This applies not merely to the Christian religion, with its unfathomable mysteries and its inexhaustible fund of truth, but to the fruits of human speculation. Nobody has ever succeeded in writing a history of philosophy without incurring either the reproach that he is a mere historian, incapable of entering into the genius of any system, or a mere metaphysician, who can discern in all other philosophies only the relation they bear to his own. In religion the difficulty is greater still, and greatest of all with Catholicism. For the Church is to be seen, not in books, but in life. No divine can put together the whole body of her doctrine; no canonist the whole fabric of her law; no historian the infinite vicissitudes of her career. The Protestant who wishes to be informed on all these things can be advised to rely on no one manual, on no encyclopædia of her deeds and of her ideas; if he seeks to know what these have been, he must be told to look around. And to one who surveys her teaching and her fortunes through all ages and all lands, ignorant or careless of that which is essential, changeless, and immortal in her, it will not be easy to discern through so much outward change a regular development, amid such variety of forms the unchanging substance, in so many modifications fidelity to constant laws; or to recognise, in a career so chequered with failure, disaster, and suffering, with the apostasy of heroes, the weakness of rulers, and the errors of doctors, the unfailing hand of a heavenly Guide.
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GOLDWIN SMITH'S IRISH HISTORY