Page images
PDF
EPUB

the word we have to meditate to-day. Is it not Good Friday ?

To curse grief is easier than to bless it, but to do so is to fall back into the point of view of the earthly, the carnal, the natural man. By what has Christianity subdued the world if not by the apotheosis of grief, by its marvellous transmutation of suffering into triumph, of the crown of thorns into the crown of glory, and of a gibbet into a symbol of salvation ? What does the apotheosis of the Cross mean, if not the death of death, the defeat of sin, the beatification of martyrdom, the raising to the skies of voluntary sacrifice, the defiance of pain ? — O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory ?' — By long brooding over this theme - the agony of the just, peace in the midst of agony, and the heavenly beauty of such peace - humanity came to understand that a new religion was born, a new mode, that is to say, of explaining life and of understanding suffering.

Suffering was a curse from which man fled; now it becomes a purification of the soul, a sacred trial sent by Eternal Love, a divine dispensation meant to sanctify and ennoble us, an acceptable aid to faith, a

strange initiation into happiness. O power of belief! All remains the same, and yet all is changed. A new certitude arises to deny the apparent and the tangible; it pierces through the mystery of things, it places an invisible Father behind visible nature, it shows us joy shining through tears, and makes of pain the beginning of joy.

And so, for those who have believed, the tomb becomes heaven, and on the funeral pyre of life they sing the hosanna of immortality; a sacred madness has renewed the face of the world for them, and when they wish to explain what they feel, their ecstasy makes them incomprehensible; they speak with tongues. A wild intoxication of self-sacrifice, contempt for death, the thirst for eternity, the delirium of love, — these are what the unalterable gentleness of the Crucified has had power to bring forth. By his pardon of his executioners, and by that unconquerable sense in him of an indissoluble union with God, Jesus, on his cross, kindled an inextinguishable fire and revolutionised the world. He proclaimed and realised salvation by faith in the infinite mercy, and in the pardon granted to simple repentance. By his saying, “There is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repent

eth than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance,' he made humility the gate of entrance into Paradise.

Crucify the rebellious self, mortify yourself wholly, give up all to God, and the peace which is not of this world will descend upon you. For eighteen centuries no grander word has been spoken; and although humanity is for ever seeking after a more exact and complete application of justice, yet her secret faith is not in justice but in pardon, for pardon alone conciliates the spotless purity of perfection with the infinite pity due to weakness -- that is to say, it alone preserves and defends the idea of holiness, while it allows full scope to that of love. The Gospel proclaims the ineffable consolation, the good news, which disarms all earthly griefs, and robs even death of its terrors — the news of irrevocable pardon, that is to say, of eternal life. The Cross is the guarantee of the Gospel. Therefore it has been its standard.

7th May 1870. — The faith which clings to its idols and resists all innovation is a retarding and conservative force; but it is the property of all religion to serve as a curb to our lawless passion for freedom,

and to steady and quiet our restlessness of temper. Curiosity is the expansive force, which, if it were allowed an unchecked action upon us, would disperse and volatilise us; belief represents the force of gravitation and cohesion, which makes separate bodies and individuals of us. Society lives by faith, develops by science. Its basis, then, is the mysterious, the unknown, the intangible, — religion, — while the fermenting principle in it is the desire of knowledge. Its permanent substance is the uncomprehended or the divine ; its changing form is the result of its intellectual labour. The unconscious adhesions, the confused intuitions, the obscure presentiments, which decide the first faith of a people, are then of capital importance in its history. All history moves between the religion which is the genial, instinctive, and fundamental philosophy of a race, and the philosophy which is the ultimate religion, — the clear perception, that is to say, of those principles which have engendered the whole spiritual development of humanity.

It is always the same thing which is, which was, and which will be ; but this thing the absolute -- betrays with more or less transparency and profundity the law of its

life and of its metamorphoses. In its fixed aspect it is called God ; in its mobile aspect the world or nature. God is present in nature, but nature is not God; there is a nature in God, but it is not God Himself. I am neither for immanence nor for transcendence taken alone.

9th May 1870. — Disraeli, in his new novel, Lothair, shows that the two great forces of the present are Revolution and Catholicism, and that the free nations are lost if either of these two forces triumphs. It is exactly my own idea. Only, while in France, in Belgium, in Italy, and in all Catholic societies, it is only by checking one of these forces by the other that the State and civilisation can be maintained, the Protestant countries are better off ; in them there is a third force, a middle faith between the two other idolatries, which enables them to regard liberty not as a neutralisation of two contraries, but as a moral reality, self-subsistent, and possessing its own centre of gravity and motive force. In the Catholic world religion and liberty exclude each other. In the Protestant world they accept each other, so that in the second case there is a smaller waste of force.

« PreviousContinue »