“THERE IS NOTHING HARDER THAN TO FIND WHETHER AN ACT WHICH WOULD CAUSE ONE GREAT EMPERICAL DISTRESSES IS OR IS NOT ONES DUTY. FOR OF COURSE AN ERROR IS EQUALLY POSSIBLE IN BOTH DIRECTIONS: EITHER TO THINK IT CAN’T BE DEMANDED BECAUSE IT IS SO HARD, AS TO THINK IT MUST DEMANDED JUST BECAUSE IT IS SO HARD” – C.S. LEWIS
LEWIS, C.S. [IN FULL: CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS]. 1898-1963. Irish-born scholar, novelist, and author of about 40 books, many of them on Christian apologetics; best known for his: The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven children’s books that have become classics of fantasy literature; friend and associate of J.R.R. Tolkien. Superb, scarce, lengthy, and apparently unpublished Autograph Letter Signed, “C.S. Lewis”, on imprinted Magdalen College / Oxford stationery. Two very full pages, octavo. “Magdalen College, Oxford” November 20, 1953. To: “[Mr.] W.W. Jackson” of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. With original stamped and metered imprinted Magdalen College mailing envelope addressed in Lewis’ handwriting. Extremely fine condition. The theologian author writes:
“Dear Mr. Jackson, There is nothing harder than to find whether an act which would cause one great empirical distresses is or is not ones duty. For of course an error is equally possible in both directions: either to think it can’t be demanded because it is so hard, as to think it must demanded just because it is so hard. I suppose in reality one’s wishes are no evidence at all either way. The questions that have to be answered are whether – as such an objective idea a well informed outsider might take — your talents and capabilities are such as would make a good priest: and as would fit you better for priesthood than for lay work. It is in that way, I believe, that the line of ‘reasonableness’ is but applied. You are apparently an organizer and that is certainly one of the things a priest should be. Are you also likely to be a good preacher? A good (encourage) theologian? Then again remember how important a lay interest is in the modern world. How many people value his words more than a priest because they think ‘of course a parson is hard to say all that and is bound to say it because he really believes it. But if Jackson says it that would he because he really believes it’. (This is one thing that would deter me from taking orders). So one wants a clear view of… some utility you would have as a priest sufficient to compensate for your loss of that particular advantage. Of course there may be a ‘call’ in your heart before which all such considerations would (and should) melt away. But I believe you are right in thinking God usually speaks to people like us through our natural intelligence working on relevant facts. I don’t know that I could add much by writing a longer letter. One could try to break out of the question both ones fears and ones hopes. How many other lay Christians would you wish to see taking orders and why and which, and do these reasons apply to you, taking into account what you know (and what others don’t) as your temperament, talents, age, and impulses in your present position. God bless your choice – whichever it is. Yours sincerely, C. S. Lewis”.
Remarkable. Relevant both then and now. His letters are extremely difficult to obtain, and this letter with its outstanding content on what one weighs when being called to serve God, would make a fine addition to any collection of his writings. Simply one of our “Best of the Best” ™