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our cities. The capacity of the printing-press has been vastly increased. While the sewing-machine has taken the place of the needle in the house, the reaper and the mowing-machine have supplanted the sickle and the scythe in the field. The breech-loading and repeating rifle has driven out the muzzle-loading flint-lock. Swift armored battle-ships have taken the place of slow, high-decked wooden vessels.
These are but a few of the inventions belonging to our time. Many a man is now living who has seen the entire system of manufacturing, travel, agriculture, and transmission of intelligence, completely revolutionized, seeing more than if he had lived, in some ages of the world, a thousand years.
The present is an age of scientific inquiry. The Baconian spirit prevails. Tradition has lost much of its power; men are not guided by mere authority; the conclusions of empty speculation are little valued. Careful and patient toilers are at work in every department of learning. Nature is being questioned as never before. All the natural sciences - physics, zoology, botany, geology, chemistry, physiology, astronomy - have been wonderfully expanded. We are able to penetrate more deeply the mysteries of the world about us. A schoolboy now knows more of the constitution and laws of the physical world than the greatest sages of antiquity. The same patient methods of investigation are applied to the study of the mind, the origin of man, the history of the past, the laws of society. The result is seen in a modification or destruction of many old beliefs; but at the same time it has brought us greater light and a more receptive attitude of mind.
This is pre-eminently a practical age. It aims at visible results. Science and invention have placed vast resources at our command. The Baconian maxim that "knowledge is power" now has abundant exemplification. The material wealth of every country is being developed; and daring explorers, supported by private enterprise or royal bounty, are sent to examine unknown regions. Railroads are built; mines are opened; towns are established; commerce is encouraged. Every effort is put forth to make living less costly and more comfortable. clothing were never so abundant.
Common-sense reigns. Unwilling to be imposed upon in any way, men strive to see things as they are. Utility is the test applied to everything. Whatever in traditional institutions cannot justify itself by this standard, is slowly undermined and abolished. No doubt this practical tendency sometimes goes too far, subjecting æsthetic and spiritual interests to material gains. The ideal is in too. great a degree banished from life. Wealth, luxury, power, become in too many cases the object of men's endeavor, instead of a pure and lofty character. But while attended with this drawback, the practical tendency of our age deserves to be considered one of its claims to superiority.
It is an age of educational advancement. Schools of every class are being multiplied. Education is brought within the reach of common people, and in many countries compulsory attendance is enforced. The methods of instruction are more nearly conformed to the nature of the child, and the subjects of study are designed to fit the pupil for the duties of practical life. In higher education the change is no less remarkable. The traditional curric
ulum, consisting largely of Latin and Greek, has been greatly expanded. Subjects of great practical importance the modern languages, natural and political science, the mother tongue, and history-receive increased attention. Education is brought into closer relations with practical life. Intelligence was never so generally diffused. The periodical press exerts an immense influence. Not only the news from all parts of the world, but also the leading political, social, scientific, and religious questions of the time, are daily discussed and read in newspapers and magazines. The horizon of thought is greatly broadened for the masses.
It is a time of political advancement. The democratic principles announced and defended in America and France at the close of the last century have become more widely diffused. It is now commonly recognized that governments exist, not for sovereigns or favored classes, but for the people. The right of suffrage has been greatly extended. The science of government is better understood, and legislative enactments have become more intelligent and equitable. The public administration has become purer. If bribery, self-aggrandizement, and dishonesty still exist, these evils are much less frequent than in former ages. Our public men live in the light, and are held accountable at the bar of public opinion.
Wars are becoming less frequent and less barbaric. Minor international differences are usually settled by diplomacy and arbitration. The treatment of the unfortunate and the criminal classes has become more humane. The insane are no longer chained in loathsome cells, the unfortunate debtor is not thrown into jail, a petty criminal is not hanged. As compared with any other period in the
history of the English-speaking race, the present is an age of political freedom, justice, and humanity.
The age is one of social advancement. It is true that much remains yet to be accomplished. The agitation of social questions makes us observant of existing evils. However much may be lacking in comparison with an ideal condition, there is great improvement in comparison with the past. The facilities of modern manufacture and commerce have greatly multiplied and cheapened the necessities and comforts of life. Wages have increased. The poor, as well as the rich, live better than ever before.
With increased intelligence, the popular taste has become more refined. Amusements have become less coarse and brutal. Public libraries and museums give the laboring classes the means of intellectual culture and refined enjoyment. Machinery has decreased the amount of drudgery. The hours of work have been shortened. Children are protected from the cruelty of parents and the inhumanity of employers. A great levelling process is lessening the inequalities of social condition. Serfs and slaves are things of the past.
The religious advancement of the time is specially noteworthy. Christian doctrines have felt the touch of a broadened culture and a scientific spirit. Superstition has become a thing of the past. The emphasis of religious teaching is now centred upon fundamental truths. We understand more clearly the nature and the works of God. A new life, begotten and sustained by Christianity, receives increased emphasis. Piety in the daily life is considered of more importance than the formal acceptance of elaborate creeds. Christ has become more and more the conscious ideal of the world. The ascetic spirit has
given place to an active spirit that bravely meets the duties of every-day life.
Religion never had greater power. Its principles pervade every department of life. Christian churches are multiplied; religious literature is widely extended; the Bible is more carefully studied. The asperities of religious sects are softening, and the general tendency is to Christian unity. The Evangelical Alliance and the Young Men's Christian Association are the practical manifestation of the general desire for closer union and co-operation among Christian people.
In accordance with the practical tendencies of the age, religion is more benevolent in its activities. The fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man are appreciated as never before. The church is active in missionary work at home and abroad. It is foremost in every work that seeks to relieve the unfortunate and reclaim the lost. It seeks to bring a pure and benevolent spirit to the settlement of the great social and political problems of the day.
Literature, in sympathy with the intellectual movements of the age, has shown a many-sided activity. It is at once creative and diffusive. Both prose and poetry have been cultivated to an extraordinary degree. Old forms of literature have been expanded, and new forms devised to contain the rich intellectual fruitage of the present century. In style there has been a return to nature; at the same time there has been an artistic finish unknown in previous eras.
With the establishment of many periodicals, essay writing has attained a new importance and excellence. In the days of Addison and Johnson, the essay was devoted