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audacity that almost forbids its utterance. We might perhaps question a feature of life, but to turn face to face upon existence itself and doubt its worth, to point life with an interrogation, - thought can go no farther in audacity, - a thing not identical with courage, but rather with that folly which dares the sphinx that slays if the riddle is unsolved. If we get an answer in the negative, we cannot avoid the wish that the earth were shorn of life and swinging once more on its round, a mute, dead world, and the farther wish that creation itself were blotted out, and if creation, also the Creator. This is logical, but to sweep infinite space and eternal duration clean of matter and being, to empty and then annihilate the universe, — such audacity reaches beyond sublimity, and sinks into the ridiculous. The Puritan mother of Samuel Mills, who, when her son, under the stress of morbid religious feeling, cried out, “ Oh, that I had never been born,” said to him, “ My son, you are born, and you cannot help it,” was more philosophical than he who says, “ I am, but I wish I were not.” A philosophy that flies in the face of the existing and the inevitable, forfeits its name. And a philosophy which, baving found out that life is undesirable, proposes to get rid of it, — the position of the pessimist-school, namely, to educate the race to the wisdom of universal and simultaneous suicide, - has, at least, a difficult matter in hand, the end of which need not awaken concern. There is some other issue before mankind than self-extinction. Life may get to appear very poor and worthless, but the greater part will prefer to live it out to the end. Great nature bas us in hand, and, while allowing us a certain liberty, and even wildness of conduct, has barriers beyond which we cannot go. “You may rail at existence,” she says, “but you cannot escape it." It may be impossible to escape by what is termed self-destruction. We were not consulted as to the beginning of existence; it may be that we can have no voice as to its end. We may throw ourselves over the battlements of the life that now holds us, but who can say that we may not be seized by the mysterious force that first sent us here, and be thrust back into this world, or some other no better, to complete an existence over which we have no power? If a malignant or indifferent force evolved human existence, it is probable that, by reason of these very qualities, it will continue this existence; were it to permit extinction it would violate its own nature. A being made or evolved cannot outmaster or outwit the being or force from which it sprang ?
"CT is not within the force of fate,
The fate conjoined to separate." If existence is so wretched that extinction is desirable, it is necessary to suppose a good God in order to be certain of attaining it; no other would permit it. But will He not rather deliver from the misery and preserve the life? Whether the pessimist is aware of it or not, he wears the cap and bells, and his doleful doctrines, however soberly uttered, will be heard as jests. Still it is not amiss that the question has come up; it has the use of turning the thought of the age to human life with careful
scrutiny and measurement. Men have always been ready enougb to see the evil in life; that side of existence has been well attended to, but the other side, the good wrought into it, has not been fairly estimated. And especially we have been too ready to conclude that life is a waning process, a game of inevitable loss, a glory that fades away into dullness and night. The weight of uttered testimony leans to this side, for there is a strange property in human ill that draws thought to it. The great masters write tragedies and comedies, one in seriousness, the other in jest. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity;" "Few and evil have been the days of my life ;” so reiterates the moralist and sage of all ages, uttering, however, his feeling rather than his thought, pitying rather than scrutinizing himself. But now that men are rising up and calmly asserting that these estimates are a true and final verdict drawn from all the facts of life, that life is a fading glory, a vanishing process, a deception ending in total loss, we are forced to consider if these representations have even the color of truth. For life must not be suspected. If not held as of supreme value it loses all value, and sinks out of all use ; it is the beginning and the sure prognostic of utter demoralization. When the glory of life is tarnished, it does not need to be cast away, it is gone already. One who holds existence cheap, destroys the basis of achievement; character is graduated by the estimate put upon that which holds character. One may die cheerfully at God's bidding, but only at his; or gladly for a cause, but the cause must be worthy of the sacrifice.
The subject is so large that only one phase of it will now be taken up, namely, a comparison between what is gained and what is lost in life as it goes on.
That there are gains and losses, wrought even into the texture of life, there is no question, but which are in excess, is a matter of debate. That multitudes make life a waning process through evil, there is no doubt. The real question is, Is life so organized that it is a process of gain rather than loss, with the further question if the loss does not subserve the gain ?
In making this comparison we start with the fact that there seems to be possible but one kind of excellence at a time. We never see a person simultaneously at the height of personal beauty, of energy, and of wisdom; one excellence follows another. Hence we must not infer that, because one phase passes away and another comes on, there is actual loss; it is possible that there may be a succession characterized by an ascending grade. In childhood there is a grace and symmetry, a certain divineness in movement and play of feature, that quickly disappear, but are nearer perfection than anything of any sort that comes after. I can see God in the patience and ecstasy of the saints, but not so clearly as in the features and movements of a little child. St. Sebastian holds no comparison with the sacred Babe in the discerning eye of art. Their angels behold the face of the Father, and we behold God in them. If this divine beauty could live on, we say, how much richer and more glorious life would
be! But it vanishes, and something less ethereal and more substantial comes in. We still have beauty, but the suggestion of divineness is gone. The physical is shot through with the bright flame of human passion, and made glorious by the kindling light of thought. The child shone with a beauty reflected from the creating Hand; the youth is beautiful with his own feeling and thought, an advance in kind, but not in degree. The excellence is higher in kind than that of childhood, but its ineffable charm, the utter grace, the eye that looks from measureless depths into yours, unabashed because it knows no evil, — being gazing upon being, as the angels may,—these are gone. But the downcast eye and mounting color of youthhood are higher because they speak of the personality that is coming on : the divine withdraws to make room for the human. And then, as beauty loses its freshness, there is a transfer of excellence from the physical to the intellectual and moral. A certain external glory passes, but now comes on courage, strength, imagination, and thought. And now for the first, life begins to yield fruit self-grown. Up to this point it has seemed a reflection of the world out of which it came; it slowly fades as in a dissolving picture, leaving less pleasing forms, but as we touch them, we find they are not images but realities. But after a long period of full personality marked by strength and achievement, a change comes on that seems to be one of absolute loss. Energy, courage, hope, fade out by slow degrees, the down-hill of life, we call it. And loss indeed it