TheInfection of Pessimism
Berry StreetEssay, 1896
Readbefore the Ministerial Conference
One must choose among many possible methods whenhe essays to discuss pessimism. For example, there is the method of candor andopen-mindedness, which purports to be absolutely undogmatic. As an impartialspectator, the essayist brings into view all the disagreeable facts ofexperience without attempting to lead the minds of his readers to anyconclusion. In the exercise of his candor such a judicious philosopher,declining to be an advocate, heaps up in appalling array all the ugly facts,and then, declining to interpret them, makes the best possible argument infavor of the worst possible conclusion.
A second method, often used in public discourse,is to begin with an invitation to assume the judicial attitude. "Let usconsider the facts together," the speaker says, "and see whither theywill lead us." The peroration in such a case will be offered as thenatural and unforced conclusion to which speaker and hearers have advancedtogether as the result of the evidence laid before them. If, however, thelisteners take a second thought, they will remember that this conclusion towhich they have been so skillfully led was written in the essayist's paperbefore he began to speak. His judicial attitude is therefore an affectation.His examination of the evidence is a rhetorical device, unworthy of a seriousthinker, and an affront to the intelligence of his hearers.
A third method is to confess that one has chosenhis subject because he has given it careful attention, has looked at it in manymoods, has brought to it whatever strength of thought and power of statement hepossesses, and is now ready to record his thought because he believes that whathe has to say will be of use to those who are invited to give attention. Thismethod I have chosen because I believe there is need of missionary work in therealm of the intellect. The mind of this generation is confused, theconsciences of men are troubled and their affections are chilled by doubt or adenial concerning the essential goodness of things.
I might take it for granted that among thereaders of this review there is not one who is a pessimist out and out. I mayalso take it for granted that there are among them at least a considerableminority who are pessimists in and out. Not thorough-going, not convinced, notready to make a clear affirmation or a stout denial, they live, however, wherein moods of depression, physical, mental, affectional, when the vital forcesare sluggish and the will falters, they are conscious of a chill in the air. Ashadow falls across the way, and the doubt arises whether it be not the shadowof something malign in the nature of things, as persistent as any benign influencewhich comes with the sunshine and the natural gladness of life.
While there are few thorough-going pessimists,there are many semi-pessimists, demi-semi-pessimists,hemi-demi-semi-pessimists. Sometimes one suspects that the homeopathic doctrineof high potencies may be applied to these dilutions of pessimism in theology,ethics and sociology. The weaker the solution, the more potent the tincture.
We live in an age marked above all ages by thedevelopment of sympathy. We live in an age which will become famous beyond allformer ages for the efforts made by man to ameliorate the condition of hisbrother man. We live at a time when the men of right thought and feeling arecalled to meet the problems of political, social and religious progress, withfaith, hope, courage and resolution. No creed but that of a rational optimism,carefully thought out and applied to the necessities of mankind, can furnishpermanent stimulus, the consolation and strength which the worker needs.
But I find in every forward movement this subtleinfusion of pessimism. At least one half of the complaints that are madeagainst the existing order of things, are charges brought against theiressential nature. They are not based upon a rational interpretation of thedefects in society which are incidental to progress and may be removed, or upona right understanding of the vestiges of a lower order of society which persistfor a time but will soon disappear from the advancing highway of civilization.They are not based upon a perception of the errors which come through theignorance both of the tyrant in human society and of his victims. They are, inshort, not well-considered indictments brought against the avoidable evils ofmodern society; but they are complaints which really lodge themselves againstthe principles and the laws which, since time began, have governed andcontrolled the course of human history and progress, do govern them to-day, andwill continue to govern them until the end of time.
Now, in order to detect the subtle infusion ofpessimism in our thought and feeling, let us examine a specimen of the originalbitter drug, unmixed and undiluted. In its worst conceivable form pessimism hasnever entered the Mind of any sane philosopher. Something approaching it may befound in old-fashioned Calvinism, in Persian and other Gentile philosophies,where a malign intelligence like Ahriman or Milton's Satan is represented asbeing almost but not quite omnipotent. The thorough-going pessimist wouldaffirm that the universe is controlled by an evil intelligence of the highestorder, quite omnipotent, and that all things are purposely arranged by thisevil intelligence to produce evil and misery continually, forever. The infiniteand eternal energy from which all things proceed would in such a case manifestitself in the production of an immortal race inventing evil and enduring miseryworld without mid.
The worst existing form of pessimism is thedenial, not the antithesis of a rational optimism. Actually, as it exists amongus, pessimism is commonly not even a denial, but simply an absence of optimism,a doubt whether the facts of experience can be so co-ordinated as todemonstrate a moral and intelligent order in the nature of things of which ourhuman life is an essential part. That is the worst of it, but that is badenough. For, accepting the doubt, one must in the shadow of it look out towardthe other alternative and regard the Universe as unmoral and unbeneficent, —that is, as a vast, formless, purposeless, worse than useless realm of activedisorder and magnificent insanity.
If we could keep the places where we now are,the earth vanishing and the light of the sun being withdrawn, we should findourselves at the centre of a celestial sphere of extraordinary brilliancy andbeauty. Above, below, on every side, innumerable stars would be seen, each onea sun more magnificent than our own. The roof and floor of heaven would be"thick inlaid with patines of bright gold." Judging from what we knowof the constitution of things, we believe that every sun is surrounded byplanets similar to our Earth, some of which are habitable. If the pessimist,the man who denies the premises of optimism, could take an eternity to visitthese habitable worlds, he would no doubt find millions of them in which theprocesses of life have been established. With infinite variety, and yet underthe same laws of intelligence that govern us, the experiments of evolution aregoing on. Now he who denies that the course of life upon this earth illustrateswisdom and goodness must extend his negation to these innumerable worlds aboutus. He must affirm that in them life passes through a series of progressivestages; that it rises in the warmth of the first, habitable periods, grows,culminates, flickers, fades and dies away, and at last, extinguished in coldand darkness, disappears and leaves no record. To be consistent, he who soreads the history of terrestrial life must affirm that this process has beengoing on in the universe forever, and will go on forever, uselessly, withoutplan, without purpose, without happy conclusion. Is it possible that any mancan allow his imagination free range in this way, and then deliberately saythat the processes of evolution are unmoral and unbeneficent? Before the vast,sublime spectacle of the universe generating life everlastingly, I do not seehow such a negation or even a persistent doubt is possible.
Let us pause a moment and consider the evil ofwhich the pessimist complains; it will come later into our argument. The evilof life reveals itself in competition, in struggle, in defeat, in disease, inold age and in death. Reduced to their root grievances, the master evils ofwhich complaint are made are life, love and the love of life. The pessimistmight sum up all the evils of existence in this way, —"I love life and Iought to hate it because it is evil; I hate death and I ought to love it becauseit puts an end to evil." Death is the antithesis of life; if life is anevil or full of evil things, then death is the great healer and ought to bewelcome. The pessimist might even be thankful that such innumerable good giftsof Providence are provided by which we may attain to euthanasia. But thepessimist will say, "It is not my own death which troubles me, so much asthe death of my friend; that breaks my heart; of that I complain." But ifhe did not love his friend, he would not suffer pain because of his death.According to the pessimist, the blind energy of the nature of things has pushedus into a hateful condition, and then with terror-breeding irony made us lovethis condition, hate it, rejoice in it, complain of it and dread its passing.
Now the thesis which I maintain withouthesitation or apology is, that while at short range we cannot explain in detailthe disagreeable facts of our moral experience, the awful competitions andstruggles through which we pass and the incidents of pain in our physicallives, we still have ample reason to believe that the universe is sane; thatits order is intelligent; that its processes are benignant; that we can now inpart see the meaning of that which we suffer and that the vindication of thedivine order becomes more satisfactory as we conform to it, with indicationsthat the issue will be triumphant satisfaction therewith. While with most of myreaders I might take this thesis for granted, yet, because it will help me onthe way towards my conclusion, I will, without developing my system, brieflyindicate the nature of the moral argument one might frame against pessimism,taking for our premises the things we certainly know. Out of energy all thingsproceed, whether seen or unseen. This energy is infinite; it is eternal; itproceeds in orderly fashion, revealing throughout the universe, wherever thethought of loan can fly, the operation of law, infinite, eternal and absolute.No sane man now hesitates to say that wherever energy is exerted, there law isoperative which is intelligible to the intelligent. While, if we begin at thatcud of the argument, it is difficult to prove beyond a doubt that God is, thatHe is intelligent, that He is wise, that He is loving, that He is just, it isabsolutely impossible to doubt that the infinite and eternal energy producesand manifests itself through intelligence, wisdom, love and justice.
Earth, air and water are full of everything.Drop a cotton seed into the earth, and it will spin out of itself thousands ofyards of cotton fibre. A few slips of sugar-cane will pump liquid sugar out ofthe earth by the gallon. Earth, air, water, are full of potential grasses,grains, fruits, wine, oil, and living creatures also, in all their myriadforms. The very particle which lay inert in the sod in a few days or weeks mayrun upon the earth, swim in the sea, or fly in the air. As one lies upon thegrass on a June day, he may hear, not only the rustle of the growing cornunlocking the granaries of the earth, but with his ear close to the ground andhis imagination alert, he will hear the coming of nimble feet and the rustlingof swift wings. Old Earth in her sleep is continually dreaming, dreaming,dreaming, feeling in her broad bosom the stir of particles of matter which willsoon rise into conscious forms of life. She has taken back to herselfgenerations long past, and there in the dust lie generations yet to come. Allthis dust will some day awake, it will have eyes and ears, it will spread itswings, it will love and hope, and serve the uses of the spirit. Who knows? Itmay be among the possibilities that this common dust of the earth may be itselftransmuted into spirit!
If not that, then this certainly: the infiniteand eternal energy which includes within itself the forces locked up in earth,air and water, can and does continually transform itself into the energy ofspirit. Whether or not it be wise, it contains within itself all thepotentialities of intelligence and wisdom. If the human mind, the mostwonderful product of the ages, be the highest form of being, havingintelligence and the capacity of generating wisdom, then the mystery of ourexistence deepens and darkens. The infinite and eternal energy produces wisdom.In this world certainly, this wisdom is an increasing factor in the processesof evolution. It comes out of the infinite and eternal energy. It recognizesits source. It understands something of the law of its being. It can estimatethe force and learn something of the direction of the power which produced it.It can draw into itself more and more supplies of energy from the sea ofinfinite being in which we are afloat. That is to say, the infinite and eternalenergy is as full of potential wisdom as the earth is of cotton, corn, wine andoil, or as the ether is full of potential electricity.
It is difficult to prove that God is righteous.For all men do not agree that what comes to us is evidently the result ofjustice, co-extensive with natural law, manifesting itself in all the processesof human life. But all men know that, if justice be not done in this universe,it ought to be done,— always, everywhere, and by every intelligent being. Ifthere be no supreme law of justice in the universe, man, having the power,would enact such a law, and would in time see that it was executed. Theinfinite and eternal energy, then, is full of potential righteousness. Thehuman spirit, like the tree planted by the river of water, brings forth itsfruit in its season.
It is difficult to prove that God is Love; thatHe thinks of us and cares for us and our friends. But we, who have come out ofthe infinite and eternal energy whence all timings 'framed, we are capable ofloving; Love makes the radiance of our human life. It makes the earthbeautiful. It is a prime incentive to action. It stimulates hope and ambition.It is slowly lifting the human race through all the stages of its intelligent,social progress, from the dust of the earth, earthy; to that of which one canat least dream that it is of heaven, heavenly. If we cannot prove that God isLove, we do certainly know that there is a love-producing energy from which weall proceed. This energy is as full of potential love as the ether about us isfull of potential light.
The supreme miracle of common life is seen inthe growth of a soul. All about us are the elements out of which spirits arefashioned. Just as literally as we say that out of the earth a cotton plantspins cotton fibre, or a slip of sugar-cane pumps up the syrup of sugar, or anolive secretes oil, or the grape distills wine, just so literally we state thefact that the germ of -a human being once set growing draws out of the viewlessair, out of the imponderable ether, out of omnipotent and omnipresent energycurrents of wisdom, love and justice which it packs away in sentiments,compacts into character, brings under the control of the will, and stamps witha human identity.
When the planet Mars comes near us, all theastronomers study it to see if they can find signs of atmosphere, water, snow,sea, land, moving clouds, falling rain, or signs of life and intelligence likeours. Now, if they should ever discover signs of life and tokens of intelligentaction upon that planet, or in any habitable world, they might at once, andwithout hesitation, assert that in sonic form wisdom, love and justice aremanifested there. We know, then, as distinctly as we know that sodium andhydrogen are in the sun, that the energy from which all things proceed isinfinite; that it is eternal; that it works in an orderly fashion according toimmutable laws; that with favorable conditions it produces wisdom, love andjustice. We know that upon this earth progress is the law of human life; weknow that the good things are coming in and that the bad things are going out.
But (and this leads ate to the application whichI am to make in practical life) all good things that we know upon this earthhave come through the processes of evolution out of struggle, by effort,through competition, through a contest for the supremacy of excellence. Up tothis time there has been no other way by which to produce swift wings, nimblefeet, skillful bands, active minds, the power to capture prey, to escape theenemy, the ability to contend with nature in all her rough moods and to commandher. Out of struggle and competition have conic courage, fortitude, patience,heroism, humanity, the dawnings of intelligence, the beginnings of every manlyvirtue and every womanly grace.
Out of struggle has come everything which in thewhirl and stress of the elemental life elevates human beings above bestialconditions and the lower ranks of animal and human existence. In this way havecome the human mind with its God-like attributes, the conscience with itsuplifting power, and all the best things which have glorified either the commonor the extraordinary lot of man.
This process has lasted from the beginning ofrecorded time. It is in full force to-day and will continue as the law of lifeand progress into a terrestrial future so remote that the imagination searchesin vain for its limit.
To ignore this law is to invite disaster; todeny it is to contradict the universe; to attempt to put it aside is tocontrovert omnipotence. To accept it is to know the truth; to act upon it is togain freedom and power; to rejoice in it is to attain to the inspiration of thehero and the delight of victory. In the last stanza of "PrometheusUnbound," Shelley sums up the victorious elements in his hero's, and hisown tumultuous life:
To stiffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy Power, which scents omnipotent; To love,and bear; to hope till Hope creates Front its own wreck the thing itcontemplates;
Neither to change, nor flatter, nor repent;This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free; Thisis alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.
But now there arises a class of thinkers and reformerswho, by the breadth of their charity, the warmth of their enthusiasm forhumanity and the glow of their imagination, catch our fancy, mislead ourthoughts, and turn our attention from the real nature of human existence andthe common and necessary work of life. They say that all the institutions ofsociety are wrong, that all the processes out of which they came belong to thebarbaric past; that now competition must cease; that antagonism must beabolished; that the differences caused by emulation must be obliter- ated, andthat life must henceforth go forward under a new law. They talk of "arresteddevelopment " in the institutions of church and state and in the wholeorganization of social life. They would go forward not ill obedience to knownlaw, but through a reversal of the laws in force up to this time.
It is only in Utopia, however, the land ofNowhere, that progress is carried on by reversal of known law. In the land ofSomewhere, which we all inhabit, progress comes through knowledge of law andobedience to it. 'One half of the discontent and misery of our time colliesfrom the attempt to find a short cut to wisdom, health, wealth and immortality,a short cut provided with flowery beds of ease. Dreamers tell us of a worldwhere competition will give place to cooperation, where love and sympathy andmutual kindliness will abolish painful effort and suffering will cease. Thislooks like the dream of an optimist. The point I wish to make is that this isnot the dream of an optimist, but the subtle delusion of a pessimist who iskicking against the pricks of reality. When one tries to abolish this vastterrestrial experiment of producing all good things by competition andemulation, he is simply fighting against the nature of things. Wisdom, love andjustice have entered into the struggle in the past, they are in it now, theywill continue to be in it until the end of human time and history, and they arein it to ennoble it, to lift it up, to make the lower stages of competition andemulation unnecessary, and to carry the contest on into the higher forms of theperfect life. The lion will lie down with the lamb, but not before he hassubmitted to the strong hand of authority. The wolves, becoming shepherd dogs,will be set to guard the flock; but not before man has conquered the wolvesthat are intractable and selected those that are amenable to the law ofkindness. Love is mingled in the game. But out of it tragedy comes and alwayswill come. In its highest form, through mating and marrying, love deals witheven numbers. In pairs mutually adjusted to each other, happy in the glory ofthe perfect love, they emerge from the whirl of social life. But one shall betaken and the other left, and the odd one, often the best one, goes out of Eden with a flaming sword behind him. That tragedy is enacted somewhere upon the earthevery hour.
For every place of power, for every gift ofinfluence, for every coign of physical, intellectual or spiritual vantage, thecompetition is and will be sharp, prolonged, perpetual. The trumpet-call toprogress then is not complaint of tie laws by which we live and out of whichour best has come, but the heroic note. There is no discharge in this war.There is no escape from the competitions of life. The saints, the heroes, the prophets,the apostles, the poets, the leaders of men, they who have thought highest andachieved most, have suffered most because they had most to win and most tolose. The world goes on to its high ideals under their leadership. To talk,then, of abolishing competition, of displacing emulation, of driving out manlyantagonisms or supplanting the struggle by which we live and grow strong, is nobetter than lavender and rose-water sprinkled in the path of the pioneers ofcivilization. There are evils in human life, gigantic, powerful, even crushing;there is folly which over-matches wisdom; there is hatred which conquers love;there is cruelty which supplants justice. The relief lies not in rose-water butin red blood, in a virile resolution, in the skill awl courage which hithertohave won the decisive battles of freedom and progress. The innumerable evilswhich afflict human beings are the result of ignorance and lack of skill; ofinability to use minds, eyes, hands and feet so as to conquer opponents, escapeenemies, put down natural obstacles, and enter the struggle of life equippedfor the winning of victories. The remedy is not to be found in the abolition ofthe law of competition. It lies in the increasing intelligence of the people wewish to save, in training them to have skillful hands, swift feet, activebrains, the wisdom to plan and the skill to execute. Educate, train andcultivate the multitudes who are in the rank and file of the great army ofindustry. Then talk no more about the evils of struggle and competition andemulation. Love, sympathy and cooperation cannot "mingle in thegame," except to help each one in doing his own task manfully and inwinning his own reward.
No, we are not going to abolish the conditionsof life which have made the heroisms of the past so necessary and so glorious;we are not going to make life other than it has been, except by raisingconstantly the level of its activities. No time is conceivable upon this earthwhen fortitude, courage, endurance, the quick eye, the swift foot, and thestrong right hand will not be essential to him who would win his way, guard hishonor, cherish and protect his loved ones, and do his part to make this earth aheaven. That which the toiling millions of the earth need is not to hear theecho of their complaints that they are ground under the heel of the oppressor.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, Butin ourselves, that we are underlings.
From the ideal point of view every institutionof society is wrong. Everything is imperfect. Everything that exists in visibleform is less good than that which will soon take its place. No institutionrepresents, or ean represent, the full, free, flowing life of humanity. Arrestof development may be seen everywhere. The iconoclast, the anarchist, the rebelagainst society, cannot in too vigorous terms describe the imperfection of allexisting things. Compared with the ideal, everything is wrong and nothing isright. But he is guilty of folly and is the agent of destruction who forgetsthat these things are the marks not of degeneration but of life and progress."Arrest of development" is a phrase to conjure with. But it losespower when we remember the ordinary laws of life. That man may live, otherliving things must suffer arrest of life. That thought, feeling, moral power,and the inspired imagination may serve the purposes of the world, their freeflow must be checked. A poem, a statue, a church, a bible, or a national idealrepresents a stream of human thought and feeling arrested in its flow that itmay come into sight and hold the attention of the world. The pine hewn onNorwegian hills must cease its growth before it becomes "the mast of sonicgreat admiral" to bear aloft the emblem of a nation's glory. The electriccurrent may take its silent way in cold and darkness, until, arrested by anobstacle, it breaks into heat and light. The right-minded philosopher, seeingthese things, will not rail at the results of law, but will rejoice in thevisible signs of progress deposited everywhere in the products of life and theinstitutions of society. To say that everything is wrong, if one is wise insaying it, is only to assert that better things are possible, are provided for,are coining, when we are ready for them. The members of the Christian clergyare imperfect ministers, writing imperfect sermons, reading an imperfect bible,serving an imperfect church; but, if they are true-hearted and courageous, theyare preparing places for the better things which in human life and thought arenow fluent, but are almost ready to rise before us in the forms of a bettercivilization, a purer religion, and a more humane society.
No definite line can be drawn betweenphilanthropists who are the children of darkness and those who are the childrenof light. The optimist may walk in a fool's paradise, while the honestpessimist with the courage of despair may be doing the rough and sometimesterrible work which precedes the peaceful triumphs of civilization. But bytheir works ye shall know them. The pessimist talks of degeneration andregeneration; of disintegration and reintegration. His leading thought is thatsociety has fallen from a better state and must be restored. The optimist saysthat society is already born and that, on the whole, it is well-born. Hebelieves in new births of power, and works to develop the vital energies of therace.
The pessimist is bent upon destroying the worksof evil. He is always attacking the sweat-shops of humanity and passing lawsagainst them. The optimist strikes at the causes of evil. To him the sweat-shopof whatever kind is only a symptom. The greedy speculators, who prey upon thelives and fortunes of their fellow-men, would have no opportunity unless therewere a mass of human material lying in hopeless and helpless ignorance. Thepessimist attacks the sweat-shop. The optimist attacks the material which makesthe sweat-shop possible. He heals, helps, encourages and educates this soddenmass of humanity until it resolves itself into its individual elements, getsthe universal soul distributed into its component parts, rises upon its ownfeet, begins to do its own work and to fight its own battles. Then theopportunity of the sweat-shop is gone.
From the earliest prehistoric time to our ownday, the pessimist has been rooting up weeds, cutting down thorn-trees andbitter almonds and waging war upon the nettles, thistles and brambles whichinfest "a sin-cursed earth." The optimist cultivates the weeds midheavy-headed grasses into grains and flowers. Tough-fibred brambles whichbruised the hands of the pessimist he twists into cordage for the uses ofcommerce and civilization. He cultivates the bitter almond and the thorn-treeuntil they bear peaches, pears and apricots. The pessimist is by profession thescavenger of civilization. He rakes over the muck-heaps of society; he cleansthe gutters, and he carries about with him an odor of decay. The optimist is asanitary chemist and engineer. He restores the most noxious refuse to itsoriginal forms of use and beauty. He puts his energies into the arts ofcultivation, studies the laws of growth, and carries with him suggestions offresh air, sunshine, growing corn, and ripening fruits.
The pessimist goes out gunning for the old Adamin human nature. He challenges Satan to mortal combat and rejoices to encountera thousand devils, that he may put them to flight. The optimist believes thatto make the acquaintance of one new angel, or even of one angelic thought, isan event more important than the routing of a host of demons. When the angelappears, the swine betake themselves to the sea of their own accord. Thepessimist, resisting the forces which tend to destruction and decay, deals withthat which is incidental, transient, superficial, — the things seen andtemporal. The optimist, assisting the forces of life and growth, and increasingthe energies which make for health, happiness and progress, deals with thatwhich is permanent, powerful, unseen and eternal.
This paper was composed on many routes oftravel. As I read it, I hear the rattle and rumble of the train. I catchglimpses of the wide-spreading desolation of the Mojave desert. I see bathersdisporting themselves under a January sun in the surf of the Pacific Ocean; Irecall the sunlit majesty of the Sierra Nevadas, and the first flush of summerin the Border States; and with these things are mingled reminiscences of thecomedy, the poetry, the tragedy of human life; all "the still, sad musicof humanity " and the harsh, grating roar of its greed and passion. As Isurvey broad spaces of our common country, I note here and there points oflight, signs of progress, communities cleansed from grossness and vice, homesfrom which radiate sweetness and light, commonwealths which stand for andillustrate the better things in human attainment up to this day of grace.
As I note the points of light and contrast themwith the areas of darkness, and ask what makes "the difference 'twixt thisdarkness and that light," the answer conies, a few ideas rightly placed inthe top of society; a few sentiments rightly planted in the men and women whomake institutions; an ideal lifted a little higher in the sight of the young; alittle more trust in righteousness; and above all, a little deeperconsciousness of mutual rights and the meaning of fair play in matters ofbusiness, social life, ethics and religion. Then I see why it was said "Theythat be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turnmany to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."
I end therefore, as I began, with the assertionthat pessimism has no moral or intellectual standing in modern thought; but theinfection of it, nevertheless, may be detected in much of our most strenuouswork for the amelioration of the evils of our human lot. The new crusade in thename of universal sympathy, and the new protest which stirs the discontent ofmillions and brings a new bitterness into the conflict of classes, is oftenonly a complaint against the nature of things mistaken for a protest againstavoidable evils. If I have taken the right point of view, our remedy is tostrike the heroic note, to admit the struggle in which our lives are east, todiscover the means of lifting the emulations and competitions of life above thelower planes of the physical existence by the increase of wisdom, skill,justice, mutual sympathy, and mutual helpfulness; by the arming of ourselvesand one another to fight a fair battle with the world in which we live, and toenter into honorable contests of strength, of swiftness, of skill, of virtue,of which the prizes shall be more effort, more wisdom, more sympathy, moremagnanimity. They who produce these effects are the eminent agents of humanprogress. Most of all, in the church and in the pulpit, which is the throne ofits power, is the place for the optimist. I believe as I believe almost nothingelse that what our country needs and what it would most joyously welcome is theappearance of a race of great preachers. Let us not be deceived by thatpessimistic and wicked folly, the assertion that if Jesus were to come today hewould have no welcome. Let us not be deceived by the cry that the preacher'sfunction is gone. The American church needs immediately and would accept withenthusiasm a new supply of great preachers; men who know what perpetual forcesare and can reveal them; men who can administer charities without forgettingthat they are the temporary patchwork of civilization; men who can lead reformsas they administer anti-toxine: men who can preside over an every-day churchwithout putting one seventh of a minister into the pulpit on Sunday morning;men who can dabble in pools of Kiddism and anti-Kiddism without being drownedin them; men who can discipline criminals while, all the more, they rejoice inthe training of saints and heroes; men who can deal with all phenomena,esoteric and exoteric, and yet be plastic to "the hands that reach throughnature moulding man;" men who can inspire and educate other men and womenand send them out to study sociology and economics, and political science, andpractical politics, while still they keep their own higher place and highestfunction. Christianity truly interpreted is the most optimistic religion timeworld has ever seen. He who can rightly interpret and apply it occupies thesupreme point of light in this century; he can have no finer duty and no higherhonor.