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"DOUBT FINGERS AT EACH CREVICE 159 the pearl while dredging for whelks and mudworms."1 "No inquiry," says Cardinal Newman,2 "comes to good which is not conducted under a deep sense of responsibility, and of the issues depending upon its determination." It is not enough to bring the intellect to bear on the question of religion, for its mere apprehension by the intellect will be of little service to the soul. Religion must be lived, not debated merely; and irreverent, ungrateful minds must be transformed by it before they are competent to discuss it.

Our torment now-a-days is unbelief. True the vast majority of unbelievers are very little concerned about the matter; yet if any one is in doubt concerning those things which involve his most precious interests, and takes no trouble to solve his perplexities, he must surely be the most miserable and unfair of men. "The cause of unbelief is in the will," says St. Thomas, "but unbelief itself is in the intellect." Faith is a treasure of which we are in danger of being robbed. It is a poor thing to be vain of, that our most precious possession is stolen from us. Yet the greater part of those who have lost their faith, or have never possessed it, are so little concerned at their poverty that they treat the

1 See The Ring and the Book: "The Pope," 11. 1440-50. 2 Grammar of Assent, p. 241.

3 Summa, II.-—II., Qu. x., Art. ii. 2.

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NOT ALL DOUBTERS HONEST

matter as no more than a diversion of the intellect, a game at which they can exhibit their critical skill. Unbelief, therefore, is usually a great sin-the greatest of all sins, because it has its roots in rebellion against God, pride and perversity of will. How often do we hear young persons exclaim with Tennyson

"There is more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds"?

Yes, if the doubt be really honest, and if the creeds be merely professed with the lips, and do not touch the heart. But how many doubters in matters of religion are honest? It is so clever to discard our mother's faith as an old wife's fable-so smart to know so much more about "worn-out creeds and discredited dogmas" than our father. And so, having taken, by dint of a few years' cramming, a good memory, and considerable perseverance a more or less valuable University degree, the faith which has sufficed for the brightest intellects of the world for nigh two thousand years is cast aside as an old and worthless garment, and naked and not ashamed stands the son of the age of science.

I have no desire to be unkind; my heart goes out towards such poor naked souls, and I long to introduce them to my spiritual clothier. If Robert Browning cannot cover their mental nakedness, I fear they are like the casuals in our

HONEST DOUBT

161

work-houses who tear up the clothes given them by the guardians, out of sheer determination to be different to other people, and go about in puris naturalibus. Browning has no desire to dress his young friends in any uniform. He offers the soul-garb of neither Romanist, Anglican, nor Nonconformist; he distributes not the vestments of any of the Churches. All he desires is that no reasonable soul should be without a reasonable garment of faith, and that I make bold to declare he will bestow to any patient and serious student. Do not mistake me, above all do not mistake Browning: doubt, the doubt of the man of science, whose business it is to doubt everything of which he has not satisfied himself of the evidence-such honest doubt is not sinful. We may have

"To break up this the new-
Faith, in the thing, grown faith in the report-
Whence need to bravely disbelieve report
Through increased faith i' the thing reports belie."1

It may be our most solemn duty

"To shake

This torpor of assurance from our creed,
Re-introduce the doubt discarded;"2

but this mission is laid but on few shoulders, and only at long intervals. When such men become sceptics, be sure they are unwilling

1 The Ring and the Book: "The Pope," 11. 1865-68. 2 Ibid., 11. 1853-56.

M

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SPIRITUAL PARALYSIS

sceptics; they do not boast of their loss of faith, they lament it as a child mourns the loss of father or mother. Reason has antagonized faith, and has seemed to be victorious. They must reconstruct their religious system

"Correct the portrait by the living face, Man's God, by God's God in the mind of man.”1 But such work is not for every one. For the great majority of sceptics, willing or unwilling, the doubt of the present day paralyzes the man. There have been those in whom

"Though faith were fled, Unbelief still might work the wires and move Man, the machine, to play a faithful part."2

But, as has been finely said, "The doubt of today destroys the sense of reality; it questions truth; it envelops all things in its puzzle-God, immortality, the value of life, the rewards of virtue, the operations of conscience; it puts a quicksand under every step; it injures the faculties so that they no longer work to any end; it undermines purpose and inspiration, and leaves no path for the feet but aimless desire or native instinct-life a maze, the heavens empty, the solid world the only reality! The lack of moral earnestness, the feeble sense of spiritual things, the material aims and standards of success, the

1 The Ring and the Book: "The Pope," ll. 1873-74. 2 Ibid.: "Guido," 11. 611-13.

SOUL-DWARFING UNBELIEF

163

push for wealth as the only real thing, the godlessness of society at large,-these are its signs and fruits."1

Are these results of scepticism things to boast of? Are these the signs of a manly, free, robust spirit? This spiritual anæmia, these paralyzed mental muscles, this dwarfed stature of the soul, this consumptive, wasted form-are these the physical signs of a man for aye removed from the developed brute"?2

"C

In the olden time there was but little scepticism; science was not at a man's elbow to disturb his faith. No man had to think for himself, his thinking was all done for him. Now-a-days, a young man without his theories and opinions on God, the Soul, the Future Life, and Faith is looked upon as a poor creature. He questions his parents' creed as soon as he smokes his first cigar, and has no sooner endowed himself with a practicable watch than he looks about for a theory of life.

"Doubt fingers at each crevice," and in an insane fear of being detected in believing what his elementary text-book of physical science says cannot be proved, he casts his faith overboard. We are justified in questioning, provided only our search be for truth, and our love

1

Munger, The Appeal to Life, p. 34.

2 Rabbi Ben Ezra.

3 Red Cotton Night-Cap Country.

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