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HAVING laid down the solid foundations of a reasonable religious belief, Browning has not thought it necessary to introduce us to any one of the various Churches professing the Christian faith. In leading us to believe in God as our Creator and loving Father, and in Jesus Christ our Saviour, in assuring us of the infinite worth of our immortal souls, and the value of life as a preparation for a future state of immortality, he has not thought it necessary to urge the claims of any particular body of Christians.
In Christmas Eve and Easter Day he rebukes the contemptuous attitude of the visitor to the little chapel where Christ is worshipped in a manner neither æsthetic nor intellectual; he shows us how in a vision he was transported to St. Peter's at Rome; here he thinks he can see error, but he is sure he can see the love and power of the Crucified One. Again, he is transported to a lecture-hall in the university town of Göttingen, where a professor was making very small dust of "the Christ-myth," yet in
233 reducing it to fragments, he bids his hearers treasure the precious dust as the most costly product of human imagination, and venerate the man as before. The visitor now resolves to value religion for itself, be very careless of its sects, and cultivate a mild indifferentism; but this, he learns, is to forsake Christ, and it is borne in upon him that there must be one best way of worship. Again he finds himself in the little dissenting chapel, where the water of life was being dispensed with a strong taint of the soil in a poor earthen vessel. His critical attitude has vanished, he will be content with 'Gospel simplicity." This is all the hint we have of Browning's ecclesiastical position. Browning was educated in Nonconformity, and doubtless to his imaginative mind and powerful intellectualism the symbols and ornaments of religion were not necessary. He could create his appropriate surroundings; but we cannot all do this, and for inferior minds "the clothes of religion" are of real importance. What they may be the poet does not tell us. The great thing is to be sure we have the water of life, the material and shape of the cup from which we drink it does not seem to him to be of much consequence.
WORKS BY EDWARD BERDOE.
THE BROWNING CYCLOPÆDIA.
A Guide to the Study of the Works of ROBERT BROWNING, with copious Explanatory Notes and References on all difficult passages. Second Edition. Pp. xx, 572. Price 10s. 6d.
SOME OPINIONS OF THE PRESS.
"Conscientious and painstaking.”—Times. "A serviceable book, and deserves to be widely bought."The Spectator.
"A book of far-reaching research and careful industry.”– Scotsman.
"A most learned and creditable piece of work.”—Vanity Fair.
"A monument of industry and devotion."-Bookman.
BROWNING'S MESSAGE TO HIS TIME.
HIS RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY, AND SCIENCE. With Portrait and Facsimile Letters. (Dilettante Library.) Third Edition. Price 3s. 6d.
OPINIONS OF THE PRESS.
“Full of admiration and sympathy.”—Saturday Review. "Should have a wide circulation; it is interesting and stimulative.”—Literary World.
"We have no hesitation in strongly recommending this little volume to any who desire to understand the moral and mental attitude of Robert Browning. We are much obliged to Dr. Berdoe for his volume."-Oxford University Herald.