Not so far removed—entirely lacking, thank God, it is not, even in the waste shrines of this ecclesiasticism, and Christ’s sayings sound in the ear of any who visit its churches. On the Church as a Church, apparatus and all, there is nothing more favourable to be said than has been said already; the best thing about it is that it keeps up, although to a modest extent, the knowledge of the Gospel. Jesus’ words, even though only mumbled by the priests, take the first place in this Church, too, and the quiet mission which they pursue is not suppressed. Side by side with the magical apparatus and the transports of feeling, of which the ceremony is only the caput mortuum, stand Jesus’ sayings; they are read in private and in public, and no superstition avails to destroy their power. Nor can its fruits be mistaken by anyone who will look below the surface. Among these Christians, too, priests and laity, there are men who have come to know God as the Father of mercy and the leader of their lives, and who love Jesus Christ, not because they know him as the person with two natures, but because a ray of his being has shone from the Gospel into their hearts, and this ray has become light and warmth to their own lives. And although the idea of the fatherly providence of God more readily assumes an almost fatalistic form in the East, and produces too much quietism, it is certain that here, too, it endows men with strength and energy, unselfishness and love. I need only refer again to Tolstoy’s Village Tales, which I have already quoted. The picture which they present is not artificial. But from much also that I have myself seen and experienced I can testify how even with the Russian peasant or the humbler priests, in spite of all the Saint- and picture-worship, a power of simple trust in God is to be found, a delicacy of moral feeling, and an active brotherly love, which does not disclaim its origin in the Gospel. Where they exist, however, the entire ceremonial service of religion is capable of undergoing a spiritualisation, not by any “symbolical re-interpretation”—that is much too artificial a process—but because, if only the soul is touched by the living God at all, thought can rise to him even by the help of an idol. But it is truly no accidental circumstance that, in so far as any
independent religious life is to be found among the members of this Church, it at once takes shape in trust in God, in humility, in unselfishness and mercy, and that Jesus Christ is at the same time laid hold of with reverence; for these are just the indications which show us that the Gospel is not as yet stifled, and that it is in these religious virtues that it has its real substance.