On one occasion when Wingfold had asked him whether he saw the meaning of a certain saying of our Lord, Polwarth answered thus:
"I think I do, but whether I could at present make you see it, I cannot tell. I suspect it is one of those concerning which I have already said that you have yet to understand Jesus better before you can understand them. Let me, just to make the nature of what I state clearer to you, ask you one question: tell me, if you can, what, primarily, did Jesus, from his own account of himself, come into the world to do?"
"To save it," answered Wingfold.
"I think you are wrong," returned Polwarth. "Mind I said PRIMARILY. You will yourself come to the same conclusion by and by. Either our Lord was a phantom--a heresy of potent working in the minds of many who would be fierce in its repudiation--or he was a very man, uttering the heart of his life that it might become the life of his brethren; and if so, an honest man can never ultimately fail of getting at what he means. I have seen him described somewhere as a man dominated by the passion of humanity--or something like that. The description does not, to my mind, even shadow the truth. Another passion, if such I may dare to call it, was the light of his life, dominating even that which would yet have been enough to make him lay down his life."
Wingfold went away pondering.
Though Polwarth read little concerning religion except the New Testament, he could yet have directed Wingfold to several books which might have lent him good aid in his quest after the real likeness of the man he sought; but he greatly desired that on the soul of his friend the dawn should break over the mountains of Judæa--the light, I mean, flow from the words themselves of the Son of Man. Sometimes he grew so excited about his pupil and his progress, and looked so anxiously for the news of light in his darkness, that he could not rest at home, but would be out all day in the park--praying, his niece believed, for the young parson. And little did Wingfold suspect that, now and again when his lamp was burning far into the night because he struggled with some hard saying, the little man was going round and round the house, like one muttering charms, only they were prayers for his friend: ill satisfied with his own feeble affection, he would supplement it with its origin, would lay hold upon the riches of the Godhead, crying for his friend to "the first stock-father of gentleness;"--folly all, and fair subject of laughter to such as George Bascombe, if there be no God; but as Polwarth, with his whole, healthy, holy soul believed there is a God--it was for him but simple common sense.
Still no daybreak--and now the miracles had grown troublesome! Could Mr. Polwarth honestly say that he found no difficulty in believing things so altogether out of the common order of events, and so buried in the darkness and dust of antiquity that investigation was impossible?
Mr. Polwarth could not say that he had found no such difficulty.
"Then why should the weight of the story," said Wingfold, "the weight of its proof, I mean, to minds like ours, coming so long after, and by their education incapacitated for believing in such things, in a time when the law of everything is searched into---"
"And as yet very likely as far from understood as ever," interposed but not interrupted Polwarth.
"Why should the weight of its proof, I ask, be laid upon such improbable things as miracles? That they are necessarily improbable, I presume you will admit."
"Having premised that I believe every one recorded," said Polwarth, "I heartily admit their improbability. But the WEIGHT of proof is not, and never was laid upon them. Our Lord did not make much of them, and did them far more for the individual concerned than for the sake of the beholders. I will not however talk to you about them now. I will merely say that it is not through the miracles you will find the Lord, though, having found him, you will find him there also. The question for you is not, Are the miracles true? but, Was Jesus true? Again I say, you must find him--the man himself. When you have found him, I may perhaps retort upon you the question--Can you believe such improbable things as the miracles, Mr. Wingfold?"
The little man showed pretty plainly by the set of his lips that he meant to say no more, and again Wingfold had, with considerable dissatisfaction and no answer, to go back to his New Testament.