Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 7.djvu/602
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
The questions which we all understand to be theological are such as these: Is there a reward for virtue? Is there a compensation for undeserved misery? Is there a sure retribution for crime? Is there hope that the vicious man may become virtuous? Are there means by which the pressure upon the conscience produced by wrong-doing may be removed? Are there means by which the mind disposed to virtue may defend itself from temptation? In one word, is life worth having, and the universe a habitable place for one in whom the sense of duty has been awakened? These questions are answered in different ways by different men. But they are answered in some way by all men, even by those who consider themselves to have no theology at all. Christianity is the system which answers them in the most encouraging way. It says that virtue in the long-run will be happy partly in this life, but much more in a life beyond the grave. It says that misery is partly the punishment of crime, partly the probation of virtue; but in the inexhaustible future which belongs to each individual man there are equivalents and over-payments for all that part of it which is undeserved. It says that virtue, when tried, may count upon help, secret refreshings that come in answer to prayer—friends providentially sent, perhaps guardian angels. It says that souls entangled in wrong-doing may raise themselves out of it by a mystic union with Christ, and burdened consciences be lightened by sharing in the infinite merit of his self-sacrifice. If you ask on what so happy and inspiring a belief rests, the evidence produced is in part supernatural.
This is not only a theology but a faith, the most glorious of all faiths. But those who do not heartily share it, or who consciously reject it, yet give some answer to these questions. They have a theology as much as Christians; they must even have a faith of some sort, otherwise they would renounce human life. It may be stated, perhaps, much as follows:
"We have not much reason to believe in any future state. We are content to look at human life as it lies visibly before us. Surveying it so, we find that it is indeed very different from what we could wish it to be. It is full of failures and miseries. Multitudes die without knowing any thing that can be called happiness, while almost all know too well what is meant by misery. The pains that men endure are frightfully intense, their enjoyments for the most part moderate. They are seldom aware of happiness while it is present, so very delicate a thing is it. When it is past they recognize it, or perhaps fancy it. If we could measure all the happiness there is in the world, we should perhaps be rather pained than gladdened by discovering the amount of it; if we could measure all the misery we should be appalled beyond description. When from happiness we pass to the moral ideal, again we find the world disappointing. It is not a sacred place any more than it is a happy place. Vice and crime very frequently prosper in it. Some of the worst of men are objects of enthu-