Page:The Idea of Progress.djvu/31

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27
OF PROGRESS

fatal to both. If our desires are clearly contrary to the nature of things, of which we are a part, it is our wisdom and our duty to correct our ambitions, and, like the Bostonian Margaret Fuller, to decide to 'accept the universe'. 'Gad! she'd better,' was Carlyle’s comment on this declaration. The true inference from Nature’s law of vicarious sacrifice is not that life is a fraud, but that selfishness is unnatural. The pessimist can only condemn the world by a standard which he finds somewhere, if only in his own heart; in passing sentence upon it he affirms an optimism which he will not surrender to any appearances.

The ancients were not pessimists; but they distrusted Hope. I will not follow those who say that they succumbed to the barbarians because they looked back instead of forward; I do not think it is true. If the Greeks and Romans had studied chemistry and metallurgy instead of art, rhetoric, and law, they might have discovered gunpowder and poison gas and kept the Germans north of the Alps. But St. Paul's deliberate verdict on pagan society, that is 'had no hope', cannot be lightly set aside. No other religion before Christianity, ever erected hope into a moral virtue. 'We are saved by hope', was a new doctrine when it was pronounced. The later Neoplatonists borrowed St. Paul’s triad, Faith, Hope, and Love, adding Truth as a fourth. Hopefulness may have been partly a legacy from Judaism; but it was much more a part of the intense spiritual vitality which was disseminated by the new faith. In an isolated but extremely interesting passage St. Paul extends his hope of 'redemption into the glorious liberty of the children of God' to the 'whole creation' generally. In the absence of any explanation or parallel passages it is difficult to say what vision of