Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/578

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opment? We know that men "rise on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things," and that the "individual withers, while the race is more and more"; but do the individuals and their beliefs only resemble beads which have been strung, on a thread of endlessly developing succession? What has the race been doing during all this onward process of development? And has it at every stage been the victim of continuous illusion? Or has it all the while been in the closest contact with Reality, a reality which it partially understands, and interprets to good purpose? In other words, is the history of religious ideas merely the record of attempts made by men to project their own image outward, to throw their thought around an impalpable object which it has never yet been able to grasp? Or is it the story of successive efforts, more and more successful, to explain a reality which transcends it, but to which it stands in a definite and ascertainable relation? Do the gropings of experience in the matters of religion record a long and weary search, with no discovery rewarding it? Or are they the efforts of human apprehension to realize the divine, to get at the "last clear elements of things," with disclosure at every stage, and a steady approach to the goal which is continually sought and approximately reached? I think it is past controversy that if the religions education of the human race has been a purely subjective process, if it has been merely an upward tendency of aspiration, it is now no nearer its goal than ever it was. If we can only approach the Infinite by the journeyings of finite thought or through sighs and cries of aspiration, the journey that way is endless, and the end is nowhere visible. But may we not find the object everywhere? May not the discovery have been as continuous as the search, and the two be simultaneous now? I think that we may affirm that the human race has lived in the light of a never ceasing apocalypse, growing clearer through the ages, but never absent from the world since the first age began.

Modern Thinkers: Principally upon Social Science. What they Think, and why. By Van Buren Denslow, LL. D. With an Introduction by Robert G. Ingersoll. With Eight Portraits. Chicago: Belford, Clark & Co. Pp. 384.

This volume consists of a series of brief personal sketches of several of the leading thinkers of modern times, together with critical disquisitions on their labors, influence, and character. The thinkers selected for study are all of the aggressive or revolutionary type, and they were chosen furthermore because of the more or less intimate bearing of their advanced ideas on the subject of social science. Three Englishmen, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, and Herbert Spencer; two Frenchmen, August Comte and Charles Fourier; a Swede, Emanuel Swedenborg; a German, Ernst Haeckel; and an American, Thomas Paine—are the characters selected for examination.

The author has a brief preface explaining the origin of his book, and offering some preliminary suggestions regarding its method and purpose. The essays were written for the "Chicago Times," and at the suggestion of its editor they were first published in that newspaper. The intelligent interest elicited by them has induced the author to bring them out in this more permanent form. It was an excellent idea, and does credit to the editorial sagacity and liberality of Mr. Storey. People are undoubtedly more and more confining themselves to the reading furnished by newspapers, and we see no reason why, under the pretext that their business is the promulgation of news, the daily press should confine itself exclusively to the scattering of information on ephemeral and frivolous subjects.

Colonel Robert J. Ingersoll contributes a spicy introduction to the volume, briefly presenting his views of the various characters it deals with, and pointedly reillustrating his well-known anti-theological position. In this, however, he is in entire harmony with the spirit of the volume, which is characterized throughout by hostility to everything theological, and abounds in unsparing invectives against the Church, the priesthood, and the Christian gospel. The work is written in a free, vivacious, and somewhat dashing style, and is eminently readable. The mode of treating the subjects is independent, sensational, and bold. Much of its exposition is instructive, evincing good preparation; and much of it will be unsatisfactory to those who prize deliberate and unprejudiced work. As a piece of manufacture, the volume itself is no credit to Chicago.

The essay that has most interested us is on the American subject, Thomas Paine, whom the author regards as the "representative critic, destroyer, and revolutionist of his period. . . . He was gifted, as no man ever was before or since, with the fatal and unhappy faculty of suppressing the good and