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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/68

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

criminate altruism has gone by, and we are confronted with present duty. To-day, the only man who sells all that he has and gives to the poor is the unfortunate one whom we shut up in the insane asylum. To-day, the only one who takes no thought for the morrow is the tramp or the beggar. (The professional beggar has even sense enough to keep a bank account.) Those extremes of altruism, non-resistance and self-abnegation, have been discarded. And why? Let us now recognize the virtue in them, and understand also just why they are impracticable.

The virtue of those precepts lies in their power to draw men away from self. Read them slowly—not a selfish motive to be found in them. They remove one the farthest possible from thought of self. At the time when the degradation of women was greatest, when chattel slavery was so universal that even Saint Paul returned a runaway to his master, when political freedom was unknown, when drunkenness and debauchery far exceeded the present, the best thing for mankind was to hold up this extreme of altruism as an ideal and even to declare it divine, which it nearly was in comparison with the evils combated. So long as no one could point out its defects, its force would be and was very great for good. Through the self-inflicted injuries which the early Christians caused in practicing these principles was the tide of human selfishness checked. But the evil of these precepts consisted in their subjective influence being excessive (therefore injurious), and in their utter disregard of ultimate and objective results. He who curbs his own selfish and grasping spirit by taking no thought for the morrow, lays himself liable to want (which is perhaps the lesser of the two subjective evils), but the objective effect is more far-reaching and only evil. It acts as an incentive to others to idleness, improvidence, and ultimate beggary. He who being smitten on one cheek turns the other, cultivates patience and self-control, but he leaves his assailant all the more ready to smite the next man he gets mad with. Again, the subjective effect has good in it; the objective effect has far-reaching evil in it. If I imitate the lilies of the field, which neither toil to make themselves a shelter nor spin themselves clothes, I may be admired for my assurance and freedom from anxiety, but I shall also be cut down by the first frost of adversity, and be ruthlessly swept out of sight by the first snow of winter. Objectively, I shall have set a bad example to weaker minds than mine. They will say, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die." And the world will have paid dearly for my little exhibition of self-culture.

He who, being sued at law for a coat by a grasping neighbor, peaceably folds in a cloak also, may cultivate some useful feelings in his own breast while inflicting an unwise deprivation upon him-