Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From a Letter to Rev. J. de La Touche
By Frederick Denison Maurice (1805–1872)
HOLDOR HOUSE, DORKING, April 14th, 1863.    
I DO not know whether you will think me less or more fitted to enter into that tremendous difficulty of which you speak in your last letter, when I tell you that I was brought up a Unitarian, and that I have distinctly and deliberately accepted the belief which is expressed in the Nicene Creed as the only satisfaction of the infinite want which Unitarianism awakened in me; yes, and as the only vindication of the truth which Unitarianism taught me.
  You feel that our Lord is a man in the most perfect sense of the word. You cannot convince yourself that he is more. No, nor will any arguments convince you that he is more. For what do you mean by that more? Is it a Jupiter Tonans whom you are investing with the name of God? is it to him you pray when you say “Our Father which art in heaven”? Is God a Father,—really and actually a Father? is he in heaven, far away from our conceptions and confusions,—one whom we cannot make in the likeness of anything above, around, beneath us? Or is all this a dream? is there no God, no father? has he never made himself known, never come near to men? can men never come near to him?  2
  Are you startled that I put these questions to you? Do they seem more terrible than any that have yet presented themselves to you? Oh, they are the way back to the faith of the little child, and to the faith of the grown man. It is not Christ about whom our doubts are. We are feeling after God if haply we may find him. We cannot find him in nature. Paley will not reveal him to us. But he is very near us; very near to those creatures whom he has formed in his own image; seeking after them; speaking to them in a thousand ways.  3
  The belief of a Son who was with him before all worlds, in whom he created and loves the world; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and became incarnate, and died, and was buried, and rose again for us, and ascended on high to be the High Priest of the universe,—this belief is what? Something that I can prove by texts of Scripture or by cunning arguments of logic? God forbid! I simply commend it to you. I know that you want it. I know that it meets exactly what your spirit is looking after, and cannot meet with in any books of divinity. For we have to find out that God is not in a book; that he is; that he must reveal himself to us;—that he is revealing himself to us.  4
  I am not distressed that you should be brought to feel that these deep and infinite questions—not questions about the arithmetic of the Bible—are what are really haunting and tormenting you. I believe that the clergy must make this discovery. We have been repeating phrases and formulas. We have not entered into them, but only have accepted certain reasonings and proofs about them. Now they are starting up and looking at us as if they were alive, and we are frightened at the sight. It is good for us to be frightened; only let us not turn away from them, and find fault with them, but ask God—if we believe that he can hear us—to search us and show us what is true, and to bring us out of our atheism.  5
  How, you ask, can I use the prayers of the Church which assume Christ’s divinity when I cannot see sufficient proof that he is divine? That is a question, it seems to me, which no man can answer for you; nay, which you cannot answer for yourself. If I am right, it is in prayer that you must find the answer. Yes, in prayer to be able to pray; in prayer to know what prayer is; in prayer to know whether, without a Mediator, prayer is not a dream and an impossibility for you, me, every one. I cannot solve this doubt. I can but show you how to get it solved. I can but say, The doubt itself may be the greatest blessing you ever had, may be the greatest striving of God’s Spirit within you that you have ever known, may be the means of making every duty more real to you.  6
  I do not know who your bishop is. If he is a person with whom it is possible to communicate freely, I should tell him that I had perplexities which made the use of the Prayer Book not as true to me as it once was; that I wanted time for quiet thought; that I should like to be silent for a little while;—I would ask him to let me commit my charge to a curate till I could see my way more clearly. That would be better, surely, than a resignation, painful not merely to your friends but injurious to the Church, and perhaps a reason for severe repentance afterwards. But I may be only increasing your puzzles by this suggestion. Of the fathers in God on earth I have no certainty. Of the Father in heaven I can be quite certain. Therefore one of my hints may be worth nothing. The other is worth everything.  7

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.