services are fast becoming pure Formalism. More and more the people

are beginning to regard them as ‘performances,’ in which they only

‘assist’ in the French sense. And it is specially bad for the little

boys. They’d be much less self-conscious as pantomime-fairies.

With all that dressing-up, and stagy-entrances and exits, and being

always en evidence, no wonder if they’re eaten up with vanity,

the blatant little coxcombs!”

When we passed the Hall on our return, we found the Earl and Lady

Muriel sitting out in the garden. Eric had gone for a stroll.

We joined them, and the conversation soon turned on the sermon we had

just heard, the subject of which was ‘selfishness.’

“What a change has come over our pulpits,” Arthur remarked, “since the

time when Paley gave that utterly selfish definition of virtue,

‘the doing good to mankind, in obedience to the will of God, and for

the sake of everlasting happiness’!”

Lady Muriel looked at him enquiringly, but she seemed to have learned

by intuition, what years of experience had taught me, that the way to

elicit Arthur’s deepest thoughts was neither to assent nor dissent,

but simply to listen.

“At that time,” he went on, “a great tidal wave of selfishness was

sweeping over human thought. Right and Wrong had somehow been

transformed into Gain and Loss, and Religion had become a sort of

commercial transaction. We may be thankful that our preachers are

beginning to take a nobler view of life.”

“But is it not taught again and again in the Bible?” I ventured to ask.

“Not in the Bible as a whole,” said Arthur. “In the Old Testament,

no doubt, rewards and punishments are constantly appealed to as motives

for action. That teaching is best for children, and the Israelites

seem to have been, mentally, utter children. We guide our children

thus, at first: but we appeal, as soon as possible, to their innate

sense of Right and Wrong: and, when that stage is safely past,

we appeal to the highest motive of all, the desire for likeness to,

and union with, the Supreme Good. I think you will find that to be the

teaching of the Bible, as a whole, beginning with ‘that thy days may be

long in the land,’ and ending with ‘be ye perfect, even as your Father

which is in heaven is perfect.'”

We were silent for awhile, and then Arthur went off on another tack.

“Look at the literature of Hymns, now. How cankered it is, through and

through, with selfishness! There are few human compositions more

utterly degraded than some modern Hymns!”

I quoted the stanza

“Whatever, Lord, we tend to Thee,

Repaid a thousandfold shall be,

Then gladly will we give to Thee,

Giver of all!’

“Yes,” he said grimly: “that is the typical stanza. And the very last

charity-sermon I heard was infected with it. After giving many good

reasons for charity, the preacher wound up with ‘and, for all you give,

you will be repaid a thousandfold!’ Oh the utter meanness of such a

motive, to be put before men who do know what self-sacrifice is,

who can appreciate generosity and heroism! Talk of Original Sin!”

he went on with increasing bitterness. “Can you have a stronger proof

of the Original Goodness there must be in this nation, than the fact

that Religion has been preached to us, as a commercial speculation,

for a century, and that we still believe in a God?”

“It couldn’t have gone on so long,” Lady Muriel musingly remarked,

“if the Opposition hadn’t been practically silenced–put under what the

French call la cloture. Surely in any lecture-hall, or in private

society, such teaching would soon have been hooted down?”

“I trust so,” said Arthur: “and, though I don’t want to see ‘brawling

in church’ legalised, I must say that our preachers enjoy an enormous

privilege–which they ill deserve, and which they misuse terribly.

We put our man into a pulpit, and we virtually tell him ‘Now, you may

stand there and talk to us for half-an-hour. We won’t interrupt you by

so much as a word! You shall have it all your own way!’ And what does

he give us in return? Shallow twaddle, that, if it were addressed to

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Categories: Carroll, Lewis