This little tale was written between two and three years ago, in the hope that it might help to call the attention of wiser and better men than I am, to the questions which are now agitating the minds of the rising generation, and to the absolute necessity of solving them at once and earnestly, unless we would see the faith of our forefathers crumble away beneath the combined influence of new truths which are fancied to be incompatible with it, and new mistakes as to its real essence. That this can be done I believe and know: if I had not believed it, I would never have put pen to paper on the subject.
I believe that the ancient Creed, the Eternal Gospel, will stand, and conquer, and prove its might in this age, as it has in every other for eighteen hundred years, by claiming, and subduing, and organising those young anarchic forces, which now, unconscious of their parentage, rebel against Him to whom they owe their being.
But for the time being, the young men and women of our day are fast parting from their parents and each other; the more thoughtful are wandering either towards Rome, towards sheer materialism, or towards an unchristian and unphilosophic spiritualism. Epicurism which, in my eyes, is the worst evil spirit of the three, precisely because it looks at first sight most like an angel of light. The mass, again, are fancying that they are still adhering to the old creeds, the old church, to the honoured patriarchs of English Protestantism. I wish I could agree with them in their belief about themselves. To me they seem — with a small sprinkling of those noble and cheering exceptions to popular error which are to be found in every age of Christ’s church — to be losing most fearfully and rapidly the living spirit of Christianity, and to be, for that very reason, clinging all the more convulsively — and who can blame them? — to the outward letter of it, whether High Church or Evangelical; unconscious, all the while, that they are sinking out of real living belief, into that dead self-deceiving belief-inbelieving, which has been always heretofore, and is becoming in England now, the parent of the most blind, dishonest, and pitiless bigotry.
In the following pages I have attempted to show what some at least of the young in these days are really thinking and feeling. I know well that my sketch is inadequate and partial: I have every reason to believe, from the criticisms which I have received since its first publication, that it is, as far as it goes, correct. I put it as a problem. It would be the height of arrogance in me to do more than indicate the direction in which I think a solution may be found. I fear that my elder readers may complain that I have no right to start doubts without answering them. I can only answer — Would that I had started them! would that I was not seeing them daily around me, under some form or other, in just the very hearts for whom one would most wish the peace and strength of a fixed and healthy faith. To the young, this book can do no harm; for it will put into their minds little but what is there already. To the elder, it may do good; for it may teach some of them, as I earnestly hope, something of the real, but too often utterly unsuspected, state of their own children’s minds; something of the reasons of that calamitous estrangement between themselves and those who will succeed them, which is often too painful and oppressive to be confessed to their own hearts! Whatever amount of obloquy this book may bring upon me, I shall think that a light price to pay, if by it I shall have helped, even in a single case, to ‘turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come,’— as come it surely will, if we persist much longer in substituting denunciation for sympathy, instruction for education, and Pharisaism for the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10