This religion is remarkable in many ways. The most scandalous, to be sure, is that quintessentially Christian notion of the living God. If you are a Christian, you are called to believe this most remarkable of things: that God Himself walked among us as a man. And these texts, the very ones my hands now rest on, are said to contain the words and deeds of the living God.
You do not need to be a Christian to be overtaken by wonder. You do not even need to read the words -- although I suppose it's to be advised. But for the moment, you need merely hold the text in your hand, feel it's weight, and lend your mind to this belief. Did God Himself become man? Did he walk next to other men? Did he teach them? Did he wash their feet? Did he weep? This is what we are told, in the pages of this book.
What a glorious text this must be, if this is true! What authority; what beauty its pages must hold!
And yet -- do not be shocked -- Christians hold this text, believing all of what we have said, and declare it not to be enough. If it is just a book, they say, what then? We have many books containing much wisdom. But this book -- this is what they say -- is taken under the special care of God, who enters into human hands to make Him its author, and enters into human eyes to make Him its reader. (We immediately wonder what is left for man!)
I would like to say that this too would make it a wonderous book, but -- in truth -- I have my doubts. I am, perhaps, a bit too worldly, and have been told that there are a great many sacred scriptures, each attesting to the insiration of some angel or god, and promising divine riches to the faithful. I risk retribution, I know, when I dare to say that such claims impress me little.
But I fear I have misled you -- if they impress me little, it is not by their number, but because God has raised my head to loftier sights. Well, I suppose they impress me still (you can see what circles such concerns bring one to!), but only as many things impress me. I hope you take my meaning; I am much impressed by the poems of my countryman Yeats. And I do not aim to profane those other sacred texts with the comparisons, for I do not doubt God moved his hand as well; and I doubt even less that God moves my spirit when I read Yeats, as indeed He moves my spirit when I play with a child or pass a stranger -- that is, so much as He wills it. No, I do not aim to profane those others texts, but to sacralize Yeats, the child, and the stranger.
And I do not mean this in any light or poetic sense. No, I insist with the absolute plainness that God Himself moves in Man and Nature. For God Himself not only made Man and Nature, but also made Himself man, and, as man, walked among nature. And so doing, He took these things into His nature and made them sacred.
Which returns me to the weight in my hands which, if I glorify, it is not because I believe it is the sacred charge of some spirit -- even the Greatest -- indeed, I may even say that if I glorify it, it is because I do not believe this; but rather that it contains the words and deeds of the God who made Himself man, and spoke and acted, and in so doing gave us not another of the many great faiths of natural and inspired wisdom, but Christianity -- that peculiar faith which arose from the human lips of the living God.
There is no more authority or beauty which could be invested in this book. The greatest spiritual guidance could not stir the flame of words spoken in human tongue by God as man.