« НазадПродовжити »
THE SPIRIT OF EXPECTANCY. The present age is in the attitude of looking forward. It stands in an unaccustomed glare, with hand shading the eye, peering into the future. On all lips are the questions, What is coming? What have we to hope, and what to fear? What will our children live to see? In the economic world, the social world, the political world, and the religious world, great changes are thought to be impending. The present period is most frequently characterized as transitional. Conditions, relations, beliefs, will not, we think, long remain as they are now. Even while we peer into the approaching decades, we are hurried on into new points of view, and are obliged to readjust the perspective of the changing prospect. We seem to live in the thought of the future more than in the power of the present. There have been periods of despair, of indifference, and of dread, when the future has kindled no lively interest, or has seemed impenetrable and gloomy, periods of avowed or of unconscious pessimism. There have been times of unintelligent hopefulness, destitute of deep insight and so of prophetic foresight, times of a childish optimism. At such times interest and energy centre in the present. Pessimism says, Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow shall be worse than today, and the day after we die. Optimism says, Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow shall be like to-day, and only after many days will our time of pleasure end. But whatever may have been true of former ages, the present age is surely one which is stirred with expectation not unmingled with uncertainty and apprehension, but, on the whole, hopeful and eager. There probably was never a time when thought has run out so definitely and broadly into the future. We speak of the coming education in higher branches of learning, meaning that certain methods which give the student more freedom than hitherto in the choice of studies, and invite him to original research, will take the place of the old methods. The coming method of business, some think, is to be combination on a vast scale, so that by and by the old maxim, “ Competition is the life of trade,” will be replaced in everybody's mouth by the maxim, “Combination is the life of trade.” In the coming society, some think, there will be no poverty, but wealth, if not equally, will be equitably distributed. So all the way through, — the art which is to come, the science which is to come, the coming politics, the coming civilization. The educator, the artist, the statesman, the sociologist, the philanthropist, has been laid hold of by the enthusiasm of a new method, a new type, a higher, broader law, so that he gets his inspiration from the day which is dawning, and lives in a world not yet realized. His intellectual world, artistic world, social world, economic world, is not this present evil world, but a world which he sees coming, and which he not only expects, but by his effort will hasten.
This spirit of expectancy, as it answers to reflection upon itself, is a revelation of more than one encouraging fact. Compared with its own earlier forms, within present recollection, it is in a mood of deeper seriousness, and is expanding in directions which open towards a larger welfare of society. It is passing from the anticipation of an improved mechanism to the prevision of an improved life. The first five or six decades of this century were crowded with discovery of physical forces and invention of corresponding appliances. Facilities of communication and of production were multiplied so rapidly that surprise followed surprise in fast succession. Machine was taking the place of muscle. Pictures of the future corresponded. New discoveries and an almost incredible ingenuity would give still swifter communication by land and sea, till all the available forces of nature should be yoked to the chariot of man. But to-day expectation is in other directions. Let the mechanism be improved ever so much, the deeper question now pressing on all thoughtful minds is a question of the state of society, and of the classes that make society, and of the persons who make the classes. In the use of that improved mechanism which all the civilized nations have, we ask what type of personal character, and what class conditions, are developing in America, France, Russia? What will be the effect, not only of the outward machinery, but also of the pursuits, the literature, the art, the education, the government, the religion of modern life, on the personality and the mutual relations of men in the coming society? It is clear enough that a higher personal and social ideal is discerned. Details of prediction differ, but all prediction is converging toward one goal. Even those who would bring in the millennium through economic adjustment cannot stop with that, but talk also of the brotherhood of man, and perceive, some of them rather vaguely, that the betterment of circumstance can be gained only along with the betterment of the individual and of society within the improving circumstance.
The presence and power of this spirit of expectancy signify that much which seems to be in the future is already rooted, though not full grown, in the present. Men are saying, “ Lo, here,” and “Lo, there," when the kingdom is already among them, and because it is already among them. Principles are pretty well developed in some applications when prediction becomes confident as to their prevalence by and by. In fact, we are as much impressed by the changes which have occurred as by any we expect. How has it come about, this relaxation of customs which awhile ago were so rigid, this growing regard for the rights of private opinion on all subjects, this mingling of nationalities in place of a homogeneous population, this obliteration of social lines which not so long ago sharply divided the so-called upper and middle classes, this organization of laboring people in every kind of industry under a control more absolute than that of civil government, this growing interest of the people in economic principles, this increasing timidity of wealth, this change from charity to self-help in the relief of poverty, this disposition to lift up the lowest by vast schemes of wise reform rather than by sporadic misdirected sympathy? The uncertainty of the future depends on the degree of resistance which self-interest may present to social progress, on the amount of moral inertia remaining, and on the rate of the advance, but not on the principles which have already wrought so great changes. Of how many results which still lie in the future, we all are saying that it is only a question of time. How long it will be before society is reshaped in certain respects cannot be foreseen, but, sooner or later, a given condition will be reached. The times and the seasons are not for us to know, but there is a power working in human thinking and being which will surely be felt both in nearer Jerusalem and also unto the uttermost parts of the earth.
This age is, therefore, anything but pessimistic. The characteristic of pessimism is that it sees no goal, and denies that there is any goal. There is movement, but not direction. There is change, but no progress. Repetition is the course of history. Rotation in a well-worn orbit is the history of all human effort. The burden of that noblest literary expression of pessimism, the Book of Ecclesiastes, is that there is no real progress. “ That which hath been is that which shall be, and that which hath been done is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there a thing whereof men say, See, this is new? it hath been already in the ages which were before us.” The spirit of expectation, the definiteness of social prophecy, the deeply rooted idea of progress, are at the farthest remove from anything like a philosophy of despair or indifference.
Within the last year Mr. Bryce has written two articles in which he compares the expectations of certain periods with the later results. One of the comparisons covered a century, the other the last thirty years. The first compared the expectations of the year 1789, in France and England especially, with the year 1889. The conclusion was, that several of the changes anticipated had occurred, but had not brought the expected improvement. The second article, entitled “An Age of Discontent,” compares the year 1860 with the year 1890, and the same conclusion is reached. Mr. Bryce says that what is significant in the record of the last thirty years is the fact that our generation has been depressed, not so much by failure to attain the objects it strove for, as by the failure of these objects when attained — and some of them have been attained - to produce their expected results. The trees have thriven, but the fruits that were looked for have not ripened. But when the expectations of thirty years ago, of which he speaks, are defined, they are seen to have consisted chiefly in the removal of limitations, in emancipation from outward conditions of restriction. Four objects, Mr. Bryce says, which were chiefly desired, were political liberty ; freedom of thought, speech, and worship; the right of every nation to constitute a separate political community ; and international peace. He then shows to how large a degree these objects, especially the first three, have been realized in the countries of Europe. It is a marvelous progress to have been made in thirty years, even if the life of society has not been so greatly improved as was expected. But these changes have been an emancipation, chiefly political and partly social, and mere freedom in itself has little productive power. To overthrow bad institutions is not to create new institutions. To change political status is not to purify character and society. The task of political emancipation is more definite than that of social regeneration. It also must first be attempted. But the success which is attending it, although limited by the nature of the object, has been rapid and permanent, and, instead of creating discontent because society is not regenerated, should rather inspire confidence in respect to the greater tasks that remain. Mr. Bryce, therefore, concludes that the existing discontent is of a kind that looks forward, not backward. We are dissatisfied, not in comparison of the present with some golden age in the past which can never be restored, but in view of remaining evils and the higher needs of man in society. It is not, he says, because there is more poverty and suffering than at some former times, but that we have grown more sensitive, and the chords of sympathy vibrate to a lighter touch. But such deepening and broadening of sympathy is itself a sign of real progress as truly as the removal of all actual sources of evil would be. The lesson to be learned from the disappointment of former expectations is, that we should not now expect too much from improvement of outward circumstances. That type of expectation, which thirty years ago looked to political changes as the salvation of society, looks now to economic changes. And while advance may be expected by such changes, and while there is no improbability in their occurrence, there will be disappointment, a quarter or half century hence, if entire reliance for all that society needs rests on the right adjustment of economic conditions. Thirty years hence it will be seen that, in the closing decade of the nineteenth century, men were expecting improvement along economic lines, as thirty years earlier their hopes were directed to political reform. And if the expectations shall by that time have been realized, the verdict will be one of disappointment, unless there shall also have been hope and effort respecting character and the moral relations of men in society. But we have the advantage over 1789 or 1860 in knowing the problem better, and in looking for the elevation of society through moral and not only through material improvements. Wiser expectation means more satisfactory fulfillment.
The most interesting characteristic of the modern spirit of expectancy is its likeness to the Christian spirit, which is the spirit of prophecy. Christianity, when it is conscious of its power, is always prophetic. Jesus is the world's great prophet. There is more prediction in Christianity than in Judaism. The church has always lived in expectation. At times the hope has been expectant of the triumph of good through some sudden display of God's power, especially through the speedy coming of Christ in visible glory, or the hope has located the triumph wholly in another world. But now the church is hopeful and confident of the regeneration of society. The age to come is seen again, somewhat as it was seen by the early believers, as a coming order of things on earth. The kingdom of heaven is a kingdom from heaven realized on earth. The church has always prayed that the kingdom may come, but now, as the Master taught, the petition finds its definite meaning in that which instantly follows: “Thy will be done in earth.” The general and the particular petitions should never be separated. It is the present mission of Christianity so to broaden and intensify her own expectation of a regenerated society among the nations as to bring the spirit of expectancy which stirs the world into harmony with her own.
ON PREACHING (CHRISTIANITY AS A GOSPEL. Two preachers have held, for the past weeks, the spiritual attention of Boston, of those within and without the churches, who differ widely from one another in nearly all respects, but who are in striking agreement in their conception of Christianity as a gospel. The significance of their agreement at this point is intensified by their differences at so many other points.
Mr. Moody is a literalist. His interpretations of Scripture are literal to the last degree. We assume that he is a believer in verbal inspiration. Great emphasis is laid in all his utterances upon the exact words of the Bible. The scenes of the Biblical narrative are reproduced with a realism which declares at once the type of his imagination and the type of his faith.
Mr. Brooks is an idealist. No man amongst us has so clear and inspiring a sense of the possibilities of life. The human race, in his view, is not a failure, because Christ is in and of it, working with the energy of his eternal love in man's behalf. His argument for man, and with men, is Christ. Where Mr. Moody preaches the Bible as the Word by chapter and verse, Mr. Brooks preaches Christianity as the outcome and end of all Scripture. We doubt if either is specially concerned as a preacher with present questions of Biblical criticism, — Mr. Moody because of the entire absence of doubt in respect to the accepted structure of the Bible: Mr. Brooks because of an entire faith in the Christian result of all critical and historical investigations. The grounds of confidence in Christianity are quite different, but the confidence is sure and influential. Those who cannot accept some of Mr. Moody's interpretations of Scripture are made to feel the truth of the underlying reality. And those who may not accept all of Mr. Brooks's conclusions are made to feel equally that the power of his inspiration lies in his apprehension of the truth.