Selfhood and Sacrifice

by Orville Dewey

The title which I have chosen for this discourse, is Selfhood and Sacrifice. My purpose is, to consider what place these principles have in human culture. I use the word, selfhood, rather than self-regard or self-interest, because I wish to go back to the original principle—selfhood, according to the analogy of our language, describing the simple and absolute condition in which self exists; as manhood does that of man, or childhood, that of a child. And I say sacrifice, rather than self-sacrifice, because the true principle does not require the sacrifice of our highest self, but only of that which unlawfully hinders outflow from self.

The subject of culture has been brought before the public of late, by Professor Huxley, and Matthew Arnold, and Mr. Shairp. I do not propose to enter into the questions which have engaged their able pens, but to go back to those primary and foundation principles, which I have proposed to consider—the one of which is the centre, and the other, the circumference of human culture,—Selfhood and Sacrifice.

It is the object of this course of lectures, in part at least as I understand it, to discuss this subject—to discuss, i.e. the principles and grounds, on which right reason and rational Christianity propose to build up a good and exalted character. Now with regard to what Christianity teaches, has it never occurred to you, or has it never seemed to you, in reading the Gospels, that they appeal to self-interest, to the desire to be saved, in a way that is at variance with the loftiest motives? But it is appealed to, and therefore is, in some sense, sanctioned. And yet, as if this self-interest were something wrong, the prevalence of it in the world, the world's selfishness in other words, is represented by many preachers, as if it were the sum of all wickedness, the proof indeed, of total depravity. Here then, it seems to me, whether we look at Christianity or at the teachings of the pulpit, there is urgent need of discrimination. And there is another aspect of the same subject, which seems to require attention; and that is what is called, individualism—the mentally living, if not for, yet in and out of ourselves; claiming to find all the springs and forces of faith and culture within ourselves, to the exclusion of the proper influence of society, of Christianity, of the whole great realm of the past, by which we have been trained and formed; individualism, which says, "I belong to myself, and to nobody else, and do not choose to be brought or organized into any system of faith or action with anybody else." This, indeed, is an extreme to which, perhaps, but few minds go; but there is a tendency of this kind, which needs to be looked into.

Now there is a way of thinking, in matters of practical expediency, to which I confess that I am committed by my life-long reflections; and which has always prevented me from going to the extreme with any party, whether in reforms, in politics, in religious systems, or in any thing else; and that is, to look to the mean in things; to look upon human nature and human culture, as held in the balance between opposing principles. With this view, I shall first undertake to show that the principle of self-regard, or of individualism, is right and lawful—is indeed, an essential principle of culture.

There is a remarkable passage in the old "Theologia Germanica," which hits, I think, the very point in this matter of self-regard. Speaking of its highest man, it says, "All thought of self, all self-seeking, self-will, and what cometh thereof, must be utterly lost, surrendered and given over to God, except in so far as they are necessary to make up a person." This personality, this stand-point, we must hold to, go where we will.

But let me state more precisely what it is, that is here conceded, and must be maintained; and why it is important to defend and justify it. I call it selfhood; and the word, I conceive, is philosophically necessary to meet the case. Because it is a principle, that goes behind selfishness; and of which selfishness is the excess and abuse. Selfishness calculates, overreaches, circumvents. But selfhood is simpler. It is the instinctive, instantaneous, uncalculating rush of our faculties, to preserve, protect and help ourselves. Selfishness proposes to take advantage of others; selfhood only to take care of itself. It is not, as a principle of our nature, a depraved instinct; animals possess it. It is not moral, or immoral, but simply unmoral. It is a simple force, necessary to our self-preservation, to our individuality, to our personality. The highest moral natures feel it as well as the lowest. The martyr, who gives up every thing else, holds his integrity fast and dear. It is written of the great Martyr, that, "for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame." No being that is not an idiot, can be divested of all care and regard for himself. And not only does necessity enforce, but justice defends the principle. If happiness is a good, and there are two equal amounts of it, the one of which is mine, and the other my neighbor's, I may in strict justice, value and desire my own as much as his. If I love his more than my own, I go beyond the commandment. It is not worth while to put any Utopian strain upon the bond of virtue; nay, it does positive harm.

Yet this is constantly done; to the injury of virtue, of conscience, and of a proper self-respect. In our theories of culture, we demand of ourselves, what is impossible, what is unjust to ourselves, what repudiates a part of the very nature we would cultivate. We demand of ourselves, and we suppose that Christianity demands of us, a certain unattainable perfection,—or what we call perfection,—a sinking of ourselves out of sight, and an absorption into the love of God and men, quite beyond our reach: and failing of that—thinking it entirely out of our sphere, we give up the proper rational endeavor to be Christians. We make the highest virtue something exceptional, instead of regarding it as a prize for us all. We imagine that some few have attained it; that Jesus did, and that a few persons, denominated saints, have approached him; but that for the common run of men, this is all out of the question. The fact is, that Christianity is regarded by many, as an enigma, a secret of the initiated, as an idle vision or hard exaction—not as a rational culture. Listen to the conversation of the mart or the drawing-room, you will find that the high Christian law is but a mocking dream in their eyes. "Giving to him that asketh, and from him that would borrow, turning not away, and to him that takes from us our coat, giving our cloak also; and turning the other cheek to the smiter;"—what is this, they say, but extravagance and fanaticism? As if they did not know that there is such a figure of speech as hyperbole; and that it was perfectly natural, in a society where the poor and the weak were trodden under foot, for the greatest heart that ever was, thus to pour out itself in pleadings for sympathy, commiseration and kindness. But the same Master said, "It is profitable for thee—it is better for thee," to have some of thy pleasures cut off—thine offending hand or eye; rather that, than to have thy whole being whelmed in misery.

It is really necessary in this matter, not only to vindicate Christianity as a reasonable religion, but to vindicate human nature to itself; to save it from the abjectness of feeling that the necessity of self-help is an ignoble necessity. Men say, "Yes, we are all selfish, we are all bad;" and they sink into discouragement or apathy, under that view.

The conditions of true culture are attracting increased attention at the present time; and it is natural that they should, when men's minds are getting rid of theologic definitions and assumptions, and are coming to take broad and manly views of the subject. I am endeavoring to make my humble contribution to it; and with this view, to show, in the first place, what part our very selfhood, both of right and of necessity, has in it.

This principle lies in the very roots of our being; and it is developed earliest in our nature. Before the love of right, of virtue, of truth, appears this self-regard. Disinterestedness is of later growth. Infancy comes into the world like a royal heir, and takes possession, as if the world were made for itself alone. Itself is all it knows; it will by and by, take a wider range. There is a natural process of improvement in the very progress of life. "You will get better," says a dramatic satirist, "as you get older; all men do. They are worst in childhood, improve in manhood, and get ready, in old age, for another world. Youth with its beauty and grace, would seem bestowed on us, for some such reason, as to make us partly endurable, till we have time to become so of ourselves, without their aid, when they leave us. The sweetest child we all smile on, for his pleasant want of the whole world to break up, or suck in his mouth, seeing no other good in it—would be roughly handled by that world's inhabitants, if he retained those angelic, infantile desires, when he has grown six feet high, black and bearded; but little by little, he sees fit to forego claim after claim on the world, puts up with a less and less share of its good as his proper portion, and when the octogenarian asks barely for a sup of gruel or a fire of dry sticks, and thanks you as for his full allowance and right in the common good of life,—hoping nobody will murder him—he who began by asking and expecting the whole world to bow down in worship to him—why, I say, he is advanced far onward, very far, nearly out of sight."

This advancement, thus springing out of the very experience of life, I am yet to consider, and have it most at heart to consider. It is of such priceless worth, it so embraces all that is noble in humanity, that the importance of the opposite principle, is liable to be quite overlooked. Selfishness, which is the excess of a just self-regard, is the one form of all evil in the world. The world cries out upon it, and heaps upon it every epithet, expressive of meanness, baseness and guilt. And let it bear the branding scorn; but let us not fail to see, though selfishness be the satirist's mark, and the philosopher's reproach, and the theologian's argument, the real nature and value of the principle, from which it proceeds.

Selfhood I have preferred to call it; self-love, be it, if you please. It is that, which satire and false criticism have misconstrued, when they have said that love of kindred, of friends, of country, of God himself, is but self-love. The mistake arises from that primal and vital part and participation which ourself has in every thing that we enjoy or love or adore. This magnificent I—and I emphasize it, because all meanness is thought to be concentred in that word—this mysterious and magnificent I—this that one means, when he says I—we may utter, but can never explain, nor fully express it. There are great men in the world, whose lives are of far more importance than mine—statesmen, commanders, kings—but I—no being can feel an intenser interest in his individuality than I do in mine; no being can be of more importance to himself than I am to myself; the very poles of thought and being turn upon that slender line; that simple unity, like the unit in figures, swells to infinite multiplication; that one letter, that single stroke of pen or type, may be varied and complicated, till it writes the history of the world. "I think, therefore I am," said the philosopher; but the bare utterance of the word I, yields a vaster inference. No animal ever knew what that word means. It is some time before the little child learns to say, I. It says, "Willy or Ellen wants this or that—will go here or there." What is insanity, but the wreck of this personality? The victim loses himself. And the morally insane, the prodigal, when he returns to reason and virtue, comes to himself.

"A man's self," says Thackeray, "must always be serious to him, under whatever mask or disguise or uniform he presents it to the public." Yes, though it were as mime, harlequin, jester fool almost; nor could there be a more deplorable or desperate condition for a human being, than to account himself nothing, or nothing worth, or worthy only to be the butt of universal scorn and contempt. From this utter ruin, every man is protected by that mysterious and momentous personality that dwells within him. We may be little in comparison with the general mass of interests, little in comparison with kingdoms, little in comparison with the swelling grandeur of thrones and empires, little in comparison with the great orb that rolls round the sun, and bears millions of such; but we are forever great in the sense of individual destiny. This swells beyond kingships, grandeurs, empires, worlds, to infinitude and eternity.

There is another element in this selfhood, to be considered, besides its conscious importance, and that is free will—itself also unmoral, but indispensable. For imagine a rational being to be placed in this world, without free will. He can choose neither wrong nor right. He has a conscience, but no freedom; no power to choose any thing. It is, I think, an incongruous and impossible kind of existence; but imagine it. Evils, troubles, temptations press against this being, and he can do nothing; he cannot even will to resist. Could there be a condition more horrible? No; man is a nobler and happier being than this amounts to. Free will is put in him, on purpose to fight the great battle against evil. He could not fight, if he could not will. He could not choose the right, without being free to choose the wrong; for choosing one path without being at liberty to take the other, would be no choosing. Free will is to fight the battle. It is a glorious prerogative. And man, I believe, is out of all proportion, happier, with this power, all its aberrations included, than he would be without it. I am glad for my part, that I am not passing through this world, like a car on a railroad, or turning round like a wheel in a mill; that I can go, this way or that, take one path or another; that I can read, or write, or study, or labor, or do business; and that when the great trial-hour, between right and wrong, comes, though I may choose the wrong, yet that I can choose the right. What better would there be for me than this—what better constitution of a rational nature? I know of no better possible.

Selfhood, then—this interest in ourselves, being seen to be right, and the play of free will which is a part of it desirable; let us turn finally to the useful working of the principle. You may have said in listening to me thus far, "What need of insisting so much upon self-regard, which we all perfectly well understand?" I doubt whether it is so well understood; and this must be my apology. We have seen that the principle is native and necessary to us; let us look a moment, at its utility.

I am put in charge of myself—of my life, first of all. So strong is the impulse to keep and defend it, that self-preservation has been called the first law of our being. But that argues an antecedent fact—self-appreciation. Why preserve that which we value not? We defend ourself, because we prize ourself. We defend our life, with the instant rush of all our faculties to the rescue. "Very selfish," one may say; "And why does a man care so much for himself; he isn't worth it." He can't help it. He obeys the primal bond; he is a law to himself. Is it not well? Man's life would perish in a thousand ways, if he did not thus care for it. The great, universal and most effective guardianship over human life everywhere, is—not government nor law, not guns nor battlements, not sympathy, not society—but this self-care.

I am put in charge of my own comfort, of my sustenance. I must provide for it. And to provide for it, I must have property—house, land, stores, means—something that must be my own, and not another's. If I were an animal, I might find food and shelter in the common storehouse of nature's bounty. But I have other wants; if I have no provision for them that is my own; if some godless International League, or Agrarian Law, could break down all the rights of property, there would be an end to industry, to order, to comfort, and eventually to life itself. Whatever evils, whatever monstrous crimes come of the love of gain, its extinction would be infinitely worse.

I am put in charge of my good name, my place among men. I must regard it. I am sinking to recklessness about virtue if I cease to value approbation. Even the martyr, looking to God alone, seeks approval. And good men's approbation is the reflection of that. To seek honor from men at the expense of principle, is what the Master condemns—not the desire of honor. It has been made a question whether the love of approbation should be appealed to, in schools. It cannot be kept out, from there, nor from anywhere else. If it could, if the vast network of social regards, in which men are now held, were torn asunder, society would fall to pieces.

Finally, I am put in charge of my virtue—of that above all. And that I must get and keep for myself; no other can do it for me. Another may stretch out the hand to defend me from a fatal blow; another may endow me with wealth; another may give me the praise I do not deserve; but no friendly intervention, no deed of gift, no flattery, no falsity, can give me inward truth and integrity. That solemn point in human experience, that question upon which every thing hangs—shall I do right?—or shall I do wrong?—is shrouded in the secrecy and silence of my own mind. All the power in the world, cannot do for me the thing that I must do for myself. To me, to me, the decision is committed.

Now what I have been saying, is this; it is well that that self-regard, upon which so much is devolved, should be strong; that there should be no apathy, no indifference, upon this point; that if ever a man wanders away into recklessness, into idleness, into disgrace, into utter moral delinquency and lawlessness, he should be brought to a stand, and brought back again, if possible, by this intense and uncontrollable regard for himself—for his own well-being. I do not resolve every thing in human nature, into the desire of well being. I do not say that the love of life, of property, of reputation, still less of virtue, is the same as the love of happiness; but I say that to the pursuit of all these a man is urged, driven, almost forced, by this love of his own well-being; nay more to the pursuit of the highest eventually, and that, by the very laws of his nature.

Let us now turn to the other principle which I propose to discuss—that which opens the whole field of our culture—the principle that carries us out of, and beyond ourselves.

It has been no part of my design, in discussing the principle of selfhood, to show the hinderance to culture, and the evil every way, that come from the abuse of it. That will be sufficiently manifest, if it be made to appear, that all culture and happiness are found in the opposite direction. But if I wanted to put this in the strongest light, I should point to the pain and obstruction which are experienced in a diseased self-consciousness. It would be a powerful argument for that going out of self, which I am about to speak of. Self, if it is a necessary stand-point, is yet liable to be always in our way. A morbid anxiety about our position, our credit with men, the good or ill opinion others have of our talents, tastes or merits, causes more misery, I am inclined to think, than any other form of human selfishness. See a company of persons, inthralled with music, charmed by eloquence, transported by some heroic action set before them; and they forget themselves; they do not think, how they look, how they are dressed, what others think of them, in their common delight.

The sense of this, I believe it was, that lay at the bottom of the old Buddhist doctrine of Nirwana—i.e., self-oblivion. To lose this wearisome, diseased self, seemed to Gautama, the great apostle of Buddhism, to be the chief good. Nirwana has been taken to mean absolute annihilation. I do not believe the Buddhists meant that; for to me, it is incredible, that any great sect, numbering millions, should have so totally given up the natural love of existence, and desire of immortality; and Max Müller and others have brought that construction of the Buddhist creed, into doubt. Individuals may go that length. Unhappy Blanco White, tortured in body and mind, could say that he desired no more of life, here or hereafter. A German naturalist could say, "Blessed be the death hour—the time when I shall cease to be." But this revolt against self and very self-existence, whether ancient or modern, I advert to, only to show the necessity of going out from it, in order to build up the kingdom of God within us. It is notable; it is suggestive; but it is neither healthy, nor true to human nature. Far truer is that admirable little poem of David Wasson's, originally entitled "Bugle Notes," which in unfolding the blessing and joy of existence, touches, I think, the deepest and divinest sense of things.

But let us proceed to consider the law of sacrifice—not sacrifice of happiness nor improvement, but the finding of both, in going out from self, to that which is beyond and above it.

A man's thought starts from himself; but if it stopped there, he would be nothing. All philosophy, science, knowledge presuppose certain original faculties and intuitions; but not to cultivate or carry them out, would leave their possessor to be the mere root or germ of a man. A line in geometry presupposes a point; but unless the point is extended, there can be no geometry; it is a point barren of all science, of all culture.

Every intellectual step is a step out of one's self. The philosopher who studies himself, that he may understand his own mind and nature, is but studying himself objectively; his very self then lies out of himself, and is an abstraction to him. And the mathematician, the astronomer, the naturalist, the poet, the artist, each one goes out of himself. His subject, his theorem, his picture it is, that draws him—not reward, not reputation. Doubtless Newton or Herschel, when he left his diagram or his telescope, and seated himself in the bosom of his family, might say, "We must live; I must have income; and if public or private men offer to remunerate and sustain me, it is right that they should do so." But the moment he plunges into deep philosophic meditation, he forgets all that. Nature has more than a bridal charm, science more than golden treasures, truth more than pontifical authority, to its votaries. Not wooing, but worship, is found at its shrines and altars. In the grand hierarchies of science, of literature, of art, there is a veritable priesthood, as pure, as unworldly, as can be found in any church. It is delightful to look upon its work, upon its calm and loving enthusiasm. The naturalist brings under his microscope, the smallest and most unattractive specimen of organized matter, and goes into ecstasies over it, that might seem ridiculous; but no, this is a piece of holy nature—a link in the chain of its majestic harmonies.

And so every intellectual laborer, when his work is noblest, forgets himself—the lawyer in his case, the preacher in his sermon, the physician in his patient. Is it not true then, and is it not noteworthy, that all the intellectual treasures that are gathered to form the noblest humanity, all the intellectual forces that are bearing it onward, come of self-forgetting?

Equally true is it—more true if possible, in the moral field. The man who is revolving around himself, must move in a very small circle. Vanity, self-conceit, thinking much of one's self, may be the foible of some able and learned men, but never of the greatest men: because the wider is the circle of a man's thought or knowledge, at the more points does he see and feel his limitations. Vanity is always professional, never philosophic. It belongs to a narrow, technical, never to the largest, moral culture. And all the moral forces in the world, are strongest, divinest, when clearest of self. When the public man seeks his own advancement, more than the public weal, he is no more a statesman, but a mere politician; and when the reformer cares more for his own opinion than for the end to be gained, the people will not regard nor respect him. The world may be very selfish, but it will have honesty in those whom it permits to serve it.

The truth is that the whole culture of the world, is built on sacrifice; and all the nobleness in the world lies in that. To show that, it is only necessary to point to those classes of men and spheres of action, which exert the widest influence upon the improvement and welfare of mankind. They will all be found to bear that mark.

Look, first, at the professional teachers of the world—the authors, artists, professors, schoolmasters, clergymen. In returns of worldly goods, their services have been paid less, than any other equal ability and accomplishment in the world. Doubtless there have been exceptions; some English bishops and Roman prelates have been rich; and some authors and artists have gained a modest competence. More are doing it now, and yet more will. But the great body of intellectual laborers, has been poor. The instruction of the world, has been carried on by perpetual sacrifice. A grand army of teachers—authors, artists, schoolmasters, professors, heads of colleges—have been through ages, carrying on the war against ignorance; but no triumphal procession has been decreed to it; no spoils of conquered provinces have come to its coffers; no crown imperial has invested with pomp and power. In lonely watch-towers the fires of genius have burned, but to waste and consume the lamp of life, while they gave light to the world.

It is no answer to say that the victims of intellectual toil, broken down in health or fortune, have counted their work, a privilege and joy. As well deny the martyr's sacrifice, because he has joyed in his integrity. And many of the world's intellectual benefactors, have been martyrs. Socrates died in prison, as a public malefactor; for the healing wisdom he offered his people, deadly poison was the reward. Homer had a lot so obscure, at least, that nobody knew his birthplace; and indeed some modern critics are denying that there ever was any Homer. Plato travelled back and forth from his home in Athens to the court of the Syracusan tyrant, regarded indeed and feared, but persecuted and in peril of life; nay, and once sold for a slave. Cicero shared a worse fate. Dante, all his life knew, as he expressed it,—

"How salt was a stranger's bread,
How hard the path still up and down to tread,
A stranger's stairs."

Copernicus and Galileo found science no more profitable than Dante found poetry. Shakspeare had a home; but too poorly endowed to stand long in his name, after he left it; the income upon which he retired was barely two or three hundred pounds a year; and so little did his contemporaries know or think of him, that the critics hunt in vain for the details of his private life. "The mighty space of his large honors," shrinks to an obscure myth of a life in theatres of London or on the banks of the Avon.

I might go on to speak, but it needs not, of the noble philanthropists and missionaries, often spoken of lightly in these days, because what is noblest must endure the severest criticism; of inventors, seldom rewarded for their sagacity and the immense benefits they have conferred upon the world; of soldiers, our own especially, buried by thousands, in unknown graves—green, would we fain say, green forever be the mounds that cover them! Let processions of men and women and children, every year, bring flowers, bring garlands of honor, to their lowly tombs!

But there is another form of self-consecration which is yet more essential, and which is universal. And yet because it is essential and universal, the very life-spring of the world's growth; because it is no signal benefit, but the common blessing of our existence; because it moulds our unconscious infancy, and mingles with our thoughtless childhood, and is an incorporate part of our being, it is apt to be overlooked and forgotten. The sap that flows up through the roots of the world—it is out of sight. The stately growths we see; the trees that drop balsam and healing upon the nations, we see; the schools, the universities, the hospitals, which beneficence has builded, we see; but the stream that, through all ages, is flowing from sire to son, is a hidden current.

It is one of the miracles of the world—this life that is forever losing, merging itself in a new life. We talk of martyrdoms; but there are ten thousands of martyrdoms, of which the world never hears. Beautiful it is to die for our country; beautiful it is to surrender life for the cause of religious freedom; beautiful to go forth, to bear help and healing to the sick, the wounded, the outcast and forlorn; but there are those who stay at home, alone, unknown, uncelebrated, to do and to bear more than is ever done, in one brief act of heroism or hour of martyrdom. In ten thousand homes are those, whose life-long care and anxiety wear and waste them to the grave. They count it no praise; they consider it no sacrifice. I speak not, but for the simple truth, of that which to me, is too holy for eulogy. But meet it is, that a generation coming into life, which owes its training and culture and preservation to a generation that is passing away, should be sensible of this truth—of this solemn mystery of Providence—of this law of sacrifice, of this outflow from self into domestic, into social life, which lies at the very roots of the world.

There is one further application of the principle of disinterestedness, which goes beyond classes and instances such as I have mentioned, and embraces men simply as fellow-men. Much has been said among us of late years, and none too much, of the dangers of an extreme individualism. We began as a religious body, in a strong assertion of the rights of individual opinion; and we went on in that spirit for a considerable time; till it seemed, at length, as if we were liable to lose all coherence and to fall to pieces in utter disintegration. But a few years ago, moving in that zig-zag line which marks all human progress, we awoke to the dangers of the situation; and happily found that if we could not agree upon any technical definition of Christian faith, we could combine for Christian work. The National Conference was formed; a new impulse was given; new funds were poured into our treasury; we are circulating books and tracts more widely than we have ever done before; we are helping feeble churches and founding new ones, besides doing something for missions abroad: in short, we are trying to do the work which, in common with other Christian communions, properly belongs to us.

But there is another movement, which I regard with equal interest, and which promises in fact, to go deeper than any thing else we can do. I allude to those Unions, in which, I think the city of Providence leads the way: and in which New Bedford, Worcester, and Brooklyn have followed the example. These associations provide a public room or rooms, well lighted and warmed, for those who will, to resort to them; but especially for the young, who most need good culture, entertainment and encouragement; and in these rooms are found books, pictures, games, and music perhaps; and classes for regular instruction may be formed, and lectures occasionally given, or discussions held; in fact, whatever will contribute to the general improvement and to the pleasant and profitable passing of social evenings, may be introduced. This kind of institution is especially adapted to our smaller cities; and may be extended to our country villages. Our people in the country, live too much apart and alone; and besides the direct advantages of these gatherings together, a mutual acquaintance and a kindly feeling would be promoted, which are of scarcely less importance.

Let me add that there is a new ideal of life, which, I think, is slowly arising among us; and which, when it is fully carried out, I believe, will make an impression upon society, never before seen in the world. This is the idea of mutual helpfulness; of every man's living not to himself, but to God, in loving and helping his kind. Helpfulness, I say—that which Mr. Ruskin describes as the most glorious attribute of God himself; and which has so seized upon his imagination, that he ventures to substitute for "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord," Helpful, helpful, helpful, is the Lord God Almighty! This will not do; but it indicates a glorious tendency of modern thought. The old ideal of life has been, to get together the means of comfort and enjoyment; to get wealth, to get a fine house, to get luxuries for wassail and feasting, or to get books and pictures; and then to sit down and enjoy all this good estate, and transmit it to fortunate heirs, with little thought of others—with some charities perhaps, but without taking into heart or life, the common weal, happiness and improvement of all around.

What a millennium would it begin, if, instead of this, every man should be thinking, just so far as he can go beyond taking care of his own body and soul, what he can do for others—not in any merely eleemosynary way; not merely to instruct and improve men, with the pharisaic assumption of being better or better off than they; but by acting a brotherly part towards them, speaking neighborly words, doing neighborly deeds, smoothing the path, softening the lot, seeing all erring and sorrow, and joy and worth, as if they were their own; and wherever there is any difficulty or trial or need, to "lend a hand." Whenever such a spirit enters into and pervades society, it will make a world, compared with which, our time will sink back among the dark ages.

In short, when is it, that a man does and is, the highest that he is capable of? The answer is, when forgetting himself, forgetting advantage, gain, praise, fame, he pours himself out, in intellectual or moral, and, any way, beneficent activity. When does culture or art in him attain to the highest? It is when going beyond all thoughts of culture and art, he flings himself, in perfect sympathy and free communion, into the great mass of human interests. It is so that the greatest things have been achieved in all the higher fields of human effort—in writing, in eloquence, in painting and sculpture and music; and it is so, especially, that the doers of great things, have become the noblest men. "Art for art's sake," has been the motto for culture, with some. And to a certain extent, that is true. It is fine to work for the perfection of the work, and without any intrusion of self. But a man may work so, upon a theme of little or no significance to the world's improvement or welfare. He may work so, with small thoughts, small ideals, for which nobody cares, or has any reason to care. But so can he not work grandly, however finished be the result. Art is for the sake of something beyond itself. Only when it goes out into great ideals that mingle themselves with the widest culture and improvement of men, only when it strikes for the right, for liberty, for country, for the common weal, does it achieve its end.

We have had literature enough, and have it now, in which the writer seems hardly to go beyond himself—writing out of himself and into himself—occupied with making fine sentences, without any earnest intent; and which readers, used to feed upon the honest bread of plain English speech, hardly know what to make of. Very fine, these sparkling sentences may be, very beautiful, very apt to strike with admiration; but they divert attention with surprises, or cover up thought with coruscations. They are like gems that lie scattered upon the table; they are not wrought into any well-woven fabric; they do not move on the subject to any conclusion.

Men may win great admiration and great fame, but not great love; though they gain, perhaps, as much as they give. Only by writing out of the bosom of a great humanity to the great humanity, can one fill the measure of good art or good culture. Even Goethe, of whom Professor Seeley says, that "he found every thing interesting except the fact that Napoleon was trampling upon Germany"—a fatal exception: even Goethe, with all his art, his marvellous versatility and fine accomplishment, failed to reach the highest place, either in the best self-culture, or in men's best love. Savant, poet, novelist, of high mark, as he was, he has no such place as Newton, Wordsworth, and Walter Scott, in men's love. Schiller and Richter, I believe, are more beloved in Germany, than Goethe.

In mere art, in perfection of style, no writers have equalled Homer and Shakspeare. But they did not say, "Art for art's sake." They had no thought but to communicate their thought. If singular felicities appear in their style, little eddyings of exquisitely turned conceits, as especially in Shakspeare, they made a part of, and swept on the strong current of their ideas. They were not introduced for their own sake, or merely to please the writer.

It has been said that great authors are born of great occasions. Some remarkable era, some turn or tide in human thought, or in human affairs, have borne them on to their supreme greatness. Will not the time come, when men shall so look into the depths of the human heart, into the tragic or blissful experiences of all human life, that no great era shall be necessary to make great writers?

I believe it. I believe in a perpetual human progress—progress in every kind, material, mental, moral, religious, divine; and I greatly desire to say a few words in close, if you will indulge me upon this point. For I found this faith in progress, on the two principles which I have been considering in this lecture. Selfhood obliges a man to take care of himself. To go out of himself is the only way, in which he can take care of himself—can take care, that is to say, of his own improvement and happiness. In selfhood, necessary as it is, there is no virtue, and little joy. Outflow from it—love, generosity, disinterestedness—embraces the whole sphere of our culture and welfare.

Can there be any doubt upon either of these points—either the culture or welfare?

Upon the culture, I say; upon what makes for human improvement. There is evil enough in the world; but what nation or age ever approved of it? What people ever praised selfishness, injustice, falsifying of speech or trust? No literature ever celebrated them. No religion ever enjoined them. No laws ever enacted them. Imagine a law that proposed to reward villains and to punish honest men. The world would spit upon it. Imagine a book or essay or poem or oration, that plainly set about to tell what a beautiful and noble thing it is, to lie, to defraud, to wrong, corrupt, and ruin our fellows. No man ever had the face to do such a thing. No; books may have taught such things, but they never taught them as noble things. The man never lived, that would stand up and say, "It is a glorious thing to betray trust, or to ruin one's country, or to blaspheme God." Men do such things, but they don't reverence nor respect themselves for doing them.

This then being settled—and it is a stupendous fact—the right principle about culture, being thus set up, high and irrepealable in the human conscience and in the sentiments of all mankind—what says the common judgment of men about the happiness or misery of following the right? Does it say—"It is a blessed thing to be a bad man; it is good and wise to be a base or cruel man." Does it say—"Happy is the miser, the knave, the drunkard." No, it does not. There is temptation to do wrong; that all know; there is a notion that it may promote some temporary interest or pleasure; there is a disposition in many, to prefer some sensual gratification to the purer satisfactions of the higher nature; but there is, at the same time, a deep-founded conviction, that misery in the long run must follow sin; that the everlasting law of God has so ordained it to be; and that only the pure, the noble, the heroic, the good and godlike affections can ever make such a nature as ours, content and happy.

Here then is another stupendous principle settled. And now, I say, this being is a lover of happiness. He is not wise; he is not clear-seeing; he is not good either—i.e., he is not fixedly and determinately good; he is weak too; he is easily misled; he is often rebellious to the higher laws of his nature; but—I hold to that—he is a lover of happiness; and happiness, he knows, can never be found, but in obedience to those higher laws. He is a lover of happiness, I say; he cannot be worse off, without wishing to be better off; if he is sick, he wants to be well; if his roof lets in the rain, he will have it repaired; if the meanest implement he uses, is broken, he will have it mended. Is it not natural—is it not inevitable, that this tendency should yet develop itself in the higher concerns of his being? Is it not in the natural order of things, that the higher should at length gain the ascendency over the lower, the stronger over the weaker, the nobler over the meaner? How can it be thought—how can it be, in the realm of Infinite Beneficence and Wisdom, that meanness and vileness, sin and ruin should be strong and prevail, and gain victory upon victory, and spread curse beyond curse, and draw their dark trail over the bright eternity of ages!

No, in the order of things, this cannot be. Grant that there are evils, difficulties, obstacles in the way. But in the order of things, principles do not give way before temporary disturbances. Law does not yield to confusion. Gravitation binds the earth, notwithstanding all the turmoil upon its bosom. Light prevails over darkness, though cloud and storm and night interrupt its course. The moral turmoil upon earth's bosom, war and outbreak and widespread disaster, the cloud and storm and darkness of human passions and vices, the bitter struggles and sorrows of humanity, the dark shadows of earthly strife and pain and sin, are yet to give place to immutable law, to all-conquering might and right, to everlasting day.

I am as sure of it, as I am of the being of God—as I am of my own being. The principles of progress are laid in human nature. If man did not care for himself, I should have no hope of him. If he could not go out from himself, and find therein his improvement, virtue and happiness, I should have no hope of him. But these two principles yoked together, in the Heaven-ordained frame of our being, will draw on to victory.