[A variant in the MS. of the passage from this point to the end of § 3 is as follows:]
What can be so purifying, what so ennobling to every mental power, as its unselfish exercise. If not in any other cause yet surely in that of Religion, petty jealousies and unseemly vanities must in a measure vanish, and the very action of the imagination take place in a pure atmosphere. The mere desire to do our best is enough. (Not to do better than others but our own best for ourselves. The deep trouble and disgrace of envy destroys the creature's powers: a man may desire to do well, and labour with all his might, and he will not do what he might have done if his purpose be to eclipse another. It must be a calm, humble, happy ambition that will carry us on. We might as well think to get the reflection of a fair landscape in troubled water as a great range of imaginative power in an envious mind. But the will to do the best possible is far different. Art is hard enough when we have this will, but she laughs to scorn our insincere efforts without it. We must begin with the conception the aim at perfection. But the will to do the best possible, and that for the sake of some other cause than ourselves, is the very temper in which the greatest things are done) ; and it is exactly this which is the consequence of the Spirit of Sacrifice. For while that Spirit leaves to every man's conscience the amount of his gift it dictates positively the single condition that it shall be of his best. And let this condition be as positively observed. Let nothing that is not as good as it can be ever be made a part of church architecture. Whatever stone we build with must be the best stone of the kind ; we may not be able to afford marble, then let it be Caen or Portland, but the best bed of either. We may not be able to afford stone ; build of brick, but of the best brick, do not let it be said ' cheaper material will do in this part or in that part'; it may answer its purpose as material, but it will not answer its purpose as an offering. So in the ornamentation, we may not be able to afford much, but let what is given be beautiful and as far carried as may be. Do not dot the ceilings or finish the leads with wretched, half-worked, blunt-edged, sickly-faced bosses and gargoyles : do not put up miserable imitations of mediaeval statuary ; we are foolish and weak if we are pleased with such things, they unfit us for feeling the nobility of their prototypes, they are a thousand-fold worse than plain vaults and walls, they are insults alike to religion and common sense, and we are none of us such good architects nor sculptors neither as to be able with impunity to work habitually beneath our strength, and, being able to do little, stop short of that little.
Last modified 13 July 2010