Chapter 5.

{195} THEY had by this time strolled as far as Carlton's lodgings, where the books happened to be on which Charles was at that time more immediately employed; and they took two or three turns under some fine beeches which stood in front of the house before entering it.

"Tell me, Reding," said Carlton, "for really I don't understand, what are your reasons for admiring what, in truth, is simply an unnatural state."

"Don't let us talk more, my dear Carlton," answered Reding; "I shall go on making a fool of myself. Let well alone, or bad alone, pray do."

It was evident that there was some strong feeling irritating him inwardly; the manner and words were too serious for the occasion. Carlton, too, felt strongly upon what seemed at first sight a very secondary question, or he would have let it alone, as Charles asked him.

"No; as we are on the subject, let me get at your view," said he. "It was said in the beginning, 'Increase and multiply'; therefore celibacy is unnatural."

"Supernatural," said Charles, smiling. {196}

"Is not that a word without an idea?" asked Carlton. "We are taught by Butler that there is an analogy between nature and grace; else you might parallel paganism to nature, and, where paganism is contrary to nature, say that it is supernatural. The Wesleyan convulsions are preternatural; why not supernatural?"

"I really think that our divines, or at least some of them, are on my side here," said Charles—"Jeremy Taylor, I believe."

"You have not told me what you mean by supernatural," said Carlton; "I want to get at what you think, you know."

"It seems to me," said Charles, "that Christianity, being the perfection of nature, is both like it and unlike it;—like it, where it is the same or as much as nature; unlike it, where it is as much and more. I mean by supernatural the perfection of nature."

"Give me an instance," said Carlton.

"Why, consider, Carlton; our Lord says, 'Ye have heard that it has been said of old time,—but I say unto you': that contrast denotes the more perfect way, or the gospel ... He came not to destroy, but to fulfil the law ... I can't recollect of a sudden … oh, for instance, this is a case in point; He abolished a permission which had been given to the Jews because of the hardness of their hearts."

"Not quite in point," said Carlton, "for the Jews, in their divorces, had fallen below nature. 'Let no man put asunder,' was the rule in Paradise."

"Still, surely the idea of an Apostle, unmarried, {197} pure, in fast and nakedness, and at length a martyr, is a higher idea than that of one of the old Israelites sitting under his vine and fig-tree, full of temporal goods, and surrounded by sons and grandsons. I am not derogating from Gideon or Caleb; I am adding to St. Paul."

"St. Paul's is a very particular case," said Carlton.

"But he himself lays down the general maxim, that it is 'good' for a man to continue as he was."

"There we come to a question of criticism, what 'good' means: I may think it means 'expedient,' and what he says about the 'present distress' confirms it."

"Well, I won't go to criticism," said Charles; "take the text, 'In sin hath my mother conceived me'. Do not these words show that, over and above the doctrine of original sin, there is (to say the least) great risk of marriage leading to sin in married people?"

"My dear Reding," said Carlton, astonished, "you are running into Gnosticism."

"Not knowingly or willingly," answered Charles; "but understand what I mean. It's not a subject I can talk about; but it seems to me, without of course saying that married persons must sin (which would be Gnosticism), that there is a danger of sin. But don't let me say more on this point."

"Well," said Carlton, after thinking awhile, "I have been accustomed to consider Christianity as the perfection of man as a whole, body, soul, and spirit. Don't misunderstand me. Pantheists say body and intellect, leaving out the moral principle; but I say {198} spirit as well as mind. Spirit, or the principle of religious faith and obedience, should be the master principle, the hegemonicon. To this both intellect and body are subservient; but as this supremacy does not imply the ill-usage, the bondage of the intellect, neither does it of the body; both should be well treated."

"Well, I think, on the contrary, it does imply in one sense the bondage of intellect and body too. What is faith but the submission of the intellect? and as 'every high thought is brought into captivity,' so are we expressly told to bring the body into subjection too. They are both well treated, when they are treated so as to be made fit instruments of the sovereign principle."

"That is what I call unnatural," said Carlton.

"And it is what I mean by supernatural," answered Reding, getting a little too earnest.

"How is it supernatural, or adding to nature, to destroy a part of it?" asked Carlton.

Charles was puzzled. It was a way, he said, towards perfection; but he thought that perfection came after death, not here. Our nature could not be perfect with a corruptible body; the body was treated now as a body of death.

"Well, Reding," answered Carlton, "you make Christianity a very different religion from what our Church considers it, I really think"; and he paused awhile.

"Look here," he proceeded, "how can we rejoice in Christ, as having been redeemed by Him, if we are in {199} this sort of gloomy penitential state? How much is said in St. Paul about peace, thanksgiving, assurance, comfort, and the like! Old things are passed away; the Jewish law is destroyed; pardon and peace are come; that is the Gospel."

"Don't you think, then," said Charles, "that we should grieve for the sins into which we are daily betrayed, and for the more serious offences which from time to time we may have committed?"

"Certainly; we do so in Morning and Evening Prayer, and in the Communion Service."

"Well, but supposing a youth, as is so often the case, has neglected religion altogether, and has a whole load of sins, and very heinous ones, all upon him—do you think that, when he turns over a new leaf, and comes to Communion, he is, on saying the Confession (saying it with that contrition with which such persons ought to say it), pardoned at once, and has nothing more to fear about his past sins?"

"I should say, 'Yes,'" answered Carlton.

"Really," said Charles thoughtfully.

"Of course," said Carlton, "I suppose him truly sorry or penitent: whether he is so or not his future life will show."

"Well, somehow, I cannot master this idea," said Charles; "I think most serious persons, even for a little sin, would go on fidgeting themselves, and would not suppose they gained pardon directly they asked for it."

"Certainly," answered Carlton; "but God pardons those who do not pardon themselves." {200}

"That is," said Charles, "who don't at once feel peace, assurance, and comfort; who don't feel the perfect joy of the Gospel."

"Such persons grieve, but rejoice too," said Carlton.

"But tell me, Carlton," said Reding, "is, or is not, their not forgiving themselves, their sorrow and trouble, pleasing to God?"

"Surely."

"Thus a certain self-infliction for sin committed is pleasing to Him; and, if so, how does it matter whether it is inflicted on mind or body?"

"It is not properly a self-infliction," answered Carlton; "self-infliction implies intention; grief at sin is something spontaneous. When you afflict yourself on purpose, then at once you pass from pure Christianity."

"Well," said Charles, "I certainly fancied that fasting, abstinence, labours, celibacy, might be taken as a make-up for sin. It is not a very far-fetched idea. You recollect Dr. Johnson's standing in the rain in the market-place at Lichfield when a man, as a penance for some disobedience to his father when a boy?"

"But, my dear Reding," said Carlton, "let me bring you back to what you said originally, and to my answer to you, which what you now say only makes more apposite. You began by saying that celibacy was a perfection of nature, now you make it a penance; first it is good and glorious, next it is a medicine and punishment."

"Perhaps our highest perfection here is penance," said Charles; "but I don't know; I don't profess to {201} have clear ideas upon the subject. I have talked more than I like. Let us at length give over."

They did, in consequence, pass to other subjects connected with Charles's reading; then they entered the house, and set to upon Polybius; but it could not be denied that for the rest of the day Carlton's manner was not quite his own, as if something had annoyed him. Next morning he was as usual.

Chapter 2-6

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