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But I shall never succeed to make
understand the way I look upon and secure happiness—that is, resignation to life, whatever it may be ! 1
I do not say that mankind is on the road to the loftiest regions of good. Yet, I believe it in spite of all; but I do not discuss the point; it is useless, because we all judge after our own personal sight, and the general appearance is momentarily wretched and unpromising. Besides, it is not indispensable that I should believe in the salvation of the planet and of its inhabitants to credit the necessity of what is good and beautiful; if the planet rejects that law, it will perish; if its inhabitants refuse to accept it, they will be destroyed. Other stars will take the place of our planet, other beings replace its inhabitants; it will serve them both right! As for me, I wish to gravitate until my last breath, not because I hope or demand to be sent to a better place hereafter, but because my sole delight is to preserve myself and my family in the rising path. Life is perhaps eternal, in which case toil must also be so. If so, let us bravely achieve our task. If otherwise, if the self perishes in its eternity, let us have the honour of having performed our ungrateful labour; it is our duty, for we have obvious duties to perform only towards ourselves and towards our fellow-creatures. What we destroy in ourselves is thereby destroyed in them too. Our degradation degrades them, and our falls precipitate their own; it is our duty to them to stand up so as to prevent their falling down. To wish for near death or for a long life is a weakness in either case.2 1 From letter to M. Gustave Flaubert, December 1874. 2 From letter to same, January
SIR RICHARD OWEN
renewal prepared for wearing out and passing away.
How narrow, how selfish, how akin to Egyptian darkness of thought seemed it then to repine that life must end—to deem of death only as an evil! Whereas, therein is the necessary stipulation for that succession which involves the purest pleasures of life—the reverential love of parents, the sweet affection for children, the closest union of hearts, as of husband and wife. Furthermore, add the assurance that all ends not here, that powers of work are entrusted gifts, with the glorious hope of a higher sphere of action, if they have been used as intended by our beneficent Creator.
(1805–1872) I NEVER dreamed of merging time in eternity. The the popular theology and seem to me most unsatisfactory.
I maintain that time and eternity co-exist here. The difficulty is to recognise the eternal state under our temporal conditions ; not to lose eternity in time. ...
From lecture, “Wayside Gatherings and their Teachings,"
We must some day know that we are living and moving and having our being in God; we cannot always act upon the strange lie that the things which we see are those that determine what we are. But though I may speak of death as bringing us acquainted with eternity, face to face with it, I have no business, as far as I see at present, to speak of death as ending time. I do not exactly understand what that means. The eternal state I apprehend is the state of a spiritual being, out of time, living in spiritual relations, enjoying or suffering a spiritual inheritance. Its actual conditions will be determined by these, so at least I gather from Scripture, not the inward by the outward, as they seem to be (though they are not really) here.1
Respecting the future state, I would try (1st) always to connect it with the unveiling or manifestation of Jesus Christ, as St. Paul and St. John do; (2nd) to connect it, as they do, with the restoration of the earth, and its deliverance from whatever hinders it from being the kingdom of God and of His Christ; (3rd) to connect it with the manifestation of Christ in the flesh as the Lord of Man, as his deliverer from all that degrades him from being the image of God and the member of a kind, into the slave of the world he is set to rule, and a self-seeker; (4th) to connect it with all our actual and present pursuits, occupations, duties, enjoyments, sufferings, so that the full fruit and result and consummation of these shall be what we look forward to, as the effect of their being restored to their obedience to Christ, and saved from all that is base or merely accidental; (5th) to connect it with continuous, though
1 From letter written December 1853.
free and joyful labour, so that no redeemed spirit shall ever be imagined to be the possessor of a certain felicity, and not the warrior with Christ's enemies, so long as there are any to be put down; the ruler and judge of some province of His empire, the seeker and discoverer of the secrets of God's truth and glory, which He has hidden, that His children may search them out.
LIFE, after all, is the most lovely of fairy tales,
and I often ask myself, with heart-felt emotion, Why does God grant me so much happiness ? Where all is given one cannot be proud, one can only bow the head in humility and thankfulness.
If I could only go back to thirty, and yet retain all my experience, I would turn somersaults all the way down to Ostergade 2
Oh, how happy I am! How beautiful the world is ! Life is so beautiful! It is just as if I were sailing into a land far, far
where there is no pain, no sorrow.3
1 From letter written September 1854.
2 Written in his seventieth year.
(1805–1900) IT is not from the persistence in itself of a meta
physical essence, but from the movement of spiritual growth and the experience of personal relations characteristic of an expanding nature, that all religious insight comes. And the unquenchable thirst that sends men (and surely the Christlike most of all) age after age to the Eternal Fountain for more life than can be found here, is due to their consciousness of capacities and affections that are an over-match for the conditions and the limits of the mortal lot, and are plainly equal to claims of larger scope and love deeper in intensity and diviner in its aims. Who does not know that he is made for more than he now is and does, and has to climb so long as he has a footing on this world ? and see the higher steps he might yet take beyond the last, had he but the grant of time? We live by aspiration, hope, and worship; and unless the ideals which transcend the present reveal the realities of the future, death falls as the lightning flash and blights the promise of our being. How is it possible for one who is conscious of his relation to the “Father of Spirits” to believe himself thus flung off the ladder of ascent inviting him from earth to heaven ? 1
STERLING (1806–1844) I
HAVE for many months been leading a dream life, fruitful in no result. For a long part of the time
1 From letter to a friend.