RELIGION AND PHILANTHROPY
to "Sortes Biblicae *)/' but on more than one critical occasion he opened the Bible at random, and took the first sentence that caught his eye as a Divine message. He was too humane to like the idea of eternal punishment, but as he found it in the Bible he accepted it. He believed that the second coming of Christ was imminent, and his envelopes were stamped with an inscription in Greek, "So come, Lord Jesus." It was easy for Christians who were not less sincere and devout than Shaftesbury to fall out of step with such a mind, and his controversies were endless. His life was one long conflict with those who found more or found less than he found in the Bible: Socinians, Tractarians, Neologians, Ritualists.
In 1838 he wrote to Melbourne in consternation, because a learned Unitarian had been allowed to dedicate to the young Queen a book on the Harmony of the Gospels. In 1842 he was absorbed in the struggle over the Chair of Poetry at Oxford. A candidate had been proposed who was a Tractarian; on this ground the Evangelicals decided to organise opposition to his election. A rival candidate was produced, and Cardwell drew up a circular setting out his claims. But Shaftesbury was horrified to find that the new candidate was recommended on the ground of his "poetical attainments and critical acumen2)." He objected that this put the election on a totally wrong basis. What had these things to do with the Chair of Poetry? "I would vote for Sternhold and Hopkins, Nicholas Brady or Nahum Tate *), against a whole host of the mightiest geniuses
1. sortes biblicae: an allusion to the sortes Vergilianae. In the Middle Ages Vergil was looked upon as a prophet so that Dante chose him as his guide in his poem on the visit to Heil and Purgatory. Vergil's poetry was used to find out the future in the same way as is here said of the Bible.
2. acumen: sharpness of thinking, penetration.
3. These are translators of the Psalms into English verse.