Which actually leaves Chesterton open to the charge that he was just writing silly couplets and witty repartee, not serious political, cultural, artistic, or theological statements. To make that claim is to charge him with being so good at his craft that it can be pulled out of context and stand quite well on its own. After all, we don't blame an athlete for being so good that his highlights show up on Sportscenter. On the other hand to fully and fairly judge the value of Chesterton (and the athlete) we really do need the context.
But still and all, Chesterton's skill is so evident, so good, so profound, so flat out funny that even in bite size chunks it is satisfying. At the risk of boring or alienating the reader of the review by spoiling the delight of reading it for themselves, here are just a few of my favorites:
Comradeship and serious joy are not interludes in our travel; but . . . rather our travels are interludes in comradeship and joy, which through God shall endure for ever. The inn does not point to the road; the road points to the inn. And all roads point at last to an ultimate inn, where we shall meet Dickens and all his characters; and when we drink again it shall be from the great flagons in the tavern at the end of the world.
Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. . . . they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. . . . the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions he must either deny the existence of God, as all Atheists do, or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do.
It is a sufficient proof that we are not an essentially democratic state that we are always wondering what we shall do with the poor. If we were democrats, we should be wondering what the poor will do with us. With us the governing class is always saying to itself, ‘What laws shall we make?’ In a purely democratic state it would be always saying, ‘What laws can we obey?’
Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. . . . The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.
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