Pages from a Journal with Other Papers
by Mark Rutherford
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Transcribed from the 1901 T. Fisher Unwin edition by David Price, email


Contents: A Visit to Carlyle in 1868 Early Morning in January March June August The End of October November The Break-up of a Great Drought Spinoza Supplementary Note on the Devil Injustice Time Settles Controversies Talking about our Troubles Faith Patience An Apology Belief, Unbelief, and Superstition Judas Iscariot Sir Walter Scott's Use of the Supernatural September, 1798 Some Notes on Milton The Morality of Byron's Poetry. "The Corsair" Byron, Goethe, and Mr. Matthew Arnold A Sacrifice The Aged Three Conscience The Governess's Story James Forbes Atonement My Aunt Eleanor Correspondence between George, Lucy, M.A., and Hermione Russell, B.A. Mrs. Fairfax


On Saturday, the 22nd of March, 1868, my father and I called on Carlyle at 5, Cheyne Row, Chelsea, with a message from one of his intimate friends.

We were asked upstairs at once, and found Carlyle at breakfast. The room was large, well-lighted, a bright fire was burning, and the window was open in order to secure complete ventilation. Opposite the fireplace was a picture of Frederick the Great and his sister. There were also other pictures which I had not time to examine. One of them Carlyle pointed out. It was a portrait of the Elector of Saxony who assisted Luther. The letters V.D.M.I.AE. ("Verbum Dei Manet in AEternum") were round it. Everything in the room was in exact order, there was no dust or confusion, and the books on the shelves were arranged in perfect EVENNESS. I noticed that when Carlyle replaced a book he took pains to get it level with the others. The furniture was solid, neat, and I should think expensive. I showed him the letter he had written to me eighteen years ago. It has been published by Mr. Froude, but it will bear reprinting. The circumstances under which it was written, not stated by Mr. Froude, were these. In 1850, when the Latter-day Pamphlets appeared—how well I remember the eager journey to the bookseller for each successive number!—almost all the reviews united in a howl of execration, criticism so called. I, being young, and owing so much to Carlyle, wrote to him, the first and almost the only time I ever did anything of the kind, assuring him that there was at least one person who believed in him. This was his answer:-

"CHELSEA, 9th March, 1850.

"MY GOOD YOUNG FRIEND,—I am much obliged by the regard you entertain for me; and do not blame your enthusiasm, which well enough beseems your young years. If my books teach you anything, don't mind in the least whether other people believe it or not; but do you for your own behoof lay it to heart as a real acquisition you have made, more properly, as a real message left with you, which YOU must set about fulfilling, whatsoever others do! This is really all the counsel I can give you about what you read in my books or those of others: PRACTISE what you learn there; instantly and in all ways begin turning the belief into a fact, and continue at that—till you get more and ever more beliefs, with which also do the like. It is idle work otherwise to write books or to read them.

"And be not surprised that 'people have no sympathy with you'; that is an accompaniment that will attend you all your days if you mean to lead an earnest life. The 'people' could not save you with their 'sympathy' if they had never so much of it to give; a man can and must save himself, with or without their sympathy, as it may chance.

"And may all good be with you, my kind young friend, and a heart stout enough for this adventure you are upon; that is the best 'good' of all.

"I remain, yours very sincerely,


Carlyle had forgotten this letter, but said, "It is undoubtedly mine. It is what I have always believed . . . it has been so ever since I was at college. I do not mean to say I was not loved there as warmly by noble friends as ever man could be, but the world tumbled on me, and has ever since then been tumbling on me rubbish, huge wagon-loads of rubbish, thinking to smother me, and was surprised it did not smother me—turned round with amazement and said, 'What, you alive yet?' . . . While I was writing my Frederick my best friends, out of delicacy, did not call. Those who came were those I did not want to come, and I saw very few of them. I shook off everything to right and left. At last the work would have killed me, and I was obliged to take to riding, chiefly in the dark, about fourteen miles most days, plunging and floundering on. I ought to have been younger to have undertaken such a task. If they were to offer me all Prussia, all the solar system, I would not write Frederick again. No bribe from God or man would tempt me to do it."

He was re-reading his Frederick, to correct it for the stereotyped edition. "On the whole I think it is very well done. No man perhaps in England could have done it better. If you write a book though now, you must just pitch it out of window and say, 'Ho! all you jackasses, come and trample on it and trample it into mud, or go on till you are tired.'" He laughed heartily at this explosion. His laughter struck me—humour controlling his wrath and in a sense ABOVE it, as if the final word were by no means hatred or contempt, even for the jackass. " . . . No piece of news of late years has gladdened me like the victory of the Prussians over the Austrians. It was the triumph of Prussian over French and Napoleonic influence. The Prussians were a valiant, pious people, and it was a question which should have the most power in Germany, they or Napoleon. The French are sunk in all kinds of filth. Compare what the Prussians did with what we did in the Crimea. The English people are an incredible people. They seem to think that it is not necessary that a general should have the least knowledge of the art of war. It is as if you had the stone, and should cry out to any travelling tinker or blacksmith and say, 'Here, come here and cut me for the stone,' and he WOULD cut you! Sir Charles Napier would have been a great general if he had had the opportunity. He was much delighted with Frederick. 'Frederick was a most extraordinary general,' said Sir Charles, and on examination I found out that all that Sir Charles had read of Frederick was a manual for Prussian officers, published by him about 1760, telling them what to do on particular occasions. I was very pleased at this admiration of Frederick by Sir Charles . . .

"Sir John Bowring was one of your model men; men who go about imagining themselves the models of all virtues, and they are models of something very different. He was one of your patriots, and the Government to quiet him sent him out to China. When he got there he went to war with a third of the human race! He, the patriot, he who believed in the greatest-happiness principle, immediately went to war with a third of the human race!" (Great laughter from T.C.) "And so far as I can make out he was all wrong.

"The Frederick is being translated into German. It is being done by a man whose name I have forgotten, but it was begun by one of the most faithful friends I ever had, Neuberg. I could not work in the rooms in the offices where lay the State papers I wanted to use, it brought on such a headache, but Neuberg went there, and for six months worked all day copying. He was taken ill, and a surgical operation was badly performed, and then in that wild, black weather at the beginning of last year, just after I came back from Mentone, the news came to me one night he was dead."

On leaving Carlyle shook hands with us both and said he was glad to have seen us. "It was pleasant to have friends coming out of the dark in this way."

Perhaps a reflection or two which occurred to me after this interview may not be out of place. Carlyle was perfectly frank, even to us of whom he knew but little. He did not stand off or refuse to talk on any but commonplace subjects. What was offered to us was his best. And yet there is to be found in him a singular reserve, and those shallow persons who taunt him with inconsistency because he makes so much of silence, and yet talks so much, understand little or nothing of him. In half a dozen pages one man may be guilty of shameless garrulity, and another may be nobly reticent throughout a dozen volumes. Carlyle feels the contradictions of the universe as keenly as any man can feel them. He knows how easy it is to appear profound by putting anew the riddles which nobody can answer; he knows how strong is the temptation towards the insoluble. But upon these subjects he also knows how to hold his tongue; he does not shriek in the streets, but he bows his head. He has found no answer—he no more than the feeblest of us, and yet in his inmost soul there is a shrine, and he worships.

Carlyle is the champion of morals, ethics, law—call it what you like— of that which says we must not always do a thing because it is pleasant. There are two great ethical parties in the world, and, in the main, but two. One of them asserts the claims of the senses. Its doctrine is seductive because it is so right. It is necessary that we should in a measure believe it, in order that life may be sweet. But nature has heavily weighted the scale in its favour; its acceptance requires no effort. It is easily perverted and becomes a snare. In our day nearly all genius has gone over to it, and preaching it is rather superfluous. The other party affirms what has been the soul of all religions worth having, that it is by repression and self-negation that men and States live.

It has been said that Carlyle is great because he is graphic, and he is supposed to be summed up in "mere picturesqueness," the silliest of verdicts. A man may be graphic in two ways. He may deal with his subject from the outside, and by dint of using strong language may "graphically" describe an execution or a drunken row in the streets. But he may be graphic by ability to penetrate into essence, and to express it in words which are worthy of it. What higher virtue than this can we imagine in poet, artist, or prophet?

Like all great men, Carlyle is infinitely tender. That was what struck me as I sat and looked in his eyes, and the best portraits in some degree confirm me. It is not worth while here to produce passages from his books to prove my point, but I could easily do so, specially from the Life of Sterling and the Cromwell. {10} Much of his fierceness is an inverted tenderness.

His greatest book is perhaps the Frederick, the biography of a hero reduced more than once to such extremities that apparently nothing but some miraculous intervention could save him, and who did not yield, but struggled on and finally emerged victorious. When we consider Frederick's position during the last part of the Seven Years' War, we must admit that no man was ever in such desperate circumstances or showed such uncrushable determination. It was as if the Destinies, in order to teach us what human nature can do, had ordained that he who had the most fortitude should also encounter the severest trial of it. Over and over again Frederick would have been justified in acknowledging defeat, and we should have said that he had done all that could be expected even of such a temper as that with which he was endowed. If the struggle of the will with the encompassing world is the stuff of which epics are made, then no greater epic than that of Frederick has been written in prose or verse, and it has the important advantage of being true. It is interesting to note how attractive this primary virtue of which Frederick is such a remarkable representative is to Carlyle, how MORAL it is to him; and, indeed, is it not the sum and substance of all morality? It should be noted also that it was due to no religious motive: that it was bare, pure humanity. At times it is difficult not to believe that Carlyle, notwithstanding his piety, loves it all the more on that account. It is strange that an example so salutary and stimulating to the poorest and meanest of us should be set by an unbelieving king, and that my humdrum existence should be secretly supported by "Frederick II. Roi de Prusse."

* * *

Soon after Carlyle died I went to Ecclefechan and stood by his grave. It was not a day that I would have chosen for such an errand, for it was cold, grey, and hard, and towards the afternoon it rained a slow, persistent, wintry rain. The kirkyard in Ecclefechan was dismal and depressing, but my thoughts were not there. I remembered what Carlyle was to the young men of thirty or forty years ago, in the days of that new birth, which was so strange a characteristic of the time. His books were read with excitement, with tears of joy, on lonely hills, by the seashore and in London streets, and the readers were thankful that it was their privilege to live when he also was alive. All that excitement has vanished, but those who knew what it was are the better for it. Carlyle now is almost nothing, but his day will return, he will be put in his place as one of the greatest souls who have been born amongst us, and his message will be considered as perhaps the most important which has ever been sent to us. This is what I thought as I stood in Ecclefechan kirkyard, and as I lingered I almost doubted if Carlyle COULD be dead. Was it possible that such as he could altogether die? Some touch, some turn, I could not tell what or how, seemed all that was necessary to enable me to see and to hear him. It was just as if I were perplexed and baffled by a veil which prevented recognition of him, although I was sure he was behind it.


A warm, still morning, with a clear sky and stars. At first the hills were almost black, but, as the dawn ascended, they became dark green, of a peculiarly delicate tint which is never seen in the daytime. The quietude is profound, although a voice from an unseen fishing-boat can now and then be heard. How strange the landscape seems! It is not a variation of the old landscape; it is a new world. The half-moon rides high in the sky, and near her is Jupiter. A little way further to the left is Venus, and still further down is Mercury, rare apparition, just perceptible where the deep blue of the night is yielding to the green which foretells the sun. The east grows lighter; the birds begin to stir in the bushes, and the cry of a gull rises from the base of the cliff. The sea becomes responsive, and in a moment is overspread with continually changing colour, partly that of the heavens above it and partly self-contributed. With what slow, majestic pomp is the day preceded, as though there had been no day before it and no other would follow it!


It is a bright day in March, with a gentle south-west wind. Sitting still in the copse and facing the sun it strikes warm. It has already mounted many degrees on its way to its summer height, and is regaining its power. The clouds are soft, rounded, and spring-like, and the white of the blackthorn is discernible here and there amidst the underwood. The brooks are running full from winter rains but are not overflowing. All over the wood which fills up the valley lies a thin, purplish mist, harmonising with the purple bloom on the stems and branches. The buds are ready to burst, there is a sense of movement, of waking after sleep; the tremendous upward rush of life is almost felt. But how silent the process is! There is no hurry for achievement, although so much has to be done—such infinite intricacy to be unfolded and made perfect. The little stream winding down the bottom turns and doubles on itself; a dead leaf falls into it, is arrested by a twig, and lies there content.


It is a quiet, warm day in June. The wind is westerly, but there is only just enough of it to waft now and then a sound from the far-off town, or the dull, subdued thunder of cannon-firing from ships or forts distant some forty miles or more. Massive, white-bordered clouds, grey underneath, sail overhead; there was heavy rain last night, and they are lifting and breaking a little. Softly and slowly they go, and one of them, darker than the rest, has descended in a mist of rain, blotting out the ships. The surface of the water is paved curiously in green and violet, and where the light lies on it scintillates like millions of stars. The grass is not yet cut, and the showers have brought it up knee-deep. Its gentle whisper is plainly heard, the most delicate of all the voices in the world, and the meadow bends into billows, grey, silvery, and green, when a breeze of sufficient strength sweeps across it. The larks are so multitudinous that no distinct song can be caught, and amidst the confused melody comes the note of the thrush and the blackbird. A constant under-running accompaniment is just audible in the hum of innumerable insects and the sharp buzz of flies darting past the ear. Only those who live in the open air and watch the fields and sea from hour to hour and day to day know what they are and what they mean. The chance visitor, or he who looks now and then, never understands them. While I have lain here, the clouds have risen, have become more aerial, and more suffused with light; the horizon has become better defined, and the yellow shingle beach is visible to its extremest point clasping the bay in its arms. The bay itself is the tenderest blue-green, and on the rolling plain which borders it lies intense sunlight chequered with moving shadows which wander eastwards. The wind has shifted a trifle, and comes straight up the Channel from the illimitable ocean.


A few days ago it was very hot. Afterwards we had a thunderstorm, followed by rain from the south-west. The wind has veered a point northerly, and the barometer is rising. This morning at half-past five the valley below was filled with white mist. Above it the tops of the trees on the highest points emerged sharply distinct. It was motionless, but gradually melted before the ascending sun, recalling Plutarch's "scenes in the beautiful temple of the world which the gods order at their own festivals, when we are initiated into their own mysteries." Here was a divine mystery, with initiation for those who cared for it. No priests were waiting, no ritual was necessary, the service was simple—solitary adoration and perfect silence.

As the day advances, masses of huge, heavy clouds appear. They are well defined at the edges, and their intricate folds and depths are brilliantly illuminated. The infinitude of the sky is not so impressive when it is quite clear as when it contains and supports great clouds, and large blue spaces are seen between them. On the hillsides the fields here and there are yellow and the corn is in sheaves. The birds are mostly dumb, the glory of the furze and broom has passed, but the heather is in flower. The trees are dark, and even sombre, and, where they are in masses, look as if they were in solemn consultation. A fore-feeling of the end of summer steals upon me. Why cannot I banish this anticipation? Why cannot I rest and take delight in what is before me? If some beneficent god would but teach me how to take no thought for the morrow, I would sacrifice to him all I possess.


It is the first south-westerly gale of the autumn. Its violence is increasing every minute, although the rain has ceased for awhile. For weeks sky and sea have been beautiful, but they have been tame. Now for some unknown reason there is a complete change, and all the strength of nature is awake. It is refreshing to be once more brought face to face with her tremendous power, and to be reminded of the mystery of its going and coming. It is soothing to feel so directly that man, notwithstanding his science and pretentions, his subjugation of steam and electricity, is as nothing compared with his Creator. The air has a freshness and odour about it to which we have long been strangers. It has been dry, and loaded with fine dust, but now it is deliciously wet and clean. The wind during the summer has changed lightly through all the points of the compass, but it has never brought any scent save that of the land, nothing from a distance. Now it is charged with messages from the ocean.

The sky is not uniformly overcast, but is covered with long horizontal folds of cloud, very dark below and a little lighter where they turn up one into the other. They are incessantly modified by the storm, and fragments are torn away from them which sweep overhead. The sea, looked at from the height, shows white edges almost to the horizon, and although the waves at a distance cannot be distinguished, the tossing of a solitary vessel labouring to get round the point for shelter shows how vast they are. The prevailing colour of the water is greyish-green, passing into deep-blue, and perpetually shifting in tint. A quarter of a mile away the breakers begin, and spread themselves in a white sheet to the land.

A couple of gulls rise from the base of the cliffs to a height of about a hundred feet above them. They turn their heads to the south-west, and hover like hawks, but without any visible movement of their wings. They are followed by two more, who also poise themselves in the same way. Presently all four mount higher, and again face the tempest. They do not appear to defy it, nor even to exert themselves in resisting it. What to us below is fierce opposition is to them a support and delight. How these wonderful birds are able to accomplish this feat no mathematician can tell us. After remaining stationary a few minutes, they wheel round, once more ascend, and then without any effort go off to sea directly in the teeth of the hurricane.


A November day at the end of the month—the country is left to those who live in it. The scattered visitors who took lodgings in the summer in the villages have all departed, and the recollection that they have been here makes the solitude more complete. The woods in which they wandered are impassable, for the rain has been heavy, and the dry, baked clay of August has been turned into a slough a foot deep. The wind, what there is of it, is from the south-west, soft, sweet and damp; the sky is almost covered with bluish-grey clouds, which here and there give way and permit a dim, watery gleam to float slowly over the distant pastures. The grass for the most part is greyish-green, more grey than green where it has not been mown, but on the rocky and broken ground there is a colour like that of an emerald, and the low sun when it comes out throws from the projections on the hillside long and beautifully shaped shadows. Multitudes of gnats in these brief moments of sunshine are seen playing in it. The leaves have not all fallen, down in the hollow hardly any have gone, and the trees are still bossy, tinted with the delicate yellowish-brown and brown of different stages of decay. The hedges have been washed clean of the white dust; the roads have been washed; a deep drain has just begun to trickle and on the meadows lie little pools of the clearest rainwater, reflecting with added loveliness any blue patch of the heavens disclosed above them. The birds are silent save the jackdaws and the robin, who still sings his recollections of the summer, or his anticipations of the spring, or perhaps his pleasure in the late autumn. The finches are in flocks, and whirl round in the air with graceful, shell-like convolutions as they descend, part separating, for no reason apparently, and forming a second flock which goes away over the copse. There is hardly any farm-work going on, excepting in the ditches, which are being cleaned in readiness for the overflow when the thirsty ground shall have sucked its fill. Under a bank by the roadside a couple of men employed in carting stone for road-mending are sitting on a sack eating their dinner. The roof of the barn beyond them is brilliant with moss and lichens; it has not been so vivid since last February. It is a delightful time. No demand is made for ecstatic admiration; everything is at rest, nature has nothing to do but to sleep and wait.


For three months there had been hardly a drop of rain. The wind had been almost continuously north-west, and from that to east. Occasionally there were light airs from the south-west, and vapour rose, but there was nothing in it; there was no true south-westerly breeze, and in a few hours the weather-cock returned to the old quarter. Not infrequently the clouds began to gather, and there was every sign that a change was at hand. The barometer at these times fell gradually day after day until at last it reached a point which generally brought drenching storms, but none appeared, and then it began slowly to rise again and we knew that our hopes were vain, and that a week at least must elapse before it would regain its usual height and there might be a chance of declining. At last the disappointment was so keen that the instrument was removed. It was better not to watch it, but to hope for a surprise. The grass became brown, and in many places was killed down to the roots; there was no hay; myriads of swarming caterpillars devoured the fruit trees; the brooks were all dry; water for cattle had to be fetched from ponds and springs miles away; the roads were broken up; the air was loaded with grit; and the beautiful green of the hedges was choked with dust. Birds like the rook, which fed upon worms, were nearly starved, and were driven far and wide for strange food. It was pitiable to see them trying to pick the soil of the meadow as hard as a rock. The everlasting glare was worse than the gloom of winter, and the sense of universal parching thirst became so distressing that the house was preferred to the fields. We were close to a water famine! The Atlantic, the source of all life, was asleep, and what if it should never wake! We know not its ways, it mocks all our science. Close to us lies this great mystery, incomprehensible, and yet our very breath depends upon it. Why should not the sweet tides of soft moist air cease to stream in upon us? No reason could be given why every green herb and living thing should not perish; no reason, save a faith which was blind. For aught we KNEW, the ocean-begotten aerial current might forsake the land and it might become a desert.

One night grey bars appeared in the western sky, but they had too often deluded us, and we did not believe in them. On this particular evening they were a little heavier, and the window-cords were damp. The air which came across the cliff was cool, and if we had dared to hope we should have said it had a scent of the sea in it. At four o'clock in the morning there was a noise of something beating against the panes— they were streaming! It was impossible to lie still, and I rose and went out of doors. No creature was stirring, there was no sound save that of the rain, but a busier time there had not been for many a long month. Thousands of millions of blades of grass and corn were eagerly drinking. For sixteen hours the downpour continued, and when it was dusk I again went out. The watercourses by the side of the roads had a little water in them, but not a drop had reached those at the edge of the fields, so thirsty was the earth. The drought, thank God, was at an end!


Now that twenty years have passed since I began the study of Spinoza it is good to find that he still holds his ground. Much in him remains obscure, but there is enough which is sufficiently clear to give a direction to thought and to modify action. To the professional metaphysician Spinoza's work is already surpassed, and is absorbed in subsequent systems. We are told to read him once because he is historically interesting, and then we are supposed to have done with him. But if "Spinozism," as it is called, is but a stage of development there is something in Spinoza which can be superseded as little as the Imitation of Christ or the Pilgrim's Progress, and it is this which continues to draw men to him. Goethe never cared for set philosophical systems. Very early in life he thought he had found out that they were useless pieces of construction, but to the end of his days he clung to Spinoza, and Philina, of all persons in the world, repeats one of the finest sayings in the Ethic. So far as the metaphysicians are carpenters, and there is much carpentering in most of them, Goethe was right, and the larger part of their industry endures wind and weather but for a short time. Spinoza's object was not to make a scheme of the universe. He felt that the things on which men usually set their hearts give no permanent satisfaction, and he cast about for some means by which to secure "a joy continuous and supreme to all eternity." I propose now, without attempting to connect or contrast Spinoza with Descartes or the Germans, to name some of those thoughts in his books by which he conceived he had attained his end.

The sorrow of life is the rigidity of the material universe in which we are placed. We are bound by physical laws, and there is a constant pressure of matter-of-fact evidence to prove that we are nothing but common and cheap products of the earth to which in a few moments or years we return. Spinoza's chief aim is to free us from this sorrow, and to free us from it by THINKING. The emphasis on this word is important. He continually insists that a thing is not unreal because we cannot imagine it. His own science, mathematics, affords him examples of what MUST be, although we cannot picture it, and he believes that true consolation lies in the region of that which cannot be imaged but can be thought.

Setting out on his quest, he lays hold at the very beginning on the idea of Substance, which he afterwards identifies with the idea of God. "By Substance I understand that which is in itself and is conceived through itself; in other words, that, the conception of which does not need the conception of another thing from which it must be formed." {34a} "By God, I understand Being absolutely infinite, that is to say, substance consisting of infinite attributes, each one of which expresses eternal and infinite essence." {34b} "God, or substance consisting of infinite attributes, each one of which expresses eternal and infinite essence, necessarily exists." {34c} By the phrases "in itself" and "by itself," we are to understand that this conception cannot be explained in other terms. Substance must be posited, and there we must leave it. The demonstration of the last-quoted proposition, the 11th, is elusive, and I must pass it by, merely observing that the objection that no idea involves existence, and that consequently the idea of God does not involve it, is not a refutation of Spinoza, who might rejoin that it is impossible not to affirm existence of God as the Ethic defines him. Spinoza escapes one great theological difficulty. Directly we begin to reflect we are dissatisfied with a material God, and the nobler religions assert that God is a Spirit. But if He be a pure spirit whence comes the material universe? To Spinoza pure spirit and pure matter are mere artifices of the understanding. His God is the Substance with infinite attributes of which thought and extension are the two revealed to man, and he goes further, for he maintains that they are one and the same thing viewed in different ways, inside and outside of the same reality. The conception of God, strictly speaking, is not incomprehensible, but it is not CIRCUM-prehensible; if it were it could not be the true conception of Him.

Spinoza declares that "the human mind possesses an adequate knowledge of the eternal and infinite essence of God" {36}—not of God in His completeness, but it is adequate. The demonstration of this proposition is at first sight unsatisfactory, because we look for one which shall enable us to form an image of God like that which we can form of a triangle. But we cannot have "a knowledge of God as distinct as that which we have of common notions, because we cannot imagine God as we can bodies." "To your question," says Spinoza to Boxel, "whether I have as clear an idea of God as I have of a triangle? I answer, Yes. But if you ask me whether I have as clear an image of God as I have of a triangle I shall say, No; for we cannot imagine God, but we can in a measure understand Him. Here also, it is to be observed that I do not say that I altogether know God, but that I understand some of His attributes—not all, nor the greatest part, and it is clear that my ignorance of very many does not prevent my knowledge of certain others. When I learned the elements of Euclid, I very soon understood that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, and I clearly perceived this property of a triangle, although I was ignorant of many others." {37a}

"Individual things are nothing but affections or modes of God's attributes, expressing those attributes in a certain and determinate manner," {37b} and hence "the more we understand individual objects, the more we understand God." {37c}

The intellect of God in no way resembles the human intellect, for we cannot conceive Him as proposing an end and considering the means to attain it. "The intellect of God, in so far as it is conceived to constitute His essence, is in truth the cause of things, both of their essence and of their existence—a truth which seems to have been understood by those who have maintained that God's intellect, will, and power are one and the same thing." {37d}

The whole of God is FACT, and Spinoza denies any reserve in Him of something unexpressed. "The omnipotence of God has been actual from eternity, and in the same actuality will remain to eternity," {38} not of course in the sense that everything which exists has always existed as we now know it, or that nothing will exist hereafter which does not exist now, but that in God everything that has been, and will be, eternally IS.

The reader will perhaps ask, What has this theology to do with the "joy continuous and supreme"? We shall presently meet with some deductions which contribute to it, but it is not difficult to understand that Spinoza, to use his own word, might call the truths set forth in these propositions "blessed." Let a man once believe in that God of infinite attributes of which thought and extension are those by which He manifests Himself to us; let him see that the opposition between thought and matter is fictitious; that his mind "is a part of the infinite intellect of God"; that he is not a mere transient, outside interpreter of the universe, but himself the soul or law, which is the universe, and he will feel a relationship with infinity which will emancipate him.

It is not true that in Spinoza's God there is so little that is positive that it is not worth preserving. All Nature is in Him, and if the objector is sincere he will confess that it is not the lack of contents in the idea which is disappointing, but a lack of contents particularly interesting to himself.

The opposition between the mind and body of man as two diverse entities ceases with that between thought and extension. It would be impossible briefly to explain in all its fulness what Spinoza means by the proposition: "The object of the idea constituting the human mind is a body" {39}; it is sufficient here to say that, just as extension and thought are one, considered in different aspects, so body and mind are one. We shall find in the fifth part of the Ethic that Spinoza affirms the eternity of the mind, though not perhaps in the way in which it is usually believed.

Following the order of the Ethic we now come to its more directly ethical maxims. Spinoza denies the freedom commonly assigned to the will, or perhaps it is more correct to say he denies that it is intelligible. The will is determined by the intellect. The idea of the triangle involves the affirmation or volition that its three angles are equal to two right angles. If we understand what a triangle is we are not "free" to believe that it contains more or less than two right angles, nor to act as if it contained more or less than two. The only real freedom of the mind is obedience to the reason, and the mind is enslaved when it is under the dominion of the passions. "God does not act from freedom of the will," {40a} and consequently "things could have been produced by God in no other manner and in no other order than that in which they have been produced." {40b}

"If you will but reflect," Spinoza tells Boxel, "that indifference is nothing but ignorance or doubt, and that a will always constant and in all things determinate is a virtue and a necessary property of the intellect, you will see that my words are entirely in accord with the truth." {40c} To the same effect is a passage in a letter to Blyenbergh, "Our liberty does not consist in a certain contingency nor in a certain indifference, but in the manner of affirming or denying, so that in proportion as we affirm or deny anything with less indifference, are we the more free." {41a} So also to Schuller, "I call that thing free which exists and acts solely from the necessity of its own nature: I call that thing coerced which is determined to exist and to act in a certain and determinate manner by another." {41b} With regard to this definition it might be objected that the necessity does not lie solely in the person who wills but is also in the object. The triangle as well as the nature of man contains the necessity. What Spinoza means is that the free man by the necessity of his nature is bound to assert the truth of what follows from the definition of a triangle and that the stronger he feels the necessity the more free he is. Hence it follows that the wider the range of the intellect and the more imperative the necessity which binds it, the larger is its freedom.

In genuine freedom Spinoza rejoices. "The doctrine is of service in so far as it teaches us that we do everything by the will of God alone, and that we are partakers of the divine nature in proportion as our actions become more and more perfect and we more and more understand God. This doctrine, therefore, besides giving repose in every way to the soul, has also this advantage, that it teaches us in what our highest happiness or blessedness consists, namely, in the knowledge of God alone, by which we are drawn to do those things only which love and piety persuade." {42a} In other words, being part of the whole, the grandeur and office of the whole are ours. We are anxious about what we call "personality," but in truth there is nothing in it of any worth, and the less we care for it the more "blessed" we are.

"By the desire which springs from reason we follow good directly and avoid evil indirectly" {42b}: our aim should be the good; in obtaining that we are delivered from evil. To the same purpose is the conclusion of the fifth book of the Ethic that "No one delights in blessedness because he has restrained his affects, but, on the contrary, the power of restraining his lusts springs from blessedness itself." {43a} This is exactly what the Gospel says to the Law.

Fear is not the motive of a free man to do what is good. "A free man thinks of nothing less than of death, and his wisdom is not a meditation upon death, but upon life." {43b} This is the celebrated sixty-seventh proposition of the fourth part. If we examine the proof which directly depends on the sixty-third proposition of the same part—"he who is led by fear, and does what is good in order that he may avoid what is evil, is not led by reason"—we shall see that Spinoza is referring to the fear of the "evil" of hell-fire.

All Spinoza's teaching with regard to the passions is a consequence of what he believes of God and man. He will study the passions and not curse them. He finds that by understanding them "we can bring it to pass that we suffer less from them. We have, therefore, mainly to strive to acquire a clear and distinct knowledge of each affect." {43c} "If the human mind had none but adequate ideas it would form no notion of evil." {44a} "The difference between a man who is led by affect or opinion alone and one who is led by reason" is that "the former, whether he wills it or not, does those things of which he is entirely ignorant, but the latter does the will of no one but himself." {44b} THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.

The direct influence of Spinoza's theology is also shown in his treatment of pity, hatred, laughter, and contempt. "The man who has properly understood that everything follows from the necessity of the divine nature, and comes to pass according to the eternal laws and rules of nature, will in truth discover nothing which is worthy of hatred, laughter, or contempt, nor will he pity any one, but, so far as human virtue is able, he will endeavour to DO WELL, as we say, and to REJOICE." {44c} By pity is to be understood mere blind sympathy. The good that we do by this pity with the eyes of the mind shut ought to be done with them open. "He who lives according to the guidance of reason strives as much as possible to repay the hatred, anger, or contempt of others towards himself with love or generosity. . . . He who wishes to avenge injuries by hating in return does indeed live miserably. But he who, on the contrary, strives to drive out hatred by love, fights joyfully and confidently, with equal ease resisting one man or a number of men, and needing scarcely any assistance from fortune. Those whom he conquers yield gladly, not from defect of strength, but from an increase of it." {45a}

"Joy is the passion by which the mind passes to a greater perfection: sorrow, on the other hand, is the passion by which it passes to a less perfection." {45b} "No God and no human being, except an envious one, is delighted by my impotence or my trouble, or esteems as any virtue in us tears, sighs, fears, and other things of this kind, which are signs of mental impotence; on the contrary, the greater the joy with which we are affected, the greater the perfection to which we pass thereby; that is to say, the more do we necessarily partake of the divine nature." {46} It would be difficult to find an account of joy and sorrow which is closer to the facts than that which Spinoza gives. He lived amongst people Roman Catholic and Protestant who worshipped sorrow. Sorrow was the divinely decreed law of life and joy was merely a permitted exception. He reversed this order and his claim to be considered in this respect as one of the great revolutionary religious and moral reformers has not been sufficiently recognised. It is remarkable that, unlike other reformers, he has not contradicted error by an exaggeration, which itself very soon stands in need of contradiction, but by simple sanity which requires no correction. One reason for this peculiarity is that the Ethic was the result of long meditation. It was published posthumously and was discussed in draft for many years before his death. Usually what we call our convictions are propositions which we have not thoroughly examined in quietude, but notions which have just come into our heads and are irreversible to us solely because we are committed to them. Much may be urged against the Ethic and on behalf of hatred, contempt, and sorrow. The "other side" may be produced mechanically to almost every truth; the more easily, the more divine that truth is, and against no truths is it producible with less genuine mental effort than against those uttered by the founder of Christianity. The question, however, if we are dealing with the New Testament, is not whether the Sermon on the Mount can be turned inside out in a debating society, but whether it does not represent better than anything which the clever leader of the opposition can formulate the principle or temper which should govern our conduct.

There is a group of propositions in the last part of the Ethic, which, although they are difficult, it may be well to notice, because they were evidently regarded by Spinoza as helping him to the end he had in view. The difficulty lies in a peculiar combination of religious ideas and scientific form. These propositions are the following:- {47}

"The mind can cause all the affections of the body or the images of things to be related to the idea of God."

"He who clearly and distinctly understands himself and his affects loves God, and loves Him better the better he understands himself and his affects."

"This love to God above everything else ought to occupy the mind."

"God is free from passions, nor is He affected with any affect of joy or sorrow."

"No one can hate God."

"He who loves God cannot strive that God should love him in return."

"This love to God cannot be defiled either by the effect of envy or jealousy, but is the more strengthened the more people we imagine to be connected with God by the same bond of love."

The proof of the first of these propositions, using language somewhat different from that of the text, is as follows:- There is no affection of the body of which the mind cannot form some clear and distinct conception, that is to say, of everything perceived it is capable of forming a clear and adequate idea, not exhaustive, as Spinoza is careful to warn us, but an idea not distorted by our personality, and one which is in accordance with the thing itself, adequate as far as it goes. Newton's perception that the moon perpetually falls to the earth by the same numerical law under which a stone falls to it was an adequate perception. "Therefore," continues the demonstration (quoting the fifteenth proposition of the first part—"Whatever is, is in God, and nothing can either be or be conceived without God"), "the mind can cause all the affections of the body to be related to the idea of God." Spinoza, having arrived at his adequate idea thus takes a further step to the idea of God. What is perceived is not an isolated external phenomenon. It is a reality in God: it IS God: there is nothing more to be thought or said of God than the affirmation of such realities as these. The "relation to the idea of God" means that in the affirmation He is affirmed. "Nothing," that is to say, no reality "can be conceived without God."

But it is possible for the word "love" to be applied to the relationship between man and God. He who has a clear and adequate perception passes to greater perfection, and therefore rejoices. Joy, accompanied with the idea of a cause, is love. By the fourteenth proposition this joy is accompanied by the idea of God as its cause, and therefore love to God follows. The demonstration seems formal, and we ask ourselves, What is the actual emotion which Spinoza describes? It is not new to him, for in the Short Treatise, which is an early sketch for the Ethic, he thus writes:- "Hence it follows incontrovertibly that it is knowledge which is the cause of love, so that when we learn to know God in this way, we must necessarily unite ourselves to Him, for He cannot be known, nor can he reveal Himself, save as that which is supremely great and good. In this union alone, as we have already said, our happiness consists. I do not say that we must know Him adequately; but it is sufficient for us, in order to be united with Him, to know Him in a measure, for the knowledge we have of the body is not of such a kind that we can know it as it is or perfectly; and yet what a union! what love!" {50}

Perhaps it may clear the ground a little if we observe that Spinoza often avoids a negative by a positive statement. Here he may intend to show us what the love of God is not, that it is not what it is described in the popular religion to be. "The only love of God I know," we may imagine him saying, "thus arises. The adequate perception is the keenest of human joys for thereby I see God Himself. That which I see is not a thing or a person, but nevertheless what I feel towards it can be called by no other name than love. Although the object of this love is not thing or person it is not indefinite, it is this only which is definite; 'thing' and 'person' are abstract and unreal. There was a love to God in Kepler's heart when the three laws were revealed to him. If it was not love to God, what is love to Him?"

To the eighteenth proposition, "No one can hate God," there is a scholium which shows that the problem of pain which Spinoza has left unsolved must have occurred to him. "But some may object that if we understand God to be the cause of all things, we do for that very reason consider Him to be the cause of sorrow. But I reply that in so far as we understand the causes of sorrow, it ceases to be a passion (Prop. 3, pt. 5), that is to say (Prop. 59, pt. 3) it ceases to be a sorrow; and therefore in so far as we understand God to be the cause of sorrow do we rejoice." The third proposition of the fifth part which he quotes merely proves that in so far as we understand passion it ceases to be a passion. He replies to those "who ask why God has not created all men in such a manner that they might be controlled by the dictates of reason alone," {52} "Because to Him material was not wanting for the creation of everything, from the highest down to the very lowest grade of perfection; or, to speak more properly, because the laws of His nature were so ample that they sufficed for the production of everything which can be conceived by an infinite intellect." Nevertheless of pain we have no explanation. Pain is not lessened by understanding it, nor is its mystery penetrated if we see that to God material could not have been wanting for the creation of men or animals who have to endure it all their lives. But if Spinoza is silent in the presence of pain, so also is every religion and philosophy which the world has seen. Silence is the only conclusion of the Book of Job, and patient fortitude in the hope of future enlightenment is the conclusion of Christianity.

It is a weak mistake, however, to put aside what religions and philosophies tell us because it is insufficient. To Job it is not revealed why suffering is apportioned so unequally or why it exists, but the answer of the Almighty from the whirlwind he cannot dispute, and although Spinoza has nothing more to say about pain than he says in the passages just quoted and was certainly not exempt from it himself, it may be impossible that any man should hate God.

We now come to the final propositions of the Ethic, those in which Spinoza declares his belief in the eternity of mind. The twenty-second and twenty-third propositions of the fifth part are as follows:-

"In God, nevertheless, there necessarily exists an idea which expresses the essence of this or that human body under the form of eternity."

"The human mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with the body, but something of it remains which is eternal."

The word "nevertheless" is a reference to the preceding proposition which denies the continuity of memory or imagination excepting so long as the body lasts. The demonstration of the twenty-third proposition is not easy to grasp, but the substance of it is that although the mind is the idea of the body, that is to say, the mind is body as thought and body is thought as extension, the mind, or essence of the body, is not completely destroyed with the body. It exists as an eternal idea, and by an eternal necessity in God. Here again we must not think of that personality which is nothing better than a material notion, an image from the concrete applied to mind, but we must cling fast to thought, to the thoughts which alone makes us what we ARE, and these, says Spinoza, are in God and are not to be defined by time. They have always been and always will be. The enunciation of the thirty-third proposition is, "The intellectual love of God which arises from the third kind of knowledge is eternal." The "third kind of knowledge" is that intuitive science which "advances from an adequate idea of the formal essence of certain attributes of God to the adequate knowledge of the essence of things; {54} "No love except intellectual love is eternal," {55a} and the scholium to this proposition adds, "If we look at the common opinion of men, we shall see that they are indeed conscious of the eternity of their minds, but they confound it with duration, and attribute it to imagination or memory, which they believe remain after death." The intellectual love of the mind towards God is the very "love with which He loves Himself, not in so far as He is infinite, but in so far as He can be manifested through the essence of the human mind, considered under the form of eternity; that is to say, the intellectual love of the mind towards God is part of the infinite love with which God loves Himself." {55b} "Hence it follows that God, in so far as He loves Himself, loves men, and consequently that the love of God towards men and the intellectual love of the mind towards God are one and the same thing." {55c} The more adequate ideas the mind forms "the less it suffers from those affects which are evil, and the less it fears death" because "the greater is that part which remains unharmed, and the less consequently does it suffer from the affects." It is possible even "for the human mind to be of such a nature that that part of it which we have shown perishes with its body, in comparison with the part of it which remains, is of no consequence." {56a}

Spinoza, it is clear, holds that in some way—in what way he will not venture to determine—the more our souls are possessed by the intellectual love of God, the less is death to be dreaded, for the smaller is that part of us which can die. Three parallel passages may be appended. One will show that this was Spinoza's belief from early years and the other two that it is not peculiar to him. "If the soul is united with some other thing which is and remains unchangeable, it must also remain unchangeable and permanent." {56b} "Further, this creative reason does not at one time think, at another time not think [it thinks eternally]: and when separated from the body it remains nothing but what it essentially is: and thus it is alone immortal and eternal. Of this unceasing work of thought, however, we retain no memory, because this reason is unaffected by its objects; whereas the receptive, passive intellect (which is affected) is perishable, and can really think nothing without the support of the creative intellect." {57a} The third quotation is from a great philosophic writer, but one to whom perhaps we should not turn for such a coincidence. "I believe," said Pantagruel, "that all intellectual souls are exempt from the scissors of Atropos. They are all immortal." {57b}

I have not tried to write an essay on Spinoza, for in writing an essay there is a temptation to a consistency and completeness which are contributed by the writer and are not to be found in his subject. The warning must be reiterated that here as elsewhere we are too desirous, both writers and readers, of clear definition where none is possible. We do not stop where the object of our contemplation stops for our eyes. For my own part I must say that there is much in Spinoza which is beyond me, much which I cannot EXTEND, and much which, if it can be extended, seems to involve contradiction. But I have also found his works productive beyond those of almost any man I know of that acquiescentia mentis which enables us to live.


Spinoza denies the existence of the Devil, and says, in the Short Treatise, that if he is the mere opposite of God and has nothing from God, he is simply the Nothing. But if a philosophical doctrine be true, it does not follow that as it stands it is applicable to practical problems. For these a rule may have to be provided, which, although it may not be inconsistent with the scientific theorem, differs from it in form. The Devil is not an invention of priests for priestly purposes, nor is he merely a hypothesis to account for facts, but he has been forced upon us in order that we may be able to deal with them. Unless we act as though there were an enemy to be resisted and chained, if we fritter away differences of kind into differences of degree, we shall make poor work of life. Spinoza himself assumes that other commands than God's may be given to us, but that we are unhesitatingly to obey His and His only. "Ad fidem ergo catholicam," he says, "ea solummodo pertinent, quae erga Deum OBEDIENTIA absolute ponit." Consciousness seems to testify to the presence of two mortal foes within us—one Divine and the other diabolic—and perhaps the strongest evidence is not the rebellion of the passions, but the picturing and the mental processes which are almost entirely beyond our control, and often greatly distress us. We look down upon them; they are not ours, and yet they are ours, and we cry out with St. Paul against the law warring with the law of our minds. Bunyan of course knows the practical problem and the rule, and to him the Devil is not merely the tempter to crimes, but the great Adversary. In the Holy War the chosen regiments of Diabolus are the Doubters, and notwithstanding their theologic names, they carried deadlier weapons than the theologic doubters of to-day. The captain over the Grace-doubters was Captain Damnation; he over the Felicity-doubters was Captain Past-hope, and his ancient-bearer was Mr. Despair. The nature of the Doubters is "to put a question upon every one of the truths of Emanuel, and their country is called the Land of Doubting, and that land lieth off and furthest remote to the north between the land of Darkness and that called the Valley of the Shadow of Death." They are not children of the sun, and although they are not sinners in the common sense of the word, those that were caught in Mansoul were promptly executed.

There is nothing to be done but to fight and wait for the superior help which will come if we do what we can. Emanuel at first delayed his aid in the great battle, and the first brunt was left to Captain Credence. Presently, however, Emanuel appeared "with colours flying, trumpets sounding, and the feet of his men scarce touched the ground; they hasted with such celerity towards the captains that were engaged that . . . there was not left so much as one Doubter alive, they lay spread upon the ground dead men as one would spread dung on the land." The dead were buried "lest the fumes and ill-favours that would arise from them might infect the air and so annoy the famous town of Mansoul." But it will be a fight to the end for Diabolus, and the lords of the pit escaped.

After Emanuel had finally occupied Mansoul he gave the citizens some advice. The policy of Diabolus was "to make of their castle a warehouse." Emanuel made it a fortress and a palace, and garrisoned the town. "O my Mansoul," he said, "nourish my captains; make not my captains sick, O Mansoul."


A notion, self-begotten in me, of the limitations of my friend is answerable for the barrenness of my intercourse with him. I set him down as hard; I speak to him as if he were hard and from that which is hard in myself. Naturally I evoke only that which is hard, although there may be fountains of tenderness in him of which I am altogether unaware. It is far better in conversation not to regulate it according to supposed capacities or tempers, which are generally those of some fictitious being, but to be simply ourselves. We shall often find unexpected and welcome response.

Our estimates of persons, unless they are frequently revived by personal intercourse, are apt to alter insensibly and to become untrue. They acquire increased definiteness but they lose in comprehensiveness.

Especially is this true of those who are dead. If I do not read a great author for some time my mental abstract of him becomes summary and false. I turn to him again, all summary judgments upon him become impossible, and he partakes of infinitude. Writers, and people who are in society and talk much are apt to be satisfied with an algebraic symbol for a man of note, and their work is done not with him but with x.


We ought to let Time have his own way in the settlement of our disputes. It is a commonplace how much he is able to do with some of our troubles, such as loss of friends or wealth; but we do not sufficiently estimate his power to help our arguments. If I permit myself to dispute, I always go beyond what is necessary for my purpose, and my continual iteration and insistence do nothing but provoke opposition. Much better would it be simply to state my case and leave it. To do more is not only to distrust it, but to distrust that in my friend which is my best ally, and will more surely assist me than all my vehemence. Sometimes— nay, often—it is better to say nothing, for there is a constant tendency in Nature towards rectification, and her quiet protest and persuasiveness are hindered by personal interference. If anybody very dear to me were to fall into any heresy of belief or of conduct, I am not sure that I ought to rebuke him, and that he would not sooner be converted by observing my silent respect for him than by preaching to him.


We may talk about our troubles to those persons who can give us direct help, but even in this case we ought as much as possible to come to a provisional conclusion before consultation; to be perfectly clear to ourselves within our own limits. Some people have a foolish trick of applying for aid before they have done anything whatever to aid themselves, and in fact try to talk themselves into perspicuity. The only way in which they can think is by talking, and their speech consequently is not the expression of opinion already and carefully formed, but the manufacture of it.

We may also tell our troubles to those who are suffering if we can lessen their own. It may be a very great relief to them to know that others have passed through trials equal to theirs and have survived. There are obscure, nervous diseases, hypochondriac fancies, almost uncontrollable impulses, which terrify by their apparent singularity. If we could believe that they are common, the worst of the fear would vanish.

But, as a rule, we should be very careful for our own sake not to speak much about what distresses us. Expression is apt to carry with it exaggeration, and this exaggerated form becomes henceforth that under which we represent our miseries to ourselves, so that they are thereby increased. By reserve, on the other hand, they are diminished, for we attach less importance to that which it was not worth while to mention. Secrecy, in fact, may be our salvation.

It is injurious to be always treated as if something were the matter with us. It is health-giving to be dealt with as if we were healthy, and the man who imagines his wits are failing becomes stronger and sounder by being entrusted with a difficult problem than by all the assurances of a doctor.

They are poor creatures who are always craving for pity. If we are sick, let us prefer conversation upon any subject rather than upon ourselves. Let it turn on matters that lie outside the dark chamber, upon the last new discovery, or the last new idea. So shall we seem still to be linked to the living world. By perpetually asking for sympathy an end is put to real friendship. The friend is afraid to intrude anything which has no direct reference to the patient's condition lest it should be thought irrelevant. No love even can long endure without complaint, silent it may be, an invalid who is entirely self-centred; and what an agony it is to know that we are tended simply as a duty by those who are nearest to us, and that they will really be relieved when we have departed! From this torture we may be saved if we early apprentice ourselves to the art of self-suppression and sternly apply the gag to eloquence upon our own woes. Nobody who really cares for us will mind waiting on us even to the long-delayed last hour if we endure in fortitude.

There is no harm in confronting our disorders or misfortunes. On the contrary, the attempt is wholesome. Much of what we dread is really due to indistinctness of outline. If we have the courage to say to ourselves, What IS this thing, then? let the worst come to the worst, and what then? we shall frequently find that after all it is not so terrible. What we have to do is to subdue tremulous, nervous, insane fright. Fright is often prior to an object; that is to say, the fright comes first and something is invented or discovered to account for it. There are certain states of body and mind which are productive of objectless fright, and the most ridiculous thing in the world is able to provoke it to activity. It is perhaps not too much to say that any calamity the moment it is apprehended by the reason alone loses nearly all its power to disturb and unfix us. The conclusions which are so alarming are not those of the reason, but, to use Spinoza's words, of the "affects."


Faith is nobly seen when a man, standing like Columbus upon the shore with a dark, stormy Atlantic before him, resolves to sail, and although week after week no land be visible, still believes and still sails on; but it is nobler when there is no America as the goal of our venture, but something which is unsubstantial, as, for example, self-control and self-purification. It is curious, by the way, that discipline of this kind should almost have disappeared. Possibly it is because religion is now a matter of belief in certain propositions; but, whatever the cause may be, we do not train ourselves day by day to become better as we train ourselves to learn languages or science. To return from this parenthesis, we say that when no applause nor even recognition is expected, to proceed steadily and alone for its own sake in the work of saving the soul is truer heroism than that which leads a martyr cheerfully to the stake.

Faith is at its best when we have to wrestle with despair, not only of ourselves but of the Universe; when we strain our eyes and see nothing but blackness. In the Gorgias Socrates maintains, not only that it is always better to suffer injustice than to commit it, but that it is better to be punished for injustice than to escape, and better to die than to do wrong; and it is better not only because of the effect on others but for our own sake. We are naturally led to ask what support a righteous man unjustly condemned could find, supposing he were about to be executed, if he had no faith in personal immortality and knew that his martyrdom could not have the least effect for good. Imagine him, for example, shut up in a dungeon and about to be strangled in it and that not a single inquiry will be made about him—where will he look for help? what hope will compose him? He may say that in a few hours he will be asleep, and that nothing will then be of any consequence to him, but that thought surely will hardly content him. He may reflect that he at least prevents the evil which would be produced by his apostasy; and very frequently in life, when we abstain from doing wrong, we have to be satisfied with a negative result and with the simple absence (which nobody notices) of some direct mischief, although the abstention may cost more than positive well-doing. This too, however, is but cold consolation when the cord is brought and the grave is already dug.

It must be admitted that Reason cannot give any answer. Socrates, when his reasoning comes to an end, often permits himself to tell a story. "My dialectic," he seems to say, "is of no further use; but here is a tale for you," and as he goes on with it we can see his satyr eyes gleam with an intensity which shows that he did not consider he was inventing a mere fable. That was the way in which he taught theology. Perhaps we may find that something less than logic and more than a dream may be of use to us. We may figure to ourselves that this universe of souls is the manifold expression of the One, and that in this expression there is a purpose which gives importance to all the means of which it avails itself. Apparent failure may therefore be a success, for the mind which has been developed into perfect virtue falls back into the One, having served (by its achievements) the end of its existence. The potential in the One has become actual, has become real, and the One is the richer thereby.


What is most to be envied in really religious people of the earlier type is their intellectual and moral peace. They had obtained certain convictions, a certain conception of the Universe, by which they could live. Their horizon may have been encompassed with darkness; experience sometimes contradicted their faith, but they trusted—nay, they knew— that the opposition was not real and that the truths were not to be shaken. Their conduct was marked by a corresponding unity. They determined once for all that there were rules which had to be obeyed, and when any particular case arose it was not judged according to the caprice of the moment, but by statute.

We, on the other hand, can only doubt. So far as those subjects are concerned on which we are most anxious to be informed, we are sure of nothing. What we have to do is to accept the facts and wait. We must take care not to deny beauty and love because we are forced also to admit ugliness and hatred. Let us yield ourselves up utterly to the magnificence and tenderness of the sunrise, though the East End of London lies over the horizon. That very same Power, and it is no other, which blasts a country with the cholera or drives the best of us to madness has put the smile in a child's face and is the parent of Love. It is curious, too, that the curse seems in no way to qualify the blessing. The sweetness and majesty of Nature are so exquisite, so pure, that when they are before us we cannot imagine they could be better if they proceeded from an omnipotently merciful Being and no pestilence had ever been known. We must not worry ourselves with attempts at reconciliation. We must be satisfied with a hint here and there, with a ray of sunshine at our feet, and we must do what we can to make the best of what we possess. Hints and sunshine will not be wanting, and science, which was once considered to be the enemy of religion, is dissolving by its later discoveries the old gross materialism, the source of so much despair.

The conduct of life is more important than speculation, but the lives of most of us are regulated by no principle whatever. We read our Bible, Thomas a Kempis, and Bunyan, and we are persuaded that our salvation lies in the perpetual struggle of the higher against the lower self, the spirit against the flesh, and that the success of the flesh is damnation. We take down Horace and Rabelais and we admit that the body also has its claims. We have no power to dominate both sets of books, and consequently they supersede one another alternately. Perhaps life is too large for any code we can as yet frame, and the dissolution of all codes, the fluid, unstable condition of which we complain, may be a necessary antecedent of new and more lasting combinations. One thing is certain, that there is not a single code now in existence which is not false; that the graduation of the vices and virtues is wrong, and that in the future it will be altered. We must not hand ourselves over to a despotism with no Divine right, even if there be a risk of anarchy. In the determination of our own action, and in our criticism of other people, we must use the whole of ourselves and not mere fragments. If we do this we need not fear. We may suppose we are in danger because the stone tables of the Decalogue have gone to dust, but it is more dangerous to attempt to control men by fictions. Better no chart whatever than one which shows no actually existing perils, but warns us against Scylla, Charybdis, and the Cyclops. If we are perfectly honest with ourselves we shall not find it difficult to settle whether we ought to do this or that particular thing, and we may be content. The new legislation will come naturally at the appointed time, and it is not impossible to live while it is on the way.


In these latter days of anarchy and tumult, when there is no gospel of faith or morals, when democracy seems bent on falsifying every prediction of earlier democratic enthusiasts by developing worse dangers to liberty than any which our forefathers had to encounter, and when the misery of cities is so great, it appears absurd, not to say wrong, that we should sit still and read books. I am ashamed when I go into my own little room and open Milton or Shakespeare after looking at a newspaper or walking through the streets of London. I feel that Milton and Shakespeare are luxuries, and that I really belong to the class which builds palaces for its pleasure, although men and women may be starving on the roads.

Nevertheless, if I were placed on a platform I should be obliged to say, "My brethren, I plainly perceive the world is all wrong, but I cannot see how it is to be set right," and I should descend the steps and go home. There may be others who have a clearer perception than mine, and who may be convinced that this way or that way lies regeneration. I do not wish to discourage them; I wish them God-speed, but I cannot help them nor become their disciple. Possibly I am doing nothing better than devising excuses for lotus-eating, but here they are.

To take up something merely because I am idle is useless. The message must come to me, and with such urgency that I cannot help delivering it. Nor is it of any use to attempt to give my natural thoughts a force which is not inherent in them.

The disease is often obvious, but the remedies are doubtful. The accumulation of wealth in a few hands, generally by swindling, is shocking, but if it were distributed to-morrow we should gain nothing. The working man objects to the millionaire, but would gladly become a millionaire himself, even if his million could be piled up in no other way than by sweating thousands of his fellows. The usurpation of government by the ignorant will bring disaster, but how in these days could a wise man reign any longer than ignorance permitted him? The everlasting veerings of the majority, without any reason meanwhile for the change, show that, except on rare occasions of excitement, the opinion of the voters is of no significance. But when we are asked what substitute for elections can be proposed, none can be found. So with the relationship between man and woman, the marriage laws and divorce. The calculus has not been invented which can deal with such complexities. We are in the same position as that in which Leverrier and Adams would have been, if, observing the irregularities of Uranus, which led to the discovery of Neptune, they had known nothing but the first six books of Euclid and a little algebra.

There has never been any reformation as yet without dogma and supernaturalism. Ordinary people acknowledge no real reasons for virtue except heaven and hell-fire. When heaven and hell-fire cease to persuade, custom for a while is partly efficacious, but its strength soon decays. Some good men, knowing the uselessness of rational means to convert or to sustain their fellows, have clung to dogma with hysterical energy, but without any genuine faith in it. They have failed, for dogma cannot be successful unless it be the INEVITABLE expression of the inward conviction.

The voices now are so many and so contradictory that it is impossible to hear any one of them distinctly, no matter what its claim on our attention may be. The newspaper, the circulating library, the free library, and the magazine are doing their best to prevent unity of direction and the din and confusion of tongues beget a doubt whether literature and the printing press have actually been such a blessing to the race as enlightenment universally proclaims them to be.

The great currents of human destiny seem more than ever to move by forces which tend to no particular point. There is a drift, tremendous and overpowering, due to nobody in particular, but to hundreds of millions of small impulses. Achilles is dead, and the turn of the Myrmidons has come.

"Myrmdons, race feconde Myrmidons, Enfin nous commandons:

Jupiter livre le monde Aux Myrmidons, aux Myrmidons.

Voyant qu' Achille succombe, Ses Myrmidons, hors des rangs, Disent: Dansons sur sa tombe Ses petits vont etre grands."

My last defence is that the Universe is an organic unity, and so subtle and far-reaching are the invisible threads which pass from one part of it to another that it is impossible to limit the effect which even an insignificant life may have. "Were a single dust-atom destroyed, the universe would collapse."

" . . . who of men can tell That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail, The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale, The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones, The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones, Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet If human souls did never kiss and greet?"


True belief is rare and difficult. There is no security that the fictitious beliefs which have been obtained by no genuine mental process, that is to say, are not vitally held, may not be discarded for those which are exactly contrary. We flatter ourselves that we have secured a method and freedom of thought which will not permit us to be the victims of the absurdities of the Middle Ages, but, in fact, there is no solid obstacle to our conversion to some new grotesque religion more miraculous than Roman Catholicism. Modern scepticism, distinguishing it from scholarly scepticism, is nothing but stupidity or weakness. Few people like to confess outright that they do not believe in a God, although the belief in a personal devil is considered to be a sign of imbecility. Nevertheless, men, as a rule, have no ground for believing in God a whit more respectable than for disbelief in a devil. The devil is not seen nor is God seen. The work of the devil is as obvious as that of God. Nay, as the devil is a limited personality, belief in him is not encumbered with the perplexities which arise when we attempt to apprehend the infinite Being. Belief may often be tested; that is to say, we may be able to discover whether it is an active belief or not by inquiring what disbelief it involves. So also the test of disbelief is its correspondent belief.

Superstition is a name generally given to a few only of those beliefs for which it is imagined that there is no sufficient support, such as the belief in ghosts, witches, and, if we are Protestants, in miracles performed after a certain date. Why these particular beliefs have been selected as solely deserving to be called superstitious it is not easy to discover. If the name is to be extended to all beliefs which we have not attempted to verify, it must include the largest part of those we possess. We vote at elections as we are told to vote by the newspaper which we happen to read, and our opinions upon a particular policy are based upon no surer foundation than those of the Papist on the authenticity of the lives of the Saints.

Superstition is a matter of RELATIVE evidence. A thousand years ago it was not so easy as it is now to obtain rigid demonstration in any department except mathematics. Much that was necessarily the basis of action was as incapable of proof as the story of St. George and the Dragon, and consequently it is hardly fair to say that the dark ages were more superstitious than our own. Nor does every belief, even in supernatural objects, deserve the name of superstition. Suppose that the light which struck down St. Paul on his journey to Damascus was due to his own imagination, the belief that it came from Jesus enthroned in the heavens was a sign of strength and not of weakness. Beliefs of this kind, in so far as they exalt man, prove greatness and generosity, and may be truer than the scepticism which is formally justified in rejecting them. If Christ never rose from the dead, the women who waited at the sepulchre were nearer to reality than the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection.

There is a half-belief, which we find in Virgil that is not superstition, nor inconstancy, nor cowardice. A child-like faith in the old creed is no longer possible, but it is equally impossible to surrender it. I refer now not to those who select from it what they think to be in accordance with their reason, and throw overboard the remainder with no remorse, but rather to those who cannot endure to touch with sacrilegious hands the ancient histories and doctrines which have been the depositaries of so much that is eternal, and who dread lest with the destruction of a story something precious should also be destroyed. The so-called superstitious ages were not merely transitionary. Our regret that they have departed is to be explained not by a mere idealisation of the past, but by a conviction that truths have been lost, or at least have been submerged. Perhaps some day they may be recovered, and in some other form may again become our religion.


Judas Iscariot has become to Christian people an object of horror more loathsome than even the devil himself. The devil rebelled because he could not brook subjection to the Son of God, a failing which was noble compared with treachery to the Son of man. The hatred of Judas is not altogether virtuous. We compound thereby for our neglect of Jesus and His precepts: it is easier to establish our Christianity by cursing the wretched servant than by following his Master. The heinousness also of the crime in Gethsemane has been aggravated by the exaltation of Jesus to the Redeemership of the world. All that can be known of Judas is soon collected. He was chosen one of the twelve apostles, and received their high commission to preach the kingdom of heaven, to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out devils. He was appointed treasurer to the community. John in telling the story of the anointing at Bethany says that he was a thief, but John also makes him the sole objector to the waste of the ointment. According to the other evangelists all the disciples objected. Since he remained in office it could hardly have been known at the time of the visit to Bethany that he was dishonest, nor could it have been known at any time to Matthew and Mark, for they would not have lost the opportunity of adding such a touch to the portrait. The probability, therefore, is that the robbery of the bag is unhistorical. When the chief priests and scribes sought how they might apprehend Jesus they made a bargain with Judas to deliver Him to them for thirty pieces of silver. He was present at the Last Supper but went and betrayed his Lord. A few hours afterwards, when he found out that condemnation to death followed, he repented himself and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to his employers, declared that he had sinned in betraying innocent blood, cast down the money at their feet, and went and hanged himself.

This is all that is discoverable about Judas, and it has been considered sufficient for a damnation deeper than any allotted to the worst of the sons of Adam. Dante places him in the lowest round of the ninth or last of the hellish circles, where he is eternally "champed" by Satan, "bruised as with ponderous engine," his head within the diabolic jaws and "plying the feet without." In the absence of a biography with details, it is impossible to make out with accuracy what the real Judas was. We can, however, by dispassionate examination of the facts determine their sole import, and if we indulge in inferences we can deduce those which are fairly probable. As Judas was treasurer, he must have been trusted. He could hardly have been naturally covetous, for he had given up in common with the other disciples much, if not all, to follow Jesus. The thirty pieces of silver—some four or five pounds of our money—could not have been considered by him as a sufficient bribe for the ignominy of a treason which was to end in legal murder. He ought perhaps to have been able to measure the ferocity of an established ecclesiastical order and to have known what would have been the consequence of handing over to it perfect, and therefore heretical, sincerity and purity, but there is no evidence that he did know: nay, we are distinctly informed, as we have just seen, that when he became aware what was going to happen his sorrow for his wicked deed took a very practical shape.

We cannot allege with confidence that it was any permanent loss of personal attachment to Jesus which brought about his defection. It came when the belief in a theocracy near at hand filled the minds of the disciples. These ignorant Galilean fishermen expected that in a very short time they would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The custodian of the bag, gifted with more common sense than his colleagues, probably foresaw the danger of a collision with Rome, and may have desired by a timely arrest to prevent an open revolt, which would have meant immediate destruction of the whole band with women and children. Can any position be imagined more irritating that that of a careful man of business who is keeper of the purse for a company of heedless enthusiasts professing complete indifference to the value of money, misunderstanding the genius of their chief, and looking out every morning for some sign in the clouds, a prophecy of their immediate appointment as vicegerents of a power that would supersede the awful majesty of the Imperial city? He may have been heated by a long series of petty annoyances to such a degree that at last they may have ended in rage and a sudden flinging loose of himself from the society. It is the impulsive man who frequently suffers what appears to be inversion, and Judas was impulsive exceedingly. Matthew, and Matthew only, says that Judas asked for money from the chief priests. "What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him unto you?" According to Mark, whose account of the transaction is the same as Luke's, "Judas . . . went unto the chief priests to betray Him unto them. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money." If the priests were the tempters, a slight difference is established in favour of Judas, but this we will neglect. The sin of taking money and joining in that last meal in any case is black enough, although, as we have before pointed out, Judas did not at the time know what the other side of the bargain was. Admitting, however, everything that can fairly be urged against him, all that can be affirmed with certainty is that we are in the presence of strange and unaccountable inconsistency, and that an apostle who had abandoned his home, who had followed Jesus for three years amidst contempt and persecution, and who at last slew himself in self- reproach, could be capable of committing the meanest of sins. Is the co-existence of irreconcilable opposites in human nature anything new? The story of Judas may be of some value if it reminds us that man is incalculable, and that, although in theory, and no doubt in reality, he is a unity, the point from which the divergent forces in him rise is often infinitely beyond our exploration; a lesson not merely in psychology but for our own guidance, a warning that side by side with heroic virtues there may sleep in us not only detestable vices, but vices by which those virtues are contradicted and even for the time annihilated. The mode of betrayal, with a kiss, has justly excited loathing, but it is totally unintelligible. Why should he have taken the trouble to be so base when the movement of a finger would have sufficed? Why was any sign necessary to indicate one who was so well known? The supposition that the devil compelled him to superfluous villainy in order that he might be secured with greater certainty and tortured with greater subtlety is one that can hardly be entertained except by theologians. It is equally difficult to understand why Jesus submitted to such an insult, and why Peter should not have smitten down its perpetrator. Peter was able to draw his sword, and it would have been safer and more natural to kill Judas than to cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. John, who shows a special dislike to Judas, knows nothing of the kiss. According to John, Jesus asked the soldiers whom they sought, and then stepped boldly forward and declared Himself. "Judas," adds John, "was standing with them." As John took such particular notice of what happened, the absence of the kiss in his account can hardly have been accidental. It is a sound maxim in criticism that what is simply difficult of explanation is likely to be authentic. An awkward reading in a manuscript is to be preferred to one which is easier. But an historical improbability, especially if no corroboration of it is to be found in a better authority, may be set aside, and in this case we are justified in neglecting the kiss. Whatever may have been the exact shade of darkness in the crime of Judas, it was avenged with singular swiftness, and he himself was the avenger. He did not slink away quietly and poison himself in a ditch. He boldly encountered the sacred college, confessed his sin and the innocence of the man they were about to crucify. Compared with these pious miscreants who had no scruples about corrupting one of the disciples, but shuddered at the thought of putting back into the treasury the money they had taken from it, Judas becomes noble. His remorse is so unendurable that it drives him to suicide.

If a record could be kept of those who have abjured Jesus through love of gold, through fear of the world or of the scribes and Pharisees, we should find many who are considered quite respectable, or have even been canonised, and who, nevertheless, much more worthily than Iscariot, are entitled to "champing" by the jaws of Sathanas. Not a single scrap from Judas himself has reached us. He underwent no trial, and is condemned without plea or excuse on his own behalf, and with no cross-examination of the evidence. No witnesses have been called to his character. What would his friends at Kerioth have said for him? What would Jesus have said? If He had met Judas with the halter in his hand would He not have stopped him? Ah! I can see the Divine touch on the shoulder, the passionate prostration of the repentant in the dust, the hands gently lifting him, the forgiveness because he knew not what he did, and the seal of a kiss indeed from the sacred lips.


The supernatural machinery in Sir Walter Scott's Monastery is generally and, no doubt, correctly, set down as a mistake. Sir Walter fails, not because the White Lady of Avenel is a miracle, but because being miraculous, she is made to do what sometimes is not worthy of her. This, however, is not always true, for nothing can be finer than the change in Halbert Glendinning after he has seen the spirit, and the great master himself has never drawn a nobler stroke than that in which he describes the effect which intercourse with her has had upon Mary. Halbert, on the morning of the duel between himself and Sir Piercie Shafton, is trying to persuade her that he intends no harm, and that he and Sir Piercie are going on a hunting expedition. "Say not thus," said the maiden, interrupting him, "say not thus to me. Others thou may'st deceive, but me thou can'st not. There has been that in me from the earliest youth which fraud flies from, and which imposture cannot deceive." The transforming influence of the Lady is here just what it should be, and the consequence is that she becomes a reality.

But it is in the Bride of Lammermoor more particularly that the use of the supernatural is not only blameless but indispensable. We begin to rise to it in that scene in which the Master of Ravenswood meets Alice. "Begone from among them," she says, "and if God has destined vengeance on the oppressor's house, do not you be the instrument. . . . If you remain here, her destruction or yours, or that of both, will be the inevitable consequence of her misplaced attachment." A little further on, with great art, Scott having duly prepared us by what has preceded, adds intensity and colour. He apologises for the "tinge of superstition," but, not believing, he evidently believes, and we justly surrender ourselves to him. The Master of Ravenswood after the insult received from Lady Ashton wanders round the Mermaiden's Well on his way to Wolf's Crag and sees the wraith of Alice. Scott makes horse as well as man afraid so that we may not immediately dismiss the apparition as a mere ordinary product of excitement. Alice at that moment was dying, and had "prayed powerfully that she might see her master's son and renew her warning." Observe the difference between this and any vulgar ghost story. From the very first we feel that the Superior Powers are against this match, and that it will be cursed. The beginning of the curse lies far back in the hereditary temper of the Ravenswoods, in the intrigues of the Ashtons, and in the feuds of the times. When Love intervenes we discover in an instant that he is not sent by the gods to bring peace, but that he is the awful instrument of destruction. The spectral appearance of Alice at the hour of her departure, on the very spot "on which Lucy Ashton had reclined listening to the fatal tale of woe . . . holding up her shrivelled hand as if to prevent his coming more near," is necessary in order to intimate that the interdict is pronounced not by a mortal human being but by a dread, supernal authority.

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