« PreviousContinue »
nature is no disproof, but on the contrary part of the proof, of the existence of a wise and beneficient God, part of the proof that we are living, not in the worst, but rather in the best possible world. The uniformity of nature makes us feel that there is at the heart of things neither chance nor caprice but Season, Eeason in which there is neither variableness nor shadow of turning, Eeason which is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever. Nature by her uniformity assures us that in so far as we discover and obey her laws it will be well with us, well with us precisely in proportion to our knowledge and obedience. To law we owe all we are, all we have, all we can ever hope for. "Of law," says Hooker, "there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world. All things in heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as not beneath her care and the greatest as not exempted from her power; both angels and men and all creatures of what condition soever, though each in different sort and manner yet all with uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy.
True and False Discontent.
C.-ITS FALSE IDEAL.
E have seen (A) that the pessimists under
'" estimate human pleasures. Hartmann, e.g., quietly puts down work amongst the miseries of existence, ignoring altogether the enjoyment which frequently attends it. And, on the other hand, he does not make any mention of laughter in his short list of what he considers the good things of life; yet to laughter we owe a very large proportion of the brightness of existence. This is just an example of what we find constantly in pessimistic books,—they grossly overestimate the misery and underestimate the joy of life.
We have seen (B) that they overlook the necessity for pain. I have tried to show you that pain forms an essential part of a rational universe. Some amount of suffering follows inevitably from what is called the reign of law—that is, from the unchangeableness of the laws of nature. Any world in which it is possible to live a rational life, must be governed by invariable laws. We must know for certain that our welfare will depend upon obedience to these laws; we must be quite sure that the same causes will always produce the same effects; we must be able to rely on the reign of law with full assurance of faith. Sometimes the normal working of these laws will bring disaster—unmerited disaster—upon the individual. But interference with the laws in order to save the individual is impossible, for such interference would amount to the abrogation of the laws altogether, and would at once convert the universe into chaos. We have also seen that there was a still further necessity for pain, partly to serve as a warning and to keep us from greater pain, and partly to develop the higher phases of character, such as self-reliance, self-respect, pity, mercy and the spirit of self-sacrifice. I admitted however that there was far more pain in the world, especially amongst the lower animals, than could be accounted for on these grounds. But, I said, if we could sometimes find a sufficient reason for some pain, we might not illogically hope that there were sufficient reasons for all pain, though as yet we had been unable to discover them. The point we have reached then is this, some amount of pain—there may be differences of opinion as to how much— but some amount of pain is absolutely inevitable for a rational life of moral development.
(C.) I come to-day to my third argument against the pessimists. They do not seem to approve of a rational life of moral development. They have another, and what appears to me an unworthy, ideal.
Now it is only fair to state the arguments of one's opponents in the clearest and most forcible way; and I have never seen the pessimistic doctrine as to the essential unsatisfactoriness of life more powerfully expounded, than in a paper which I received the other day from a member of the congregation. I will therefore read you some extracts from it. The writer begins by drawing a distinction between happiness and satisfaction; and, while admitting that there is much happiness in the world, maintains that there is little or no satisfaction. She says: "There may be far more happiness in the world than is generally recognised. I think there is. Probably every life has some happiness: a few lives have little else. But happiness is not enough,—is not satisfactory. With it there is always a want, a longing; and the greater one's happiness becomes, the greater is this feeling of unsatisfaction. I do not think that many human beings have ever experienced satisfaction at all; and even those who have experienced it, have kept it but a few moments, which formed a sharp contrast to the rest of their life. It is generally known only by the want of it. There is a great unsatisfaction in life; and that is the only reason for dreams of satisfaction." The writer then goes on to give illustrations of the various circumstances which specially call forth in us this feeling of unsatisfaction. "The effect of scenery," she says, "is more than half pain, especially if it is the sea; sunset or distance of any kind soon becomes unbearable. But perhaps the sense of unsatisfaction is never so strong as under the influence of music. The longing and the hoplessness are never more keenly felt, than when music is making us happy with new ideas and hopes."
She then proceeds to show that this feeling is no accident; that it is, and must ever be, inseparable from human life; that it is in fact a law of nature. "Eepose must be impossible unless by a deliberate blinding of all one's perceptions and numbing of all one's energies. Progress is the law of the uni