Here we have the same case as we dealt with in the last section, only covering a wider field. It is the ancient and constantly recurring error, that the Gospel has to do with the affairs of the world, and that it is its business to prescribe how they are to be carried on. Here, too, the old and almost ineradicable tendency of mankind to rid itself of its freedom and responsibility in higher things and subject itself to a law, comes into play. It is much easier, in fact, to resign oneself to any, even the sternest, kind of authority, than to live in the liberty of the good. But apart from this, the question remains: Is it not a real defect in the Gospel that it betrays so little sympathy with the business of life, and is out of touch with the humaniora in the sense of science, art, and civilisation generally?
I answer, in the first place: What would have been gained if it had not possessed this “defect”? Suppose that it had taken an active interest in all those efforts, would it not have become entangled in them, or, at any rate, have incurred the risk of appearing to be so entangled? Labour, art, science, the progress of civilisation—these are not things which exist in the abstract; they exist in the particular phase of an age. The Gospel, then, would have had to ally itself with them. But phases change. In the Roman Church of to-day we see how heavily religion is burdened by being connected with a particular epoch of civilisation. In the Middle Ages this Church, anxious to participate to the full in all questions of progress and civilisation, gave them form and shape, and laid down their laws. Insensibly, however, the Church identified its sacred inheritance and its peculiar mission with the knowledge, the maxims, and the interests which it then acquired; so that it is now, as it were, firmly pinned down to the philosophy, the political economy, in short, to the whole civilisation, of the Middle Ages. On the other hand, what a service the Gospel has rendered to mankind by having sounded the notes of religion in mighty chords and banished every other melody!