And since the belief in personality is the belief in human life in its fullest and truest form, it includes the belief in love and self-sacrifice. It may, indeed, be said that while Mr. Browning’s judgments are leavened by the one idea, they are steadily coloured by the other; this again being so evident to his serious renders that I need only indicate it here. But the love of love does more than colour his views of life; it is an essential element in his theology; and it converts what would otherwise be a pure Theism into a mystical Christianity which again is limited by his rejection of all dogmatic religious truth. I have already alluded to his belief that, though the Deity is not to be invested with human emotions, He can only be reached through them. Love, according to him, is the necessary channel; since a colourless Omnipotence is outside the conception as outside the sympathies of man. Christ is a message of Divine love, indispensable and therefore true; but He is, as such, a spiritual mystery far more than a definable or dogmatic fact. A definite revelation uttered for all men and for all time is denied by the first principles of Mr. Browning’s religious belief. What Christianity means for him, and what it does not, we shall also see in his works.
It is almost superfluous to add that Mr. Browning’s dramatic sympathies and metaphysical or religious ideas constitute him an optimist. He believes that no experience is wasted, and that all life is good in its way. We also see that his optimism takes the individual and not the race for its test and starting point; and that he places the tendency to good in a conscious creative power which is outside both, and which deals directly with each separate human soul. But neither must we forget that the creative purpose, as he conceives it, fulfils itself equally through good and evil; so that he does not shrink from the contemplation of evil or by any means always seek to extenuate it. He thinks of it philosophically as a condition of good, or again, as an excess or a distortion of what is good; but he can also think of it, in the natural sense, as a distinct mode of being which a bad man may prefer for its own sake, as a good man prefers its opposite, and may defend accordingly. He would gladly admit that the coarser forms of evil are passing away; and that it is the creative intention that they should do so. Evil remains for him nevertheless essential to the variety, and invested with the dignity of human life; and on no point does he detach himself so clearly from the humanitarian optimist who regards evil and its attendant sufferings as a mere disturbance to life. Even where suffering is not caused by evil doing, he is helped over it by his individual point of view; because this prevents his ever regarding it as distinct from the personal compensations which it so often brings into play. He cannot think of it in the mass; and here again his theism asserts itself, though in a less obvious manner.