On the following morning Lady Ambrose awoke somewhat out of spirits. Last night, whilst her maid was brushing her hair, she had pondered deeply over much that she had heard during the evening; and her thoughts having been once started in such a direction, the conviction quickly dawned upon her that the world was indeed becoming very bad, and that society was on the point of dissolution. This was quite a new view of things to her, and it had all the charm of novelty. Still, however, she would probably have found by the morning that she had successfully slept it off, if the post had not failed to bring her an invitation to the Duchess of ———’s garden-party at ——— House, which she was expecting with some anxiety. As it was, therefore, her spirits failed to recover themselves, and whilst she was being dressed her thoughts wandered wistfully away to the promised morning service in the chapel. At breakfast, however, another blow awaited her. How a private chapel had come to be mentioned last evening was not clear. Certainly there was no such appendage to Laurence’s villa, and the susceptibilities of Lady Ambrose received a severe shock, as she learnt that the ministrations of Dr. Jenkinson, the comfort of which she was looking forward to, were to take place in the theatre which adjoined the house. She bore up, however, like a brave woman, and resolving that nothing, on her part at least, should be wanting, she appeared shortly before eleven o’clock, in full Sunday costume, with her bonnet, and her books of devotion.
Mrs. Sinclair looked at her in dismay. ‘I had thought,’ she said plaintively to Laurence, ‘that, as this was only a morning performance, I need not make a toilette. And as for a prayer-book, why, dear Mr. Laurence, I have not had one since I was confirmed.’
‘Not when you were married?’ said Leslie.
‘Perhaps,’ said Mrs. Sinclair pensively, ‘but I have forgotten all about that—now.’
At this moment the gong sounded, and the whole party, Lady Ambrose and her bonnet amongst them, adjourned to the place of worship, which was connected with the house by a long corridor.
When the party entered they found themselves in a complete miniature theatre, with the gas, as there were no windows, fully burning. It had been arranged beforehand that the guests should occupy the boxes, the gallery being appropriated to the servants, whilst the stalls were to remain completely empty. The congregation entered with great decorum and gradually settled themselves in their places with a subdued whispering. Lady Ambrose buried her face in her hands for a few moments, and several of the younger ladies followed her example. Everyone then looked about them silently, in suspense and expectation. The scene that met their eyes was certainly not devotional. The whole little semicircle glittered with heavy gilding and with hangings of crimson satin, and against these the stucco limbs of a number of gods and goddesses gleamed pale and prominent. The gallery rested on the heads of nine scantily-draped Muses, who, had they been two less in number, might have passed for the seven deadly sins; round the frieze in high relief reeled a long procession of Fauns and Bacchanals; and half the harem of Olympus sprawled and floated on the azure ceiling. Nor was this all. The curtain was down, and, brilliantly illuminated as it was, displayed before the eyes of the congregation Faust on the Brocken, with a long plume, dancing with the young witch, who could boast of no costume at all. The scene was so strange that everyone forgot to whisper or even to smile. There was a complete silence, and the eyes of all were soon fixed upon the curtain in wonder and expectation.
Presently a sound was heard. A door opened, and Dr. Jenkinson, in his ordinary dress, entered the stalls. He looked deliberately round him for a moment, as though he were taking stock of those present; then, selecting the central stall as a kind of prie-dieu, he knelt down facing his congregation, and after a moment’s pause began to read the service in a simple, earnest voice. Lady Ambrose, however, though she knew her prayer-book as well as most women, could not for the life of her find the place. The reason was not far to seek. The Doctor was opening the proceedings with the following passage from the Koran, which he had once designed to use in Westminster Abbey as the text of a missionary sermon.
‘Be constant in prayer,’ he began, in a voice tremulous with emotion, ‘and give alms: and what good ye have sent before for your souls, ye shall find it with God. Surely God seeth that which ye do. They say, Verily none shall see Paradise except they be Jews or Christians. This is their wish. Say ye, Produce your proof of this if ye speak truth. Nay, but he who resigneth himself to God, and doeth that which is right, he shall have his reward with his Lord; there shall come no fear on them, neither shall they be grieved.’ 1
Dr. Jenkinson then went on to the Confession, the Absolution, and a number of other selections from the English morning service, omitting, however, the creed, and concluded the whole with a short prayer of St. Francis Xavier’s.
But it was discovered that his voice, unless he made an effort, was unhappily only partly audible from the position which he occupied; and Laurence, as soon as the Liturgy was over, went softly up to him to apprise him of the fact. Dr. Jenkinson was very grateful for being thus told in time. It was fortunate, he said, that the prayers only had been missed; the question was, where should he go for the sermon. Laurence in a diffident manner proposed the stage; but the Doctor accepted the proposal with great alacrity, and Laurence went immediately out with him to conduct him to his new pulpit. In a few moments the curtain was observed to twitch and tremble; two or three abortive pulls were evidently being made; and at last Faust and the young witch rapidly rolled up, and discovered first the feet and legs, and then the entire person of Doctor Jenkinson, standing in the middle of a gorge in the Indian Caucasus—the remains of a presentation of Prometheus Bound which had taken place last February.
The Doctor was not a man to be abashed by incongruities. He looked about him for a moment: he slightly raised his eyebrows, and then, without the least discomposure, and in a clear incisive voice, began:—
‘In the tenth verse of the hundred and eleventh Psalm, it is said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The fear of the Lord,’ he again repeated, more slowly, and with more emphasis, surveying the theatre as he spoke, ‘is the beginning of wisdom.’
He then made a long pause, looking down at his feet, as if, although he held his sermon-book in his hand, he were considering how to begin. As he stood there silent, the footlights shining brightly on his silver hair, Lady Ambrose had full time to verify the text in her prayer-book. At last the Doctor suddenly raised his head, and with a gentle smile of benignity playing on his lips, shook open his manuscript, and thus proceeded:—
‘The main difficulty that occupied the early Greek Philosophers, as soon as philosophy in its proper sense can be said to have begun, was the great dualism that seemed to run through all things. Matter and mind, the presence of imperfection, and the idea of perfection, or the unity and plurality of being, were amongst the various forms in which the two contradictory elements of things were presented to them, as demanding reconcilement or explanation. This manner of viewing things comes to a head, so to speak, amongst the ancients, in the system of Plato. With him the sensible and the intelligible worlds stand separated by a great gulf, the one containing all good, the other of itself only evil, until we recognise its relation to the good, and see that it is only a shadow and a type of it. The world of real existence is something outside, and virtually unconnected with, this world of mere phenomena; and the Platonic prayer is that we should be taken out of the world, rather than, as Christ says, with a fuller wisdom, that we should be delivered from the evil.
‘Plato had, however, by thus dwelling on this antagonism in things, paved the way for a reconciliation—some say he even himself began it. At any rate, it was through him that it was nearly, if not quite, accomplished by his disciple Aristotle. Aristotle first systematised the great principle of evolution, and transformed what had appeared to former thinkers as the dualism of mind and matter into a single scale of ascending existences. Thus what Plato had conceived of as two worlds, were now presented as opposite poles of the same. The πρώτη ὕλη, the world “without form and void,” receiving form, at length culminated in the soul of man; and in the soul of man sensation at length culminated in pure thought.’ A slight cough here escaped from Mrs. Sinclair. ‘You will perhaps think,’ the Doctor went on, ‘that a sermon is not the place in which to discuss such differences of secular opinion; or you will perhaps think that such differences are of no very great moment. But if you look under the surface, and at the inner meaning of them, you will find that they bear upon questions which are, or ought to be, of the very highest moment to each of us—questions indeed,’ the Doctor added, suddenly lowering his manuscript for a moment, and looking sharply round at his audience, ‘which we all of us here have very lately—very lately indeed—either discussed ourselves, or heard discussed by others.’ This produced an immediate sensation, especially amongst the feminine part of the listeners, to whom the discourse thus far had seemed strange, rather than significant. ‘The question,’ the Doctor continued, ‘is one of the relations of the spiritual to the natural; and the opposition between the views of these two ancient philosophers is by no means obsolete in our own century. There is even now far too prevalent a tendency to look upon the spiritual as something transcending and completely separate from the natural; and there is in the minds of many well-meaning and earnest persons a sort of alarm felt at any attempt to bring the two into connection. This feeling is experienced not by Christians only, but by a large number of their opponents. There is, for instance, no doctrine more often selected for attack by those who oppose Christianity upon moral grounds, than that of which my text is an expression, I mean the doctrine of a morality enforced by rewards and punishments. Such morality, we hear it continually urged by men who set themselves up as advanced thinkers, is no morality at all. No action can be good, they tell us, that does not spring from the love of good. Virtue is no longer virtue if it springs from fear. The very essence of it is to spring from freedom. Now, these arguments, though specious at the first blush of the thing, are really, if we look them honestly in the face, to the utmost shallow and unphilosophical. They are really but so many denials of the great doctrine of evolution—so many attempts to set up again that absolute antagonism between good and evil which it has been the aim of all the higher thinkers, and of Christ himself, to do away with. If, then, these modern critics of Christianity come to us with such objections, let us not try to disguise the truth that the morality of our religion is based on fear. Let us rather boldly avow this, and try to point out to them that it is they, and not the Psalmist, that are out of harmony with modern thought. For what is it that the sacred Scripture says? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The beginning, you will please to observe—the beginning only. It is not perfect wisdom, it is not perfect virtue; but it is the beginning of both of these. It is, if I may be allowed the expression, the moral protoplasm—it is that out of which they are both evolved. It is, as Aristotle would call it, their potentiality. The actuality is different from the potentiality; for “perfect love” as St. John says, “casteth out fear.” Putting together, then, the ideas of these two good men, St. John and Aristotle, we may say that the love of God—that is, true wisdom—is the actuality of the fear of Him.
‘This account of the origin of the true wisdom may not, indeed, be applicable to each individual case. Some persons’ — the Doctor’s voice here grew very soft, and seemed as though it would almost break with feeling—’ some persons may have been so fortunate as to have received the truest wisdom into their hearts by education, almost with their mother’s milk. But there are those not so fortunate, who may have needed the discipline of a godly fear to lead them upwards front a “wallowing in the sensual sty” towards the higher life. And just as this is true of many of us individually, so it is still more deeply true of the human race as a whole. All study of history, and of social science, and of philosophy, is teaching this to us every day with increasing clearness. The human race, as soon as it became human, feared God before it loved Him. Its fear, as the Scripture puts it, was the beginning of its wisdom; or as modern thought has put it, in slightly different words, the love of justice sprang out of the fear of suffering injustice. Thus the end is different from the beginning, and yet springs out of it. Ethics, as it has been well said, are the finest fruits of humanity, but they are not its roots. Our reverence for truth, all our sacred family ties, and the purest and most exalted forms of matrimonial attachment, have each their respective origins in self-interest, self-preservation, and animal appetite.
‘There is, I admit, in this truth something that may at first sight repel us, and perhaps even prompt some of us to deny indignantly that it is a truth at all. But this is really a cowardly and unworthy feeling, fatal to any true comprehension of God’s dealings with man, and arising from a quite mistaken conception of our own dignity, and our own connection with God. It is some such mistaken conception as this that sets so many of us against the discoveries of modern science as to the origin of our own species, and, what is far worse, prompts us to oppose such discoveries with dishonest objections. How is it possible, some of us ask, that man with his sublime conceptions of duty and of God, and his fine apparatus of reason, and so forth, should be produced by any process of evolution from a beastly and irrational ape? But to ask such questions as these is really to call in question the power of God, and so to do Him dishonour. It is true that we cannot trace out, as yet, all the steps of this wonderful evolution; but let us not be found, like doubting Thomas, resolved not to believe until we have actually seen. And yet, if our faith does indeed require strengthening, we have only to look a little more attentively at the commonest facts before us. For is it not, let me ask you—to take, for instance, a man’s sublime faculty of reasoning and logical comprehension—far more wonderful that a reasoning man should have the same parents as a woman, than that they both should have the same parents as a monkey? Science and religion both alike teach us that with God all things are possible.
‘I just touch in passing upon this doctrine that we popularly call Darwinism, because it is the most familiar example to us of the doctrine of evolution. But the point which I am wishing to emphasize is not the outward evolution of man, but the inward, of which, however, the former is an image and a likeness. This theory of moral evolution, I wish to point out to you, is alike the Christian and the scientific theory; and I thus wish you to see that the very points in which science seems most opposed to Christianity are really those in which it most fundamentally agrees with it. I will therefore just ask you to notice how foolish and short-sighted those persons are who think that a great result is lessened if it can be proved to have had small beginnings. Is a state less truly a state because we know that it has sprung out of the germ of the family? Surely not. Neither is man less truly man if he have sprung from an ape; nor is love less truly love if it has sprung from fear.
‘And so now, since we have seen how science and Christianity are at one as to the rise of the moral sentiments, I will pass on to a wider point, the character and the history of Christianity itself, both of which have been misunderstood and misinterpreted for at least eighteen hundred years; and when I have pointed out how this great subject is being now explained by the methods of modern science, I will pass on to an issue that is wider yet.
‘The world has hitherto failed to understand Christianity, because it studied it upon a false method—a method based upon that old dualistic theory of things of which I have already spoken. Just as Plato looked upon mind as entirely distinct from matter, so used Christians to look upon things sacred as entirely distinct from things secular. But now this middle wall of partition is being broken down by science, and by scientific criticism, and by a wider view of things in general. The primary way in which all this has affected Christianity, is by the new spirit in which it has led us to study the Bible. We used to look upon the Bible as a book standing apart by itself, and to be interpreted by a peculiar canon of criticism. But we have now learnt that it is to be studied just like all other books; and we are now for the first time coming to understand what, in its true grandeur, a real revelation is. We are learning, in fact, that just as no single scripture “is of any private interpretation;” still less is the entire body of the Scriptures. They, too, must be interpreted by their context. We must inquire into their origin; we must ask diligently under what circumstances they were written and edited, and for what ends. Nor must we ever again fall into such quaint and simple mistakes as did commentators like Origen, or Augustine, or Tertullian, or even Paul himself, whose discoveries of Messianic prophecies in writings like the Psalms for instance, are really much the same as would be a discovery on our part in Mr. Tennyson’s line on the death of the Duke of Wellington, “The last great Englishman is low,” a prophecy of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. But to understand the meaning of any text, we must try to see what, from his position and education, the writer could have meant by it; not what this or that Father, living long afterwards, fancied that he meant. Our motto in religion, as in science, should be, “Vere scire est per causas scire.”
‘If we study Christianity reverently and carefully upon these principles, we shall see that it was not a thing that sprang up, as we used to fancy, without any human antecedents, but that its roots reach back with many ramifications into the western and oriental thought of preceding centuries. We shall see how it absorbed into itself all that was highest in Hebraistic Theism and in Hellenic thought—something too, let us admit, of the failings of both. I cannot here enter into any of the details of this, what may be truly termed pre-Christian Christianity. I can only briefly point out its existence, and its double origin, commenting on these by the following few lines from a great German writer. “The yearning after a higher revelation” he tells us, “was the universal characteristic of the last centuries of the ancient world. This was in the first place but a consciousness of the decline of the classical nations and their culture, and the presentiment of the approach of a new era; and it called into life not only Christianity, but also, and before it, Pagan and Jewish Alexandrianism, and other related developments.”
‘This, then, is the great point to be borne in mind—viz. that God had been preparing the way for the coming of Christ long before he sent “Elias, which was for to be.” Neither John Baptist, no, nor One greater than John, was left by God (as the children of Israel were left by Pharaoh) to gather straw himself to make bricks. The materials were all prepared ready to their hands by their Heavenly Father. And so, let us be especially and prayerfully on our guard against considering Christianity as having come into the world at once, ready-made, so to speak, by our Saviour, as a body of theological doctrines. Any honest study of history will show us that the Apostles received no such system; that our Lord Himself never made any claim to the various characters with which subsequent thought invested Him; and that to attribute such claims to Him, would be an anachronism, of which He would Himself have scarcely understood the meaning. If we only clear our eyes of any false theological glamour, a very slight study of the inspired writers will at once show us this. We shall see how uncertain and shifting at first everything was. We shall see what a variety of conflicting opinions the early Church entertained even upon the most fundamental subjects—such, for instance, as the identity of the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New, which was denied by a large number of the early Christians: we shall see how widely divergent were the systems of Jewish and Pauline Christianity, and how discrepant and tentative are the accounts given by St. Paul and by the author of the Fourth Gospel of the mystical nature of Christ, whom they tried to identify with different mysterious potencies supposed by the Jewish-Alexandrian philosophers to be coexistent with God. And if we pursue the history of the Church a little farther, we shall find many more things to startle us. We shall find, for instance, the most renowned apologist of early Catholic times, a materialist, holding the materiality not of the soul of man only, but of God also. “Nihil enim”—these are this father’s words—“si non corpus. Omne quod est, corpus est.” Thus we see,’ said the Doctor cheerfully, looking round him with a smile of benignant triumph, and blinking with his eyes, ‘that difference of opinion about the dogmas of religion is nothing new. It existed in the Jewish Church; the phenomenon was only prolonged by Christianity. Later Judaism and primitive Christianity were both made up of a variety of systems, all honestly and boldly thought out, differing widely from each other, and called by the honourable appellation of heresies: and of these, let me remind you, it is the glory of the Church of England to be composed likewise.
‘Nor is this all,’ he went on in a softer and more appealing tone; ‘not only are all these things so confused and doubtful; but we now see that, in the face of recent criticism, we cannot even be quite sure about any of the details of the divine life of our Lord. But in all this’—the Doctor’s voice here became still more aërial, and he fixed his eyes upon the painted ceiling of the theatre, as though he were gazing on some glorious vision—‘in all this there is nothing to discompose us. We can be quite sure that He lived, and that He went about doing good, and that in him we have, in the highest sense, everlasting life.
‘Let us then no longer fight against the conclusions of science and of criticism, but rather see in them the hand of God driving us, even against our will, away from beliefs and teachings that are not really those of His son. If we do not do this—if we persist in identifying the false Christianity with the true—the false, when it is at last plucked widely away from us, as it must be, will carry away a part of the true with it. And as long as we are in this state of mind, we are never for a moment safe. We can never open a philological review, or hear of a scientific experiment, without trembling. Witness the discussions now engaging so much public attention on the subject of animal automatism, and the marvellous results which experiments on living subjects have of late days revealed to us; a frog with half a brain having destroyed more theology than all the doctors of the Church with their whole brains can ever build up again. Thus does God choose the “weak things of this world to confound the wise.” Seeing, then, that this is the state of the case, we should surely learn henceforth not to identify Christianity with anything that science can assail, or even question. Let us say rather that nothing is or can be essential to the religion of Christ which, when once stated, can be denied without absurdity. If we can only attain to this conception, we shall see truly that this our faith is indeed one “that no man taketh away from us.”
‘If we be thus once “stablished in the faith” all human history, and the history of Christianity especially, will assume for us a new sacredness and a new significance. We shall recognise gladly its long struggles of growth, and its struggles for existence, and see how in all these were at work the great principles of evolution. We shall see how Christian perfection emerged gradually out of imperfection—nay, that it was only through imperfection that this perfection was possible. For although, as we now know, all the various theological systems that have sprung up about Christianity, and have been so long current, are not Christianity, are most of them, indeed, not even sense—yet it was through these that true Christianity made its way, and extended itself in a corrupt and ignorant world. For the world has been given from age to age just so much of the truth as it has been able to bear, and it is only, let us remember, from receiving it tempered in this wise proportion, that it has been able to receive it at all. But these times of the world’s probation are now passing away. It is now at length ceasing to be under “tutors and governors;” it is learning to “put away childish things.” It is coming to a sense that it is now fitted to receive Christ’s truth pure, and without any admixture or wrappage of falsehood. And so, as it looks back over all the various opinions once so fiercely agitated about religion, it recognises in all of them a common element of good, and it sees that all theologians and all sects have really agreed with one another, and been meaning the same thing, even when they least suspected or wished it. Nor is it, as modern study is showing us, varieties of Christianity only that this deeper unity underlies, but all other religions also. It has been well observed by a great Roman Catholic writer now living, that whenever any great saintliness of life is to be observed amongst infidels and heretics, it is always found to be due to the presence of certain beliefs and rules which belong to the Catholics. And in like manner, we may say too, that whenever any great saintliness of life is to be observed amongst Catholics, it is due to the presence of certain beliefs and rules that belong to the infidels and the heretics—and indeed to all good men, no matter what their religion is.
‘Such are the views that all the most enlightened men of our own day are coming to. But the process is gradual; and meanwhile let us not rebuke our weaker brethren, if for the present “they follow not after us;” let us rather bear with them, and make all allowance for them; for we must remember, as I have said before, that those evils to which they still cling, but from which we, under God’s mercy, are trying to free ourselves, have done good service in their time; and that even such doctrines as those of eternal punishment, or of sacerdotal absolution, or the subtleties of sacramental systems, or the mystical paradoxes of the Athanasian Creed, have assisted in the evolution of the good—have been, in some sense, “schoolmasters to bring men to God.” And even if we do occasionally come across some incident in the history of our religion—some doctrine or body of doctrines, which seems, humanly speaking, to subserve no good end at all—such as our own Thirty-nine Articles—let us not suffer such to try our faith, but let us trust in God, believing that in His secret councils He has found some fitting use even for these; because we know how many things there are, in every branch of inquiry, that we cannot explain, and yet we know that nothing happens but by those immutable and eternal laws which our Heavenly Father has Himself ordained, and of which He is Himself the highest synthesis.
‘And now,’ said the Doctor, with a fresh briskness in his voice, ‘I shall pass on to that wider point to which I have already alluded, which is indeed that which I wish chiefly to impress upon you, and to which all that I have hitherto said has been preparatory. We have come to see how genuine Christianity has been enabled to grow and extend itself only through an admixture of what we now recognise as evil. And seeing this, we shall be led on to a conclusion that is much wider. It has been said that it is the part of the devil to see in good the germs of evil. Is it not also the part of the devil not to recognise in evil the germs of good? May we not indeed say with St. Augustine, that absolute evil is impossible, because, if we look at it rightly, it is always rising up into good? And so, may we not recognise in all things the presence and the providence of God?
‘Perhaps this view may at first sight seem difficult. Some of us may find that we have a certain amount of pride to swallow before we can cheerfully acquiesce in it. It is not an uncommon thing to find persons who secretly flatter their vanity by cherishing a gloomy view of the world and of mankind. But if we can only get free from these littlenesses, and attain to that view which I have indicated, it will enlarge and ameliorate our own philosophy of things, and bring life and trust to us, in the place of doubt and despondency. Evil will then appear to us simply as undeveloped good—as something which we may acquiesce in without complaining—as something that has assisted in the development of whatever is good in the present, and which will itself one day become good in the future. Indeed it is not too much to say that all things, in a certain sense, existed first in the form of evil. It was not till after the Spirit of God had worked on the primeval matter that God pronounced the world to be “very good.”
‘And so, if we consider the subject thus, we shall learn to put a stop to all those fretful wailings over the badness of our own times of which we hear so much—wailings over the unbelief of our neighbours, the corruption of society, the misery of the poor, the luxury of the rich, or the decline of commercial morality. The present is an age of change, and is therefore at every turn presenting to us some new feature. But if these come to us in the apparent guise of evils, let us not uselessly bemoan them; but let us believe that they are, even if we cannot see that it is so, but the beginnings, the embryos of new good. Indeed, by the eye of faith, even in the present day, may be discerned the beautiful spectacle of good actually shining through evil. May we not, for instance, discern the well-being of the rich through the misery of the poor? and again, the honest industry of the poor through the idleness of the rich?
‘If, then, these things be so, surely we may look on unmoved at the great changes and commotions that are going on around its, and the new forms that society, and thought, and politics are assuming, even although for the moment they may appear threatening. And if in this great storm our Master have fallen asleep, and no longer speak audibly to us, let us not be of little faith and fearful, and try to awaken Him with our foolish clamours; but let us trust all to Him, and follow His example. For really, if we do but trust in God, there is no ground for fear, but “all things work together for good to him that believeth.” And, however the matter may strike us at first sight, the times we live in are really the times that are best fitted for us; and we shall see, if we will but think soberly, that we could not, as a whole, alter anything in them for the better. I do not mean that we have not each of us his own work marked out for him to do; but all this work is strictly in relation to things as they are. God has given to us the general conditions under which we are to serve Him, and these are the best and indeed the only conditions for us. Doubtless, if we each do the duty that lies before us, these conditions will be slowly and insensibly changed by us; but we shall ourselves change also, as well as the conditions; what I mean is, that supposing by a sudden act of will we could do what we pleased with the conditions of the age, we, being as we are, should not be really able to make the age better. We should not be really able to make it different. Any Utopia we might imagine would, if it were a thinkable one, be only our own age in a masquerading dress. For we cannot escape from our age, or add, except in a very small degree, anything that is really new to it. Nor need we wish to do so. Our age is for us the best age possible. We are its children, and it is our only true parent. But though we cannot alter our time at a stroke, so to speak, no, not even in imagination, we can all of us help to do so little by little, if we do cheerfully the duties that are set before us. And if we do this, which is what Christ bids us to do, then is Christ made manifest in us, and lives in the hearts of every one of us; and in a far higher sense than any mere physical one, He is risen from the dead. And if He be not so risen in and for us, then are we indeed, as the Apostle says, “of all men most miserable!”
‘Let us therefore, with a large hope for the future, and a cheerful contentment with the present, be willing to leave the world in the hands of God, knowing that He has given us what conditions and what circumstances are best for us. Let us see all things in God, and let us become in Him, as Plato says, “spectators of all time, and of all existence.” And thus, in spite of the difficulties presented to us by “all the evil that is done under the sun” we shall perceive that all things will, nay must, come right in God’s own time; and the apparent dualism of good and evil at last become a glorious unity of good. But let us remember also that “the Kingdom of God cometh not with observation;” and I would conclude my sermon with certain memorable words spoken by Christ Himself, though unfortunately not to be found in the Gospels, but preserved to us by Clement of Alexandria. “The Lord,” Clement tells us, “being asked when His kingdom should come, said, When two shall be one, and that which is without as that which is within, and the male with the female—neither male nor female.”
‘—And now—’ (at the sound of this word the whole congregation rose automatically to their feet),‘I will ask you,’ the Doctor went on after a pause, ‘to conclude this morning’s service by doing what I trust I have shown that all here may sincerely and honestly do. I mean, I will ask you to recite after me the Apostles’ Creed.’
This appeal took the whole congregation quite aback. But there was no time for wonder. Dr. Jenkinson at once began; nor was his voice the only sound in the theatre. Lady Ambrose, pleased, after all that she had heard the night previous, to make public profession of her faith, especially in a place where it could not be called in question, followed the Doctor audibly and promptly; Miss Prattle followed Lady Ambrose; Lady Violet Gresham, who was busy with one of her sleeve-links, followed Miss Prattle; Lady Grace, from quite another part of the house, followed Dr. Jenkinson on her own account; Mr. Stockton repeated the first clause in a loud voice, and then relapsed into marked silence; Mr. Luke only opened his lips to sigh out audibly in the middle a disconsolate ‘Heigh ho!’ Mr. Storks blew his nose with singular vigour through the whole proceeding; Mrs. Sinclair, just towards the end, tapped Leslie’s arm gently with her fan, and said to him in a whisper, ‘Do you really believe all this?’
When all was over, when the Doctor had solemnly pronounced the last ‘Amen,’ he looked about him nervously for a moment, as if the question of how to retire becomingly suddenly dawned upon him. Luckily he perceived almost directly a servant standing in readiness by the curtain. The Doctor frowned slightly at the man; made a slightly impatient gesture at him; and Faust and the young witch again covered the preacher from the eyes of his congregation.
1 Koran, chap. ii. Sale’s Translation.