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The Chief End of Man   By: (1843-1914)

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THE CHIEF END OF MAN

BY

GEORGE S. MERRIAM

BOSTON AND NEW YORK

HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY

The Riverside Press, Cambridge

1897

Copyright, 1897,

BY GEORGE S. MERRIAM.

All rights reserved.

The chief end of man, to define it anew, and cite the witness of the ages, may seem an audacious attempt, likely to issue in failure or in commonplace. By the scholar this work must often be judged as crude, to the churchman it will sometimes seem mischievous, and to the man of science it may appear to lack solidity of demonstration. But its essential purpose is to utter afresh, though it be with stammering tongue, the message with which the universe has answered the soul of man whenever he listened most closely and obeyed most faithfully.

It is the assurance that Fidelity, Truth seeking, Courage, and Love are the rightful lords of human life, and its sufficient guides and interpreters. It is the knowledge that as man is true to his best self he finds the universe his friend.

That message the seeing eye reads in the face of earth, and the listening ear hears it in the song of the morning stars. The will finds it as answer to its loyal endeavor. The heart wins it through rapture and through anguish. It is our dearest inheritance, it is our most arduous achievement. It is the sword with which each man must conquer his destiny. It is the smile with which Beatrice welcomes her lover to Paradise.

CONTENTS

PROLOGUE

I. OUR SPIRITUAL ANCESTRY

II. THE IDEAL OF TO DAY

III. A TRAVELER'S NOTE BOOK

IV. GLIMPSES

V. DAILY BREAD

THE CHIEF END OF MAN

PROLOGUE

It sometimes happens that a man is confronted by a perplexing crisis, before which he is quite at a loss how to direct his course. His familiar rules and habits seem to fail him, and his perplexity approaches dismay. At such a time, if his previous life has been guided by purpose and consideration, he may perhaps help himself by looking attentively back at the steps by which he has hitherto advanced. He recalls other crises, he sees how they were met, and light, it may be, breaks on the path before him, or at least he takes fresh heart and hope.

Some such crisis confronts the thoughtful mind of the world to day, in the disappearance of the old sanctions of religion. When the idea of an authoritative revelation of divine truth has been finally dislodged, there are moments when moral chaos seems to impend. We are still upheld by old habits and associations, we are borne along by forces mightier than our creeds or negations, and the loyal spirit catches at moments the "deeper voice across the storm," even though the voice be inarticulate. But it is felt that we need to somehow define anew the rule of life. By what road shall man attain his supreme desire, how can he be good, and how can he be happy?

As the individual seeks help in looking back over his course, so it may help us if we look back a little over some of the significant passages in the movement of mankind. History is to the race what memory is to the individual. One's best treasure is the memory of his happy and heroic hours. The best treasure of humanity is the story of its happy and heroic souls. Let us call before us some of these, and see how they answered the questions we ask.

Following this clew, we run back along the line of what may be called "our spiritual ancestry." Turning naturally to our own next of kin, a child of New England, going back from the teaching of his youth to his fathers and to their fathers, soon finds before him the Puritan. When we study the Puritan it appears that he was a most composite product, and that just behind him, and essential to the understanding of him, is the great mediaeval church. Studying the church, there is nothing for it but to go back to its foundation, and ponder well the one from whose person and teaching it grew... Continue reading book >>




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