Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
critic, a brilliant master of historical representation; but he has never yet come face to face with the problems of religion.  His love of truth may be unimpeachable, but he docs not know what he is talking about.  M. Renan speaks of giving up his religion as a man might speak of accepting a new and unpopular physical hypothesis like evolution, or of making up his mind to give up the personality of Homer or the early history of Rome.  Such an interior attitude of mind towards religion as is implied, for instance, in Bishop Butler’s Sermons on the Love of God, or the De Imitatione or Newman’s Parochial Sermons seems to him, as far as we can judge, an unknown and unattempted experience.  It is easy to deal with a question if you leave out half the factors of it, and those the most difficult and the most serious.  It is easy to be clear if you do not choose to take notice of the mysterious, and if you exclude from your consideration as vague and confused all that vast department of human concerns where we at best can only “see through a glass darkly.”  It is easy to find the world a pleasant and comfortable and not at all perplexing place, if your life has been, as M. Renan describes his own, a “charming promenade” through it; if, as he says, you are blessed with “a good humour not easily disturbed “; and you “have not suffered much”; and “nature has prepared cushions to soften shocks”; and you have “had so much enjoyment in this life that you really have no right to claim any compensation beyond it.”  That is M. Renan’s experience of life—­a life of which he looks forward to the perfection in the clearness and security of its possible denials of ancient beliefs, and in the immense development of its positive and experimental knowledge.  How would Descartes have rejoiced, he says, if he could have seen some poor treatise on physics or cosmography of our day, and what would we not give to catch a glimpse of such an elementary schoolbook of a hundred years hence.

But that is not at any rate the experience of all the world, nor does it appear likely ever to be within the reach of all the world.  There is another aspect of life more familiar than this, an aspect which has presented itself to the vast majority of mankind, the awful view of it which is made tragic by pain and sorrow and moral evil; which, in the way in which religion looks at it, if it is sterner, is also higher and nobler, and is brightened by hope and purposes of love; a view which puts more upon men and requires more from them, but holds before them a destiny better than the perfection here of physical science.  To minds which realise all this, it is more inconceivable than any amount of miracle that such a religion as Christianity should have emerged naturally out of the conditions of the first century.  They refuse to settle such a question by the short and easy method on which M. Renan relies; they will not consent to put it on questions about the two Isaiahs, or about

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Occasional Papers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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