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element. Supposing on the opinion side the gospel
story were to break down utterly, suppose every line
were proved beyond dispute to be a forgery, the result
of a compromise between mystic Jews and Indian
Buddhists, then the narrative would forfeit its place in
our belief indeed, but our belief would still look for,
and if found, welcome an embodiment in history of
itself, in events testifying to the moral nature of the
universe and the transcendental value of spiritual
things. For while our belief does not perhaps warrant
our prophesying that such a revelation must occur, it
surely makes it probable, and certainly more than
makes it credible, when attested.

The outcome of this is that we find in the Gospel
history and in doctrines duly deduced therefrom an
embodiment of our faith. It is plain that the main
outlines of the Gospel, the holiness of God, the claim of
holiness on man, and the resurrection, coincide with
our beliefs. We shall have to see presently whether
the other elements also find a place there and whether
we find anything in Christianity contrary to our faith.


The discussion of these points belongs to the following
Essays on Creed and the Christian Creed.

Two points must be made clear before passing on.
Firstly it may be said that we might "adopt" the
gospel story without any evidence or testimony, or even
if these were against it altogether. To this I say that
it is possible perhaps to do so, but it is, as before,
difficult to refute the charge of immorality if we
disregard evidence unless the guide for conduct chosen
in defiance of opinion be chosen on moral grounds. If
we merely adopt so much of the story as may voice our
beliefs, it is perhaps permissible, but of little value.
And this leads to the second point ; of what value is it
to incorporate this narrative into our beliefs ? To the
Christian it may seem that we are too subjective, and
are trying to measure out the gospel according to our
preconceived ideas; to the non-Christian that we are
weighting ourselves with an unnecessary burden. To
the former I reply, " Not at all. We are prepared to
go the whole length in accepting the consequences of
this step. Any doctrine that can fairly prove its claim
to be a deduction from the facts of this story and that
directly or indirectly affects conduct shall also command
our obedience ; unless indeed we should after careful
and reverent and sympathetic weighing conclude that
it does not truly make for the highest conduct. In
that case, and if it really is a necessary element of the
gospel story, we shall be forced to reject the whole. If


you complain now that we are after all measuring the
gospel by our moral judgment, I say that if / am to
accept it at all it must be either because it commends
itself to my moral or my rational judgment ; through
whatever by-paths of authority, / am necessarily my
own final court of appeal. And if I for the present
prefer the right as I see it to the reasonable as I see
it, can I be blamed ? especially by those who would
repudiate the name 'rationalist 1 '?"

On the other hand I object most strongly to the
idea that nothing is gained, and that the historical
narrative is unimportant to us. Apart from the value
of a corroboration 2 of our beliefs, there is the much
needed enlightenment and training of the spiritual
faculties only to be gained by the experience of subjec-
tion to the gospel standards and ideals. This subject
will be further expanded in the next Essays ; but most
important of all, it must never be forgotten that not
only do we derive the comforts of corroboration from

1 I am anxious that this point should be clear. If we here test
Christianity by our own beliefs and not vice versa, this by no means
implies that our beliefs are to measure what we will accept. It is
simply that starting from the elementary faith of the interregnum
we are looking for a religion embodying that faith. If Christianity
does this, we then propose to study its teaching in the spirit of
disciples. We are seeking our beliefs in it simply as one looks for
the hallmark on a thing claiming to be silver, and being assured of
the genuineness of the silver the hallmark is of no further importance.
Neither is a knowledge of the hallmark of any value by itself ; it is
the silver that wears it that makes it valuable.

3 See Appendix A, p. 136.


objective history, but apart from that history, and apart
from the spiritual objective facts that it reveals, our
faith has no power to produce the success for which it
sacrifices all else. To use theological terms, we shall
not be saved simply by believing that God saves us
unless there is actually a God willing and able to save
us. The objective fact is one of infinite value, and it is
a great gain to us that our faith should warrant, as its
corollary, the acceptance of an objective element into
our beliefs, an element which I consider in the present
state of the controversy can only lose its place in our
belief by abandoning our faith in the good altogether.

The importance of this conclusion will be more
evident when we reach the section on Opinion. Mean-
while, we have seen that our faith warrants our accepting
as a basis of conduct the essentials of the Christian
creed. In the next two Essays we shall discuss the
advantages of a creed and its limitations and disadvan-
tages ; and examine the Christian creed to see whether
it includes, as essential, anything not deducible from our
faith or anything opposed to it. I believe we could have
built up from our faith alone, confronted by various facts
of experience, other than historical, a system of beliefs
identical with all the main elements of Christianity
(lacking, of course, their objectivity and objective corro-
boration); but it seems simpler to take these ready made
as a creed and see if they are convertible into beliefs,
and this is what we must do in the following Essays.
H. 3



So to study the old as to acquire the new is the path to proficiency.

CONFUCIUS. Analects.

Formulas too, as we call them, have a reality in Human Life.
They are real as the very skin and muscular tissue of a Man's Life ;
and a most blessed indispensable thing, so long as they have vitality
withal, and are a living skin and tissue to him ! No man, or man's
life, can go abroad and do business in the world without skin and
tissues. CABLTLE. Past and Present.

LET us remind ourselves of the nature of creed. It
is a system of beliefs set up by someone outside myself.
If I can use its formulae to express my faith, then the
creed has become a belief. If I can erect my beliefs
into a system, that may become to someone else a
creed. Creed therefore is the medium of communica-
tion of beliefs. (If logically proved, either belief or
creed may become opinion or even conviction.) The
object of adopting a creed is to convert it into belief,
and a creed has only religious value in so far as it is
so converted. Hence too it follows that no article of
a creed is of religious value, or can be, unless it can
influence conduct.


From these considerations it is easy to see the
defects and advantages of creed compared with belief,
and to get an idea of the caution to be exercised in
adopting a creed.

The defects chiefly arise from the fact that a creed
expresses the thoughts of another, often so differently
circumstanced that the language and expressions used
have lost for us many of their connotations. In other
instances, doctrines have been developed from the in-
teraction of his beliefs with facts then unquestioned
but now disputed or discredited. There is danger too
of resting content with profession of a creed without the
serious attempt to convert it into beliefs; or of mis-
taking it for opinion and asserting it as such. These
dangers show clearly that a creed must be adopted with
caution and critically, to avoid dangers of anachronism
and formalism. One must also be continually on the
watch lest some hitherto unrecognised implication of
a doctrine be found to clash with our other beliefs.
At the same time, it must always be remembered that
it is one thing to set aside a doctrine as unimportant
and another to negate it.

Furthermore, a creed is composed of the same
elements as a belief. It has a fundamental proposi-
tion, deductions from this, and accessories derived from
the interaction of these fundamentals with facts of life
and of history ; also adjuvants, doctrines facilitating the
realisation of these ideals.



The following seem to me to be the more import-
ant rules and cautions to be observed in adopting a

1. No doctrine is of importance religiously unless
directly or indirectly it has an actual or potential
bearing on conduct.

2. In adopting any doctrine as a belief, unless its
connection with our faith is clear, we are committing
our conduct to the moral judgment of another. It is
exceedingly important to recognise this and to make
sure that that other is qualified by superior moral
excellence to guide us.

3. In its essentials, creed is of the same spiritual
value as the authority whence it comes, but in ac-
cessories the opinion of the man or his age also forms
a factor.

That is to say the practical ideals of the creed
are of fundamental importance, and must either voice
ours or commend themselves to us directly or through
the spiritual authority of the founders of the creed.

4. All deductions derive their value from their
logical implication in the premisses, and may be un-
important in themselves ; but the negation of them
may be fatal to the essential whence they are derived.

5. Adjuvant doctrines are valuable if they are
logically implied in the success of the practices they
inspire. If not, the practice alone is important.


6. At the same time a purely psychological ex-
planation of the effect of such a doctrine, when that
effect is universal, does not invalidate that doctrine or
deductions from it about the universe.

For example suppose prayer, inspired by the doc-
trine of a God able to hear prayer, were proved to be
allied to telepathy or autohypnotism ; still, if it be
universally true that prayer under certain conditions
receives answer, that fact testifies to a specific element
in the constitution of things; and since all our language
about the universe is figurative, the old doctrine remains
unaffected by the new discovery.

God is Law, say the wise ; soul, and let us rejoice,
For if He thunder by Law the thunder is yet His voice 1 .

It comes to this, then, that we select a creed in
essentials commending itself to us, and therefore em-
bodying our beliefs ; that we examine with reverence
its doctrines and endeavour to incorporate the root-
ideas in our belief when they spring truly from the
central ideal and develop it or aid in its realisation.
We are not to commit ourselves wholesale to every
detail, but to dig to the root of each doctrine. Some
may be set aside as not fully understood or as un-
important, many may need a restatement; but any
doctrines that enrich our ideas of the goodness of God,
the desirability of the good, or that elevate our moral

1 Tennyson, Higher Pantheism.


ideals or enable us to realise them more fully, will be
of value to us.

A few rules about the treatment of doctrines that
seem to us unimportant may be advisable, for, as
already said, it is important not to confuse disregard
with denial. It is not wise to negate a doctrine in a
creed of high spiritual authority unless it is fully under-
stood and

1. seen to be connected with its conduct-signifi-
cance by false logic,

2. the fact on which it is partly based is proved

3. it clearly involves some consequences clashing
with an essential of our belief, or of the creed itself,

4. the valuable part can be better restated.
With these cautions and provisions and with our

eyes wide open to the possible dangers lurking in
creeds, we shall find that the adoption of a creed
becomes an adjuvant of great value; for in the very
element that constitutes its weakness, there lies the
possibility of great advantage. Creed truly comes from
others, but if the valuable part can be made our own,
we can reap infinite benefit from this very fact. The
historic doctrines are venerable, not merely because
they are old, but because they represent the experience
of the spiritual geniuses of the world, men of many
temperaments and ages, but real, living, flesh and
blood men, faced with perennially recurring difficulties


and problems, now in one form, now in another, but
mostly much the same as those we meet with to-day.
This is more specially true the nearer we get to the
original Christian doctrines, which were struck out
from the hearts of earnest men trying to meet the
real with the ideal. Subsequent formulations of these,
for all their dry-bones air, represent a genuine effort
to summarise the practical experiences of the Church,
when it had been proved that this or that version of
a doctrine lent itself to deductions with a deleterious
effect on conduct ; and though we meet with many
absurd extravagances woven by monk logicians far
removed from real life, we can usually see that the
extravagance is derived from some imported element
of opinion since discredited. Wherefore we should not
be childish enough to be deterred by old-fashioned
figure and language. Our thought and language, vital
enough to us now, will be classed with these by suc-
ceeding generations.

Not only does creed convey to us the spiritual
experience of past ages, it also acts as a language of
communication of spiritual experience with our con-
temporaries, and it is for that reason that I urge the
value of it particularly; let us get such an insight
into the meaning of doctrines and their identity with
our beliefs that we can use " their great language " to
convey our ideals to others without a thought of cant,
and receive their impressions in the same way. The


value of such a fellowship to a man in the interregnum
can hardly be over-estimated, and it is because so many
are cut off from this by a fear of canting or a lack of
sympathy with others who have not felt intellectual
difficulties that I am so keen on the importance of
learning to clothe one's beliefs in conventional forms
for the sake of communication. All conventions have
their drawbacks. Science has its conventional language,
which has played havoc with much of the thought of
the age. The damage done by the phrase " Laws
of Nature " misunderstood is comparable to anything
in the history of religious language. Therefore I main-
tain that with proper precautions and a constant effort
to realise the meaning of phrases used in one's own
conduct, a sympathetic association with men of a
fundamentally similar aim, undisturbed by cavillings
at phraseology, can be kept up with a very great profit
to both, and should form part of the programme of
anyone truly anxious to realise the highest ideals.

I have anticipated somewhat in assuming that
Christianity will prove to be the creed for us. I
have already shown that it is reasonably open to us ;
it remains to show that it embodies our faith and
chief beliefs, that its ideals are the highest we can
know of, that its other essential doctrines link on to
the fundamentals by a logical process and that it
contains no doctrines opposed to these. The diffi-
culties of Christianity in reconciling itself with other


facts of life will be treated of under the heading of
" Opinion," and certain of the moral difficulties will
also be deferred till we come to the anti-Christian
systems founded on these difficulties. For the present
we shall confine ourselves to the main lines only, for
within Christianity at the present day there is no lack
of latitude on points non-essential.



He that covereth his transgressions shall not prosper, bnt whoso
confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy.

Proverbs xxviii. 13.

The subject of the Old Testament, Salvation by Righteousness, the
subject of the New, Righteousness by Jesus Christ.

MATTHEW ABNOLD. Literature and Dogma.
(Preface to popular edition, 1883.)

O trysting-place, where heavenly Love
And heavenly Justice meet.


BEFORE adopting Christianity as our creed we must
answer three questions :

1. Does it include our faith and beliefs ?

2. Does it include as essential anything not related
to these ?

3. Does it include anything at variance with
them ?

By adopting it as our creed we mean that

1. So far as we understand it we are already
desirous of living as we should if we knew it to be

2. We propose to develop our moral faculties in
the light of its teachings, following its authorities on
the ground of their spirituality ; not blindly, but with


the respect due to their spiritual eminence and ex-

3. We propose to make trial of its adjuvants to
help us to realise our ideals in practice.

Now to answer these questions.

To the first we could answer "Yes" without further
discussion, except that persons will be found who dis-
pute the moral ideals of Christianity.

To this in a state of interregnum no final answer
can be given : it is a question of judgment of experts ;
on the other hand for a starting point at any rate we
may assume the Christian ideals to be the highest
attainable. Attacks on them usually take one of two
lines ; either their basis, in a belief in God, is attacked,
or they are said to be too much or too little selfish.
Attacks on the basis do not any longer concern us now ;
and for me at least the outstanding example, of Christ
Himself, is sufficient proof that any indictment of
Christianity as weakly sentimental or selfishly in-
terested must rest on a misconception. True, my
success is involved in my holiness, but that holiness
is expressly defined as a love for others ; and St Paul
was prepared to forfeit his own share in that " success " if
that could have been of any use to his fellows 1 . But
why pretend indifference to a transcendental joy whose
attainment hurts no one, but which can only be reached
through unselfishness, and to forgo which would benefit
1 Romans ix. 3.


no one ? I cannot but think that the Christ-ideal is
high enough for any man to pursue without detriment,
at least until he is sure of a better ; and we are prepared
to keep our eyes open for defects in our creed if they
should turn up.

Taking then the " Christ-ideal " as equal to " the
highest," we certainly find that Christianity includes
our faith, for its fundamental proposition for conduct is
the claim of holiness ; and cosmologically, its funda-
mental proposition is "God is love"; which with
reference to our "success" becomes "All things work
together for good to them that love God 1 ." In these our
fundamental propositions are theologically expressed.

The answer to the second question demands a
fuller consideration. At first sight Christianity seems
to insist on much that is not relevant to our faith and
beliefs. Chief among these are doctrines of forgiveness
and atonement, of salvation, of faith in a different sense
from ours (at least apparently), and of the Divinity of

These really on examination will be found to be
pertinent to our beliefs. I hope it will be clearly
understood that I speak in a technical sense when I
call these doctrines "accessory." I do not for one
moment mean to cast any slur on their vital im-
portance. I mean only that they are derived partly
from the fundamental central proposition and partly
1 Romans viii. 28.


from other facts of life and history. The abstract idea,
for example, of being in England does not of itself
include any notion of travelling, much less of a steam-
boat. Couple with it the fact that I am in Peking as
I write, and the notion of a boat becomes cardinal.
For the realisation of it an actual concrete boat is
vital. So too the central Christian proposition does
not involve these doctrines, much less the realities
to which they refer ; but they become cardinally neces-
sary when that faith is faced with certain impasses of
life, in the way in which we saw the fact of death
elicited the hope of immortality from our fundamental

It will be simplest to take a summary of the bare
outlines of Christian doctrines drawn from a study of
the four Gospels and the New Testament generally.
It will now be clear why they are arranged in a
peculiar manner beginning from a generality and going
on to more particular elements. I am simply follow-
ing the same line as we followed in developing our

1. There is a life which leads to "success,"
" permanent result " ; spoken of as the " aeonic life,"
" salvation," etc.

2. The possession of this aeonic life is " salvation."

3. Ultimate salvation (heaven, the kingdom to be,
salvation), is only to be partaken of by the holy.

4. Therefore salvation is to come via holiness.


Thus far our essentials are expressed. Next come
a series of propositions arising from the combination
of this with our own observed defects sin. Since I am
not holy, am I debarred from salvation ? Christianity
opposes its faith in the love of God to this conclusion
and asserts that

5. Through the love of God, we are not debarred
from hoping for salvation in spite of failure, on certain

6. The possibility of salvation on these conditions
is no more a reward of merit but a free gift to man
from God's love. (This really follows on 5, but the
emphasis is different.)

For us the acceptance of these two propositions
needs only that we admit our own imperfection. From
this admission our faith and beliefs deduce them.

7. These conditions are confession, repentance and
faith (in the Christian sense).

It is plainly impossible to advance without an
admission of defect and a desire to rectify it ; the aim
at improvement involves these. And the desire to
rectify a moral defect, a defect of will, is nerdvoia.

Faith in the Christian sense will be readily seen to
be fundamentally identical with " faith " in our own
sense, only particularised by application to special
difficulties and to special concepts. Fundamentally it
is just the proposition that holiness is worth pursuit.
Applied to the impasse of our own sin as a barrier to


salvation it becomes a " looking away from self 1 ," it is
then faith as opposed to sight. We see nothing in our
past experience of ourselves to warrant a hope that it
is of any use for us to pursue holiness, yet we pursue.
Faith is therefore involved in the determination to
pursue undeterred by failure. In relation to a living
God, from Whose love we derive our hope of salvation
in spite of sin, it becomes a personal relation of trust
and obedience and an aim at progressive identification
of will.

For ourselves it seems clear enough that these
three steps are involved in the pursuit of holiness after
the experience of failure; but Christianity promises
further that

8. In response to faith the conduct shall pro-
gressively approximate to that holiness which never
ceases to be necessary to salvation 2 .

I insert this as a special paragraph because it
makes clear that something more is contained in
Christian faith than merely struggling on in spite of
failure. It implies a real hope of ultimate attainment.
This indeed follows on our beliefs in God and His love
of holiness, but Christianity lays so much stress on the
importance of a definite reliance on God, as rather

1 Cf. Abraham, quoted in Romans iv. 19 as a type of Christian

2 This is the essence of the doctrine of the Spirit. See Appendix
B, p. 138.


opposed to frantic efforts, that I think it would be
hardly fair to subsume it as involved in the effort.
Faith of this kind is a conscious psychological counter-
part of the logical statement of our faith in relation to
a loving God, and it finds its place in our system as an
adjuvant, a psychological adjuvant of universal applica-
tion. It is an observed fact, testified to by genera-
tions of Christians, that this attitude of mind leads to
moral success when others fail. That this fact has
its counterparts in other realms of psychological ex-

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