God The Invisible King
H. G. Wells [Herbert George Wells]

Part 2 out of 3


Almost all Agnostic and Atheistical writings that show any fineness
and generosity of spirit, have this tendency to become as it were
the statement of an anonymous God. Everything is said that a
religious writer would say--except that God is not named. Religious
metaphors abound. It is as if they accepted the living body of
religion but denied the bones that held it together--as they might
deny the bones of a friend. It is true, they would admit, the body
moves in a way that implies bones in its every movement, but --WE

The disputes in theory--I do not say the difference in reality--
between the modern believer and the atheist or agnostic--becomes at
times almost as impalpable as that subtle discussion dear to
students of physics, whether the scientific "ether" is real or a
formula. Every material phenomenon is consonant with and helps to
define this ether, which permeates and sustains and is all things,
which nevertheless is perceptible to no sense, which is reached only
by an intellectual process. Most minds are disposed to treat this
ether as a reality. But the acutely critical mind insists that what
is only so attainable by inference is not real; it is no more than
"a formula that satisfies all phenomena."

But if it comes to that, am I anything more than the formula that
satisfies all my forms of consciousness?

Intellectually there is hardly anything more than a certain will to
believe, to divide the religious man who knows God to be utterly
real, from the man who says that God is merely a formula to satisfy
moral and spiritual phenomena. The former has encountered him, the
other has as yet felt only unassigned impulses. One says God's will
is so; the other that Right is so. One says God moves me to do this
or that; the other the Good Will in me which I share with you and
all well-disposed men, moves me to do this or that. But the former
makes an exterior reference and escapes a risk of self-

I have recently been reading a book by Mr. Joseph McCabe called "The
Tyranny of Shams," in which he displays very typically this curious
tendency to a sort of religion with God "blacked out." His is an
extremely interesting case. He is a writer who was formerly a Roman
Catholic priest, and in his reaction from Catholicism he displays a
resolution even sterner than Professor Metchnikoff's, to deny that
anything religious or divine can exist, that there can be any aim in
life except happiness, or any guide but "science." But--and here
immediately he turns east again--he is careful not to say
"individual happiness." And he says "Pleasure is, as Epicureans
insisted, only a part of a large ideal of happiness." So he lets
the happiness of devotion and sacrifice creep in. So he opens
indefinite possibilities of getting away from any merely
materialistic rule of life. And he writes:

"In every civilised nation the mass of the people are inert and
indifferent. Some even make a pretence of justifying their
inertness. Why, they ask, should we stir at all? Is there such a
thing as a duty to improve the earth? What is the meaning or
purpose of life? Or has it a purpose?

"One generally finds that this kind of reasoning is merely a piece
of controversial athletics or a thin excuse for idleness. People
tell you that the conflict of science and religion--it would be
better to say, the conflict of modern culture and ancient
traditions--has robbed life of its plain significance. The men who,
like Tolstoi, seriously urge this point fail to appreciate the
modern outlook on life. Certainly modern culture--science, history,
philosophy, and art--finds no purpose in life: that is to say, no
purpose eternally fixed and to be discovered by man. A great
chemist said a few years ago that he could imagine 'a series of
lucky accidents'--the chance blowing by the wind of certain
chemicals into pools on the primitive earth--accounting for the
first appearance of life; and one might not unjustly sum up the
influences which have lifted those early germs to the level of
conscious beings as a similar series of lucky accidents.

"But it is sheer affectation to say that this demoralises us. If
there is no purpose impressed on the universe, or prefixed to the
development of humanity, it follows only that humanity may choose
its own purpose and set up its own goal; and the most elementary
sense of order will teach us that this choice must be social, not
merely individual. In whatever measure ill-controlled individuals
may yield to personal impulses or attractions, the aim of the race
must be a collective aim. I do not mean an austere demand of self-
sacrifice from the individual, but an adjustment--as genial and
generous as possible--of individual variations for common good.
Otherwise life becomes discordant and futile, and the pain and waste
react on each individual. So we raise again, in the twentieth
century, the old question of 'the greatest good,' which men
discussed in the Stoa Poikile and the suburban groves of Athens, in
the cool atria of patrician mansions on the Palatine and the
Pincian, in the Museum at Alexandria, and the schools which Omar
Khayyam frequented, in the straw-strewn schools of the Middle Ages
and the opulent chambers of Cosimo dei Medici."

And again:

"The old dream of a co-operative effort to improve life, to bring
happiness to as many minds of mortals as we can reach, shines above
all the mists of the day. Through the ruins of creeds and
philosophies, which have for ages disdained it, we are retracing our
steps toward that height--just as the Athenians did two thousand
years ago. It rests on no metaphysic, no sacred legend, no
disputable tradition--nothing that scepticism can corrode or
advancing knowledge undermine. Its foundations are the fundamental
and unchanging impulses of our nature."

And again:

"The revolt which burns in so much of the abler literature of our
time is an unselfish revolt, or non-selfish revolt: it is an outcome
of that larger spirit which conceives the self to be a part of the
general social organism, and it is therefore neither egoistic nor
altruistic. It finds a sanction in the new intelligence, and an
inspiration in the finer sentiments of our generation, but the glow
which chiefly illumines it is the glow of the great vision of a
happier earth. It speaks of the claims of truth and justice, and
assails untruth and injustice, for these are elemental principles of
social life; but it appeals more confidently to the warmer sympathy
which is linking the scattered children of the race, and it urges
all to co-operate in the restriction of suffering and the creation
of happiness. The advance guard of the race, the men and women in
whom mental alertness is associated with fine feeling, cry that they
have reached Pisgah's slope and in increasing numbers men and women
are pressing on to see if it be really the Promised Land."

"Pisgah--the Promised Land!" Mr. McCabe in that passage sounds as
if he were half-way to "Oh! Beulah Land!" and the tambourine.

That "larger spirit," we maintain, is God; those "impulses" are the
power of God, and Mr. McCabe serves a Master he denies. He has but
to realise fully that God is not necessarily the Triune God of the
Catholic Church, and banish his intense suspicion that he may yet be
lured back to that altar he abandoned, he has but to look up from
that preoccupation, and immediately he will begin to realise the
presence of Divinity.


It may be argued that if atheists and agnostics when they set
themselves to express the good will that is in them, do shape out
God, that if their conception of right living falls in so completely
with the conception of God's service as to be broadly identical,
then indeed God, like the ether of scientific speculation, is no
more than a theory, no more than an imaginative externalisation of
man's inherent good will. Why trouble about God then? Is not the
declaration of a good disposition a sufficient evidence of
salvation? What is the difference between such benevolent
unbelievers as Professor Metchnikoff or Mr. McCabe and those who
have found God?

The difference is this, that the benevolent atheist stands alone
upon his own good will, without a reference, without a standard,
trusting to his own impulse to goodness, relying upon his own moral
strength. A certain immodesty, a certain self-righteousness, hangs
like a precipice above him; incalculable temptations open like gulfs
beneath his feet. He has not really given himself or got away from
himself. He has no one to whom he can give himself. He is still a
masterless man. His exaltation is self-centred, is priggishness,
his fall is unrestrained by any exterior obligation. His devotion
is only the good will in himself, a disposition; it is a mood that
may change. At any moment it may change. He may have pledged
himself to his own pride and honour, but who will hold him to his
bargain? He has no source of strength beyond his own amiable
sentiments, his conscience speaks with an unsupported voice, and no
one watches while he sleeps. He cannot pray; he can but ejaculate.
He has no real and living link with other men of good will.

And those whose acquiescence in the idea of God is merely
intellectual are in no better case than those who deny God
altogether. They may have all the forms of truth and not divinity.
The religion of the atheist with a God-shaped blank at its heart and
the persuasion of the unconverted theologian, are both like lamps
unlit. The lit lamp has no difference in form from the lamp unlit.
But the lit lamp is alive and the lamp unlit is asleep or dead.

The difference between the unconverted and the unbeliever and the
servant of the true God is this; it is that the latter has
experienced a complete turning away from self. This only difference
is all the difference in the world. It is the realisation that this
goodness that I thought was within me and of myself and upon which I
rather prided myself, is without me and above myself, and infinitely
greater and stronger than I. It is the immortal and I am mortal.
It is invincible and steadfast in its purpose, and I am weak and
insecure. It is no longer that I, out of my inherent and remarkable
goodness, out of the excellence of my quality and the benevolence of
my heart, give a considerable amount of time and attention to the
happiness and welfare of others--because I choose to do so. On the
contrary I have come under a divine imperative, I am obeying an
irresistible call, I am a humble and willing servant of the
righteousness of God. That altruism which Professor Metchnikoff and
Mr. McCabe would have us regard as the goal and refuge of a broad
and free intelligence, is really the first simple commandment in the
religious life.


Now here is a passage from a book, "Evolution and the War," by
Professor Metchnikoff's translator, Dr. Chalmers Mitchell, which
comes even closer to our conception of God as an immortal being
arising out of man, and external to the individual man. He has been
discussing that well-known passage of Kant's: "Two things fill my
mind with ever-renewed wonder and awe the more often and deeper I
dwell on them--the starry vault above me, and the moral law within

From that discussion, Dr. Chalmers Mitchell presently comes to this
most definite and interesting statement:

"Writing as a hard-shell Darwinian evolutionist, a lover of the
scalpel and microscope, and of patient, empirical observation, as
one who dislikes all forms of supernaturalism, and who does not
shrink from the implications even of the phrase that thought is a
secretion of the brain as bile is a secretion of the liver, I assert
as a biological fact that the moral law is as real and as external
to man as the starry vault. It has no secure seat in any single man
or in any single nation. It is the work of the blood and tears of
long generations of men. It is not in man, inborn or innate, but is
enshrined in his traditions, in his customs, in his literature and
his religion. Its creation and sustenance are the crowning glory of
man, and his consciousness of it puts him in a high place above the
animal world. Men live and die; nations rise and fall, but the
struggle of individual lives and of individual nations must be
measured not by their immediate needs, but as they tend to the
debasement or perfection of man's great achievement."

This is the same reality. This is the same Link and Captain that
this book asserts. It seems to me a secondary matter whether we
call Him "Man's Great Achievement" or "The Son of Man" or the "God
of Mankind" or "God." So far as the practical and moral ends of
life are concerned, it does not matter how we explain or refuse to
explain His presence in our lives.

There is but one possible gap left between the position of Dr.
Chalmers Mitchell and the position of this book. In this book it is
asserted that GOD RESPONDS, that he GIVES courage and the power of
self-suppression to our weakness.


Let me now quote and discuss a very beautiful passage from a lecture
upon Stoicism by Professor Gilbert Murray, which also displays the
same characteristic of an involuntary shaping out of God in the
forms of denial. It is a passage remarkable for its conscientious
and resolute Agnosticism. And it is remarkable too for its
blindness to the possibility of separating quite completely the idea
of the Infinite Being from the idea of God. It is another striking
instance of that obsession of modern minds by merely Christian
theology of which I have already complained. Professor Murray has
quoted Mr. Bevan's phrase for God, "the Friend behind phenomena,"
and he does not seem to realise that that phrase carries with it no
obligation whatever to believe that this Friend is in control of the
phenomena. He assumes that he is supposed to be in control as if it
were a matter of course:

"We do seem to find," Professor Murray writes, "not only in all
religions, but in practically all philosophies, some belief that man
is not quite alone in the universe, but is met in his endeavours
towards the good by some external help or sympathy. We find it
everywhere in the unsophisticated man. We find it in the unguarded
self-revelations of the most severe and conscientious Atheists.
Now, the Stoics, like many other schools of thought, drew an
argument from this consensus of all mankind. It was not an absolute
proof of the existence of the Gods or Providence, but it was a
strong indication. The existence of a common instinctive belief in
the mind of man gives at least a presumption that there must be a
good cause for that belief.

"This is a reasonable position. There must be some such cause. But
it does not follow that the only valid cause is the truth of the
content of the belief. I cannot help suspecting that this is
precisely one of those points on which Stoicism, in company with
almost all philosophy up to the present time, has gone astray
through not sufficiently realising its dependence on the human mind
as a natural biological product. For it is very important in this
matter to realise that the so-called belief is not really an
intellectual judgment so much as a craving of the whole nature.

"It is only of very late years that psychologists have begun to
realise the enormous dominion of those forces in man of which he is
normally unconscious. We cannot escape as easily as these brave men
dreamed from the grip of the blind powers beneath the threshold.
Indeed, as I see philosophy after philosophy falling into this
unproven belief in the Friend behind phenomena, as I find that I
myself cannot, except for a moment and by an effort, refrain from
making the same assumption, it seems to me that perhaps here too we
are under the spell of a very old ineradicable instinct. We are
gregarious animals; our ancestors have been such for countless ages.
We cannot help looking out on the world as gregarious animals do; we
see it in terms of humanity and of fellowship. Students of animals
under domestication have shown us how the habits of a gregarious
creature, taken away from his kind, are shaped in a thousand details
by reference to the lost pack which is no longer there--the pack
which a dog tries to smell his way back to all the time he is out
walking, the pack he calls to for help when danger threatens. It is
a strange and touching thing, this eternal hunger of the gregarious
animal for the herd of friends who are not there. And it may be, it
may very possibly be, that, in the matter of this Friend behind
phenomena our own yearning and our own almost ineradicable
instinctive conviction, since they are certainly not founded on
either reason or observation, are in origin the groping of a lonely-
souled gregarious animal to find its herd or its herd-leader in the
great spaces between the stars.

"At any rate, it is a belief very difficult to get rid of."

There the passage and the lecture end.

I would urge that here again is an inadvertent witness to the
reality of God.

Professor Murray writes of gregarious animals as though there
existed solitary animals that are not gregarious, pure
individualists, "atheists" so to speak, and as though this appeal to
a life beyond one's own was not the universal disposition of living
things. His classical training disposes him to a realistic
exaggeration of individual difference. But nearly every animal, and
certainly every mentally considerable animal, begins under parental
care, in a nest or a litter, mates to breed, and is associated for
much of its life. Even the great carnivores do not go alone except
when they are old and have done with the most of life. Every pack,
every herd, begins at some point in a couple, it is the equivalent
of the tiger's litter if that were to remain undispersed. And it is
within the memory of men still living that in many districts the
African lion has with a change of game and conditions lapsed from a
"solitary" to a gregarious, that is to say a prolonged family habit
of life.

Man too, if in his ape-like phase he resembled the other higher
apes, is an animal becoming more gregarious and not less. He has
passed within the historical period from a tribal gregariousness to
a nearly cosmopolitan tolerance. And he has his tribe about him.
He is not, as Professor Murray seems to suggest, a solitary LOST
gregarious beast. Why should his desire for God be regarded as the
overflow of an unsatisfied gregarious instinct, when he has home,
town, society, companionship, trade union, state, INCREASINGLY at
hand to glut it? Why should gregariousness drive a man to God
rather than to the third-class carriage and the public-house? Why
should gregariousness drive men out of crowded Egyptian cities into
the cells of the Thebaid? Schopenhauer in a memorable passage
(about the hedgehogs who assembled for warmth) is flatly opposed to
Professor Murray, and seems far more plausible when he declares that
the nature of man is insufficiently gregarious. The parallel with
the dog is not a valid one.

Does not the truth lie rather in the supposition that it is not the
Friend that is the instinctive delusion but the isolation? Is not
the real deception, our belief that we are completely
individualised, and is it not possible that this that Professor
Murray calls "instinct" is really not a vestige but a new thing
arising out of our increasing understanding, an intellectual
penetration to that greater being of the species, that vine, of
which we are the branches? Why should not the soul of the species,
many faceted indeed, be nevertheless a soul like our own?

Here, as in the case of Professor Metchnikoff, and in many other
cases of atheism, it seems to me that nothing but an inadequate
understanding of individuation bars the way to at least the
intellectual recognition of the true God.


And while I am dealing with rationalists, let me note certain recent
interesting utterances of Sir Harry Johnston's. You will note that
while in this book we use the word "God" to indicate the God of the
Heart, Sir Harry uses "God" for that idea of God-of-the-Universe,
which we have spoken of as the Infinite Being. This use of the word
"God" is of late theological origin; the original identity of the
words "good" and "god" and all the stories of the gods are against
him. But Sir Harry takes up God only to define him away into
incomprehensible necessity. Thus:

"We know absolutely nothing concerning the Force we call God; and,
assuming such an intelligent ruling force to be in existence,
permeating this universe of millions of stars and (no doubt) tens of
millions of planets, we do not know under what conditions and
limitations It works. We are quite entitled to assume that the end
of such an influence is intended to be order out of chaos, happiness
and perfection out of incompleteness and misery; and we are entitled
to identify the reactionary forces of brute Nature with the
anthropomorphic Devil of primitive religions, the power of darkness
resisting the power of light. But in these conjectures we must
surely come to the conclusion that the theoretical potency we call
'God' makes endless experiments, and scrap-heaps the failures.
Think of the Dinosaurs and the expenditure of creative energy that
went to their differentiation and their well-nigh incredible physical
development. . . .

"To such a Divine Force as we postulate, the whole development and
perfecting of life on this planet, the whole production of man, may
seem little more than to any one of us would be the chipping out,
the cutting, the carving, and the polishing of a gem; and we should
feel as little remorse or pity for the scattered dust and fragments
as must the Creative Force of the immeasurably vast universe feel
for the DISJECTA MEMBRA of perfected life on this planet. . . ."

But thence he goes on to a curiously imperfect treatment of the God
of man as if he consisted in nothing more than some vague sort of
humanitarianism. Sir Harry's ideas are much less thoroughly thought
out than those of any other of these sceptical writers I have
quoted. On that account they are perhaps more typical. He speaks
as though Christ were simply an eminent but ill-reported and
abominably served teacher of ethics--and yet of the only right ideal
and ethics. He speaks as though religions were nothing more than
ethical movements, and as though Christianity were merely someone
remarking with a bright impulsiveness that everything was simply
horrid, and so, "Let us instal loving kindness as a cardinal axiom.
He ignores altogether the fundamental essential of religion, which
conception of religion relieved of its "nonsense" as the cheerful
self-determination of a number of bright little individuals (much
stirred but by no means overcome by Cosmic Pity) to the Service of
Man. As he seems to present it, it is as outward a thing, it goes
as little into the intimacy of their lives, as though they had after
proper consideration agreed to send a subscription to a Red Cross
Ambulance or take part in a public demonstration against the
Armenian Massacres, or do any other rather nice-spirited exterior
thing. This is what he says:

"I hope that the religion of the future will devote itself wholly to
the Service of Man. It can do so without departing from the
Christian ideal and Christian ethics. It need only drop all that is
silly and disputable, and 'mattering not neither here nor there,' of
Christian theology--a theology virtually absent from the direct
teaching of Christ--and all of Judaistic literature or prescriptions
not made immortal in their application by unassailable truth and by
the confirmation of science. An excellent remedy for the nonsense
which still clings about religion may be found in two books: Cotter
Monson's 'Service of Man,' which was published as long ago as 1887,
and has since been re-issued by the Rationalist Press Association in
its well-known sixpenny series, and J. Allanson Picton's 'Man and
the Bible.' Similarly, those who wish to acquire a sane view of the
relations between man and God would do well to read Winwood Reade's
'Martyrdom of Man.'"

Sir Harry in fact clears the ground for God very ably, and then
makes a well-meaning gesture in the vacant space. There is no help
nor strength in his gesture unless God is there. Without God, the
"Service of Man" is no better than a hobby or a sentimentality or an
hypocrisy in the undisciplined prison of the mortal life.




The conception of a young and energetic God, an Invisible Prince
growing in strength and wisdom, who calls men and women to his
service and who gives salvation from self and mortality only through
self-abandonment to his service, necessarily involves a demand for a
complete revision and fresh orientation of the life of the convert.

God faces the blackness of the Unknown and the blind joys and
confusions and cruelties of Life, as one who leads mankind through a
dark jungle to a great conquest. He brings mankind not rest but a
sword. It is plain that he can admit no divided control of the
world he claims. He concedes nothing to Caesar. In our philosophy
there are no human things that are God's and others that are
Caesar's. Those of the new thought cannot render unto God the
things that are God's, and to Caesar the things that are Caesar's.
Whatever claim Caesar may make to rule men's lives and direct their
destinies outside the will of God, is a usurpation. No king nor
Caesar has any right to tax or to service or to tolerance, except he
claim as one who holds for and under God. And he must make good his
claim. The steps of the altar of the God of Youth are no safe place
for the sacrilegious figure of a king. Who claims "divine right"
plays with the lightning.

The new conceptions do not tolerate either kings or aristocracies or
democracies. Its implicit command to all its adherents is to make
plain the way to the world theocracy. Its rule of life is the
discovery and service of the will of God, which dwells in the hearts
of men, and the performance of that will, not only in the private
life of the believer but in the acts and order of the state and
nation of which he is a part. I give myself to God not only because
I am so and so but because I am mankind. I become in a measure
responsible for every evil in the world of men. I become a knight
in God's service. I become my brother's keeper. I become a
responsible minister of my King. I take sides against injustice,
disorder, and against all those temporal kings, emperors, princes,
landlords, and owners, who set themselves up against God's rule and
worship. Kings, owners, and all who claim rule and decisions in the
world's affairs, must either show themselves clearly the fellow-
servants of the believer or become the objects of his steadfast


It is here that those who explain this modern religiosity will seem
most arbitrary to the inquirer. For they relate of God, as men will
relate of a close friend, his dispositions, his apparent intentions,
the aims of his kingship. And just as they advance no proof
whatever of the existence of God but their realisation of him, so
with regard to these qualities and dispositions they have little
argument but profound conviction. What they say is this; that if
you do not feel God then there is no persuading you of him; we
cannot win over the incredulous. And what they say of his qualities
is this; that if you feel God then you will know, you will realise
more and more clearly, that thus and thus and no other is his method
and intention.

It comes as no great shock to those who have grasped the full
implications of the statement that God is Finite, to hear it
asserted that the first purpose of God is the attainment of clear
knowledge, of knowledge as a means to more knowledge, and of
knowledge as a means to power. For that he must use human eyes and
hands and brains.

And as God gathers power he uses it to an end that he is only
beginning to apprehend, and that he will apprehend more fully as
time goes on. But it is possible to define the broad outlines of
the attainment he seeks. It is the conquest of death.

It is the conquest of death; first the overcoming of death in the
individual by the incorporation of the motives of his life into an
undying purpose, and then the defeat of that death that seems to
threaten our species upon a cooling planet beneath a cooling sun.
God fights against death in every form, against the great death of
the race, against the petty death of indolence, insufficiency,
baseness, misconception, and perversion. He it is and no other who
can deliver us "from the body of this death." This is the battle
that grows plainer; this is the purpose to which he calls us out of
the animal's round of eating, drinking, lusting, quarrelling and
laughing and weeping, fearing and failing, and presently of wearying
and dying, which is the whole life that living without God can give
us. And from these great propositions there follow many very
definite maxims and rules of life for those who serve God. These we
will immediately consider.


But first let me write a few words here about those who hold a kind
of intermediate faith between the worship of the God of Youth and
the vaguer sort of Christianity. There are a number of people
closely in touch with those who have found the new religion who,
biased probably by a dread of too complete a break with
Christianity, have adopted a theogony which is very reminiscent of
Gnosticism and of the Paulician, Catharist, and kindred sects to
which allusion has already been made. He, who is called in this
book God, they would call God-the-Son or Christ, or the Logos; and
what is here called the Darkness or the Veiled Being, they would
call God-the-Father. And what we speak of here as Life, they would
call, with a certain disregard of the poor brutes that perish, Man.
And they would assert, what we of the new belief, pleading our
profound ignorance, would neither assert nor deny, that that
Darkness, out of which came Life and God, since it produced them
must be ultimately sympathetic and of like nature with them. And
that ultimately Man, being redeemed and led by Christ and saved from
death by him, would be reconciled with God the Father.* And this
great adventurer out of the hearts of man that we here call God,
they would present as the same with that teacher from Galilee who
was crucified at Jerusalem.

* This probably was the conception of Spinoza. Christ for him is
the wisdom of God manifested in all things, and chiefly in the mind
of man. Through him we reach the blessedness of an intuitive
knowledge of God. Salvation is an escape from the "inadequate"
ideas of the mortal human personality to the "adequate" and timeless
ideas of God.

Now we of the modern way would offer the following criticisms upon
this apparent compromise between our faith and the current religion.
Firstly, we do not presume to theorise about the nature of the
veiled being nor about that being's relations to God and to Life.
We do not recognise any consistent sympathetic possibilities between
these outer beings and our God. Our God is, we feel, like
Prometheus, a rebel. He is unfilial. And the accepted figure of
Jesus, instinct with meek submission, is not in the tone of our
worship. It is not by suffering that God conquers death, but by
fighting. Incidentally our God dies a million deaths, but the thing
that matters is not the deaths but the immortality. It may be he
cannot escape in this person or that person being nailed to a cross
or chained to be torn by vultures on a rock. These may be necessary
sufferings, like hunger and thirst in a campaign; they do not in
themselves bring victory. They may be necessary, but they are not
glorious. The symbol of the crucifixion, the drooping, pain-
drenched figure of Christ, the sorrowful cry to his Father, "My God,
my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" these things jar with our
spirit. We little men may well fail and repent, but it is our faith
that our God does not fail us nor himself. We cannot accept the
Christian's crucifix, or pray to a pitiful God. We cannot accept
the Resurrection as though it were an after-thought to a bitterly
felt death. Our crucifix, if you must have a crucifix, would show
God with a hand or a foot already torn away from its nail, and with
eyes not downcast but resolute against the sky; a face without pain,
pain lost and forgotten in the surpassing glory of the struggle and
the inflexible will to live and prevail. . . .

But we do not care how long the thorns are drawn, nor how terrible
the wounds, so long as he does not droop. God is courage. God is
courage beyond any conceivable suffering.

But when all this has been said, it is well to add that it concerns
the figure of Christ only in so far as that professes to be the
figure of God, and the crucifix only so far as that stands for
divine action. The figure of Christ crucified, so soon as we think
of it as being no more than the tragic memorial of Jesus, of the man
who proclaimed the loving-kindness of God and the supremacy of God's
kingdom over the individual life, and who, in the extreme agony of
his pain and exhaustion, cried out that he was deserted, becomes
something altogether distinct from a theological symbol.
Immediately that we cease to worship, we can begin to love and pity.
Here was a being of extreme gentleness and delicacy and of great
courage, of the utmost tolerance and the subtlest sympathy, a saint
of non-resistance. . . .

We of the new faith repudiate the teaching of non-resistance. We
are the militant followers of and participators in a militant God.
We can appreciate and admire the greatness of Christ, this gentle
being upon whose nobility the theologians trade. But submission is
the remotest quality of all from our God, and a moribund figure is
the completest inversion of his likeness as we know him. A
Christianity which shows, for its daily symbol, Christ risen and
trampling victoriously upon a broken cross, would be far more in the
spirit of our worship.*

* It is curious, after writing the above, to find in a letter
written by Foss Westcott, Bishop of Durham, to that pertinacious
correspondent, the late Lady Victoria Welby, almost exactly the same
sentiments I have here expressed. "If I could fill the Crucifix
with life as you do," he says, "I would gladly look on it, but the
fallen Head and the closed Eye exclude from my thought the idea of
glorified humanity. The Christ to whom we are led is One who 'hath
been crucified,' who hath passed the trial victoriously and borne
the fruits to heaven. I dare not then rest on this side of the

I find, too, a still more remarkable expression of the modern spirit
in a tract, "The Call of the Kingdom," by that very able and subtle,
Anglican theologian, the Rev. W. Temple, who declares that under the
vitalising stresses of the war we are winning "faith in Christ as an
heroic leader. We have thought of Him so much as meek and gentle
that there is no ground in our picture of Him, for the vision which
His disciple had of Him: 'His head and His hair were white, as white
wool, white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire: and His
feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a
furnace; and His voice was as the voice of many waters. And He had
in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth proceeded a
sharp two-edged sword; and His countenance was as the sun shineth in
its strength.'"

These are both exceptional utterances, interesting as showing how
clearly parallel are the tendencies within and without Christianity.


Now it follows very directly from the conception of God as a finite
intelligence of boundless courage and limitless possibilities of
growth and victory, who has pitted himself against death, who stands
close to our inmost beings ready to receive us and use us, to rescue
us from the chagrins of egotism and take us into his immortal
adventure, that we who have realised him and given ourselves
joyfully to him, must needs be equally ready and willing to give our
energies to the task we share with him, to do our utmost to increase
knowledge, to increase order and clearness, to fight against
indolence, waste, disorder, cruelty, vice, and every form of his and
our enemy, death, first and chiefest in ourselves but also in all
mankind, and to bring about the establishment of his real and
visible kingdom throughout the world.

And that idea of God as the Invisible King of the whole world means
not merely that God is to be made and declared the head of the
world, but that the kingdom of God is to be present throughout the
whole fabric of the world, that the Kingdom of God is to be in the
teaching at the village school, in the planning of the railway
siding of the market town, in the mixing of the mortar at the
building of the workman's house. It means that ultimately no effigy
of intrusive king or emperor is to disfigure our coins and stamps
any more; God himself and no delegate is to be represented wherever
men buy or sell, on our letters and our receipts, a perpetual
witness, a perpetual reminder. There is no act altogether without
significance, no power so humble that it may not be used for or
against God, no life but can orient itself to him. To realise God
in one's heart is to be filled with the desire to serve him, and the
way of his service is neither to pull up one's life by the roots nor
to continue it in all its essentials unchanged, but to turn it
about, to turn everything that there is in it round into his way.

The outward duty of those who serve God must vary greatly with the
abilities they possess and the positions in which they find
themselves, but for all there are certain fundamental duties; a
constant attempt to be utterly truthful with oneself, a constant
sedulousness to keep oneself fit and bright for God's service, and
to increase one's knowledge and powers, and a hidden persistent
watchfulness of one's baser motives, a watch against fear and
indolence, against vanity, against greed and lust, against envy,
malice, and uncharitableness. To have found God truly does in
itself make God's service one's essential motive, but these evils
lurk in the shadows, in the lassitudes and unwary moments. No one
escapes them altogether, there is no need for tragic moods on
account of imperfections. We can no more serve God without blunders
and set-backs than we can win battles without losing men. But the
less of such loss the better. The servant of God must keep his mind
as wide and sound and his motives as clean as he can, just as an
operating surgeon must keep his nerves and muscles as fit and his
hands as clean as he can. Neither may righteously evade exercise
and regular washing--of mind as of hands. An incessant watchfulness
of one's self and one's thoughts and the soundness of one's
thoughts; cleanliness, clearness, a wariness against indolence and
prejudice, careful truth, habitual frankness, fitness and steadfast
work; these are the daily fundamental duties that every one who
truly comes to God will, as a matter of course, set before himself.


Now of the more intimate and personal life of the believer it will
be more convenient to write a little later. Let us for the present
pursue the idea of this world-kingdom of God, to whose establishment
he calls us. This kingdom is to be a peaceful and co-ordinated
activity of all mankind upon certain divine ends. These, we
conceive, are first, the maintenance of the racial life; secondly,
the exploration of the external being of nature as it is and as it
has been, that is to say history and science; thirdly, that
exploration of inherent human possibility which is art; fourthly,
that clarification of thought and knowledge which is philosophy; and
finally, the progressive enlargement and development of the racial
life under these lights, so that God may work through a continually
better body of humanity and through better and better equipped
minds, that he and our race may increase for ever, working
unendingly upon the development of the powers of life and the
mastery of the blind forces of matter throughout the deeps of space.
He sets out with us, we are persuaded, to conquer ourselves and our
world and the stars. And beyond the stars our eyes can as yet see
nothing, our imaginations reach and fail. Beyond the limits of our
understanding is the veiled Being of Fate, whose face is hidden from
us. . . .

It may be that minds will presently appear among us of such a
quality that the face of that Unknown will not be altogether
hidden. . . .

But the business of such ordinary lives as ours is the setting up of
this earthly kingdom of God. That is the form into which our lives
must fall and our consciences adapt themselves.

Belief in God as the Invisible King brings with it almost
necessarily a conception of this coming kingdom of God on earth.
Each believer as he grasps this natural and immediate consequence of
the faith that has come into his life will form at the same time a
Utopian conception of this world changed in the direction of God's
purpose. The vision will follow the realisation of God's true
nature and purpose as a necessary second step. And he will begin to
develop the latent citizen of this world-state in himself. He will
fall in with the idea of the world-wide sanities of this new order
being drawn over the warring outlines of the present, and of men
falling out of relationship with the old order and into relationship
with the new. Many men and women are already working to-day at
tasks that belong essentially to God's kingdom, tasks that would be
of the same essential nature if the world were now a theocracy; for
example, they are doing or sustaining scientific research or
education or creative art; they are making roads to bring men
together, they are doctors working for the world's health, they are
building homes, they are constructing machinery to save and increase
the powers of men. . . .

Such men and women need only to change their orientation as men will
change about at a work-table when the light that was coming in a
little while ago from the southern windows, begins presently to come
in chiefly from the west, to become open and confessed servants of
God. This work that they were doing for ambition, or the love of
men or the love of knowledge or what seemed the inherent impulse to
the work itself, or for money or honour or country or king, they
will realise they are doing for God and by the power of God. Self-
transformation into a citizen of God's kingdom and a new realisation
of all earthly politics as no more than the struggle to define and
achieve the kingdom of God in the earth, follow on, without any need
for a fresh spiritual impulse, from the moment when God and the
believer meet and clasp one another.

This transfiguration of the world into a theocracy may seem a merely
fantastic idea to anyone who comes to it freshly without such
general theological preparation as the preceding pages have made.
But to anyone who has been at the pains to clear his mind even a
little from the obsession of existing but transitory things, it
ceases to be a mere suggestion and becomes more and more manifestly
the real future of mankind. From the phase of "so things should
be," the mind will pass very rapidly to the realisation that "so
things will be." Towards this the directive wills among men have
been drifting more and more steadily and perceptibly and with fewer
eddyings and retardations, for many centuries. The purpose of
mankind will not be always thus confused and fragmentary. This
dissemination of will-power is a phase. The age of the warring
tribes and kingdoms and empires that began a hundred centuries or so
ago, draws to its close. The kingdom of God on earth is not a
metaphor, not a mere spiritual state, not a dream, not an uncertain
project; it is the thing before us, it is the close and inevitable
destiny of mankind.

In a few score years the faith of the true God will be spreading
about the world. The few halting confessions of God that one hears
here and there to-day, like that little twittering of birds which
comes before the dawn, will have swollen to a choral unanimity. In
but a few centuries the whole world will be openly, confessedly,
preparing for the kingdom. In but a few centuries God will have led
us out of the dark forest of these present wars and confusions into
the open brotherhood of his rule.


This conception of the general life of mankind as a transformation
at thousands of points of the confused, egotistical, proprietary,
partisan, nationalist, life-wasting chaos of human life to-day into
the coherent development of the world kingdom of God, provides the
form into which everyone who comes to the knowledge of God will
naturally seek to fit his every thought and activity. The material
greeds, the avarice, fear, rivalries, and ignoble ambitions of a
disordered world will be challenged and examined under one general
question: "What am I in the kingdom of God?"

It has already been suggested that there is a great and growing
number of occupations that belong already to God's kingdom,
research, teaching, creative art, creative administration,
cultivation, construction, maintenance, and the honest satisfaction
of honest practical human needs. For such people conversion to the
intimacy of God means at most a change in the spirit of their work,
a refreshed energy, a clearer understanding, a new zeal, a completer
disregard of gains and praises and promotion. Pay, honours, and the
like cease to be the inducement of effort. Service, and service
alone, is the criterion that the quickened conscience will

Most of such people will find themselves in positions in which
service is mingled with activities of a baser sort, in which service
is a little warped and deflected by old traditions and usage, by
mercenary and commercial considerations, by some inherent or special
degradation of purpose. The spirit of God will not let the believer
rest until his life is readjusted and as far as possible freed from
the waste of these base diversions. For example a scientific
investigator, lit and inspired by great inquiries, may be hampered
by the conditions of his professorship or research fellowship, which
exact an appearance of "practical" results. Or he may be obliged to
lecture or conduct classes. He may be able to give but half his
possible gift to the work of his real aptitude, and that at a
sacrifice of money and reputation among short-sighted but
influential contemporaries. Well, if he is by nature an
investigator he will know that the research is what God needs of
him. He cannot continue it at all if he leaves his position, and so
he must needs waste something of his gift to save the rest. But
should a poorer or a humbler post offer him better opportunity,
there lies his work for God. There one has a very common and simple
type of the problems that will arise in the lives of men when they
are lit by sudden realisation of the immediacy of God.

Akin to that case is the perplexity of any successful physician
between the increase of knowledge and the public welfare on the one
hand, and the lucrative possibilities of his practice among wealthy
people on the other. He belongs to a profession that is crippled by
a mediaeval code, a profession which was blind to the common
interest of the Public Health and regarded its members merely as
skilled practitioners employed to "cure" individual ailments. Very
slowly and tortuously do the methods of the profession adapt
themselves to the modern conception of an army of devoted men
working as a whole under God for the health of mankind as a whole,
broadening out from the frowsy den of the "leech," with its
crocodile and bottles and hieroglyphic prescriptions, to a skilled
and illuminating co-operation with those who deal with the food and
housing and economic life of the community.

And again quite parallel with these personal problems is the trouble
of the artist between the market and vulgar fame on the one hand and
his divine impulse on the other.

The presence of God will be a continual light and help in every
decision that must be made by men and women in these more or less
vitiated, but still fundamentally useful and righteous, positions.

The trouble becomes more marked and more difficult in the case of a
man who is a manufacturer or a trader, the financier of business
enterprise or the proprietor of great estates. The world is in need
of manufactures and that goods should be distributed; land must be
administered and new economic possibilities developed. The drift of
things is in the direction of state ownership and control, but in a
great number of cases the state is not ripe for such undertakings,
it commands neither sufficient integrity nor sufficient ability, and
the proprietor of factory, store, credit or land, must continue in
possession, holding as a trustee for God and, so far as lies in his
power, preparing for his supersession by some more public
administration. Modern religion admits of no facile flights from
responsibility. It permits no headlong resort to the wilderness and
sterile virtue. It counts the recluse who fasts among scorpions in
a cave as no better than a deserter in hiding. It unhesitatingly
forbids any rich young man to sell all that he has and give to the
poor. Himself and all that he has must be alike dedicated to God.

The plain duty that will be understood by the proprietor of land and
of every sort of general need and service, so soon as he becomes
aware of God, is so to administer his possessions as to achieve the
maximum of possible efficiency, the most generous output, and the
least private profit. He may set aside a salary for his
maintenance; the rest he must deal with like a zealous public
official. And if he perceives that the affair could be better
administered by other hands than his own, then it is his business to
get it into those hands with the smallest delay and the least profit
to himself. . . .

The rights and wrongs of human equity are very different from right
and wrong in the sight of God. In the sight of God no landlord has
a RIGHT to his rent, no usurer has a RIGHT to his interest. A man
is not justified in drawing the profits from an advantageous
agreement nor free to spend the profits of a speculation as he will.
God takes no heed of savings nor of abstinence. He recognises no
right to the "rewards of abstinence," no right to any rewards.
Those profits and comforts and consolations are the inducements that
dangle before the eyes of the spiritually blind. Wealth is an
embarrassment to the religious, for God calls them to account for
it. The servant of God has no business with wealth or power except
to use them immediately in the service of God. Finding these things
in his hands he is bound to administer them in the service of God.

The tendency of modern religion goes far beyond the alleged
communism of the early Christians, and far beyond the tithes of the
scribes and Pharisees. God takes all. He takes you, blood and
bones and house and acres, he takes skill and influence and
expectations. For all the rest of your life you are nothing but
God's agent. If you are not prepared for so complete a surrender,
then you are infinitely remote from God. You must go your way.
Here you are merely a curious interloper. Perhaps you have been
desiring God as an experience, or coveting him as a possession. You
have not begun to understand. This that we are discussing in this
book is as yet nothing for you.


This picturing of a human world more to the mind of God than this
present world and the discovery and realisation of one's own place
and work in and for that kingdom of God, is the natural next phase
in the development of the believer. He will set about revising and
adjusting his scheme of life, his ways of living, his habits and his
relationships in the light of his new convictions.

Most men and women who come to God will have already a certain
righteousness in their lives; these things happen like a thunderclap
only in strange exceptional cases, and the same movements of the
mind that have brought them to God will already have brought their
lives into a certain rightness of direction and conduct. Yet
occasionally there will be someone to whom the self-examination that
follows conversion will reveal an entirely wrong and evil way of
living. It may be that the light has come to some rich idler doing
nothing but follow a pleasurable routine. Or to someone following
some highly profitable and amusing, but socially useless or socially
mischievous occupation. One may be an advocate at the disposal of
any man's purpose, or an actor or actress ready to fall in with any
theatrical enterprise. Or a woman may find herself a prostitute or
a pet wife, a mere kept instrument of indulgence. These are lives
of prey, these are lives of futility; the light of God will not
tolerate such lives. Here religion can bring nothing but a
severance from the old way of life altogether, a break and a
struggle towards use and service and dignity.

But even here it does not follow that because a life has been wrong
the new life that begins must be far as the poles asunder from the
old. Every sort of experience that has ever come to a human being
is in the self that he brings to God, and there is no reason why a
knowledge of evil ways should not determine the path of duty. No
one can better devise protections against vices than those who have
practised them; none know temptations better than those who have
fallen. If a man has followed an evil trade, it becomes him to use
his knowledge of the tricks of that trade to help end it. He knows
the charities it may claim and the remedies it needs. . . .

A very interesting case to discuss in relation to this question of
adjustment is that of the barrister. A practising barrister under
contemporary conditions does indeed give most typically the
opportunity for examining the relation of an ordinary self-
respecting worldly life, to life under the dispensation of God
discovered. A barrister is usually a man of some energy and
ambition, his honour is moulded by the traditions of an ancient and
antiquated profession, instinctively self-preserving and yet with a
real desire for consistency and respect. As a profession it has
been greedy and defensively conservative, but it has never been
shameless nor has it ever broken faith with its own large and
selfish, but quite definite, propositions. It has never for
instance had the shamelessness of such a traditionless and
undisciplined class as the early factory organisers. It has never
had the dull incoherent wickedness of the sort of men who exploit
drunkenness and the turf. It offends within limits. Barristers can
be, and are, disbarred. But it is now a profession extraordinarily
out of date; its code of honour derives from a time of cruder and
lower conceptions of human relationship. It apprehends the State as
a mere "ring" kept about private disputations; it has not begun to
move towards the modern conception of the collective enterprise as
the determining criterion of human conduct. It sees its business as
a mere play upon the rules of a game between man and man, or between
men and men. They haggle, they dispute, they inflict and suffer
wrongs, they evade dues, and are liable or entitled to penalties and
compensations. The primary business of the law is held to be
decision in these wrangles, and as wrangling is subject to artistic
elaboration, the business of the barrister is the business of a
professional wrangler; he is a bravo in wig and gown who fights the
duels of ordinary men because they are incapable, very largely on
account of the complexities of legal procedure, of fighting for
themselves. His business is never to explore any fundamental right
in the matter. His business is to say all that can be said for his
client, and to conceal or minimise whatever can be said against his
client. The successful promoted advocate, who in Britain and the
United States of America is the judge, and whose habits and
interests all incline him to disregard the realities of the case in
favour of the points in the forensic game, then adjudicates upon the
contest. . . .

Now this condition of things is clearly incompatible with the modern
conception of the world as becoming a divine kingdom. When the
world is openly and confessedly the kingdom of God, the law court
will exist only to adjust the differing views of men as to the
manner of their service to God; the only right of action one man
will have against another will be that he has been prevented or
hampered or distressed by the other in serving God. The idea of the
law court will have changed entirely from a place of dispute,
exaction and vengeance, to a place of adjustment. The individual or
some state organisation will plead ON BEHALF OF THE COMMON GOOD
either against some state official or state regulation, or against
the actions or inaction of another individual. This is the only
sort of legal proceedings compatible with the broad beliefs of the
new faith. . . . Every religion that becomes ascendant, in so far
as it is not otherworldly, must necessarily set its stamp upon the
methods and administration of the law. That this was not the case
with Christianity is one of the many contributory aspects that lead
one to the conviction that it was not Christianity that took
possession of the Roman empire, but an imperial adventurer who took
possession of an all too complaisant Christianity.

Reverting now from these generalisations to the problem of the
religious from which they arose, it will have become evident that
the essential work of anyone who is conversant with the existing
practice and literature of the law and whose natural abilities are
forensic, will lie in the direction of reconstructing the theory and
practice of the law in harmony with modern conceptions, of making
that theory and practice clear and plain to ordinary men, of
reforming the abuses of the profession by working for the separation
of bar and judiciary, for the amalgamation of the solicitors and the
barristers, and the like needed reforms. These are matters that
will probably only be properly set right by a quickening of
conscience among lawyers themselves. Of no class of men is the help
and service so necessary to the practical establishment of God's
kingdom, as of men learned and experienced in the law. And there is
no reason why for the present an advocate should not continue to
plead in the courts, provided he does his utmost only to handle
cases in which he believes he can serve the right. Few righteous
cases are ill-served by a frank disposition on the part of lawyer
and client to put everything before the court. Thereby of course
there arises a difficult case of conscience. What if a lawyer,
believing his client to be in the right, discovers him to be in the
wrong? He cannot throw up the case unless he has been scandalously
deceived, because so he would betray the confidence his client has
put in him to "see him through." He has a right to "give himself
away," but not to "give away" his client in this fashion. If he has
a chance of a private consultation I think he ought to do his best
to make his client admit the truth of the case and give in, but
failing this he has no right to be virtuous on behalf of another.
No man may play God to another; he may remonstrate, but that is the
limit of his right. He must respect a confidence, even if it is
purely implicit and involuntary. I admit that here the barrister is
in a cleft stick, and that he must see the business through
according to the confidence his client has put in him--and
afterwards be as sorry as he may be if an injustice ensues. And
also I would suggest a lawyer may with a fairly good conscience
defend a guilty man as if he were innocent, to save him from
unjustly heavy penalties. . . .

This comparatively full discussion of the barrister's problem has
been embarked upon because it does bring in, in a very typical
fashion, just those uncertainties and imperfections that abound in
real life. Religious conviction gives us a general direction, but
it stands aside from many of these entangled struggles in the jungle
of conscience. Practice is often easier than a rule. In practice a
lawyer will know far more accurately than a hypothetical case can
indicate, how far he is bound to see his client through, and how far
he may play the keeper of his client's conscience. And nearly every
day there happens instances where the most subtle casuistry will
fail and the finger of conscience point unhesitatingly. One may
have worried long in the preparation and preliminaries of the issue,
one may bring the case at last into the final court of conscience in
an apparently hopeless tangle. Then suddenly comes decision.

The procedure of that silent, lit, and empty court in which a man
states his case to God, is very simple and perfect. The excuses and
the special pleading shrivel and vanish. In a little while the case
lies bare and plain.


The question of oaths of allegiance, acts of acquiescence in
existing governments, and the like, is one that arises at once with
the acceptance of God as the supreme and real King of the Earth. At
the worst Caesar is a usurper, a satrap claiming to be sovereign; at
the best he is provisional. Modern casuistry makes no great trouble
for the believing public official. The chief business of any
believer is to do the work for which he is best fitted, and since
all state affairs are to become the affairs of God's kingdom it is
of primary importance that they should come into the hands of God's
servants. It is scarcely less necessary to a believing man with
administrative gifts that he should be in the public administration,
than that he should breathe and eat. And whatever oath or the like
to usurper church or usurper king has been set up to bar access to
service, is an oath imposed under duress. If it cannot be avoided
it must be taken rather than that a man should become unserviceable.
All such oaths are unfair and foolish things. They exclude no
scoundrels; they are appeals to superstition. Whenever an
opportunity occurs for the abolition of an oath, the servant of God
will seize it, but where the oath is unavoidable he will take it.

The service of God is not to achieve a delicate consistency of
statement; it is to do as much as one can of God's work.


It may be doubted if this line of reasoning regarding the official
and his oath can be extended to excuse the priest or pledged
minister of religion who finds that faith in the true God has ousted
his formal beliefs.

This has been a frequent and subtle moral problem in the
intellectual life of the last hundred years. It has been
increasingly difficult for any class of reading, talking, and
discussing people such as are the bulk of the priesthoods of the
Christian churches to escape hearing and reading the accumulated
criticism of the Trinitarian theology and of the popularly accepted
story of man's fall and salvation. Some have no doubt defeated this
universal and insidious critical attack entirely, and honestly
established themselves in a right-down acceptance of the articles
and disciplines to which they have subscribed and of the creeds they
profess and repeat. Some have recanted and abandoned their
positions in the priesthood. But a great number have neither
resisted the bacillus of criticism nor left the churches to which
they are attached. They have adopted compromises, they have
qualified their creeds with modifying footnotes of essential
repudiation; they have decided that plain statements are metaphors
and have undercut, transposed, and inverted the most vital points of
the vulgarly accepted beliefs. One may find within the Anglican
communion, Arians, Unitarians, Atheists, disbelievers in
immortality, attenuators of miracles; there is scarcely a doubt or a
cavil that has not found a lodgment within the ample charity of the
English Establishment. I have been interested to hear one
distinguished Canon deplore that "they" did not identify the Logos
with the third instead of the second Person of the Trinity, and
another distinguished Catholic apologist declare his indifference to
the "historical Jesus." Within most of the Christian communions one
may believe anything or nothing, provided only that one does not
call too public an attention to one's eccentricity. The late Rev.
Charles Voysey, for example, preached plainly in his church at
Healaugh against the divinity of Christ, unhindered. It was only
when he published his sermons under the provocative title of "The
Sling and the Stone," and caused an outcry beyond the limits of his
congregation, that he was indicted and deprived.

Now the reasons why these men do not leave the ministry or
priesthood in which they find themselves are often very plausible.
It is probable that in very few cases is the retention of stipend or
incumbency a conscious dishonesty. At the worst it is mitigated by
thought for wife or child. It has only been during very exceptional
phases of religious development and controversy that beliefs have
been really sharp. A creed, like a coin, it may be argued, loses
little in practical value because it is worn, or bears the image of
a vanished king. The religious life is a reality that has clothed
itself in many garments, and the concern of the priest or minister
is with the religious life and not with the poor symbols that may
indeed pretend to express, but do as a matter of fact no more than
indicate, its direction. It is quite possible to maintain that the
church and not the creed is the real and valuable instrument of
religion, that the religious life is sustained not by its
propositions but by its routines. Anyone who seeks the intimate
discussion of spiritual things with professional divines, will find
this is the substance of the case for the ecclesiastical sceptic.
His church, he will admit, mumbles its statement of truth, but where
else is truth? What better formulae are to be found for ineffable
things? And meanwhile--he does good.

That may be a valid defence before a man finds God. But we who
profess the worship and fellowship of the living God deny that
religion is a matter of ineffable things. The way of God is plain
and simple and easy to understand.

Therewith the whole position of the conforming sceptic is changed.
If a professional religious has any justification at all for his
professionalism it is surely that he proclaims the nearness and
greatness of God. And these creeds and articles and orthodoxies are
not proclamations but curtains, they are a darkening and confusion
of what should be crystal clear. What compensatory good can a
priest pretend to do when his primary business is the truth and his
method a lie? The oaths and incidental conformities of men who wish
to serve God in the state are on a different footing altogether from
the falsehood and mischief of one who knows the true God and yet
recites to a trustful congregation, foists upon a trustful
congregation, a misleading and ill-phrased Levantine creed.

Such is the line of thought which will impose the renunciation of
his temporalities and a complete cessation of services upon every
ordained priest and minister as his first act of faith. Once that
he has truly realised God, it becomes impossible for him ever to
repeat his creed again. His course seems plain and clear. It
becomes him to stand up before the flock he has led in error, and to
proclaim the being and nature of the one true God. He must be
explicit to the utmost of his powers. Then he may await his
expulsion. It may be doubted whether it is sufficient for him to go
away silently, making false excuses or none at all for his retreat.
He has to atone for the implicit acquiescences of his conforming


Are any sorts of people shut off as if by inherent necessity from

This is, so to speak, one of the standing questions of theology; it
reappears with slight changes of form at every period of religious
interest, it is for example the chief issue between the Arminian and
the Calvinist. From its very opening proposition modern religion
sweeps past and far ahead of the old Arminian teachings of Wesleyans
and Methodists, in its insistence upon the entirely finite nature of
God. Arminians seem merely to have insisted that God has
conditioned himself, and by his own free act left men free to accept
or reject salvation. To the realist type of mind--here as always I
use "realist" in its proper sense as the opposite of nominalist--to
the old-fashioned, over-exact and over-accentuating type of mind,
such ways of thinking seem vague and unsatisfying. Just as it
distresses the more downright kind of intelligence with a feeling of
disloyalty to admit that God is not Almighty, so it troubles the
same sort of intelligence to hear that there is no clear line to be
drawn between the saved and the lost. Realists like an exclusive
flavour in their faith. Moreover, it is a natural weakness of
humanity to be forced into extreme positions by argument. It is
probable, as I have already suggested, that the absolute attributes
of God were forced upon Christianity under the stresses of
propaganda, and it is probable that the theory of a super-human
obstinancy beyond salvation arose out of the irritations natural to
theological debate. It is but a step from the realisation that
there are people absolutely unable or absolutely unwilling to see
God as we see him, to the conviction that they are therefore shut
off from God by an invincible soul blindness.

It is very easy to believe that other people are essentially damned.

Beyond the little world of our sympathies and comprehension there
are those who seem inaccessible to God by any means within our
experience. They are people answering to the "hard-hearted," to the
"stiff-necked generation" of the Hebrew prophets. They betray and
even confess to standards that seem hopelessly base to us. They
show themselves incapable of any disinterested enthusiasm for beauty
or truth or goodness. They are altogether remote from intelligent
sacrifice. To every test they betray vileness of texture; they are
mean, cold, wicked. There are people who seem to cheat with a
private self-approval, who are ever ready to do harsh and cruel
things, whose use for social feeling is the malignant boycott, and
for prosperity, monopolisation and humiliating display; who seize
upon religion and turn it into persecution, and upon beauty to
torment it on the altars of some joyless vice. We cannot do with
such souls; we have no use for them, and it is very easy indeed to
step from that persuasion to the belief that God has no use for

And besides these base people there are the stupid people and the
people with minds so poor in texture that they cannot even grasp the
few broad and simple ideas that seem necessary to the salvation we
experience, who lapse helplessly into fetishistic and fearful
conceptions of God, and are apparently quite incapable of
distinguishing between what is practically and what is spiritually

It is an easy thing to conclude that the only way to God is our way
to God, that he is the privilege of a finer and better sort to which
we of course belong; that he is no more the God of the card-sharper
or the pickpocket or the "smart" woman or the loan-monger or the
village oaf than he is of the swine in the sty. But are we
justified in thus limiting God to the measure of our moral and
intellectual understandings? Because some people seem to me
steadfastly and consistently base or hopelessly and incurably dull
and confused, does it follow that there are not phases, albeit I
have never chanced to see them, of exaltation in the one case and
illumination in the other? And may I not be a little restricting my
perception of Good? While I have been ready enough to pronounce
this or that person as being, so far as I was concerned, thoroughly
damnable or utterly dull, I find a curious reluctance to admit the
general proposition which is necessary for these instances. It is
possible that the difference between Arminian and Calvinist is a
difference of essential intellectual temperament rather than of
theoretical conviction. I am temperamentally Arminian as I am
temperamentally Nominalist. I feel that it must be in the nature of
God to attempt all souls. There must be accessibilities I can only
suspect, and accessibilities of which I know nothing.

Yet here is a consideration pointing rather the other way. If you
think, as you must think, that you yourself can be lost to God and
damned, then I cannot see how you can avoid thinking that other
people can be damned. But that is not to believe that there are
people damned at the outset by their moral and intellectual
insufficiency; that is not to make out that there is a class of
essential and incurable spiritual defectives. The religious life
preceded clear religious understanding and extends far beyond its

In my own case I perceive that in spite of the value I attach to
true belief, the reality of religion is not an intellectual thing.
The essential religious fact is in another than the mental sphere.
I am passionately anxious to have the idea of God clear in my own
mind, and to make my beliefs plain and clear to other people, and
particularly to other people who may seem to be feeling with me; I
do perceive that error is evil if only because a faith based on
confused conceptions and partial understandings may suffer
irreparable injury through the collapse of its substratum of ideas.
I doubt if faith can be complete and enduring if it is not secured
by the definite knowledge of the true God. Yet I have also to admit
that I find the form of my own religious emotion paralleled by
people with whom I have no intellectual sympathy and no agreement in
phrase or formula at all.

There is for example this practical identity of religious feeling
and this discrepancy of interpretation between such an inquirer as
myself and a convert of the Salvation Army. Here, clothing itself
in phrases and images of barbaric sacrifice, of slaughtered lambs
and fountains of precious blood, a most repulsive and
incomprehensible idiom to me, and expressing itself by shouts,
clangour, trumpeting, gesticulations, and rhythmic pacings that stun
and dismay my nerves, I find, the same object sought, release from
self, and the same end, the end of identification with the immortal,
successfully if perhaps rather insecurely achieved. I see God
indubitably present in these excitements, and I see personalities I
could easily have misjudged as too base or too dense for spiritual
understandings, lit by the manifest reflection of divinity. One may
be led into the absurdest underestimates of religious possibilities
if one estimates people only coldly and in the light of everyday
life. There is a sub-intellectual religious life which, very
conceivably, when its utmost range can be examined, excludes nothing
human from religious cooperation, which will use any words to its
tune, which takes its phrasing ready-made from the world about it,
as it takes the street for its temple, and yet which may be at its
inner point in the directest contact with God. Religion may suffer
from aphasia and still be religion; it may utter misleading or
nonsensical words and yet intend and convey the truth. The methods
of the Salvation Army are older than doctrinal Christianity, and may
long survive it. Men and women may still chant of Beulah Land and
cry out in the ecstasy of salvation; the tambourine, that modern
revival of the thrilling Alexandrine sistrum, may still stir dull
nerves to a first apprehension of powers and a call beyond the
immediate material compulsion of life, when the creeds of
Christianity are as dead as the lore of the Druids.

The emancipation of mankind from obsolete theories and formularies
may be accompanied by great tides of moral and emotional release
among types and strata that by the standards of a trained and
explicit intellectual, may seem spiritually hopeless. It is not
necessary to imagine the whole world critical and lucid in order to
imagine the whole world unified in religious sentiment,
comprehending the same phrases and coming together regardless of
class and race and quality, in the worship and service of the true
God. The coming kingship of God if it is to be more than hieratic
tyranny must have this universality of appeal. As the head grows
clear the body will turn in the right direction. To the mass of men
modern religion says, "This is the God it has always been in your
nature to apprehend."


Now that we are discussing the general question of individual
conduct, it will be convenient to take up again and restate in that
relationship, propositions already made very plainly in the second
and third chapters. Here there are several excellent reasons for a
certain amount of deliberate repetition. . . .

All the mystical relations of chastity, virginity, and the like with
religion, those questions of physical status that play so large a
part in most contemporary religions, have disappeared from modern
faith. Let us be as clear as possible upon this. God is concerned
by the health and fitness and vigour of his servants; we owe him our
best and utmost; but he has no special concern and no special
preferences or commandments regarding sexual things.

Christ, it is manifest, was of the modern faith in these matters, he
welcomed the Magdalen, neither would he condemn the woman taken in
adultery. Manifestly corruption and disease were not to stand
between him and those who sought God in him. But the Christianity
of the creeds, in this as in so many respects, does not rise to the
level of its founder, and it is as necessary to repeat to-day as
though the name of Christ had not been ascendant for nineteen
centuries, that sex is a secondary thing to religion, and sexual
status of no account in the presence of God. It follows quite
logically that God does not discriminate between man and woman in
any essential things. We leave our individuality behind us when we
come into the presence of God. Sex is not disavowed but forgotten.
Just as one's last meal is forgotten--which also is a difference
between the religious moment of modern faith and certain Christian
sacraments. You are a believer and God is at hand to you; heed not
your state; reach out to him and he is there. In the moment of
religion you are human; it matters not what else you are, male or
female, clean or unclean, Hebrew or Gentile, bond or free. It is
AFTER the moment of religion that we become concerned about our
state and the manner in which we use ourselves.

We have to follow our reason as our sole guide in our individual
treatment of all such things as food and health and sex. God is the
king of the whole world, he is the owner of our souls and bodies and
all things. He is not particularly concerned about any aspect,
because he is concerned about every aspect. We have to make the
best use of ourselves for his kingdom; that is our rule of life.
That rule means neither painful nor frantic abstinences nor any
forced way of living. Purity, cleanliness, health, none of these
things are for themselves, they are for use; none are magic, all are
means. The sword must be sharp and clean. That does not mean that
we are perpetually to sharpen and clean it--which would weaken and
waste the blade. The sword must neither be drawn constantly nor
always rusting in its sheath. Those who have had the wits and soul
to come to God, will have the wits and soul to find out and know
what is waste, what is vanity, what is the happiness that begets
strength of body and spirit, what is error, where vice begins, and
to avoid and repent and recoil from all those things that degrade.
These are matters not of the rule of life but of the application of
life. They must neither be neglected nor made disproportionally

To the believer, relationship with God is the supreme relationship.
It is difficult to imagine how the association of lovers and friends
can be very fine and close and good unless the two who love are each
also linked to God, so that through their moods and fluctuations and
the changes of years they can be held steadfast by his undying
steadfastness. But it has been felt by many deep-feeling people
that there is so much kindred between the love and trust of husband
and wife and the feeling we have for God, that it is reasonable to
consider the former also as a sacred thing. They do so value that
close love of mated man and woman, they are so intent upon its
permanence and completeness and to lift the dear relationship out of
the ruck of casual and transitory things, that they want to bring
it, as it were, into the very presence and assent of God. There are
many who dream and desire that they are as deeply and completely
mated as this, many more who would fain be so, and some who are.
And from this comes the earnest desire to make marriage sacramental
and the attempt to impose upon all the world the outward appearance,
the restrictions, the pretence at least of such a sacramental union.

There may be such a quasi-sacramental union in many cases, but only
after years can one be sure of it; it is not to be brought about by
vows and promises but by an essential kindred and cleaving of body
and spirit; and it concerns only the two who can dare to say they
have it, and God. And the divine thing in marriage, the thing that
is most like the love of God, is, even then, not the relationship of
the man and woman as man and woman but the comradeship and trust and
mutual help and pity that joins them. No doubt that from the mutual
necessities of bodily love and the common adventure, the necessary
honesties and helps of a joint life, there springs the stoutest,
nearest, most enduring and best of human companionship; perhaps only
upon that root can the best of mortal comradeship be got; but it
does not follow that the mere ordinary coming together and pairing
off of men and women is in itself divine or sacramental or anything
of the sort. Being in love is a condition that may have its moments
of sublime exaltation, but it is for the most part an experience far
down the scale below divine experience; it is often love only in so
far as it shares the name with better things; it is greed, it is
admiration, it is desire, it is the itch for excitement, it is the
instinct for competition, it is lust, it is curiosity, it is
adventure, it is jealousy, it is hate. On a hundred scores 'lovers'
meet and part. Thereby some few find true love and the spirit of
God in themselves or others.

Lovers may love God in one another; I do not deny it. That is no
reason why the imitation and outward form of this great happiness
should be made an obligation upon all men and women who are
attracted by one another, nor why it should be woven into the
essentials of religion. For women much more than for men is this
confusion dangerous, lest a personal love should shape and dominate
their lives instead of God. "He for God only; she for God in him,"
phrases the idea of Milton and of ancient Islam; it is the formula
of sexual infatuation, a formula quite easily inverted, as the end
of Goethe's Faust ("The woman soul leadeth us upward and on") may
witness. The whole drift of modern religious feeling is against
this exaggeration of sexual feeling, these moods of sexual
slavishness, in spiritual things. Between the healthy love of
ordinary mortal lovers in love and the love of God, there is an
essential contrast and opposition in this, that preference,
exclusiveness, and jealousy seem to be in the very nature of the
former and are absolutely incompatible with the latter. The former
is the intensest realisation of which our individualities are
capable; the latter is the way of escape from the limitations of
individuality. It may be true that a few men and more women do
achieve the completest unselfishness and self-abandonment in earthly
love. So the poets and romancers tell us. If so, it is that by an
imaginative perversion they have given to some attractive person a
worship that should be reserved for God and a devotion that is
normally evoked only by little children in their mother's heart. It
is not the way between most of the men and women one meets in this

But between God and the believer there is no other way, there is
nothing else, but self-surrender and the ending of self.




If the reader who is unfamiliar with scientific things will obtain
and read Metchnikoff's "Nature of Man," he will find there an
interesting summary of the biological facts that bear upon and
destroy the delusion that there is such a thing as individual
perfection, that there is even ideal perfection for humanity. With
an abundance of convincing instances Professor Metchnikoff
demonstrates that life is a system of "disharmonies," capable of no
perfect way, that there is no "perfect" dieting, no "perfect" sexual
life, no "perfect" happiness, no "perfect" conduct. He releases one
from the arbitrary but all too easy assumption that there is even an
ideal "perfection" in organic life. He sweeps out of the mind with
all the confidence and conviction of a physiological specialist, any
idea that there is a perfect man or a conceivable perfect man. It
is in the nature of every man to fall short at every point from
perfection. From the biological point of view we are as individuals
a series of involuntary "tries" on the part of an imperfect species
towards an unknown end.

Our spiritual nature follows our bodily as a glove follows a hand.
We are disharmonious beings and salvation no more makes an end to
the defects of our souls than it makes an end to the decay of our
teeth or to those vestigial structures of our body that endanger our
physical welfare. Salvation leaves us still disharmonious, and adds
not an inch to our spiritual and moral stature.


Let us now take up the question of what is Sin? and what we mean by
the term "damnation," in the light of this view of human reality.
Most of the great world religions are as clear as Professor
Metchnikoff that life in the world is a tangle of disharmonies, and
in most cases they supply a more or less myth-like explanation, they
declare that evil is one side of the conflict between Ahriman and
Ormazd, or that it is the punishment of an act of disobedience, of
the fall of man and world alike from a state of harmony. Their
case, like his, is that THIS world is damned.

We do not find the belief that superposed upon the miseries of this
world there are the still bitterer miseries of punishments after
death, so nearly universal. The endless punishments of hell appear
to be an exploit of theory; they have a superadded appearance even
in the Christian system; the same common tendency to superlatives
and absolutes that makes men ashamed to admit that God is finite,
makes them seek to enhance the merits of their Saviour by the device
of everlasting fire. Conquest over the sorrow of life and the fear
of death do not seem to them sufficient for Christ's glory.

Now the turning round of the modern mind from a conception of the
universe as something derived deductively from the past to a
conception of it as something gathering itself adventurously towards
the future, involves a release from the supposed necessity to tell a
story and explain why. Instead comes the inquiry, "To what end?"
We can say without mental discomfort, these disharmonies are here,
this damnation is here--inexplicably. We can, without any
distressful inquiry into ultimate origins, bring our minds to the
conception of a spontaneous and developing God arising out of those
stresses in our hearts and in the universe, and arising to overcome
them. Salvation for the individual is escape from the individual
distress at disharmony and the individual defeat by death, into the
Kingdom of God. And damnation can be nothing more and nothing less
than the failure or inability or disinclination to make that escape.

Something of that idea of damnation as a lack of the will for
salvation has crept at a number of points into contemporary
religious thought. It was the fine fancy of Swedenborg that the
damned go to their own hells of their own accord. It underlies a
queer poem, "Simpson," by that interesting essayist upon modern
Christianity, Mr. Clutton Brock, which I have recently read.
Simpson dies and goes to hell--it is rather like the Cromwell Road--
and approves of it very highly, and then and then only is he
completely damned. Not to realise that one can be damned is
certainly to be damned; such is Mr. Brock's idea. It is his
definition of damnation. Satisfaction with existing things is
damnation. It is surrender to limitation; it is acquiescence in
"disharmony"; it is making peace with that enemy against whom God
fights for ever.

(But whether there are indeed Simpsons who acquiesce always and for
ever remains for me, as I have already confessed in the previous
chapter, a quite open question. My Arminian temperament turns me
from the Calvinistic conclusion of Mr. Brock's satire.)


Now the question of sin will hardly concern those damned and lost by
nature, if such there be. Sin is not the same thing as damnation,
as we have just defined damnation. Damnation is a state, but sin is
an incident. One is an essential and the other an incidental
separation from God. It is possible to sin without being damned;
and to be damned is to be in a state when sin scarcely matters, like
ink upon a blackamoor. You cannot have questions of more or less
among absolute things.

It is the amazing and distressful discovery of every believer so
soon as the first exaltation of belief is past, that one does not
remain always in touch with God. At first it seems incredible that
one should ever have any motive again that is not also God's motive.
Then one finds oneself caught unawares by a base impulse. We
discover that discontinuousness of our apparently homogeneous
selves, the unincorporated and warring elements that seemed at first
altogether absent from the synthesis of conversion. We are tripped
up by forgetfulness, by distraction, by old habits, by tricks of
appearance. There come dull patches of existence; those mysterious
obliterations of one's finer sense that are due at times to the
little minor poisons one eats or drinks, to phases of fatigue, ill-
health and bodily disorder, or one is betrayed by some unanticipated
storm of emotion, brewed deep in the animal being and released by
any trifling accident, such as personal jealousy or lust, or one is
relaxed by contentment into vanity. All these rebel forces of our
ill-coordinated selves, all these "disharmonies," of the inner
being, snatch us away from our devotion to God's service, carry us
off to follies, offences, unkindness, waste, and leave us
compromised, involved, and regretful, perplexed by a hundred
difficulties we have put in our own way back to God.

This is the personal problem of Sin. Here prayer avails; here God
can help us. From God comes the strength to repent and make such
reparation as we can, to begin the battle again further back and
lower down. From God comes the power to anticipate the struggle
with one's rebel self, and to resist and prevail over it.


An extreme case is very serviceable in such a discussion as this.

It happens that the author carries on a correspondence with several
lunatics in asylums. There is a considerable freedom of notepaper
in these institutions; the outgoing letters are no doubt censored or
selected in some way, but a proportion at any rate are allowed to go
out to their addresses. As a journalist who signs his articles and
as the author of various books of fiction, as a frequent NAME, that
is, to any one much forced back upon reading, the writer is
particularly accessible to this type of correspondent. The letters
come, some manifesting a hopeless disorder that permits of no reply,
but some being the expression of minds overlaid not at all
offensively by a web of fantasy, and some (and these are the more
touching ones and the ones that most concern us now) as sanely
conceived and expressed as any letters could be. They are written
by people living lives very like the lives of us who are called
"sane," except that they lift to a higher excitement and fall to a
lower depression, and that these extremer phases of mania or
melancholia slip the leash of mental consistency altogether and take
abnormal forms. They tap deep founts of impulse, such as we of the
safer ways of mediocrity do but glimpse under the influence of
drugs, or in dreams and rare moments of controllable extravagance.
Then the insane become "glorious," or they become murderous, or they
become suicidal. All these letter-writers in confinement have
convinced their fellow-creatures by some extravagance that they are
a danger to themselves or others.

The letters that come from such types written during their sane
intervals, are entirely sane. Some, who are probably unaware--I
think they should know--of the offences or possibilities that
justify their incarceration, write with a certain resentment at
their position; others are entirely acquiescent, but one or two
complain of the neglect of friends and relations. But all are as
manifestly capable of religion and of the religious life as any
other intelligent persons during the lucid interludes that make up
nine-tenths perhaps of their lives. . . . Suppose now one of these
cases, and suppose that the infirmity takes the form of some cruel,
disgusting, or destructive disposition that may become at times
overwhelming, and you have our universal trouble with sinful
tendency, as it were magnified for examination. It is clear that
the mania which defines his position must be the primary if not the
cardinal business in the life of a lunatic, but his problem with
that is different not in kind but merely in degree from the problem
of lusts, vanities, and weaknesses in what we call normal lives. It
is an unconquered tract, a great rebel province in his being, which
refuses to serve God and tries to prevent him serving God, and
succeeds at times in wresting his capital out of his control. But
his relationship to that is the same relationship as ours to the
backward and insubordinate parishes, criminal slums, and disorderly
houses in our own private texture.

It is clear that the believer who is a lunatic is, as it were, only
the better part of himself. He serves God with this unconquered
disposition in him, like a man who, whatever else he is and does, is
obliged to be the keeper of an untrustworthy and wicked animal. His
beast gets loose. His only resort is to warn those about him when
he feels that jangling or excitement of the nerves which precedes
its escapes, to limit its range, to place weapons beyond its reach.
And there are plenty of human beings very much in his case, whose
beasts have never got loose or have got caught back before their
essential insanity was apparent. And there are those uncertifiable
lunatics we call men and women of "impulse" and "strong passions."
If perhaps they have more self-control than the really mad, yet it
happens oftener with them that the whole intelligent being falls
under the dominion of evil. The passion scarcely less than the
obsession may darken the whole moral sky. Repentance and atonement;
nothing less will avail them after the storm has passed, and the
sedulous preparation of defences and palliatives against the return
of the storm.

This discussion of the lunatic's case gives us indeed, usefully
coarse and large, the lines for the treatment of every human
weakness by the servants of God. A "weakness," just like the
lunatic's mania, becomes a particular charge under God, a special
duty for the person it affects. He has to minimise it, to isolate
it, to keep it out of mischief. If he can he must adopt preventive
measures. . . .

These passions and weaknesses that get control of us hamper our
usefulness to God, they are an incessant anxiety and distress to us,
they wound our self-respect and make us incomprehensible to many who
would trust us, they discredit the faith we profess. If they break
through and break through again it is natural and proper that men
and women should cease to believe in our faith, cease to work with
us or to meet us frankly. . . . Our sins do everything evil to us
and through us except separate us from God.

Yet let there be no mistake about one thing. Here prayer is a
power. Here God can indeed work miracles. A man with the light of
God in his heart can defeat vicious habits, rise again combative and
undaunted after a hundred falls, escape from the grip of lusts and
revenges, make head against despair, thrust back the very onset of
madness. He is still the same man he was before he came to God,
still with his libidinous, vindictive, boastful, or indolent vein;
but now his will to prevail over those qualities can refer to an
exterior standard and an external interest, he can draw upon a
strength, almost boundless, beyond his own.


But be a sin great or small, it cannot damn a man once he has found
God. You may kill and hang for it, you may rob or rape; the moment
you truly repent and set yourself to such atonement and reparation
as is possible there remains no barrier between you and God.
Directly you cease to hide or deny or escape, and turn manfully
towards the consequences and the setting of things right, you take
hold again of the hand of God. Though you sin seventy times seven
times, God will still forgive the poor rest of you. Nothing but
utter blindness of the spirit can shut a man off from God.

There is nothing one can suffer, no situation so unfortunate, that
it can shut off one who has the thought of God, from God. If you
but lift up your head for a moment out of a stormy chaos of madness
and cry to him, God is there, God will not fail you. A convicted
criminal, frankly penitent, and neither obdurate nor abject,
whatever the evil of his yesterdays, may still die well and bravely
on the gallows to the glory of God. He may step straight from that
death into the immortal being of God.

This persuasion is the very essence of the religion of the true God.
There is no sin, no state that, being regretted and repented of, can
stand between God and man.




As yet those who may be counted as belonging definitely to the new
religion are few and scattered and unconfessed, their realisations
are still uncertain and incomplete. But that is no augury for the
continuance of this state of affairs even for the next few decades.
There are many signs that the revival is coming very swiftly, it may
be coming as swiftly as the morning comes after a tropical night.
It may seem at present as though nothing very much were happening,
except for the fact that the old familiar constellations of theology
have become a little pallid and lost something of their multitude of
points. But nothing fades of itself. The deep stillness of the
late night is broken by a stirring, and the morning star of
creedless faith, the last and brightest of the stars, the star that
owes its light to the coming sun is in the sky.

There is a stirring and a movement. There is a stir, like the stir
before a breeze. Men are beginning to speak of religion without the
bluster of the Christian formulae; they have begun to speak of God
without any reference to Omnipresence, Omniscience, Omnipotence.
The Deists and Theists of an older generation, be it noted, never
did that. Their "Supreme Being" repudiated nothing. He was merely
the whittled stump of the Trinity. It is in the last few decades
that the western mind has slipped loose from this absolutist
conception of God that has dominated the intelligence of Christendom
at least, for many centuries. Almost unconsciously the new thought
is taking a course that will lead it far away from the moorings of
Omnipotence. It is like a ship that has slipped its anchors and
drifts, still sleeping, under the pale and vanishing stars, out to
the open sea. . . .


In quite a little while the whole world may be alive with this
renascent faith.

For emancipation from the Trinitarian formularies and from a belief
in an infinite God means not merely a great revivification of minds
trained under the decadence of orthodox Christianity, minds which
have hitherto been hopelessly embarrassed by the choice between
pseudo-Christian religion or denial, but also it opens the way
towards the completest understanding and sympathy and participation
with the kindred movements for release and for an intensification of
the religious life, that are going on outside the sphere of the
Christian tradition and influence altogether. Allusion has already
been made to the sympathetic devotional poetry of Rabindranath
Tagore; he stands for a movement in Brahminism parallel with and
assimilable to the worship of the true God of mankind.

It is too often supposed that the religious tendency of the East is
entirely towards other-worldness, to a treatment of this life as an
evil entanglement and of death as a release and a blessing. It is
too easily assumed that Eastern teaching is wholly concerned with
renunciation, not merely of self but of being, with the escape from
all effort of any sort into an exalted vacuity. This is indeed
neither the spirit of China nor of Islam nor of the every-day life
of any people in the world. It is not the spirit of the Sikh nor of
these newer developments of Hindu thought. It has never been the
spirit of Japan. To-day less than ever does Asia seem disposed to
give up life and the effort of life. Just as readily as Europeans,
do the Asiatics reach out their arms to that fuller life we can
live, that greater intensity of existence, to which we can attain by
escaping from ourselves. All mankind is seeking God. There is not
a nation nor a city in the globe where men are not being urged at
this moment by the spirit of God in them towards the discovery of
God. This is not an age of despair but an age of hope in Asia as in
all the world besides.

Islam is undergoing a process of revision closely parallel to that
which ransacks Christianity. Tradition and mediaeval doctrines are
being thrust aside in a similar way. There is much probing into the
spirit and intention of the Founder. The time is almost ripe for a
heart-searching Dialogue of the Dead, "How we settled our religions
for ever and ever," between, let us say, Eusebius of Caesarea and
one of Nizam-al-Mulk's tame theologians. They would be drawn
together by the same tribulations; they would be in the closest
sympathy against the temerity of the moderns; they would have a
common courtliness. The Quran is but little read by Europeans; it
is ignorantly supposed to contain many things that it does not
contain; there is much confusion in people's minds between its text
and the ancient Semitic traditions and usages retained by its
followers; in places it may seem formless and barbaric; but what it
has chiefly to tell of is the leadership of one individualised
militant God who claims the rule of the whole world, who favours
neither rank nor race, who would lead men to righteousness. It is
much more free from sacramentalism, from vestiges of the ancient
blood sacrifice, and its associated sacerdotalism, than
Christianity. The religion that will presently sway mankind can be
reached more easily from that starting-point than from the confused
mysteries of Trinitarian theology. Islam was never saddled with a
creed. With the very name "Islam" (submission to God) there is no
quarrel for those who hold the new faith. . . .

All the world over there is this stirring in the dry bones of the
old beliefs. There is scarcely a religion that has not its Bahaism,
its Modernists, its Brahmo Somaj, its "religion without theology,"
its attempts to escape from old forms and hampering associations to
that living and world-wide spiritual reality upon which the human
mind almost instinctively insists. . . .

It is the same God we all seek; he becomes more and more plainly the
same God.

So that all this religious stir, which seems so multifold and
incidental and disconnected and confused and entirely ineffective
to-day, may be and most probably will be, in quite a few years a
great flood of religious unanimity pouring over and changing all
human affairs, sweeping away the old priesthoods and tabernacles and
symbols and shrines, the last crumb of the Orphic victim and the
last rag of the Serapeum, and turning all men about into one
direction, as the ships and houseboats swing round together in some
great river with the uprush of the tide. . . .


Among those who are beginning to realise the differences and
identities of the revived religion that has returned to them,
certain questions of organisation and assembly are being discussed.
Every new religious development is haunted by the precedents of the
religion it replaces, and it was only to be expected that among
those who have recovered their faith there should be a search for
apostles and disciples, an attempt to determine sources and to form
original congregations, especially among people with European

These dispositions mark a relapse from understanding. They are
imitative. This time there has been no revelation here or there;
there is no claim to a revelation but simply that God has become
visible. Men have thought and sought until insensibly the fog of
obsolete theology has cleared away. There seems no need therefore
for special teachers or a special propaganda, or any ritual or
observances that will seem to insist upon differences. The
Christian precedent of a church is particularly misleading. The
church with its sacraments and its sacerdotalism is the disease of
Christianity. Save for a few doubtful interpolations there is no
evidence that Christ tolerated either blood sacrifices or the
mysteries of priesthood. All these antique grossnesses were
superadded after his martyrdom. He preached not a cult but a
gospel; he sent out not medicine men but apostles.

No doubt all who believe owe an apostolic service to God. They
become naturally apostolic. As men perceive and realise God, each
will be disposed in his own fashion to call his neighbour's
attention to what he sees. The necessary elements of religion could
be written on a post card; this book, small as it is, bulks large
not by what it tells positively but because it deals with
misconceptions. We may (little doubt have I that we do) need
special propagandas and organisations to discuss errors and keep
back the jungle of false ideas, to maintain free speech and restrain
the enterprise of the persecutor, but we do not want a church to
keep our faith for us. We want our faith spread, but for that there
is no need for orthodoxies and controlling organisations of
statement. It is for each man to follow his own impulse, and to
speak to his like in his own fashion.

Whatever religious congregations men may form henceforth in the name
of the true God must be for their own sakes and not to take charge
of religion.

The history of Christianity, with its encrustation and suffocation
in dogmas and usages, its dire persecutions of the faithful by the
unfaithful, its desiccation and its unlovely decay, its invasion by
robes and rites and all the tricks and vices of the Pharisees whom
Christ detested and denounced, is full of warning against the
dangers of a church. Organisation is an excellent thing for the
material needs of men, for the draining of towns, the marshalling of
traffic, the collecting of eggs, and the carrying of letters, the
distribution of bread, the notification of measles, for hygiene and
economics and suchlike affairs. The better we organise such things,
the freer and better equipped we leave men's minds for nobler


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