THE KING’S BUSINESS
The time was when Tennyson was looked upon as a Liberal, and such he was; and yet, while Tennyson frankly confessed his enfeebled faith, he still voices more than many “a modern” minister, supposed to be evangelical, has. I had ten thousand times rather take my place with Ten nyson, the Universalist, than with those preachers in our modem pulpits, and teachers in our modern schools, who frankly confess that with “be numbing fingers they are vainly striv ing to cleave to the sunnier side of doubt,” and also express the fear that there be not “warmth and light enough to keep them from freezing in the dark,” for Tennyson could at least say: “I falter where I firmly trod, And falling with my weight of cares Upon the great world’s altar-stairs That slope thro’ darkness up to God, I stretch lame hands of faith and grope And gather dust and chaff, and call To what I feel is Lord of all, And faintly trust the larger hope.” And yet, the issue is not between “An Ancient” and a “Modern,” a Conser vative and the ultra Liberal; the issue is the issue between “ fiction” on the one side and “fact” on the other; falsehood and truth; “A myth” or “the Bible” ; the bastard Son of Mary and the very Son of God. It is the issue of infidelity or faith. The crisis is on ; the injunction of Joshua lives again: “Choose you this day!” He that hath felt the spirit of the highest Cannot confound, or doubt him, or deny; Yea, with one breath, O world, though thou deniest, Stand thou on that side, for on this am I
a common act of prayer and praise. Twice did I stand beside a deathbed and saw—wonderful power of relig ion!—the hope of heaven triumph over the terror of annihilation, and the serene light of joy beaming from the eyes of the departing.” But in the language of Lorimer, who com ments upon Schiller’s representation: “Faith in the reality of this worship, and confidence in the certainty of immortality, had alike been destroyed by the sneers of his friend; and un happy Julius was left with his ration alism and his cynicism a poorer, and not a wiser, man. No wonder that the .honest growler, Carlyle, treats with contempt the men who lend themselves to this pitiable and despic able business. “Cease, my much-re spected Herr von Voltaire,” he says. “Shut thy sweet voice, for the task appointed thee seems finished.. Suffi ciently hast thou demonstrated this proposition, considerable or other wise: that the Mythus of the Chris tian Religion looks not in the eight eenth century as it did in the eighth’ . . . But what next? Wilt thou help us to embody the divine Spirit of that religion in a new Mythus, in a new vehicle and vesture, that our Souls, otherwise too like perishing, may live ? What! Thou hast no fac ulty in that kind Only a torch for burning,—no hammer for building? Take our thanks then, and thyself away.” Evidently Carlyle felt that it might offend polite ears for him to write all that was in his heart when thinking of such melodious faith- murderers as Voltaire. With them he had no sympathy; neither have we: and we feel that bigotry and heart lessness so keenly that we turn from them with horror and deplore the condition of every man who falls a prey to their insidious wiles.
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