The Display of Divine Morality
The follow is an excerpt from a Robert Browning poem entitled Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day published in a compilation of Browning’s works in 1867. I was introduced to Browning through G.K. Chesterton, who considered Browning his favorite poet.
Take all in a word: the truth in God’s breast
Lies trace for trace upon ours impressed:
Though he is not so bright and we so dim,
And were no eye in us to tell,
Instructed by no inner sense,
The light of heaven from the dark of hell,
That light would want its evidence,
Though justice, good and truth were still
Divine, if, by some demon’s will,
Hatred and wrong had been proclaimed
Law through the worlds, and right misnamed.
No mere exposition of morality
Made in part or in totality,
Should win you give it worship, therefore:
And, if no better proof you will care for,
Whom do you count the worst man upon earth?
Be sure, he knows, in his consicience, more
Of what right is, than arrives at birth
In the best man’s acts we bow before:
This last knows better – true, but my fact is
‘Tis one thing to know, and another to practice.
And thence I conclude that the real God-function
Is to furnish a motive and injunction
For practicing what we know already.
And such an injunction and such a motive
As the God in Christ, do you waive, and “heady,
“High-minded,” hang your tablet-votive
Outside the fane of a finger-post?
Morality to the uttermost,
Supreme in Christ as we all confess,
Why need we prove would avail not jot
To make him God, if God he were not?
What is the point where he himself lays stress?
Does the precept run “Believe in good,
“In justice, truth, now understood
“for the first time? – or, “Believe in me,
“Who lived and died, yet essentially
“Am Lord of Life?” Whoever can take
The same to his heart for mere love’s sake
Conceive of the love, – that man obtains
A new truth; no conviction gains
Of an old one only, made intense
By a fresh appeal to his faded sense.