionally be successful; thus implying that though material processes were necessarily slow, and the laws of Heaven respecting matter, inviolable, mental processes might be instantaneous, and mental laws at any moment disregarded by their Institutor: so that the spirit of a man might be brought to maturity in a moment, though the resources of Omnipotence would be overtaxed, or its consistency abandoned, in the endeavor to produce the same result On a greengage.

More logically, though not more wisely, other divines have asserted that prayer is medicinally beneficial to ourselves, whether we obtain what we ask for or not; and that our moral state is gradually elevated by the habit of praying daily that the Kingdom of God may come, though nothing would more astonish us than its coming.

268. With these doubts respecting the possibility or propriety of miracle, a more immediate difficulty occurs as to its actual nature or definition. What is the quality of any event which may be properly called “miraculous”? What are the degrees of wonderfulness? what the surpassing degree of it, which changes the wonder into the sign, or may be positively recognized by human intelligence as an interruption, instead of a new operation, of those laws of Nature with which, of late, we have become so exhaustively acquainted? For my own part, I can only say that I am so haunted by doubt of the security of our best knowledge, and by discontent in the range of it, that it seems to me contrary to modesty, whether in a religious or scientific point of view, to regard anything as miraculous. I know so little, and this little I know is so inexplicable, that I dare not say anything is wonderful because it is strange to me, or not wonderful because it is familiar. I have not the slightest idea how I compel my hand to write these words, or my lips to read them: and the question which was the thesis of Mr. Ward’s very interesting paper, “Can Experience prove the Uniformity of Nature?" is, in my mind, so assuredly answerable with the negative which the writer appeared to desire, that, precisely on that ground, the performance of any so-called miracle whatever would be morally unimpressive to me. If a second Joshua to-morrow commanded the sun to stand still, and it obeyed him; and he therefore claimed deference as a miracle-worker, I am afraid I should answer, “What! a miracle that the sun stands still? not at all. I was always expecting it would. The only wonder, to me, was its going on.”

269. But even assuming the demonstrable uniformity of the laws or customs of Nature which are known to us, it remains a difficult question what manner of interference with such law or custom we might logically hold miraculous, and what, on the contrary, we should treat only as proof of the existence of some other law, hitherto undiscovered.

For instance, there is a case authenticated by the signatures of several leading physicists in Paris, in which a peasant girl, under certain conditions of morbid excitement, was able to move objects at some distance from her without touching them. Taking the evidence for what it may be worth, the discovery of such a faculty would only, I suppose, justify us in concluding that some new vital energy was developing itself under the conditions of modern bodily health; and not that any interference with the laws of Nature had taken place. Yet the generally obstinate refusal of men of science to receive any verbal witness of such facts is a proof that they believe them contrary to a code of law which is more or less complete in their experience, and altogether complete in their conception; and I think it is therefore their province to lay down for us the true principle by which we may distinguish the miraculous violation of a known law from the sudden manifestation of an unknown one.

270. In the meantime, supposing ourselves ever so incapable of defining law, or discerning its interruption, we need not therefore lose our conception of the one, nor our faith in the other. Some of us may no more be able to know a genuine miracle, when we see it, than others to know a genuine picture; but the ordinary impulse to regard, therefore, all claim to miraculous power as imposture, or self-deception, reminds me always of the speech of a French lady to me, whose husband’s collection of old pictures had brought unexpectedly low prices in the auction-room, “How can you be so senseless,” she said, “as to attach yourself to the study of an art in which you see that all excellence is a mere matter of opinion?” Some of us have thus come to imagine that the laws of Nature, as well as those of Art, may be matters of opinion; and I recollect an ingenious paper by Mr. Frederic Harrison, some two years ago, on the “Subjective Synthesis,” which, after proving, what does not seem to stand in need of so elaborate proof, that we can only know, of the universe, what we can see and understand, went on to state that the laws of Nature “were not objective realities, any more than they were absolute truths." Which decision, it seems to me, is as if some modest and rational gnat, who had submitted to the humiliating conviction that it could know no more of the world than might be traversed by flight, or tasted by puncture, yet, in the course of an experiment on a philosopher with its proboscis, hearing him speak of the Institutes of Justinian, should observe, on its return to the society of gnats, that the Institutes of Justinian were not objective realities, any more than they were absolute truths. And, indeed, the careless use of the word “Truth” itself, often misleads even the most accurate thinkers. A law cannot be spoken of as a truth, either absolute or concrete. It is a law of nature, that is to say, of my own particular nature, that I fall asleep after dinner, and my confession of this fact is a truth; but the bad habit is no more a truth than the statement of it is a bad habit.

271. Nevertheless, in spite of the treachery of our conceptions and language, and in just conclusion even from our narrow experience, the conviction is fastened in our hearts that the habits or laws of Nature are more constant than our own and sustained by a firmer Intelligence: so that, without in the least claiming the faculty of recognition of miracle, we may securely define its essence. The phenomena of the universe with which we are acquainted are assumed to be, under general conditions, constant, but to be maintained in that constancy by a supreme personal Mind; and it is farther supposed that, under particular conditions, this ruling Person interrupts the constancy of these phenomena, in order to establish a particular relation with inferior creatures.

272. It is, indeed, singular how ready the inferior creatures are to imagine such a relation, without any very decisive evidence of its establishment. The entire question of miracle is involved with that of the special providences which are supposed, in some theories of religion, sometimes to confound the enemies, and always to protect the darlings of God: and in the minds of amiable persons, the natural and very justifiable sense of their own importance to the well-being of the world may often encourage the pleasant supposition that the Deity, however improvident for others, will be provident for them. I recollect a paper on this subject by Dr. Guthrie, published not long ago in some religious periodical, in which the writer mentioned, as a strikingly Providential circumstance, the catching of his foot on a ledge of rock which averted what might otherwise have been a fatal fall. Under the sense of the loss to the cause of religion and the society of Edinburgh, which might have been the consequence of the accident, it is natural that Dr. Guthrie should refer to it with strongly excited devotional feelings: yet, perhaps, with better reason, a junior member of the Alpine Club, less secure of the value of his life, would have been likely on the same occasion rather to be provoked by his own awkwardness, than impressed by the providential structure of the rock. At the root of every error on these subjects we may trace either an imperfect conception of the universality of Deity, or an exaggerated sense of individual importance: and yet it is no less certain that every train of thought likely to lead us in a right direction must be founded on the acknowledgment that the personality of a Deity who has commanded the doing of Justice and the showing of Mercy can be no otherwise manifested than in the signal support of causes which are just, and favor of persons who are kind. The beautiful tradition of the deaths of Cleobis and Bito, indeed, expresses the sense proper to the wisest men, that we are unable either to discern or decide for ourselves in what the favor of God consists: but the promises of the Christian religion imply that its true disciples will be enabled to ask with prudence what is to be infallibly granted.

273. And, indeed, the relations between God and His creatures which it is the function of miracle to establish, depend far more on the correspondence of events with human volition than on the marvelous character of the events themselves. These relations are, in the main, twofold. Miracles are either to convince, or to assist. We are apt to think of them as meant only to establish faith, but many are for mere convenience of life. Elisha’s making the ax-head swim, and the poisoned soup wholesome, were not to convince anybody, but merely to give help in the quickest way. Conviction is, indeed, in many of the most interesting miracles, quite a secondary end, and often an unattained one. The hungry multitude are fed, the ship in danger relieved by sudden calm. The disciples disregard the multiplying of the loaves, yet are strongly affected by the change in the weather.

But whether for conviction, aid (or aid in the terrific form of punishment), the essence of miracle is as the manifestation of a Power which can direct or modify the otherwise constant phenomena of Nature; and it is, I think, by attaching too great importance to what may be termed the missionary work of miracle, instead of what may in distinction be called its pastoral work, that many pious persons, no less than infidels, are apt to despise, and therefore to deny, miraculous power altogether.

274. “We do not need to be convinced,” they say, “of the existence of God by the capricious exertion of His power. We are satisfied in the normal exertion of it; and it is contrary to the idea of His Excellent Majesty that there should be any other.”

But all arguments and feelings must be distrusted which are founded on our own ideas of what it is proper for Deity to do. Nor can I, even according to our human modes of judgment, find any impropriety in the thought that an energy may be natural without being normal, and Divine without being constant. The wise missionary may indeed require no miracle to confirm his authority; but the despised pastor may need miracle to enforce it, or the compassionate governor to make it beneficial. And it is quite possible to conceive of Pastoral Miracle as resulting from a power as natural as any other, though not as perpetual. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and some of the energies granted to men born of the Spirit may be manifested only on certain conditions and on rare occasions; and therefore be always wonderful or miraculous, though neither disorderly nor unnatural.

Thus St. Paul’s argument to Agrippa, “Why should it be thought with you a thing impossible that God should raise the dead?” would be suicidal, if he meant to appeal to the miracle as a proof of the authority of his mission. But, claiming no authority, he announces as a probable and acceptable fact the opening of a dispensation in which it was as natural for the dead to be raised as for the Gospel to be preached to the poor, though both the one and the other were miraculous signs that the Master of Nature had come down to be Emmanuel among men, and that no prophet was in future to look for another.

We have indeed fallen into a careless habit of using the words supernatural and superhuman, as if equivalent. A human act may be super-doggish, and a Divine act superhuman, yet all three acts absolutely Natural. It is, perhaps, as much the virtue of a Spirit to be inconstant as of a poison to be sure, and therefore always impossible to weigh the elements of moral force in the balance of an apothecary.

275. It is true that, in any abstract reflection on these things, one is instantly brought to pause by questions of the reasonableness, the necessity, or the expedient degree of miracle. Christ walks on the water, overcoming gravity to that extent. Why not have flown, and overcome it altogether? He feeds the multitude by breaking existent loaves; why not have commanded the stones into bread? Or, instead of miraculously feeding either an assembly or a nation, why not enable them, like Himself, miraculously to fast, for the needful time? And in generally admitting the theories of pastoral miracle the instant question submits itself, Supposing a nation wisely obedient to divinely appointed ministers of a sensible Theocracy, how much would its government be miraculously assisted, and how many of its affairs brought to miraculous prosperity of issue? Would its enemies be destroyed by angels, and its food poured down upon it from the skies, or would the supernatural aid be limited to diminishing the numbers of its slain in battle, or to conducting its merchant ships safely, or instantaneously, to the land whither they would go?

But no progress can be made, and much may be prevented, in the examination of any really difficult human problem, by thus approaching it on the hypothetical side. Such approach is easy to the foolish, pleasant to the proud, and convenient to the malicious, but absolutely fruitless of practical result. Our modesty and wisdom consist alike in the simple registry of the facts cognizable by us, and our duty, in making active use of them for the present, without concerning ourselves as to the possibilities of the future. And the two main facts we have to deal with are that the historical record of miracle is always of inconstant power, and that our own actual energies are inconstant almost in exact proportion to their worthiness.

276. First, I say, the history of miracle is of inconstant power. St. Paul raises Eutychus from death, and his garments effect miraculous cure; yet he leaves Trophimus sick at Miletum, recognizes only the mercy of God in the recovery of Epaphroditus, and, like any uninspired physician, recommends Timothy wine for his infirmities. And in the second place, our own energies are inconstant almost in proportion to their nobleness. We breathe with regularity, and can calculate upon the strength necessary for common tasks. But the record of our best work, and of our happiest moments, is always one of success which we did not expect, and of enthusiasm which we could not prolong.

277. And therefore we can only look for an imperfect and interrupted, but may surely insist on an occasional, manifestation of miraculous credentials by every minister of religion. There is no practical difficulty in the discernment of marvel properly to be held superhuman. It is indeed frequently alleged by the admirers of scientific discovery that many things which were wonderful fifty years ago, have ceased to be so now; and I am perfectly ready to concede to them that what they now themselves imagine to be admirable, will not in the future be admired. But the petty sign, said to have been wrought by the augur Attus before Tarquin, would be as impressive at this instant as it was then; while the utmost achievements of recent scientific miracle have scarcely yet achieved the feeding of Lazarus their beggar, still less the resurrection of Lazarus their friend. Our Christian faith, at all events, stands or falls by this test. “These signs shall follow them that believe,” are words which admit neither of qualification nor misunderstanding; and it is far less arrogant in any man to look for such Divine attestation of his authority as a teacher, than to claim, without it, any authority to teach. And assuredly it is no proof of any unfitness or unwisdom in such expectations, that, for the last thousand years, miraculous powers seem to have been withdrawn from, or at least indemonstrably possessed, by a Church which, having been again and again warned by its Master that Riches were deadly to Religion, and Love essential to it, has nevertheless made wealth the reward of Theological learning, and controversy its occupation. There are states of moral death no less amazing than physical resurrection; and a church which permits its clergy to preach what they have ceased to believe, and its people to trust what they refuse to obey, is perhaps more truly miraculous in impotence, than it would be miraculous in power, if it could move the fatal rocks of California to the Pole, and plant the sycamore and the vine between the ridges of the sea.