Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
Aurea, still printed in the list of his works, is a memorial—­to the frankest form of Liberal thought.  As he himself writes, we cannot give up early beliefs, much less the deep and deliberate convictions of manhood, without some shock to the character.  In his case the change certainly worked.  It made him hate what he had left, and all that was like it, with the bitterness of one who has been imposed upon, and has been led to commit himself to what he now feels to be absurd and contemptible, and the bitterness of this disappointment gave an edge to all his work.  There seems through all his criticism, powerful as it is, a tone of harshness, a readiness to take the worst construction, a sad consciousness of distrust and suspicion of all things round him, which greatly weakens the effect of his judgment.  If a man will only look for the worst side, he will only find the worst side; but we feel that we act reasonably by not accepting such a teacher as our guide, however ably he may state his case.  There is a want of equitableness and fairness in his stern and sometimes cruel condemnations; and yet not religion only, but the wisest wisdom of the world tells of the indispensable value of this equitableness, this old Greek virtue of [Greek:  epieikeia], in our views of men and things.  It is not religion only, but common sense which says that “sweetness and light,” kindliness, indulgence, sympathy, are necessary for moral and spiritual health.  Scorn, indignation, keenly stinging sarcasm, doubtless have their place in a world in which untruth and baseness abound and flourish; but to live on these is poison, at least to oneself.

These fierce antipathies warped his judgment in strange and unexpected ways.  Among these papers is a striking one on Calvin.  If any character in history might be expected to have little attraction for him it is Calvin.  Dogmatist, persecutor, tyrant, the proud and relentless fanatic, who more than any one consecrated harsh narrowness in religion by cruel theories about God, what was there to recommend him to a lover of liberty who had no patience for ecclesiastical pretensions of any kind, and who tells us that Calvin’s “sins against human liberty are of the deepest dye”?  For if Laud chastised his adversaries with whips, Calvin chastised his with scorpions.  Perhaps it is unreasonable to be suprised, yet we are taken by surprise, when we find a thinker like Mr. Pattison drawn by strong sympathy to Calvin and setting him up among the heroes and liberators of humanity.  Mr. Pattison is usually fair in details, that is, he does not suppress bad deeds or qualities in those whom he approves, or good deeds or qualities in those whom he hates:  it is in his general judgments that his failing comes out.  He makes no attempt to excuse the notorious features of Calvin’s rule at Geneva; but Mr. Pattison reads into his character a purpose and a grandeur which place him far above any other man of his day.  To recommend him to

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Occasional Papers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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