Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/126

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114
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

of beauty with a judgment of fact. A creed is so charming or so morally stimulating that it must be true. Arnold did not accept this way of putting it. He had too genuine a respect for the daylight of the understanding, too much hearty loyalty to the Zeitgeist and scientific thought to accept a principle which would lead to simple reaction and recrudescence of superstition. He unequivocally accepts the results obtained by German critics, heavy-eyed and pedantic as they may sometimes be, for he believes with all his heart in thorough, unflinching, scholar-like research. He will not shut his eyes or mistake mere æsthetic pleasure for logical conviction. But, he argues, the essence of the creed is precisely its moral beauty; the power with which it expresses certain ethical truths—its grasp of the doctrine (to quote his favourite, though I cannot think very fortunate, formula) that conduct is three-fourths of life, that it is the essence of the religion, or rather, is itself the religion; and that the whole framework of historical fact and ecclesiastical dogma is unimportant. We read Homer, he says, for our enjoyment, and to turn the book to our benefit.[1] We should read the

  1. God and the Bible, p. 99.