On the Old Road, Vol. 2 (of 2) - A Collection of Miscellaneous Essays and Articles on Art and Literature
by John Ruskin
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221. But how to unite the two great sects of paralyzed Protestants? By keeping simply to Scripture. The members of the Scottish Church have not a shadow of excuse for refusing Episcopacy; it has indeed been abused among them, grievously abused; but it is in the Bible; and that is all they have a right to ask.

They have also no shadow of excuse for refusing to employ a written form of prayer. It may not be to their taste—it may not be the way in which they like to pray; but it is no question, at present, of likes or dislikes, but of duties; and the acceptance of such a form on their part would go half-way to reconcile them with their brethren. Let them allege such objections as they can reasonably advance against the English form, and let these be carefully and humbly weighed by the pastors of both churches: some of them ought to be at once forestalled. For the English Church, on the other hand, must cut the term Priest entirely out of her Prayer-book, and substitute for it that of Minister or Elder; the passages respecting Absolution must be thrown out also, except the doubtful one in the Morning Service, in which there is no harm; and then there would be only the Baptismal question left, which is one of words rather than of things, and might easily be settled in Synod, turning the refractory Clergy out of their offices, to go to Rome if they chose. Then, when the Articles of Faith and form of worship had been agreed upon between the English and Scottish Churches, the written forms and articles should be carefully translated into the European languages, and offered to the acceptance of the Protestant churches on the Continent, with earnest entreaty that they would receive them, and due entertainment of all such objections as they could reasonably allege; and thus the whole body of Protestants, united in one great Fold, would indeed go in and out, and find pasture; and the work appointed for them would be done quickly, and Antichrist overthrown.

222. Impossible: a thousand times impossible!—I hear it exclaimed against me. No—not impossible. Christ does not order impossibilities, and He has ordered us to be at peace one with another. Nay, it is answered—He came not to send peace, but a sword. Yes, verily: to send a sword upon earth, but not within His Church; for to His Church He said, "My Peace I leave with you."


[Footnote 140: I may, perhaps, have missed count of one or two occurrences of the word; but not, I think, in any important passages.]

[Footnote 141: The expression "House of God," in 1 Tim. iii. 15, is shown to be used of the congregation by 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17.

I have not noticed the word [Greek: kyriake (oikia)] from which the German "Kirche," the English "Church," and the Scotch "Kirk" are derived, as it is not used with that signification in the New Testament.]

[Footnote 142: Any reference except to Scripture, in notes of this kind would, of course, be useless: the argument from, or with, the Fathers is not to be compressed into fifty pages. I have something to say about Hooker; but I reserve that for another time, not wishing to say it hastily, or to leave it without support.]

[Footnote 143: Acts x. 44.]

[Footnote 144: Let not the reader be displeased with me for these short and apparently insolent statements of opinion. I am not writing insolently, but as shortly and clearly as I can; and when I seriously believe a thing, I say so in a few words, leaving the reader to determine what my belief is worth. But I do not choose to temper down every expression of personal opinion into courteous generalities, and so lose space, and time, and intelligibility at once. We are utterly oppressed in these days by our courtesies, and considerations, and compliances, and proprieties. Forgive me them, this once, or rather let us all forgive them to each other, and learn to speak plainly first, and, if it may be, gracefully afterwards; and not only to speak, but to stand by what we have spoken. One of my Oxford friends heard, the other day, that I was employed on these notes, and forthwith wrote to me, in a panic, not to put my name to them, for fear I should "compromise myself." I think we are most of us compromised to some extent already, when England has sent a Roman Catholic minister to the second city in Italy, and remains herself for a week without any government, because her chief men cannot agree upon the position which a Popish cardinal is to have leave to occupy in London.]

[Footnote 145: Matt. xxiv. 4; Mark xiii. 5; Luke xxi. 8; 1 Cor. iii. 18, vi. 9, xv. 33; Eph. iv. 14, v. 6; Col. ii. 8; 2 Thess. ii. 3; Heb. iii. 13; 1 John i. 8, iii. 7; 2 John 7, 8.]

[Footnote 146: [Greek: exousia] in 1 Cor. ix. 12. 2 Thess, iii. 9.]

[Footnote 147: (Carlyle, "Past and Present," chapter xi.) Can anything be more striking than the repeated warnings of St. Paul against strife of words; and his distinct setting forth of Action as the only true means of attaining knowledge of the truth, and the only sign of men's possessing the true faith? Compare 1 Timothy vi. 4, 20, (the latter verse especially, in connection with the previous three,) and 2 Timothy ii. 14, 19, 22, 23, tracing the connection here also; add Titus i. 10, 14, 16, noting "in works they deny him," and Titus iii. 8, 9, "affirm constantly that they be careful to maintain good works; but avoid foolish questions;" and finally, 1 Timothy i. 4-7: a passage which seems to have been especially written for these times.]

[Footnote 148: I leave, in the main text, the abstract question of the fitness of Episcopacy unapproached, not feeling any call to speak of it at length at present; all that I feel necessary to be said is, that bishops being granted, it is clear that we have too few to do their work. But the argument from the practice of the Primitive Church appears to me to be of enormous weight,—nor have I ever heard any rational plea alleged against Episcopacy, except that, like other things, it is capable of abuse, and has sometimes been abused; and as, altogether clearly and indisputably, there is described in the Bible an episcopal office, distinct from the merely ministerial one; and, apparently, also an episcopal officer attached to each church, and distinguished in the Revelation as an Angel, I hold the resistance of the Scotch Presbyterian Church to Episcopacy to be unscriptural, futile, and schismatic.]

[Footnote 149: "By just judgment be deposed," Art. 26.]

[Footnote 150: The difference between the authority of doctrine and discipline is beautifully marked in 2 Timothy ii. 25, and Titus ii. 12-15. In the first passage, the servant of God, teaching divine doctrine, must not strive, but must "in meekness instruct those that oppose themselves;" in the second passage, teaching us "that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts he is to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world," the minister is to speak, exhort, and rebuke with ALL AUTHORITY—both functions being expressed as united in 2 Timothy iv. 3.]

[Footnote 151: Observe, this and the following conclusions depend entirely on the supposition that the Government is part of the Body of the Church, and that some pains have been taken to compose it of religious and wise men. If we choose, knowingly and deliberately, to compose our Parliament, in great part, of infidels and Papists, gamblers and debtors, we may well regret its power over the Clerical officer; but that we should, at any time, so compose our Parliament, is a sign that the Clergy themselves have failed in their duty, and the Church in its watchfulness;—thus the evil accumulates in reaction. Whatever I say of the responsibility or authority of Government, is therefore to be understood only as sequent on what I have said previously of the necessity of closely circumscribing the Church, and then composing the Civil Government out of the circumscribed Body. Thus, all Papists would at once be rendered incapable of share in it being subjected to the second or most severe degree of excommunication—first, as idolaters, by 1 Cor. v. 10; then as covetous and extortioners (selling absolution,) by the same text; and, finally, as heretics and maintainers of falsehoods, by Titus iii. 10, and 1 Tim. iv. 1.

I do not write this hastily, nor without earnest consideration both, of the difficulty and the consequences of such Church Discipline. But either the Bible is a superannuated book, and is only to be read as a record of past days; or these things follow from it, clearly and inevitably. That we live in days when the Bible has become impracticable, is (if it be so) the very thing I desire to be considered. I am not setting down these plans or schemes as at present possible. I do not know how far they are possible; but it seems to me that God has plainly commanded them, and that, therefore, their impracticability is a thing to be meditated on.]

[Footnote 152: Exod. xxi. 15.]





223. DEAR MR. MALLESON,—I could not at once answer your important letter; for, though I felt at once the impossibility of my venturing to address such an audience as you proposed, I am unwilling to fail in answering to any call relating to matters respecting which my feelings have been long in earnest, if in any wise it may be possible for me to be of service therein. My health—or want of it—now utterly forbids my engagement in any duty involving excitement or acute intellectual effort; but I think, before the first Tuesday in August, I might be able to write one or two letters to yourself, referring to, and more or less completing, some passages already printed in Fors and elsewhere, which might, on your reading any portions you thought available, become matter of discussion during the meeting at some leisure time, after its own main purposes had been answered.

At all events, I will think over what I should like, and be able, to represent to such a meeting, and only beg you not to think me insensible of the honor done me by your wish, and of the gravity of the trust reposed in me.

Ever most faithfully yours, J. RUSKIN.



BRANTWOOD, CONISTON, 23rd June, 1879.

224. DEAR MR. MALLESON,—Walking, and talking, are now alike impossible to me;[155] my strength is gone for both; nor do I believe talking on such matters to be of the least use except to promote, between sensible people, kindly feeling and knowledge of each other's personal characters. I have every trust in your kindness and truth; nor do I fear being myself misunderstood by you; what I may be able to put into written form, so as to admit of being laid before your friends in council, must be set down without any question of personal feeling—as simply as a mathematical question or demonstration.

225. The first exact question which it seems to me such an assembly may be earnestly called upon by laymen to solve, is surely axiomatic: the definition of themselves as a body, and of their business as such.

Namely: as clergymen of the Church of England, do they consider themselves to be so called merely as the attached servants of a particular state? Do they, in their quality of guides, hold a position similar to that of the guides of Chamouni or Grindelwald, who, being a numbered body of examined and trustworthy persons belonging to those several villages, have nevertheless no Chamounist or Grindelwaldist opinions on the subject of Alpine geography or glacier walking; but are prepared to put into practice a common and universal science of Locality and Athletics, founded on sure survey and successful practice? Are the clergymen of the Ecclesia of England thus simply the attached and salaried guides of England and the English, in the way, known of all good men, that leadeth unto life?—or are they, on the contrary, a body of men holding, or in any legal manner required, or compelled to hold, opinions on the subject—say, of the height of the Celestial Mountains, the crevasses which go down quickest to the pit, and other cognate points of science—differing from, or even contrary to, the tenets of the guides of the Church of France, the Church of Italy, and other Christian countries?

Is not this the first of all questions which a Clerical Council has to answer in open terms?

Ever affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.


BRANTWOOD, 6th July.

226. My first letter contained a Layman's plea for a clear answer to the question, "What is a clergyman of the Church of England?" Supposing the answer to this first to be, that the clergy of the Church of England are teachers, not of the Gospel to England, but of the Gospel to all nations; and not of the Gospel of Luther, nor of the Gospel of Augustine, but of the Gospel of Christ,—then the Layman's second question would be:

Can this Gospel of Christ be put into such plain words and short terms as that a plain man may understand it?—and, if so, would it not be, in a quite primal sense, desirable that it should be so, rather than left to be gathered out of Thirty-nine Articles, written by no means in clear English, and referring, for further explanation of exactly the most important point in the whole tenor of their teaching,[156] to a "Homily of Justification,"[157] which is not generally in the possession, or even probably within the comprehension, of simple persons?

Ever faithfully yours, J. RUSKIN.


BRANTWOOD, 8th July.

227. I am so very glad that you approve of the letter plan, as it enables me to build up what I would fain try to say, of little stones, without lifting too much for my strength at once; and the sense of addressing a friend who understands me and sympathizes with me prevents my being brought to a stand by continual need for apology, or fear of giving offense.

But yet I do not quite see why you should feel my asking for a simple and comprehensible statement of the Christian Gospel at starting. Are you not bid to go into all the world and preach it to every creature? (I should myself think the clergyman most likely to do good who accepted the [Greek: pase the ktisei] so literally as at least to sympathize with St. Francis' sermon to the birds, and to feel that feeding either sheep or fowls, or unmuzzling the ox, or keeping the wrens alive in the snow, would be received by their Heavenly Feeder as the perfect fulfillment of His "Feed my sheep" in the higher sense.)[158]

228. That's all a parenthesis; for although I should think that your good company would all agree that kindness to animals was a kind of preaching to them, and that hunting and vivisection were a kind of blasphemy to them, I want only to put the sterner question before your council, how this Gospel is to be preached either [Greek: pantachou]" or to "[Greek: panta ta ethne] if first its preachers have not determined quite clearly what it is? And might not such definition, acceptable to the entire body of the Church of Christ, be arrived at by merely explaining, in their completeness and life, the terms of the Lord's Prayer—the first words taught to children all over the Christian world?

I will try to explain what I mean of its several articles, in following letters; and in answer to the question with which you close your last, I can only say that you are at perfect liberty to use any, or all, or any parts of them, as you think good. Usually, when I am asked if letters of mine may be printed, I say: "Assuredly, provided only that you print them entire." But in your hands, I withdraw even this condition, and trust gladly to your judgment, remaining always

Faithfully and affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.



[Greek: pater hemon ho en tois ouranois]

Pater noster qui es in caelis.

BRANTWOOD, 10th July.

229. My meaning, in saying that the Lord's Prayer might be made a foundation of Gospel-teaching, was not that it contained all that Christian ministers have to teach; but that it contains what all Christians are agreed upon as first to be taught; and that no good parish-working pastor in any district of the world but would be glad to take his part in making it clear and living to his congregation.

And the first clause of it, of course rightly explained, gives us the ground of what is surely a mighty part of the Gospel—its "first and great commandment," namely, that we have a Father whom we can love, and are required to love, and to desire to be with Him in Heaven, wherever that may be.

And to declare that we have such a loving Father, whose mercy is over all His works, and whose will and law is so lovely and lovable that it is sweeter than honey, and more precious than gold, to those who can "taste" and "see" that the Lord is Good—this, surely, is a most pleasant and glorious good message and spell to bring to men—as distinguished from the evil message and accursed spell that Satan has brought to the nations of the world instead of it, that they have no Father, but only "a consuming fire" ready to devour them, unless they are delivered from its raging flame by some scheme of pardon for all, for which they are to be thankful, not to the Father, but to the Son.

Supposing this first article of the true Gospel agreed to, how would the blessing that closes the epistles of that Gospel become intelligible and living, instead of dark and dead: "The grace of Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost,"—the most tender word being that used of the Father?


[Greek: hagiastheto to onoma sou]

Sanctificetur nomen tuum.

BRANTWOOD, 12th July, 1879.

230. I wonder how many, even of those who honestly and attentively join in our Church services, attach any distinct idea to the second clause of the Lord's Prayer, the first petition of it, the first thing that they are ordered by Christ to seek of their Father?

Am I unjust in thinking that most of them have little more notion on the matter than that God has forbidden "bad language," and wishes them to pray that everybody may be respectful to Him?

Is it any otherwise with the Third Commandment? Do not most look on it merely in the light of the statute of swearing? and read the words "will not hold him guiltless" merely as a passionless intimation that however carelessly a man may let out a round oath, there really is something wrong in it?

On the other hand, can anything be more tremendous than the words themselves—double-negatived:

[Greek: "ou gar me katharise ... kurios"]

For other sins there is washing;—for this, none! the seventh verse, Ex. xx., in the Septuagint, marking the real power rather than the English, which (I suppose) is literal to the Hebrew.

To my layman's mind, of practical needs in the present state of the Church, nothing is so immediate as that of explaining to the congregation the meaning of being gathered in His name, and having Him in the midst of them; as, on the other hand, of being gathered in blasphemy of His name, and having the devil in the midst of them—presiding over the prayers which have become an abomination.

231. For the entire body of the texts in the Gospel against hypocrisy are one and all nothing but the expansion of the threatening that closes the Third Commandment. For as "the name whereby He shall be called is THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS,"—so the taking that name in vain is the sum of "the deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish."

Without dwelling on the possibility—which I do not myself, however, for a moment doubt—of an honest clergyman's being able actually to prevent the entrance among his congregation of persons leading openly wicked lives, could any subject be more vital to the purposes of your meetings than the difference between the present and the probable state of the Christian Church which would result, were it more the effort of zealous parish priests, instead of getting wicked poor people to come to church, to get wicked rich ones to stay out of it?

Lest, in any discussion of such question, it might be, as it too often is, alleged that "the Lord looketh upon the heart," etc., let me be permitted to say—with as much positiveness as may express my deepest conviction—that, while indeed it is the Lord's business to look upon the heart, it is the pastor's to look upon the hands and the lips; and that the foulest oaths of the thief and the street-walker are, in the ears of God, sinless as the hawk's cry, or the gnat's murmur, compared to the responses in the Church service, on the lips of the usurer and the adulterer, who have destroyed, not their own souls only, but those of the outcast ones whom they have made their victims.

It is for the meeting of clergymen themselves—not for a layman addressing them—to ask further, how much the name of God may be taken in vain, and profaned instead of hallowed—in the pulpit, as well as under it.

Ever affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.


[Greek: eltheto e basilheia sou]

Adveniat regnum tuum.

BRANTWOOD, 14th July, 1879.

232. DEAR MR. MALLESON,—Sincere thanks for both your letters and the proofs[159] sent. Your comment and conducting link, when needed, will be of the greatest help and value, I am well assured, suggesting what you know will be the probable feeling of your hearers, and the point that will come into question.

Yes, certainly, that "His" in the fourth line was meant to imply that eternal presence of Christ; as in another passage,[160] referring to the Creation, "when His right hand strewed the snow on Lebanon, and smoothed the slopes of Calvary," but in so far as we dwell on that truth, "Hast thou seen Me, Philip, and not the Father?"[161] we are not teaching the people what is specially the Gospel of Christ as having a distinct function—namely, to serve the Father, and do the Father's will. And in all His human relations to us, and commands to us, it is as the Son of Man, not as the "power of God and wisdom of God," that He acts and speaks. Not as the Power; for He must pray, like one of us. Not as the Wisdom; for He must not know "if it be possible" His prayer should be heard.

233. And in what I want to say of the third clause of His prayer (His, not merely as His ordering, but His using), it is especially this comparison between His kingdom, and His Father's, that I want to see the disciples guarded against. I believe very few, even of the most earnest, using that petition, realize that it is the Father's—not the Son's—kingdom, that they pray may come,—although the whole prayer is foundational on that fact: "For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory." And I fancy that the mind of the most faithful Christian is quite led away from its proper hope, by dwelling on the reign—or the coming again—of Christ; which, indeed, they are to look for, and watch for, but not to pray for. Their prayer is to be for the greater kingdom to which He, risen and having all His enemies under His feet, is to surrender His, "that God may be All in All."

And, though the greatest, it is that everlasting kingdom which the poorest of us can advance. We cannot hasten Christ's coming. "Of the day and hour, knoweth none." But the kingdom of God is as a grain of mustard seed:—we can sow of it; it is as a foam-globe of leaven:—we can mingle it; and its glory and its joy are that even the birds of the air can lodge in the branches thereof.

Forgive me for getting back to my sparrows; but truly, in the present state of England, the fowls of the air are the only creatures, tormented and murdered as they are, that yet have here and there nests, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. And it would be well if many of us, in reading that text, "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink," had even got so far as to the understanding that it was at least as much, and that until we had fed the hungry, there was no power in us to inspire the unhappy.

Ever affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.

I will write my feeling about the pieces of the Life of Christ you have sent me, in a private letter. I may say at once that I am sure it will do much good, and will be upright and intelligible, which how few religious writings are!


[Greek: genetheto to thelema sou hos en ourano, kai epi ges.]

Fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra.

BRANTWOOD, 9th August, 1879.

234. I was reading the second chapter of Malachi this morning by chance, and wondering how many clergymen ever read it, and took to heart the "commandment for them."

For they are always ready enough to call themselves priests (though they know themselves to be nothing of the sort) whenever there is any dignity to be got out of the title; but, whenever there is any good, hot scolding or unpleasant advice given them by the prophets, in that self-assumed character of theirs, they are as ready to quit it as ever Dionysus his lion-skin, when he finds the character of Herakles inconvenient. "Ye have wearied the Lord with your words" (yes, and some of His people, too, in your time): "yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied Him? When ye say, Everyone that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?"

How many, again and again I wonder, of the lively young ecclesiastics supplied to the increasing demand of our west-ends of flourishing Cities of the Plain, ever consider what sort of sin it is for which God (unless they lay it to heart) will "curse their blessings, and spread dung upon their faces," or have understood, even in the dimmest manner, what part they had taken, and were taking, in "corrupting the covenant of the Lord with Levi, and causing many to stumble at the Law"?

235. Perhaps the most subtle and unconscious way which the religious teachers upon whom the ends of the world are come, have done this, is in never telling their people the meaning of the clause in the Lord's Prayer, which, of all others, their most earnest hearers have oftenest on their lips: "Thy will be done." They allow their people to use it as if their Father's will were always to kill their babies, or do something unpleasant to them, instead of explaining to them that the first and intensest article of their Father's will was their own sanctification, and following comfort and wealth; and that the one only path to national prosperity and to domestic peace was to understand what the will of the Lord was, and to do all they could to get it done. Whereas one would think, by the tone of the eagerest preachers nowadays, that they held their blessed office to be that, not of showing men how to do their Father's will on earth, but how to get to heaven without doing any of it either here or there!

236. I say, especially, the most eager preachers; for nearly the whole Missionary body (with the hottest Evangelistic sect of the English Church) is at this moment composed of men who think the Gospel they are to carry to mend the world with, forsooth, is that, "If any man sin, he hath an Advocate with the Father;" while I have never yet, in my own experience, met either with a Missionary or a Town Bishop who so much as professed himself "to understand what the will of the Lord" was, far less to teach anybody else to do it; and for fifty preachers, yes, and fifty hundreds whom I have heard proclaiming the Mediator of the New Testament, that "they which were called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance," I have never yet heard so much as one heartily proclaiming against all those "deceivers with vain words" (Eph. v. 6), that "no covetous person which is an idolater hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, or of God;" and on myself personally and publicly challenging the Bishops of England generally, and by name the Bishop of Manchester, to say whether usury was, or was not, according to the will of God, I have received no answer from any one of them.[162]

13th August.

237. I have allowed myself, in the beginning of this letter, to dwell on the equivocal use of the word "Priest" in the English Church (see Christopher Harvey, Grosart's edition, p. 38), because the assumption of the mediatorial, in defect of the pastoral, office by the clergy fulfill itself, naturally and always, in their pretending to absolve the sinner from his punishment, instead of purging him from his sin; and practically, in their general patronage and encouragement of all the iniquity of the world, by steadily preaching away the penalties of it. So that the great cities of the earth, which ought to be the places set on its hills, with the temple of the Lord in the midst of them, to which the tribes should go up,[163]—centers to the Kingdoms and Provinces of Honor, Virtue, and the Knowledge of the law of God,—have become, instead, loathsome centers of fornication and covetousness—the smoke of their sin going up into the face of Heaven like the furnace of Sodom, and the pollution of it rotting and raging through the bones and the souls of the peasant people round them, as if they were each a volcano whose ashes broke out in blains upon man and upon beast.[164]

And in the midst of them, their freshly-set-tip steeples ring the crowd to a weekly prayer that the rest of their lives may be pure and holy, while they have not the slightest intention of purifying, sanctifying, or changing their lives in any the smallest particular; and their clergy gather, each into himself, the curious dual power, and Janus-faced majesty in mischief, of the prophet that prophesies falsely, and the priest that bears rule by his means.

And the people love to have it so.

BRANTWOOD, 12th August.

I am very glad of your little note from Brighton. I thought it needless to send the two letters there, which you will find at home; and they pretty nearly end all I want to say; for the remaining clauses of the prayer touch on things too high for me. But I will send you one concluding letter about them.


[Greek: ton arton emon ton epiousion dos hemin semeron.]

Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie.

BRANTWOOD, 19th August.

238. I retained the foregoing letter by me till now, lest you should think it written in any haste or petulance; but it is every word of it deliberate, though expressing the bitterness of twenty years of vain sorrow and pleading concerning these things. Nor am I able to write, otherwise, anything of the next following clause of the prayer;—for no words could be burning enough to tell the evils which have come on the world from men's using it thoughtlessly and blasphemously, praying God to give them what they are deliberately resolved to steal. For all true Christianity is known—as its Master was—in breaking of bread, and all false Christianity in stealing it.

Let the clergyman only apply—with impartial and level sweep—to his congregation the great pastoral order: "The man that will not work, neither should he eat;" and be resolute in requiring each member of his flock to tell him what—day by day—they do to earn their dinners;—and he will find an entirely new view of life and its sacraments open upon him and them.

239. For the man who is not—day by day—doing work which will earn his dinner, must be stealing his dinner;[165] and the actual fact is that the great mass of men, calling themselves Christians, do actually live by robbing the poor of their bread, and by no other trade whatsoever: and the simple examination of the mode of the produce and consumption of European food—who digs for it, and who eats it—will prove that to any honest human soul.

Nor is it possible for any Christian Church to exist but in pollutions and hypocrisies beyond all words, until the virtues of a life moderate in its self-indulgence, and wide in its offices of temporal ministry to the poor, are insisted on as the normal conditions in which, only, the prayer to God for the harvest of the earth is other than blasphemy.

In the second place. Since in the parable in Luke, the bread asked for is shown to be also, and chiefly, the Holy Spirit (Luke xi. 13), and the prayer, "Give us each day our daily bread," is, in its fullness, the disciples', "Lord, evermore give us this bread,"—the clergyman's question to his whole flock, primarily literal: "Children, have ye here any meat?" must ultimately be always the greater spiritual one: "Children, have ye here any Holy Spirit?" or, "Have ye not heard yet whether there be any? and, instead of a Holy Ghost the Lord and Giver of Life, do you only believe in an unholy mammon, Lord and Giver of Death?"

The opposition between the two Lords has been, and will be as long as the world lasts, absolute, irreconcilable, mortal; and the clergyman's first message to his people of this day is—if he be faithful—"Choose ye this day whom ye will serve."

Ever faithfully yours, J. RUSKIN.


[Greek: kai aphes hemin ta opheilemata hemon, os kai hemeis aphiemen tois opheiletais hemon.]

Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.

BRANTWOOD, 3rd September.

240. DEAR MR. MALLESON,—I have been very long before trying to say so much as a word about the sixth clause of the Pater; for whenever I began thinking of it, I was stopped by the sorrowful sense of the hopeless task you poor clergymen had, nowadays, in recommending and teaching people to love their enemies, when their whole energies were already devoted to swindling their friends.

But, in any days, past or now, the clause is one of such difficulty, that, to understand it, means almost to know the love of God which passeth knowledge.

But, at all events, it is surely the pastor's duty to prevent his flock from misunderstanding it; and above all things to keep them from supposing that God's forgiveness is to be had simply for the asking, by those who "willfully sin after they have received the knowledge of the truth."

241. There is one very simple lesson also, needed especially by people in circumstances of happy life, which I have never heard fully enforced from the pulpit, and which is usually the more lost sight of, because the fine and inaccurate word "trespasses" is so often used instead of the single and accurate one "debts." Among people well educated and happily circumstanced it may easily chance that long periods of their lives pass without any such conscious sin as could, on any discovery or memory of it, make them cry out, in truth and in pain,—"I have sinned against the Lord." But scarcely an hour of their happy days can pass over them without leaving—were their hearts open—some evidence written there that they have "left undone the things that they ought to have done," and giving them bitterer and heavier cause to cry, and cry again—forever, in the pure words of their Master's prayer, "Dimitte nobis debita nostra."

In connection with the more accurate translation of "debts" rather than "trespasses,"[166] it would surely be well to keep constantly in the mind of complacent and inoffensive congregations that in Christ's own prophecy of the manner of the last judgment, the condemnation is pronounced only on the sins of omission: "I was hungry, and ye gave Me no meat."

242. But, whatever the manner of sin, by offense or defect, which the preacher fears in his people, surely he has of late been wholly remiss in compelling their definite recognition of it, in its several and personal particulars. Nothing in the various inconsistency of human nature is more grotesque than its willingness to be taxed with any quantity of sins in the gross, and its resentment at the insinuation of having committed the smallest parcel of them in detail. And the English Liturgy, evidently drawn up with the amiable intention of making religion as pleasant as possible, to a people desirous of saving their souls with no great degree of personal inconvenience, is perhaps in no point more unwholesomely lenient than in its concession to the popular conviction that we may obtain the present advantage, and escape the future punishment, of any sort of iniquity, by dexterously concealing the manner of it from man, and triumphantly confessing the quantity of it to God.

243. Finally, whatever the advantages and decencies of a form of prayer, and how wide soever the scope given to its collected passages, it cannot be at one and the same time fitted for the use of a body of well-taught and experienced Christians, such as should join the services of a Church nineteen centuries old,—and adapted to the needs of the timid sinner who has that day first entered its porch, or of the remorseful publican who has only recently become sensible of his call to a pew.

And surely our clergy need not be surprised at the daily increasing distrust in the public mind of the efficacy of Prayer, after having so long insisted on their offering supplication, at least every Sunday morning at eleven o'clock, that the rest of their lives hereafter might be pure and holy, leaving them conscious all the while that they would be similarly required to inform the Lord next week, at the same hour, that "there was no health in them!"

Among, the much-rebuked follies and abuses of so-called "Ritualism," none that I have heard of are indeed so dangerously and darkly "Ritual" as this piece of authorized mockery of the most solemn act of human life, and only entrance of eternal life—Repentance.

Believe me, dear Mr. Malleson,

Ever faithfully and respectfully yours, J. RUSKIN.


[Greek: kai me eisenenkes hemas eis peirasmon, alla rhysai hemas apo tou ponerou; hoti sou estin he basileia, kai he dynamis, kai he doxa, eis tous aionas. Amen.]

Et ne nos inducas in tentationem; sed libera nos a malo; quia tuum est regnum, potentia, et gloria in sceeula sceculorum. Amen.

BRANTWOOD, 14th September, 1879.

244. DEAR MR. MALLESON,—The gentle words in your last letter referring to the difference between yourself and me in the degree of hope with which you could regard what could not but appear to the general mind Utopian in designs for the action of the Christian Church, surely might best be answered by appeal to the consistent tone of the prayer we have been examining.

Is not every one of its petitions for a perfect state? and is not this last clause of it, of which we are to think to-day—if fully understood—a petition not only for the restoration of Paradise, but of Paradise in which there shall be no deadly fruit, or, at least, no tempter to praise it? And may we not admit that it is probably only for want of the earnest use of this last petition that not only the preceding ones have become formal with us, but that the private and simply restricted prayer for the little things we each severally desire, has become by some Christians dreaded and unused, and by others used faithlessly, and therefore with disappointment?

245. And is it not for want of this special directness and simplicity of petition, and of the sense of its acceptance, that the whole nature of prayer has been doubted in our hearts, and disgraced by our lips; that we are afraid to ask God's blessing on the earth, when the scientific people tell us He has made previous arrangements to curse it; and that, instead of obeying, without fear or debate, the plain order, "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full," we sorrowfully sink back into the apology for prayer, that "it is a wholesome exercise, even when fruitless," and that we ought piously always to suppose that the text really means no more than "Ask, and ye shall not receive, that your joy may be empty"?

Supposing we were first all of us quite sure that we had prayed, honestly, the prayer against temptation, and that we would thankfully be refused anything we had set our hearts upon, if indeed God saw that it would lead us into evil, might we not have confidence afterwards that He in whose hand the king's heart is, as the rivers of water, would turn our tiny little hearts also in the way that they should go, and that then the special prayer for the joys He taught them to seek would be answered to the last syllable, and to overflowing?

246. It is surely scarcely necessary to say, farther, what the holy teachers of all nations have invariably concurred in showing,—that faithful prayer implies always correlative exertion; and that no man can ask honestly or hopefully to be delivered from temptation, unless he has himself honestly and firmly determined to do the best he can to keep out of it. But, in modern days, the first aim of all Christian parents is to place their children in circumstances where the temptations (which they are apt to call "opportunities") may be as great and as many as possible; where the sight and promise of "all these things" in Satan's gift may be brilliantly near; and where the act of "falling down to worship me" may be partly concealed by the shelter, and partly excused, as involuntary, by the pressure, of the concurrent crowd.

In what respect the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, differ from the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, which are God's forever, is seldom, as far as I have heard, intelligibly explained from the pulpit; and still less the irreconcilable hostility between the two royalties and realms asserted in its sternness of decision.

Whether it be, indeed, Utopian to believe that the kingdom we are taught to pray for may come—verily come—for the asking, it is surely not for man to judge; but it is at least at his choice to resolve that he will no longer render obedience, nor ascribe glory and power, to the Devil. If he cannot find strength in himself to advance towards Heaven, he may at least say to the power of Hell, "Get thee behind me;" and staying himself on the testimony of Him who saith, "Surely I come quickly," ratify his happy prayer with the faithful "Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus."

Ever, my dear friend, Believe me affectionately and gratefully yours, J. RUSKIN.

NOTE.—The following further letters from Mr. Ruskin to Mr. Malleson were printed in "Letters to the Clergy."

Sept. 13th.

247. DEAR MR. MALLESON,—I am so very grateful for your proposal to edit the letters without any further reference to me. I think that will be exactly the right way; and I believe I can put you at real ease in the doing of it, by explaining, as I can in very few words, the kind of carte blanche I should rejoicingly give you.

Interrupted to-day! more to-morrow with, I hope, the last letter.


14th Sept.

I've nearly done the last letter, but will keep it till to-morrow, rather than finish hurriedly, for the first post. Your nice little note has just come; and I can only say that you cannot please me better than by acting with perfect freedom in all ways; and that I only want to see, or reply to, what you wish me for the matter's sake. And surely there is no occasion for any thought or waste of type about me personally, except only to express your knowledge of my real desire for the health and power of the Church, More than this praise you must not give me; for I have learned almost everything, I may say, that I know, by my errors.

I am affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.

17th Oct.

248. I am thankful to see that the letters read clearly and easily, and contain all that was in my mind to get said; and nothing can possibly be more right in every way than the printing and binding,[167] nor more courteous and firm than your preface.

Yes, there will be a chasm to cross—a tauriformis Aufidus[168]—greater than Rubicon, and the roar of it for many a year has been heard in the distance, through the gathering fog on the earth, more loudly.

The River of spiritual Death to this world, and entrance to Purgatory in the other, come down to us.

When will the feet of the Priests be dipped in the still brim of the water? Jordan overflows his banks already.

* * * * *

When you have put your large edition, with its correspondence, into press, I should like to read the sheets as they are issued; and put merely letters of reference to be taken up in a short "Epilogue." But I don't want to do or say anything more till you have all in perfect readiness for publication. I should merely add my reference letters in the margin, and the shortest possible notes at the end.



[Footnote 153: These letters were written by Mr. Ruskin to the Rev. F. A. Malleson, Vicar of Broughton-in-Furness, by whom they were read, after a few introductory remarks, before the Furness Clerical Society. They originated, as may be gathered from the first of them, in a request by Mr. Malleson that Mr. Ruskin would address the society on the subject. They have been printed in three forms:—(1) in a small pamphlet (October 1879) "for private circulation only," among the members of the Furness and one or two other clerical societies; (2) in the Contemporary Review of December 1879; (3) in a volume (Strahan & Co., 1880) entitled "The Lord's Prayer and the Church," and containing also various replies to Mr, Ruskin's letters, and an epilogue by way of rejoinder by Mr. Ruskin himself. This volume was edited by Mr. Malleson, with whose concurrence Mr. Ruskin's contributions to it are reprinted here.—ED.]

[Footnote 154: Called Letter II. in the Furness pamphlet,—where a note is added to the effect that there was a previous unpublished letter.—ED.]

[Footnote 155: In answer to the proposal of discussing the subject during a mountain walk.—F. A. M.]

[Footnote 156: Art, xi.]

[Footnote 157: Homily xi. of the Second Table.]

[Footnote 158: "Arrows of the Chace."]

[Footnote 159: See postscript to this letter.—ED.]

[Footnote 160: Referring to the closing sentence of the third paragraph of the fifth 'ter, which seemed to express what I felt could not be Mr. Ruskin's full meaning, I pointed out to him the following sentence in "Modern Painters:"—

"When, in the desert, Jesus was girding Himself for the work of life, angels of life came and ministered unto Him; now, in the fair world, when He is girding Himself for the work of death, the ministrants come to Him from the grave; but from the grave conquered. One from the tomb under Abarim, which His own hand had sealed long ago; the other from the rest which He had entered without seeing corruption."

On this I made a remark somewhat to the following effect: that I felt sure Mr. Ruskin regarded the loving work of the Father and of the Son to be equal in the forgiveness of sins and redemption of mankind; that what is done by the Father is in reality done also by the Son; and that it is by a mere accommodation to human infirmity of understanding that the doctrine of the Trinity is revealed to us in language, inadequate indeed to convey divine truths, but still the only language possible; and I asked whether some such feeling was not present in his mind when he used the pronoun "His," in the above passage from "Modern Painters," of the Son, where it would be usually understood of the Father; and as a corollary, whether, in the letter, he does not himself fully recognize the fact of the redemption of the world by the loving self-sacrifice of the Son in entire concurrence with the equally loving will of the Father. This, as well as I can recollect, is the origin of the passage in the second paragraph in the seventh letter.—F. A. M.]

[Footnote 161: The "Letters to the Clergy" adds note: "Yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" (John xiv. 9).—ED.]

[Footnote 162: Fors Clavigera, Letter lxxxii. (See ante, Sec. 148.—ED.)]

[Footnote 163: "Bibliotheca Pastorum," Vol. i. "The Economist of Xenophon," Pref., p. xii—ED.]

[Footnote 164: See ante, p. 319, Sec. 154; p. 330, Sec. 166.—ED.]

[Footnote 165: "Arrows of the Chace."]

[Footnote 166: "Arrows of the Chace."]

[Footnote 167: Referring to the first edition, printed for private circulation.—F. A. M.]

[Footnote 168:

"Sic tauriformis volvitur Aufidus, Qua regna Dauni praefluit Appuli Quum saevit, horrendamque cultis Diluviem meditatur agris."

—HOR., Carm., iv. 14.]



249. MY DEAR MALLESON,—I have glanced at the proofs you send; and can do no more than glance, even if it seemed to me desirable that I should do more,—which, after said glance, it does in no wise. Let me remind you of what it is absolutely necessary that the readers of the book should clearly understand—that I wrote these Letters at your request, to be read and discussed at the meeting of a private society of clergymen. I declined then to be present at the discussion, and I decline still. You afterwards asked leave to print the Letters, to which I replied that they were yours, for whatever use you saw good to make of them: afterwards your plans expanded, while my own notion remained precisely what it had been—that the discussion should have been private, and kept within the limits of the society, and that its conclusions, if any, should have been announced in a few pages of clear print, for the parishioners' exclusive reading.

I am, of course, flattered by the wider course you have obtained for the Letters, but am not in the slightest degree interested by the debate upon them, nor by any religious debates whatever, undertaken without serious conviction that there is a jot wrong in matters as they are, or serious resolution to make them a tittle better. Which, so far as I can read the minds of your correspondents, appears to me the substantial state of them.[169]

250. One thing I cannot pass without protest—the quantity of talk about the writer of the Letters. What I am, or am not, is of no moment whatever to the matters in hand. I observe with comfort, or at least with complacency, that on the strength of a couple of hours' talk, at a time when I was thinking chiefly of the weatherings of slate you were good enough to show me above Goat's Water, you would have ventured to baptize me in the little lake—as not a goat, but a sheep. The best I can be sure of, myself, is that I am no wolf, and have never aspired to the dignity even of a Dog of the Lord.

You told me, if I remember rightly, that one of the members of the original meeting denounced me as an arch-heretic[170]—meaning, doubtless, an arch-pagan; for a heretic, or sect-maker, is of all terms of reproach the last that can be used of me. And I think he should have been answered that it was precisely as an arch-pagan that I ventured to request a more intelligible and more unanimous account of the Christian Gospel from its preachers.

251. If anything in the Letters offended those of you who hold me a brother, surely it had been best to tell me between ourselves, or to tell it to the Church, or to let me be Anathema Maranatha in peace,—in any case, I must at present so abide, correcting only the mistakes about myself which have led to graver ones about the things I wanted to speak of.[171]

The most singular one, perhaps, in all the Letters is that of Mr. Wanstall's, that I do not attach enough weight to antiquity. I have only come upon the sentence to-day (29th May), but my reply to it is partly written already, with reference to the wishes of some other of your correspondents to know more of my reasons for finding fault with the English Liturgy.

252. If people are taught to use the Liturgy rightly and reverently, it will bring them all good; and for some thirty years of my life I used to read it always through to my servant and myself, if we had no Protestant church to go to, in Alpine or Italian villages. One can always tacitly pray of it what one wants, and let the rest pass. But, as I have grown older, and watched the decline in the Christian faith of all nations, I have got more and more suspicious of the effect of this particular form of words on the truthfulness of the English mind (now fast becoming a salt which has lost his savor, and is fit only to be trodden underfoot of men). And during the last ten years, in which my position at Oxford has compelled me to examine what authority there was for the code of prayer, of which the University is now so ashamed that it no more dares compel its youths so much as to hear, much less to utter it, I got necessarily into the habit of always looking to the original forms of the prayers of the fully developed Christian Church. Nor did I think it a mere chance which placed in my own possession a manuscript of the perfect Church service of the thirteenth century, written by the monks of the Sainte Chapelle for St. Louis; together with one of the same date, written in England, probably for the Diocese of Lincoln; adding some of the Collects, in which it corresponds with St. Louis's, and the Latin hymns so much beloved by Dante, with the appointed music for them.

253. And my wonder has been greater every hour, since I examined closely the text of these and other early books, that in any state of declining, or captive, energy, the Church of England should have contented itself with a service which cast out, from beginning to end, all these intensely spiritual and passionate utterances of chanted prayer (the whole body, that is to say, of the authentic Christian Psalms), and in adopting what it timidly preserved of the Collects, mangled or blunted them down to the exact degree which would make them either unintelligible or inoffensive—so vague that everybody might use them, or so pointless that nobody could be offended by them. For a special instance: The prayer for "our bishops and curates, and all congregations committed to their charge," is, in the Lincoln Service-book, "for our bishop, and all congregations committed to his charge." The change from singular to plural seems a slight one. But it suffices to take the eyes of the people off their own bishop into infinite space; to change a prayer which was intended to be uttered in personal anxiety and affection, into one for the general good of the Church, of which nobody could judge, and for which nobody would particularly care; and, finally, to change a prayer to which the answer, if given, would be visible, into one of which nobody could tell whether it were answered or not.

254. In the Collects, the change, though verbally slight, is thus tremendous in issue. But in the Litany—word and thought go all wild together. The first prayer of the Litany in the Lincoln Service-book is for the Pope and all ranks beneath him, implying a very noteworthy piece of theology—that the Pope might err in religious matters, and that the prayer of the humblest servant of God would be useful to him:—"Ut Dompnum Apostolicum, et omnes gradus ecclesie in sancta religione conservare digneris." Meaning that whatever errors particular persons might, and must, fall into, they prayed God to keep the Pope right, and the collective testimony and conduct of the ranks below him. Then follows the prayer for their own bishop and his flock—then for the king and the princes (chief lords), that they (not all nations) might be kept in concord—and then for our bishops and abbots,—the Church of England proper; every one of these petitions being direct, limited, and personally heartfelt;—and then this lovely one for themselves:—

"Ut obsequium servitutis nostre rationabile facias."—"That Thou wouldst make the obedience of our service reasonable" ("which is your reasonable service").

This glorious prayer is, I believe, accurately an "early English" one. It is not in the St. Louis Litany, nor in a later elaborate French fourteenth century one; but I find it softened in an Italian MS. of the fifteenth century into "ut nosmet ipsos in tuo sancto servitio confortare et conservare digneris,"—"that Thou wouldst deign to keep and comfort us ourselves in Thy sacred service" (the comfort, observe, being here asked for whether reasonable or not!); and in the best and fullest French service-book I have, printed at Rouen in 1520, it becomes, "ut congregationes omnium sanctorum in tuo sancto servitio conservare digneris;" while victory as well as concord is asked for the king and the princes,—thus leading the way to that for our own Queen's victory over all her enemies, a prayer which might now be advisedly altered into one that she—and in her, the monarchy of England—might find more fidelity in their friends.

255. I give one more example of the corruption of our Prayer-Book, with reference to the objections taken by some of your correspondents to the distinction implied in my Letters between the Persons of the Father and the Christ.

The "Memoria de Sancta Trinitate," in the St. Louis service-book, runs thus:—

"Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui dedisti famulis tuis in confessione vere fidei eterne Trinitatis gloriam agnoscere, et in potentia majestatis adorare unitatem, quesumus ut ejus fidei firmitate ab omnibus semper muniemur adversis. Qui vivis et regnas Deus, per omnia secula seculorum. Amen."

"Almighty and everlasting God, who has given to Thy servants, in confession of true faith to recognize the glory of the Eternal Trinity, and in the power of Majesty to pray to the Unity; we ask that by the firmness of that faith we may be always defended from all adverse things, who livest and reignest God through all ages. Amen."

256. Turning to our Collect, we find we have first slipped in the word "us" before "Thy servants," and by that little insertion have slipped in the squire and his jockey, and the public-house landlord—and anyone else who may chance to have been coaxed, swept, or threatened into Church on Trinity Sunday, and required the entire company of them to profess themselves servants of God, and believers in the mystery of the Trinity. And we think we have done God a service!

"Grace." Not a word about grace in the original. You don't believe by having grace, but by having wit.

"To acknowledge." "Agnosco" is to recognize, not to acknowledge. To see that there are three lights in a chandelier is a great deal more than to acknowledge that they are there.

"To worship." "Adorare" is to pray to, not to worship. You may worship a mere magistrate; but you pray to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

The last sentence in the English is too horribly mutilated to be dealt with in any patience. The meaning of the great old collect is that by the shield of that faith we may quench all the fiery darts of the devil. The English prayer means, if it means anything, "Please keep us in our faith without our taking any trouble; and, besides, please don't let us lose our money, nor catch cold."

"Who livest and reignest." Right; but how many of any extant or instant congregations understand what the two words mean? That God is a living God, not a dead Law; and that He is a reigning God, putting wrong things to rights, and that, sooner or later, with a strong hand and a rod of iron; and not at all with a soft sponge and warm water, washing everybody as clean as a baby every Sunday morning, whatever dirty work they may have been about all the week.

257. On which latter supposition your modern Liturgy, in so far as it has supplemented instead of corrected the old one, has entirely modeled itself,—producing in its first address to the congregation before the Almighty precisely the faultfulest and foolishest piece of English language that I know in the whole compass of English or American literature. In the seventeen lines of it (as printed in my old-fashioned, large-print Prayer-Book), there are seven times over two words for one idea.

1. Acknowledge and confess.

2. Sins and wickedness.

3. Dissemble nor cloke.

4. Goodness and mercy.

5. Assemble and meet.

6. Requisite and necessary.

7. Pray and beseech.

There is, indeed, a shade of difference in some of these ideas for a good scholar, none for a general congregation;[172] and what difference they can guess at merely muddles their heads: to acknowledge sin is indeed different from confessing it, but it cannot be done at a minute's notice; and goodness is a different thing from mercy, but it is by no means God's infinite goodness that forgives our badness, but that judges it.

258. "The faultfulest," I said, "and the foolishest." After using fourteen words where seven would have done, what is it that the whole speech gets said with its much speaking? This Morning Service of all England begins with the assertion that the Scripture moveth us in sundry places to confess our sins before God. Does it so? Have your congregations ever been referred to those sundry places? Or do they take the assertion on trust, or remain under the impression that, unless with the advantage of their own candor, God must remain ill-informed on the subject of their sins?

"That we should not dissemble nor cloke them." Can we then? Are these grown-up congregations of the enlightened English Church in the nineteenth century still so young in their nurseries that the "Thou, God, seest me" is still not believed by them if they get under the bed?

259. Let us look up the sundry moving passages referred to.

(I suppose myself a simple lamb of the flock, and only able to use my English Bible.)

I find in my concordance (confess and confession together) forty-two occurrences of the word. Sixteen of these, including John's confession that he was not the Christ, and the confession of the faithful fathers that they were pilgrims on the earth, do indeed move us strongly to confess Christ before men. Have you ever taught your congregations what that confession means? They are ready enough to confess Him in church, that is to say, in their own private synagogue. Will they in Parliament? Will they in a ballroom? Will they in a shop? Sixteen of the texts are to enforce their doing that.

The most important one (1 Tim. vi. 13) refers to Christ's own good confession, which I suppose was not of His sins, but of His obedience. How many of your congregations can make any such kind of confession, or wish to make it?

The eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth (1 Kings viii. 33, 2 Chron. vi. 26, Heb. xiii. 15) speak of confessing thankfully that God is God (and not a putrid plasma nor a theory of development), and the twenty-first (Job xl. 14) speaks of God's own confession, that no doubt we are the people, and that wisdom shall die with us, and on what conditions He will make it.

260. There remains twenty-one texts which do speak of the confession of our sins—very moving ones indeed—and Heaven grant that some day the British public may be moved by them.

(1.) The first is Lev. v. 5, "He shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing." And if you can get any soul of your congregation to say he has sinned in anything, he may do it in two words for one if he likes, and it will yet be good liturgy.

(2.) The second is indeed general—Lev. xvi. 21: the command that the whole nation should afflict its soul on the great day of atonement once a year. The Church of England, I believe, enjoins no such unpleasant ceremony. Her festivals are passed by her people often indeed in the extinction of their souls, but by no means in their intentional affliction.

(3, 4, 5.) The third, fourth, and fifth (Lev. xxvi. 40, Numb. v. 7, Nehem. i. 6) refer all to national humiliation for definite idolatry, accompanied with an entire abandonment of that idolatry, and of idolatrous persons. How soon that form of confession is likely to find a place in the English congregations the defenses of their main idol, mammon, in the vilest and cruelest shape of it—usury—with which this book has been defiled, show very sufficiently.

261. (6.) The sixth is Psalm xxxii. 5—virtually the whole of that psalm, which does, indeed, entirely refer to the greater confession, once for all opening the heart to God, which can be by no means done fifty-two times a year, and which, once done, puts men into a state in which they will never again say there is no health in them; nor that their hearts are desperately wicked; but will obey forever the instantly following order, "Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous, and shout for joy, all ye that are true of heart."

(7.) The seventh (Acts xxiv. 14) is the one confession in which I can myself share:—"After the way which they call heresy, so worship I the Lord God of my fathers."

(8.) The eighth (James v. 16) tells us to confess our faults—not to God, but "one to another"—a practice not favored by English catechumens—(by the way, what do you all mean by "auricular" confession—confession that can be heard? and is the Protestant pleasanter form one that can't be?)

(9.) The ninth is that passage of St. John (i. 9), the favorite evangelical text, which is read and preached by thousands of false preachers every day, without once going on to read its great companion, "Beloved, if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things; but if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God." Make your people understand the second text, and they will understand the first. At present you leave them understanding neither.

262. And the entire body of the remaining texts is summed in Joshua vii. 19 and Ezra x. 11, in which, whether it be Achan, with his Babylonish garment, or the people of Israel, with their Babylonish lusts, the meaning of confession is simply what it is to every brave boy, girl, man, and woman, who knows the meaning of the word "honor" before God or man—namely, to say what they have done wrong, and to take the punishment of it (not to get it blanched over by any means), and to do it no more—which is so far from being a tone of mind generally enforced either by the English, or any other extant Liturgy, that, though all my maids are exceedingly pious, and insist on the privilege of going to church as a quite inviolable one, I think it a scarcely to be hoped for crown and consummation of virtue in them that they should tell me when they have broken a plate; and I should expect to be met only with looks of indignation and astonishment if I ventured to ask one of them how she had spent her Sunday afternoon.

"Without courage," said Sir Walter Scott, "there is no truth; and without truth there is no virtue." The sentence would have been itself more true if Sir Walter had written "candor" for "truth," for it is possible to be true in insolence, or true in cruelty. But in looking back from the ridges of the Hill Difficulty in my own past life, and in all the vision that has been given me of the wanderings in the ways of others—this, of all principles, has become to me surest—that the first virtue to be required of man is frankness of heart and lip: and I believe that every youth of sense and honor, putting himself to faithful question, would feel that he had the devil for confessor, if he had not his father or his friend.

263. That a clergyman should ever be so truly the friend of his parishioners as to deserve their confidence from childhood upwards, may be flouted as a sentimental ideal; but he is assuredly only their enemy in showing his Lutheran detestation of the sale of indulgences by broadcasting these gratis from his pulpit.

The inconvenience and unpleasantness of a catechism concerning itself with the personal practice as well as the general theory of duty, are indeed perfectly conceivable by me: yet I am not convinced that such manner of catechism would therefore be less medicinal; and during the past ten years it has often been matter of amazed thought with me, while our President at Corpus read prayers to the chapel benches, what might by this time have been the effect on the learning as well as the creed of the University, if, forty years ago, our stern old Dean Gaisford, of the House of Christ, instead of sending us to chapel as to the house of correction, when we missed a lecture, had inquired, before he allowed us to come to chapel at all, whether we were gamblers, harlot-mongers, or in concealed and selfish debt.

264. I observe with extreme surprise in the preceding letters the unconsciousness of some of your correspondents, that there ever was such a thing as discipline in the Christian Church. Indeed, the last wholesome instance of it I can remember was when my own great-great uncle Maitland lifted Lady —— from his altar-rails, and led her back to her seat before the congregation, when she offered to take the Sacrament, being at enmity with her son.[173] But I believe a few hours honestly spent by any clergyman on his Church history would show him that the Church's confidence in her prayer has been always exactly proportionate to the strictness of her discipline; that her present fright at being caught praying by a chemist or an electrician, results mainly from her having allowed her twos and threes gathered in the name of Christ to become sixes and sevens gathered in the name of Belial; and that therefore her now needfulest duty is to explain to her stammering votaries, extremely doubtful as they are of the effect of their supplications either on politics or the weather, that although Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, he had them better under command; and that while the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, the formal and lukewarm one of an iniquitous man availeth—much the other way.

Such an instruction, coupled with due explanation of the nature of righteousness and iniquity, directed mainly to those who have the power of both in their own hands, being makers of law, and holders of property, would, without any further debate, bring about a very singular change in the position and respectability of English clergymen.

265. How far they may at present be considered as merely the Squire's left hand, bound to know nothing of what he is doing with his right, it is for their own consciences to determine.

For instance, a friend wrote to me the other day, "Will you not come here? You will see a noble duke destroying a village as old as the Conquest, and driving out dozens of families whose names are in Domesday Book, because, owing to the neglect of his ancestors and rackrenting for a hundred years, the place has fallen out of repair, and the people are poor, and may become paupers. A local paper ventured to tell the truth. The duke's agent called on the editor, and threatened him with destruction if he did not hold his tongue." The noble duke, doubtless, has proper Protestant horror of auricular confession. But suppose, instead of the local editor, the local parson had ventured to tell the truth from his pulpit, and even to intimate to his Grace that he might no longer receive the Body and Blood of the Lord at the altar of that parish! The parson would scarcely—in these days—have been therefore made bonfire of, and had a pretty martyr's memorial by Mr. Scott's pupils; but he would have lighted a goodly light, nevertheless, in this England of ours, whose pettifogging piety has now neither the courage to deny a duke's grace in its church, nor to declare Christ's in its Parliament.

266. Lastly. Several of your contributors, I observe, have rashly dipped their feet in the brim of the water of that raging question of Usury; and I cannot but express my extreme regret that you should yourself have yielded to the temptation of expressing opinions which you have had no leisure either to sound or to test. My assertion, however, that the rich lived mainly by robbing the poor, referred not to Usury, but to Rent; and the facts respecting both these methods of extortion are perfectly and indubitably ascertainable by any person who himself wishes to ascertain them, and is able to take the necessary time and pains. I see no sign, throughout the whole of these letters, of any wish whatever, on the part of one of their writers, to ascertain the facts, but only to defend practices which they hold to be convenient in the world, and are afraid to blame in their congregations. Of the presumption with which several of the writers utter their notions on the subject, I do not think it would be right to speak farther, in an epilogue to which there is no reply, in the terms which otherwise would have been deserved. In their bearing on other topics, let me earnestly thank you (so far as my own feelings may be permitted voice in the matter) for the attention with which you have examined, and the courage with which you have ratified, or at least endured, letters which could not but bear at first the aspect of being written in a hostile—sometimes even in a mocking spirit. That aspect is untrue, nor am I answerable for it: the things of which I had to speak could not be shortly described but in terms which might sound satirical; for all error, if frankly shown, is precisely most ridiculous when it is most dangerous, and I have written no word which is not chosen as the exactest for its occasion, whether it move sigh or smile. In my earlier days I wrote much with the desire to please, and the hope of influencing the reader. As I grow older and older, I recognize the truth of the Preacher's saying, "Desire shall fail, and the mourners go about the streets;" and I content myself with saying, to whoso it may concern, that the thing is verily thus, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear. No man more than I has ever loved the places where God's honor dwells, or yielded truer allegiance to the teaching of His evident servants. No man at this time grieves more for the danger of the Church which supposes him her enemy, while she whispers procrastinating pax vobiscum in answer to the spurious kiss of those who would fain toll curfew over the last fires of English faith, and watch the sparrow find nest where she may lay her young, around the altars of the Lord.

Ever affectionately yours, J. RUSKIN.


[Footnote 169: The following extracts from letters of Mr. Ruskin to Mr. Malleson were printed in the "Letters to the Clergy":—

"14th May, 1880.—My dear Malleson, ... I had never seen yours at all when I wrote last. I fell first on ——, whom I read with some attention, and commented on with little favor; went on to the next, and remained content with that taste till I had done my Scott (Nineteenth Century).

"I have this morning been reading your own, on which I very earnestly congratulate you. God knows it is not because they are friendly or complimentary, but because you do see what I mean; and people hardly ever do; and I think it needs very considerable power and feeling to forgive and understand as you do. You have said everything I want to say, and much more, except on the one point of excommunication, which will be the chief, almost the only, subject of my final note."

"16th May.—Yes, the omission of the 'Mr.' meant much change in all my feelings towards you and estimates of you; for which change, believe me, I am more glad and thankful than I can well tell you.


[Footnote 170: Only a heretic!—F. A. M.]

[Footnote 171: I may perhaps be pardoned for vindicating-at least my arithmetic, which, with Bishop Colenso, I rather pride myself upon. One of your correspondents greatly doubts my having heard five thousand asserters of evangelical principles (Catholic-absolvent or Protestant-detergent are virtually the same). I am now sixty years old, and for forty-five of them was in church at least once on the Sunday,—say once a month also in afternoons,—and you have above three thousand church services. When I am abroad I am often in half-a-dozen churches in the course of a single day, and never lose a chance of listening to anything that is going on. Add the conversations pursued, not unearnestly, with every sort of reverend person I can get to talk to me—from the Bishop of Strasburg (as good a specimen of a town bishop as I have known), with whom I was studying ecstatic paintings in the year 1850—down to the simplest traveling tinker inclined Gospelwards, whom I perceive to be sincere, and your correspondent will perceive that my rapid numerical expression must be far beneath the truth. He subjoins his more rational doubt of my acquaintance with many town missionaries; to which I can only answer, that as I do not live in town, nor set up for a missionary myself, my spiritual advantages have certainly not been great in that direction. I simply assert that of the few I have known,—beginning with Mr. Spurgeon, under whom I sat with much edification for a year or two,—I have not known any such teaching as I speak of.]

[Footnote 172: The only explanation ever offered for this exuberant wordiness is that if worshipers did not understand one term they would the other, and in some cases, in the Exhortation and elsewhere, one word is of Latin and the other of Saxon derivation.[1] But this is surely a very feeble excuse for bad composition. Of a very different kind is that beautiful climax which is reached in the three admirably chosen pairs of words in the Prayer for the Parliament, "peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety."—F. A. M.

(Note 1: The repetition of synonymous terms is of very frequent occurrence in sixteenth century writing, as "for ever and aye," "Time and the hour run through the roughest day" (Macbeth, i. 3).)]

[Footnote 173: In some of the country districts of Scotland the right of the Church to interfere with the lives of private individuals is still exercised. Only two years ago, a wealthy gentleman farmer was rebuked by the "Kirk Session" of the Dissenting Church to which he belonged, for infidelity to his wife.

At the Scottish half-yearly Communion the ceremony of "fencing the tables" used to be observed; that is, turning away all those whose lives were supposed to have made them unfit to receive the Sacrament.]


267. Every age of the world has its own special sins, and special simplicities; and among our own most particular humors in both kinds must be reckoned the tendency to parade our discoveries of the laws of Nature, as if nobody had ever heard of a law of Nature before.

The most curious result of this extremely absurd condition of mind is perhaps the alarm of religious persons on subjects of which one would have fancied most of the palpable difficulties had been settled before the nineteenth century. The theory of prayer, for instance, and of Miracles. I noticed a lengthy discussion in the newspapers a month or two ago, on the propriety of praying for, or against rain. It had suddenly, it seems, occurred to the public mind, and to that of the gentlemen who write the theology of the breakfast-table, that rain was owing to natural causes; and that it must be unreasonable to expect God to supply on our immediate demand what could not be provided but by previous evaporation. I noticed farther that this alarming difficulty was at least softened to some of our Metropolitan congregations by the assurances of their ministers, that, although, since the last lecture by Professor Tyndall at the Royal Institution, it had become impossible to think of asking God for any temporal blessing, they might still hope their applications for spiritual advantages would occasionally be successful;—thus implying that though material processes were necessarily slow, and the laws of Heaven respecting matter, inviolable, mental processes might be instantaneous, and mental laws at any moment disregarded by their Institutor: so that the spirit of a man might be brought to maturity in a moment, though the resources of Omnipotence would be overtaxed, or its consistency abandoned, in the endeavor to produce the same result On a greengage.

More logically, though not more wisely, other divines have asserted that prayer is medicinally beneficial to ourselves, whether we obtain what we ask for or not; and that our moral state is gradually elevated by the habit of praying daily that the Kingdom of God may come,—though nothing would more astonish us than its coming.

268. With these doubts respecting the possibility or propriety of miracle, a more immediate difficulty occurs as to its actual nature or definition. What is the quality of any event which may be properly called "miraculous"? What are the degrees of wonderfulness?—what the surpassing degree of it, which changes the wonder into the sign, or may be positively recognized by human intelligence as an interruption, instead of a new operation, of those laws of Nature with which, of late, we have become so exhaustively acquainted? For my own part, I can only say that I am so haunted by doubt of the security of our best knowledge, and by discontent in the range of it, that it seems to me contrary to modesty, whether in a religious or scientific point of view, to regard anything as miraculous. I know so little, and this little I know is so inexplicable, that I dare not say anything is wonderful because it is strange to me, or not wonderful because it is familiar. I have not the slightest idea how I compel my hand to write these words, or my lips to read them: and the question which was the thesis of Mr. Ward's very interesting paper, "Can Experience prove the Uniformity of Nature?"[175] is, in my mind, so assuredly answerable with the negative which the writer appeared to desire, that, precisely on that ground, the performance of any so-called miracle whatever would be morally unimpressive to me. If a second Joshua to-morrow commanded the sun to stand still, and it obeyed him; and he therefore claimed deference as a miracle-worker, I am afraid I should answer, "What! a miracle that the sun stands still?—not at all. I was always expecting it would. The only wonder, to me, was its going on."

269. But even assuming the demonstrable uniformity of the laws or customs of Nature which are known to us, it remains a difficult question what manner of interference with such law or custom we might logically hold miraculous, and what, on the contrary, we should treat only as proof of the existence of some other law, hitherto undiscovered.

For instance, there is a case authenticated by the signatures of several leading physicists in Paris, in which a peasant girl, under certain conditions of morbid excitement, was able to move objects at some distance from her without touching them. Taking the evidence for what it may be worth, the discovery of such a faculty would only, I suppose, justify us in concluding that some new vital energy was developing itself under the conditions of modern bodily health; and not that any interference with the laws of Nature had taken place. Yet the generally obstinate refusal of men of science to receive any verbal witness of such facts is a proof that they believe them contrary to a code of law which is more or less complete in their experience, and altogether complete in their conception; and I think it is therefore their province to lay down for us the true principle by which we may distinguish the miraculous violation of a known law from the sudden manifestation of an unknown one.

270. In the meantime, supposing ourselves ever so incapable of defining law, or discerning its interruption, we need not therefore lose our conception of the one, nor our faith in the other. Some of us may no more be able to know a genuine miracle, when we see it, than others to know a genuine picture; but the ordinary impulse to regard, therefore, all claim to miraculous power as imposture, or self-deception, reminds me always of the speech of a French lady to me, whose husband's collection of old pictures had brought unexpectedly low prices in the auction-room,—"How can you be so senseless," she said, "as to attach yourself to the study of an art in which you see that all excellence is a mere matter of opinion?" Some of us have thus come to imagine that the laws of Nature, as well as those of Art, may be matters of opinion; and I recollect an ingenious paper by Mr. Frederic Harrison, some two years ago, on the "Subjective Synthesis,"—which, after proving, what does not seem to stand in need of so elaborate proof, that we can only know, of the universe, what we can see and understand, went on to state that the laws of Nature "were not objective realities, any more than they were absolute truths."[176] Which decision, it seems to me, is as if some modest and rational gnat, who had submitted to the humiliating conviction that it could know no more of the world than might be traversed by flight, or tasted by puncture, yet, in the course of an experiment on a philosopher with its proboscis, hearing him speak of the Institutes of Justinian, should observe, on its return to the society of gnats, that the Institutes of Justinian were not objective realities, any more than they were absolute truths. And, indeed, the careless use of the word "Truth" itself, often misleads even the most accurate thinkers. A law cannot be spoken of as a truth, either absolute or concrete. It is a law of nature, that is to say, of my own particular nature, that I fall asleep after dinner, and my confession of this fact is a truth; but the bad habit is no more a truth than the statement of it is a bad habit.

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