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voluntarily gives up its life for its offspring, or a dog begs off from punishment the child that has been torturing him. In the human race, at the lowest end of the scale I doubt if you could find a person so degraded as never to have denied himself for any one; at the other end of the scale you find —Christ; and of Christ it is expressly declared by St Paul that he was but "the first-born of many brethren."
"The worst possible world," say the pessimists, and yet it is already permeated through and through with love. In the course of evolution love has emerged along with pain, and as I have tried to show you partly by means of pain. Would not this result have been worth, if necessary, ten thousand times the cost? Would any one barter away for a little more enjoyment the highest gift of evolution? Surely, even now, the end justifies the means—any means. Even now there is enough to compensate for millenniums of what we call waste. Waste! As if anything could be waste which formed part of the steady onward move of circumstances that was to culminate in the birth of love! The Author of the universe, who to the jaundiced vision of the pessimists appears occupied solely in devising pain, has been all along creating love. If this is the result of His bad things—and of course waste, pain, conflict, taken separately, are bad things—what must be the unsearchable riches of His good things? The evolution of love is now going on with amazing rapidity. Positive philosophers and Christian thinkers, all cultivated persons —except pessimists — recognise its value and its beauty. The number of self-sacrificing men and women, the number of those who have merged their own life and wellbeing in the life and wellbeing of the race, is continually on the increase. And assuredly the time is coming when there will be a reign of love in humanity, as invariable and as universal as the present reign of law in nature. That is
"The one, far-off, divine event Towards which the whole creation moves."
And where is the man who would begrudge his own contribution of suffering towards a consummation so devoutly to be wished?
Pessimism, as a system of dogmatic belief, seems to me the meanest and the silliest creed with which ever the earth was cursed. It is mean; for it assumes that there is nothing valuable but pleasure, it assumes that the goodness or badness of the world may be determined by that criterion alone. It is silly; for its fundamental assertion, that life is not worth living, is flatly contradicted by the vast majority of the human race. Professor Huxley, in the 'Nineteenth Century,' though taking a much less optimistic view of life than I have endeavoured to give you, is yet very severe with the pessimists. He says, " If the optimism of Leibnitz is a foolish though pleasant dream, the pessimism of Schopenhauer is a nightmare, the more foolish because of its hideousness. Error which is not pleasant is surely the worst form of wrong. This may not be the best of all possible worlds, but to say that it is the worst is mere petulant nonsense. A worn-out voluptuary may find nothing good under the sun; a vain and inexperienced youth, who cannot get the moon he cries for, may vent his irritation in pessimistic moanings; but there can be no doubt in the mind of any reasonable person that mankind could get on fairly well with vastly less happiness and far more misery, than find their way into the lives of nine persons out of ten. Men with any manhood in them would find life worth living under far worse conditions than the present."
But though pessimism as a systematic creed is essentially mean and silly, pessimism as a passing mood of feeling may come to the wisest and the best of us. It may be forced on us by a great historic crisis; it may be forced on us by some over
whelming personal calamity; nay, if we are a little out of health, if we are over-fatigued, if the weather be disagreeable, we may all of us find that we are for the time inclined to be pessimists. In one of the many valuable letters I have received on this subject, the writer points out very acutely how the same circumstances will at one time depress us, which at other times would make us hopeful and glad. By way of illustration she refers to a celebrated passage in Professor Tyndall's ' Musings on the Matterhorn': "Hacked and hurt by time, the aspect of the mountain from its higher crags saddened me. Hitherto the impression it made was that of savage strength, here we had inexorable decay. But this notion of decay implied a reference to a period when the Matterhorn was in the full strength of mountainhood. Thought naturally ran back to its remoter origin and sculpture. Nor did thought halt there, but wandered on through molten worlds to that nebulous haze, which philosophers have regarded as the source of all material things. I tried to look at this universal cloud as containing within itself the prediction of all that has since occurred. I tried to imagine it as the seat of those forces whose action was to arise in solar and stellar systems and all that they involve. Did that formless fog contain potentially the sadness with which I regarded the Matterhom?" Now, says the writer, that feeling of sadness which invaded his spirit at the top of the mountain, was probably due more to the exhaustion of his nervous system than to any change in the mountain itself. The thoughts of decay were his, not nature's. At another time, with his body restored to the normal condition, those very rocks might have made him glad; they might have given him an assurance of infinite progress, of order brought out of disorder, of life wrung from death; and seeing how in the natural world strife had given birth to beauty, he might have learnt to hope that it would perhaps be so in the moral sphere, and that all the sufferings which had been involved in the progress of evolution were not worthy to be compared with the infinite and eternal glory for which they were the necessary preparation.
But though various causes over which we have no control may lead to our experiencing at times the pessimistic mood, let us take care that we do our best as quickly as possible to shake it off'. You remember the high priest of aestheticism—before he was married, he is wiser now—rather prided himself on his melancholy. And there are others who do the same. Just as some people think agnosticism a proof of cleverness, so others think