STUDIES IN RELIGIOUS PERSONALITY
A GENTLEMAN WITH A DUSTER AUTHOR OF "THE MIRRORS OF DOWNING STREET"
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY KIRSOPP LAKE
It was simply a struggle for fresh air, in which, if the windows could not be opened, there was danger that panes would be broken, though painted with images of saints and martyrs. Light, coloured by these reverend effigies, was none the more respirable for being picturesque.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY EMILE VERPILLEUX
G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS NEW YORK AND LONDON The Knickerbocker Press 1922
For the information presented in the biographical records connected with the several chapters the publishers desire to express their indebtedness to "Who's Who."
BY PROFESSOR KIRSOPP LAKE
No one who believes that the Christian churches have in the past been the moral leaders of western civilization can fail to be interested in the presentation of some of the English religious leaders by "A Gentleman with a Duster" especially if, like myself, he have some passing acquaintance with most of them. Nor can any neglect to regard seriously his warning that the Church is failing as a moral leader.
What is the reason for that failure? It cannot, I think, be found in lack of earnestness; for today all the guides of the churches in England are serious, upright men, who would gladly lead if they could. Nor is it because they are voices uttering strange announcements in the wilderness; if they have a fault it is rather that they have so little to announce. The defect which is disclosed by the pictures given by "A Gentleman with a Duster" is primarily intellectual, and I propose to devote to its explanation the introduction which the publisher has asked me to write for the American edition of Painted Windows.
From the third century to the eighteenth the Christian Church presented views of life and theories of the origin, weakness, and possible redemption of human nature, which were both self consistent and rational. It offered men an infallible guide of life, to be found in the Church, the Bible, and the Christ. Different branches of the Christian church emphasised one or the other, but the three formed in themselves an indivisible trinity. Nor did the laity doubt that this presentation was correct. The clergy were the professional and expert exponents of an infallible revelation which they had studied deeply and knew better than other men, and on which they spoke with the authority of experience. It was firmly believed that to follow their teaching would lead to future salvation; for the centre of gravity in life for seriously minded men was the hope of attaining everlasting salvation in the world to come.
The situation today is changed in two directions. The Church, the Bible, and even the Teaching of Jesus are no longer regarded as infallible. History first abundantly proved that the voice of the Church was not inerrant; then science discredited the biblical account of man's origin and development; and finally the "kenotic" theory of Bishop Gore showed that what were considered the ipsissima verba of the Lord himself could no longer be regarded as infallible. The coup de grace to the belief that Jesus must be followed literally was administered by official sermons during the war. This does not mean that men and women within or without the Church do not admire and venerate the teaching of Jesus and regard him as the best teacher whom they know. But they are not willing to accept all his teaching; they have been forced to admit that it is sometimes lawful to resist evil by force; they doubt whether he is to appear as the Judge of the living and the dead; they accept much of his teaching and try to follow it because they believe that it is true, but they do not believe that it is true because it is his teaching. It is therefore impossible today for educated men, even among those who most sincerely adopt it, to settle a moral argument by an appeal to the teaching of Jesus. The tragedy is that there are probably as many today outside the Church who endeavour to follow Jesus, but do not call him Lord, as there are within the church who reverse this attitude. For good or for evil (and I think it is for evil), the Church, especially the Church of England, seems to have decided that to say "Lord, Lord" is the pass-word to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Equally important with this great change in thought, which has abandoned the infallible trinity of Church, Bible, and Jesus, is the fact that the best of our generation have shifted the centre of endeavour from the future salvation of the individual to the present reformation of this world for the benefit of coming humanity. The best men of our time are troubling very little about the salvation of their own souls; not because they are indifferent or unbelieving, but because they believe that if our lives are continued after death it will be a natural and not a supernatural phenomenon, of which no details can be known. They have relegated the whole apparatus of Heaven and Hell to the limbo of forgotten mythologies. The continuance of life to which they look forward is progressive and educational, not fixed or punitive. Moreover, most of them would say, with complete reverence, that the work which is set before them by the Purpose of Life, as they understand it, is to make a better world, materially, morally, and intellectually, as an inheritance for children who are yet unborn. They are not much disturbed if they are told that they are not Christians, for they are supremely indifferent to names.
Nevertheless their presence in the world today is the concrete problem to be faced by Liberal Churchmen. To consistent Catholics such as Father Knox it is not, I suppose, a problem at all. He would say that such men deserve every adjective of approbation in the dictionary; but they are not Christian. If Christianity means a fixed set of opinions, "a faith once delivered to the saints," Father Knox is right; such men are not Christians, but, if so, the fact that they are not is the death warrant of the Church, for they represent progress to a higher type than that of the Christianity of the past.
But the liberal Christian does not accept the view that the Church ought to exist for the preservation of traditional opinions. In his heart he feels that such men would have been accepted by Jesus as his disciples, and therefore he believes that the Church can and ought to be reformed so as to make room for them. For this Reformation he has no fixed and rigid programme, but there are three things which he thinks the Church must provide.
The first necessity is the right understanding of life. It cannot be given by any theory of the universe which, like the biblical one, is in glaring contradiction to the facts of modern science. Nor is it conceivable that belief can be fixed so as to be unalterable. Intellectual correctness is relative, and Truth cannot be petrified into Creeds, but lives by discussion, criticism, correction, and growth.
[Footnote 1: Mr. Bryan is right in maintaining that evolution and the whole scientific concept of life is unbiblical, though wrong in thinking that that settles the question.]
The second necessity is the purification of the human spirit. Generation after generation of Christians on their way through the world have endeavoured to follow the moral teaching of the Church, but the friction and pressure of life always bring with them many impurities, the swell of passion, the blindness of temper, and the thrust of desire, which a mere appeal to reason cannot remedy because it condemns but does not remove the evil. In the future as in the past, the Church must find means to satisfy men's need and desire for purification.
The third is closely allied to the second. It is "the helping hand of grace." No organized religion is complete or satisfactory which does not understand that when weak and erring human beings call from the depths, the helping hand of grace is stretched out from the unknown. The origin and nature of grace is a metaphysical and theological problem; its existence is a fact of experience. And that same experience shows that though grace may work apart from institutions it does in fact normally work through them.
These are the three things which the Liberal wishes to keep in the Church. He knows that to do this the traditional forms of church life require great changes, but he wishes to preserve the institutional life of the Church as a valuable inheritance. To him it is clear that Christians who in one generation invented the theology, the sacraments, the thoughts, practices, and ordinances of the past, have the right in another generation to change these. The continuity of the Church is in membership, not in documents.
But the Liberals fall into two groups. There is the left wing which expresses itself with clearness and decision, which is not afraid of recognizing that the Church in the past has often been wrong and has affirmed as fact what is really fiction. Those who belong to it are sometimes driven out by official pressure, and more often are compelled to yield to the practical necessities of ecclesiastical life, but their influence is greater than their numbers. The danger which would face the Church if they were allowed to have more prominence, is that their plainness of speech would lead to disruption. The danger is a real one, and the leaders of churches do right to fear it.
Over against this is the right wing of Liberals. There is probably little difference in the matter of private opinion between them and the left wing, but they are more concerned with safeguarding the unity of the Church. They endeavour to do this by using the old phraseology with a new meaning, so that, for instance, members of this party feel justified in stating that they accept the creed, though they do not believe in it in the sense which was originally intended. This is technically called "reinterpreting," and by a sufficient amount of "reinterpreting" all the articles of the creed (or indeed anything else) can be given whatever meaning is desired. The statement that God created the heavens and the earth becomes in this way an affirmation of evolution; the Virgin Birth affirms the reality of Christ's human nature; and the Resurrection of the Flesh affirms the Immortality of the Soul. Performed with skill, this dialectical legerdemain is very soothing to a not unduly intelligent congregation and prevents any breach in the apparent continuity of the Church's belief. It also prevents any undue acrimoniousness of theological debate, for debate is difficult if words may be interpreted to mean the opposite of their historical significance. The danger is that the rising generation will refuse to accept this method, and that it will lead to deep and irretrievable intellectual confusion. This is what Father Knox clearly saw to be the intellectual sin of the "Foundationers."
Nevertheless, when all is said it is easy to criticize but difficult to advise. As "A Gentleman with a Duster" has seen, the desire of the church leaders whose portraits he paints is to preserve the Church through a period of transition. I doubt the wisdom of their policy, though I recognize the difficulty of their task and appreciate their motives.
I doubt the wisdom of the policy because I think that though it may satisfy the older members of the Church and so preserve continuity with the past, it is doing so at the expense of the younger generation and sacrificing continuity with the future. It may conciliate those who have power to make trouble in the present; but it is only the young who are now silently abandoning the Church, that have the power to give life in the future. It is always safer to agree with the old, but it is infinitely more important to convince the young; and the reason for the failure which troubles "A Gentleman with a Duster" is that ecclesiastical life in England is failing to convince the young. Is it better here?
CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A., February 5, 1922.
INTRODUCTION TO THE AMERICAN EDITION
Some of the men whose personalities I attempt to analyse in this volume are known to American students of theology: almost all of them, I think, represent schools of thought in which America is as greatly interested as the people of Europe.
Therefore I may presume to hope that this present volume will find in the United States as many readers as The Mirrors of Downing Street and The Glass of Fashion.
But, in truth, I hope for much more than this.
Perhaps I may be allowed to say that I think America can make a contribution to the matter discussed in these pages which will outrival in its eventual effect on the destinies of the human race the contribution she has already made to world politics by the inspiration of the Washington Conference.
For the American brings to the study of religion not only a somewhat fresher mind than the European, but a temperamental earnestness about serious things which is the world's best hope of creative action. Moreover there is something Greek about the American. He is always young, as Greece was young in the time of Themistocles and AEschylus. He is conscious of "exhilaration in the air, a sense of walking in new paths, of dawning hopes and untried possibilities, a confidence that all things can be won if only we try hard enough." With him it is never the exhaustion of noon or the pathetic beauty of twilight: always it is the dawn, and every dawn a Renaissance.
Since this, in my reading, is the very spirit of the teaching of Jesus, I feel that it must be in the destiny of America more quickly than any other nation to recognise the features of Christ in those movements of the present day which definitely make for the higher life of the human race. I mean the movements of science, psychology, philosophy, and the politics of idealism.
If I expect anywhere on the face of the globe a response to my suggestion that a new definition of the word "Faith" is a clue to the secret of Jesus, it is in America. If I hope for recognition of my theory that Christ should be sought in the living world and not in the documents of tradition, it is also to America that I look for this hope to be realised. The work of William James, Morton Prince, and Kirsopp Lake encourages me in this conviction; but most of all I am encouraged by that youthful spirit of the American nation which looks backward as seldom as possible, forward with exhilaration and confidence, that manful spirit of hope and longing which is ever in earnest about serious things.
Here, then, is a book which goes to America with all the highest hopes of its author—a book which attempts to throw off all those long and hopeless controversies of theology concerning the Person of Christ which have ever distracted and sometimes devastated Europe, to throw off all that, and to show that the good news of Jesus was the revelation of a strange and mighty power which only now the world is beginning to use.
By means of a study in religious personality, I seek in these pages to discover a reason for the present rather ignoble situation of the Church in the affections of men.
My purpose is to examine the mind of modern Christianity, the only religion of the world with which the world can never be done, because it has the lasting quality of growth, and to see whether in the condition of that mind one cannot light upon a cause for the confessed failure of the Church to impress humanity with what its documents call the Will of God—a failure the more perplexing because of the wonderful devotion, sincerity, and almost boundless activity of the modern Church.
As a clue to the object of this quest, I would ask the reader to bear in mind that the present disordered state of the world is by no means a consequence of the late War.
The state of the world is one of confusion, but that confusion is immemorial. Man has for ever been wrestling with an anarchy which has for ever defeated him. The history of the human race is the diary of a Bear Garden. Man, so potent against the mightiest and most august forces of nature, has never been able to subdue those trivial and unworthy forces within his own breast—envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness—which make for world anarchy. He has never been able to love God because he has never been able to love his neighbour. It is in the foremost nations of the world, not in the most backward, in the most Christian nations, not the most pagan, that we find unintelligent conditions of industrialism which lead to social disorder, and a vulgar disposition to self-assertion which makes for war. History and Homicide, it has been said, are indistinguishable terms. "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains."
This striking impotence of the human race to arrive at anything in the nature of a coherent world-order, this bewildering incapacity of individual man to live in love and charity with his neighbour, justifies the presumption that divine help, if ever given, that an Incarnation of the Divine Will, if ever vouchsafed, must surely have had for its chief mercy the teaching of a science of life—a way of existence which would bring the feet of unhappy man out of chaos, and finally make it possible for the human race to live intelligently, and so, beautifully.
Now if this indeed were the purpose of the Incarnation, we may be pardoned for thinking that the Church, which has been the cause of so much tyranny and bloodshed in the past, and which even now so willingly lends itself to bitter animosities and warlike controversies, has missed the whole secret of its first and greatest dogma.
[Footnote 2: I asked a certain Dean the other day whether the old controversy between High Church and Low Church still obtained in his diocese. "Oh, dear, no!" he replied; "High and Low are now united to fight Modernists."]
Therefore in studying the modern mind of Christianity, persuaded that its mission is to teach mankind a lesson of quite sublime importance, we may possibly arrive in our conclusion at a unifying principle which will at least help the Church to turn its moral earnestness, its manifold self-sacrifice, and its great but conflicting energies, in this one direction which is its own supremest end, namely, the interpretation of human life in terms of spiritual reality.
To those who distrust reason and hold fast rather fearfully to the moorings of tradition, I would venture to say, first, that perilous times are most perilous to error, and, secondly, in the words of Dr. Kirsopp Lake, "After all, Faith is not belief in spite of evidence, but life in scorn of consequence—a courageous trust in the great purpose of all things and pressing forward to finish the work which is in sight, whatever the price may be."
"The distinction between right and wrong disappears when conscience dies, and that between fact and fiction when reason is neglected. The one is the danger which besets clever politicians, the other the nemesis which waits on popular preachers." —Kirsopp Lake.
CHAPTER PAGE FOREWORD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iii INTRODUCTION TO THE AMERICAN EDITION . xi INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . xv I.—BISHOP GORE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 II.—DEAN INGE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 III.—FATHER KNOX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 IV.—DR. L.P. JACKS . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 V.—BISHOP HENSLEY HENSON. . . . . . . . . 87 VI.—MISS MAUDE ROYDEN. . . . . . . . . . . 103 VII.—CANON E.W. BARNES. . . . . . . . . . . 121 VIII.—GENERAL BRAMWELL BOOTH . . . . . . . . 139 IX.—DR. W.E. ORCHARD . . . . . . . . . . . 155 X.—BISHOP TEMPLE. . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 XI.—PRINCIPAL W.B. SELBIE. . . . . . . . . 191 XII.—ARCHBISHOP RANDALL DAVIDSON. . . . . . 203 XIII.—CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216
GORE, Rt. Rev. CHARLES, M.A., D.D., and Hon. D.C.L., Oxford; Hon. D.D., Edinburgh and Durham; Hon. LL.D., Cambridge and Birmingham; b. 1853; s. of Hon. Charles Alexander Gore and d. of 4th Earl of Bessborough, widow of Earl of Kerry. Educ.: Harrow, Balliol College, Oxford (Scholar). Fellow Trinity College, Oxford, 1875-95; Vice-Principal of Cuddesdon College, 1880-83; Librarian of Pusey Library, Oxford, 1884-93; Vicar of Radley, 1893-94; Canon of Westminster, 1894-1902; Hon. Chaplain to the Queen, 1898-1900; Chaplain in Ordinary to the Queen, 1900-1901; Chaplain in Ordinary to the King, 1901; Editor of Lux Mundi; Bishop of Worcester, 1902-4; Bishop of Birmingham, 1905-11; Bishop of Oxford, 1911-1919.
He is in truth, in the power, in the hands, of another, of another will . . . attracted, corrected, guided, rewarded, satiated, in a long discipline, that "ascent of the soul into the intelligible world."—WALTER PATER.
No man occupies a more commanding position in the Churches of England than Dr. Gore. I am assured in more than one quarter that a vote on this subject would place him head and shoulders above all other religious teachers of our time. In the region of personal influence he appears to be without a rival.
Such is the quality of his spirit, that a person so different from him both in temperament and intellect as the Dean of St. Paul's has confessed that he is "one of the most powerful spiritual forces in our generation."
It is, I think, the grave sincerity of his soul which gives him this pre-eminence. He is not more eloquent than many others, he is not greatly distinguished by scholarship, he is only one in a numerous company of high-minded men who live devout and disinterested lives. But no man conveys, both in his writings and in personal touch, a more telling sense of ghostly earnestness, a feeling that his whole life is absorbed into a Power which overshadows his presence and even sounds in his voice, a conviction that he has in sober truth forsaken everything for the Kingdom of God.
One who knows him far better than I do said to me the other day, "Charles Gore has not aimed at harmonising his ideas with the Gospel, but of fusing his whole spirit into the Divine Wisdom."
In one, and only one, respect, this salience of Dr. Gore may be likened to the political prominence of Mr. Lloyd George. It is a salience complete, dominating, unapproached, but one which must infallibly diminish with time. For it is, I am compelled to think, the salience of personality. History does not often endorse the more enthusiastic verdicts of journalism, and personal magnetism is a force which unhappily melts into air long before its tradition comes down to posterity.
[Footnote 3: The genius of the Prime Minister, which makes so astonishing an impression on the public, plainly lies in saving from irretrievable disaster at the eleventh hour the consequences of his own acts.]
Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was once speaking to me of the personality of Gladstone. He related with unusual fervour that the effect of this personality was incomparable, a thing quite unique in his experience, something indeed incommunicable to those who had not met the man; yet, checking himself of a sudden, and as it were shaking himself free of a superstition, he added resolutely, "But I was reading some of his speeches in Hansard only the other day, and upon my word there's nothing in them!"
One may well doubt the judgment of Mr. Chamberlain; but it remains very obviously true that the personal impression of Gladstone was infinitely greater than his ideas. The tradition of that almost marvellous impression still prevails, but solely among a few, and there it is fading. For the majority of men it is already as if Gladstone had never existed.
We should be wise, then, to examine the mind, and only the mind, of this remarkable prelate, and to concern ourselves hardly at all with the beauty of his life or the bewitchments of his character; for our purpose is to arrive at his value for religion, and to study his personality only in so far as it enables us to understand his life and doctrine.
Dr. Gore lives in a small and decent London horse which at all points in its equipment perfectly expresses a pure taste and a wholly unstudied refinement. Nothing there offends the eye or oppresses the mind. It is the dignified habitation of a poor gentleman, breathing a charm not to be found in the house of a rich parvenu. He has avoided without effort the conscious artistry of Chelsea and the indifference to art of the unaesthetic vulgarian. As to the manner of his life, it is reduced to an extreme of simplicity, but his asceticism is not made the excuse for domestic carelessness. A sense of order distinguishes this small interior, which is as quiet as a monk's cell, but restful and gracious, as though continually overlooked by a woman's providence.
Here Dr. Gore reads theology and the newspaper, receives and embraces some of his numerous disciples, discusses socialism with men like Mr. Tawney, church government with men like Bishop Temple, writes his books and sermons, and on a cold day, seated on a cushion with his feet in the fender and his hands stretched over a timorous fire, revolves the many problems which beset his peace of mind.
[Footnote 4: Concerning modernising tendencies, Father Ronald Knox says, "I went to a meeting about it in Margaret Street, where crises in the Church are invested with a peculiar atmosphere of delicious trepidation."]
Somewhere, in speaking of the Church's attitude towards rich and poor, he has confessed to carrying about with him "a permanently troubled conscience." The phrase lives in his face. It is not the face of a man who is at peace with himself. If he has peace of mind, it is a Peace of Versailles.
One cannot look at that tall lean figure in its purple cassock, with the stooping head, the somewhat choleric face, the low forehead deeply scored with anxiety, the prominent light-coloured and glassy eyes staring with perplexity under bushy brows, which are as carefully combed as the hair of his head, the large obstinate nose with its challenging tilt and wide war-breathing nostrils, the broad white moustache and sudden pointed beard sloping inward; nor can one listen to the deep, tired, and ghostly voice slowly uttering the laborious ideas of his troubled mind with the somewhat painful pronunciation of the elocutionist (he makes chapell of Chapel); nor mark his languorous movements and the slow swaying action of the attenuated body; one cannot notice all this without feeling that in spite of his great courage and his iron tenacity of purpose, he is a little weary of the battle, and sometimes even perhaps conscious of a check for the cause which is far dearer to him than his own life.
One thinks of him as a soul under a cloud. He gives one no feeling of radiance, no sense of a living serenity. What serenity he possesses at the centre of his being does not shine in his face nor sound in his voice. He has the look of one whose head has long been thrust out of a window gloomily expecting an accident to happen at the street corner. FitzGerald once admirably described the face of Carlyle as wearing "a crucified expression." No such bitterness of pain and defeat shows in the face of Dr. Gore. But his look is the look of one who has not conquered and who expects further, perhaps greater disaster.
He has told us that "a man must be strong at the centre before he can be free at the circumference of his being," and in support of this doctrine he quotes the words of Jesus, "It is better to enter into life halt or maimed rather than having two hands or two feet to go into hell." Has he reached strength at the centre, one wonders, by doing violence to any part of his moral being? Is his strength not the strength of the whole man but the strength only of his will, a forced strength to which his reason has not greatly contributed and into which his affections have not entirely entered? Is this, one asks, the reason of that look in his face, the look of bafflement, of perplexity, of a permanently troubled conscience, of a divided self, a self that is both maimed and halt?
How is it, we ask ourselves, that a man who makes so profound an impression on those who know him, and who commands as no other teacher of his time the affectionate veneration of the Christian world, and who has placed himself whole-heartedly in political alliance with the militant forces of victorious Labour, exercises so little influence in the moral life of the nation? How is it that he suggests to us no feeling of the relation of triumphant leadership, but rather the spirit of Napoleon on the retreat from Moscow?
We learn from his teaching that no one can be a Christian without "a tremendous act of choice," that Christ proclaimed His standard with "tremendous severity of claim," that "it is very hard to be a good Christian," and that we must surely, as St. Peter says, "pass the time of our sojourning here in fear." All of which suggests to us that the Bishop has not entered into life whole, even perhaps that sometimes he looks back over his shoulder with a spasm of horror at the hell from which he has escaped only by the sacrifice of his rational integrity.
Let us recall the main events of his history.
He was educated at Harrow and Balliol, and exercised a remarkable spiritual influence at Oxford, where he remained, first as Vice-Principal of Cuddesdon College and then as Librarian of Pusey House, till he was forty years of age.
During these years he edited the book called Lux Mundi in which he abandoned the dogma of verbal inspiration and accepted the theory that the human knowledge of Christ was limited. This book distressed a number of timid people, but extended the influence of Dr. Gore to men of science, such as Romanes, as well as to a much larger number of thoughtful undergraduates.
For a year he was Vicar of Radley, and then came to London as a Canon of Westminster, immediately attracting enormous congregations to hear him preach, his sermons being distinguished by a most singular simplicity, a profound piety, and above all by a deep honesty of conviction which few who heard him could withstand. Weller, the Dean's verger at the Abbey, has many stories to tell of the long queues at Westminster which in those days were one of the sights of London. The Abbey has never since recovered its place as a centre of Christian teaching.
Up to this time Dr. Gore's sympathy for the Oxford Movement was merely the background of a life devoted to the mystical element and the moral implications of the Christian religion. He was known as a High Churchman; he was felt to be a saint; his modernism was almost forgotten.
It was not long before his tentative movement towards modernism ended in a profession of Catholic principles which allied him with forces definitely and sometimes angrily ranged against the Higher Criticism. He became a Bishop. Almost at once the caressing fingers of the saint became the heavy hand of the dogmatist. He who had frightened Liddon by his tremulous adventure towards the mere fringe of modernism became the declared enemy, the implacable foe, of the least of his clergy who questioned even the most questionable clauses of the creeds. He demanded of them all a categorical assent to the literal truth of the miraculous, in exactly the same sense in which physical facts are true. Every word of the creeds had to be uttered ex animo. "It is very hard to be a good Christian." Yes; but did Dr. Gore make it harder than it need be? There was something not very unlike a heresy hunt in the diocese over which the editor of Lux Mundi ruled with a rod of iron.
I remember once speaking to Dr. Winnington Ingram, Bishop of London, about the Virgin Birth. He told me that he had consulted Charles Gore on this matter, and that he agreed with Charles Gore's ruling that if belief in that miracle were abandoned Christianity would perish. Such is the fate of those who put their faith in dogmas, and plant their feet on the sands of tradition.
Dr. Gore's life as a Bishop, first of Worcester, then of Birmingham, and finally of Oxford, was disappointing to many of his admirers, and perhaps to himself. He did well to retire. But unfortunately this retirement was not consecrated to those exercises which made him so impressive and so powerful an influence in the early years of his ministry. He set himself to be, not an exponent of the Faith, but the defender of a particular aspect of that Faith.
Here, I think, is to be found the answer to our question concerning the loss of Dr. Gore's influence in the national life. From the day of the great sermons in Westminster Abbey that wonderful influence has diminished, and he is now in the unhappy position of a party leader whose followers begin to question his wisdom. Organisation has destroyed him.
Dr. Gore, in my judgment, has achieved strength at the centre of his being only at the terrible cost of cutting off, or at any rate of maiming, his own natural temperament. Marked out by nature for the life of mysticism, he has entered maimed and halt into the life of the controversialist. With the richest of spiritual gifts, which demand quiet and a profound peace for their development, he has thrown himself into the arena of theological disputation, where force of intellect rather than beauty of character is the first requirement of victory. Instead of drawing all men to the sweet reasonableness of the Christian life, he has floundered in the obscurities of a sect and hidden his light under the bushel of a mouldering solecism—"the tradition of Western Catholicism." It is a tragedy. Posterity I think, will regretfully number him among bigots, lamenting that one who was so clearly
. . . born for the universe, narrow'd his mind, And to party gave up what was meant for mankind.
For, unhappily, this party in the Church to which, as Dean Inge well puts it, Dr. Gore "consents to belong," and for which he has made such manifold sacrifices, and by which he is not always so loyally followed as he deserves to be, is of all parties in the Church that which least harmonises with English temperament, and is least likely to endure the intellectual onslaughts of the immediate future.
It is the Catholic Party, the spendthrift heir of the Tractarians, which, with little of the intellectual force that gave so signal a power to the Oxford Movement, endeavours to make up for that sad if not fatal deficiency by an almost inexhaustible credulity, a marked ability in superstitious ceremonial, a not very modest assertion of the claims of sacerdotalism, a mocking contempt for preaching, and a devotion to the duties of the parish priest which has never been excelled in the history of the English Church.
Bishop Gore, very obviously, is a better man than his party. He is a gentleman in every fibre of his being, and to a gentleman all extravagance is distasteful, all disloyalty is impossible. He is, indeed, a survival from the great and orderly Oxford Movement trying to keep his feet in the swaying midst of a revolutionary mob, a Kerensky attempting to withstand the forces of Bolshevism.
There is little question, I think, that when his influence is removed, an influence which becomes with every year something of a superstition, something of an irritation, to the younger generation of Anglo-Catholics—not many of whom are scholars and few gentlemen—the party which he has served so loyally, and with so much distinction, so much temperance, albeit so disastrously for his own influence in the world, will perish on the far boundaries of an extremism altogether foreign to our English nativity.
For to many of those who profess to follow him he is already a hesitating and too cautious leader, and they fret under his coldness towards the millinery of the altar, and writhe under his refusal to accept the strange miracle of Transubstantiation—a miracle which, he has explained, I understand, demands a reversal of itself to account for the change which takes place in digestion. If they were rid of his restraining hand, if they felt they could trust themselves without his intellectual championship, these Boishevists of sacerdotalism, these enthusiasts for the tyranny of an absolute Authority, these episcopalian asserters of the Apostolical Succession who delight in flouting and defying and insulting their bishops, would soon lose in the follies of excess the last vestiges of English respect for the once glorious and honourable Oxford Movement.
If any man think that I bear too hardly on these very positive protagonists of Latin Christianity, let him read the Anglican chapters in A Spiritual AEneid. Father Knox was once a member of this party and something of a disciple of Dr. Gore, who, however, always regretted his "mediaeval" theology.
A member of this party, marching indeed at its head and its one voice in these degenerate days to which men of intelligence pay the smallest attention, Bishop Gore has lost the great influence he once exercised, or began to exercise, on the national life, a moral and spiritual influence which might at this time have been well-nigh supreme if the main body of the nation had not unfortunately lost its interest for the man in its contempt for, or rather its indifference to, the party to which he consents to belong.
But for the singular beauty of his spiritual life, one would be tempted to set him up as an example of Coleridge's grave warning, "He, who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth, will proceed by loving his own Sect or Church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all."
I find him in these late days no nearer to Rome, not an inch nearer, than in the days of his early manhood, but absolutely convinced that Christ founded a Church and instituted the two chief sacraments. He will sacrifice nothing in this respect. His whole mind, which is a very different thing from his whole spirit, leans towards authority, order, and coherence. He must have an organised society of believers, believers in the creeds, and he must have an absolute obedience to authority among these believers.
But he is a little shaken and very much alarmed by the march of modernism. "When people run up to you in the street," he said recently, and the phrase suggests panic, "and say, 'Oh! what are we to do?' I have got no short or easy answer at all." A large, important, and learned body of men in the Church, he says, hold views which are "directly subversive of the foundations of the creeds." He calls this state of things evidence of "an extraordinary collapse of discipline." But that is not all. He is alarmed; he is not content to trust the future of the Church to authority alone. "What are we to do?" He replies:
"First, we must not be content to appeal to authority. We must teach, fully teach, re-teach the truth on grounds of Scripture, reason, history, everything, so that we may have a party, a body which knows not only that it has got authority, but that it has got the truth and reason on its side."
The claim is obviously courageous, the claim of a brave and noble man, but one wonders, Can it be made good? It is a long time since evolution saw Athanasius laid in the grave, a long time since the Inquisition pronounced the opinions of Galileo to be heretical and therefore false. "It is very hard to be a good Christian." Did Athanasius make it easier? Did the Inquisition which condemned Galileo make it easier still?
Dr. Gore thinks that the supreme mistake of Christianity was placing itself under the protection and patronage of national governments. It should never have become nationalised. Its greatest and most necessitous demand was to stand apart from anything in the nature of racialism.
He mourns over an incoherent humanity; he seeks for unifying principles. The religion of an Incarnation must have a message for the world, a message for the whole world, for all mankind. Surely, surely. But unifying principles are not popular in the churches. It is the laity which objects to a coherent Gospel.
He sighs for a spiritualised Labour Party. He shrinks from the thought of a revolution, but does not believe that the present industrial system can be Christianised. There must be a fundamental change. Christianity is intensely personal, but its individualism is of the spirit, the individualism of unselfishness. He laughs grimly, in a low and rumbling fashion, on hearing that Communism is losing its influence in the north of England. "I can quite imagine that; the last thing an Englishman will part with is his property."
Laughter, if it can be called laughter, is rare on his lips, and is reserved in general for opinions which are in antagonism to his own. He laughs in this way at the makeshift compromises of statesmen and theologians and economists saying that what those men hate more than anything else is a fixed principle. He quotes with a sardonic pleasure the capital saying that a certain statesman's idea of a settled policy based on fixed moral principles is a policy which will last from breakfast-time to luncheon—he repeats the last words "from breakfast-time to luncheon," with a deep relish, an indrawing of the breath, a flash of light in the glassy eyes.
He remains impenitent concerning his first instinct as to England's duty at the violation of Belgium's neutrality. We were justified in fighting; we could do no other; it was a stern duty laid upon us by the Providence which overrules the foolishness of man. But he is insistent that we can justify our fiery passion in War only by an equal passion in the higher cause of Peace—no, not an equal passion, a far greater passion.
We lost at Versailles our greatest opportunity for that divine justification. We showed no fervour for peace. There was no passion in us; nothing but scepticism, incredulity, and the base appetite for revenge. We might have led the world into a new epoch if at that moment we had laid down our sword, taken up our cross, and followed the Prince of Peace. But we were cold, cold. We had no idealism. We were poor sceptics trusting to economics—the economics of a base materialism.
But though he broods over the sorrows and sufferings of mankind, and views with an unutterable grief the dismemberment of Christendom, he refuses to style himself a pessimist. There is much good in the world; he is continually being astonished by the goodness of individuals; he cannot bring himself to despair of mankind. Ah, if he had only kept himself in that atmosphere! But "it is very hard to be a good Christian."
As for theology, as for modernism, people are not bothered, he says, by a supposed conflict between Religion and Science. What they want is a message. The Catholic Church must formulate a policy, must become intelligent, coherent.
He has small faith in meetings, pronouncing the word with an amused disdain, nor does he attach great importance to preaching, convinced that no Englishman can preach: "Even Roman Catholics can't preach in England." As for those chapels to which people go to hear a popular preacher, he calls them "preaching shops," and speaks with pity of those who occupy their pulpits: "That must be a dreadful life—dreadful, oh, quite dreadful!" Yet he has a lasting admiration for the sermons of Charles Spurgeon. As to Jeremy Taylor, "I confess that all that turgid rhetoric wearies me."
He does not think the Oxford Movement has spent itself. On the contrary, the majority of the young men who present themselves for ordination are very largely inspired by the spirit of that Movement. All the same, he perceives a danger in formalism, a resting in symbolism for its own sake. In its genesis, the Oxford Movement threw up great men, very great men, men of considerable intellectual power and a most profound spirituality; it is not to be expected, perhaps, that such giants should appear again, and in their absence lesser men may possibly mistake the symbol for the thing symbolised, and so fall into the error of formalism. That is a danger to be watched and guarded against. But the Movement will continue, and it will not reach its fulfilment until under its pressure the Church has arrived at unity and formulated a policy intelligent and coherent.
So this great spirit, who might have given to mankind a book worthy to stand beside the Imitation, and given to England a new enthusiasm for the moral principles of Christianity, nurses a mechanistic dream and cherishes the hope that his Party is the Aaron's rod of all the Churches. Many would have followed him if he had been content to say only, "Do as I do," but he descended into the dust of controversy, and bade us think as he thinks. Nevertheless, in spite of this fatal mistake he remains the greatest spiritual force among the Churches of England, and his books of devotion will be read long after his works of controversy have fallen into that coldest of all oblivions, the oblivion of inadequate theologies.
INGE, Very Rev. WILLIAM RALPH, D.D., C.V.O., 1918; Dean of St. Paul's since 1911; b. Crayke, Yorkshire, 6th June, 1860; s. of late Rev. William Inge, D.D., Provost of Worcester College, Oxford and Mary, d. of Ven. Edward Churton, Archdeacon of Cleveland; m. 1905, Mary Catharine, d. Ven. H.M. Spooner, Archdeacon of Maidstone, and g.d. of Bishop Harvey Goodwin; three s. two d. Educ.: Eton, King's College, Cambridge, Bell Scholar and Porson Prizeman, 1880; Porson Scholar, 1881; Craven Scholar and Browne Medalist, 1882; Senior Chancellor's Medalist, 1883; 1st Class Classics, 1882 and 1883; Hare Prizeman, 1885; Assistant Master at Eton, 1884-88; Fellow of King's, 1886-88; Fellow and Tutor of Hertford College, Oxford, 1889-1904; Select Preacher at Oxford, 1893-95, 1903-5, 1920-21; Cambridge, 1901, 1906, 1910, 1912, 1913, 1920; Bampton Lecturer, 1899; Hon. D.D., Aberdeen, 1905; Paddock Lecturer, New York, 1906; Vicar of All Saints' Ennismore Gardens, S.W., 1905-7; Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, 1907-l1; Hon. Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, and of Hertford College, Oxford; Academic Committee Royal Soc. of Literature; Gifford Lecturer, St. Andrews, 1917-18; Romanes and Hibbert Lecturer, 1920; Hon. D.Litt., Durham, 1920.
Some day, when I've quite made up my mind what to fight for, or whom to fight, I shall do well enough, if I live, but I haven't made up my mind what to fight for—whether, for instance, people ought to live in Swiss cottages and sit on three-legged or one-legged stools; whether people ought to dress well or ill; whether ladies ought to tie their hair in beautiful knots; whether Commerce or Business of any kind be an invention of the Devil or not; whether Art is a Crime or only an Absurdity; whether Clergymen ought to be multiplied, or exterminated by arsenic, like rat; whether in general we are getting on, and if so where we are going to; whether it's worth while to ascertain any of these things; whether one's tongue was ever made to talk with or only to taste with.-JOHN RUSKIN.
When our day is done, and men look back to the, shadows we have left behind us, and there is no longer any spell of personal magnetism to delude right judgment, I think that the figure of Dean Inge may emerge from the dim and too crowded tapestry of our period with something of the force, richness, and abiding strength which gives Dr. Johnson his great place among authentic Englishmen.
His true setting is the Deanery of St. Paul's, that frowning and melancholy house in a backwater of London's jarring tide, where the dust collects, and sunlight has a struggle to make two ends meet, and cold penetrates like a dagger, and fog hangs like a pall, and the blight of ages clings to stone and brick, to window and woodwork, with an adhesive mournfulness which suggests the hatchment of Melpomene. Even the hand of Grinling Gibbons at the porch does not prevent one from recalling Crabbe's memorable lines:
Dark but not awful, dismal but yet mean, With anxious bustle moves the cumbrous scene; Presents no objects tender or profound, But spreads its cold unmeaning gloom around.
Here in the midst of overshadowing warehouses—and until he came hither at the age of fifty-one few people in London had ever heard his name, a name which even now is more frequently pronounced as if it rhymed with cringe, instead of with sting—here the Dean of St. Paul's, looking at one moment like Don Quixote, at another like a figure from the pages of Dostoevsky, and flitting almost noiselessly about rooms which would surely have been filled for the mind of Dickens with ghosts of both sexes and of every order and degree; here the great Dean faces the problems of the universe, dwells much with his own soul, and fights the Seven Devils of Foolishness in a style which the Church of England has not known since the days of Swift.
In appearance he is very tall, rigid, long-necked, and extremely thin, with fine dark hair and a lean grey clean-shaven face, the heavy-lidded eyes of an almost Asian deadness, the upper lip projecting beyond the lower, a drift of careless hair sticking boyishly forward from the forehead, the nose thin, the mouth mobile but decisive, the whole set and colour of the face stonelike and impassive.
In repose he looks as if he had set himself to stare the Sphinx out of countenance and not yet had lost heart in the matter. When he smiles, it is as if a mischievous boy looked out of an undertaker's window; but the smile, so full of wit, mischief, and even gaiety, is gone in an instant, quicker than I have ever seen a smile flash out of sight, and immediately the fine scholarly face sinks back into somnolent austerity which for all its aloofness and immemorial calm suggests, in some fashion for which I cannot account, a frozen whimsicality.
Few public men, with perhaps the exception of Samuel Rogers, ever cared so little about appearance. It is believed that the Dean would be indistinguishable from a tramp but for the constant admonishment and active benevolence of Mrs. Inge. As it is, he is something more than shabby, and only escapes a disreputable appearance by the finest of hairs, resembling, as I have suggested, one of those poor Russian noblemen whom Dostoevsky loved to place in the dismal and sordid atmosphere of a lodging-house, there to shine like golden planets by the force of their ideas.
But when all this is said, and it is worth saying, I hope, if only to make the reader feel that he is here making the acquaintance of an ascetic of the intellect, a man who cares most deeply for accurate thought, and is absorbed body, soul and spirit in the contemplation of eternal values, still, for all the gloom of his surroundings and the deadness of his appearance, it is profoundly untrue to think of the Dean as a prophet of pessimism.
When he speaks to one, in the rather muffled voice of a man troubled by deafness, the impression he makes is by no means an impression of melancholy or despair; on the contrary it is the impression of strength, power, courage, and unassailable allegiance to truth. He is careless of appearance because he has something far better worth the while of his attention; he is aloof and remote, monosyllabic and sometimes even inaccessible, because he lives almost entirely in the spiritual world, seeking Truth with a steady perseverance of mind, Goodness with the full energy of his heart, and Beauty with the deep mystical passion of his soul.
Nothing in the man suggests the title of his most popular book Outspoken Essays—a somewhat boastful phrase that would, I think, have slightly distressed a critic like Ste.-Beuve—and nothing, except a certain firm emphasis on the word truth, suggests in his conversation the spirit that shows in the more controversial of his essays. On the contrary, he is in manner, bearing, and spirit a true mystic, a man of silence and meditation, gentle when he is not angered, modest when he is not challenged by a fool, humble in his attitude to God if not to a foolish world, and, albeit with the awkwardness inevitable in one who lives so habitually with his own thoughts and his own silence, anxious to be polite.
"I do not like being unpleasant," he said to me on one occasion, "but if no one else will, and the time requires it—"
It is a habit with him to leave a sentence unfinished which is sufficiently clear soon after the start.
In what way is he unpleasant? and what are those movements of the time which call in his judgment for unpleasantness?
Of Bergson he said to me, "I hope he is still thinking," and when I questioned him he replied that Bergson's teaching up to this moment "suggests that anything may happen."
Here you may see one of the main movements of our day which call, in the Dean's judgment for unpleasantness—the unpleasantness of telling people not to make fools of themselves. Humanity must not go over in a body to Mr. Micawber.
Anything may happen? No! We are not characters in a fairy tale, but men of reason, inhabiting a world which reveals to us at every point of our investigation one certain and unalterable fact—an unbroken uniformity of natural law. We must not dream; we must act, and, before we act, we must think. Human nature does not change very greatly. Bergson is apt to encourage easy optimism, to leave the door open for credulity, superstition, idle expectation; and he is disposed to set instinct above reason, "a very dangerous doctrine, at any rate for this generation."
What is wrong with this generation? It is a generation that refuses to accept the rule and discipline of reason, which thinks it can reach millennium by a short cut, or jump to the moon in an excess of emotional fervour. It is a generation which becomes a crowd, and "individuals are occasionally guided by reason, crowds never." It is a generation which lives by catchwords, which plays tricks, which attempts to cut knots, which counts heads.
What is wrong with this generation? Public opinion is "a vulgar, impertinent, anonymous tyrant who deliberately makes life unpleasant for anyone who is not content to be the average man." Democracy means "a victory of sentiment over reason"; it is the triumph of the unfit, the ascendancy of the second-rate, the conquest of quality by quantity, the smothering of the hard and true under the feather-bed of the soft and the false.
Some may prefer the softer type of character, and may hope that it will make civilisation more humane and compassionate. . . . Unfortunately, experience shows that none is so cruel as the disillusioned sentimentalist. He thinks that he can break or ignore nature's laws with impunity; and then, when he finds that nature has no sentiment, he rages like a mad dog and combines with his theoretical objection to capital punishment a lust to murder all who disagree with him.
Beware of sentiment! Beware of it in politics, beware of it in religion. See things as they are. Accept human nature for what it is. Consult history. Judge by reason and experience. Act with courage.
As he faces politics, so he faces religion.
He desires to rescue Christianity from all the sentimental vulgarities which have disfigured it in recent years—alike from the aesthetic extravagances of the ritualist and the organising fussiness of the evangelical; to rescue it from these obscuring unessentials, and to set it clearly before the eyes of mankind in the pure region of thought—a divine philosophy which teaches the only true science of life, a discipline which fits the Soul for its journey, "by an inner ascent," to the presence of God. Mysticism, he says, is the pursuit of ultimate, objective truth, or it is nothing.
Christianity demands the closest attention of the mind. It cannot be seen at a glance, understood in a moment, adopted by a gesture. It is a deep and profound philosophy of life. It proposes a transvaluation of values. It insists that the spiritual life is the only true life. It sets the invisible above the visible, and the eternal above the temporal. It tears up by the roots the lust of accumulation. It brings man face to face with a choice that is his destiny. He must think, he must decide. He cannot serve both God and Mammon. Either his life must be given for the imperishable values of spiritual existence or for the meats that perish and the flesh that will see corruption. Let a man choose. Christianity contradicts all his natural ideas; but let him think, let him listen to the voice of God, and let him decide as a rational being. Let him not presume to set up his trivial notions, or to think that he can silence Truth by bawling falsehood at the top of his voice. Let him be humble. Let him listen to the teacher. Let him give all his attention to this great matter, for it concerns his soul.
Here again is the aristocratic principle. The average man, until he has disciplined his reason to understand this great matter, must hold his peace; certainly he must not presume to lay down the law.
When we exclaim against this doctrine, and speak with enthusiasm of the virtues of the poor, Dr. Inge asks us to examine those virtues and to judge of their worth. Among the poor, he quotes, "generosity ranks far before justice, sympathy before truth, love before chastity, a pliant and obliging disposition before a rigidly honest one. In brief, the less admixture of intellect required for the practice of any virtue, the higher it stands in popular estimation."
But we are to love God with all our mind, as well as with all our heart.
Does he, then, shut out the humble and the poor from the Kingdom of God?
Not for a moment. "Ultimately, we are what we love and care for, and no limit has been set to what we may become without ceasing to be ourselves." The door of love stands open, and through that doorway the poor and the ignorant may pass to find the satisfaction of the saint. But they must be careful to love the right things—to love truth, goodness, and beauty. They must not be encouraged to sentimentalise; they must be bidden to decide. The poor can be debauched as easily as the rich. Many are called, but few chosen.
His main protest is against the rule of the ignorant, the democratic principle applied to the amor intellectualis Dei. Rich and poor, learned and ignorant, all must accept, with humility, the teaching of the Master. Plotinus, he points out, was the schoolmaster who brought Augustine to Christ. The greatest of us has to learn. He who would teach should be a learner all his life.
In everything he says and writes I find this desire to exalt Truth above the fervours of emotionalism and the dangerous drill of the formalist. Always he is calling upon men to drop their prejudices and catchwords, to forsake their conceits and sentiments, to face Truth with a quiet pulse and eyes clear of all passion. Christianity is a tremendous thing; let no man, believer or unbeliever, attempt to make light of it.
It is not compassion for the intellectual difficulties of the average man which has made Dr. Inge a conservative modernist, if so I may call him. Sentiment of no kind whatever has entered into the matter. He is a conservative modernist because his reason has convinced him of the truth of reasonable modernism, because he has "that intellectual honesty which dreads what Plato calls 'the lie in the soul' even more than the lie on the lips." He is a modernist because he is an intellectual ascetic.
When we compare his position with that of Dr. Gore we see at once the width of the gulf which separates the traditionalist from the philosopher. To Dr. Gore the creeds and the miracles are essential to Christianity. No Virgin Birth, no Sermon on the Mount! No Resurrection of the Body, no Parable of the Prodigal Son! No Descent into Hell, no revelation that the Kingdom of Heaven is within! Need we wonder that Dr. Gore cries out despairingly for more discipline? He summons reason, it is true, but to defend and explain creeds without which there is no Christianity.
To Dr. Inge, on the other hand, it is what Christ said that matters, what He taught that demands our obedience, what He revealed that commands our love. Christianity for him is not a series of extraordinary acts, but a voice from heaven. It is not the Christ of tradition before whom he bows his knee, but the Christ of history, the Christ of faith, the Christ of experience—the living and therefore the evolving Christ. And for him, as for the great majority of searching men, the more the mists of pious aberglaube lift, the more real, the more fair, and the more divine becomes the Face of that living Christ, the more close the sense of His companionship.
A friend of mine once asked him, "Are you a Christian or a Neoplatonist?" He smiled. "It would be difficult to say," he replied. He was thinking, I am sure, of Troeltsch's significant prophecy, and warning, that the Future of Christian philosophy depends on the renewal of its alliance with Neoplatonism.
Let no man suppose that the intellectual virtues are outside the range of religion. "Candour, moral courage, intellectual honesty, scrupulous accuracy, chivalrous fairness, endless docility to facts, disinterested collaboration, unconquerable hopefulness and perseverance, manly renunciation of popularity and easy honours, love of bracing labour and strengthening solitude; these, and many other cognate qualities," says Baron von Huegel, "bear upon them the impress of God and His Christ." What Dr. Inge, who quotes these words, says of Plotinus declares his own character. He speaks of "the intense honesty of the man, who never shirks a difficulty or writes an insincere word."
But though he is associated in the popular mind chiefly with modernism, Dr. Inge is not by any means only a controversial theologian. Above and beyond everything else, he is a mystic. You may find indications of this truth even in a book like Outspoken Essays, but they are more numerous in his two little volumes, The Church and the Age and Speculum Animae, and of course more numerous still in his great work on Plotinus. He is far more a mystic than a modernist. Indeed I regard him as the Erasmus of modernism, one so sure of truth that he would trust time to work for his ideas, would avoid fighting altogether, but certainly all fighting that is in the least degree premature. The two thousand years of Christianity, he says somewhere, are no long period when we remind ourselves that God spent millions of years in moulding a bit of old red sandstone.
[Footnote 5: "I have often thought that the unquestionable inferiority of German literature about Platonism points to an inherent defect in the German mind."—The Philosophy of Plotinus, p. 13]
Meanwhile we have our cocksure little guides, some of whom say to us, "That is primitive, therefore it is good," and others, "This is up-to-date, therefore it is better." Not very wise persons any of them, I fear.
And again, writing of Catholic Modernism in France:
We have given our reasons for rejecting the Modernist attempt at reconstruction. In the first place, we do not feel that we are required by sane criticism to surrender nearly all that M. Loisy has surrendered. We believe that the Kingdom of God which Christ preached was something much more than a platonic dream. We believe that He did speak as never man spake, so that those who heard Him were convinced that He was more than man. We believe, in short, that the object of our worship was a historical figure.
I will give a few extracts from Speculum Animae, a most valuable and most beautiful little book, which show the true bent of his mind:
On all questions about religion there is the most distressing divergency. But the saints do not contradict each other.
Prayer . . . is "the elevation of the mind and heart to God." It is in prayer, using the word in this extended sense, that we come into immediate contact with the things that cannot be shaken.
Are we to set against such plain testimony the pessimistic agnosticism of a voluptuary like Omar Khayyam?
There was the Door to which I found no Key. . . .
May it not be that the door has no key because it has no lock?
The suggestion that in prayer we only hear the echo of our own voices is ridiculous to anyone who has prayed.
The life of Christ was throughout a life of prayer. Not only did He love to spend many hours in lonely communing with His Father, on the mountain-tops, which He was perhaps the first to love, and to choose for this purpose, but His whole life was spent in habitual realisation of God's presence.
Religion is caught rather than taught; it is the religious teacher, not the religious lesson, that helps the pupil to believe.
What we love, that we see; and what we see, that we are.
We need above all things to simplify our religion and our inner life generally.
We want to separate the essential from the nonessential, to concentrate our faith upon the pure God-consciousness, the eternal world which to Christ was so much nearer and more real than the world of external objects.
Christ meant us to be happy, happier than any other people.
It is because he is so profoundly convinced of the mystical truth of Christianity, because he has so honestly tried and so richly experienced that truth as a philosophy of life, it is because of this, and not out of a lack of sympathy with the sad and sorrowful, that he opposes himself to the obscurantism of the Anglo-Catholic and the emotional economics of the political reformer.
"The Christian cure," he says, "is the only real cure." The socialist is talking in terms of the old currency, the currency of the world's quantitative standards; but Christ introduced a new currency, which demonetises the old. Spiritual goods are unlimited in amount; they are increased by being shared; and we rob nobody by taking them. He believes with Creighton that "Socialism will only be possible when we are all perfect, and then it will not be needed."
In the meantime, "Christianity increases the wealth of the world by creating new values." Only in the currency of Christ can true socialism hope to pay its way.
We miss the heart and centre of his teaching if we forget for a moment that it is his conviction of the sufficiency of Christ's revelation which makes him so deadly a critic both of the ritualist and the socialist—two terms which on the former side at least tend to become synonymous. He would have no distraction from the mystery of Christ, no compromise of any kind in the world's loyalty to its one Physician. Simplify your dogmas; simplify your theologies. Christ is your one essential.
I have spoken to him about psychical research and the modern interest in spiritualism. "I don't think much of that!" he replied. Then, in a lower key, "It was not through animism and necromancy that the Jews came to believe in immortality." How did they reach that belief? "By thinking things out, and asking the question, Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
The answer is characteristic. Dr. Inge has thought things out; everything in his faith has been thought out; and the basis of all his thinking is acceptance of absolute values—absolute truth, absolute goodness, absolute beauty. No breath from the class-rooms agitated by Einstein can shake his faith in these absolutes. His Spirit of the Universe is absolute truth, absolute goodness, absolute beauty. He is a Neoplatonist, but something more. He ascends into communion with this Universal Spirit whispering the Name of Christ, and by the power of Christ in his soul addresses the Absolute as Abba, Father.
No man is freer from bigotry or intolerance, though not many can hate falsity and lies more earnestly. The Church of England, he tells me, should be a national church, a church expressing the highest reach of English temperament, with room for all shades of thought. He quotes Dollinger, "No church is so national, so deeply rooted in popular affection, so bound up with the institutions and manners of the country, or so powerful in its influences on national character." But this was written in 1872. Dr. Inge says now, "The English Church represents, on the religious side, the convictions, tastes, and prejudices of the English gentleman, that truly national ideal of character. . . . A love of order, seemliness, and good taste has led the Anglican Church along a middle path between what a seventeenth century divine called 'the meretricious gaudiness of the Church of Rome and the squalid slutterny of fanatic conventicles.'"
Uniformity, he tells me, is not to be desired. One of our greatest mistakes was letting the Wesleyan Methodists go; they should have been accommodated within the fold. Another fatal mistake was made by the Lambeth Conference, in its insistence on re-ordination. Imagine the Church of England, with two Scotch Archbishops at its head, thinking that the Presbyterians would consent to so humiliating a condition! An interchange of pulpits is desirable; it might increase our intelligence, or at least it should widen our sympathy. He holds a high opinion of the Quakers. "Practical mystics: perhaps they are the best Christians, I mean the best of them."
Modernism, he defines, at its simplest, as personal experience, in contradistinction from authority. The modernist is one whose knowledge of Christ is so personal and direct that it does not depend on miracle or any accident of His earthly life. Rome, he thinks, is a falling power, but she may get back some of her strength in any great industrial calamity—a revolution, for example. Someone once asked him which he would choose, a Black tyranny, or a Red? He replied "On the whole, I think a Black." The friend corrected him. "You are wrong. Men would soon emerge from the ruins of a Red tyranny, but Rome never lets go her power till it is torn from her."
His contempt for the idea of reunion with Rome in her present condition is unmeasured. "The notion almost reminds us of the cruel jest of Mezentius, who bound the living bodies of his enemies to corpses." It is the contempt both of a great scholar and a great Englishman for ignorance and a somewhat ludicrous pretension. "The caput orbis has become provincial, and her authority is spurned even within her own borders." England could not kneel at this Italian footstool without ceasing to be England.
[Footnote 6: "There are, after all, few emotions of which one has less reason to be ashamed than the little lump in the throat which the Englishman feels when he first catches sight of the white cliffs of Dover."—Outspoken essays, p. 58.]
"A profound reconstruction is demanded," he says, "and for those who have eyes to see has been already for some time in progress. The new type of Christianity will be more Christian than the old, because it will be more moral. A number of unworthy beliefs about God are being tacitly dropped, and they are so treated because they are unworthy of Him."
He sees the future of Christianity as a deep moral and spiritual power in the hearts and minds of men who have at length learned the value of the new currency, and have exchanged profession for experience.
But this Erasmus, far more learned than the other, and with a courage which far exceeds the other's, and with an impatience of nature, an irritability of mind, which the other seldom knew, is nevertheless patient of change. He does not lead as decisively as he might. He does not strike as often as he should at the head of error. Perhaps he is still thinking. Perhaps he has not yet made up his mind whether "Art is a Crime or only an Absurdity," whether Clergymen ought to be multiplied or exterminated, whether in general we are getting on, and if so where we are going to.
I feel myself that his mind is made up, though he is still thinking and still seeking; and I attribute his indecision as a leader, his want of weight in the affairs of mankind, to one fatal deficiency in his mysticism. It is, I presume to suggest, a mysticism which is separated by no gulf from egoism—egoism of the highest order and the most spiritual character, but still egoism. In his quest of God he is not conscious of others. He thinks of mankind with interest, not with affection. Humanity is a spectacle, not a brotherhood.
When one speaks to him of the confusion and anarchy in the religious world, and suggests how hard it is for the average man to know which way he should follow, he replies: "Yes, I'm afraid it's a bad time for the ordinary man." But then he has laid it down, "There is not the slightest probability that the largest crowd will ever be gathered in front of the narrow gate." Still one could wish that he felt in his heart something of the compassion of his Master for those who have taken the road of destruction.
He attaches great importance to preaching. He does not at all agree with the sneer at "preaching-shops." That is a convenient sneer for the younger generation of ritualists who have nothing to say and who perform ceremonies they don't understand; not much meaning there for the modern man. No; preaching is a most important office, although no other form of professional work is done anything like so badly. But a preacher who has something to say will always attract intelligent people.
One does not discuss with him the kind of preaching necessary to convert unintelligent people. That would be to take this great philosopher out of his depth.
As for the Oxford Movement, he regards it as a changeling. His grandfather, an archdeacon, was a Tractarian, a friend of Pusey, a scholar acquainted with all the doctors; but he was not a ritualist; he did not even adopt the eastward position. The modern ritualist is hardly to be considered the lineal descendant of these great scholars. "Romanticism, which dotes on ruins, shrinks from real restoration . . . a Latin Church in England which disowns the Pope is an absurdity."
No, the future belongs to clear thinking and rigorous honesty of the intellect.
Dr. Inge began life as the fag of Bishop Ryle at Eton—the one now occupying the Deanery of St. Paul's; the other the Deanery of Westminster, both scholars and the friendship still remaining. He was a shy and timorous boy. No one anticipated the amazingly brilliant career which followed at Cambridge, and even then few suspected him of original genius until he became Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity in 1907. His attempts to be a schoolmaster were unsuccessful. He was not good at maintaining discipline, and deafness somewhat intensified a nervous irritability which at times puts an enormous strain on his patience. Nor did he make any notable impression as Vicar of All Saints', Ennismore Gardens, a parochial experience which lasted two years. Slowly he made his way as author and lecturer, and it was not until he came to St. Paul's that the world realised the greatness of his mind and the richness of his genius.
As a correction to the popular delusion concerning his temperament and outlook, although, I must confess, there is something about him suggestive of a London Particular, I will quote in conclusion a few of the many witty epigrams which are scattered throughout his pages, showing that he has a sense of humour which is not always discernible in those who would laugh him away as an unprofitable depressionist.
The clerical profession was a necessity when most people could neither read nor write.
Seminaries for the early training of future clergymen may indeed be established; but beds of exotics cannot be raised by keeping the gardeners in greenhouses while the young plants are in the open air.
It is becoming impossible for those who mix at all with their fellow-men to believe that the grace of God is distributed denominationally.
Like other idealisms, patriotism varies from a noble devotion to a moral lunacy.
Our clergy are positively tumbling over each other in their eagerness to be appointed court-chaplain to King Demos.
A generation which travels sixty miles an hour must be five times as civilised as one which only travels twelve.
It is not certain that there has been much change in our intellectual and moral adornments since pithecanthropus dropped the first half of his name.
I cannot help hoping that the human race, having taken in succession every path except the right one, may pay more attention to the narrow way that leadeth unto life.
It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism, while the wolf remains of a different opinion.
After the second century, the apologists for the priesthood are in smooth waters.
Not everyone can warm both hands before the fire of life without scorching himself in the process.
It is quite as easy to hypnotise oneself into imbecility by repeating in solemn tones, "Progress, Democracy, Corporate Unity," as by the blessed word Mesopotamia, or, like the Indians, by repeating the mystic word "Om" five hundred times in succession.
I have lived long enough to hear the Zeitgeist invoked to bless very different theories.
. . . as if it were a kind of impiety not to float with the stream, a feat which any dead dog can accomplish. . . .
An appendix is as superfluous at the end of the human caecum as at the end of a volume of light literature.
The "traditions of the first six centuries" are the traditions of the rattle and the feeding bottle.
In speaking to me last year of the crowded waiting-lists of the Public Schools, he said: "It is no longer enough to put down the name of one's son on the day he is born, one must write well ahead of that: 'I am expecting to have a son next year, or the year after, and shall be obliged if—' The congestion is very great, in spite of the increasing fees and the supertax."
Much of his journalism, by the way, has the education of his children for its excuse and its consecration—children to whom the Dean of St. Paul's reveals in their nursery a side of his character wholly and beautifully different from the popular legend.
There is no greater mind in the Church of England, no greater mind, I am disposed to think, in the English nation. His intellect has the range of an Acton, his forthrightness is the match of Dr. Johnson's, and his wit, less biting though little less courageous than Voltaire's, has the illuminating quality, if not the divine playfulness, of the wit of Socrates.
But he lacks that profound sympathy with the human race which gives to moral decisiveness the creative energy of the great fighter. A lesser man than Erasmus left a greater mark on the sixteenth century.
The righteous saying of Bacon obstinately presents itself to our mind and seems to tarry for an explanation: "The nobler a soul is, the more objects of compassion it hath."
KNOX, REV. RONALD ARBUTHNOTT; b. 17th Feb., 2888; 4th s. of the Rt. Rev. E.A. Knox, Bishop of Manchester. Ethuc.: Eton (1st Scholarship); Balliol College, Oxford (1st Scholarship). Hertford Scholarship, 1907; Second in Honour Moderations, 1908; Ireland and Craven Scholarship, 1908; 1st in Litt. Hum., 1910; Fellow and Lecturer at Trinity College, Oxford, 1910; Chaplain, 1912; Resigned, 1917; received into the Church of Rome, September, 1917.
Our new curate preached, a pretty hopefull young man, yet somewhat raw, newly come from college, full of Latine sentences, which in time will weare off.—JOHN EVELYN.
There is a story that when Father Knox was an undergraduate at Oxford he sat down one day to choose whether he would be an agnostic or a Roman Catholic. "But is there not some doubt in the matter?" inquired a friend of mine, to whom I repeated the tale. "Did he really sit down and choose, or did he only toss up?"
The story, of course, is untrue. It has its origin in the delightful wit and brilliant playfulness of the young priest. Everybody loves him, and nobody takes him seriously.
Few men of his intellectual stature have been received with so little trumpet-blowing into the Roman Catholic Church, and none at all, I think, has so imperceptibly retired from the Church of England. For all the interest it excited, the secession of this extremely brilliant person might have been the secession of a sacristan or a pew-opener. He did not so much "go over to Rome" as sidle away from the Church of England.
But this secession is well worth the attention of religious students. It is an act of personality which helps one to understand the theological chaos of the present-time, and a deed of temperament which illumines some of the more obscure movements of religious psychology. Ronnie Knox, as everybody calls him, the eyes lighting up at the first mention of his name, has gone over to the Roman Catholic Church, not by any means with a smile of cynicism on his face, but rather with the sweat of a struggle still clinging to his soul.
He is the son of an Anglican bishop, a good man whose strong evangelical convictions led him, among many other similar activities, to hold missionary services on the sands of Blackpool. His mother died in his infancy, and he was brought up largely with uncles and aunts, but his own home, of which he speaks always with reverence and affection, was a kind and vigorous establishment, a home well calculated to develop his scholarly wit and his love of mischievous fun. Nothing in his surroundings made for gloom or for a Calvinism of the soul. The swiftness of his intellectual development might have made him sceptical of theology in general, but no influence in his home was likely in any way to make him sceptical of his father's theology in particular.
He went to Eton, and the religion in which he had been brought up stood the moral test of the most critical years in boyhood. It never failed him, and he never questioned it. But when that trial was over, and after an illness which shook up his body and mind, he came under the influence of a matron who held with no little force of character the views of the Anglo-Catholic party. These views stole gradually into the mind of the rather effeminate boy, and although they did not make him question the theology of his father for some years, he soon found himself thinking of the religious opinions of his uncles and aunts with a certain measure of superiority.
"I began to feel," he told me, "that I was living in a rather provincial world—the world described by Wells and Arnold Bennett."
This restlessness, this desire to escape into a greater and more beautiful world, pursued him to Oxford, and, for the moment, he found that greater and beautiful world in the life of Balliol. Bishop Ryle, a good judge, has spoken to me of the young man's extraordinary facility at turning English poetry at sight into the most melodious Greek and Latin, and of the remarkable range of his scholarship. He himself has told us of his love of port and bananas, his joy in early morning celebrations in the chapel of Pusey House, his tea-parties, his delight in debates at the Union, of which he became President, and of his many friendships with undergraduates of a witty and flippant turn of mind. Like many effeminate natures, he was glad of opportunities to prove himself a good fellow. In spite of no heel-taps when the port went round, he won the Hertford in 1907, the Ireland and Craven in 1908, and in 1910 took a first in Greats.