Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/127

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115
MATTHEW ARNOLD

Bible in the same way. The truth of the Greek or Hebrew mythology and history is irrelevant. The true lights of the Christian Church, he says,[1] are not Augustine and Luther or Bossuet, but à Kempis and Tauler and St. Francis of Sales; not, that is, the legislators or reformers or systematisers of dogma, but the mystics and pietists and men who have uttered the religious sentiment in the most perfect form. It is characteristic that in his book upon St. Paul, while dwelling enthusiastically upon the apostle's ethical teaching, he says nothing of the work which to St. Paul himself, as to most historians, must surely have seemed important, the freeing of Christian doctrine from fetters of Judaism; and treats the theological reasons by which St. Paul justified his position as mere surplusage or concessions to contemporary prejudice.

The problem here suggested is a very wide one. We may agree that the true value of a religion is in its ethical force. We may admit that the moral ideas embodied in its teaching are the only part which is valuable when we cease to believe in the history or the dogma; and that they still preserve a very high value. We may still be edified by Homer or by Æschylus, or by Socrates and

  1. Literature and Dogma, p. 290.