Prophets of the Century/Leo Tolstoy

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Leo Tolstoy

I

"JUDGE of a tree by its fruit." Looking backward through, history, along the line of the world's great names, whom do we see to have been the world's great benefactors? These: the men who have most deeply discerned, and most effectively conveyed to others, the truth of life. They are such as Lao-tze, Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Socrates, Jesus; from whom epochs are dated, and by whose teachings thousands of millions, age after age, suppose themselves to live. And, indeed, it is by such men and their teachings that mankind do live; for these "prophets" reveal the ideal towards which those who come after them must necessarily strive, though it be through all manner of ignorance and hypocrisy. The sign of a prophet is that he, of all men, deals with the simple and vital questions of life which are every man's problem, and agitates, revolutionises, renews, society by his solutions. Only the ages that come after him can estimate the worth and power of a prophet, but even his own day can judge whether or not a man be a prophet. And all over the world, by the few who believe with him, by the many who reject him, by multitudes who cannot or will not understand him, it is felt and known that Leo Tolstoy, the Russian, is indeed a prophet, a revealer.

That spare, strong-looking old man with Socrates-like face and long grey hair and beard, who lives so quietly in Moscow or in the country near, it is not too much to say, is the greatest power in the world to-day. Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/276 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/277 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/278 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/279 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/280 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/281 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/282 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/283 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/284 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/285 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/286 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/287 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/288 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/289 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/290 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/291 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/292 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/293 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/294 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/295 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/296 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/297 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/298 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/299 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/300 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/301 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/302 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/303 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/304 Page:Prophets of the Century.djvu/305 of pain and death, we must (if only a little) compete, fight, take part in, compromise with, wrong"? This is only to say that the Life which gives us our Life, the Reason, reflected in our Reason, the Love that inspires our Love, is a cheat, a mocker. Indeed, we are Devil-worshippers; believing that the most dangerous thing in life is Love, and the most unreasonable, Truth. So we say of Tolstoy, who surrenders to these, "Very fine and heroic; the man is a saint, a prophet; but a little mad, and not for us."

We ask for his proof of what he teaches,—just as Jesus was asked for His authority. And the reply can only be, "Be good, and you will do good; be good and do good, and you will get good—full measure, pressed down, running over. Do not fear for your lives; have faith in the Power of Good, and He will prove Himself to you."

The entrance to the good life is strait and narrow; few there be that find it. But those few are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the city, the society, set on a hill. Emperors and kings, statesmen and soldiers, priests and pedants, leaders and masters, think the world holds together by them; in truth, they are the world's incubus, the preventers of peace, the perversion of wisdom, the darkening of light. Our prophets, our saviours, are the men of conscience and courage, who die to the body, and live to the Spirit, in which is the only true, reasonable, enduring life; and who by word and example inspire mankind with man's own, already born, growing, proper soul, the new nature of the Sons of God. Of these prophets and saviours, by proof plain in the lives of many at this moment, Leo Tolstoy is one.

JOHN C. KENWORTHY.