Miscellanea (4)
Home Up Autobiography Thoughts at Fourscore Gulf of Time Old Fashioned Stories Self-help Prison Rhymes, etc. Baron's Yule Feast Purgatory of Suicides Paradise of Martyrs Poets of the Poor Main Index Site Search
 


 

CORRESPONDENCE WITH
CHARLES KINGSLEY.

Taken from
CHARLES KINGSLEY, His Letters and Memories of his Life
edited by his wife.

 Published Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., London, 1888.


Rev. Charles Kingsley (1819 – 1875)
Church of England clergyman, Christian Socialist,
university professor, historian, and novelist.
From a carte-de-visite.



THE following are extracts given without regard to dates, from letters to Mr. Thomas Cooper, Chartist, author of the "Purgatory of Suicides."  When Mr. Kingsley first knew Thomas Cooper, he was lecturing on Strauss, to working men; but after a long struggle his doubts were solved.  He is now at the age of 70, a preacher of Christianity.[1]


――――♦――――

 
    February 15, 1850.—"Many thanks for your paper.  On Theological points I will say nothing.  We must have a good long stand-up fight some day, when we have wind and time.  In the mean time, I will just say, that I believe as devoutly as you, Goethe, or Strauss, that God never does—if one dare use the word, never can—break the Laws of Nature, which are His Laws, manifestations of the eternal ideas of His Spirit and Word—but that Christ's Miracles seem to me the highest realizations of those very laws.  How? you will ask—to which I answer.  You must let me tell you by-and-bye.  Your thinkings from Carlyle are well chosen.  There is much in Carlyle's 'Chartism' and the 'French Revolution,' and also in a paper called 'Characteristics,' among the miscellanies, which is 'good doctrine and profitable for this age.'  I cannot say what I personally owe to that man's writings.

    "But you are right, a thousand times right, in saying that the [co-operative] movement is a more important move than any Parliamentary one.  It is to get room and power for such works, and not merely for any abstract notions of political right that I fight for the suffrage.  I am hard at work—harder, the doctors say, than is wise.  But 'the days are evil, and we must redeem the time,'—Our one chance for all the Eternities, to do a little work in for God and the people, for whom, as I believe, He gave His well-beloved Son.  That is the spring of my work, Thomas Cooper; it will be yours; consciously or unconsciously it is now, for aught I know, if you be the man I take you for. . . ."


――――♦――――


 
EVERSLEY: November 2, 1853.—"Your friend is a very noble fellow.[2]  As for converting either you or him, what I want to do, is to make people believe in the Incarnation, as the one solution of all one's doubts and fears for all heaven and earth; wherefore I should say boldly, that, even if Strauss were right, the thing must either have happened somewhere else, or will happen somewhere some day, so utterly does both my reason and conscience, and, as I think, judging from history, the reason and conscience of the many in all ages and climes, demand an Incarnation.  As for Strauss [Ed.probably David Friedrich Strauss], I have read a great deal of him, and his preface carefully.  Of the latter, I must say that it is utterly illogical, founded on a gross petitio principii; as for the mass of the book, I would undertake, by the same fallacious process, to disprove the existence of Strauss himself, or any other phenomenon in heaven or earth.  But all this is a long story.  As long as you do see in Jesus the perfect ideal of man, you are in the right path, you are going toward the light, whether or not you may yet be allowed to see certain consequences which, as I believe, logically follow from the fact of His being the ideal.  Poor ――'s denial (for so I am told) of Jesus being the ideal of a good man, is a more serious evil far.  And yet Jesus Himself said, that, if any one spoke a word against the Son of Man (i.e. against Him as the perfect man) it should be forgiven him; but the man who could not be forgiven either in this world or that to come, was the man who spoke against the Holy Spirit, i.e. who had lost his moral sense and did not know what was righteous when he saw it—a sin into which we parsons are as likely to fall as any men, much more likely than the publicans and sinners.  As long as your friend, or any other man loves the good, and does it, and hates the evil and flees from it, my Catholic creeds tell me that the Spirit of Jesus, 'the Word,' is teaching that man; and gives me hope that either here or hereafter, if he be faithful over a few things, he shall be taught much.  You see, this is quite a different view from either the Dissenters or Evangelicals, or even the High-Church parsons.  But it is the view of those old 'Fathers' whom they think they honour, and whom they will find one day, in spite of many errors and superstitions, to be far more liberal, humane, and philosophical than our modern religionists. . . . . "


――――♦――――


 
    TORQUAY: 1854.—"I am now very busy at two things.  Working at the sea-animals of Torbay for Mr. Gosse, the naturalist, and thundering in behalf of sanitary reform.  Those who fancy me a 'sentimentalist' and a 'fanatic' little know how thoroughly my own bent is for physical science; how I have been trained in it from earliest boyhood; how I am happier now in classifying a new polype, or solving a geognostic problem of strata, or any other bit of hard Baconian induction, than in writing all the novels in the world; or how, again, my theological creed has grown slowly and naturally out of my physical one, till I have seen, and do believe more and more utterly, that the peculiar doctrines of Christianity (as they are in the Bible, not as some preachers represent them from the pulpit) coincide with the loftiest and severest science.  This blessed belief did not come to me at once, and therefore I complain of no man who arrives at it slowly, either from the scientific or religious side; nor have I yet spoken out all that is in me, much less all that I see coming; but I feel that I am on a right path, and please God, I will hold it to the end.  I see by-the-bye that you have given out two 'Orations against taking away human life.'  I should be curious to hear what a man like you says on the point, for I am sure you are free from any effeminate sentimentalism, and by your countenance, would make a terrible and good fighter, in a good cause.  It is a painful and difficult subject.  After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that you cannot take away human life.  That animal life is all you take away; and that very often the best thing you can do for a poor creature is to put him out of this world, saying, 'You are evidently unable to get on here.  We render you back into God's hands that He may judge you, and set you to work again somewhere else, giving you a fresh chance as you have spoilt this one.'  But I speak really in doubt and awe . . . .  When I have read your opinions I will tell you why I think the judicial taking away animal life to be the strongest assertion of the dignity and divineness of human life; [3] and the taking away life in wars the strongest assertion of the dignity and divineness of national life."


――――♦――――


 
    1855.— "―― sent me some time ago a letter of yours, in which you express dissatisfaction with the 'soft indulgence' which I and Maurice attribute to God . . . . 

    "My belief is, that God will punish (and has punished already somewhat) every wrong thing I ever did, unless I repent—that is, change my behaviour therein; and that His lightest blow is hard enough to break bone and marrow.  But as for saying of any human being whom I ever saw on earth that there is no hope for them; that even if, under the bitter smart of just punishment, they opened their eyes to their folly, and altered their minds, even then God would not forgive them; as for saying that, I will not for all the world, and the rulers thereof.  I never saw a man in whom there was not some good, and I believe that God sees that good far more clearly, and loves it far more deeply, than I can, because He Himself put it there, and, therefore, it is reasonable to believe that He will educate and strengthen that good, and chastise and scourge the holder of it till he obeys it, and loves it, and gives up himself to it; and that the said holder will find such chastisement terrible enough, if he is unruly and stubborn, I doubt not, and so much the better for him.  Beyond this I cannot say; but I like your revulsion into stern puritan vengeance—it is a lunge too far the opposite way, like Carlyle's; but anything better than the belief that our Lord Jesus Christ was sent into the world to enable any man to be infinitely rewarded without doing anything worth rewarding—anything, oh! God of mercy as well as justice, than a creed which strengthens the heart of the wicked, by promising him life, and makes ―― ―― believe (as I doubt not he does believe) that though a man is damned here his soul is saved hereafter.  Write to me.  Your letters do me good."


――――♦――――


 
    1856.—"You have an awful and glorious work before you,[4] and you do seem to be going about it in the right spirit—namely, in a spirit of self-humiliation.  Don't be downhearted if outward humiliation, failure, insult, apparent loss of influence, come out of it at first.  If God be indeed our Father in any real sense, then, whom He loveth, He chasteneth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.  And 'Till thou art emptied of thyself, God cannot fill thee,' though it be a saw of the old mystics, is true and practical common sense.  God bless you and prosper you. . . .

    " . . . Your letter this morning delighted me, for I see that you see.  If you are an old hand at the Socratic method, you will be saved much trouble.  I can quite understand young fellows kicking at it.  Plato always takes care to let us see how all but the really earnest kicked at it, and flounced off in a rage, having their own notions torn to rags, and scattered, but nothing new put in the place thereof.  It seems to me (I speak really humbly here) that the danger of the Socratic method, which issued, two or three generations after in making his so-called pupils the academics mere destroying sceptics, priding themselves on picking holes in everything positive, is this—to use it without Socrates' great Idea, which he expressed by 'all knowledge being memory,' which the later Platonists, both Greek and Jew, e.g., Philo and St. John, and after them the good among the Roman Stoics and our early Quakers, and German mystics, expressed by saying that God, or Christ, or the Word, was more or less in every man, the Light which lightened him.  Letting alone formal phraseology, what I mean, and what Socrates meant, was this, to confound people's notions and theories, only to bring them to look their own reason in the face, and to tell them boldly, you know these things at heart already, if you will only look at what you know, and clear from your own spirit the mists which your mere brain and 'organisation,' has wrapt round them.  Men may be at first more angry than ever at this; they will think you accuse them of hypocrisy when you tell them 'you know that I am right, and you wrong;' but it will do them good at last.  It will bring them to the one great truth, that they too have a Teacher, a Guide, an Inspirer, a Father: that you are not asserting for yourself any new position, which they have not attained, but have at last found out the position which has been all along equally true of them and you, that you are all God's children, and that your Father's Love is going out to seek and to save them and you, by the only possible method, viz., teaching them that He is their Father.

    "I am very anxious to hear your definition of a person.  I have not been able yet to get one, or a proof of personal existence which does not spring from ŕ priori subjective consciousness, and which is, in fact, Fichte's.  'I am I.'  I know it.  Take away my 'organisation,' cast my body to the crows or the devil, logically or physically, strip me of all which makes me palpable to you, and to the universe, still I have the unconquerable knowledge that 'I am I,' and must and shall be so for ever.  How I get this idea I know not: but it is the most precious of all convictions, as it is the first; and I can only suppose it is a revelation from God, whose image it is in me, and the first proof of my being His child.  My spirit is a person; and the child of the Absolute Person, the Absolute Spirit.  And so is yours, and yours, and yours.  In saying that, I go on 'Analogy,' which is Butler's word for fair Baconian Induction.  I find that I am absolutely I, an individual and indissoluble person; therefore I am bound to believe at first sight that you, and you, and you are such also  This is all I seem to know about it as yet.

    "But how utterly right you are in beginning to teach the real meaning of words, which people now (parsons as well as atheists) use in the loosest way.  Take even 'organisation,' paltry word as it is, and make them analyse it, and try if they can give any definition of it (drawn from its real etymology) which does not imply a person distinct from the organs, or tools, and organising or arranging those tools with a mental view to a result.  I should advise you to stick stoutly by old Paley.  He is right at root, and I should advise you, too, to make your boast of Baconian Induction being on your side, and not on theirs; for 'many a man talks of Robin Hood who never shot in his bow,' and the 'Reasoner' party, while they prate about the triumphs of science, never, it seems to me, employ intentionally in a single sentence the very inductive method whereby that science has triumphed. . . . Be of good cheer.  WHEN the wicked man turneth from his wickedness (then, there and then), he shall save his soul alive—as you seem to be consciously doing, and all his sin and his iniquity shall not be mentioned unto him.  What your 'measure' of guilt (if there can be a measure of the incommensurable spiritual) I know not.  But this I know, that as long as you keep the sense of guilt alive in your own mind, you will remain justified in God's mind; as long as you set your sins before your face, He will set them behind his back.  Do you ask how I know that?  I will not quote 'texts,' though there are dozens.  I will not quote my own spiritual experience, though I could honestly: I will only say, that such a moral law is implied in the very idea of 'Our Father in heaven'. . . . "

    ". . . . You must come and see me, and talk over many things.  That is what I want.  An evening's smoke and chat in my den, and a morning's walk on our heather moors, would bring our hearts miles nearer each other, and our heads too.  As for the political move, I can give you no advice save, say little, and do less.  I am ready for all extensions of the franchise, if we have a government system of education therewith: till then I am merely stupidly acquiescent.  More poor and ignorant voters?  Very well—more bribees; more bribers; more pettifogging attorneys in parliament; more local interests preferred to national ones; more substitution of the delegate system for the representative one . . . ."


――――♦――――



 
    June 14, 1856.—"It is, I know it, a low aim (I don't mean morally) for a man who has had the aspirations which you have; but may not our Heavenly Father just be bringing you through this seemingly degrading work, [5] to give you what I should think you never had,—what it cost me bitter sorrow to learn—the power of working in harness, and so actually drawing something, and being of real use.  Be sure, if you can once learn that lesson, in addition to the rest you have learnt, you will rise to something worthy of you yet . . . . It has seemed to me, in watching you and your books, and your life, that just what you wanted was self-control.  I don't mean that you could not starve, die piece-meal, for what you thought right; for you are a brave man, and if you had not been, you would not have been alive now.  But it did seem to me, that what you wanted was the quiet, stern cheerfulness, which sees that things are wrong, and sets to to right them, but does it trying to make the best of them all the while, and to see the bright side; and even if, as often happens, there be no bright side to see, still 'possesses his soul in patience,' and sits whistling and working till 'the pit be digged for the ungodly.'

    "Don't be angry with me and turn round and say, 'You, sir, who never knew what it was to want a meal in your life, who belong to the successful class who have.—What do you mean by preaching these cold platitudes to me?'  For, Thomas Cooper, I have known what it was to want things more precious to you, as well as to me, than a full stomach; and I learnt—or rather I am learning a little—to wait for them till God sees good.  And the man who wrote 'Alton Locke' must know a little of what a man like you could feel to a man like me, if the devil entered into him.  And yet I tell you, Thomas Cooper, that there was a period in my life—and one not of months, but for years, in which I would have gladly exchanged your circumstantia, yea, yourself, as it is now, for my circumstantia, and myself, as they were then.  And yet I had the best of parents and a home, if not luxurious, still as good as any man's need be.  You are a far happier man now, I firmly believe, than I was for years of my life.  The dark cloud has passed with me now.  Be but brave and patient, and (I will swear now), by God, sir! it will pass with you."


――――♦――――


 
    June, 1856.—"You are in the right way yet.  I can put you in no more right way.  Your sense of sin is not fanaticism; it is, I suppose, simple consciousness of fact.  As for helping you to Christ, I do not believe I can one inch.  I see no hope but in prayer, in going to Him yourself, and saying: 'Lord if Thou art there, if Thou art at all, if this all be not a lie, fulfil Thy reputed promises, and give me peace and the sense of forgiveness, and the feeling that, bad as I may be, Thou lowest me still, seeing all, understanding all, and therefore making allowances for all!'  I have had to do that in past days; to challenge Him through outer darkness and the silence of night, till I almost expected that He would vindicate His own honour by appearing visibly as He did to St. Paul and St. John; but He answered in the still small voice only; yet that was enough.

    "Read the book by all means; but the book will not reveal Him.  He is not in the book; He is in the Heaven which is as near you and me as the air we breathe, and out of that He must reveal Himself;—neither priests nor books can conjure Him up, Cooper.  Your Wesleyan teachers taught you, perhaps, to look for Him in the book, as Papists would have in the bread; and when you found He was not in the book, you thought Him nowhere; but He is bringing you out of your first mistaken idolatry, ay, through it, and through all wild wanderings since, to know Him Himself, and speak face to face with Him as a man speaks with his friend.  Have patience with Him.  Has He not had patience with you?  And therefore have patience with all men and things; and then you will rise again in His good time the stouter for your long batte . . . .

    ". . . . For yourself, my dear friend, the secret of life for you and for me, is to lay our purposes and characters continually before Him who made them, and cry, 'Do Thou purge me, and so alone I shall be clean.  Thou requirest truth in the inward parts.  Thou wilt make me to understand wisdom secretly.'  What more rational belief?  For surely if there be any God, and He made us at first, He who makes can also mend His own work if it get out of gear.  What more miraculous in the doctrines of regeneration and renewal, than in the mere fact of creation at all?

    "I am glad to hear you are regularly at work at the Board.  It will lead to something better, doubt not; and if it be dry drudgery, after all, some of the greatest men who have ever lived (perhaps almost all) have had their dull collar-work of this kind, which after all was useful in keeping mind and temper in order.  I have a good deal of it, and find it most blessed and useful."


――――♦――――


 
    April 3, 1857.—"Go on and prosper.[6]  Let me entreat you, in broaching Christianity, to consider carefully the one great Missionary sermon on record, viz., St. Paul's at Athens.  There the Atonement, in its sense of a death to avert God's anger, is never mentioned.  Christ's Kingship is his theme; the Resurrection, not the death, the great fact.  Oh, begin by insisting, as I have done in the end of 'Hypatia,' on the Incarnation as morally necessary, to prove the goodness of the Supreme Being.  Insist on its being the Incarnation of Him who had been in the world all along. . . .  Do bear in mind that you have to tell them of The Father—Their Father—of Christ, as manifesting that Father; and all will go well.  On the question of future punishment, I should have a good deal to say to you.  I believe that it is the crux to most hearts."


――――♦――――


 
    May 9, 1857.—"About endless torment . . . . You may say,—1. Historically, that, a. The doctrine occurs nowhere in the Old Testament, or any hint of it.  The expression, in the end of Isaiah, about the fire unquenched, and the worm not dying, is plainly of the dead corpses of men upon the physical earth, in the valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, where the offal of Jerusalem was burned perpetually.  Enlarge on this, as it is the passage which our Lord quotes, and by it the meaning of His words must be primarily determined.—b. The doctrine of endless torment was, as a historical fact, brought back from Babylon by the Rabbis.  It was a very ancient primary doctrine of the Magi, an appendage of their fire-kingdom of Ahriman, and may be found in the old Zends, long prior to Christianity.—c. St. Paul accepts nothing of it as far as we can tell, never making the least allusion to the doctrine—d. The Apocalypse simply repeats the imagery of Isaiah, and of our Lord; but asserts, distinctly, the non-endlessness of torture, declaring that in the consummation, not only death, but Hell, shall be cast into the Lake of Fire.—e. The Christian Church has never really held it exclusively, till now.  It remained quite an open question till the age of Justinian, 530, and significantly enough, as soon as 200 years before that, endless torment for the heathen became a popular theory, purgatory sprang up synchronously by the side of it, as a relief for the conscience and reason of the Church.—f. Since the Reformation, it has been an open question in the English Church, and the philosophical Platonists, of the 16th and 17th centuries, always considered it as such.  g. The Church of England, by the deliberate expunging of the 42nd Article which affirmed endless punishment, has declared it authoritatively to be open.—h. It is so, in fact.  Neither Mr. Maurice, I, or any others, who have denied it, can be dispossessed or proceeded against legally in any way whatsoever.  Exegetically, you may say, I think That the meanings of the word αίώυ and αίώυιος have little or nothing to do with it, even if αίώυ be derived from άεί always, which I greatly doubt.  The word never is used in Scripture anywhere else, in the sense of endlessness (vulgarly called eternity).  It always meant, both in Scripture and out, a period of time.  Else, how could it have a plural—how could you talk of the ćons, and ćons of ćons, as the Scripture does?  Nay, more, how talk of οΰτος ό αίώυ, which the translators, with laudable inconsistency, have translated 'this world,' i.e., this present state of things, 'Age,' 'dispensation,' or epoch—ίώυιος, therefore, means, and must mean, belonging to an epoch, or the epoch, αίώυιος κολασις is the punishment allotted to that epoch.  Always bear in mind, what Maurice insists on,—and what is so plain to honest readers,—that our Lord, and the Apostles, always speak of being in the end of an age or aeon, not as ushering in a new one.  Come to judge and punish the old world, and to create a new one out of its ruins, or rather as the S. S. better expresses it, to burn up the chaff and keep the wheat, i.e., all the elements of food as seed for the new world.

    "I think you may say, that our Lord took the popular doctrine because He found it, and tried to correct and purify it, and put it on a really moral ground.  You may quote the parable of Dives and Lazarus (which was the emancipation from the Tartarus theory) as the one instance in which our Lord professedly opens the secrets of the next world, that He there represents Dives as still Abraham's child, under no despair, not cut off from Abraham's sympathy, and under a direct moral training, of which you see the fruit.  He is gradually weaned from the selfish desire of indulgence for himself, to love and care for his brethren, a divine step forward in his life, which of itself proves him not to be lost.  The impossibility of Lazarus getting to him, or vice versa, expresses plainly the great truth, that each being where he ought to be at that time, interchange of place i.e., of spiritual state, is impossible.  But it says nothing against Dives rising out of his torment, when he has learnt the lesson of it, and going where he ought to go.  The common interpretation is merely arguing in a circle, assuming that there are but two states of the dead, 'Heaven' and 'Hell,' and then trying at once to interpret the parable by the assumption, and to prove the assumption from the parable.  Next, you may say that the English damnation, like the Greek κατάκρισις, is perhaps κρίσις simple, simply means condemnation, and is (thank God) retained in that sense in various of our formularies, where I always read it, e.g., 'eateth to himself damnation,' with sincere pleasure, as protests in favour of the true and rational meaning of the word, against the modern and narrower meaning.

    "You may say that Fire and Worms, whether physical or spiritual, must in all logical fairness be supposed to do what fire and worms do do, viz., destroy decayed and dead matter, and set free its elements to enter into new organisms; that, as they are beneficent and purifying agents in this life, they must be supposed such in the future life, and that the conception of fire as an engine of torture, is an unnatural use of that agent, and not to be attributed to God without blasphemy, unless you suppose that the suffering (like all which He inflicts) is intended to teach man something which he cannot learn elsewhere.

    "You may say that the catch, 'All sin deserves infinite punishment, because it is against an Infinite Being,' is a worthless amphiboly, using the word infinite in two utterly different senses, and being a mere play on sound.  That it is directly contradicted by Scripture, especially by our Lord's own words, which declare that every man (not merely the wicked) shall receive the due reward of his deeds, that he who, &c., shall be beaten with few stripes, and so forth.  That the words 'He shall not go out till he has paid the uttermost farthing,' evidently imply (unless spoken in cruel mockery) that he may go out then . . .

    "Finally, you may call on them to rejoice that there is a fire of God the Father whose name is Love, burning for ever unquenchably, to destroy out of every man's heart and out of the hearts of all nations, and off the physical and moral world, all which offends and makes a lie.  That into that fire the Lord will surely cast all shams, lies, hypocrisies, tyrannies, pedantries, false doctrines, yea, and the men who love them too well to give them up, that the smoke of their Βασαυισμός (i.e., the torture which makes men confess the truth, for that is the real meaning of it; Βασαυισμός means the touch-stone by which gold was tested) may ascend perpetually, for a warning and a beacon to all nations, as the smoke of the torment of French aristocracies, and Bourbon dynasties, is ascending up to Heaven and has been ever since 1793.  Oh, Cooper—Is it not good news that that fire is unquenchable; that that worn will not die. . . .  The parti prętre tried to kill the worm which was gnawing at their hearts, making them dimly aware that they were wrong, and liars, and that God and His universe were against them, and that they and their system were rotting and must die.  They cannot kill God's worm, Thomas Cooper.  You cannot look in the face of many a working continental priest without seeing that the worm is at his heart.  You cannot watch their conduct without seeing that it is at the heart of their system.  God grant that we here in England—we parsons (dissenting and church) may take warning by them.  The fire may be kindled for us.  The worm may seize our hearts.  God grant that in that day we may have courage to let the fire and the worm do their work—to say to Christ, These too are Thine, and out of Thine infinite love they have come.  Thou requirest truth in the inward parts, and I will thank Thee for any means, however bitter, which Thou usest to make me true.  I want to be an honest man, and a right man!  And, oh joy, Thou wantest me to be so also.  Oh joy, that though I long cowardly to quench Thy fire, I cannot do it.  Purge us, therefore, oh Lord, though it be with fire.  Burn up the chaff of vanity and self-indulgence, of hasty prejudices, second-hand dogmas,—husks which do not feed my soul, with which I cannot be content, of which I feel ashamed daily—and if there be any grains of wheat in me, any word or thought or power of action which may be of use as seed for my nation after me, gather it, oh Lord, into Thy garner.

    "Yes, Thomas Cooper.  Because I believe in a God of Absolute and Unbounded Love, therefore I believe in a Loving Anger of His, which will and must devour and destroy all which is decayed, monstrous, abortive in His universe, till all enemies shall be put under His feet, to be pardoned surely, if they confess themselves in the wrong, and open their eyes to the truth.  And God shall be All in All.  Those last are wide words.  It is he who limits them, not I who accept them in their fulness, who denies the verbal inspiration of Scripture.

    "P.S. When you talk to them on the Trinity, don't be afraid of saying two things.

    "They will say 'Three in One' is contrary to sense and experience.  Answer, that is your ignorance.  Every comparative anatomist will tell you the exact contrary; that among the most common, though the most puzzling phenomena is multiplicity in unity—divided life in the same individual of every extraordinary variety of case.  That distinction of persons with unity of individuality (what the old schoolmen properly called substance) is to be met with in some thousand species of animals, e.g., all the compound polypes, and that the soundest physiologists, like Huxley, are compelled to talk of these animals in metaphysic terms just as paradoxical as, and almost identical with, those of the theologian.  Ask them then, whether, granting one primordial Being who has conceived and made all other beings, it is absurd to suppose in Him, some law of multiplicity in unity, analogous to that on which He has constructed so many millions of His creatures

    "I have said my say on the Trinity in the end of 'Yeast,' and in the end of ' Hypatia' . . . ."
                 .                          .                          .                          .                          .

    "But my heart demands the Trinity, as much as my reason.  I want to be sure that God cares for us, that God is our Father, that God has interfered, stooped, sacrificed Himself for us.  I do not merely want to love Christ—a Christ, some creation or emanation of God's—whose will and character, for aught I know may be different from God's.  I want to love and honour the absolute, abysmal God Himself, and none other will satisfy me—and in the doctrine of Christ being co-equal and co-eternal, sent by, sacrificed by, His Father, that He might do His Father's will, I find it—and no puzzling texts, like those you quote, shall rob me of that rest for my heart, that Christ is the exact counterpart of Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being.  The texts are few, only two after all; on them I wait for light, as I do on many more: meanwhile, I say boldly, if the doctrine be not in the Bible, it ought to be, for the whole spiritual nature of man cries out for it.  Have you read Maurice's essay on the Trinity in his theological essays? addressed to Unitarians?  If not, you must read it.  About the word Trinity, I feel much as you do.  It seems unfortunate that the name of God should be one which expresses a mere numerical abstraction, and not a moral property.  It has, I think, helped to make men forget that God is a spirit—that is, a moral being, and that moral spiritual, and that morality (in the absolute) is God, as St. John saith God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him—words which, were they not happily in the Bible, would be now called rank and rampant Pantheism.  But, Cooper, I have that faith in Christ's right government of the human race, that I have good hope that He is keeping the word Trinity, only because it has not yet done its work; when it has, He will inspire men with some better one."



NOTES.


1. Thomas Cooper's autobiography, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1872, is a book well worth reading for its own sake and for the pictures of working class life and thought, which it reveals.

2. This refers to a letter in which Thomas Cooper says, "My friend, a noble young fellow, says, you are trying to convert him to orthodoxy, and expresses great admiration for you.  I wish you success with him, and I bad almost said I wish you could next succeed with me; but I think I am likely to stick where I have stuck for some years—never lessening, but I think increasing, in my love for the truly divine Jesus—but retaining the Strauss view of the Gospel."  "Ah! that grim Strauss," he says in a later letter, "How he makes the iron agony go through my bones and marrow, when I am yearning to get hold of Christ!  But you understand me?  Can you help me?  I wish I could be near you, so as to have a long talk with you often.  I wish you could show me that Strauss's preface is illogical, and that it is grounded on a petitio principii.  I wish you could bring me into a full and hearty reception of this doctrine of the Incarnation.  I wish you could lift off the dead weight from my head and heart, that blasting, brutifying thought, that the grave must be my 'end all.'"

3. See Sermon on Capital Punishment, preached in 1870, by Rev. C. Kingsley. (All Saints' Day and other Sermons.  C. Kegan Paul & Co.)

4. Thomas Cooper had now re-commenced lecturing at the Hall of Science on Sunday evenings, simply teaching theism, for he had not advanced farther yet in positive conviction.

5. Thomas Cooper had been given copying work at the Board of Health; and his hearers at the Hall of Science, already made bitter by his deserting the atheist camp, made the fact of his doing government work and taking government pay, a fresh ground of opposition to his teaching.

6. T. Cooper had written to say that he had now begun the "grand contest."  "God has been so good to me that I must confess Christ, and we shall have greater rage now that I have come to Christianity.

 



[Home] [Up] [Autobiography] [Thoughts at Fourscore] [Gulf of Time] [Old Fashioned Stories] [Self-help] [Prison Rhymes, etc.] [Baron's Yule Feast] [Purgatory of Suicides] [Paradise of Martyrs] [Poets of the Poor] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk