Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/648

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

cipline of men when they were moved only by the lowest motives. But, with the advance of knowledge, and the cultivation of the humaner sentiments, the doctrine has become anomalous and out of harmony with the advance of human nature. Hence, though still a cardinal tenet of orthodoxy, it is now generally entertained in a vague and loose way, and with reservations and protests that virtually destroy it. Only revival preachers of the Moody type still affirm the literal "lake of fire and brimstone," and it is certain that the doctrine in any shape recurs much less prominently in current preaching than it did a generation or two ago. Sober-minded clergymen have got in the way of neglecting it, except now and then when rehearsing the creed, or, as at present, under the spur of controversy, or when rallied about the decay of the old theology. The hell of Jonathan Edwards is gone. That sturdy theologian wrote: "The world will probably be converted into a great lake, or liquid globe of fire—a vast ocean of fire in which the wicked shall be overwhelmed, which will always be in tempest, in which they shall be tossed to and fro, having no rest day or night, vast waves or billows of fire continually rolling over their heads, of which they shall forever be full of a quick sense within and without: their heads, their eyes, their tongues, their feet, their loins, and their vitals, shall forever be full of a glowing, melting fire fierce enough to melt the very rocks and elements; and also they shall eternally be full of the most quick and lively sense to feel the torments; not for one minute, nor for one day, nor for one age, nor for two ages, nor for a hundred ages, nor for ten thousands of millions of ages, one after another, but for ever and ever without any end at all, and never, never be delivered."[1]

This is sufficiently explicit, but no man of the rank of its author talks in such a strain nowadays. In the current pulpit utterance there is a perfect chaos of discordant speculation, open repudiation, tacit disavowal, and ingenious refining away, but no stern and sturdy defense of it, in the old form and spirit, from any source that commands respect. The doctrine of hell is still conserved in popular creeds, but, if not eliminated, it will be pretty certain to carry the creeds with it into the limbo of abandoned superstitions.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

Pessimism: A History and a Criticism. By James Sully, M.A. London: C. Keegan Paul & Co., 1877. Pp. 470.

Mr. Sully, who is already well known for his investigations of æsthetic feeling from the psychological point of view, here undertakes to give us an account of the modern pessimistic philosophy which has spread so widely of late years in Germany, and also thoroughly to criticise its basis, its procedure, and its results. He begins with an analysis of the two antithetical frames of thought among the unphilosophic public which he aptly designates as "unreasoned optimism and pessimism." By the first of these terms Mr. Sully understands that joyous and vigorous view of life which belongs to moments of exaltation, or to the constitutionally happy; by the opposite expression he means the gloomy standpoint which we all naturally assume in periods of grief or depression. Passing on from these primitive and unsystematic beliefs, each the transitory expression of a fleeting emotional tone, our author traces the growth of a more deliberately pessimistic creed through the literature of Hebrew and classical antiquity, the middle ages, and the modern world. Next, he attacks the various forms of "reasoned optimism and pessimism," the conscious attempts to appraise the worth of the universe as absolutely good or bad. The origin of evil is shown to be the main problem which the optimistic Israelitish religion set itself to solve; while the pessimistic tendencies of Aryan thought in India, reaching its furthest development in Buddhism, are well pointed out. Through Greece and Rome,

  1. Edwards's Works, vol. viii., p. 166.