“Then there is the religious formalism of the Eppings and their friends. They are High Church. They discuss with astonishing vigour and at dreadful length what seems to me the most immaterial points in the Church service, and just at present an impulse is given to their zeal by the fact of their favourite clergyman being threatened with a prosecution for ritualistic practices. Of course I have to feign a becoming interest in all this, and to take part in all their religious forms and ceremonies. And indeed it is all so new to me that I have scarcely yet got over the first feelings of wonder and curiosity.
“Have I not, then, you will ask, the courage of my opinions? But indeed my religious opinions are so strangely different from those which prevail here, that I fear it would be impossible to make my thoughts clear to these good people. They would scarcely esteem me a Christian; and yet I cannot but think that it is they who are widely astray from Christian belief and practice. The other evening the clergyman dined with us, and throughout the meal discussions of the rubric alternated with talk about delicacies of the table! That the rubric should be so interesting amazes me, but that an earnest Christian should think it compatible with his religion to show the slightest concern in what he shall eat or drink is unspeakably strange to me. Surely, if Christianity means anything it means asceticism. My experience of the world is so slight. I believe this is the first clergyman I ever met in private life. Surely they cannot all be thus?
“I knew well how far the world at large had passed from true Christianity; that has been impressed upon me from my childhood. But how strange it seems to me to hear proposed as a remedy the formalism to which my friends here pin their faith! How often have I burned to speak up among them, and ask—’What think ye, then, of Christ? Is He, or is He not, our exemplar? Was not His life meant to exhibit to us the ideal of the completest severance from the world which is consistent with human existence? To follow Him, should we not, at least in the spirit, cast off everything which may tempt us to consider life, as life, precious?’ We cannot worship both God and the world, and yet nowadays Christians seem to make a merit of doing so. When I conceive a religious revival, my thought does not in the least concern itself with forms and ceremonies. I imagine another John the Baptist inciting the people, with irresistible fervour, to turn from their sins—that is, from the world and all its concerns —and to purify themselves by Renunciation. What they call ‘Progress,’ I take to be the veritable Kingdom of Antichrist. The world is evil, life is evil; only by renunciation of the very desire for life can we fulfil the Christian idea. What then of the civilisation which endeavours to make the world more and more pleasant as a dwelling-place, life more and more desirable for its own sake?