which this hallowed compound possesses in representation is transferred to its nominal object, and Christ is the conventional name for all the impulses of religion, no matter how opposite to the Christian.
Symbols, when their significance has been great, outlive their first significance. The image of Christ was a last refuge to the world; it was a consolation and a new ground for hope, from which no misfortune could drive the worshipper. Its value as an idea was therefore immense, as to the lover the idea of his untasted joys, or to the dying man the idea of health and invigorating sunshine. The votary can no more ask himself whether his deity, in its total operation, has really blessed him and deserved his praise than the lover can ask if his lady is worth pursuing or the expiring cripple whether it would be, in very truth, a benefit to be once more young and whole. That life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions and, were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions. Experience, by its passive weight of joy and sorrow, can neither inspire nor prevent enthusiasm; only a present ideal will avail to move the will and, if realised, to justify it. A saint’s halo is an optical illusion; it glorifies his actions whatever their eventual influence in the world, because they seem to have, when rehearsed dramatically, some tenderness or rapture or miracle about them.