He became a Fellow and Lecturer of Trinity College for two years, then its Chaplain for five years, and, after leading a life of extravagant and fighting ritualism as an Anglican priest, at the end of that period, 1917, he retired from the Church of England and was received into the Church of Rome.
The consolations of Anglo-Catholicism, then, were insufficient for the spiritual needs of this scion of the Low Church.
What were those needs?
Were they, indeed, spiritual needs, as he suggests by the title of his book A Spiritual AEneid, or aesthetic needs, the needs of a temperament?—a temperament which used wit and raillery chiefly as a shield for its shrinking and quivering emotions, emotions which we must take note of if we are to understand his secession.
He was at Eton when a fire occurred in one of the houses, two boys perishing in the flames. He tells us that this tragedy made an impression on him, for it fell at a time in his life when "one begins to fear death." Fear is a word which meets us even in the sprightly pages of A Spiritual AEneid, a volume perhaps more fitly to be termed "An AEsthetic Ramp."
He loved to dash out of college through the chill mists of a November morning to worship with "the few righteous men" of the University in the Chapel of Pusey House, which "conveyed a feeling, to me most gratifying, of catacombs, oubliettes, Jesuitry, and all the atmosphere of mystery that had long fascinated me."
He tells us how his nature "craved for human sympathy and support," and speaks of the God whom he "worshipped, loved, and feared." He prayed for a sick friend with "both hands held above the level of my head for a quarter of an hour or more." He was a Universalist "recoiling from the idea of hell." He believed in omens, though he did not always take them, and was thoroughly superstitious. "The name of Rome has always, for me, stood out from any printed page merely because its initial is that of my own name." "At the time of my ordination I took a private vow, which I always kept, never to preach without making some reference to Our Lady, by way of satisfaction for the neglect of other preachers." He was a youth when he took the vow of celibacy. He had the desire, he tells us, to make himself thoroughly uncomfortable—as Byron would say, "to merit Heaven by making earth a Hell." His superstitions were often ludicrous even to himself. On one occasion in boyhood, he was trying to get a fire to burn: "Let this be an omen," he said. "If I can get this fire to burn, the Oxford Movement was justified."
A visit to Belgium hastened the inevitable decision of such a temperament:
. . . the extraordinary devotion of the people wherever we went, particularly at Bruges, struck home with a sense of immeasurable contrast to the churches of one's own country. . . .
He did not apparently feel the moral contrast between Belgian and English character.
. . . The tourist, I know, thinks of it as Bruges la Morte, but then the tourist does not get up for early Masses; he would find life then . . . he can at least go on Friday morning to the chapel of the Saint Sang and witness the continuous stream of people that flows by, hour after hour, to salute the relic and to make their devotions in its presence; he would find it hard to keep himself from saying, like Browning at High Mass, "This is too good not to be true."
Might he not perhaps say with another great man, "What must God be if He is pleased by things which simply displease His educated creatures?" In a country where the churches were once far more crowded than in Belgium, I was told by a discerning man, Prince Alexis Obolensky, a former Procurator of the Holy Synod, that all such devotion is simply superstition. He said he would gladly give me all Russia's spirituality if I could give him a tenth of England's moral earnestness. And he told me this story:
A man set out one winter's night to murder an old woman in her cottage. As he tramped through the snow with the hatchet under his blouse, it suddenly occurred to him that it was a Saint's Day. Instantly he dropped on his knees in the snow, crossed himself violently with trembling hands, and in a guilty voice implored God to forgive him for his evil intention. Then he rose up, refreshed and forgiven, postponing the murder till the next night.
Undoubtedly, I fear, the devotion of priest-ridden countries, which evokes so spectacular an effect on the stranger of unbalanced judgment, is largely a matter of superstition; how many prayers are inspired by a lottery, how many candles lighted by fear of a ghost?
But Father Knox, whose aesthetic nature had early responded with a vital impulse to Gothic architecture and the pomp and mystery of priestly ceremonial, felt in Bruges that the spirit of the Chapel of the Sacred Blood must be introduced into the Church of England "to save our country from lapsing into heathenism." What, I wonder, is his definition of that term, heathenism?
Bruges had a decisive effect, not only on his aesthetic impulses, but on his moral sense. His conduct as an Anglican priest was frankly that of a Roman propagandist. I do not know that any words more damning to the Romish spirit have ever been written than those in which this most charming and brilliant young man tells the story of his treachery to the Anglican Church. Of celebrating the Communion service he says:
. . . my own principle was, whenever I spoke aloud, to use the language of the Prayer Book, when I spoke secreto, to use the words ordered by the Latin missal.
He said of his propaganda work at this time:
The Roman Catholics . . . have to serenade the British public from the drive; we Anglican Catholics have the entree to the drawing-room.
His enthusiasm for the Roman service was such that in one place
I had to travel for three quarters of an hour to find a church where my manner of celebrating, then perhaps more reminiscent of the missal than of the Prayer Book, was tolerated even in a Mass of Devotion.
About this time I celebrated at a community chapel. One of the brethren was heard to declare afterwards that if he had known what I was going to do he would have got up and stopped me.
At the conclusion of one of his celebrations abroad, an Englishman in the congregation exclaimed, "Thank God that's over." After his first sermon in Trinity Chapel, an undergraduate ("afterwards not only my friend but my penitent") was heard to declare excitedly:
"Such fun! The new Fellow's been preaching heresy—all about Transubstantiation."
Such fun! This note runs through the whole of A Spiritual AEneid. A thoroughly undergraduate spirit inspires every page save the last. Religion is treated as a lark. It is full of opportunities for plotting and ragging and pulling the episcopal leg. One is never conscious, not for a single moment, that the author is writing about Jesus of Nazareth, Gethsemane, and Calvary. About a Church, yes; about ceremonial, about mysterious rites, about prayers to the Virgin Mary, about authority, and about bishops; yes, indeed; but about Christ's transvaluation of values, about His secret, about His religion of the pure heart and the childlike spirit, not one single glimpse.
Now let us examine his intellectual position.
In the preface to Some Loose Stones, written before he went over to Rome, he explains his position to the modernist:
. . . there are limits defined by authority, within which theorising is unnecessary and speculation forbidden.
But I should like here to enter a protest against the assumption . . . that the obscurantist, having fenced himself in behind his wall of prejudices, enjoys an uninterrupted and ignoble peace.
The soldier who has betaken himself to a fortress is thereby in a more secure position than the soldier who elects to fight in the open plain. He has ramparts to defend him. But he has, on the other hand, ramparts to defend. . . . For him there is no retreat.
The whole position stands or falls by the weakest parts in the defences; give up one article of the Nicene Creed, and the whole situation is lost; you go under, and the flag you loved is forfeit.
[Footnote 7: An answer to the volume called Foundations.]
I can feel every argument against the authenticity of the Gospels, because I know that if I approached them myself without faith I should as likely as not brush them aside impatiently as one of a whole set of fables.
They would be fables to him unless he approached them with faith. And what is faith? He tells us in the same preface: "Faith is to me, not an intellectual process, but a divine gift, a special privilege."
It is fair to say that he would now modify this definition, for he has told me that it is a heresy to exclude from faith the operations of the intellect. But the words were written when he was fighting the battle of the soul, written almost on the same page as that which bears these words:
You have not done with doubt, because you have thrown yourself into the fortress; you are left to keep doubt continually at bay, with the cheerful assurance that if you fail, the whole of your religious life has been a ghastly mistake . . .
for this reason, they have, I think, a notable significance.
Is it not probable that Father Knox has thrown himself into a fortress, not out of any burning desire to defend it, but solely to escape from the enemy of his own soul? Is it not probable that he was driven from the field by Fear rather than summoned to the battlements by Love?
I find this inference justified in numerous ways, and I do not think on the whole that Father Knox himself would deny it. But chiefly I find it justified by the form and substance of his utterances since he became a Roman Catholic—fighting and most challenging utterances which for me at any rate are belied, and tragically belied, by a look in his eyes which is unmistakably, I am forced to think, the look of one who is still wrestling with doubt, one, I would venture to hazard, who may even occasionally be haunted by the dreadful fear that his fortress is his prison.
On the day that Newman entered that fortress the triumphant cry of St. Augustine rang in his ears, Securus judicat orbis terrarum; but later came the moan Quis mihi tribuat, and later still the stolen journey to Littlemore and that paroxysm of tears as he leaned over the lych-gate looking at the church.
Not long ago I went one Sunday evening to Westminster Cathedral. It was winter, and the streets of tall and sullen houses in that gloomy neighbourhood were darkening with fog. This fog crept slowly into the cathedral. The surpliced boy who presented an alms-dish just within the doors was stamping his feet and snuffling with cold. The leaves of tracts and pamphlets on the table blew up and chattered in the wind every time the door was thrust open.
The huge building was only half filled, perhaps hardly that. Through the fog it was not easy to see the glittering altar, and when three priests appeared before it their vestments so melted into the cloth that they were visible only when they bowed to the monstrance. The altar bell rang snappishly through this cold fog like the dinner bell of a boarding house, and in that yellow mist, which deepened with every minute, the white flames of the candles lost nearly all their starlike brightness. There seemed to be depression and resentment in the deep voices of the choir rumbling and rolling behind the screen; there seemed to be haste, a desire to get it over, in the nasal voice of the priest praying almost squeakily at the altar.
People were continually entering the cathedral, many of them having the appearance of foreigners, many of them young men who looked like waiters: one was struck by their reverence, and also by their look of intellectual apathy.
Father Knox appeared in the pulpit, which is stationed far down the nave, having come from his work of teaching at Ware to preach to the faithful at Westminster. He looked very young, and rather apprehensive, a slight boyish figure, swaying uneasily, the large luminous eyes, of an extraordinary intensity, almost glazed with light, the full lips, so obviously meant for laughter, parted with a nervous uncertainty, a wave of thick brown hair falling across the narrow forehead with a look of tiredness, the long slender hands never still for a moment.
I will endeavour to summarise his remarkable sermon, which was delivered through the fog in a soft and throaty voice, the body of the preacher swaying monotonously backward and forward, the congregation sitting back in its little chairs and coughing inconveniently from beginning to end. It was the strangest sermon I have listened to for many years, and all the stranger for its unimpassioned delivery. He spoke of the Fall of Man as a certainty. He spoke continually of an offended God. Between this offended God and His creature Man sin had dug an impassable chasm. But Christ had thrown a bridge, from heaven's side of that chasm, over the dreadful gulf. This is why Christ described Himself as the Way. He is the Way over that chasm, and there is no other.
[Footnote 8: "It is a very singular and important fact that, from the appearance in Genesis of the account of the creation and sin and punishment of the first pair, not the faintest explicit allusion to it is subsequently found anywhere in literature until about the time of Christ. . . . Jesus Himself never once alludes to Adam, or to any part of the story of Eden."—ALGER.]
But Christ also described Himself as a door. What is the definition of a door? It is not enough to say that a door is a thing for letting people in and letting people out. It is a thing for letting some people in, and for shutting other people out.
To whom did Christ entrust the key of this door? To St. Peter—to the disciple who had denied Him thrice. What a marvellous choice! Would you have thought of doing that? Should I have thought of doing that? Would any theologian have invented such an idea? But that is what Christ did.
And ever since, St. Peter and his successors have held the keys of Heaven and Hell, with power to loose and bind. What? you exclaim, were the Keys of Heaven and Hell entrusted to even those Popes who lived sinful lives and brought disgrace on the name of religion? Yes. To them and to no others in their day. Whatever their lives may have been at other moments, when they were loosing and binding they were acting for St. Peter, who stood behind them, and behind St. Peter stood Jesus Christ.
Such in brief was the sermon delivered that Sunday evening to the faithful in Westminster Cathedral by one of the wittiest men now living and one of the cleverest young men who ever came down from Oxford with the assurance of a great career before them.
How is it that he has come to such a pass?
I feel that he is in part whistling to keep up his courage, but in chief forcing himself to utter an extreme of traditional belief in order to destroy the last vestige in his mind of a free intellectual existence. Auto-suggestion has a power of which we only begin to know the first movements.
The man who has said that he would not choose as the battleground of the Christian religion either "the credibility of Judges or the edibility of Jonah," the man who is blest with an unusual sense of humour and intellectual subtlety of a rare order, is here found preaching a theology which is fast being rejected by the students of Barcelona and is being questioned even by the peasants of Ireland. What does it mean? Is it possible to understand such a perversion of mind?
His intellectual position, as he states it, is a simple one—for the present.
He asks us, Is Truth something which we are ordered to keep, or something which we are ordered to find?
Is our business holding the fort? Or is it looking for the Pole?
The traditionalist can say, "Here is the Truth, written down for you and me in black and white; I mean to keep it, and defend it from attack; will you rally round it? Will you help me?"
He shows you the modernist wandering in the wilderness of speculative theology looking for the Truth which the traditionalist, safe, warm, and secure of eternal life, keeps whole and undefiled in his fortress.
It is like a fairy tale.
How simple it sounds! But when Father Knox looks in the glass does he not see its staring fallacy?
Did he keep the Truth of his boyhood—the Truth of his father's church? Did he not go outside the fortress of Evangelicalism and seek for Truth in the fortress of Anglo-Catholicism? And here again, did he not break faith, and once more seek Truth outside its walls? If Truth is not something to be found, how is it that he is not still in the house of his fathers?
Does he fail to see that this argument not merely explains but vindicates the rejection of Christ by the Jews? They had their tradition, a tradition of immemorial sanctity, perhaps the noblest tradition of any people in the world.
Does he not also see that it destroys the raison d'etre of the Christian missionary, and would reduce the whole world to a state of what Nietzsche called Chinaism and profound mediocrity?
Every religion in history, from the worship of Osiris, Serapis, and Mithras to the loathsome rites practised in the darkness of African forests, has been handed down as unquestionable truth commanding the loyalty of its disciples. What logic, what magic of holiness, could destroy a false religion if tradition is sacrosanct and all innovation of the devil?
The intellectual duty of a Christian, Father Knox lays it down, is "to resist the natural tendencies of his reason, and believe what he is told, just as he is expected to do what he is told, not what comes natural to him."
Such a proposition provokes a smile, but in the case of this man it provokes a feeling of grief. I cannot bring myself to believe that he has yet found rest for his soul, or that he can so easily strangle the free existence of his mind. His present position fills me with pity, his future with apprehension.
He is one of the modestest of men, almost shrinking in his diffidence and nervous self-distrust, an under-graduate who is mildly excited about an ingenious line of reasoning, a wit who loves to play tricks with the subtlety of a curiously agile brain, a casuist who sees quickly the chinks in the armour of an adversary. But with all his boyishness, and charm, and humility, and engaging cleverness, there is a light in his eyes too feverish for peace of mind. I cannot prevent myself from thinking that his secession, which was something of a comedy to his friends, may prove something of a tragedy to him.
He seems to me one of the most pathetic examples I ever encountered of the ruin wrought by Fear. I think that the one motive of his life has been a constant terror of finding himself in the wrong. The door, which for Dr. Inge has no key, because it has no lock, is to Ronald Knox a door of terror which opens only to a single key—and a door which as surely shuts out from eternal life the soul that is wrong as the soul that is wicked. He must have certainty. He dare not contemplate the prospect of awaking one day to find his religious life "a ghastly mistake."
At the cross roads there was for him no Good Shepherd, only the dark shadow of an offended God. He ran for safety, for certainty. Has he found them?
It may be that the last of his doubts will leave him, that the iron discipline of the Roman Church and the auto-suggestion of his own earnest passion for inward peace, may deliver him from all fear, all uneasiness, and that one day, forsaking the challenging sermon and the too violent assertion of the Catholic faith, he may find himself sitting down in great peace of mind and with a golden mellowness of spirit to write an Apologia pro Vita Sua more genial and less shallow than A Spiritual AEneid.
Such a book from his pen would lack, I think, the fine sweetness of Newman's great work, but it might excel all other books of religious autobiography in charming wit and endearing good humour. The Church of Rome has caught in him neither a Newman nor a Manning. It has caught either a Sydney Smith or a Tartar.
He has too much humour to be a bigot, and too much humanity to be satisfied with a cell. For the moment he seems to embrace Original Sin, to fling his arms round the idea of an offended God, and to shout at the top of his voice that there is no violence to his reason and to his common sense which he cannot contemplate and most gladly accomplish, in the name of Tradition; but the pulses cool, the white heat of enthusiasm evaporates, fears take wing as we grow older, and whispers from the outer world of advancing and conquering men find their way into the oldest blockhouse ever built against the movements of thought.
"Science," says Dr. Inge, "has been the slowly advancing Nemesis which has overtaken a barbarised and paganised Christianity. She has come with a winnowing fan in her hand, and she will not stop till she has thoroughly purged her floor."
I am sure Ronald Knox was never meant to shut his eyes and stop his ears against this movement of truth, and I am almost sure that he will presently find it impossible not to look, and not to listen.
And then . . . what then?
DR. L.P. JACKS
JACKS, LAWRENCE PEARSALL, Principal of Manchester College, Oxford, since 1915; Professor of Philosophy, Manchester College, Oxford, since 1903; Editor of the Hibbert Journal since its foundation, 1902; b. Nottingham, 1860; m. 1889 Olive Cecilia, d. of late Rev. Stopford Brooke. Educ.: University School, Nottingham; University of London (M.A., 1886); Manchester College; Goettingen; Harvard, U.S.A.; Hon. M.A., Oxford; Hon. L.L.D., Glasgow; Hon. D.D. Harvard; entered Ministry as assistant to Rev. Stopford Brooke, in Bedford Chapel, 1887; subsequently at Renshaw Street Chapel, Liverpool, and the Church of the Messiah, Birmingham.
DR. L.P. JACKS
As an excellent amateur huntsman once said to me, "If you must cast, lead the hounds into the belief that they are doing it themselves."—JOHN ANDREW DOYLE.
One of the great ladies of Oxford was telling me the other day that she remembers a time when friends of hers refused, even with averted eyes and a bottle of smelling salts at the nose, to go down the road where Mansfield College had presumed to raise its red walls of Nonconformity.
To-day Manchester College, the seat of Unitarianism, stands on this same dissenting road, and thither the ladies of Oxford go up in great numbers to listen to the beautiful music which distinguishes the chapel service, the chapel itself already beautiful enough with windows by Burne-Jones.
On the altar-cloth of this chapel are embroidered the words, GOD IS LOVE. No tables of stone flank that gentle altar, and no panelled creeds on the walls challenge the visitor to define his definitions. The atmosphere of the place is worship. The greatest of all Christ's affirmations is reckoned enough. God is love. No need, then, to add—Therefore with Angels, and Archangels, and all the Company of Heaven . . .
The Principal of Manchester College is Dr. L.P. Jacks, the Editor of The Hibbert Journal, the biographer of Stopford Brooke and Charles Hargrove, author of Mad Shepherds, Legends of Smokeover, and other books which have won the affection of many readers and the praise of no few scholars. He is a man of letters, a man of nature, and a mystic.
His face bears a strange resemblance to the unforgettable face of that great Unitarian, James Martineau, whom Morley calls "the most brilliant English apologist of our day"; it lacks the marvellous sweetness of Martineau's expression, but has a greater strength; it does not bear witness to so sure a triumph of serenity, but shows the marks of a fiercer battle, and the scars of deeper wounds. It is the masculine of the other's feminine.
Like Martineau's the head with its crown of white hair is nobly sculptured, and like Martineau's the ivory coloured face is ploughed up and furrowed by mental strife; but whereas Martineau's is eminently the indoors face of a student, this is the face of a man who has lived out of doors, a mountaineer and a seafarer. Under the dense bone of the forehead which overhangs them like the eave of a roof, the pale blue eyes look out at you with a deep inner radiance of the spirit, but from the midst of a face which has been stricken and has winced.
Something of the resolution, the deliberateness, the stern power, and the enduring strength of his spirit shows itself, I think, in the short thickset body, with its heavy shoulders, its deep chest, its broad firm upright neck, and its slow movements, the movements as it were of a peasant. Always there is about him the feeling of the fields, the sense of nature's presence in his life, the atmosphere of distances. Nothing in his appearance suggests either the smear or the burnish of a town existence.
It is not without significance that he has gone farther afield from Oxford City than any other of its academic citizens, building for himself a home on a hill two miles and more from Magdalen Bridge, with a garden about it kept largely wild, and seats placed where the eye can travel farthest.
This man, who is so unpushing and self-effacing, makes a contribution to the Christian religion which deserves, I think, the thoughtful attention of his contemporaries. It can be set forth in a few words, for his faith is fastened in the conviction that the universe is far simpler than science—for the moment—would allow us to think.
Let me explain at the outset that Unitarianism admits of a certain diversity of faith. There are Unitarians who think and speak only of God. There are others who lay their insistence on the humanity of Jesus, exalting Him solely as the chief est of teachers. There are others who choose to dwell on the uniqueness of Jesus, who feel in Him some precious but quite inexpressible, certainly quite indefinable, spell of divinity, and who love to lose themselves in mystical meditations concerning His continual presence in the human spirit. Dr. Jacks, I think, is to be numbered among these last. But, like all other Unitarians, he makes no credal demands on mankind, save only the one affirmation of their common faith, with its inevitable ergo: God is Love, and therefore to be worshipped.
Robert Hall said to a Unitarian minister who always baptised "in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," attaching a very sacred meaning to the words, "Why, sir, as I understand you, you must consider that you baptise in the name of an abstraction, a man, and a metaphor." More simple was the interpretation of a Japanese who, after listening with a corrugated brow to the painful exposition of a recent Duke of Argyll concerning the Trinity in Unity, and the Unity in Trinity, suddenly exclaimed with radiant face, "Ah, yes, I see, a Committee."
Dr. Jacks leaves these perplexities alone. For him, God is the Universal Spirit, the Absolute Reality immanent in all phenomena, the Love which reason finds in Goodness and intuition discovers in Beauty, the Father of men, the End and the very Spirit of Evolution. And Jesus, so far as human thought can reach into the infinite, is the Messenger of God, the Revealer both of God's Personality and man's immortality, the great Teacher of liberty. What else He may be we do not know, but may discover in other phases of our ascent. Enough for the moment of duration which we can human life to know that He unlocks the door of our prison-house, reveals to us the character of our Father which is in Heaven, and the nature of the universe in which we move and have our being.
If this should appear vague to the dogmatist who finds it impossible either to love God or to do the will of Christ without going into the arithmetic of Athanasius, and reciting an unintelligible creed, and celebrating in Christian forms the rites of those mystery religions which competed with each other for the superstition of the Greco-Roman world in the third century, he will find no vagueness at all in Dr. Jacks's interpretation of the teaching of Jesus. He may perhaps find in that interpretation a simplicity, a clarity, and a directness which are not wholly convenient to his idea of a God Who repents, is angry, and can be mollified.
Whether Jesus was born of a Virgin or not, whether He raised dead bodies to life or not, whether He Himself rose from the grave with His physical body or not, certain is it, and beyond all dispute of every conceivable kind, that He taught men a way of life, that He brought them a message, that He Himself regarded His message as good news.
How carelessly men may think in this matter is shown to us rather strikingly in a page of Some Loose Stones, a book to which reference has already been made. After writing about dogma, and endeavouring to show that the traditionalist is on firmer ground than the modernist, because he can say, "Here is the Truth," while the modernist can only say, "We will tell you what the truth is when we have found it," suddenly, with scarcely a draw of his breath, Father Knox exclaims:
The real trouble is that they (the modernists) have got hold of the wrong end of the stick, that they have radically misconceived the whole nature of the Christian message, which is, to be one for all minds, for all places, for all times.
Note that word message. What confusion of thought!
The message of Christ is one thing; paganised dogma concerning Christ is another. The message of Christ does indeed remain for all minds, for all places, for all times, inexhaustible in its meaning, unalterable in its nature; the dogmas of theology, on the other hand, demand Councils of the Church for their definition, and an infallible Pope for their interpretation. They change, have changed even in the unchangeable Catholic Church, and will change with every advance of the positive sciences and with every ascent of philosophy towards reality; but the message stands, plain to the understanding of a child, yet still rejected by the world. Christianity, as Dr. Jacks says, has been more studied than practised.
How far quarrelling theologians and uncharitable Churches are responsible for that rejection, let the conscience of the traditionalist (if he happen to know history) decide.
As for the message, here is a reading of it by a Unitarian—a reading, I venture to say, for all minds, for all places, for all times—a reading which stands clear of controversial theology, and which, in spite of its profundity, is a message for the simple as well as for the learned.
Christianity is man's passport from illusion into reality. It reveals to him that he is not in the world to set the world right, but to see it right. He is not a criminal and earth is not a Borstal Institution. Nature is the handiwork of a Father. Look deeply into that handiwork and it reveals a threefold tendency—the tendency towards goodness, the tendency towards beauty, the tendency towards truth. Ally yourself with these tendencies, make yourself a growing and developing intelligence, and you inhabit spiritual reality.
Study the manner of Jesus, His attitude to the simplest and most domestic matters, the love He manifested, and the objects for which He manifested that love. These things have "a deeper significance than our pensive theologies have dared to find in them. . . . They belong not to the fringe of Christianity but to its essence." Christ loved the world.
His religion, which has come to stand for repression founded on an almost angry distrust of human nature, is in fact "the most encouraging, the most joyous, the least repressive, and the least forbidding of all the religions of the world." It does not fear the world, it masters it. It does not seek to escape from life, it develops a truer and more abundant life. It places itself at the head of evolution.
There are points on its path where it enters the shadows and even descends into hell, for it is a religion of redemption, the religion of the shepherd seeking the lost sheep, but "the end of it all is a resurrection and not a burial, a festival and not a funeral, an ascent into the heights and not a lingering in the depths."
Nowhere else is the genius of the Christian Religion so poignantly revealed than in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which begins in the minor key and gradually rises to the major, until it culminates in a great merry-making, to the surprise of the Elder Son, who thinks the majesty of the moral law will be compromised by the music and dancing, and has to be reminded that these joyous sounds are the keynotes of the spiritual world.
Dr. Jacks well says that we should be nearer the truth if, instead of thinking how we can adapt this religion to the minds of the young, we regarded it as "originally a religion of the young which has lost some of its savour by being adapted to the minds of the old."
Then he reminds us that it was "in the form of a person that the radiance of Christianity made its first appearance and its first impression on the world." A Light came into the world.
The Jesus of history drew men to Him by an inward beauty. His serenity gave the sick and the suffering an almost riotous confidence that He could heal them. His radiance attracted children to His side. He was fond of choosing a child for the sublimest of teachings. He made it clear that entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven is easiest to those who are least deluded or enchained by appearances, and hardest to those whose hearts lie in their possessions. The Kingdom of Heaven signifies freedom.
He was the great teacher of the poverty of riches, and the wealth of nothingness. He knew as no other had ever known, and saw as no other had ever seen, the symbolism of nature. Always His vision pierced behind the appearance to the thing in itself. He loved "the reality that abides beyond the shadows." He directed our spiritual vision to this reality, telling us that the soul makes a natural response "to a world built on the same heavenly pattern with itself and aglow with the same immortal fire." He taught that joy is a thing of the spirit. He made it plain that loss, disillusion, and defeat are the penalty of affections set on the outside of things. The materialist is in prison.
He did not condemn the earth; He taught that its true loveliness is to be discerned only by the spiritual eye. For Him the earth was a symbol, and the whole realm of nature a parable.
I cannot but think that we are never further from the genius of the Christian religion than when we treat this luminous atmosphere as though it were a foreign envelope, of little account so long as the substance it enshrines is retained intact. Without it, the substance, no matter how simple or how complex, becomes a dry formula, dead as the moon.
Losing the radiance we lose at the same time the central light from which the radiance springs, and our religion, instead of transforming the corruptible world into its incorruptible equivalents, reverts to the type it was intended to supersede and becomes a mere safeguard to the moral law.
Nothing can allay our present discords and the long confusions of the world, short of "those radiant conceptions of God, of man, of the universe, which are the life and essence of Christianity."
"Liberty," says Edouard Le Roy, "is rare; many live and die and have never known it." And Bergson says, "We are free when our acts proceed from our entire personality, when they express it, when they exhibit that indefinable resemblance to it which we find occasionally between the artist and his work."
This, I think, is what Dr. Jacks means when he speaks of Christianity bestowing liberty—a new mastery over fate and circumstance. It calls forth not only the affection of a man, and not only the intelligence of a man, but the whole of his intuitions as well. The entire personality, the entire field of consciousness, the entire mystery of the ego, is bidden to throw itself upon the universe with confidence, with gratitude, with love unspeakable, recognising there the act of a Fatherhood of which, in its highest moments, the soul is conscious in itself.
Thus is man made free of illusion. No longer can the outside of things deceive him, or the defeats of the higher by the lower deject, much less overwhelm him. He sees the reality behind the appearance. He dwells with powers which are invisible and eternal—with justice, with virtue, with beauty, with truth, with love, with excellence. More to him than any house built with hands, more, much more even than the habitation of his own soul, is the invisible life of that soul, its delight in beauty, its immediate response to truth and goodness, its longing for the flight of the One to the One, its almost athletic sense of spiritual fitness.
Dr. Jacks will have no element of fear in this religion. He finds no room in the universe for an offended God. Belief in God can mean nothing else but love of God. All our troubles have come upon us from the failure of the Church to live in the radiant atmosphere of this belief, to make belief a life, a life that needs no dogmas and expresses itself by love.
But this was not to be. The Church cultivated fear of God, and could not bring itself to trust human nature.
Belief passed into dogma; the mind of man was put in fetters as well as his body; the Church built one prison and the State another. . . . All this was closely connected with the idea of the potentate God which Church and State, in consequence of their political alliance, had restored, against the martyr protest of Jesus Christ.
But how should man be treated? Here it is that Dr. Jacks makes a most valuable suggestion:
Treat man, after the mind of Christ, as a being whose first need is for Light, and whose second need is for government, and you will find that as his need for light is progressively satisfied, his need for government will progressively diminish.
Is it not a significant fact that while the churches are complaining of emptiness, the schools, the colleges, the universities, are packed to overflowing?
Dr. Jacks has asked quite recently a Frenchman, a Swede, a Dutchman, an American, a Chinaman, and a Japanese, "What is the leading interest in your country? What do your people really believe in?" The answer in each case was, "Education."
When he varied his question, and asked, "What have you learnt from the war?" the answer came, "We have learnt our need of education."
Some would prefer them to have said: "We have learnt our need of Christianity." But is it not the same thing? In grasping the vast potentialities of the human spirit, and that is what this hunger for education means, have they not grasped an essential characteristic of the Christian religion and placed themselves at its very growing point?
Education is Light, and Light is from God.
Dr. Jacks believes that a movement has begun which, "if it develops according to promise, will grow into the most impassioned enterprise so far undertaken by man."
The struggle for light, with its wide fellowships and high enthusiasms, will displace the struggle for power, with its mean passions, its monstrous illusions, and its contemptible ideals.
The struggle for power will end, not, as some predict, in universal revolution, which would merely set it going again in another form, but by being submerged, lost sight of, snowed under, by the greater interests that centre round the struggle for light.
I say these things will happen. But they will not happen unless men are sufficiently resolved that they shall.
Let the reader remember that those who now flock to the schoolmaster are less likely than men of the previous generation to fall into the pit of materialism. They begin at a point which the previous generation did not believe to exist—a visible world reduced by positive science to the invisible world of philosophy. They confront not a quantitative universe, but a qualitative. They almost begin at the very spirit of man; they cannot advance far before they find themselves groping in the unseen, and using, not the senses given to us by action, but the eyes and ears of the understanding by which alone the soul of man can apprehend reality. Even the Germans have gone back to Goethe.
This, then, is the contribution which Dr. Jacks makes to modern thought. We are to consider man as a creature of boundless potentiality, to realise that his first need is for light, and to define that mystic all-important word in terms of education. Christianity was not concerned with the moral law; it was concerned with the transcending of all law by the spirit of understanding.
I need not guard myself against the supposition that so true a scholar is satisfied with the system of education which exists at the present time. Dr. Jacks looks for a reform of this system, but not from the present race of politicians.
"How can we hope to get a true system of education from politics?" he asked me. "Is there any atmosphere more degrading? Plato has warned us that no man is fit to govern until he has ceased to desire power. But these men think of nothing else. To be in power; that is the game of politics. What can you expect from such people?"
He said to me, "Men outside politics are beginning to see what education involves. It involves the whole man, body, mind, spirit. I do not think you can frame an intelligent definition of education without coming up against religion. In its simplest expression, education is a desire to escape from darkness into light. It is fear of ignorance, and faith in knowledge. At the present time, most people have escaped from darkness into twilight; a twilight which is neither one thing nor the other. But they will never rest there. The quest of the human spirit is Goethe's dying cry, Light—more Light. And it is from these men that I look to get a nobler system of education. They will compel the politicians to act, perhaps get rid of the present race of politicians altogether. And when these humble disciples of knowledge, who are now making heroic efforts to escape from the darkness of ignorance, frame their definition of education, I am sure it will include religion. The Spirit of Man needs only to be liberated to recognise the Spirit of God."
Most people, I think, will agree with Dr. Jacks in these opinions; they are intelligent and promise a reasonable way out of our present chaos. For many they will shed a new light on their old ideas of both religion and education. But some will ask: What is the Unitarian Church doing to make these intelligent opinions prevail?
Dr. Jacks confesses to me that there is no zeal of propaganda in the Unitarian communion. It is a society of people which does not thrust itself upon the notice of men, does not compete for converts with other churches in the market-place. It is rather a little temple of peace round the corner, to which people, who are aweary of the din in the theological market-place, may make their way if they choose. It is such a Church as Warburton, to the great joy of Edward FitzGerald, likened to Noah's family in the Ark:
The Church, like the Ark of Noah, is worth saving; not for the sake of the unclean beasts that almost filled it and probably made most noise and clamour in it, but for the little corner of rationality that was as much distressed by the stink within as by the tempest without.
It is significant of the modesty of the Unitarian that he does not emerge from this retirement even to cry, "I told you so," to a Church which is coming more and more to accept the simplicity of his once ridiculed and anathematised theology.
"You must regard modernism," I said to Dr. Jacks on one occasion, "as a vindication of the Unitarian attitude."
He smiled and made answer, "Better not say so. Let them follow their own line."
No man was ever less of a proselytiser. In his remarkable book From Authority to Freedom, in which he tells the story of Charles Hargrove's religious pilgrimage, he seems to be standing aside from all human intervention, watching with patient eyes the action of the Spirit of God on the hearts and consciences of men. And in that little masterpiece of deep thought and beautiful writing, The Lost Radiance of the Christian Religion, from which I have made most of the quotations in this chapter, one is conscious throughout of a strong aversion from the field of dogma and controversy, of deliberate determination of the writer to keep himself in the pure region of the spirit.
Christianity, he tells us there, has seen many corruptions, but the most serious of all is not to be found in any list of doctrines that have gone wrong:
We find it rather in a change of atmosphere, in a loss of brightness and radiant energy, in a tendency to revert in spirit, if not in terminology, to much colder conceptions of God, of man, and of the universe.
"As man in his innermost nature is a far higher being than he seems, so the world in its innermost nature is a far nobler fabric than it seems." To discover this man must live in his spirit.
"God," said Jesus, "is Spirit," and it is a definition of God which goes behind and beneath all the other names that are applied to Him.
The spirit is love; it is peace; it is joy; and perhaps joy most of all. It is a joyous energy, having a centre in the soul of man.
It is not a foreign principle which has to be introduced into a man from without; it belongs to the substance and structure of his nature; it needs only to be liberated there; and when once that is done it takes possession of all the forces of his being, repressing nothing, but transfiguring everything, till all his motives and desires are akindle and aglow with the fires and energy of that central flame, with its love, its peace, its joy.
A man who sees so deeply into the truth of things, and lives so habitually at the centre of existence, is not likely to display the characteristics of the propagandist. But the work of Dr. Jacks at Manchester College may yet give not only this country but the world—for his students come from many nations—a little band of radiant missionaries whose message will repel none and attract many.
BISHOP HENSLEY HENSON
DURHAM, Bishop of, since 1920; Rt. Rev. Herbert Hensley Henson; b. London 8th Nov., 1863, 4th s. of Late Thomas Henson, Broadstairs Kent, and Martha Fear; m. 1902 Isabella Caroline, o.d. of J.W. Dennistoun of Dennistoun, N.B. Educ.: Privately and at Oxford. First Class Modern History; Fellow of All Soul's College, Oxford, 1884-91, reelected 1896; B.D. 1898; Hon. D.D. Glasgow, 1906; Durham, 1913; Oxon, 1918; Head of the Oxford House, Bethnal Green, 1887-88; Vicar of Barking, Essex, 1888-95; Select Preacher at Oxford, 1895-96, 1913-14; Cambridge, 1901; Incumbent of St. Mary's Hospital, Ilford, 1895-1900; Chaplain to Lord Bishop of St. Alban's, 1897-1900; Canon of Westminster Abbey and Rector of St. Margaret's, 1900-12; Sub-Dean of Westminster, 1911-12; Dean of Durham, 1912-18; Bishop of Durham, 1918-20; late Hon. Professor of Modern History in Durham University; Proctor in Convocation, 1903-18.
BISHOP HENSLEY HENSON
He early attained a high development, but he has not increased it since; years have come, but they have whispered little; as was said of the second Pitt, "He never grew, he was cast."—WALTER BAGEHOT.
Rumour has it that Dr. Henson is beginning to draw in his horns. Every curate who finds himself unable to believe in the Virgin Birth, so it said, feels himself entitled to a living in the diocese of Durham. They flee from the intolerant zealotry of the sacerdotal south to the genial modernism of the latitudinarian north.
But the trouble is, so rumour has it, these intelligent curates prove themselves but indifferent parish priests. Dr. Henson has to complain. The work of the Church must be carried on. Evangelicalism seems a better driving force than theology. Dr. Henson has to think whether perhaps . . .
One need not stop to ask if this version is strictly true. The fact seems to emerge that the Bishop of Durham, one of the ablest intellects in the Church of England, and hitherto one of the strongest pillars of modernism, is beginning to speak theologically with rather less decision.
Let us at least express the pious hope that the Dean of Durham, Dr. Welldon, has had nothing to do with it. A greater man than Dr. Henson, a greater scholar and a profounder thinker, has spoken to me of this new movement in the Bishop's mind with a deep impersonal regret. Modernism will go on; but what will happen to Dr. Henson? "A man may change his mind once," he said; "but to change it twice—"
The words of Guicciardini came into my mind, "The most fatal of all neutralities is that which results not from choice, but from irresolution."
There is much to be learned, I think, from a study of Dr. Henson's personality. He stands for the moment at a parting of the ways, and it will be interesting to see which road he intends to take; but the major interest lies in his abiding psychology, and no change in theological opinions will affect that psychology at all. Attach to him the label of "modernist" or the label of "traditionalist," and it will still be the same little eager man thrusting his way forward on either road with downward head and peering eyes, arguing with anyone who gets in his way, and loving his argument far more than his way.
When he was at Oxford, and was often in controversial conflict with Dr. A.C. Headlam, now Regius Professor of Divinity, Dr. Hensley Henson earned the nickname of Coxley Cocksure. Never was any man more certain he was right; never was any man more inclined to ridicule the bare idea that his opponent could be anything but wrong; and never was any man more thoroughly happy in making use of a singularly trenchant intellect to stab and thrust its triumphant way through the logic of his adversary.
It is said that Dr. Henson has had to fight his way into notice, and that he has never lost the defect of those qualities which enabled him so victoriously to reach the mitred top of the ecclesiastical tree. He has climbed. He has loved climbing. Perhaps he has so got into this bracing habit that he may even "climb down," if only in order once more to ascend—a new rendering of reculer pour mieux sauter. I do not think he has much altered since he first set out to conquer fortune by the force of his intellect, an intellect of whose great qualities he has always been perhaps a little dangerously self-conscious.
Few men are more effective in soliloquy. It is a memorable sight to see him standing with his back to one of the high stone mantelpieces in Durham Castle, his feet wide apart on the hearth-rug, his hands in the openings of his apron, his trim and dapper body swaying ceaselessly from the waist, his head, with its smooth boyish hair, bending constantly forward, jerking every now and then to emphasise a point in his argument, the light in his bright, watchful, sometimes mischievous eyes dancing to the joy of his own voice, the thin lips working with pleasure as they give to all his words the fullest possible value of vowels and sibilants, the small greyish face, with its two slightly protruding teeth on the lower lip, almost quivering, almost glowing, with the rhythm of his sentences and the orderly sequence of his logic. All this composes a picture which one does not easily forget. It is like the harangue of a snake, which is more subtle than any beast of the field. One is conscious of a spell.
The dark tapestried room, the carved ceiling, the heavy furniture, the embrasured windows, the whole sombre magnificence of the historic setting, quiet, almost somnolent, with the enduring memories of Cuthbert Tunstall and Butler, Lightfoot and Westcott, add a most telling vivacity to the slim and dominating figure of this boylike bishop, who is so athletic in the use of his intellect and so happy in every thesis he sets himself to establish.
It is an equally memorable sight to see him in his castle at Bishop Auckland in the role of host, entertaining people of intelligence with the history of the place, showing the pictures and the chapel, exhibiting curious relics of the past—a restless and energetic figure, holding its own in effectiveness against men of greater stature and more commanding presence by an inward force which has something of the tang of a twitching bow-string.
So much energy would suggest a source of almost inexhaustible power. But that is perhaps the greatest disappointment of all in the Bishop's psychology. In the case of Dr. Inge one is very conscious of a rich and deep background, a background of mysticism, from which the intellect emerges with slow emphasis to play its part on the world's stage. In the case of Bishop Ryle one is conscious behind the pleasant, courtierlike, and scholarly manner of a background of very wholesome and unquestioning moral earnestness. But in Dr. Henson one is conscious of nothing behind the intellect but intellect itself, an intellect which has absorbed his spiritual life into itself and will permit no other tenant of his mind to divert attention for a single moment from its luminous brilliance, its perfection of mechanism.
One may be quite wrong, of course; one can speak only of the impression which he makes upon oneself and perhaps a few of one's friends; but it would almost seem as if he had ever regarded Christianity as a thesis to be argued, not a religion to be preached, a principle to be enunciated, not a practice to be extended, a tradition to be maintained, not a passion to be communicated.
Yet his sermons, which a great Anglo-Catholic declared to me with a mocking mordancy to be full of "edification," do often enter that region of religion which seems to demand an appeal to the emotions; moreover, it is not to be thought for a moment that the Bishop is not deeply concerned with all moral questions, that he is in the least degree indifferent to the high importance of conduct. But for myself these excursions, earnest and well-intentioned as they are, proclaim rather the social energy of the good citizen than the fervent zeal of an apostle on fire with his Master's message. The evangelicalism of the Bishop has taken, as it were, the cast of politics, and he enters the pulpit of Christ to proclaim the reasonableness of the moral law with the alacrity of the lecturer.
This is what makes him so interesting a study for those curious about the workings of religious psychology. Here is a thoroughly good man, as fearless and upright as any man in the kingdom, a figure among scholars, a power among organisers, a very able, sincere, and trenchant personality, who has thrown the whole weight of all he has to give on the side of Christianity, but who, for some reason, in despite of all his hard work and unquestionable earnestness, does not convey any idea of the attraction of Christ.
It makes one doubt, not that the Bishop has reserved his feelings for another affection, but whether he has any feelings to bestow. One thinks that he has drawn up and concentrated so effectually all the forces of his personality into the intellect that it is now impossible for him to see religion except as an intellectual problem. One thinks, too, that he has never dreamed of converting other people to his views, but only of arguing them out of theirs. Yet, after all, there are more ways of converting the world than beating a drum.
I am certain, however, that he could easier convince a socialistic collier or a communistic iron-moulder of the absurdity of his economics than persuade either the one or the other of the spiritual satisfaction of his own religion. Perhaps religion presents itself to the Bishop, as it does to a great number of other people, as a consecration of moral law, and clearly moral law is something to be established by reason, not commended by appeals to the sentiments; not for one moment, all the same, would he countenance the famous cynicism of Gibbon—"The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosophers as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful"—for no man sees more clearly the permanent need of religion in the human spirit, and no man is more sincerely convinced of the truth of the Christian religion. But he brings to religion, as I think, only his intellect, and so he has intellectualised its ethic, and has left its deepest meaning to those who possess, what he has either always lacked or has forfeited in his intellectual discipleship, the qualities of mysticism.
One might almost say that he has intellectualised the Sermon on the Mount, dissected the Prodigal Son as a study in psychology, and taken the heart out of the Fourth Gospel.
His usefulness, however, is of a high order. With the sole exception of Dean Inge, no front bench Churchman has displayed a more admirable courage in confronting democracy and challenging its Materialistic politics. Moreover, although he modestly doubts his effectiveness as a public speaker, he has shown an acute judgment in these attacks which has not been lost upon the steadier minds in the Labour world of the north. Perhaps he has done as much as any man up there to convince an embittered and disillusioned proletariat that it must accept the inevitable rulings of economic law.
His courage in this matter is all the more praiseworthy because he seems to be convinced, to speak in general terms, that the religion of Christ is now rejected by the democracy. It needs, therefore, great strength of mind to face a body of men who have lost all interest in his religion, and to address them not only as economist and historian but as one who still believes that Christianity bestows a power which sets at defiance all the worst that circumstance and condition can do to the soul of man.
In these addresses he puts aside the materialistic dreams of the social reformer as impractical and dangerous.
Ideal reconstructions of society, pictures of "The Kingdom of God upon earth," to use a popular but perilous phrase, are not greatly serviceable to human progress. They may even turn men aside from the road of actual progress, for the indulgence of philanthropic imagination neither strengthens the will in self-sacrifice, nor illumines the practical judgment.
His argument then leads him to question the justification of the social reformer's oratory. "Let us be on our guard," he says, "against exaggeration."
I am sure that great harm is being done at the present time by the reckless denunciation of the existing social order, often by men who have no special knowledge either of the history of society, or of the present situation. Hypnotised by their own enthusiasm, they allow themselves to use language which is not only altogether excessive, but also highly inflammatory. I am bound honestly to say that I think some of the clergy are great offenders in this respect. Having created or stimulated popular discontent by such rhetorical exaggeration, they point to the discontent as itself sufficient proof of the existence of social oppression. They are immersed in a fallacy.
With boldness he carries the war into the camp of his enemies:
There is much food for thought in the notorious fact that the critics of existing society, so far from being able to count upon the popular discontent, are compelled to organise an elaborate system of defaming propaganda in order to induce the multitude to believe themselves oppressed.
He charges the social reformer with an immoral idealism. The worker is encouraged to prolong his work, is taught that he may with perfect justice adopt the policy of ca' canny, seeing that his first duty is, not to his master, but to his wife and children.
"Imagine the effect on character," cries the Bishop, "of eight hours' dishonesty every day, eight hours of a man's second or third best, never his whole heart in his job! And this is called idealism!"
If industrialism were swept away, and some form of Socialism were established, the success of the new order, as of the old, would have to turn on the willingness of the people honestly to work it. It hardly lies in the mouths of men who are labouring incessantly to obstruct the working of the existing order, to build an argument against it on the measure of their success in making it fail. There are confessedly many grave evils in our industrial system, but there are also very evident benefits. It is, like human nature itself, a mingled thing. Instead of exaggerating the evils, the wiser course would surely be to inquire how far they are capable of remedy, and then cautiously—for the daily bread of these many millions of British folk depends on the normal working of our industrial system—to attempt reforms. Reckless denunciation is not only wrong in itself, but it creates a listless, disaffected temper, the farthest removed possible from the spirit of good citizenship and honest labour.
In these quotations you may see something of the Bishop's acuteness of intellect, something of his courage, and something of his wholesome good sense. But, also, I venture to think, one may see in them something of his spiritual limitations.
For, after all, is not the Christian challenged with an identical criticism by the champions of materialism?
Why can't he leave people alone? Who asks him to interfere with the lives of other people—other people who are perfectly contented to go their own way? Look at the rascal! Having created or stimulated spiritual discontent by rhetorical exaggeration, he points to the discontent as itself sufficient proof of the dissatisfaction of materialism! Out upon him, for a paid agitator, a kill-joy, and a humbug. Let him hold his peace, or, with Nietzsche, consign these masses of the people "to the Devil and the Statistician."
Might it not be argued that the Bishop's attitude towards the social reformer bears at least a slight family resemblance to the attitude of the Pharisees towards Christ, and of the Roman Power to the earliest Christian communities? May it not be said, too, that nothing is so disagreeable to a conservative mind as the fermentation induced by the leaven of a new idea?
Never does dissatisfaction with the present condition of things appear in the Bishop's eyes as a creation of the Christian spirit, an extension of that liberalising, enfranchising, and enriching spirit which has already destroyed so many of the works of feudalism. But he faces the question of the part which the Church must play in the world; he faces it with honesty and answers it with shrewdness—
What then is the role of the Church in such a world as this? Surely it is still what it was before—to be the soul of society, "the salt of the earth." If we, Christ's people, are carrying on, year in and year out, a quiet, persistent witness by word and life to "the things that are more excellent," the unseen things which are eternal, we too shall be "holding the world together," and opening before society the vista of a genuine progress. This is the supreme and incommunicable task of the Church; this is the priceless service which we can render to the nation.
The position is defensible, for it is one that has been held by the saints, and dangerous indeed is the spirit of materialism in the region of social reform. But does not one miss from the Bishop's attack upon the social reformer something much deeper than successful logic, something which expresses itself in the works of other men by the language of sympathy and charity, something which hungers and thirsts to shed light and to give warmth, something which makes for the eventual brotherhood of mankind under the divine Fatherhood of God?
Some such spirit as this, I think, is to be found in the writings of Mr. R.H. Tawney, who, however much he may err and go astray in his economics, cherishes at least a more seemly vision of the human family than that which now passes for civilisation. Is it not possible that the day may come when a gigantic income will seem "ungentlemanly"? Is it not a just claim, a Christian claim, that the social organisation should be based upon "moral principles"?
Christians are a sect, and a small sect, in a Pagan Society. But they can be a sincere sect. If they are sincere, they will not abuse the Pagans . . . for a good Pagan is an admirable person. But he is not a Christian, for his hopes and fears, his preferences and dislikes, his standards of success and failure, are different from those of Christians. The Church will not pretend that he is, or endeavour to make its own Faith acceptable to him by diluting the distinctive ethical attributes of Christianity till they become inoffensive, at the cost of becoming trivial.
. . . so tepid and self-regarding a creed is not a religion. Christianity cannot allow its sphere to be determined by the convenience of politicians or by the conventional ethics of the world of business. The whole world of human interests was assigned to it as its province (The Acquisitive Society).
It must not be supposed that the Bishop has no answer to this criticism of his attitude. He would say, "Produce your socialistic scheme, and I will examine it, and if it will work and if it is just I will support it; but until you have found this scheme, what moral right do you possess which entitles you to unsettle men's minds, to fill their hearts with the bitterness of discontent, and to turn the attention of their souls away from the things that are more excellent?"
On this ground, the ground of economics, his position seems to me unassailable; but it is a position which suggests the posture of a lecturer in front of his black-board rather than that of a shepherd seeking the lost sheep of his flock. If the socialist must think again, at least we may ask that the Bishop should sometimes raise his crook to defend the sheep against the attack of the robber and the wolf. If the sheep are to be patient, if they are not to stray, if they are not to die, there must be food for their grazing.
But the Bishop, at the very roots of his being, is conservative, and the good qualities of conservatism do not develop foresight or permit of vision. He would stick to the wattled cotes; and I think he would move his flock on to new pastures as seldom as possible. This will not do, however. The social reformer tells the Bishop who thinks democracy has rejected religion that "the hungry sheep look up and are not fed." The roots of the old sustenance are nibbled level to the ground, and the ground itself is sour. If socialism is wrong, let the Bishop tell us where lies a safer pasture.
One seems to see in this thrusting scholar and restless energetic prelate a very striking illustration of the need in the Christian of tenderness. Intellect is not enough. Intellect, indeed, is not light; it is only the wick of a lamp which must be fed constantly with the oil of compassion—that is to say, if its light is to shine before men. The Bishop dazzles, but he does not illumine the darkness or throw a white beam ahead of heavy-laden and far-journeying humanity on the road which leads, let us hope, to a better order of things than the present system.
Whether such a man calls himself traditionalist or modernist does not greatly matter. One respects him for his moral qualities, his courage, and his devotion to his work; one honours him for his intellectual qualities, which are of a high and brilliant order; but one does not feel that he is leading the advance, or even that he knows in which direction the army is definitely advancing.
MISS MAUDE ROYDEN
ROYDEN, AGNES MAUDE, Assistant Preacher at the City Temple, 1918-20; Founder with Dr. Percy Dearmer of the Fellowship Services at Kensington; b. 1876, y.d. of late Sir Thomas Royden, 1st Bart. of Frankby Hall, Birkenhead. Educ.: Cheltenham Ladies' College; Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Worked at the Victoria Women's Settlement, Liverpool, for three years and then in the country parish of Luffenham; Lecturer in English Literature to the Oxford University Extension Delegacy; joined the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, 1908; on Executive Committee, 1908; Edited the Common Cause till 1914; wrote and spoke chiefly on the economic, ethical, and religious aspects of the Women's Movement; resigned executive, 1914.
MISS MAUDE ROYDEN
. . . _their religion, too (i.e. the religion of women), has a mode of expressing itself, though it seldom resorts to the ordinary phrases of divinity.
Those "nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love," by which their influence is felt through every part of society, humanising and consoling wherever it travels, are their theology. It is thus that they express the genuine religion of their minds; and we trust that if ever they should study the ordinary dialect of systematised religion they will never, while pronouncing its harsh gutturals and stammering over its difficult shibboleths, forget their elder and simpler and richer and sweeter language._—F.D. MAURICE.
Pushkin said that Russia turned an Asian face towards Europe and a European face towards Asia.
This acute saying may be applied to Miss Royden. To the prosperous and timid Christian she appears as a dangerous evangelist of socialism, and to the fiery socialist as a tame and sentimental apostle of Christianity. As in the case of Russia, so in the case of this interesting and courageous woman; one must go to neither extremity, neither to the bourgeoisie nor to the apacherie, if one would discover the truth of her nature.
Nor need one fear to go direct to the lady herself, for she is the very soul of candour. Moreover, she has that charming spirit of friendliness and communication which distinguished La Bruyere, a philosopher "always accessible, even in his deepest studies, who tells you to come in, for you bring him something more precious than gold or silver, if it is the opportunity of obliging you."
Certainly Miss Royden does not resemble, in her attitude towards either God or the human race, that curious religieuse Mdme. de Maintenon, who having been told by her confessor in the floodtime of her beauty that "God wished her to become the King's mistress," at the end of that devout if somewhat painful experience, replied to a suggestion about writing her memoirs, "Only saints would find pleasure in its perusal."
Miss Royden's memoirs, if they are ever written, would have, I think, the rather unusual merit of pleasing both saints and sinners; the saints by the depth and beauty of her spiritual experience, the sinners by her freedom from every shade of cant and by her strong, almost masculine, sympathy with the difficulties of our human nature. Catherine the Great, in her colloquies with the nervous and hesitating Diderot, used to say, "Proceed; between men all is allowable." One may affirm of Miss Royden that she is at once a true woman and a great man.
It is this perfect balance of the masculine and feminine in her personality which makes her so effective a public speaker, so powerful an influence in private discourse, and so safe a writer on questions of extreme delicacy, such as the problem of sex. She is always on the level of the whole body of humanity, a complete person, a veritable human being, neither a member of a class nor the representative of a sex.
Perhaps it may be permitted to mention two events in her life which help one to understand how it is she has come to play this masculine and feminine part in public life.
One day, a day of torrential rain, when she was a girl living in her father's house in Cheshire, she and her sister saw a carriage and pair coming through the park towards the house. The coachman and footman on the box were soaking wet, and kept their heads down to avoid the sting of the rain in their eyes. The horses were streaming with rain and the carriage might have been a watercart.
When the caller, a rich lady, arrived in the drawing-room, polite wonder was expressed at her boldness in coming out on such a dreadful day. She seemed surprised. "Oh, but I came in a closed carriage," she explained.
This innocent remark opened the eyes of Miss Royden to the obliquity of vision which is wrought, all unconsciously in many cases, by the power of selfishness. The condition of her coachman and footman had never for a moment presented itself to the lady's mind. Miss Royden made acquaintance with righteous indignation. She became a reformer, and something of a vehement reformer.
The drenched carriage coming through a splash of rain to her home will remain for ever in her mind as an image of that spirit of selfishness which in its manifold and subtle workings wrecks the beauty of human existence.
Miss Royden, it should be said, had been prepared by a long experience of pain to feel sympathy with the sufferings of other people. Her mind had been lamentably ploughed up ever since the dawn of memory to receive the divine grain of compassion.
At birth both her hips were dislocated, and lameness has been her lot through life. Such was her spirit, however, that this saddening and serious affliction, dogging her days and nights with pain, seldom prevented her from joining in the vigorous games and sports of the Royden family. She was something of a boy even in those days, and pluck was the very centre of her science of existence.
The religion of her parents suggested to her mind that this suffering had been sent by God. She accepted the perilous suggestion, but never confronted it. It neither puffed her up with spiritual pride nor created in her mind bitter thoughts of a paltry and detestable Deity. A pagan stoicism helped her to bear her lot quite as much as, if not more than, the evangelicalism of Sir Thomas and Lady Royden. Moreover, she was too much in love with life to give her mind very seriously to the difficulties of theology. Even with a body which had to wrench itself along, one could swim and row, read and think, observe and worship.
Her eldest brother went to Winchester and Magdalen College at Oxford; she to Cheltenham College and Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford. Education was an enthusiasm. Rivalry in scholarship was as greatly a part of that wholesome family life as rivalry in games. There was always a Socratic "throwing of the ball" going on, both indoors and out. Miss Royden distinguished herself in the sphere of learning and in the sphere of sports.
At Oxford the last vestiges of her religion, or rather her parents' religion, faded from her mind, without pain of any order, hardly with any consciousness. She devoted herself wholeheartedly to the schools. No longer did she imagine that God had sent her lameness. She ceased to think of Him.
But one day she heard a sermon which made her think of Jesus as a teacher, just as one thinks of Plato and Aristotle. She reflected that she really knew more of the teaching of Plato and Aristotle than she knew of Christ's teaching. This seemed to her an unsatisfactory state of things, and she set herself, as a student of philosophy, to study the teaching of Jesus. What had He said? Never mind whether He had founded this Church or that, what had He said? And what had been His science of life, His reading of the riddle?
This study, to which she brought a philosophic mind and a candid heart, convinced her that the teaching should be tried. It was, indeed, a teaching that asked men to prove it by trial. She decided to try it, and she tried it by reading, by meditation, and by prayer. The trial was a failure. But in this failure was a mystery. For the more she failed the more profoundly conscious she became of Christ as a Power. This feeling remained with her, and it grew stronger with time. The Christ who would not help her nevertheless tarried as a shadow haunting the background of her thoughts.
There was a secret in life which she had missed, a power which she had never used. Then came the second event to which I have referred. Miss Royden met a lady who had left the Church of England and joined the Quakers, seeking by this change to intensify her spiritual experience, seeking to make faith a deep personal reality in her life. This lady told Miss Royden the following experience:
One day, at a Quakers' meeting, she had earnestly "besieged the Throne of Grace" during the silence of prayer, imploring God to manifest Himself to her spirit. So earnestly did she "besiege the Throne of Grace" in this silent intercession of soul that at last she was physically exhausted and could frame no further words of entreaty. At that moment she heard a voice in her soul, and this voice said to her, "Yes, I have something to say to you, when you stop your shouting."
From this experience Miss Royden learned to see the tremendous difference between physical and spiritual silence. She cultivated, with the peace of soul which is the atmosphere of surrender and dependence, silence of spirit; and out of this silence came a faith against which the gates of hell could not prevail; and out of that faith, winged by her earliest; sympathy with all suffering and all sorrow, came a desire to give herself up to the service of God. She had found the secret, she could use the power.
Her first step towards a life of service was joining a Women's Settlement in Liverpool, a city which has wealth enough to impress and gratify the disciples of Mr. Samuel Smiles, and slums enough to excite and infuriate the disciples of Karl Marx. Here Miss Royden worked for three years, serving her novitiate as it were in the ministry of mercy, a notable figure in the dark streets of Liverpool, that little eager body, with its dragging leg, its struggling hips, its head held high to look the whole world in the face on the chance, nay, but in the hope, that a bright smile from eyes as clear as day might do some poor devil a bit of good.
She brought to the slums of Liverpool the gay cheerfulness of a University woman, Oxford's particular brand of cheerfulness, and also a tenderness of sympathy and a graciousness of helpfulness which was the fine flower of deep, inward, silent, personal religion.
It is not easy for anyone with profound sympathy to believe that individual Partingtons can sweep back with their little mops of beneficence and philanthropy the Atlantic Ocean of sin, suffering, and despair which floods in to the shores of our industrialism—at high tide nearly swamping its prosperity, and at low tide leaving all its ugliness, squalor, and despairing hopelessness bare to the eye of heaven.
Miss Royden looked out for something with a wider sweep, and in the year 1908 joined the Women's Suffrage Movement. It was her hope, her conviction, that woman's influence in politics might have a cleansing effect in the national life. She became an advocate of this great Movement, but an advocate who always based her argument on religious grounds. She had no delusions about materialistic politics. Her whole effort was to spiritualise the public life of England.
Here she made a discovery—a discovery of great moment to her subsequent career. She discovered that many came to her meetings, and sought personal interviews or written correspondence with her afterwards, who were not greatly interested in the franchise, but who were interested, in some tragic cases poignantly interested, in spiritual enfranchisement. Life revealed itself to her as a struggle between the higher and lower nature, a conflict in the will between good and evil. She was at the heart of evolution.
It became evident to Miss Royden that she had discovered for herself both a constituency and a church. Some years after making this discovery she abandoned all other work, and ever since, first at the City Temple and now at the Guildhouse in Eccleston Square, has been one of the most effective advocates in this country of personal religion.
She does not impress one by the force of her intellect, but rather by the force of her humanity. You take it for granted that she is a scholar; you are aware of her intellectual gifts, I mean, only as you are aware of her breeding. The main impression she makes is one of full humanity, humanity at its best, humanity that is pure but not self-righteous, charitable but not sentimental, just but not hard, true but not mechanical in consistency, frank but not gushing. Out of all this come two things, the sense of two realisms, the realism of her political faith, and the realism of her religious faith. You are aware that she feels the sufferings and the deprivations of the oppressed in her own blood, and feels the power, the presence, and the divinity of Christ in her own soul.
It is a grateful experience to sit with this woman, who is so like the best of men but is so manifestly the staunchest of women. Her face reveals the force of her emotions, her voice, which is musical and persuasive, the depth of her compassion. In her sitting-room, which is almost a study and nearly an office, hangs a portrait of Newman, and a prie-Dieu stands against one of the walls half-hidden by bookshelves. She is one of the few very busy people I have known who give one no feeling of an inward commotion.
Apart from her natural eloquence and her unmistakable sincerity, apart even from the attractive fullness of her humanity, I think the notable success of her preaching is to be attributed to a single reason, quite outside any such considerations. It is a reason of great importance to the modern student of religious psychology. Miss Royden preaches Christ as a Power.
To others she leaves the esoteric aspects of religion, and the ceremonial of worship, and the difficulties of theology, and the mechanism of parochial organisation. Her mission, as she receives it, is to preach to people who are unwilling and suffering victims of sin, or who are tortured by theological indecision, that Christ is a Power, a Power that works miracles, a Power that can change the habits of a lifetime, perhaps the very tissues of a poisoned body, and can give both peace and guidance to the soul that is dragged this way and that.
One may be pardoned for remarking that this is a rather unusual form of preaching in any of the respectable churches. Christianity as a unique power in the world, a power which transfigures human life, which tears habitude up by the roots, and which gives new strength to the will, new eyes to the soul, and a new reality to the understanding; this, strange to say, is an unusual, perhaps an unpopular subject of clerical discourse. It is Miss Royden's insistent contribution to modern theology.
She tells me that so far as her own experience goes, humanity does not seem to be troubled by intellectual doubts. She is inclined to think that it is even sick of such discussions, and is apt to describe them roughly and impatiently as "mere talk." Humanity, as she sees it, is immersed in the incessant struggle of moral evolution.
There is an empiricism of religion which is worth attention. It challenges the sceptic to explain both the conversion of the sinner and the beauty of the saint. If religion can change a man's whole character in the twinkling of an eye, if it can give a beauty of holiness to human nature such as is felt by all men to be the highest expression of man's spirit, truly it is a science of life which works, and one which its critics must explain. The theories of dogmatist and traditionalist are not the authentic documents of the Christian religion. Let the sceptic bring his indictment against the changed lives of those who attribute to Christ alone the daily miracle of their gladness.