10 AUGUST 1907, Page 8


IT is a generally received opinion among religious people that the Gospel deals with no subjects outside faith and morals. In a sense, of course, this theory is true enough, but that our Lord concerned Himself constantly both with health and happiness is true also none the less. By crushing the whole of His teaching into two moulds and labelling it all under two heads we turn many healing words into reproofs and many a sentence of encouragement into a goad. The greater number of those who sought the help of Christ came to Him as a physician, and it was by cures that His fame was spread. That our Lord spoke words of consolation to those in real trouble, to the bereaved, the sick, the oppressed, and the desperately poor is, of course, a fact admitted by all; but it was not only unhappiness in its acute form that appealed to Him, but unhappiness in its chronic form, a form which has often very little to do either with sorrow or circumstances, but which civilised man forges for himself in the recesses of his imagination. Christianity aims at easing the anxious mind as well as offering consolation to those in actual affliction, and much of our Lord's most characteristic teaching is directed to the relief of care.

It is often said by those who are concerned to make Christianity out to be impracticable that- Christ condemned forethought. " Take no thought for the morrow," they quote, disregarding the correction of the Revised Version, " Be not anxious for the morrow." These critics, while they utterly condemn the systems of the old theologians who endeavoured to prove complicated theological problems by reference to a single text, have yet adopted their method. No one who reads the Gospel as a whole can maintain that Christ condemned forethought. Who, He asked, would be so foolish as to build a tower without counting the cost ? What general would be so blind as to lead his army to certain defeat ? In a yet more serious vein He laments the heedlessness and want of common prudence in the five virgins who failed of their purpose through refusing to look forward, and the man who knowing that his employer was "a hard man" and acted as though he were easy-going, finds no excuse upon the lips of Christ. Had our Lord condemned forethought He would, apart from all considerations of expediency and morality, have taken much happiness out of life. All work necessitates more or less forethought. The pleasure of planning is no doubt a very great pleasure, exercising as it does the powers of imagination, and counteracting, through the imagination, the leakage of energy produced by too vivid a realisation of the darkness which confronts us all. What our Lord really deprecates is worry,—the ceaseless and fruit- less calculation of chances which overwhelming material ambition and imaginative apprehension alike bring forth. The mind thus overworked leans almost always to egoism and to melancholy. The present that is known takes a less and less proportion in the face of the future that is feared, and gradually all hope of happiness fades out of life.

Our Lord in His character of spiritual physician advises

men how to defend themselves against the disease of anxiety, from whatever cause arising, and suggests remedies to those who have already fallen victims to this most insidious and painful complaint. He calls experience to witness that a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions, and He argues that for those who believe in a good God it is wholly illogical to regard themselves as drifting among nameless dangers. If we would be at peace, He said, we must be content to lose in the race for luxury, and we must not cultivate "a doubtful mind." It is characteristic of our Lord's teaching that He never said one word to discourage the search for truth, nor against the nobler ambitions whose fruition His parables suggest may not be over at death. A desire for benevolent power He seems to have regarded as a desire belonging to the eternal side of man's nature; but for that worldly ambition which He summarised as a perpetual distress of mind consequent upon the considera- tion of food and clothes, He has nothing but condemnation. Such a state of distress is, He said, altogether unworthy of a religious man. The Gentiles sought after such things—the Romans, that is, whose spirituality was so much less developed than that of the Jews—but whoever would obtain peace should resolutely keep the just proportions of life in mind, should let great considerations have the first place, should seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteous- ness, and regard smaller things as additional, not essential.

It is, of course indisputable that " a doubtful mind " is far harder to regulate than an ambitious one. That state of mind in which, as Matthew Arnold said, " wise men are not strong," is one seldom cured. The disease permeates the whole nature, shakes all conviction, and destroys the power of decision. The wish becomes father to the doubt, and a man's best aspirations engender nothing but fear. The very intensity of his desire for a religion makes its greatest promises at times incredible to him. In the old days such men feared hell; nowadays they fear annihilation. In the old days they believed themselves the subjects of God's wrath, now they faint under a sense of the divine indifference. In every depart- ment of life doubt makes itself felt. The future is ever before their eyes, painted in a fantastic medium which allows that two mutually destructive misfortunes should happen at once. Like worldly men they lose all true sense of relative values and their judgment, no less than their peace, is impaired. To those who are weary and heavy laden by this kind of anxiety our Lord suggests several palliatives, knowing that the radical cures of faith and an absolute resolution to eschew worldly success are not suddenly possible. Nothing fixes a man's mind upon present peace, nothing counteracts the tendency to project thought into the future so surely as a real pleasure in Nature. We must, Christ counsels us, try to bring ourselves within the spell of her influence that we may learn something of her calm, and we must resolve to take short views of life, for anxiety cannot be forestalled.

As we consider the teaching of Christ as it concerns happiness, we cannot but be struck with the wonderful sanity of the whole, and its absolute coincidence with human experi- ence. Happiness, He teaches, cannot be attained if it is made the chief end of life, and this is patent to the reason, for happiness consists rather in the restraint than in the gratifica- tion of the inclinations. We long when we are injured for revenge, but nothing destroys happiness so surely as rancour and remorse. Even hope is often a matter of self-control. It would be easier at times to yield to the fatal allurements of despair, but that way madness lies. We long for an absolute system of religious observance, yet such a system makes for superstition, and binds men with burdens grievous to be borne. Fierce animal passions, and the greed which men have superadded thereto, bring with them their own condemnation,—a condemnation to unhappiness. All these things tend to unsoundness of mind, and without doubt ceaseless consideration of petty matters and constant in- dulgence in fear bring with them also a certain weakening of the mental fibre. Surely the greatest sceptic must admit that if any man could really accept the teaching of Christ in his practical life it would make him what Bacon called "a full man."

But is anxiety ever wholly cured ? Has any one ever seen this radiCal change in disposition ? We should say not. But dispositions can be modified. After all, Christ did not offer to free His followers from the pains incident upon their

value of an historical sense. He might think the procedure of the House capable of vast improvement, but he would not dismiss it derisively as a " shibboleth," as " musty," or as a " cobweb." He would balance his conviction with some reverence for things rooted in a dim past and, though he might not explain this to himself, his bearing would be inseparable from a respectful affection for his country. He would have some instinct of obliga- tion to those who welcomed him, and some respect for authority, even while dissenting from it, which would be in fact a fruit of mental discipline and in effect what, for want of a better phrase, may be called good manners. All that would not be the merit of the man so much as the merit of the tradition he has inherited. The political creed of Mr. Grayson has yet no traditions. It is like a very sharp young man who kicks a very old and wise one. Not that Mr. Grayson can be bitterly blamed. Political youth is like that. He reminds us of Elijah Pogram, who spoke for the young country against the old and fallen tyrant. The reader will remember the ejaculation of au onlooker that Elijah Pogram, who had uttered the great Defiance to the whole earth, would argumentatively smash Martin Chuzzlewit " into sky-blue fits." And Elijah Pogram, getting to work, said of his countryman, Hannibal Chollop, what we hope a gratified House of Commons may be willing to say, mutatis mutandis, of Mr. Grayson : " Our fellow-countryman is a model of a man quite fresh from Natur's mould ! He is a true-born child of this free hemisphere ! Verdant' as the mountains of our.country ; bright and glowing as our mineral Licks ; unspiled by withering conventionalities as air our broad and boundless Perearers ! Rough he may be. So air our Barra. Wild he may be. So air our Buffalers. He is a child of Natur', and a child of Free- dom ; and his boastful answer to the Despot and the Tyrant is that his bright home is in the Settin' Suu."