Monday, May 18, 2009

A nugget from chapter 1

Continuing on from my post of yesterday, I'd like you to read a few paragraphs that quickly follow. If the introduction didn't entice you to go out and get it, perhaps this teaser will.

I wish to tell in this work how I found the key to the doctrine of Christ, by the help of which the truth was disclosed to me so clearly and convincingly.

I made the discovery thus: almost from the first years of my childhood, when I began to read the Gospel for myself, the doctrine which teaches love, humility, meekness, self-denial, and returning good for evil, was the doctrine that touched me most. I always considered it as the basic teaching of Christianity, and loved it as such; but it was only after a long period of unbelief that its full meaning flashed upon me, that I understood 'life' as it is understood by our unlettered working-classes, and accepted the same creed which they profess, the creed of the Greek Church. But I soon observed that I should not find in the teaching of the Church the confirmation of my idea that love, humility, meekness, self-denial, were the essential principles of Christianity. I saw that this, which I regarded as the basis of Christianity, did not form the main point in the public teaching of the Church. At first I did not attach much importance to this. 'The Church,' said I to myself, 'acknowledges, besides the doctrine of love, humility, and self-denial, a dogmatic and ritualistic doctrine. This estranges my heart; it is even repulsive to me, but there is no harm in it.'

While, however, submitting to the teaching of the Church, I began to see more and more clearly that this peculiarity was not so unimportant as I had at first regarded it. I was drawn away from the Church by various singularities in its dogmas; by its approval of persecution, capital punishment, was; and also by its intolerance of all other forms of worship than its own; but my faith in the teaching of the Church was shaken still more by its indifference to what seemed to me the very basis of the teaching of Christ, and by its evident partiality for what I could not consider an essential part of that doctrine. I felt that there was something wrong, but I could not make out distinctly what it was, because the Church did not DENY what seemed to me the main point i the doctrine of Christ, though it failed to give it its proper position and influence.


What perplexed me most of all was, that all the evil things that men do, such as condemning private individuals, whole nations, or other religions; and the inevitable results of these condemnations—executions and wars—were justified by the Church. I saw that the doctrine of Christ, which teaches us humility, tolerance, forgiveness, self-denial, and love, was extolled by the Church, but that at the same time she sanctioned what was incompatible with such teachings.

Friends, this is eternal! Read that last paragraph again! We have strayed so far and we all know it but few of us can actually verbalize it. Let's keep reading and learning!


  1. Just an initial and trivial (perhaps) note... He seems to be talking a lot about his beliefs and his doctrines as though he had discovered something and was embracing it with his intellect, rather than having experienced a dramatic (for surely it must always be dramatic!) and life-changing encounter with the living almighty God. It is God who seeks us and not the other way around... I'm probably way out in the field here but it's just my initial observations...

  2. We all respond to God in different ways, according to our temperament and the way we've been made and God appeals to both our emotion and our intellect.

    His aristocratic background surely colored the way he approached the truth of the Gospel and made it his own. It's nothing but his testimony, but I find it deeply inspiring. Have you read it?

  3. No, I haven't read it. That's why my comment was "in passing" and not based on having read any of his books. I've certainly never heard of him as being a Christian nor even close....interesting.

  4. Say, do yourself a favour and see if you can pick up a copy of "The Kingdom of God is Within You" or "The Gospel in Brief" -- I only came to know him as a Christian (to my utter amazement, I must say) a few years ago. But his wealth and position in society and his reputation as a writer made him a much-listened to advocate of Christianity. He remained solidly outside the established church and his book "Confession" (I think it was) was even banned throughout Russia.

    Check out Wikipedia on him.