The Origin and Development of Religious Belief: Christianity

Longmans, Green, and Company



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Longmans, Green, and Company
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Dec 31, 1892
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God has created man for a purpose, and that purpose is, that he should attain to everlasting blessedness.

God is good and loving unto all His works. He made the plants and the beasts, and set them ends to accomplish here on earth, but the ends for which man was made are not to be attained in this life.

Through the Fall man’s mind is darkened, his connexion with God is broken, his sight of the aim to which he should tend is obscured. God has given to him His law as the rule of his actions, that man, hearkening to the revealed Will of God, may be guided aright, and so accomplish that end for which he was made, and attain finally to everlasting blessedness.

Every act of man that is in conformity with the revealed law of God is good.

Every act of man that is contrary to this revealed law of God is bad.

Every act that is in conformity with the law of God is not only actually good, but it is relatively good—that is to say, it tends to our individual advantage. It is not only good in the sight of God, but it is profitable to our own selves.

So also is the converse true, that every act done against the law of God is actually and relatively bad; it is bad in the sight of God, and it does injury to our own selves.

Now, in order that we may be able to judge whether our acts are in conformity with the law of God, He has set in us a faculty which has the office of applying the law of God to our own circumstances; and this faculty tells us whether our acts are in conformity with or contrary to the external law of God. Thus we have the exterior law, and the interior faculty, which we may almost term a law, and this inner law is called Conscience.

II. The revealed law of God, considered in itself and in relation to God, its Author, is holy, inviolable, and inalterable. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting (or restoring) the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.... In them is Thy servant warned: and in keeping them there is great reward.” (Ps. xix. 7-11.) But though the revealed law of God is fixed and immutable, yet when applied to the human Conscience it takes different forms, according to the state of the Conscience.

Hence it follows that the divine law ill-applied, so far from being a sure rule, may become perverted into a sanction whereby we evade the obligations laid on us, and authorize ourselves to commit that which is wrong.

Who would ever say no to the master story tellers when they have to offer their darkest tingling Christmas mysteries and horror tales as a holiday present: The Silver Hatchet (Arthur Conan Doyle) What the Shepherd Saw: A Tale of Four Moonlight Nights (Thomas Hardy) Markheim (Robert Louis Stevenson) The Wolves of Cernogratz (Saki) Mustapha (Sabine Baring-Gould) The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance (M.R. James) The Christmas Banquet (Nathaniel Hawthorne) The Ghost’s Touch (Fergus Hume) Glámr (Sabine Baring-Gould) The Ghosts at Grantley (Leonard Kip) A Terrible Christmas Eve (Lucie E. Jackson) Ghosts and Family Legends (Catherine Crowe) The Ghost: A Christmas Story (William Douglas O’Connor) Thurlow’s Christmas Story (John Kendrick Bangs) The Mystery of My Grandmother’s Hair Sofa (John Kendrick Bangs) The Abbot’s Ghost; or Maurice Treherne’s Temptation (Louisa M. Alcott) Old Applejoy's Ghost (Frank R. Stockton) Wolverden Tower (Grant Allen) The Christmas-Eve Vigil (James Bowker) Told After Supper (Jerome K. Jerome) The Box with the Iron Clamps (Florence Marryat) Joseph: A Story (Katherine Rickford) The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton (Charles Dickens) The Ghost of Christmas Eve (J. M. Barrie) The Dead Sexton (Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu) Uncle Cornelius His Story (George MacDonald) The Grave by the Handpost (Thomas Hardy) Number Ninety (Bithia Mary Croker) At Chrighton Abbey (Mary Elizabeth Braddon) The Haunted Man (Charles Dickens) Doctor Marigold’s Prescriptions (Charles Dickens) The Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens) The Black Bag Left on a Door-Step (Catherine L. Pirkis) Between the Lights (E. F. Benson) Transition (Algernon Blackwood) The Kit-Bag (Algernon Blackwood)
I WONDER whether the day will ever dawn on England when our country houses will be as deserted as are those in France and Germany? If so, that will be a sad day for England. I judge from Germany. There, after the Thirty Years' War, the nobles and gentry set-to to build themselves mansions in place of the castles that had been burnt or battered down. In them they lived till the great convulsion that shook Europe and upset existing conditions social as well as political. Napoleon overran Germany, and the nobles and gentry had not recovered their losses during that terrible period before the State took advantage of their condition to transfer the land to the peasantry. This was not done everywhere, but it was so to a large extent in the south. Money was advanced to the farmers to buy out their landlords, and the impoverished nobility were in most cases glad to sell. They disposed of the bulk of their land, retaining in some cases the ancestral nest, and that only. No doubt that the results were good in one way—but where is a good unmixed? The qualifying evil is considerable in this case.

The gentry or nobility—the terms are the same on the Continent—went to live in the towns. They could no longer afford to inhabit their country mansions. They acquired a taste for town life, its conveniences, its distractions, its amusements; they ceased to feel interest in country pursuits; they only visited their mansions for about eight weeks in the year, for the Sommer-frische. Those who could not afford to furnish two houses, carted that amount of furniture which was absolutely necessary to their country houses for the holiday, and that concluded, carted it back to town again. This state of things continues. Whilst the family is in residence at the Schloss it lives economically; it is there for a little holiday; it does not concern itself with the peasants, the sick, the suffering, the necessitous. It is there—pour s'amuser. The consequence is that the Schloss is without a civilizing influence, without moral force in the place. The country folk have little interest in the family, and the family concerns itself less with the people.

Not only so, but it brings little money into the place. It employs no labour. It is there not to keep open house, but to shut up the purse. In former days the landlord exacted his rents, but then he lived in the midst of his tenants, and the money that came in as rent went out as wage, and in payment for butter, eggs, meat, oats, and hay. The money collected out of a place returned to it again. It is so in many country places in England now where squire and parson live on the land.

In Germany the peasant has stepped out of obligation to the landlord into bondage to the Jew, who receives, but spends nothing. In France the condition is much the same; the great house is a ruin, and so, very generally, is the family that occupies and owns it, if it still lingers on in it.

 All over the north of Europe the greatest aversion is felt to be the first to enter a new building, or to go over a newly erected bridge. If to do this is not everywhere and in all cases thought to entail death, it is considered supremely unlucky. Several German legends are connected with this superstition. The reader, if he has been to Aix-la-Chapelle, has doubtless had the rift in the great door pointed out to him, and has been told how it came there. The devil and the architect made a compact that the first should draw the plans, and the second gain the Kudos; and the devil’s wage was to be that he should receive the first who crossed the threshold of the church when completed. When the building was finished, the architect’s conscience smote him, and he confessed the compact to the bishop. “We’ll do him,” said the prelate; that is to say, he said something to this effect in terms more appropriate to the century in which he lived, and to his high ecclesiastical office.

When the procession formed to enter the minster for the consecration, the devil lurked in ambush behind a pillar, and fixed his wicked eye on a fine fat and succulent little chorister as his destined prey. But alas for his hopes! this fat little boy had been given his instructions, and, as he neared the great door, loosed the chain of a wolf and sent it through. The evil one uttered a howl of rage, snatched up the wolf and rushed away, giving the door a kick, as he passed it, that split the solid oak.

The castle of Gleichberg, near Rönskild, was erected by the devil in one night. The Baron of Gleichberg was threatened by his foes, and he promised to give the devil his daughter if he erected the castle before cockcrow. The nurse overheard the compact, and, just as the castle was finished, set fire to a stack of corn. The cock, seeing the light, thought morning had come, and crowed before the last stone was added to the walls. The devil in a rage carried off the old baron—and served him right—instead of the maiden. We shall see presently how this story works into our subject.

At Frankfort may be seen, on the Sachsenhäuser Bridge, an iron rod with a gilt cock on the top. This is the reason: An architect undertook to build the bridge within a fixed time, but three days before that on which he had contracted to complete it, the bridge was only half finished. In his distress he invoked the devil, who undertook the job if he might receive the first who crossed the bridge. The work was done by the appointed day, and then the architect drove a cock over the bridge. The devil, who had reckoned on getting a human being, was furious; he tore the poor cock in two, and flung it with such violence at the bridge that he knocked two holes in it, which to the present day cannot be closed, for if stones are put in by day they are torn out by night. In memorial of the event, the image of the cock was set up on the bridge.

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