Page images
PDF
EPUB

TWENTY-SECOND AUTUMNAL CONVENTION OF THE UNITARIAN DENOMINATION. - We, the undersigned, have been appointed a Committee of the Third Congregational Society, Springfield, Mass., to extend a cordial invitation to our Unitarian friends generally, to meet in Convention in our city on Tuesday, Oct. 13. We hope to see a large attendance, and will do all in our power to make the occasion pleasant and profitable.

GEO. WALKER.
Jonn L. KING.
HENRY SMITH.
J. C. ROBINSON.

B. F. BOWLES.
In accordance with the above cordial invitation, the Annual
Autumnal Convention of the Unitarian Body will assemble in
Springfield, Mass., Tuesday, Oct. 13.

The preachers appointed for the occasion are Rev. Edward E. Hale of Boston and Rev. Octavius B. Frothingham of New York.

The subjects that will be brought before the Convention for discussion, are, 1. “ The duties suggested by the present condition of the country.” 2. “Religious Optimism.”

It is requested that as many as possible of those who design to attend the Convention shall signify their intention by sending their names to “Henry Smith, Esq., Springfield, Mass.” An attention to this will greatly promote the convenience of our entertainers, and the comfort of all who attend the Convention.

Arrangements are in progress with various railroad companies by which commutation-tickets will be secured.

The Committee of Reception will be in attendance on Tuesday, Oct. 13, in the vestry of the church.

FRANCIS TIFFANY, ) Committee
E. S. Mills,

of ROBERT COLLYER, ) Arrangements.

APPEAL ON BEHALF OF THE SOLDIERS IN THE CAMP OF

DRAFTED MEN. MR. EDITOR, — Will you make an appeal to the benevolent of our community on behalf of the men in this camp?

What is most needed is a supply of reading-matter ; and any thing, whether suitable for a permanent camp library, or of the nature of newspapers and periodicals, will be greatly prized.

Contributions may be sent to the end of Commercial Wharf, addressed to my care; or if more convenient, and the packages are small, they may be left at the Rooms of the Association, 245, Washington Street. It is important that whatever is sent be sent soon. I make this appeal, confident that whatever may be sent will do great good.

CHARLES LOWE, Chaplain at Long Island.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.

$1.00

1.00

1863. Aug. 14. From Rev. C. G. Ames, to make himself an annual

member. . . . . . . . . . . . . Society in Canton, as a donation . . .. . 26.00 ,, Society in Bridgewater, for Monthly Journals . 23.00 Society in Marlboro', 'for Monthly Journals, additional . . . . . . . : : : :

7.00

:
Mount-Pleasant Society, Roxbury, for Monthly

Journals, additional". ..
Society in Kennebunk, Me., as a donation, ad-
ditional (in all, $106) . . . . . .

46.00

. Moses Edgell, as a donation ....... 2.00 Society in West Dedham, as a donation . . . 12.00 Society in New Bedford, for Monthly Journals 42.00 Rev. Frederick Huidekoper, to balance his account for books . . .

52.25 Society in South Danvers, for Monthly Journals, additional ..

1.00 ,, Rev. W. T. Phelan, to make himself an annual member ......:

1.00 „ Society in Quincy, for Monthly Journals :: 22.00

THE

MONTHLY JOURNAL.

Vol. IV.)

BOSTON, NOVEMBER, 1868.

[No. 11.

OPTIMISM. An ESSAY READ AT SPRINGFIELD CONVENTION, OCTOBER, 1863,

BY JAMES FREEMAN CLARKE. I HAVE been requested to write an essay on Optimism, by way of introducing a discussion of thất subject. I shall consequently treat the question suggestively, rather than judicially. I shall try to open it, rather than to settle it. I shall endeavor to provoke denial, rather than assent. If, therefore, I seem to be extravagant and one-sided in any statement, let it be understood that I welcome opposition and contradiction; and shall be better pleased, the better I am confuted.

Optimism is of two kinds, speculative and practical. To discuss the speculative question, will not, I think, be of any great interest; and I shall therefore pass it over very briefly, though this is the form in which the question has received the most attention.

Speculative or philosophic optimism consists in maintaining that this world is the best of all possible worlds. Plato in ancient times, and Leibnitz in modern times, are the chief defenders of this thesis. It follows indeed, neces

VOL. IV.

sarily, from the idea of a perfect God; for, if the Creator is perfect, his creation must also be perfect. The character of the workman appears in his work. If we find any imperfection in the creation, it argues an imperfection in the creative act; that is, an imperfection in God. This imperfection must lie either in the divine intellect, will, or love. If his love is perfect love, he must desire a perfect world; if his intelligence is perfect, he must know how to make a perfect world; if his power is perfect, he must be able to make a perfect world.

Of course, this thesis does not intend that the earth, or solar system, is the most perfect of all earths or of all solar systems; for, to make such an assertion, we must be acquainted with them all, and able to compare them with each other. The proposition regards the universe; and means that the universe, taken as a whole, is the best of all possible universes. It is the universe to which Plato refers in his “ Timæus," when he says, “The Eternal Deity, causing a circle to revolve in a circle, established the world as one substantive, solitary object, self-sufficient through its own excellence; requiring nothing external, but sufficient for itself. So he produced the universe, a blessed God," ..."a visible animal, the greatest, best, and most perfect; the one, only-begotten universe.” The word used by the Greeks for the universe, Koouos, indicates this optimistic faith: it signifies a beautiful order. The Latin word mundus, meaning originally the ornaments and attire of woman, is transferred to the universe as the ornamental attire of the Deity, -"weaving for God the garment which we see him by." The English and German term Welt or world refers rather to the circular motion of the universe, and does not contain the optimistic faith, — a faith which has always belonged more to the Hellenic and Latin races than to the Teutons.

If this speculative optimism, which declares that this universe is the best of all possible universes, can be easily demonstrated by starting from the infinite perfection of God, it is also true, that the opposite doctrine, called pessimism, can be also demonstrated with much show of logic, if we start from what we see of the universe in the finite which surrounds us. Arthur Schopenhauer, the great modern pessimist, argues that this world is really the worst possible world, and thinks that he has demonstrated it, thus: Wherever we look, we see, in nature and in man, that the slightest additional excess, deficiency, or disorder, that is, that the slightest additional evil, would destroy the universe, and make its existence impossible. In outward nature, let there be a little more water, and the earth would be drowned; a little more heat, and it would be parched; a little more cold, and it would be frozen : let the earthquake and hurricane and lightning be ever so little in excess of what they are, and the crust of the earth would be broken up, and man precipitated into the abyss of fire below; or the constitution of the air destroyed, and it would become incapable of supporting life. And so, if man had a little more evil in his blood, a little more selfishness or wilfulness or passion ; and society would be impossible. Consequently, if the earth could not exist at all, supposing the slightest addition of evil, it follows that it is the worst world capable of existence; that is, the worst possible world.

This is perhaps enough to say in regard to the speculative question. The practical optimism is different. It consists in maintaining that things are as good as they can be; that all things are really for the best: whatever is, is right. In history, it maintains that all the great events which have occurred have been inevitable, and have taken place according to the working of laws, the general result

« PreviousContinue »