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The Full Life or the Empty Life

The Full Life or the Empty Life

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 25, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Full Life or the Empty Life ?BY J. F. MCFADYE.FOR thousands of years philosophers have triedto find some formula which will cover the end towardswhich the moral life ought to be developed. In spiteof our own experience, we are apt to forget that themoral aims men profess to follow are at best butideals to which in their practical lives they approximate more or less closely ; that while most men areworse than their creed, many men are better thantheir creed ; and that not infrequently the spectatorcan see no relation between the life a man actuallylives and the scheme of life he thinks he is following.In theory most of us belong to some ethical" school. " In practice we find room in the guidanceof our lives for the ideals of more than one school.One would have supposed that whatever differencesthere might be on other aspects of Christian truthor conduct, there would at least be unanimity onthe moral end of the Christian life : but in fact theChristian Church has room even now for two idealswhich at first sight seem contradictory of each other.Asceticism, which for centuries dominated the mindsif not of Christians at least of the professionals of the Church, still remains a living ideal ; to many134The Full Life or the Empty Life ?Christianity is still the pursuit of the emptylife. The devotees of this school are suspicious of pleasure, have no interest in the cultivation of faculties for its own sake, and regard the world
as on the whole an enemy to be feared. Theyglory in renunciation, and measure their progressin the Christian race by their success in emptyinglife of every interest not in the narrow sense spiritual.But in our generation even among loyal followersof Jesus, there has been an increasing demand for thefull life. With a human life so rich in potentialities,a world so varied in its capacity to satisfy our desiresand give scope for the exercise of our powers, whyshould we, men are asking, place an impassablegulf between them ? What God hath joined togetherlet not man put asunder. God has made His worldand man s life for each other ; why should we think we honour God by divorcing them ? Surely oureyes were given us for some better purpose thanto pluck them out, our hands for some nobler endthan to be cut off ! there is an increasing suspicionthat the old insistent demand for self-sacrifice isbut a refined form of devil worship, that the Godwhom the mediaeval Christian worshipped wasone who loved to see His worshippers grinning withpain.It would be grossly unfair to apply the termmaterialistic to the scheme of life which finds Greek ideals not incompatible with devotion to Jesus.A large section of the Church during the last centuryhas shown generous hospitality to wide culture,135Jesus and Lifeand even to a certain amount of Hedonism ; yetthe same period has been marked by an all butunexampled outburst of missionary activity and arapid growth of the leavening power of Christianity
in the social and political life.or is the revolt against asceticism essentiallyselfish or self-centred. It is organically connectedwith the growth in the last century and a half of physical science and invention with our new knowledge of and control over the forces of nature. Wehave learned that the world is a far richer placethan our forefathers supposed it to be ; that in it aremultitudinous secrets concealed from the foundationof the world, only waiting for men to fathom them,unmeasured powers waiting for men to harness them,infinite sources of refined enjoyment for those whowill take the trouble to appreciate them. Ourmarvellous century has taught us that the motto of the world is : The asker receives ; the seekerfinds ; to the knocker the door opens. The work man of to-day has in many respects a far more comfortable and refined and a far fuller life than themagnate of some centuries back.And not only is the world a better place to live inbut man himself is a far bigger creature than heused to consider himself, wielding for the first timewith the authority of conscious power the sceptre of his dominion over the world and all that is in theworld, and with hints in his nature of whole regionsas yet uncharted.All this was bound to influence our conception136The Full Life or the Empty Life ?of the end of the moral life. It was all very well todespise a world which seemed despicable, a drearypoor inhospitable abode; not inaptly compared to

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