Saturday Review, 6th April 1872.
This Easter week we have lost a man about whom opinions and feelings were much divided, who was by many of the best and most thoughtful among us looked on as the noblest and greatest of recent English teachers, and who certainly had that rare gift of inspiring enthusiasm and trust among honest and powerful minds in search of guidance, which belongs to none but to men of a very high order. Professor Maurice has ended a life of the severest and most unceasing toil, still working to the utmost that failing bodily strength allowed—still to the last in harness. The general public, though his name is familiar to them, probably little measure the deep and passionate affection with which he was regarded by the circle of his friends and by those whose thoughts and purposes he had moulded; or the feeling which his loss causes in them of a blank, great and not to be filled up, not only personally for themselves, but in the agencies which are working most hopefully in English society. But even those who knew him least, and only from the outside, and whose points of view least coincided with his, must feel that there has been, now that we look back on his course, something singularly touching and even pathetic in the combination shown in all that he did, of high courage and spirit, and of unwearied faith and vigour, with the deepest humility and with the sincerest disinterestedness and abnegation, which never allowed him to seek anything great for himself, and, in fact, distinguished and honoured as he was, never found it. For the sake of his generation we may regret that he did not receive the public recognition and honour which were assuredly his due; but in truth his was one of those careers which, for their own completeness and consistency, gain rather than lose by escaping the distractions and false lights of what is called preferment.
The two features which strike us at the moment as characteristic of Mr. Maurice as a writer and teacher, besides the vast range both of his reading and thought, and the singularly personal tone and language of all that he wrote, are, first, the combination in him of the most profound and intense religiousness with the most boundless claim and exercise of intellectual liberty; and next, the value which he set, exemplifying his estimate in his own long and laborious course, on processes and efforts, as compared with conclusions and definite results, in that pursuit of truth which was to him the most sacred of duties. There is no want of earnest and fervent religion among us, intelligent, well-informed, deliberate, as well as of religion, to which these terms can hardly be applied. And there is also no want of the boldest and most daring freedom of investigation and judgment. But what Mr. Maurice seemed to see himself, and what he endeavoured to impress on others, was that religion and liberty are no natural enemies, but that the deepest and most absorbing forms of historical and traditional religion draw strength and seriousness of meaning, and binding obligation, from an alliance, frank and unconditional, with what seem to many the risks, the perilous risks and chances, of freedom.