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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/67

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ALTRUISM ECONOMICALLY CONSIDERED.

later, altruism has often been carried to injurious excess, and yet we have had about as good general results as could be expected under the circumstances. The early step from justifiable egoism to that which discriminated was a long one. From the mind resting on self to considering the immediate wants of others was a great advance. From altruism performed with selfish motives to disinterested benevolence was another grand advance. The order of human progress doubtless required a long discipline in indiscriminate altruism before men should learn to differentiate it by observing its results. Again, not only man's mental progress but that of life on the earth has been by pendulum-beats from extreme to extreme, by action and reaction, until finally the golden mean of Horace has been reached. The shield was neither silver, as protested by him who viewed it from the east, nor yet gold, as viewed by him in the west; but, had not each held and proclaimed his opinion, the truth would not have been reached by either. Progress limps and goes by indirections; but the various steps indicated have been taken and well taken.

To Christianity, then, by far the greatest exponent of this indiscriminate altruism, is due the great credit of having taught it, and measurably brought the world from selfishness to disinterested benevolence. It matters not that the race might have traversed this path under some other banner, and that many tribes have found it independently. "Honor to whom honor" permits this willing recognition. Although it overlooked this newer feature, it had enough to do for man of a more primary character.

The most intense manifestation of the altruistic spirit is in non-resistance to evil and in utter disregard of self. How beautiful seem to us those precepts pointing thereto!

"Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. If any man sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body what ye shall put on. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Go and sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and come and follow me, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven."

And yet however grandly its maxims may ring in our ears, whatever praises we may bestow upon its advocates, and whatever satisfaction we may express with the past, the day for this indis-