Alexander Henry Craufurd.

Recollections of James Martineau: with some letters from him and an essay on his religion online

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teachers really mean by the doctrine of vicarious
suffering. St. Paul wishing himself accursed from
Christ for his brethren's sake, and James Hinton
feeling it to be almost wrong that he should be
in spiritual health, whilst others were sick and
sinful, were to him unintelligible mysteries speak-
ing in an unknown tongue. He once said to me
that, whilst he thoroughly understood suffering
for the sake of others, he could not understand
suffering instead of others.

And yet it appears to me that human life is
full of striking instances of this latter way of


suffering and of its blessed results. Every soldier,
in time of war, who freely gives his life for his
comrade or his officer, affords an example of
vicarious suffering. It has been said of John
Bunyan that, after prolonged agony, he finally
found peace by reading a translation of Luther's
commentary on St. Paul's epistle to the Galatians.
Now, if Luther had suffered less, it seems certain
that he would not have been able to minister so
effectually to Bunyan's wants, and so Bunyan
would have suffered more. Hence it would seem
quite legitimate to say that by the stripes of
Luther John Bunyan was healed.

Nature appears to be far more bent on making
us social beings than on making us rigidly just.
It forces on us co-operation as a condition of
thriving ; and continued co-operation begets
sympathy ; and thus Nature is not quite so
hostile to morality as Huxley supposed it to be.
It lays a broad and firm foundation for human
goodness, though apparently caring little for any
superstructure of developed ethics. In some ways
Deism was an unnatural and artificial religion.
Under the name of unintelligible superstitions,
it cast aside some of the very finest and most
operative ingredients of the best and most pro-


foundly human culture. Disgusted with the un-
sightly husks of orthodox doctrines, it cast aside
their inner kernel of meaning. For one soul to
save another by sucking the poison out of its
wounds appeared to Deistical religion impossible,
if not immoral. It could not understand that
deep and noble instinct of self-sacrifice which
makes some men willing to go to hell for the sake
of others ; and so it knew not the crowning glory
of our nature. In Charles Kingsley's well-known
story, " Two Years Ago," the saintly heroine is
represented as so pierced with sorrow and com-
passion for her thieving mother that she came to
wish that she herself might have been the criminal,
in order that her mother might be free from guilt
and vileness. The state of mind thus exhibited,
though unintelligible to conventional and pruden-
tial Deism, is in full harmony with the grandest
Christianity. In it we discern sympathy in ex-
celsis, a veritable reflection of the cross of Calvary,
a reproduction of that fathomless pity which
caused Christ to identify himself with struggling
and erring humanity in such a penetrating and
marvellous way that its sins became a real
element of his consciousness, and, to use the
daring language of St. Paul, " He was made sin


for us." Assuredly man's nature has in it
greater, more glorious, and more startling capa-
cities than any dreamt of by the old formal
Unitarianism. The heroism even of sinners often
has in it something nobler and more Godlike than
anything to be found in the cold temples of prim
and calculating religion. The powers of sym-
pathy, like those of electricity, have often a range
and a force which falsify the computations of
unhopeful observers. Many who cannot save
themselves are yet very effectually redeemed by

Dr. Martineau seems to have very frequently
felt the cramping limitations of that portion of
his old creed which he retained. Mysticism often
irradiated his lingering Deism. He often spoke
of God as the " Soul of all Souls." Still, even to
the end of his days this great thinker was in some
ways rather starved by an inadequate spiritual
diet. He sought for richer and more vitalising
nourishment in the writings of Luther and
Tauler, in the " Theologia Germanica," and in
the hymns of the Wesleys. At times he perceived
clearly the incurable deficiencies of the old
Unitarianism ; and he thought that the best
future of liberal Christianity in our country is


not likely to be with the Unitarians, but with the
Presbyterians in Scotland and with the Con-
gregationalists in England. The appalling spiritual
and emotional dryness of the devotees of his own
creed often disgusted him and filled him with
despair. In turning their backs on the Holy
Spirit of the orthodox churches, Unitarians
appear too often to have also banished Emerson's
Over-Soul, which might be thought in some
degree to perform the offices of a kind of un-
sectarian Holy Ghost impartially vivifying man's
whole higher life.

To those who really knew the noble and most
faithful spirit of James Martineau there is some-
thing intensely pathetic in the sad undertone of
abiding dissatisfaction which breathes through
many of the most beautiful lyrical utterances to
be found in his three volumes of discourses.
Though he believed firmly in the final and uni-
versal victory of the divine goodness, there is
scarcely a single note of triumph to be heard in
those glorious soliloquies ; still less can we find
a trace of self-satisfaction. Everywhere is heard
the plaintive cry of baffled Paul, " Not as though
I had already attained " ; " And now we see
through a glass darkly." His present religion


was to this aspiring pilgrim no satisfying home,
but rather a lofty and solitary watch-tower, from
which, through long years of patient waiting, he
dimly descried the phantom forms of mightier
redeemers in a distant land. An acquiescent and
wistful sorrowfulness was his habitual mood. At
times he appears to have perceived that the
better sort of Evangelical religion has in it greater
regenerating forces than any contained in Uni-
tarianism ; and so he wrote to me with warm
approval concerning an article which I had
written on " The Strength and Weakness of
Evangelicalism " ; and he told me that many
years ago he had given much offence to some of
his brethren by delivering lectures advocating
much the same views as those expressed in my
article. Beyond question, his deepest affinities
were with faith, and not with Agnosticism, with
Fenelon, Pascal, and Leigh ton, and not with
Mr. Herbert Spencer, nor with the arid wisdom
of unspiritual rationalism. His head was often
with the unsparing critics, whilst his heart was
with Paul and John. Like the lonely Amiel, he
sometimes felt keenly his exclusion from the
society with which he really had most in common.
His formal creed tore him up by the roots from


the soil that was the most truly congenial to his
loftiest instincts. The deep-souled mystic within
him often sat down and wept in the Babylon into
which earlier intellectual convictions had led him.

Yet even in the comparative dimness of his
partial captivity he sometimes poured forth im-
mortal strains of celestial music. Exiled by the
churches, he was consoled and consecrated by
the Cosmos. The spirit of Plato never forsook
him. Intellectual beauty nourished his higher
life. Philosophy tranquillised him. Serenity in
some measure made up for the absence of jubilant
hopefulness. Self-effacing resignation brought
him a kind of peace. In him there was neither
bitterness nor murmuring. To him it was given
to think many of God's thoughts after Him, though
the glorious riches of the divine heart were in some
measure veiled from his longing eyes. Mysticism,
like some struggling sun, often pierced through
the besetting gloom and darkness of his house of
bondage. Angels sometimes came and touched
his mouth with live coals taken from God's most
central altars ; and then this baffled pilgrim
spoke of heavenly things as none but the true
prophets of the Eternal can ever speak.

In the days of his partial captivity this great


teacher gathered together the materials for a
spacious and noble temple to be erected here-
after by his followers. He laid the strong founda-
tions on which others might build ; he sowed
in tears what others may reap in joy. Out of
the stony griefs of his sorrowful experience his
disciples are enabled to build an enduring house of
God, in which his bygone privations and suffer-
ings are utilised and glorified. His prolonged
sojourn in the " barren and dry land " of Deism
has caused us to see more clearly the indispensable
necessity of that richer and more vitalising re-
ligion for which his deep spirit yearned through
long and unsatisfied years.

To some readers of this essay it may perhaps
appear as if I had chiefly disparaged rather than
extolled the religious services rendered to our
race by my beloved master and friend ; but this
is not really the case. Certainly I do not think
that James Martineau was a great redeemer of
sinners. I do not think that he had an adequate
gospel for fervent and struggling souls. He never
knew how deeply God pities aspiring sinners.
Compared with the strong consolation offered us
by Luther, by Theodore Parker, by Erskine of
Linlathen, by Maurice, and by Charles Kingsley,


the evangel delivered by Martineau often seems
to me " as moonlight unto sunlight, as water
unto wine." Like the teaching of Emerson, it
was too ethereal and ghostlike, too lacking in the
warm blood of passionate human fellowship. It
was also rather too severe, exacting, and dis-
couraging. For men in general it had little of
the constraining attractiveness of the gospel of
the great Son of Man. Whilst it entranced the
lovers of intellectual beauty, it failed to allure
to itself the world's forlorn multitude of publicans
and sinners. Men took to it their doubts and
perplexities, but not their sore wounds and their
shocking spiritual diseases. It never adequately
answered the urgent demand of St. Philip, " Show
us the Father, and it sumceth us." As I have
already intimated, the benignant face of the all-
pitying Father was to a great extent veiled
beneath the stern iron mask of the rigid moral
legislator. Deism, or even ordinary Unitarianism,
is not a sufficiently human religion. It seems
to ignore the truth that it is only through the
tenderest and most compassionate humanity that
we can learn in any degree what the divine love
is. Whilst professing to concentrate all its
worship on the Father only, it is yet abundantly


manifest that its revelation of that Father is
immeasurably less rich, vivid, and satisfying than
that of those who honour the Son as the true
mediator between God and man. In their dread
of Polytheism many Unitarians appear to have
relapsed into an austere Judaism.

However, it is plain enough that we need a
great variety of choice gifts from God ; and we
must not judge of the value of these gifts by a
coarsely Utilitarian standard. We must not dis-
parage God's stars because they will not light
the fires of our domestic hearths. The bleak,
lonely Alpine heights of the spiritual world have
their own uses or functions to fulfil just as much
as the fertile plains have theirs. Man does not
live by bread alone, nor by affection alone. The
Sublime is a part of our heritage and our edu-
cation. The very fact that our Platos, our
Spinozas, and our Martineaus, like some towering
and inaccessible mountain peaks, transcend our
low limitations, makes them in some ways the
more valuable and suggestive. They speak to
us all the more imperiously of heaven because
they are so remote from the dust and din and
tumult of earth. We cannot habitually breathe
their rarefied air ; but by our occasional visits


to them our waning strength is renewed, our
highest faculties are expanded and vivified, our
imagination grows bolder, and the narrowness
of our provincial wisdom is corrected and en-
larged by the cosmical wisdom of those who, for
the most part, " cease from man " and hold
habitual though silent communion with the far-
off immensities and eternities which condition
and hem in our little insignificant dwelling-place.
From these austere teachers we learn intellectual
disinterestedness and detachment. From them
we learn to be quiet and still. In their presence
heated disputation is impossible ; every form of
sectarianism seems paltry and childish. We
leave behind " our churches and our charities."
Their " many-coloured domes " no longer " stain
the white radiance of eternity." We are for a
time made citizens of the universe. We are
baptized into the Infinite.

In our long and perilous pilgrimage from
animality to spirituality we need the assistance
of guides or teachers of two widely different sorts.
We need some to enlighten and instruct us and
to point out the path of safety. We need others
to take us by the hand and lead us in hours of
discouragement and weakness. We need lofty


and sublime monitors ; and we also need beings
cast in a more mundane mould, who may be to
us friends of our inmost souls and sharers of our
toil and strife with all their attendant failures.
We need " Shining Ones," like Plato, Swedenborg,
Emerson, and Martineau, to convince us of the
reality of heavenly things and to thrill our souls
with immortal hopes. And we need " Great-
hearts," like Luther and Theodore Parker, to fight
our worst and fiercest enemies. We lean more
heavily on guides of the latter class, whilst we
specially revere and look up to leaders of the
former class, as rarer and more august visitants.
To the one class we give more of our admiration
and awe-struck devotion, whilst to the other we
give more of our personal affection. To the one
class we offer a soul-felt homage at times almost
verging on adoration, and to the other we pour
forth words of warmest thanksgiving. The one
class speaks to us of our far-off and long-lost ideal,
whilst the other ministers to our actual. We
love and value both these blessed emissaries from
the Eternal. We love and value God's incarnate
seraphs, through whose diaphanous earthly ves-
ture we catch some glimpses of that intellectual
glory and that radiant moral purity whose real


home is in the far-off heaven of His immediate
presence. And we also love and value tender
and profoundly human missionaries of pity sent
to seek and to save that which is lost. As we
realise the great and abiding functions of both
these noble benefactors of our pilgrim race, we
thank our Creator for both of them ; we feel that
both are indispensable ; and we express our
immense though varying admiration in the dis-
criminating words of one who said, as his keen
eyes gazed on the distinct though often com-
mingling splendours of divine and human ex-
cellence as revealed to us, " The glory of the
celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial
is another ; and one star differeth from another
star in glory."

Note. — If I were asked to express exactly in a few-
words the most vital difference between the gospel of
Martineau and that of Christ, I should say that, whilst
the former exhibited a general love for sinners as a part
of the human race, the latter exhibited a special love.
Jesus realised the infinite pathos of the condition of
many of them. He sought to make excuses for them.
To some extent he held the view of Plato, that no man
is willingly wicked. To some extent he thought men's
sinfulness often more their misfortune than their fault.
He cared more to redeem outcasts than to educate


those already good. His heart was more with the one
lost sheep than with the ninety and nine who were safe
at home. He was more impressed with the misery of
transgressors in general than with their vileness. He
sorrowed over men's unhappiness without any exact
consideration of their moral deserts. He put Himself
on a level with the multitude. He had a very special
tenderness for those who had never been given any real
chance of moral and spiritual development in this world.
He would have sympathised profoundly with the beauti-
ful spirit of an old Arabian prayer which besought God
to be especially merciful to the wicked, and added, as
a cogent reason for such mercy, these bold and wise
words, " To the good Thou hast already been sufficiently
merciful in making them good." I think that James
Martineau would have been a far more effective re-
deemer of sinners, if he had been able — as he was not
— to enter into the full significance of that wise old
prayer. It is well for the world at large that Christ
" took not on Himself the nature of angels."

It is due to Dr. Martineau to notice the fact that in
the second volume of his " Hours of Thought on Sacred
Things," in a sermon called " How sayest Thou, ' Show
us the Father,' " he expresses a less Deistic view than he
habitually held as to God's attitude towards the repentant
sinner. He writes thus : " To conceive of God as having,
by His own Law of Righteousness, deprived Himself of
all flexible and proportionate mercy, and become com-
mitted to some definite and relentless retribution, is to
carry over into the supernatural realm a conception ap-
plicable no further than the natural. It is only in the
outward system of the world that He has given notice,
by invariable uniformity, that we must stereotype our


expectations, and that He will deal with us as if He
were under a bond of persistency. Only there, accord-
ingly, it is that no release can be given till the full
sentence upon our sin has been worked out."

But this more lenient and more fully Christian teach-
ing is scarcely in harmony with other utterances of the
same philosopher. The last of his great works was
"The Seat of Authority in Religion," and in that he
seems definitely to return to his accustomed Deistical
conception as to God's power or willingness to mitigate
many of the consequences of sin. It was only on very
rare occasions, in moments of unusual insight and re-
ligious exaltation, that this Unitarian thinker realised
at all adequately the redeeming efficacy of God's un-
fathomable pity and love.

On earth he never knew Christ adequately. He never
realised the vast range and the constraining invincibility
of profoundest human compassion. He never heard
its triumphant voice addressing the very worst sinners
in tones of the most confident moral optimism. He
needed to be transplanted into a more genial world ere
he could enter into the full significance of that intense
hopefulness of the Son of Man which made Him claim
the whole human race as His predestined kinsmen,
which nerved Him to look through transient sinfulness
to final holiness, so that, even whilst He gazed with
penetrating vision on the appalling spectacle of almost
universal corruption, He could utter those daring words
of undaunted assurance of final and universal victory
and deliverance, " All power is given unto me in heaven
and in earth."







As Dr. Martineau in these letters refers to three
of the present writer's books, it may be well to
explain that those called " The Unknown God "
and " Enigmas of the Spiritual Life " are now
out of print. The other work, called " Christian
Instincts and Modern Doubt " can be obtained
easily from James Clarke & Co., 13 & 14 Fleet
Street, London.

The Polchar, Rothiemurchus,

June 25, 1892.

Dear Mr. Craufurd— I am delighted to find
within the early pages of your " Enigmas " a just
and telling criticism of James Hinton's extra-
ordinary paradoxes. Much as I respected the
man, I never could quit a conversation of any
length with him without a misgiving as to his


sanity.* In the Metaphysical Society not a
member could profess to understand him ; and
his written comments on the subject of the
evening's discussion failed to elicit any remark.
Miss Haddon, however, seems to feel no difficulty
in interpreting him.

Yours very sincerely,

James Martineau.

The Polchar, Rothikmurchus,

July 28, 1892.

Dear Mr. Craufurd, — I have read through
your " Enigmas " with deep interest and various
admiration. In brilliancy of literary execution
it is a rare book. Being in sympathy with what
is positive in its fundamental principles, I find
its criticisms on Cotter Morison, Comte, Henry
Drummond, Huxley, John Stuart Mill, and
F. W. Newman just and forcible. The strain of

* James Hinton was a well-known aurist and a man well versed
in science. He was perfectly sane in the ordinary sense of the
word ; but his metaphysics were so extremely eccentric as to
suggest that their origin must have been in Bedlam. The best
thing that he has left the world is his very interesting and sugges-
tive little work on "The Mystery of Pain."


thought throughout the volume, which concen-
trates itself in the fine essay on " Man's Need of
Religion," is profoundly true and touching, and
may well effect all that you desire with those
who can trust themselves to a mainly emotional
faith. If others, of less susceptible temperament,
rise from your pages with a feeling of intellectual
insecurity, I should refer it to your avowed
leaning in the direction of modern pessimism,*
which leads to a statement of difficulties more
extended and more forcible than are the replies,
and induces a painful misgiving about the divine
basis and governance of life.

I appreciate and reverence the profound spirit
of compassion with which you look upon the
defects and sorrows of the world. But this com-
passion itself must die in a shriek of despair, and
make two miseries in place of one, unless it catches
the inspiration of hope, which none can feel but
conscious fellow-workers with a Living God of
Righteousness and Love. To the revindication
of this Christian optimism all our preaching
should, I think, be directed. I have no faith
whatever in " The Ideal " or any such abstract

* This is a mistake, though I should certainly be a pessimist if
I had no hope of a future life for our race beyond the grave.


idol to heal the sufferings and banish the sins
of humanity. All depends on the maintenance
of the life in God, the immediate communion
of each responsible soul with the Soul of all

" The Unknown God " has been in the hands
of my friend, Professor Upton ; but I shall now
take it up.

Ever cordially yours,

James Martineau.

The Polchar, Rothiemurchus,

August 1 8, 1892.

Dear Mr. Craufurd, — " The Unknown God "
has interested me quite as deeply as your other
work, " Enigmas " ; for, though I recognise in it
the traces of a stage of thought somewhat less
mature, I find a peculiar charm in its flashes of
unguarded feeling and intense expression. The
sermons which move me most are the second on
" The Things that Cannot be Shaken " and that
on " The Helplessness of Man." You transport
me into a mood in which I hate to criticise ;
and yet, as you ask me to define my impres-


sions, I must try to give them in intelligible

In general, I find myself in sympathy with
your admirations, and at variance only with your
aversions. Your great store of enthusiasm and
compassionate affection pours itself, I should say,
in too exclusive a flood upon the sins and miseries
of unregulated passion. I catch myself, as I
read, pleading for a gentler judgment on common-
place people of the conscientious type, beneath
the evenness of whose life there often — even
usually — lie a depth and unselfishness of char-
acter essentially, though silently, heroic. It is
not to these, the faithful without romance, but
to the mock-righteous and the self-righteous,
that Christ prefers the publicans and sinners,
who, when converted by your forgiving love,
can only be brought to the very harmony
of desire and will with which you contrast

It is from the same proclivity that I shrink
from the antithesis in which you frequently
present morality and religion ; whereby you make
a present of the former term to the expediency
arithmeticians of external action. To me moral
life is wholly internal, consisting in the right


order of prevalence among the springs of action ;
and, as this right order emerges into consciousness
with an inseparable sense of divine authority, it

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Online LibraryAlexander Henry CraufurdRecollections of James Martineau: with some letters from him and an essay on his religion → online text (page 11 of 12)