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{The Wandering Jew 1893}





Richard Le Gallienne’s review of The Wandering Jew in The Daily Chronicle on 11th. January, 1893, sparked a debate in that paper which lasted until the end of the month. It also spilled out into the pages of The Echo and was made the subject of sermons in several churches. The material on the following pages comes courtesy of the Liverpool Record Office, which has preserved the cuttings as part of its Richard Le Gallienne archive. I’m grateful to Margaret Daley of the Liverpool Record Office for providing me with photocopies of the cuttings. However, I should point out that the final part of Richard Le Gallienne’s review is missing from the collection, and there are a couple of occasions when the copy is too dark to read and my ‘best guess’ is rendered in a different colour. As for the choice of what to include and what to omit, this, too, was sometimes the result of what was readable. All the contributions of Robert Buchanan and Richard Le Gallienne are included, along with most of the contributions from the more famous (at least at the time) correspondents. Where the latter have some kind of ‘web-presence’ I have included links. Other names can be ‘googled’ to find the odd trace that remains. The material in the following pages can be downloaded as a zipped .rtf file.

The controversy was also reported in other newspapers and, rather than insert these items into the material from the Liverpool Record Office, I have added a page of Additional Material.



Liverpool Record Office: Richard Le Gallienne Papers. Catalogue Ref. 920 LEG.
Newspaper cuttings - ref. 920 LEG 11/4 - Is Christianity played out, Le Galliene v. Buchanan. Richard Le Gallienne’s review of Robert Buchanan’s The Wandering Jew and the correspondence it provoked in the columns of the Daily Chronicle, Jan. - May 1893.



The Daily Chronicle, London.
Wednesday, January 11, 1893.

1. Richard Le Gallienne’s review.



“The Wandering Jew: a Christmas Carol.”
By Robert Buchanan. (London: Chatto and Windus.)

     Mr. Robert Buchanan has played many parts. He is a very successful playwright, with town house and country house, and we believe he is in the enjoyment of a literary pension from the Government; he is the “Thomas Maitland” who made such a ferocious onslaught on “The Fleshly School of Poetry;” and he is himself a poet who has drawn many of his themes from such unspiritual quarters as the gutter and the felon’s cell—in fact, he was once attacked for this double qualification in language far too vigorous for us to repeat, for the very excellent reason that the previous editor who published it was cast in damages of £150; and he is the “Caliban” who once made a sensation by a poetical contribution to the Spectator in which the band of his contemporary poets were handled with great license of language, and yet he brings an action for libel when a controversialist of his own perfervid temperament slightly outruns discretion in his epithets. But of all the parts he has played—with varying and sometimes with great success—novelist, playwright, poet, pamphleteer, and polemist, perhaps the strangest of all is the one in which he makes this latest appearance—the singer of a Christmas carol, and the apologist, or the interpreter, or the critic, or the celebrant (for we cannot be quite sure which it is) of Christ. With many faults the poem is a powerful and picturesque piece of versification, and as the book is distinctly one to read, the reader must judge of this vital question for himself.
     The poem opens with an invocation, of which the following graceful lines are an example:—

Come, Faith, with eyes of patient heavenward gaze!
Come, Hope, with feet that bleed from thorny ways!
With hand for each, leading those twain to me,
Come with thy gifts of grace, fair Charity!

The poet describes himself as wandering “on that night which ushereth in Christ’s day,” in the bleak and snow-covered streets of the great city.

I mark’d the long streets empty to the sky,
And every dim square window was an eye
That gazing dimly inward saw within
Some hidden mystery of shame or sin,—
Lovebed and deathbed, raggedness and wealth,
Pale Murder, tiptoe, creeping on in stealth
With sharp uplifted knife, or haggard Lust
Mouthing his stolen fruit of tasteless dust.

Suddenly he became aware of the presence of a very old man “in antique raiment, and around his waist a rotting rope was loosely bound,” who slipped into his hand a hand “dank as the drownèd dead’s.”

                       Shivering he stood there,
The consecration of a vast despair
Cast round him like a raiment; and ere I knew
I moaned aloud, “Thou art that Wandering Jew,
Whose name all men and women know too well!”

Strangely on me his eyes of sorrow fell,
And bending low, as doth a wind-blown tree,
In a low voice he answered:
                                             “I am He!”

     After further light falls upon him, however, in various visions, he recognises the Wandering Jew not to be the old Kartaphilos of one legend, or Ahasuerus the cobbler of the other, but the Man who came once long ago, in whose eyes were “the passion and the peace of Paradise.”

             For lo, at last I knew
The lineaments of that diviner Jew
Who like a Phantom passeth everywhere,
The World’s last hope and bitterest despair,
Deathless, yet dead!—

     Then—of course this is but a crude epitome of the course of Mr. Buchanan’s Carol—arise the Spirit of Man and his Acolyte, Death, who sit in judgment upon the ever-wandering Christ, charging him with having destroyed the old pleasures and the old hopes and the old simple days, and, above all, the primal comfort of death, and of having replaced them by “the poison of a Dream that slays repose”—

So that the Master of the World, ev’n Death,
Hated in his own kingdom, travaileth
In darkness, creeping haunted and afraid,
Like any mortal thing, from shade to shade,
From tomb to tomb.

And their charges are preferred with a frankness and vigour which we feel sure will form very uncomfortable reading for many whose notions of a Christmas carol are the conventional ones.

This Jew hath made the Earth that once was glad
A lazar-house of woeful man and mad
Who can yet will not sleep, and in their strife
For barren glory and eternal Life,
Have rent each other, murmuring his Name!’

     Having concluded the charge, they call their witnesses, and an almost endless stream of the phantom victims of Christianity testify of their undoing. Here is a specimen of the accusers’ account of the rise of the new faith:—

Now, mark the issue. Where this rumour spread,
All other gentle gods that gladden’d Man
Faded and fled away: the priests of Pan,
That singing by Arcadian rivers rear’d
Their flowery altars, wept and disappeared;
And men forgot the fields and the sweet light,
Joy, and all wonders of the day and night,
All splendours of the sense, all happy things,
Art, and the happy Muses’ ministerings,
Forgot that radiant house of flesh divine
Wherein each Soul is shut as in a shrine,
Because this Phantom, like a shape in sleep,
Showing his red wounds, murmur’d, “Pray! and weep!”

And here is another, which will be read with interest in Belfast:—

Pass on. From land to land the tidings flew
That Christ was God, and that the World was doom’d!
Then droopt the lilies of delight, then bloom’d
The martyr’s rose of blood; Kings on their thrones
Cast down their crowns and crawled with piteous moans
To the baptismal font where Priests, grown bold,
Held high the crucifix wrought round with gold.
And soon (how swiftly seeds of evil spring!)
They set a Priest on High and crowned him King,
Yea, King of all earth’s Kings, and next to Christ!
There reign’d he, at his will the realms were priced,
And each, grown blind to worldly gain and loss,
Paid tribute to the King and to the Cross.

     Judas Iscariot, who explains that he betrayed Christ in order to see Him “put forth His power and Vanquish Death,” is the first, and there follow him Ahasuerus the real Wandering Jew, Pilate, the “lewd and infamous” Roman Emperors who persecuted, especially Nero, then Julian, Hypatia—

Stript naked to the skin and bruised with blows,
Yet fair and golden-haired and azure-eyed,

Mahomet, Buddha, Galileo, Columbus, Voltaire, the Jews, all the Martyrs and dead soldiers of the Church, and many others, each preferring his charge. This is the finest part of the poem as a poem; as we have said, it is powerful and picturesque in a high degree. Then at last Christ replies. He is weary and “has no word to answer.”

The winter of mine age hath come, and lo!
My heart within sinks ’neath its weight of woe!

     He is asked to produce His witnesses in turn.

                   And Jesus made reply:
“Hosts of the happy Dead whom I have blest!”
“Call—let them come!”
                     “I would not break their rest.”

But the witnesses do come—”Countless as desert sands,” and at length Christ denounces His accusers and mankind that have denied Him—

Woe to ye all! and endless Woe to Me,
Who deem’d that I could save Humanity!

I labour’d and I labour, last and first,
Within a barren Vineyard God hath curst.

But Christ is condemned by his accusers to wander homeless through the Universe, ever bearing His Cross. Such is the explanation of the figure the poet saw in the streets of the great city on Christmas night, and this is the conclusion of the whole matter:—

And lo! while all men come and pass away,
That Phantom of the Christ, forlorn and grey,
Haunteth the Earth with desolate footfall. . . .

God help the Christ, that Christ may help us all!

     The spirit of the poem is reverential beyond possibility of reproach, but it is a very queer carol all the same, and different readers will put different interpretations upon it.
     Mr. Buchanan’s fertility of rhyme and imagery are not controlled by much restraint and do not give the impression of having been subjected to any careful and critical auto-revision. Hence the poem strikes the reader occasionally as rather slap-dash in general style and unnecessarily crude in many individual instances. The words “Golgotha” and “hierophant” are misaccented, the former a dozen times; the appalling rhyme of “bereaven” and “heaven” is introduced so often that the reader comes to the conclusion the writer must be specially proud of it; the last syllable of the past tense in -ed is almost always accented, producing a lame and leaden metre; for instance—

And while my heart shut sharp in sudden dread
Against the rushing blood, I murmurèd—

and the poem abounds with trifling plagiarisms—no doubt quite unconscious to the author, but none the less distracting to the reader on that account.


The rest of Richard Le Gallienne’s review is missing from the collection of newspaper cuttings due to an error on the part of the original compiler - instead of the conclusion of the review the next cutting is an unrelated piece about tackling poor attendance at schools. Presumably Mr. Le Gallienne went on to itemise the ‘trifling plagiarisms’ since Buchanan takes up the point in the letter which follows.]



The Daily Chronicle.
Thursday, January 12, 1893.

1. Robert Buchanan’s reply.




     SIR,—Many thanks for your kindly criticism of my “Wandering Jew.” It is, as you say, a “queer Carol,” but then, life itself is very queer, and among the queerest phenomena of life is literature. Had you spent the whole of your space in fault-finding, I should still have been grateful to you for admitting that the spirit of the thing is absolutely “reverential”; and I will make bold to add that neither you nor any other reader will ever escape from the memory of the Christ whom I have painted—the patient, long-suffering, ever-misunderstood, eternally-condemned, and outcast Christ of the Nineteenth Century. I have simply expressed in a pathetic image what thousands of living men now see and feel, and what, as I have said, they can never forget.
     As to the literary quality of the poem, I am indifferent. I have no respect whatever for mere art or mere literature. But I won’t be bullied into admitting that “bereaven,” the poetic equivalent of our good old Anglo-Saxon “bereft,” is to be pronounced so as to rhyme with “even”! “Heaven” is good Anglo-Saxon too, and “bereaven” is its natural rhyme. I know little or nothing of the poets you name, but I wrote “clouds white as wool” long before Joaquin Miller was heard of, and I deny that Lord Tennyson had any personal property in “divine despair.” These expressions, I fancy, are the stock-in-trade of rhymesters generally, like “red rose,” “silver moon,” and “twinkling star.” Again thanking you for your liberal appreciation, I am, &c.,

                                                                                                                           ROBERT BUCHANAN.

     N.B.—I have not said a word about your reference to the follies of my youth. Et ego in Bohemiâ fui! And I too was once a critic! But you might have added that after treading violently on the gentleman’s corns I “apologised.”—R. B.

     Merkland, 25, Maresfield-gardens,
         South Hampstead, Jan. 11.



The Daily Chronicle.
Friday, January 13, 1893.

1. Richard Le Gallienne’s reply to Robert Buchanan’s letter.




     SIR,—What does Mr. Buchanan mean by saying in his letter to you yesterday concerning his “Wandering Jew”: “As to the literary quality of the poem, I am indifferent. I have no respect whatever for mere art or mere literature.” However “queer” a carol his poem may be, it is certainly nothing like so queer as this remarkable deliverance. A professing poet and literary artist standing up to declare that he doesn’t care a rush for that which alone is his raison d’être—alone too, as Herrick would say, “his hope and his pyramides.” A man still desirous of existence might as well say, “To mere life I am utterly indifferent.” It would be just as sensible as Mr. Buchanan’s indifference to “mere literature,” which, indeed, justifies his other remark that “among the queerest phenomena of life is literature.” Such dicta make it very queer indeed. What does it amount to? Simply that a man desirous of producing certain results in a certain medium will at the same time disregard the conditions of that medium; that the man desirous of life will deliberately ignore the means by which alone he may live. Thus he takes no food, for instance, and dying, obviously misses his aim. Similarly the poet takes no pains to create and fortify by the only means possible to poetry the conception he is anxious to present, and, of course, the result both to him (as poet) and his conception is certain death. What is the old saying—’Tis the bad workman who complains of his tools. But what shall be said of the workman who would still be working and yet deliberately throws his tools away?
     If Mr. Buchanan had said (what he probably meant) that literature was to him but an insignificant part of life, he had been comprehensible though irrelevant. Everybody know that; even Mr. Wilde, with his paradoxes about nature and art, is seen by his passionate interest in “mere” living to place life first. But that is not the question. It is obvious that literature is the handmaiden of life; but it is equally obvious that literature cannot serve life without obedience to certain laws of its being, one of the first of which is self-respect. What Mr. Buchanan means by the qualification “mere” I am at a loss to understand. Literature is literature. Is “mere” literature a known variety? Possibly Mr. Buchanan refers to certain diminutive, dilettante, products of literature; literary bric-à-brac or fungi, in which the form may seem to outweigh the importance of the matter; but even these are either literature or not, they are not “mere” literature. I say “seem,” because in any real piece of literature, however small, this cannot be. An equipoise of matter and form is the birthmark of literature. In so far as the one outweighs the other, the poem is so much less important as literature. To be all form and no matter is deadly, but it is no less so to be all matter and no form. It should be the daily prayer of every artist to be delivered, in the words of Mr. Pater, from “the stupidity which is dead to the substance, and the vulgarity which is dead to form.”
     Mr. Buchanan makes bold to say that his phantom Christ will haunt us to the end of our days. He might have left others to say so, perhaps, and I, for one, am not so sure of that as Mr. Buchanan. I have, as every fair-minded man must have, a great respect for Mr. Buchanan at his best. “The Shadow of the Sword” is one of my moving memories, lines from “Balder the Beautiful” do haunt me. “The Vision of the Man Accurst” and “The Ballad of Judas Iscariot” must leave lurid tracks on the worst memory. Of the cleverness of “The Outcast” I ventured to offer my humble appreciation at its publication; but “The Wandering Jew” is another matter. It bids higher than any of the poems I have mentioned, and, judged by the only standard it suggests, it seems to me to fall proportionally lower. The fact is that Christ all through is too literally a phantom. Phantoms in art, as on the stage, must have something of the sustaining elements of flesh and blood. The phantom of a phantom will not need to wait for cockcrow to dissolve; and, with all due respect to Mr. Buchanan’s past and possible future achievements, I venture to express my opinion (for whatever, of course, it is worth) that his Christ is such a phantom—mere muslin and limelight, snowed on by paper snow.
     And why? Simply because Mr. Buchanan would not be at the pains to do his work thoroughly, because he did not work and wait and wait and work upon his conception, in many respects, as your reviewer says, forceful and picturesque; because, in short, he has “no respect whatever for mere art or mere literature.”
     It must, indeed, be to the fact that he is indifferent to the literary quality of his poems that his slipshod, undignified treatment of a theme demanding at once the loftiest inspiration and the most devoted workmanship is due. Otherwise, surely, Mr. Buchanan could not have rested content with verse so nerveless and effects so cheap.
     May I be allowed a line or two more, not to discuss, but just to raise, the very important point as to whether, melodramatically striking as Mr. Buchanan’s idea of an “outcast Nineteenth Century Christ” may be—whether it is, in any wide, representative sense, a true one? Personally, I don’t for a moment think it is. Essentially the influence of Christ is more powerfully working amongst us to-day than ever before in history. Indeed, so far from His being a weary phantom waiting for the call to rest, it has seemed to me that during the last few years He has for the first time truly risen again, released from the trammelling grave-clothes of ecclesiastical superstition. The Christ of superstition is indeed a phantom—who would wish Him otherwise?—but the true Christ, “the Christ that is to be,” walks London to-day as strong to help and to heal as ever He walked the streets of Jerusalem. But the question is not of phantoms but of facts. To put it plainly—is Christianity played out or not? Not mere Romanism, or Anglicanism, but essential Christianity. Will Mr. Buchanan tell us?

                                                                                                                     RICHARD LE GALLIENNE
     Hogarth Club, Jan. 12.



The Daily Chronicle.
Saturday, January 14, 1893.

1. Robert Buchanan’s second letter.
2. Letter from ‘M.’




     SIR,—When I published the statement that I had little or no regard for “mere art or mere literature,” I was quite aware that I was recklessly poking a stick into a hornets’ nest of literary critics; for the day is long past when I expected the mob of gentlemen who protect our fine and crusted literary shams to understand plain English. Mr. Richard Le Gallienne, I observe, now comes forward to reproach me, tearfully and pathetically, for despising the art by which I live, since, as he truthfully though somewhat irrelevantly observes, “Literature is literature,” with or without the “mere.” Yes, sir; and twaddle is twaddle, under any circumstances. Before I attempt to justify my words, which only a literary person could misunderstand, let me correct Mr. Le Gallienne on a minor point. So far from having been conceived or written hurriedly, so far from having been flung at the public without such care and thought as every serious work imperatively demands, “The Wandering Jew” was begun and partly written twenty years ago, has been revised and turned over, weighed and sifted times without number, and has only been kept back because I hesitated to commit myself finally to the expression of religious conviction which it contains. Mr. Le Gallienne is quite within his right in saying that it is badly written and unworthy of its subject; he travels far beyond his right when he charges me with indifference to the quality of my own work. The labour of a serious writer who knows what he wishes to express, and chooses the form of expression after years of deliberation, surely compares favourably with the labour of the critic who receives a book on Monday, gobbles it up on Tuesday, and then rushes into print to inform the public (as this gentleman does elsewhere, for critics are many fingered!) that it was written on club paper and finished in a hansom cab.
     For the benefit of Mr. Le Gallienne, who is a clever young man in spite of his perfunctory literary habits, I will now explain that there is a great deal of very pretty writing, a great deal of charmingly clever work, which, with all its attractions, is “mere” literature. At least four-fifths of all our English poetry comes under that category. From the “Faerie Queen” to the “Idylls of the King,” from “Paradise Regained” to the “Epic of Hades,” from Pope’s “Essay on Man” to Owen Meredith’s “Lucile,” we have examples of the form of poetry without its living Soul. The result, I take leave to say, has been disastrous. Mere literary products, mere efforts of imaginative moralizing, mere prettinesses of the fancy, have persuaded the great public that poetry is an artificial thing, having little or nothing to do with the great verities of life. I will even go so far as to say that what some writers facetiously term our national epic, “Paradise Lost,” a work abounding with perfect examples of literary form, a work unimpeachable on the ground of its workmanship, remains in the limbo of absolute futilities, deeply honoured and industriously neglected, solely because it is “mere” literature. Mr. Le Gallienne’s retort is obvious. In really great literature great thought and great expression must go together, and if the works I have cited are not great, but “merely” literary, it is because they lack the quality of the highest imagination. But I take leave to say that great or good thought and adequate expression invariably go together. If a duly qualified writer has anything to express, he will certainly discover the form. It is because nine-tenths of our poets have had nothing whatever to say, or have had something to say which was hardly worth saying, that poetry is as discredited as the crinoline. It is often fashionable, but it distorts and caricatures the natural figure.
     Mr. Le Gallienne (in the other Briarean criticism to which I have alluded) calls “The Wandering Jew” an Adelphi miracle-play! I wish to Heaven it were! I wish that it had been possible so to have presented the theme which I have chosen as to have brought it as closely home to common sense and common perception as the drama which delights the groundlings. For let the literary quality of a so-called Adelphi play be low or high, let its subject be what it may, one thing is demanded of its producers—straightforwardness, clearness, consistency, and honest presentation of an idea for just what it is worth; without embroidery, with all due calling of a spade a spade; with a constant reference to the rule that the creatures presented, however familiar and conventional, have to make themselves clearly understood. To have written an Adelphi miracle-play would have been to have escaped triumphantly from the toils of mere literature, and to have done for the world in one way what Goethe did for it in another. If the crude realism of “The Wandering Jew” reminds my critic of the Adelphi, the cheap naturalism of “Faust” reminds me of the Prince of Wales’s under the Robertsonian  régime. The story of the young lady who meets a young gentleman, and after a few hours’ acquaintance drugs her only relation and offers up the key of her bedchamber, is, taken with its after-consequences, an eternal theme for both poet and dramatist, and its success, under adequate treatment, is always certain. “Faust” has succeeded less on account of its splendid literary embroidery than because its subject must always interest the great human public who love the Family Herald, and who are never tired of a Personal Devil.
     Who in the world disagrees with Mr. Le Gallienne that to make a work of art great pains and great labour are necessary? But a book’s literary quality should be, like a lady’s virtue, taken for granted, or at any rate not chattered about. When society tells us that a lady is terribly good, I am never surprised to find her in the Divorce Court. When the critics tell me that the style of a book is bad, I am always tempted to buy that book. For this reason, in my young days I bought Walt Whitman. For this reason I made the acquaintance of Robert Browning. For this reason, when the critics exclaimed that Tennyson was played out, and was writing without regard to his old “perfect form,” I began to think that Tennyson was at last freeing himself from the “clog” of “beautiful ideas” and from the shadow of Rugby. And in all these cases I was right. Had I been alive at the time when Jeffrey said of Wordsworth’s great ode “Paulo majora canamus” that it was utterly stupid and “unintelligible,” I should have known at once that Wordsworth was writing good poetry—at any rate, such poetry as I wanted. There is no writer of any rank whatsoever who, when all else failed, has not been arraigned on the ground of his literary carelessness or incompetency. Dickens was “cheap” and “vulgar,” Thackeray was “no gentleman,” Browning had no “style,” Whitman was a dirty and unwashed barbarian, Zola could not write a sentence of decent French; and “all on account of Eliza”—all on account of the literary gentlemen who flutter round the petticoats of the “merely” literary Muse.
     All this, Mr. Le Gallienne may say, is neither here nor there. He thinks my verses bad, and there’s an end. Well, is he not welcome to his opinion? I think no less of him because he has the courage to utter it, and the still mightier courage to aver that he thinks secularism discredited, and to quote the good old literary twaddle about “the Christ that is to be.” His last question, whether Christianity is indeed effete as a religious system, is far too pregnant to be answered in this letter, though I fancy it expresses the fons et origo of Mr. Le Gallienne’s dissatisfaction. With your permission, I will reply to it in a second communication. Here, indeed, we shall get upon solid ground; there will no longer be any question of style and expression, good or bad. We shall reach the crucial problem of Religion itself, far more vital to me, and to all humanity, than any arguments about “mere literature.”—I am, &c.,

                                                                                                                           ROBERT BUCHANAN.
     25, Maresfield-gardens, South Hampstead,
         Jan. 13.




     SIR,—I always feel a certain moral compunction in addressing Mr. Le Gallienne. I figure myself as a repentant Littimer, constrained to murmur, “You are young—very young”—but all along with the remorseful consciousness that youth and innocence have the best of it. Ce cher poète! How delightful it is to see him trampling on Mr. Buchanan’s blasphemies, and assuring us that all is well—or quite well enough—save in some ill-conditioned corner of the big nursery, where the naughty children have got weary of their old playthings, and are breaking them up for a bonfire. Christianity—”essential Christianity,” whatever that may be—says Mr. Le Gallienne, is as powerful as ever. Christ, instead of being the outcast phantom of Mr. Buchanan’s poem, has only got to come down again to His conquered world to find it acclaim Him King of all men’s hearts. That I gather is Mr. Le Gallienne’s simple creed. But how many people hold it? Not Lowell, by no means an over-heated observer of life, when he pictured Christ finding His modern image in the oppressed working man. Not Shelley, Byron, Ruskin, Carlyle, Clough, and Arnold, the most characteristic poets and critics of modern English intellectual life. Tolstoi and Ibsen condemn modern life absolutely, one of them from the mystical Christian standpoint, the other as the free man of genius, contemptuous of the forms of social life which the smaller critic accepts without studying their value.
     As far as Christianity is concerned, the mere adherence of the multitude counts for nothing. Indeed it is, judging by Christ’s own standard, peculiarly valueless, for society in the nineteenth century is split up much in the same way that it was in the first—i.e., into well-to-do and fairly-to-do formalists who accept the current religion, and “common people” who care nothing for it, but are always ready to hear revolutionary doctrine, such as Jesus preached them in His time, and such as the Socialists or the Secularists preach them to-day. The gain, I admit, is that, spite of the morbid individualism into which much modern Christianity has fallen, we have a more elevating ideal and an incomparably sweeter personal influence at the back of our religion than any society of which we know possessed 1,800 years ago. But that does not affect the fact that if you put bald Christianity before a bench of Bishops or a Wesleyan Conference, or all the deacons in Christendom, they would have at you for a blaspheming atheist. Take a few of the moral dilemmas which Christ, with more than Socratic irony, was always putting to His would-be followers—the abandonment of property, the breaking up of family ties, the substitution of the idea of personal righteousness for that of the common good, the loveliness of the non-respectable classes, the vileness of money-making. How many Christians do not in their heart of hearts utterly disbelieve and condemn these things and regulate their daily lives on precisely opposite principles?
     No, society is not vitally changed, and if our poor friends the believers in the Second Coming could have their wish  to-morrow, it would be a sad time for us and for Him. I never feel anything but contempt for that school of Secularists who select the figure of the Man of Sorrows for coarse mockery, and in so doing abuse the very spirit of Human Love. But do not let us deceive ourselves. The teaching of Christ is neither believed in nor followed to-day. Its uncompromising anarchism would smash our fragile ice-palace of conventions to atoms. Followers, faithful and unfaithful, He will always have—lovers of that most beautiful of all souls, who would gladly have rested a weary head on that kind bosom. But He, the gentle one, the Master of this hard, coarse, bullying, hypocritical and money-loving age? Alas, no!—Yours, &c.




The Daily Chronicle.
Monday, January 16, 1893.

1. Robert Buchanan’s third letter.
2. Letter from ‘Inquirer.’
3. Letter from Charles L. Marson.




     SIR,—My poem, “The Wandering Jew,” was written to picture, not the nebulous Christ “which is to be,” but the living Christ which is: the Divine Anarchist, the revolutionary Dreamer, the Man who was martyred once, and who is eternally martyred, by His own failure to realise the necessities, the conditions, and the laws of average human nature. He is with us, He is alive, saying, as I have made Him say—

Woe to you all, and endless Woe to Me,
Who deem’d that I could save Humanity!
The Father knew men better, when He sent
His angel Death to be his instrument
And smite them ever down as with a sword! . . .
I plough’d the rocks, and cast in rifts of stone
The seeds of Life Divine that ne’er have grown
And now the Winter of mine age is here!

His mission has failed. No ingenuities of explanation, no juggling with eternal truths can make us believe that He has “essentially” succeeded. His cry to the universe now is, “Let me sleep! Men were not worth saving!” Terrible and awful utterance of a great heart broken! And wherein, then, remains the eternal claim of this Man; the very genius of failure, on the tenderness of humanity? In His humility, His sorrow, His human limitations, His very failure and despair. Do not a thousand hearts cry out to Him, with the Magdalen—

Not for thy glory did I hold thee dear,
Not for thy Father, who hath left thee here
Helpless, unpitied, homeless ’neath the skies,
But for the human love within thine eyes!
And wheresoe’er thou goest, howsoe’er
Thou fallest, though it be to Hell’s despair,
I, thy poor handmaid, still would follow thee,
For in thy face is Love’s Eternity!

For this, be sure, is the pathos and the pity of it all: He was a man even as we are men, and He dreamed the same  dream. His words have comforted millions of aching hearts, but Christianity, the creed built up in His name, has saved no living soul.
     Let me be explicit. I distinguish absolutely between the character of Jesus and the character of Christianity—in other words, between Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus the Christ. Shorn of all supernatural pretensions, Jesus emerges from the great mass of human beings as an almost perfect type of simplicity, veracity, and natural affection. “Love one another” was the Alpha and Omega of His teaching, and He carried out the precept through every hour of His too brief life. Then, looking round on His fellows, realising the extent of human misery, and perceiving the follies of human existence, He thought: “Surely there must be some Divine solution to the problem! Surely there must be another and a fairer life to justify a life so ephemeral!” Therein He was right: without some such justification this life of ours is only dust and ashes. But with His insight began His sorrow. He turned from this world as from something in its very nature base and detestable. He conceived the soul as removed altogether from the necessities and privileges of the flesh. He recommended a policy of complete quiescence and stagnation. He affirmed that Heaven was here impossible, because man was imperfect. He dreamed of a Divine Kingdom, where every riddle would be solved, the wicked would cease from troubling, and the weary would be at rest; but in so doing He forgot that the Divine Kingdom, if it is to exist at all, must begin where God first localised it—on this planet.
     The whole thesis of my poem, then, is this: that the Spirit of Jesus, surviving on into the present generation, still stands apart from the strife and tumult of the human race, and most of all from Christianity. In my arraignment of Jesus before humanity, I have not feared to state the whole case as conceived by men against Him, to chronicle the endless enormities committed in His name. But how blindly, how foolishly, my critics have interpreted the inner spirit of my argument, how utterly have they failed to realise that the whole aim of the work is to justify Jesus against the folly, the cruelty, the infamy, the ignorance of the creed upbuilt above His grave. I show, in cipher as it were, that those who crucified Him once would crucify Him again, were He to return amongst us. I imply that among the first to crucify Him would be the members of His own Church. But nowhere, surely, do I imply that His soul, in its purely personal elements, in its tender and sympathising humanity, was not the very divinest that ever wore earth about it. He judged men far too gently, He was far too sanguine about human perfectibility—that is all!
     According to my critics, it is secularism, not Christianity, which is played out—played out, they say, “intellectually.” If they mean by secularism the base and irreverent spirit which gibes and mocks at the beautiful dream of Jesus, and in so doing defames the stainless Elder Brother of all suffering men, I am cordially at one with them, and with the admirable writer who, over the initial “M.,” protests against rationalistic vulgarity; but if they mean by secularism the spirit which rejects all compromises with frauds, however innocent, which affirms that the business of humanity is not to wear sackcloth and ashes but to enlarge the area of its own happiness, and which incidentally, by way of illustration, points out the evils that other-worldliness has brought on man, I take leave to say that at no time in the world’s history has secularism exercised so benign an influence over the lives of all who think and feel. It is secularism, not Christianity, which is fighting the battle of the poor and suffering masses against the classes which would keep them for ever in ignoble  chains. It is secularism which is hastening on the cause of moral and intellectual freedom in every land, spreading abroad the good news that science is beginning to formulate the laws of life, asserting in the face of all selfish institutions that human nature has a right, not merely to its daily bread, but to its daily love and joy. It is only in so far as Christianity is itself secular that it is of the slightest influence upon the age in which we live. Personally I can find no words too strong to express my admiration of those “Christians” who are devoting themselves to charitable work among the poor, ministering tenderly to the needs of their suffering brethren, going forth (like Father Damien) to face disease and death itself at the call of religious duty. But these men are sacrificing themselves, not because they are Christians, but because, like Jesus, they are practically indifferent to all dogmatic creeds. They take the name, and wear the livery, of the Christian Church, but they are in reality secularists of the highest and noblest type.
     This beneficence, this enthusiasm of humanity, is, Mr. Le Gallienne would say, “essential” Christianity. It is nothing of the kind. Essential Christianity is the religion which confuses the moral triumph of Jesus with His intellectual failure, and which post-dates with more or less indefiniteness the happiness of men. There is nothing, I think, which so amazes a dispassionate observer of human progress as the feats of moral legerdemain of which Christianity, so called, is capable. Its history is one of endless cruelties and countless horrors. Its constant effect has been to paralyse human activity and to pervert every beautiful human instinct. Its teachers and preachers have, from age to age, been the enemies of human thought. Its war against the carnal man has been a blind and brutal battle with nature itself. Yet on the score of a few beautiful words spoken by its Founder, Christianity has, with overmastering arrogance, claimed for itself every great moral victory that men have achieved in spite of it! As well might it be claimed, on the score of the almost equally beautiful words of pagan philosophers, that the victories of civilisation have been achieved by paganism. No one will contend that Jesus of Nazareth was disingenuous or hypocritical; but the creed which bears His name is, to this day, a synonym for disingenuousness or hypocrisy. Slippery as a snake, fitted to assume all constructions, asserting its own triumph at every moment of its own failure, it replies to the protests of its victims: “Ah, but mine is essentially a creed of Love!” “Essentially!” The qualifying adverb represents a lifelong attempt to juggle with the reason and mock the sense. It was on the lips of Torquemada when he piled the faggots of the martyr’s fire, on the lips of Calvin when he burned Servetus, on the lips of Catherine de’ Medici before the eve of St. Bartholomew, on the lips of Charles when he harried and destroyed the Covenanters. It was on the lips of this England of ours when, to secure the empire of a sullen assassin over the throne of France, she went hand in hand with him through all the useless carnage of the war in the Crimea. It was on the lips of the aged German Emperor when, not content with hurling that same assassin from his throne, he offered endless and needless infamy to a nation covered with bleeding wounds. It is used to sanction every enormity that still defaces nature, to uphold tyranny and to glorify war. It is the pet word, the open sesame, of priests and kings. “Essential” Christianity! The bishop murmurs it as he splashes the pauper with his carriage wheels, the clergyman intones it as he clutches his tithes, the politician whispers it when he surrenders soul and conscience to the lust for place. One can understand the Christianity which is Roman, or Greek, or Lutheran, or Anglican; but the Christianity which is “essential” is a very different affair. Oh, but Mr. Le Gallienne explains! “Essential” Christianity means just one thing—the spirit which works for the coming of the “Christ which is to be!” In other words, the Christ which is not, and which has never been, but which is coming! Is it not about time that He came? Eighteen hundred years is a long start; and if He has advanced so slowly in all that time, how long will it take Him to arrive at the end of His journey?
     We judge a man by his deeds. If he has robbed his neighbour we call him a thief, and no magistrate will acquit him on the plea that he is “essentially” an honest man. We judge him also by the amount of penitence he exhibits. Judged in the same way, Christianity is far from honest, and it is certainly not penitent. The old lies, the old hypocritical formulæ, are used to this hour. Man is very busy, at last, looking after his own affairs. The special providence incarnate is still at his elbow, sharing none of his pains, but always claiming the lion’s portion of his gains.
     This special providence incarnate is not, has never been, will never be, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus only claimed to be divine in so far as He argued, “I must be God because God is Love;” and in that sense all men who love would share His godhead. But there came a time to Jesus, and there comes a time to all who love their fellows, when the very power of love, or of God, is doubted, and when nothing remains but darkness and despair. The love, the godhead, in this world seems but a grain of mustard-seed beside a mountain of devilry. What science has shown us, what history is eternally repeating, is the record of wasted efforts and the picture of bewildered man returning ever to retrace his own bloody footprints. The millions that have agonised and perished that we may live, the hearts that have broken in despair, the sins that are endless, and the sufferings that seem needless, the cry of a progress that never advances, and the laugh of a stupidity that never ceases, are poor testimonies to the omnipotent goodness of a power which, they tell us, has worked for love from the beginning. Is it any wonder, then, that I have made the tenderest of human souls, confronted with the banalities of our civilisation, conscious of eternal weariness and eternal pain, cry out in despair that he has failed in proving that “God is Love.” “Essential” Christianity is for ever repeating this weary and hypocritical formula, while thousands of hearts are breaking because they realise that if there be any God at all it is a “God of Pain.”
     Well, the dream of Jesus was of God, and so is ours. That it will be realised somehow and somewhere is my living faith. Nothing beautiful or true can perish, and this world would be a charnel-house if eternal death were possible. But Christ, the supreme sufferer, must admit at last that suffering is not godhead, that the fountain of life cannot be one of tears; in a word, He must add to His endless transformations, the transformation into the supreme secularist, cognisant of all the necessities and realities of existence. He has already, in conjunction with His great brethren, with Buddha, with Socrates, with Seneca, with (I will add) Walt Whitman, showed a divine insight into the possibilities of human self- sacrifice and human affection. He must prove now, if He is to be justified, that He has not been telling us a mere fairy tale. There must be something essentially deficient in a need which, like Christianity, has so black a record, and has done so little for the general happiness of men; which has considered this world, with all its divine possibilities, with all its splendours and its joys, merely a habitation to be abandoned as quickly as possible, which has seen only wickedness and evil in the carnal man and woman, and under that misperception tortured them out of all loving likeness. I have granted, for do I not indeed know, that the creed of Christendom is not the creed of Christ, that Christ Himself would have shuddered—nay does shudder—at the abominations committed century after century in His name. But it is because the nebulæ of His love never cohered to an orb of rational polity; because mere sentiment can never save men till it changes into a science of life; because if this world is not something joyful and beautiful all other worlds are dismal delusions, that Christ’s message to humanity has been spoken in vain. Human love and self-respect, human science and verification, human perception of the limitations of knowledge, have done more in half a century to justify God, and prove the goodliness of life, than the doctrine of other-worldliness has done in 1,800 years.—I am, &c.,

                                                                                                                           ROBERT BUCHANAN.
     25, Maresfield-gardens, South Hampstead,
         Jan. 14.




     SIR,—The controversy started in your columns by Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Le Gallienne interests me far more deeply than Caprivi’s speech, the Panama scandal, or the Home Rule Bill. Let me begin what I have to say by asking the disputants what they mean by Christianity. This great word, like Socialism or Democracy, is a very complex term, and may connote a variety of things. Into the formation of Christianity have entered not only the deep, simple, yet comprehensive faith of Christ, but the stern, lofty Theism of the Hebrew religion, the Greek philosophy, the Roman juristic conceptions, and the reliquæ of Pagan systems; and at different periods in the history of Christendom one or other of these elements has been in the ascendant. Augustine—e.g., starting from divine sovereignty, gave to Christianity a forensic twist; Luther took up the Pauline doctrine of grace; while in out-of-the-way Italian villages you find to-day feelings and ideas in essence Pagan tricked out in Christian forms. The question, What is Christianity? must then first be considered. If Christianity means a certain body of miraculously revealed dogmas about the nature of God and the future of man, I think there can be little doubt that it is rapidly declining, that it exercises little influence on the modern man who repairs to church in tall silk hat and irreproachable clothes on Sunday to repeat words that have for him scarcely any meaning, as his conduct during the rest of the week shows. For while I utterly deny that Christ was a merely “moral” teacher, whose object was to give “rules of conduct,” yet those who enter into his ideas do insensibly find their conduct affected thereby. If Christianity means a Church system, it seems to me it is also doomed. I have a very wide range of acquaintance among intellectual men in London; yet I could not name three of them who ever enter a church from January to December, much less take any part in its sacraments. And we all know that much the same is the case in the great cities of Christendom. From this point of view, then, Christianity is not what it was.
     But there are those who do not care to abjure the Christian name, and yet who give to their idea of Christianity a quite different connotation. Christianity is to them not a series of propositions about Christ, but an influence, a current of ideas derived from Christ. They would use the Pauline phrase about “the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” which they think, with the Apostle, has “made them free from the law of sin and death”; and they look to this spirit for a renewal of the life of mankind. Without being ascetic, they endeavour to “live in the spirit.” Without being in any way indifferent to the actual concerns around them, they are yet interested chiefly in the eternal, not in the transient. They view human life sub specie eternitatis, and they see in Christ the one person who habitually and supremely lived that life. They feel themselves vitally or even filially related to the Eternal Life of the world, which is actually manifested or incarnated in man, and hence the vilest of mankind become their brethren, and the universe is for them transformed into a great spiritual movement. It is true that both Catholic and Protestant orthodoxy denies to such persons the definition of Christian. I do not personally care to dispute about names, as it seems to me a waste of time. But if the word Christian has any relation to Christ, then these persons are far more entitled to the name than Judaising Puritans, dry Anglican moralists, or Catholic Grand Inquisitors.
     From this point of view let me say a word on “M.’s” interesting letter. That Christ is not “the Master of this hard, coarse, bullying, hypocritical, and money-loving age” is so clear that no one can deny it. Sincere Christians would surely be the last to claim that the present abominable state of society was ruled, and guided, and led by Christ’s spirit. The Roman world into which Christ was born was, as Matthew Arnold has it in “Obermann,” “a world like ours to-day;” it was “hard, coarse, bullying, hypocritical, and money-loving.” But it is undoubtedly a fact that the Christ-spirit, while helping to break up that world, also purified it, and made possible the new birth which gave us the early martyrs, the great and noble Fathers, such ideals of loveliness as St. Cecilia and St. Theresa, of gentle self-forgetting but solid goodness as St. Francis, which gave us Dante and Florentine art, Bede and Cædmon, and much of the splendid literature of England. And I would suggest that, while Antichrist is certainly prime minister, if not emperor of the world of to-day, the Christ-spirit is embodied in the best men and women (whatever their speculative opinions may be) who are endeavouring to bring in the new world of to-morrow. I am no Utopian in the sense of believing in the advent of an all but perfect society on this planet within a measurable distance of time: history and philosophy alike teach me to distrust any such crude notion. But I do see, or I think I see, the beginning of a new spirit entering into society which will break up the old forms and create the world anew. It will not give us a perfect society, but it will endow mankind with deeper, intenser, larger life, and that is the one thing, as Tennyson has it, of which our nerves are scant. The “will to live,” which the pessimists regard as the source of all evil, is not evil at all in the Christian conception. It is a force which can be trained and purified when it surrenders itself to love and is yoked in the service of this supreme power. A will purified and directed by love towards human service and towards its own perfection—that is of the very essence of the Christian idea, as distinct from particular creeds or formulas, and that idea I find in Browning and Tennyson, in Tolstoi and Bjornson, in Whitman and Emerson, in Mazzini and Victor Hugo. Not one of these men of genius is a Christian in any conventional sense; but all of them more or less express the Christ-influence, the view of life, the feeling about man and the world, which Christ had.
     The disorders of out present civilisation are very largely, indeed I think mainly, due to the worship of scientific materialism. A generation ago we heard of nothing but the glories of Science (with the large, the very large S), chanted in raucous strains by such persons as Herr Haeckel and the Right Hon. T. H. Huxley, P. C. We were told of the coming new heaven and new earth, wherein would dwell scientific righteousness. I know that the Right Hon. Dr. Huxley says he is no materialist; and as he is a sane and cultivated man I do not suppose he is. Nevertheless the tendency of his writings and of the writings of the school to which he has belonged has been to make men believe that their salvation lay in science. We have had full opportunity (as had the ancients) of testing this experiment of treating man from a naturalistic standpoint. And to-day naturalism stands condemned. Man has been stripped of his divinity, he has been probed, analysed, and dissected; and the being whom Shakespeare found “in form and movement express and admirable,” “in apprehension like a god,” has been discovered to be nothing but “a forked radish with a head fantastically carved.” In social life we have built up a civilisation on material science, and what a civilisation! A series of the most hideous agglomerations that humanity ever devised, called towns, in which the kind of slavery and filthy abominations recently described by The Daily Chronicle Commissioner are lauded as examples of “our British enterprise.” Even our much- praised inventions of telegraph and railway are used mainly for enabling swindling transactions on the turf and the Bourse to be transmitted in the briefest space of time; or for wealthy people, bored to death by ennui, to pass in the most luxurious fashion from one scene of dissipation to another; “Labour” treated as a mere commodity to be bought as you buy a pound of cheese and to be chucked aside when no longer required. On the one hand yawning pessimists lounging away their time at clubs or gambling-tables; while, on the other, thousands of stunted joyless human beings for ever “producing,” yet never having decent shirts to their backs or shoes to their feet, or a “good square meal” to eat. A Jay Gould expiring, with his weeping “pastor” by his bedside, and leaving 90,000,000 of dollars made by what used to be called theft, but which is now known as “smartness”; while in rat-eaten garrets and foul cellars human beings are dying for lack of food and warmth. And Stanleys and other people of “enterprise” pushing about, “opening up” new countries in order to extend this charming civilisation!
     Such are the results of a civilisation exclusively dominated by materialistic science. Browning has diagnosed this disease with the deep insight of genius in “Paracelsus”:—

I failed: I gazed on power till I grew blind!
On power; I could not take my eyes from that—
That only, I thought, should be preserved, increased
At any risk, displayed, struck out at once—
The sign, and note, and character of man!

But as Browning saw the disease, he also saw the remedy; as he discerned the false view of man, he also saw the true:—

Love, hope, fear, faith—these make humanity,
These are its sign, and note, and character.

The merely scientific and naturalistic view of man leads to a spiritual cul de sac. There is no hope, no joy, no consolation for mankind that way. For man is not, as the scientists make him, a cunningly-contrived mechanism. As Alfred Russel Wallace asserts in his “Darwinism,” natural evolution cannot explain man. No; man is a living soul, as the poets and religious geniuses of all climes and ages have believed. And I think it not irrational to suppose that, out of the present medley, we may be guided by a new, vital, all-powerful presentation of this spiritual conception of man. Wagner has indeed done it in some measure in music, Browning in poetry. Scientific men and the “cultured” society people are mere Philistines; but the finer minds of the world have given up materialism and demand that physical science shall keep its proper place, where it is deserving of all praise, but that it shall not control our thought in higher regions. Let there be no mistake. If man be the sort of creature that mere physical science represents him as being, then inevitably a materialistic civilisation based on money is the result. But if Christ’s idea is right—that a man may gain the whole world and lose himself—then our present society is doomed. And I claim for those who are working, whether in social reform, literature, art, for the coming change, that they are “fellow-workers with Christ”; while those who stick to their beastly mammon-worship, whether they are atheists or occupants of the episcopal bench, are the enemies of whom Christ says, “Depart from me; I never knew you.”—I am, &c.,

     Jan. 14.




     SIR,—Mr. Buchanan wears such thick boots that it is hard to argue with him, and Mr. Le Gallienne’s terms are so impalpable that it is equally hard to pin him; but perhaps a few theses may be useful to these febrile combatants if taken as a kind of sedative powder.
     1. “Christianity” means nothing whatsoever, and cannot therefore be either played or played out. The Faith, the Church, the Sacraments, the Scriptures, and the City of God are all well-defined terms; but the word “Christianity” is used, now to express the faithful following of our Lord which is non-existent, and now as synonymous with evangelical Protestantism, which is anarchy, asceticism, and the adoration of private property mixed together in varying proportions.
     2. Christ has identified Himself with humanity, and cannot, therefore, unless by Schopenhaurists, be called a weary phantom waiting for the call to rest, nor yet can He be said to be at all well treated in modern life.
     3. The Church was always persecuted by Tory Pagans because she was (and is) a revolutionary society, which considers Jack to be as good as his employer, and which vehemently asserts men’s interdependence and denies their independence.
     4. When Christ confiscated the loaves and fishes for the hungry crowd, He did not bid the folk scramble for these, but made an orderly organised distribution. From the Circumcision to the Passover He was a conformist, and overset laws by better laws, and never by “uncompromising” or other “anarchy.”
     5. Nursemaids and others are deeply moved by fine uniforms, and all of us by beautiful dresses, whether these are dubbed “mere literature” or “ceremonies,” or anything else. It, therefore, behoves our teachers and prophets not to “care nothing” for such things, which is both silly and supercilious in them, but to understand our weakness, if they want to elevate us.—I am, Sir, yours not at all wearily,

                                                                                                                           CHARLES L. MARSON.
     Christ Church, Clapham, Jan. 14.



The Daily Chronicle.
Tuesday, January 17, 1893.

1. Richard Le Gallienne’s second letter.
2. Letter from J. C. Kenworthy.
3. Letter from H. R. W.
4. Mention in review of In the Key of Blue, and Other Prose Essays by John Addington Symonds.
(“At the same time, since Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Le Gallienne are at their duel, let us boldly confess ourselves of Mr. Le Gallienne’s side, and declare that, if a book’s style be naught, the book is naught. Literature is literature; and true, high, fine thoughts badly expressed are as bad as vile, low, mean thoughts well expressed.”)




     SIR,—What can be said to a critic who puts “The Epic of Hades” and “Lucile” in the same category as “The Faerie Queen” and “Paradise Regained”! I am sure I never dreamed of saying that the first two were either literature, or even “mere literature.” I wouldn’t say it if you put me to the torture. And to say that “The Faerie Queen” and “Paradise Regained” are “examples of the form of poetry without its living soul.” O day and night, but this is wondrous strange! Test the point even on the weaker couple, “The Idylls of the King” (which it has become a mere cant to disparage) and “The Essay on Man.” In Tennyson’s poem I find many a stirring line to inspire to true manhood; in Pope I find the very lines, if duly assimilated, to settle the whole of the big question that heads this column:—

All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
All Chance, Direction which thou canst not see;
All Discord, Harmony not understood;
All partial Evil, universal Good:
And, spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, whatever is, is right.

Gnomic, certainly. Pope didn’t realise it himself! Very Likely. But would he thus be the only person who builded better than he knew? For me, at least, there is “soul” enough in those lines to make “The Wandering Jew,” as Mr. Swinburne would say, “to kick the beam and vanish.”
     “M.” pretends to misunderstand what I mean by “essential Christianity.” Surely I could hardly have expressed myself more plainly, though I must not forget “M.’s” years. Surely “essential Christianity” obviously means Christianity pure and simple, disassociated from the creeds and conventions that have in the course of time grown around its central ideal—in other words, what “M.” calls “bald Christianity.”
     This brings me to the test sentence of “M.’s” letter. He says: “If you put bald Christianity before a bench of Bishops or a Wesleyan Conference, or all the deacons in Christendom, they would have at you for a blaspheming atheist.” Could anything be more hopelessly from the point? Did I not expressly state that when I spoke of Christianity I was not referring to Romanism, Anglicanism, or any conventional form of it? Did I not speak of Christ re-arisen “released from the trammelling grave-clothes of ecclesiastical superstition?” What more could I have said, what more was needed to make the thing clear even to s man who pleads guilty to the infirmities of middle age? I must buy “M.” an ear-trumpet, I think. “M.” gives a list of certain men of letters who have despaired of the present age; but he mustn’t forget that it is largely the influence of these very men which is operating so beneficially amongst us to-day. All of them, despite lapses of despondency or selfishness, were, I claim, “essential” Christians.
     I have read Mr. Buchanan’s second letter with much care, and I regret to say that he gives my feet no sensation of that solid ground which he promised them. I know all about the un-Christianity of Christian history—

                         The name of God
Has fenced about all crime with holiness,

and all that kind of thing, but priests and merely “professing Christians” are irrelevant. The question at issue is at last, one is glad to say, to be fought out in a much narrower pass. Priests and “professing Christians” may still be discussed along with the Trinity and the plenary inspiration of the Bible at preparatory secularist meetings; it is well they should, and I agree with “M.” that the Secularists have done splendid work in so discussing them. But they are only skirmishing grounds; the heat of the battle has long since passed elsewhere. The priest and the mere professing believer are the phenomena of all religions; they explain each other as cause and effect; to the prophet and the true believer they are not even step-brothers. They represent the spirit of compromise in all lands. They materialise all they touch; the mere mechanical imitators of great minds, they have discredited Christianity as they discredited Buddhism. Praise indeed be to the Secularists who have discredited them. But the Secularist mistook his mission when he proceeded to discredit the message of which the priests are the unworthy oracles. For that the Secularist’s one great weapon, reason, is inadequate. In criticising the fundamental elements of Christianity reason goes beyond its depth. In criticising its historical, ecclesiastical, credentials alone is it within its province. Actually, it cannot even discredit the miracles of Christ. Asked what in Christianity I regard as “essential” I reply: The belief in the beneficence of the Power who made us, in the spiritual significance and ultimate blessedness of existence, and the life for others—(no anchorite, self-maceration, but a healthy subjection of self.) Reason cannot disprove any of these propositions; but, curiously enough, while denying the first two, the Secularist has adopted the most transcendental of all three, the life for others, without a murmur. And yet it is harder to prove why we should live for others than to prove the Trinity. It is round this most vital question that the modern armies of faith and doubt are closing for the final struggle.
     Yet, if we think a little, we will see that this apparently fantastical, unpractical gospel of unselfishness was a necessary outcome of evolution: it is, in fact, the inevitable reductio of the gregarious instinct. Very early on in the world’s history men found it impossible to live together on primitive self-preservation principles, and thus the law of “give and take,” the recognition of the rights of others, gradually developed in the thick head of primitive man. Unselfishness was, as often since, selfishness at its start, but suddenly from out this slow accumulation of experience sprang the flash of intuition, and men began to see a mystical beauty as well as convenience in self-sacrifice. Buddha, as we know, had formulated the intuition into a great religion long before Christ, philosophers in Europe had taught and practised it, but it remained for Christ by the emotional power of His personality to give it the crowning formula of all. Moreover, He added to it those other assurances I have mentioned, previously denied by Buddha, and speculated on by the philosophers. What are the witnesses against these assurances? Pain and science. Pain says that God cannot be love, else why all this suffering? But what can the corn know of the process and end of its grinding? As it is, do we not continually find in our individual lives instances of that mystical operation of pain by which pain to-day means growth, and consequently joy, to-morrow. As with individuals may it not also prove with man: that all this bitter agony of his is but “growing-pain” to purify the race, not merely for “the higher heights unclimbed yet,” but for here and now.
     As for science, till it can teach me anything but names and distances I care little about it. If Christianity be a hypocrisy, what must science be? When a man of science can give me a final explanation (no intermediate phraseology) of how a blade of grass grows, why the beauty of a flower charms me, why I love my wife and my friend, then I shall think him a profitable companion. Till then he but wastes my time. That flower which Tennyson pulled out from the crannied wall still lies where the poet threw it down as a challenge. If the man of science will tell us what it is, what it means, “root and all, and all in all,” we can deduce for ourselves “what God and man is.” But the man of science cannot tell us the meaning of a single petal, and yet he is ready enough to dogmatise as to what God and man is!
     He and all such “thinkers” remind me of an animalcule in my blood which I heard just now violently denying the possibility of my existence—and all the time I am here sure enough, wielding pen against Mr. Buchanan! “Thinking” beyond a certain limit is futile. In the hackneyed phrase, man knows most when he realises that he knows nothing. We are but tiny grains of the bricks that make the mighty building. How, in the name of common sense, can we expect to know anything about the Architect’s design? My “simple” philosophy, it will be seen, is one of intuition. Without intuition, indeed, nothing but a doll’s-house philosophy is possible. All my senses appear to me intuitions. Reason gives me no explanation of why I smell, taste, or hear; in fact, as Whitman said, “every tag of me is a miracle,” and it is no use trying to explain life in any other terms.
     It seemed necessary first to deal with the central idea of Christianity as an idea. Now, as to its application to life. Mr. Buchanan and “M.” both say that, so applied, it has failed—both would seem to say that mankind is more selfish, or at least just as selfish now in 1892 as in the first year of the Christian era. Here I have a comrade in the writer of the very admirable letter signed “Inquirer.” He alone has gone to the root of the matter. He has not perversely misunderstood what I obviously meant by “Essential Christianity,” but he also with me sees “the Christ-spirit” more influential to-day than it has ever yet been. It is unnecessary for me to repeat what “Inquirer” has said so well. I thank him for so ably developing a point of view which I did not profess to do more than state in my first letter. Mr. Buchanan, however, says that this “new spirit” is Secularism. The influence referred to is no mere sociological force generated by moral philosophy; it includes and transcends such forces, and has its spring in those spiritual intuitions of the import of existence which Christianity alone of all religions has taught. Mr. Buchanan complains that the Kingdom of Christ is long in coming. Of necessity it is, for, odd as the statement may sound, it has had no chance till within the last few years. Like most truth, its gospel came into the world long before the world was ready for it. Man was still too busy with material problems to have any success in the application of a system of such pure idealism. I will go so far as to say that it was necessary for the power of machinery to be settled with before Christianity in any wide sense could freely operate. Mankind at large, I say, was hedged in with material preoccupations, subduing nature, discovering countries, experimenting in government, &c. Consequently Christianity fell into the hands of those spiritual middlemen the priests, who for a long period supplied more and more adulterated forms to the world. To truly understand it, simple as it looks, a great deal of reasoning must be gone through. In the long battle of science with spurious faith, reason once more regained its proper sphere. Besides, it was necessary before Christianity could be understood, that the problems of the physical world should be put into juster relation with those of the spiritual. This has come about. Man has no longer any crude childish notions of his place in the scheme of things. He has made a thorough survey of his planet, and science has at least taught him to measure his own littleness. Along with the dominion of the priest, the social tyranny under which he has suffered is passing too. There seems some chance of his at last being at home in the world. He is, therefore, at length in the mood to which the teachings of Christ can alone appeal. He has no stuck-up ideas about himself, no preoccupations with undiscovered Americas or “Prester John,” his many tweedledum and tweedledee battles may be said to be over. That this new wisdom is as yet but in a small degree operative amid the masses is immaterial. It is to be seen clearly enough in the influences directing those masses: for what is the significance of the London County Council, of the Eight Hours Bill, of Early Closing, of the whole Socialistic movement? What is at the bottom of it all but Christianity? Mr. Buchanan says “Secularism.” But the whole is greater than its part. The word “Secularism” is not sufficiently inclusive. So far “Christianity” is the word which best expresses collectively the influences or intuitions I have spoken of. If some one invents a better I will use it to-morrow. Meanwhile I shall “dare,” with Sir Thomas Browne, “assume the honourable style of a Christian.” But our concern is not with names. The point is that “He, the gentle one,” is becoming to a greater and greater degree “the Master of this hard, coarse, &c., age.”

                                                                                                                     RICHARD LE GALLIENNE
     Jan. 16.




     SIR,—May I point out to Mr. Buchanan that several passages in his letter which appears to-day are not merely erroneous opinions, but clearly contrary to easily verifiable facts? For instance, he says of Christ that “He recommended a policy of complete quiescence and stagnation.” Than this assertion nothing could be less true; there is no plainer teaching in the Gospels than this, that His followers must use their utmost energies in living and propagating the Christ-life. Again, Mr. Buchanan writes: “He affirmed that heaven was here impossible, because man was imperfect.” Such an affirmation (whatever Mr. Buchanan may mean by it) could have had no reasonable place in Christ’s teaching, and I do not know that this affirmation is, even constructively, anywhere to be found in the New Testament. Again, we are informed, “He forgot that the Divine kingdom, if it is to exist at all, must begin where God first localised it—on this  planet.” If Mr. Buchanan will read carefully and without prejudice, he will, I believe, find that what he has here stated is actively and absolutely contradicted throughout the New Testament.
     I instance these passages because they go to prove that Mr. Buchanan has not yet arrived at the truth in respect to what Christ’s teaching really was. As a consequence, while the spirit of his poem is of the noblest, the matter of it is vitiated by fundamental misconceptions of his subject. These misconceptions culminate in a final one, expressed near the close of his letter: “The nebulæ of His love never cohered to an orb of rational polity.” Only a shallow acquaintance with the New Testament and the overlooking of early Christian history could enable this assertion. It was Christ who founded His polity on the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”—an economic axiom infinitely transcending anything our modern economists have imagined. It was Christ who organised the twelve and the seventy for propaganda work, and made His followers preachers by their lives and words. It was He who deliberately wrought on the hearts of men, knowing that all forms of polity were conceived in the heart. It was He whose polity caused the setting up of a kingdom within a kingdom—those Christian Churches whose withdrawal from the ordinary civic life threatened the State with collapse, and brought down the persecution Christ foresaw. It is the teaching of Christ, spread abroad by His polity, which is the potent force in the evolution of morals taking place now; it is the teaching of Christ, exemplified in those early communes, and in later communistic efforts innumerable, that will yet realise on earth the perfect communism, the brotherhood of man, for the manifestation of which the whole creation groans and travails in pain.—I am, yours truly,

                                                                                                                                 J. C. KENWORTHY
     Mansfield House, Canning Town, E.,
         Jan. 16.



The Daily Chronicle.
Wednesday, January 18, 1893.

1. Robert Buchanan’s fourth letter.
2. Letter from J. Morrison Davidson.
3. Letter from ‘A Priest’.
4. Letter from ‘A Little Minister’.




     SIR,—I am glad, for the sake of our high argument, that Mr. Le Gallienne has at last given us an instance of what he means by Literature. He has chosen, for that purpose, the supremest example in our language of that “mere literature” which the adult world, having emerged from the period of infantile lactation, knows to be mere Twaddle. I must re-quote the lines so characteristic of the querulous mannikin in poetic swaddling-clothes who wrote them, and so thrilling to the pinchbeck age of Pope and my Lord Bolingbroke:—

All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
All Chance, Direction which thou canst not see;
All Discord, Harmony not understood;
All partial Evil, universal Good:
And spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s sight,
One truth is clear—whatever is, is right!

And in these lines, in these copy-book texts, in this spinning of a literary “teetotum,” Mr. Le Gallienne discovers “soul,” discovers “poetry”! They would even, he avers, make the “Wandering Jew” “kick the beam.” Possibly; but they would make many people, both Jew and Christian, long to “kick” the author.
     It is not only that these lines, and the whole molluscous “Essay on Man,” from which they are extracted, form a perfect warning to the versifiers of all time of how not to write. They tell them with equal accuracy how not to think, and how not to twaddle. For generations they were the rapture of those literary Innocents who, like Mr. Le Gallienne, take their poetry from a sucking-bottle and seek their mental pabulum at the breast. As late as the period when Jeffrey informed Wordsworth that his poetry would “never do,” when the Edinburgh Review said of “Christabel” that it “did not contain one couplet which would be reckoned poetry, or even sense, were it found in the corner of a newspaper or on the window of an inn,” while the Anti-Jacobin said of the same poem that it “excited only astonishment and disgust”; as late as the period when Blackwood’s Magazine described “Johny” Keats as “a small poet of pretty abilities, which he had done everything in his power to spoil,” the ineffable Mr. Alexander Pope was still quoted as a God-endowed King of Parnassus, and his polite attempt to tinker up Providence was still hailed as a masterpiece of thought and form. At a much later epoch appeared “In Memoriam,” which, despite its many beauties, was in reality the “Essay on Man” brought up to date. The teetotum was spun again, literary Innocence was delighted, and Humanity was informed, in a series of tailor-made verses, that “whatever is is right,” and that Christ, the “Christ that is to be,” was coming. No sane critic, of course, would compare the hop-step-and-jump puerilities of Pope with the exquisite art of Tennyson, but both of these writers, in the works to which I have alluded, were trying to cover the nakedness and indecency of Nature with a cambric pocket-handkerchief.
     It may be all very true that “whatever is, is right,” and that “all partial Evil is universal Good.” “Essential” Christianity, with which our Innocents are so much in love, has been telling us so for nearly 2,000 years. But what may be very good matter for the parson is generally very poor stuff for the poet. It is an excellent thing, a noble thing, to “justify the ways of God to men,” to explain, for example, the moral uses of great suffering and the necessity of some mundane system of rewards and punishments; but that purpose is scarcely served by endless assurances that everything is right, everything is beneficent, though “we don’t see it.” There is the difficulty; we don’t see it! We don’t see, though Mr. Le Gallienne says he does (bless him!), why the earth had to be turned into an abbatoir, a reeking slaughterhouse, before Christianity “could be understood.” We don’t see that “He, the Gentle One, is the Master of this coarse age,” or has been the Master of any previous age. We do see, certainly, that the Gospel of Love “came into the world long before the world was ready for it.” The suggestion, perhaps, is somewhat uncomplimentary to Providence, and rather implies bungling than Omnipotence!
     The King, earthly or heavenly, can do no wrong; that is the eternal argument of his advocates, clerical and literary. No matter what enormities disfigure the kingdom, no matter what horrors accompany the reign, no matter how the King seems to potter in his monarchical arrangements, we must hold our tongues, because “whatever is, is right.” We who are not monarchists decline to be satisfied with the explanation. We may admit the beneficence of the King, but we have begun to question his omnipotence. We think, some of us, long removed from the state of innocence, that the monarchical system may have been a blunder from the very beginning! We think, being destitute of that æsthetic sense which makes M. Le Gallienne so beautiful and so unerring, that the Divine Artist often paints very bad pictures. I will give you an example. It was my fate once to witness the agonies, the horrible sufferings, of a poor little caged Monkey dying slowly of consumption. (I put Humanity aside for the moment, and turn to our poor relations.) I saw the weary little creature, so human in its looks, so human even in his patience, enduring constant pain as he wasted away. His woe-worn face, his piteous cries, his feeble appeals for help which never came, were heart-breaking to contemplate. At another time I had a Dog stricken by paralysis. Even in his suffering, he so loved his life, he so clung to his master for cheer and comfort, that I had not the heart to kill him. So far from comforting myself with the thought that “whatever is, is right,” I thought and think to myself: “Even for that much-desired consummation, the evolution of the Perfect Man, of the divine Le Gallienne of the Future, who knoweth all things and believeth all things, I cannot justify such agonies as these.” And when I thought of the innumerable creatures suffering like torture, when I realised the butchering Anarchy of Nature, when I remembered how through countless ages Life had been pressing onward beneath the load of unutterable pain, when I turned to the millions of sentient things who perish that a few may live, I cried aloud (blasphemously, no doubt, and in a spirit which would have horrified the ingenious Mr. Pope and the ingenuous Mr. Le Gallienne: “If these things are part and parcel of the beneficence and omnipotence of the Supreme Power which works for righteousness, I for one fail to understand that Power and feel inclined to execrate it in my heart of hearts.”
     Having written as I have written, having for years been in revolt against what has been justly termed the coarse Materialism of this age, I need hardly add that the mood which I have described is not my normal one; that, in other words, I hope and believe, where others despair and doubt. But in my strongest hope and belief, I can never feel that such sorrows as I have seen, such aimless and impotent sufferings, are reconcilable with the idea of Omnipotent Beneficence. It may be, perhaps it must be, so, but I fail to comprehend, and I will not sop my soul with the apologies of my Lord Bolingbroke or any other fine gentleman. I think, indeed, that this miserable formula, “whatever is is right,” means, if accepted, the death of all healthy endeavour, and I therefore leave it to the special pleaders for Providence. In my “The Wandering Jew,” I have pictured the man Jesus as utterly failing to discover God the Father, as speechless and despairing before the eternal Stupidity of the world which God created. Jesus of Nazareth could not bear the sight of human suffering; it made him bow his head, and weep. How, then, could Jesus of Nazareth be God? Jesus, I can understand—nothing that my Elder Brother thought or did is doubtful to me; but God is so far off from my comprehension, that he—well, really, he fails to interest me. “Just so,” says the believer; “and Jesus came to explain, or at least to adumbrate, the meaning of the Inconceivable.” That is Christianity’s easy way out of life’s dilemma; that is the facile optimism which delighted the eighteenth century, and which will delight thousands of infants until Time is done. But the lesson of life to me is that I have to fight, with all my fellow men, against endless evils for which Omnipotence, and Omnipotence only, is responsible: that Suffering, so far from being a beautiful thing in itself, is ugly; but that we can all do something, however little, to lessen the sorrow of the world, and to enlarge the area of the world’s happiness. And, to return to the argument of my last letter, I think that poor Humanity will advance further by admitting (humbly and reverently) that Some One may have “blundered,” than by hushing itself with the baby’s lullaby that “whatever is, is   right!”—I am, &c.,

                                                                                                                           ROBERT BUCHANAN.
     Jan. 17.




     SIR,—I have not yet had the pleasure of reading Mr. Robert Buchanan’s “Wandering Jew,” and must, therefore, meanwhile content myself with his own statement of its import in Monday’s Daily Chronicle.
     That statement is characterised by great vigour of expression, and a candour altogether admirable; but though the figure of our knight-errant poet, mounted on his prancing war-horse, and slashing down with his good Andrea Ferrara foolhardy critics right and left, is most impressive, it must yet, I think, be confessed that he is not—well, to put it mildly, a continuous reasoner, and that his meaning in consequence is somewhat difficult to grasp. Almost in the same breath he “approbates and reprobates”—being a true Scot, he will understand the phrase—in a most astonishing manner.
     Christ, it seems, was morally perfect, or almost so, but intellectually a most deplorable failure; nay, “the very genius of failure.”
     Wherein has this disastrous failure consisted? In Christ’s inability “to realise the necessities, the conditions, and the laws of average human nature.” How came the Son of Man, Son of God, the Divine Man, to err so egregiously? Because “he judged men far too gently, and he was far too sanguine about human perfectibility—that is all!” And being thus unwarrantably sanguine about the perfectibility of our frail human nature, what did the Wonderful, the Counsellor   do? Truly is it the unexpected that happens. “He affirmed that Heaven was here impossible because man was imperfect” (!) “He forgot that the Divine Kingdom, if it is to exist at all, must begin where God first localised it—on this planet.” “He recommends a policy of complete quiescence and stagnation.” “He turned from this world as from something in its very nature base and detestable.”
     Now, if this be true—and it is the very kernel of Mr. Buchanan’s contention, so far as I can master it—Christianity is not merely played out; it was never, if I may so phrase it, played in. It has, from first to last, in its very essence, and excluding Churchianity in all its feculant forms, for all practical purposes been a delusion and a snare to mankind. But before, under Mr. Buchanan’s light and leading, we adopt this momentous conclusion, it may be well to inquire what version of the New Testament he has been in the habit of consulting. Certainly on no one on which I have ever been able to lay my hands.
     Why, the very first petition to the Father in the Lord’s Prayer runs (if I am not dreaming), Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. It was just “on this planet,” here and now, that the kingdom was to “begin,” and, so far was he from despairing of human nature that he laid the injunction on his followers, Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Nay, to those who were near him shortly before his death he said, The works that I do shall ye do also, and greater works than these shall ye do. Even on the cross he found nothing that was irremediably depraved in his very executioners—Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
     “He recommended a policy of complete quiescence and stagnation!” When? Where? Had this indictment been brought against Buddhism, for example, it would have been intelligible. Buddhism sacrifices so much to mere contemplation, that it may be justly charged with much of the “stagnation” with which the East is unhappily afflicted. But surely action is the very watchword of genuine Christianity. My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. And we know what was the quality of his works—works of tenderest mercy and love which touch Mr. Buchanan as they have touched the best hearts and the sanest intellects of all ages. Nay, he makes a sort of enforced, enigmatical admission, if not confession, of faith which may be held to stultify nearly all that he asserts regarding “the very genius of failure.” Of course I don’t seek to attach any precise significance to his words, for as the Emperor was supra grammaticam, so is our poet superior to logic; but they are curious all the same, and I therefore reproduce them: “Well, the dream of Jesus was of God (a God of Love), and so is ours. That it will be realised somehow and somewhere is my living faith. Nothing beautiful or true can perish, and this world would be a charnel-house if eternal death were possible.”
     “Somehow and somewhere,” then, the dream of Jesus Christ and of Robert Buchanan is to be realised; but Jesus, it seems, knew not the modus operandi, at any rate “on this planet,” and Robert’s own hints in the direction of realisation are, alas! of the vaguest or even non-existent order, affording no basis for profitable consideration.
     Of far more consequence is it to be told why “Christ’s message to humanity has been spoken in vain.” It was, we learn, “because the nebulæ of his love never cohered to an orb of rational polity.” In other words, Mr. Buchanan has either never heard of the Communistic Commonwealth, the foundations of which Christ laid in the very heart of the cruel, concupiscent empire of the Cæsars, or he disapproves of that polity. If he disapproves of Christian communism (the polity in question), by all means let him say so. It is nothing more than “Sovereigns and Statesmen,” and the great ones of the earth have at all times affirmed, at least in practice. But there is, at all events, nothing in the slightest degree nebulous about the communism which Christ and his followers preached and practised. Karl Marx was an utter pagan, but there is not an essential proposition in “Das Kapital” that Jesus of Nazareth did not inculcate.
     Is it a question of rent? You are as much entitled to immunity from it as the birds of the air or the grass of the fields. Is it a question of usury or interest? Lend hoping for nothing again. Is it a question of profit or inequitable exchange? Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you.
     And this very “rational,” nay divine “polity” was pursued by the early Christians with such success that it brought down on them ten Imperial persecutions of unparalleled atrocity. Why? Because Christian communism threatened “private property,” the very foundation-stone of the Roman State, the British State, and every other in the so-called civilised world of to-day.
     A late Right Rev. Father in God, it will be remembered, was severely taken to task for announcing that the principles of the Sermon on the Mount were incompatible with the very existence of the State; but he was quite right. The State is organised for the express purpose of promoting and protecting private property, whereas the Church (if we but had one) would recognise common property alone.
     The atheist Emperor Constantine, perhaps the champion criminal of mankind, compared with whom Mr. Buchanan’s “sullen” Imperial French “assassin” was a mere pigmy in wickedness, as clearly apprehended the internecine character of the struggle as the Anglican prelate. The “world”—his world—was threatened with imminent ruin from the Christian imperium in imperio. Fire and sword had done their worst, and signally failed. What to do? Turn Christian! This the Imperial miscreant and his shameless crew pretended to do, and from that day to this the “clergy of all denominations” have served Mammon most faithfully and the God of economic freedom very fitfully, or not at all.
     But all the same, I for one feel perfectly confident that genuine Christianity is not only not played out, but that, appearances notwithstanding, it is about to enter on a more determined conflict with the forces of social evil than it has ever yet waged. There are many thousands of the best brains and the stoutest hearts in Christendom, some of them even within the Churches, who have never bowed the knee to Baal, and who are ready to spend and to be spent to the uttermost in a united fraternal effort to establish the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, and to demonstrate that the author and finisher of their faith, the Blessed Nazarene, was no “dreamer,” but economically as spiritually the Way, the Truth, and the Life.—I am, &c.,

                                                                                                                   J. MORRISON DAVIDSON.
     Democratic Club, Jan. 17.




     SIR,—Mr. Buchanan’s pungent letter of the 14th inst. will, I am sure, be read by your numerous readers with a high appreciation of its literary merit. Possibly some may be carried away by its flood of eloquence as a frail vessel beyond control is borne towards the Niagara Falls. But with all respect to the writer, and with deep regard for the well-being of Christian (?) England, I venture to ask a few questions on this deeply important subject:—

     1. Is not Christianity played in rather than out? Obviously Christianity is not effete. Neither is it played out in the world. No, Sir, it is played in idolatrous ecclesiastical playhouses.
     2. If Christianity be played out we ought to know which is meant. The character of Christianity as now presented is not the same as that of Jesus the Christ.
     3. Is Mr. Buchanan justified in speaking of Christ as “the Divine Anarchist”? or in saying that “Christianity, the creed built up in his name, has saved no living soul?” What is meant here by “saved”?
     4. Is he right in asserting that Jesus “forgot that the Divine Kingdom, if it is to exist at all, must begin where God first localised it—on this planet”? Surely the New Testament abounds with teaching respecting the kingdom of God being here and now, “among” or “in” men.
     5. Is the secularism which all thoughtful men—like Mr. Buchanan—admire an antithesis to Christianity? Surely not. The late Rev. Percy Strutt, in his “inductive Method of Christian Inquiry” (1877), wrote that—while “the rise and growth of salvation through faith in Christ is limited to individual persons”—“the progress of the world’s salvation is secular.” “Christianity has made its presence felt in human life.” “there has been the outgrowth of great fruit-bearing principles.” “The secular development of Christianity has even become a diffused influence of Christian thought, which, like the leaven in our Lord’s parable, silently and mysteriously set up a deep ferment in the intellectual and social life of the   world.”
     6. Is it right to affirm that the history of Christianity, so-called, is “one of endless cruelties and countless horrors”?
     Will anyone now affirm that the burning of martyrs who were innocent of crime was a Christian act?
     7. In judging a man by his deeds, if the deed be wrong, have we not a right standard by which the judgment is adjusted? We condemn the deed, not the standard of a righteous law.

     I humbly submit that Mr. Buchanan’s position is a proof in itself of that essential Christianity which has provided him with a standard of moral perception by which he pronounces judgment on wrong-doing. The moral law says, “Thou shalt not steal.” Will anyone assert because so many of us are thieves that that law is “played out”? The Gospel says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and because so many of us do not thus seek, is the Gospel played out? Mr. Buchanan knows it is not.—Yours faithfully,

                                                                                                                               A LITTLE MINISTER
     Jan. 16.



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