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Frederick Denison Maurice. In Memoriam
by [?]

It was, after all, in this–in his personal influence–that Mr. Maurice was greatest. True, he was a great and rare thinker. Those who wish to satisfy themselves of this should measure the capaciousness of his intellect by studying–not by merely reading– his Boyle Lectures on the Religions of the world; and that Kingdom of Christ, the ablest “Apology” for the Catholic Faith which England has seen for more than two hundred years. The ablest, and perhaps practically the most successful; for it has made the Catholic Faith look living, rational, practical, and practicable, to hundreds who could rest neither in modified Puritanism nor modified Romanism, and still less in scepticism, however earnest. The fact that it is written from a Realist point of view, as all Mr. Maurice’s books are, will make it obscure to many readers. Nominalism is just now so utterly in the ascendant, that most persons seem to have lost the power of thinking, as well as of talking, by any other method. But when the tide of thought shall turn, this, and the rest of Mr. Maurice’s works, will become not only precious but luminous, to a generation which will have recollected that substance does not mean matter, that a person is not the net result of his circumstances, and that the real is not the visible Actual, but the invisible Ideal.

If anyone, again, would test Mr. Maurice’s faculty as an interpreter of Scripture, let him study the two volumes on the Gospel and the Epistles of St. John; and study, too, the two volumes on the Old Testament, which have been (as a fact) the means of delivering more than one or two from both the Rationalist and the Mythicist theories of interpretation. I mention these only as peculiar examples of Mr. Maurice’s power. To those who have read nothing of his, I would say: “Take up what book you will, you will be sure to find in it something new to you, something noble, something which, if you can act on it, will make you a better man.” And if anyone, on making the trial, should say: “But I do not understand the book. It is to me a new world;” then it must be answered: “If you wish to read only books which you can understand at first sight, confine yourself to periodical literature. As for finding yourself in a new world, is it not good sometimes to do that?–to discover how vast the universe of mind, as well as of matter, is; that it contains many worlds; and that wise and beautiful souls may and do live in more worlds than your own?” Much has been said of the obscurity of Mr. Maurice’s style. It is a question whether any great thinker will be anything but obscure at times; simply because he is possessed by conceptions beyond his powers of expression. But the conceptions may be clear enough; and it may be worth the wise man’s while to search for them under the imperfect words. Only thus–to take an illustrious instance–has St. Paul, often the most obscure of writers, become luminous to students; and there are those who will hold that St. Paul is by no means understood yet; and that the Calvinistic system which has been built upon his Epistles, has been built up upon a total ignoring of the greater part of them, and a total misunderstanding of the remainder: yet, for all that, no Christian man will lightly shut up St. Paul as too obscure for use. Really, when one considers what worthless verbiage which men have ere now, and do still, take infinite pains to make themselves fancy that they understand, one is tempted to impatience when men confess that they will not take the trouble of trying to understand Mr. Maurice.