It matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made. Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?
We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ’s death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself. All the same, some of these theories are worth looking at.
There were large attendances at the services of the Week of Prayer. It must not, however, be assumed that in normal times the townsfolk of Oran are particularly devout. On Sunday morning, for instance, sea-bathing competes seriously with churchgoing. Nor must it be thought that they had seen a great light and had a sudden change of heart. With regard to religion – as to many other problems – plague had induced in them a curious frame of mind, as remote from indifference as from fervor; the best name to give it, perhaps, might be “objectivity.” Most of those who took part in the Week of Prayer would have echoed a remark made by one of the church goers..: “Anyhow, it can’t do any harm.”
I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in. But supposing a man’s reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief… Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.
You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: every one is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest. That is why we do not get much further: and that is why people who are fighting for quite opposite things can both say they are fighting for Christianity.
If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds — it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts.
Never has anyone been less a priest than Jesus, never a greater enemy of form, which stifles religion under the pretext of protecting it. By this, we are all his disciples and his successors; by this he has laid the eternal foundation stone of true religion; and if religion is essential to humanity, he has by this deserved the Divine rank the world has accorded to him. An absolutely new idea, the idea of a worship founded on purity of heart, and on human brotherhood, through him entered into the world — an idea so elevated that the Christian Church ought to make it its distinguishing feature, but an idea which in our days only few minds are capable of embodying… Whatever may be the transformation of dogma, Jesus will ever be the creator of pure religion; the Sermon on the Mount will never be surpassed. Whatever revolution takes place will not prevent us from attaching ourselves in religion to the grand intellectual and moral line at the head of which shines the name of Jesus. In this sense, we are Christian, even if we separate ourselves on almost all points from the Christian tradition which has preceded us.
As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
According to Wikipedia …
“The Gods of the Copybook Headings” is a poem by Rudyard Kipling, characterized by biographer Sir David Gilmour as one of several “ferocious post-war eruptions” of Kipling’s souring sentiment concerning the state of Anglo-European society. It was first published in the Sunday Pictorial of London on 26 October 1919; in America, it was published as “The Gods of the Copybook Maxims” in Harper’s Magazine in January 1920.
In the poem, Kipling’s narrator counterposes the “Gods” of the title, who embody “age-old, unfashionable wisdom”, against “the Gods of the Market-Place”, who represent the “habits of wishful thinking” into which society had fallen in the early 20th century.
The “copybook headings” to which the title refers were proverbs or maxims, often drawn from sermons and scripture extolling virtue and wisdom, that were printed at the top of the pages of copybooks, special notebooks used by 19th-century British schoolchildren. The students had to copy the maxims repeatedly, by hand, down the page. The exercise was thought to serve simultaneously as a form of moral education and penmanship practice.
The meaning ordinarily attached to the word “cross” is that of a figure composed of two or more lines which intersect, or touch each other transversely. Thus, two pieces of wood, or other material, so placed in juxtaposition to one another, are understood to form a cross. It should be noted, however, that Lipsius and other writers speak of the single upright stake to which criminals were bound as a cross, and to such a stake the name of crux simplex has been applied. The usual conception, however, of a cross is that of a compound figure. Punishment by crucifixion was widely employed in ancient times. It is known to have been used by nations such as those of Assyria, Egypt, Persia, by the Greeks, Carthaginians, Macedonians, and from very early times by the Romans. It has been thought, too, that crucifixion was also used by the Jews themselves, and that there is an allusion to it (Deut. xxi. 22, 23) as a punishment to be inflicted.
The cross of Christ, as if it were the glittering eye of God, has in a most wondrous way held man spell-bound, and made him listen to its strange story “like a three years’ child” who “cannot choose but hear.” Were not the fact so familiar, men would call it miraculous. Had its action and history been capable of a priori statement, it would have seemed, even to the most credulous age, the maddest of mad and unsubstantial dreams. For it is not only that in the immense history of human experience it stands alone, a fact without a fellow, the most potent factor of human good, yet with what seems the least inherent fitness for it, but it even appears to contradict the most certain and common principles man has deduced from his experience. We do not wonder at the cross having been a stumbling-block to the Jew and foolishness to the Greek. We should have wondered much more had it been anything else.
By far the most original thing here is the simple conception of Heaven as a City. The idea of religion without a Church — “I saw no Temple therein” — is anomalous enough; but the association of the blessed life with a City — the one place in the world from which Heaven seems most far away — is something wholly new in religious thought. No other religion which has a Heaven ever had a Heaven like this. The Greek, if he looked forward at all, awaited the Elysian Fields; the Eastern sought Nirvana. All other Heavens have been Gardens, Dreamlands — passivities more or less aimless. Even to the majority among ourselves Heaven is a siesta and not a City. It remained for John to go straight to the other extreme and select the citadel of the world’s fever, the ganglion of its unrest, the heart and focus of its most strenuous toil, as the framework for his ideal of the blessed life. ~ Excerpt
In this timeless speech, Henry Drummond argues that the greatest thing, the summum bonum, is love. But this love is not here just a cliché, the love of pop songs and romantic comedies. As Drummond puts it: “Patience; kindness; generosity; humility; courtesy; unselfishness; good temper; guilelessness; sincerity — these make up the supreme gift… You will observe that all are in relation to men, in relation to life, in relation to the known to-day and the near to-morrow, and not to the unknown eternity.” I have always appreciated this fact, that the biblical portrait of love is not merely a beautiful but empty concept, but rather a love with form and flesh. Drummond enumerates and expounds on the nature of biblical love, contrasting it with other goods, analyzing its aspects, and defending its primacy of place. ~ Afterall
The sects in the Church might be judged by a comparison of their favorite holidays. And so might eras in history be judged. It is matter of real interest, then, to see how all poets and prophets of all divisions of the Church unite on this day, to proclaim it the Sunday of Sundays, the High Holy Day of the year. For this is to say that poet and prophet, of every sect and those least sectarian, have found out at last that the Christian Religion stands for Life. Life instead of form; Life instead of Laws; Life instead of Grave-clothes; Life instead of Tombs; Life instead of Death ; — that is what Christianity means, and what it is for. You would be tempted to say that the Saviour had already enforced this completely in what he said to men; tempted to say that Easter morning was not needed either for illustration or enforcement. Certainly the gospel texts are full of the lesson. "Because I live, ye shall live also." "As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." "This is Life Eternal — to believe on thee." And central text of all, the text we have chosen for the motto of this church, "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." If texts alone ever did anything, these and a thousand more would show what The Truth is, and The Way. But one is tempted, in bitter moods, to say that texts never do anything, that words never achieve or finish anything. One is tempted to remember how he said that any man who prepared God’s way is greater than any man who only proclaims it, how prophets and prophesying were done with, mere talk was over — praise the Lord! and energy, action, force had come in instead, praise the Lord! Yet, if anybody did still trust in talk, he might take a lesson from these Gospels.
The work of the French naturalists — Zola, Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, de Congourt — is magnificent. Is the Bible enough for us: In these days, I believe Jesus himself would say to those who sit down in a state of melancholy, “It is not here, get up and go forth. Why do you seek the living among the dead?” If the spoken or written word is to remain the light of the world, then it is our right and our duty to acknowledge that we are living in a period when it should be spoken and written in such a way that, in order to find something equally great, and equally good, and equally original, and equally powerful to revolutionize the whole of society, we may compare it with a clear conscience to the old revolution of the Christians. I myself am always glad that I have read the Bible more thoroughly than many people nowadays, because it eases my mind somewhat to know that there were once such lofty ideas.
For me, that God of the clergymen is dead as a doornail. But am I an atheist for all that? The clergymen consider me so — so be it — but I love, and how could I feel love if I did not live and others did not live; and then if we live, there is something mysterious in that. Now call it God or human nature or whatever you like, but there is something which I cannot define systematically, though it is very real, and see that as God, or as good as God.
Arundel. There must always be, so long as creeds are words and men are reasoning beings, a variety of interpretation and opinion as to the essentials or non-essentials of any religious faith. The frequently quoted maxim attributed to Augustine is epigrammatic and pretty: In necesaariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus charitas, but it leaves the main difficulty unsolved. What are necessaria, and why? and what is the boundary line between dubia and necessaria? Certainly the necessaria which can be gathered from the direct utterances of Jesus Christ may be packed in a very small dogmatic parcel.
It has been remarked, that the moral precepts of Christianity are highly valuable, not only when viewed in reference to their primary and direct object, the direction and guidance of the movements of the inner and outer man, the regulation of the temper and conduct, the dispositions and actions, but also when considered in their subsidiary and indirect references, particularly in their bearing on the evidence of the Divine origin of that system of revelation of which they form so important a part. That bearing is manifold. Let us look at it in its various phases. Were a book, consisting partly of doctrinal statements and partly of moral precepts, claiming a Divine origin, put into our hands; and were we to find on perusal the moral part of it fantastic and trifling, inconsistent with the principles of man’s constitution, unsuitable to the circumstances in which he is placed, and incompatible with the great laws of justice and benevolence, we should enter on the examination of the evidence appealed to, in support of its high pretensions, under the influence of a strong and justifiable suspicion. …
You say, “Moral justice cannot take the innocent for the guilty, even if the innocent were to offer itself; to suppose justice to do this, is to destroy the principle of its existence, which is the thing itself; it is then no longer justice, it is indiscriminate revenge.” Before this question can be decided, we must inquire, What is moral justice, as it applies to God? That it must be something different with him, from what it is with us, will appear from this consideration: God can, when, how, or where he pleases, deprive men of their lives, without any visible cause for such actions; yet God, notwithstanding this, is morally just in all his ways. Apply this to man; we cannot, consistently with moral justice, deprive men of their lives, without a previous forfeiture of the same to moral justice. Unless the cause of death, with us, be equal to the death inflicted, the act is injustice, and the death assassination and murder; but God cannot commit murder; therefore the deprivation of life, of any of his creatures, by him, must not only be reconcilable with justice, but founded on its very principles and nature. Neither can God be guided by the same laws, nor actuated by the same motives, with which we are. To talk of laws, and apply them both to God and man, is derogatory to his nature, for the reasons assigned above; and that, which derogates from God, cannot be applied to him. The rules, which regulate his ways and conduct in the economy of things, are such as we know little of; and what is justice with God, will in many cases, be injustice with us. It is a principle, which must be admitted, that the same power, which has a right to establish a law, must have a right to repeal that law; but God had a morally just right to establish, both the laws of nature, and the laws of his word; therefore, he has the same morally just right to suspend, or finally repeal either.
You [Thomas Paine] say, “It is curious to observe, how the theory of what is called the Christian church, sprang out of the tail of the Heathen mythology.” That your curiosity should be excited, when you think a favourable opportunity presents itself, of bringing the Bible into disrepute, is not a matter that excites much surprise; but evidence, that would connect your allegations with truth, would prove more satisfactory than an expression of curiosity. But so contrary to fact is this assertion, that we find no more than two or three quotations, from any Heathen author, in all the New Testament, and these are merely moral sentences; while the Old Testament is quoted and alluded to about five hundred times. … Nor does it appear, that either the Stoics, or the Epicureans, in the days of the Apostles, were acquainted with the discovery which you have made. By these, Paul was accused, with being “a setter forth of strange Gods,” when he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And for this offence, he was taken and brought unto the Areopagus, and charged with bringing strange things to their ears. … It will be vain to reply, that this is hearsay evidence. If Bible evidence be hearsay, I would ask, from what source did you derive your information, respecting Christ and his Apostles? You quote, without hesitation, from the Bible, whatever you conceive will militate against the characters of those whom you condemn, and invalidate the authenticity of the Book itself; you cannot, therefore, in common justice, refuse and appeal to the same authority, even when an opposite purpose is to be served. And, when this is granted, unless I am much deceived, the head of prejudice will be more conspicuous than the tail of the Heathen mythology.
In the same page you say, "Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent, that we called it the word of a dæmon, than the word of God: it is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest every thing that is cruel." As you give no example, of the above description, I may justly doubt the truth of your allegation; however, I will venture to assert, that every story of obscenity and wickedness, recorded in the Bible, is exhibited there, not to induce imitation, but abhorrence. ¶ I believe, the maddest enthusiast that ever lived, never thought of calling every word in the Bible, the word of God. Many parts of the sacred writings record the speeches and actions of wicked men and dæmons; and they are handed down to us, to excite our disapprobation, and to instruct us to take warning by the awful examples they present. Acts of debauchery and obscenity are objects of Bible detestation, as well as yours; and what you call "torturous executions" are frequently inflicted, as punishments for those deeds of criminality, with which you most unjustly reproach the Bible.
You pass on to an examination of "the books, called the Old and New Testament;" but, pausing on the margin of your inquiry, you ask, "who told us they were the word of God?" to which you answer, "Nobody can tell;" and hence you conclude, that "they must be false." That this is a legitimate inference, very few, I presume, will have the hardihood to assert. If I were to ask, Who told us, that the History of Josephus, the Epistles of Pliny, the Orations of Cicero, and the Elements of Euclid, were all written by the authors whose names they bear? and should be answered, "Nobody can tell," would this falsify the testimony of facts, which these books respectively contained? No one, I think, would presume to make such an assertion…
The Bible, like many of the works of nature, appears to the greatest disadvantage to the most superficial beholder. But, when we exclude such secular principles as are apt to bewilder and deceive; when we examine its essential doctrines; the proportion of all its parts; the pleasing harmony arising from the whole; and the general benefit resulting therefrom; there is such a coincidence with human reason, abstracted from all its grossness, that nothing can justify even you, from withholding your admiration and assent, but your ignorance of those doctrines, which are, at present, the objects of your contempt and scorn. So benign are its precepts, so disinterested its offers, and so extensive its benefits, that, even in the arcana of Deism, there is not a virtue or moral duty, which Christianity does not recommend and enforce. Instead of discarding reason, as you insinuate, it encourages its operations; and it appeals to reason, as the arbiter of its fate. It is by reason that we discover, where reason is incompetent to the task assigned; and it is by reason that we understand, when it must be suspended, and when called into action.