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34 BROWNING'S IDEA OF PERSONALITY
inadequate and therefore misleading term'speech must babble thus!' Even supposing—a supposition which seems to me to have no basis, and to be due to superficial study-Browning does teach a personal God, his God is at all events a Being of a glorious kind whom we could feel glad to worship, far different from the diabolical God or divine Devil whom many are still taught to praise and pray to.”1
Mr. Bury's very partial quotation from The Pope does not suffice to explain Browning's meaning. He makes the Pontiff say, in his address to God
"O Thou, as represented here to me
Our known unknown, our God revealed to man.
Existent somewhere, somehow, as a whole;
Appreciable solely by Thyself,
Here, by the little mind of man, reduced
To littleness that suits his faculty,
In the degree appreciable too.” 2
Man's mind, as a convex glass, gathers the scattered points of the immensity to re-unite them, and so obtains such a personal God from
Browning Studies, p. 41.
2 The Ring and the Book: "The Pope," ll. 1308-23.
WHAT IS MEANT BY A PERSONAL GOD 35 the Infinite as is suited to his limited capacity. Having no power to conceive the Abstract, he is forced to accept a Concrete idea of God. But this is no argument against a Personal Supreme Being. Browning seems to have had in his mind, in writing the above passage, the words of St. Thomas Aquinas when he anticipated and answered Spinoza's objection that God is necessarily limited by being defined. He puts the objection: "What is here and not there, is finite as to place; therefore, what is this and not that is finite as to substance. But God is this and not that, for He is neither wood nor stone; and therefore He is not infinite as to substance." He replies: "The fact that the Being of God subsists in itself, and not in any subject, shows that His infinity is different from all other infinities. If whiteness subsisted by itself, it would by that fact alone be distinct from all whiteness existing in subjects." 1
"Personality," says Lotze, in reply to Strauss, "is not founded on the distinction of self from a not-self, but on self-subsistence, which selfconsciousness affirms, without reference to that which is not self. The Personality of God, therefore, does not necessarily involve the distinction by God of Himself from what is not Himself, and so does not imply His limitation or finiteness; on the contrary, perfect personality is to 1 Summa, Pt. I., Qu. vii., Art. 1.
36 GOD THE ONLY PERFECT PERSONALITY
be found only in God, while in all finite spirits there exists only a weak imitation of personality. The finiteness of the finite is not a productive condition of personality, but rather a hindering barrier to its perfect development."1 St. Thomas again, says "Person' expresses that which is most perfect in nature, subsistence in a rational nature. As, then, we should predicate of God all that is most perfect, since His Essence contains every perfection of creatures, we must predicate personality of Him, not as of creatures, but in the higher sense in which attributes of creatures are applied to God."2
1 Mikrokosmus, vol. iii., p. 576.
2 Summa, Pt. I., Qu. xxxix., Art. 3. See these and other notes on the subject in Hettinger's Natural Religion, pp. 170-171.
JESUS CHRIST: GOD AND MAN
BROWNING teaches that man knows God, but chooses to ignore Him. The child, the savage, the natural man recognize God in some form or other. "All know, none is ignorant,"1 of this fact at least.
"But man Ignores-thanks to Thee
Atheism implies, therefore, either a defect in the reasoning power, some hypertrophy of one side of the thinking capacity which obscures the faculty by which we apprehend God, or the affectation of a superior intellect which puts us above the " common herd," who are content with the generally-accepted teaching about the Supreme Being. Such persons, by the misuse of the reasoning faculty God has given them, ignore the Creator of the reason, choosing to say there is no God. Probably few, if any, dogmatic Atheists exist; Agnosticism is the fashion of the
1 Parleyings with Fust and his Friends.
GOD REVEALED BY CHRIST
day. Merely to know God intellectually, though it may prove that we possess sound reasoning faculties, will not satisfy our hearts. We may believe in the existence of a God, and deny that He has revealed Himself to us; we are then Deists. We may believe in a personal God, and then we are called Theists. "Theism may be as serious an obstacle to the reception of the Christian Gospel as Atheism; for the God of many Theists is a God so remote from man that it is inconceivable to them that He should have become Man at the impulse of an infinite love for our race, and should have lived a life of conflict and of suffering, and died a death of shame and horror for our salvation." 1 The belief that this Personal God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ constitutes a belief in Christianity, and this was the faith which Browning held. The poems Christmas Eve and Easter Day are meaningless if they do not express their author's belief in the divinity of our Lord and His atoning sacrifice. Christ is no fable or myth to Browning; for the Göttingen professor who taught that doctrine he prays
"May Christ do for him what no mere man shall, And stand confessed as the God of salvation ! " 2
1 Dr. Dale's Christian Doctrine, p. 40.