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NOTE G.—P. 52.

CHRISTIANITY AND THE IDEA OF PROGRESS.

The hopeful view of human history,” says Professor J. Candlish, “according to which there is to be expected a gradual progress in an upward direction, and an ultimate state of goodness and happiness, was entirely foreign to the ideas of the ancient world. Its philosophers and poets either regarded the course of mankind as a continual degeneracy from a golden age in the past, or as a vast cycle in which there was a continual return or reproduction of the same events and states of things. . . . The idea of the perfectibility of mankind, and of the gradual and steady improvement of the race in the course of time, which has been so largely used by those who reject Christianity, and which enables them to make light of the supernatural grounds of hope for the world that Christians cherish, was entirely strange to the pre-Christian ages; and though it may be due in part to the progress of science, yet is much more to he ascribed to the promises and truths of Revelation, At least it may be said with truth that Christianity, and more particularly the Christian idea of the kingdom of God, furnishes the only solid ground for such hopes of mankind. . . . In modern times the discoveries of science in its investigation of the works of creation have tended to awaken in men’s minds a similar hopeful spirit, so that the gradual and sure advance of mankind to perfection has been accepted almost as an axiom or self-evident truth by many who do not accept the religious basis on which it rested in Israel. But it may be doubted whether, apart from a belief in God as the Creator of the universe, and at the same time the God of grace and salvation, there is any solid foundation for such a hopeful view of the world’s history. The rise and prevalence of pessimistic views in modern times serves to show this; and some of those who are most sanguine about the prospects of mankind, apart from Revelation 400and Christianity, acknowledge frankly that there can be no certainty of this on a merely natural basis, and that possibly after all we may have to fall back into Pessimism.”—The Kingdom of God (Cunningham Lectures, 1884), pp. 38–42.

See on this subject the careful history of the idea of progress in Flint’s Philosophy of History, Pp. 28–42; and the valuable remarks in Hare’s Guesses at Truth (referred to also by Dr. Candlish), pp. 305–348 (1871). Cf. Leopardi’s (and Hartmann’s) three stages of human illusion, in Caro’s Le Pessimisme, pp. 39–49.

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