Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
and of the power of combining and constructing, and never wearied out or dispirited, his mind took in large and grand ideas, and developed them with enthusiasm and success, and with all the resources of wide and varied knowledge; but the affluence and ingenuity of his thoughts indisposed him, as it indisposes many other able men, to the prosaic and uninteresting work of calling these thoughts into question, and cross-examining himself upon their grounds and tenableness.  He tried too much; the multiplicity of his intellectual interests was too much for him, and he often thought that he was explaining when he was but weaving a wordy tissue, and “darkening counsel” as much as any of the theological sciolists whom he denounced.  People, for instance, must, it seems to us, be very easily satisfied who find any fresh light in the attempt, not unfrequent in his letters, to adapt the Lutheran watchword of Justification by faith to modern ideas.  He was very rapid, and this rapidity made him hasty and precipitate; it also made him apt to despise other men, and, what was of more consequence, the difficulties of the subject likewise.  Others did not always find it easy to understand him; and it may fairly be questioned if he always sufficiently asked whether he understood himself.  He was generous and large-spirited in intention, though not always so in fact.

Doubtless so much knowledge, so much honest and unsparing toil, such freshness and quickness of thought, have not been wasted; there will always be much to learn from Bunsen’s writings.  But his main service has been the moral one of his example; of his ardent and high-souled industry, of his fearlessness in accepting the conclusions of his inquiries, of his untiring faith through many changes and some disappointments that there is a way to reconcile all the truths that interest men—­those of religion, and those of nature and history.  The sincerity and earnestness with which he attempted this are a lesson to everybody; his success is more difficult to recognise, and it may perhaps be allowable to wish that he had taken more exactly the measure of the great task which he set to himself.  His ambition was a high one.  He aspired to be the Luther of the new 1517 which he so often dwelt upon, and to construct a theology which, without breaking with the past, should show what Christianity really is, and command the faith and fill the opening thought of the present.  It can hardly be said that he succeeded.  The Church of the Future still waits its interpreter, to make good its pretensions to throw the ignorant and mistaken Church of the Past into the shade.



  A Memoir of the Rev. John Keble.  By the Right Hon. Sir J.T. 
  Coleridge. Saturday Review, 20th March 1860.

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