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Collected Essays, Volume V Science and Christian Tradition: Essays   By: (1825-1895)

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"For close upon forty years I have been writing with one purpose; from time to time, I have fought for that which seemed to me the truth, perhaps still more, against that which I have thought error; and, in this way, I have reached, indeed over stepped, the threshold of old age. There, every earnest man has to listen to the voice within: 'Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward.'

"That I have been an unjust steward my conscience does not bear witness. At times blundering, at times negligent, Heaven knows: but, on the whole, I have done that which I felt able and called upon to do; and I have done it without looking to the right or to the left; seeking no man's favor, fearing no man's disfavor.

"But what is it that I have been doing? In the end one's conceptions should form a whole, though only parts may have found utterance, as occasion arose; now do these exhibit harmony and mutual connexion? In one's zeal much of the old gets broken to pieces; but has one made ready something new, fit to be set in the place of the old?

"That they merely destroy without reconstructing, is the especial charge, with which those who work in this direction are constantly reproached. In a certain sense I do not defend myself against the charge; but I deny that any reproach is deserved.

"I have never proposed to myself to begin outward construction; because I do not believe that the time has come for it. Our present business is with inward preparation, especially the preparation of those who have ceased to be content with the old, and find no satisfaction in half measures. I have wished, and I still wish, to disturb no man's peace of mind, no man's beliefs; but only to point out to those in whom they are already shattered, the direction in which, in my conviction, firmer ground lies."[1]

So wrote one of the protagonists of the New Reformation and a well abused man if ever there was one a score of years since, in the remarkable book in which he discusses the negative and the positive results of the rigorous application of scientific method to the investigation of the higher problems of human life.

Recent experience leads me to imagine that there may be a good many countrymen of my own, even at this time, to whom it may be profitable to read, mark and inwardly digest, the weighty words of the author of that "Leben Jesu," which, half a century ago, stirred the religious world so seriously that it has never settled down again quite on the old foundations; indeed, some think it never will. I have a personal interest in the carrying out of the recommendation I venture to make. It may enable many worthy persons, in whose estimation I should really be glad to stand higher than I do, to become aware of the possibility that my motives in writing the essays, contained in this and the preceding volume, were not exactly those that they ascribe to me.

I too have reached the term at which the still, small voice, more audible than any other to the dulled ear of age, makes its demand; and I have found that it is of no sort of use to try to cook the accounts rendered. Nevertheless, I distinctly decline to admit some of the items charged; more particularly that of having "gone out of my way" to attack the Bible; and I as steadfastly deny that "hatred of Christianity" is a feeling with which I have any acquaintance. There are very few things which I find it permissible to hate; and though, it may be, that some of the organisations, which arrogate to themselves the Christian name, have richly earned a place in the category of hateful things, that ought to have nothing to do with one's estimation of the religion, which they have perverted and disfigured out of all likeness to the original.

The simple fact is that, as I have already more than once hinted, my story is that of the wolf and the lamb over again... Continue reading book >>

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