The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8
Individuality and Independence
Individuality and Independence.
We need more of Nature in the soul; that is, a reverting to first principles, a development of primitive instincts, and some increased confidence that there still lives a God to hear and teach us. Never shall we by mere herding together, or by leaning on authority old or new, make up for intrinsic weakness in each separate soul. Moreover, it is only by insight into the Present, that we can understand the Past. In political history and in all physical science this is acknowledged : one who knows nothing of the existing forces, in States or in unorganised Nature, cannot rightly discuss past events. So, if a chasm be gratuitously assumed between the spiritual action which we know and experience, and that which animated apostles and prophets,—or, what comes to the same thing, if we know nothing of any spiritual force as page 277 all within ourselves,—we shall for ever be in the dark concerning their minds and souls. But with more Individuality, more Independence of man, there will be more capacity to learn of God. Then we shall not aim (in theory, any more than in practice) to become little Christs or little Pauls; we shall as freely disclaim it, as in literature the becoming little Homers. Such imitation does not tend to excellence but to stupidity. Men of little faith fix their eyes on the Past, as did the Scribes and Pharisees : Faith gratefully and reverently acknowledges and uses the Past, but sets her face towards the Future. Those who build the tombs of the prophets, but allege that all inspiration is now closed, would in former days probably have aided to persecute them : those, on the other hand, who use individual prophets only as aids towards the Eternal Source of Prophecy, are the true imitators of those holy men. When we sympathise with God, and with the inmost yearnings of His devout servants, we can afford to smile, though mournfully, at the invectives of misguided zeal, if it blindly regard us as enemies of God. But let the songs of praise or of sacred complaint, which the pious of past ages have bequeathed to us, nourish our spirits and link us to them : let us hope and seek that the life of God may be in us, as it was in them, a guide into truth and an energy for action; then shall our daily work be daily joy, and we shall cat angel's food.—F. W. Newman.