In the second place, labour and the progress of civilisation are, no doubt, very precious, and summon us to strenuous exertion. But they do not comprise the highest ideal. They are incapable of filling the soul with real satisfaction. Although work may give pleasure, that is only one aspect of the matter. I have always found that the people who talk loudest about the pleasure which work affords make no very great efforts themselves; whilst those who are uninterruptedly engaged in heavy labour are hesitating in its praises. As a matter of fact, there is a great deal of hypocritical twaddle talked about work. Three-fourths of it and more is nothing but stupefying toil, and the man who really works hard shares the poet’s aspirations as he looks forward to evening:
Head, hands and feet rejoice: the work is done.
And, then, think of the results of all this labour! When a man has done a piece of work, he would like to do it over again, and the knowledge of its defects falls heavily on soul and conscience. No! it is not in so far as we work that we live, but in so far as we rejoice in the love of others, and ourselves exercise love. Faust is right: Labour which is labour and nothing else becomes an aversion. We long for the streams of living water, and for the spring itself from which those waters flow: Man sehnt sich nacht, des Lebens Barken, Ach ! naeh des Lebens Quelle hin.
Labour is a valuable safety-valve and useful in keeping off greater ills, but it is not in itself an absolute good, and we cannot include it amongst our ideals. The same may be said of the progress of civilisation. It is of course to be welcomed; but the piece of progress in which we delight to-day becomes something mechanical by to-morrow, and leaves us cold. The man of any deep feeling will thankfully receive anything that the development of progress may bring him; but he knows very well that his situation inwardly — the problems that agitate him and the fundamental position in which he stands—is not essentially, nay is scarcely even unessentially, altered by it all. It is only for a moment that it seems as if something new were coming, and a man were being really relieved of his burden. Gentlemen, when a man grows older and sees more deeply into life, he does not find, if he possesses any inner world at all, that he is advanced by the external march of things, by “the progress of civilisation.” Nay, he feels himself, rather, where he was before, and forced to seek the sources of strength which his forefathers also sought. He is forced to make himself a native of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of the Eternal, the kingdom of Love; and he comes to understand that it was only of this kingdom that Jesus Christ desired to speak and to testify, and he is grateful to him for it.