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114 THE REASONABLENESS OF CHRISTIANITY philosophy, affords joy and peace; in other words, it gives the believer happiness by enlarging his mental conception to embrace greater and nobler truths. The humblest Christian is a greater philosopher than Plato, because the greater includes the lesser. When Browning says the acknowledgment of God in Christ solves all the problems of the soul, he points the way to the attainment of the highest wisdom. Christianity does not demand the abnegation of the reason, the suicide of the intellect; but, in so far as reason is employed in its acceptance, actually "advances us to be wise." Blind faith is better than unbelief, but a reasonable faith is better than all. Life would be a poor affair if man were "but formed to feed on joy," and so, as troubles and difficulties are scattered in our path that we may gain strength by surmounting them, doubts are to be prized as aids to faith. Our very joys are three-parts pain; our faith, unless we are mere clods, will often be troubled by sparks of doubt; and Browning tells us that we are to rejoice that such "a spark disturbs our clod," because it makes us hold nearer of God. Yet withal "we are made for happiness." God's smile can change the world's aspect for us, make our "work grow play, and adversity a winning 2 Ibid.

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1 Rabbi Ben Ezra.

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LIFE'S PROBATION

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fight." Browning's philosophy of life is summed up in the lines

"All is best believe,

And we best as no other than we are." 2

All is change, nothing lasts; we rise and fall with the tune of the old woe of the world; we live and die, are hurled from change to change unceasingly, our soul's wings never furled, and Browning tells us to rejoice that it is thus with us

"There's life's pact,

Perhaps probation-do I know?
God does: endure His act ! " 3

"We must not suppose ourselves always to have conquered a temptation when we have fled from it," says Thomas à Kempis, and "many men involve themselves deeper in temptations by being too solicitous to decline them." The force of the resisted temptation is transferred to our own souls; the greater is the false good which we reject, the greater is the gain in our moral nature which accrues to us by the very act of rejecting it. The force exerted in repelling is so much gain to our moral fibre. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation," says St. James; and the blessedness is not only in the future "crown of life" promised to such a one, but the gain accrues at the moment of endurance, 1 In a Balcony. 2 Ibid. 3 James Lee's Wife.

116

STARVING THE SOUL

in the strength afforded for future assaults which none can avoid.

To put ourselves "out of the world" by running away from its dangers and difficulties may be one way of "saving our souls," but it must often be the means of so starving those souls that they become hardly worth the saving. A half-developed human being could perhaps be kept alive for a few months if wrapped in cottonwool in a suitable temperature in a hatching machine, with good and sufficient food and air, but the resulting product could scarcely be called man or woman. Few of us would care to have as companions those who had been so carefully kept from the struggles, sorrows, and temptations we have had to endure, that they know no more about the stern realities of life than Sakya Muni did when he left his father's palace and first heard of death, disease, and poverty. We are meant to mingle with and re-act on our fellow-men. There are within us a hundred faculties which can only manifest themselves in the great world which lies outside the hermit's cell. Browning does not, of course, mean to suggest that we are to throw ourselves into the way of temptation. "They who fear the adder's sting will not come near her hissing." We are not to invite danger; we should not keep barrels of gunpowder in the chimney corner, and we must avoid temptation as much

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FACING TEMPTATION

117

as possible, but when it thrusts itself upon us it is to be resisted. We have often seen a cat pursued by a dog; while the cat fled the dog ran after her, but when puss turned and faced him, arched her back, and prepared for combat, the dog trotted off and left her unmolested.

CHAPTER VI

"HIS OWN WORLD FOR EVERY MORTAL"

BROWNING again and again insists that "the world is made for each of us."1 This is the correlative of the philosopher's axiom: “I think, therefore I am." The one great fact that we know is our own existence. All else may be illusion; this at least, in a world of dreams, is reality. "I think-I exist therefore"; and so the poet tells us―

"Soul was born and life allotted; ay, the show of things unfurled

For thy summing-up and judgment,—thine, no other mortal's world!" 2

Contemplate the cemeteries of the millions of the unknown dead; the crowds in the thoroughfares of a great city; the countless hosts who have lived and turned to impalpable dust, and grasp the thought that for every one of these the world was made-the panorama of life unrolled for each individual as 1 By the Fireside. La Saisiaz.

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