[My Creed—No Title Given][1]

Charles Hargrove, Mill Hill Chapel, Leeds, England

Berry Street Essay, 1900


Delivered to the Ministerial Conference, Boston

May 30, 1900.


[Extracts included in Hargrove’s biography, as identified in endnote.]


Proofs of the being of God have been laboriously accumulated since first men had leisure to think, and in every generation they have been fortified and readjusted to meet the special difficulties of the day. But all such arguments are a posteriori: the fact comes first. The sociologist may show how necessary and excellent is the state and the family, but their arguments are subsequent to these institutions, and in no wise the making of them. The love of man and wife, of parent and child, can be proved to be reasonable and advantageous; but it is the instinct of nature, not the persuasion of philosophers, which has produced and sustained it. So it is in respect of God. Men believe because they do, most convincing of all arguments: they are so fashioned. ‘Creasti nos Domine ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.' That is both the reason of religion and the proof of it.

This was the first fact, solid ground on which I placed foot amid shifting sands of contrary faiths. But this supernatural, the existence and accessibility of which nature assured me of, where should I attain it? How get other foot forward so that I might stand secure; grope no more after God in the darkness, if haply I might come upon Him, but actually hold Him? Where in things falling within my own ken was there place for the supernatural?

I looked around me at the things of this earth, home whence I came, and whereon I pass my little time, I saw on every hand wonder and mystery and beauty; from ‘the flower in the crannied wall’ to man himself all was inexplicable, but all was natural, was within the order of things known to me. I extended my gaze, and on wings of thought traversed the heavens and numbered the stars and suns, but star and sun were natural as light of my study-lamp, as flame of my own hearth. I sought backward into the depths of bygone aeons and watched the birth and growth of worlds, and found that a thousand million years ago all was as it is to-day, the same forces at work to make and to unmake and to renew. There seemed no room for God.

But before the beginning of years—what was then? Beyond the outermost bounds of space—what was there? Being which has no tense because it came not with Time, therefore was not, nor will be, but only is? that is not here nor there, within or without place, but above all place as it is before it? Or if there be no such, if this be only a mystic's dream, then, oh heaven, why was ever any beginning, or why is there any boundary, any before or after, within or without? ‘Ex nihilo nihil fit’ is an axiom of the schools—‘Out of nothing only nothing can come.’ Whence came all that is? Take your atoms and your force, explain to me how out of vortices came flower and bird and man all in due and intelligible order of evolution. But whence came this all-pervading ether, and who stirred it to motion, and why at such a date and not before or later? Phenomena are mysterious enough, but explanation of them may yet he discovered, and the puzzle of the world be taught in our colleges and schools. But behind the phenomena, before they appeared, what? Being! that is the true supernatural. Space is but the stage whereon is acted the time-long drama of Creation. Glowing mists fill the scene, whirl swiftly round, sunder and part, and orbs come into view, hot from the primeval furnace, cool down till life becomes possible and straightway appears, and—I too, actor and spectator, come upon the scene, play my part, and exit—and still the cooling goes on even as of the iron taken from the grate, and life fails and movement slackens, and the curtain of universal silence falls on the equilibrium of forces which is eternal death. But this is not all, or there never had been anything. How was the equilibrium first disturbed, or how came force at all into existence? Did the stage appear itself? and the drama, was it its own composer?

Nay, Time demands Eternity for a background, even as the passing train the still country through which it moves. Space with its infinite divisibility bespeaks an indivisible Unity which embraces it all, a Universe—a One Whole as the innate faith of discerning men has named it. Finite is a term of negation implying a preceding infinite. Multitude is inconceivable without the one from which it is parted and in which it is included. Law and the Cosmos which it creates, Life and the infinite variety to which it gives birth, they are not many but One. And behind all things seen is the Unseen, underneath nature the supernatural which gave it birth and sustains it; below all phenomena is Being. God is all in all.

Granted, then, this greatest of all truths, so great that in compare with it there is no other truth true, as in full noonshine lamps and stars lose their shining, elsewise bright enough and of much use to men. Granted, as indeed all men with only individual exceptions do grant it, what follows? Shall we gaze, as stand and gaze, they say, for ever, the angels before the Throne, in the rapture of a glory which lifts us above time? Nay, for the vision is of Life as well as Light, of Love as it is of Beauty. Will you, because the sun shines, bask all day idle in its light? Nay, but because it is day will you work: darkness the time for idleness, night for sleep. The vision of the Almighty is source of might, and the energy of it is transmuted into all commonest work—Sunday schools, committees, parochial visits, daily duties; even as he who drew nearest to God of all mortal men and dared say, ‘I and the Father are one,’ ‘went about’ the towns and villages of Galilee ‘doing good, and healing all that were oppressed,’ and took little children to his arms. . . .

God is, God is good, such is my final creed. Firm based I stand on this which includes the truth of all creeds of men, which contains in its simple statement the refutation of all errors. Creed which unites in its confession all the worshippers of all worlds; creed of Christ who taught ‘The Lord is One, and thou shalt love’ as all law and prophecy; creed of might to save the world if we poor men had but the might to make it heard!


[1] L.P. Jacks , From authority to freedom: the spiritual pilgrimage of Charles Hargrove, London: Williams & Norgate, 1920, pp. 291-294.  Jacks comments:  "What the form of his faith at this time was [in 1864, as he left the Catholic Church and started his journey toward Unitarianism], and how he came to hold it, he described long afterwards in his address to the American Unitarians in 1900. The reader will not fail to note how strongly his mind remained dominated by conceptions which date from his studies of scholastic philosophy while in the Church of Rome.”