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Christianity and Ethics - A Handbook of Christian Ethics
by Archibald B. C. Alexander
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But whether Paul's case is abnormal or the reverse, it is surely a false inference that, because Christ grew up without the need of conversion, His life affords in this respect a pattern to sinful men. It is just His perfect union with God which differentiates Him entirely from ordinary men; and that which may be necessary for sinful creatures is unthinkable in His case. What He was we are to become. But before we can follow Him, there is for us, because of sin, a preliminary step—a breaking with our evil past. And, in all His teaching our Lord clearly recognises this. His first call is a call to repentance. It is indeed the childlike mind He requires; but He significantly says that 'except ye turn and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven.'[19]

The decision of will demanded of Jesus, while it may not {174} necessarily involve a catastrophe of life or convulsion of nature, must be none the less a deliberate and decisive turning from evil to good. By what road a man must travel before he enters the kingdom, through what convulsion of spirit be must pass, so frequently dwelt upon by St. Paul and illustrated by his own life, Christ does not say. In the Fourth Gospel there is one reported saying describing a process of spiritual agony, like that of physical child-birth, indicative that the change must be radical, and that at some point of experience the great decision must be made, a decision which is likely to involve deep travail of soul.

There are many ways in which a man may become a Christian. Some men have to undergo, like Paul, fierce inward conflict. Others glide quietly, almost imperceptibly, into richer and ampler regions of life. But when or how the transition is made, whether the renewal be sudden or gradual, it is the same victory in all cases that must be won, the victory of the spirit over the flesh, the 'putting off of the old man' and the 'putting on of the new.' Life cannot be always a compromise. Sooner or later it must become an alternative. He who has seen the higher self can be no longer content with the lower. The acts of contrition, confession, and decision—essential and successive steps in repentance—are the immediate effects of the vision of Christ. Though repentance is indeed a human activity, here, as always, the earlier impulse comes from the divine side. He who truly repents is already in the grip of Christ. 'We love Him because He first loved us.'

2. Faith.—If repentance looks back and forsakes the old, faith looks forward and accepts the new. Even in repentance there is already an element of faith, for a man cannot turn away from his evil past without having some sense of contrast between the actual and the possible, some vision of the better life which he feels to be desirable.

(1) While there is no more characteristic word in the New Testament than faith, there is none which is used in a greater variety of senses, or whose import it is more difficult to determine. It must not be forgotten at the outset {175} that though it is usually regarded as a theological term, it is a purely human act, and represents an element in ordinary life without which the world could not hold together for a single day. We constantly live by faith, and in our common intercourse with our fellows we daily exercise this function. We have an irresistible conviction that we live in a rational world in which effect answers to cause. Faith, it has been said, is the capital of all reasoning. Break down this principle, and logic itself would be bankrupt. Those who have denied the intelligibility of the universe have not been able to dispense with the very organ by which their argument is conducted. Hence faith in its religious sense is of the same kind as faith in common life. It is distinguishable only by its special object and its moral intensity.

(2) The habitual relationship between Christ and His disciples was one of mutual confidence. While Jesus evidently trusts them, they regard Him as their Master on whose word they wholly rely. Ever invested with a deep mystery and awe, He is always for His disciples the embodiment of all that is highest and holiest, the supreme object of reverence, the ultimate source of authority. Peter but expresses the mind of the company when he says, 'To whom can we go but unto Thee, Thou hast the words of eternal life.' Nor was it only the disciples who manifested this personal trust. Many others, the Syrophenician woman, the Roman Centurion, Zacchaeus, Bartimaeus, also evinced it. It was, indeed, to this element in the human heart that Jesus invariably appealed; and while He was quick to detect its presence, He was equally sensitive to its absence. Even among the twelve, when, in the face of some new emergency, there was evidence of mistrust, He exclaimed, 'O ye of little faith.' And when, beyond His own immediate circle, He met with suspicion and unbelief, it caused Him surprise and pain.[20]

From these and other incidents it is obvious that faith for Jesus had a variety of meanings and degrees.

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(a) Sometimes it meant simply trust in divine providence; as when He bids His disciples take no thought for their lives, because He who feeds the ravens and clothes the lilies cares for them. (b) It meant again belief in His own divine power; as when He assures the recipients of His healing virtue that their faith hath made them whole. (c) It is regarded by Jesus as a condition of forgiveness and salvation. Thus to the woman who had sinned He said, 'Thy faith hath saved thee,' and to the man who was sick of the palsy, 'Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.'[21]

The essential and vital mark in all Christ's references is the personal appropriation of the good which He Himself had brought to man. In His various modes of activity—in His discourses, His works of healing and forgiveness—it is not too much to say that Jesus regarded Himself as the embodiment of God's message to the world; and to welcome His word with confidence and joy, and unhesitatingly act upon it, was faith. Hence it did not mean merely the mental acceptance of some abstract truth, but, before all else, personal and intimate devotion to Himself. It seems the more necessary to emphasise this point since Harnack has affirmed 'that, while Christ was the special object of faith for Paul and the other apostles, He did not enter as an element into His own preaching, and did not solicit faith towards Himself.'[22] It is indeed true that Jesus frequently associated Himself with His Father, whose immediate representative He claims to be. But no one can doubt that He also asserts authority and power on His own account, and solicits faith on His own behalf. Nor does He take pains, even when challenged, to explain that He was but the agent of another. On the contrary, as we have seen, He acts in His own right, and pronounces the blessings of healing and forgiveness in His own name. Even when the word 'Faith' is not mentioned the whole attitude and spirit of Jesus impels us to the same conclusion. There was an air of independence and authority {177} about Him which filled His disciples and others, not merely with confidence, but with wonder and awe. His repeated word is, 'I say unto you.' And there is a class of sayings which clearly indicate the supreme significance which He attached to His own personality as an object of faith. Foremost among these is the great invitation, 'Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.'

(3) If we turn to the epistles, and especially to the Pauline, we are struck by the apparently changed meaning of faith. It has become more complex and technical. It is no longer simply the receptive relation of the soul towards Christ; it is also a justifying principle. Faith not only unites the believer to Christ, it also translates him into a new sphere and creates for him a new environment. The past is cancelled. All things have become new. The man of faith has passed out of the dominion of law into the kingdom of Grace.

The Pauline doctrine of Justification by Faith has received in the history of the Church a twofold interpretation. On the one hand, it has been maintained that the sole significance of faith is that it gives to the believer power, by God's supernatural aid, to realise a goodness of which he is naturally incapable. On the other hand, it is held that the peculiarity of faith is that, though he himself is a sinner deserving condemnation, it affords to the believer an assurance of the favour with which a loving Father regards him, not on account of his own attainments, but in virtue of the perfect obedience of the Son of God with whom each is united by faith. The former is the more distinctively Roman view; the latter that of the Reformed Church. While the Catholic form of the doctrine gives to 'works' a place not less important than faith in justification, the Protestant exalts 'faith' to the position of priority as more in harmony with the mystery of the atoning sacrifice of Christ as expounded by St. Paul. Faith justifies, because it is for the Christian the vision of an ideal. What we admire in another is already implicitly within us. We {178} already possess the righteousness we believe in. The moral beauty of Christ is ours inasmuch as we are linked to Him by faith, and have accepted as our true self all that He is and has achieved. Hence faith is not merely the sight of the ideal in Christ. It is the energy of the soul as well, by which the believer strives to realise that which he admires. According to the teaching of Scripture faith has thus a threefold value. It is a receptive attitude, a justifying principle, and an energising power. It is that by which the believer accepts and appropriates the gift of Life offered by God in Christ.

3. Obedience.—Faith contains the power of a new obedience. But faith worketh by love. The soul's surrender to Christ is the crowning phase of man's response. The obedience of love is the natural sequel of repentance and faith, the completing act of consecration. As God gives Himself in Christ to man, so man yields in Christ to God all he is and all he has.

Without enlarging upon the nature of this final act of self-surrender, three points of ethical value ought not to be overlooked.

(1) Obedience is an activity of the soul by which the believer appropriates the life of God. Life is not merely a gift, it is a task, an achievement. We are not simply passive recipients of the Good, but free and determinative agents who react upon what is given, taking it up into our life and working it into the texture of our character. The obedience of love is the practical side of faith. While God imparts the energy of the Spirit, we apply it and by strenuous endeavour and unceasing effort mould our souls and make our world.

(2) It is a consecration of the whole personality. All the powers of man are engaged in soul-making. Religion is not a detached region of experience, a province separate from the incidents and occupations of ordinary existence. Obedience must cover the whole of life, and demands the exercise and devotion of every gift. Not only is every thought to be brought into subjection to the mind of {179} Christ, but every passion and desire, every activity and power of body and mind are to be consecrated to God and transformed into instruments of service. 'Our wills are ours to make them thine.' But the will is not a separate faculty; it is the whole man. And the obedience of the will is nothing less than the response of our entire manhood to the will of God.

(3) Finally, obedience is a growing power of assimilation to Christ. We grow in the Christian life according to the measure of our faith and the exercise of our love. The spiritual world is potentially ours at the beginning of the Christian life, but it has to be worked out in daily experience. Like every other form of existence spiritual life is a growth which only attains to strength and fruition through continual conflict and achievement. The soul is not a finished product. In patience it is to be acquired.[23] By trial and temptation, by toil and expenditure, through all the hardships and hazards of daily life its value is determined and its destiny shaped. And according to the measure in which we use these experiences, and transmute them by obedience to the will of God into means of good, do we grow in Christian character and approximate to the full stature of the perfect Man.

To this self-determining activity Eucken has given the name of 'Activism.' 'The basis of a true life,' says this writer, 'must be continually won anew.'[24] Activism acquires ethical character inasmuch as it involves the taking up of the spiritual world into our own volition and being. Only by this ceaseless endeavour do we advance to fresh attainments of the moral life, and are enabled to assimilate the divine as revealed to us in Christ. Nor is it merely the individual self that is thus enriched and developed by obedience to the will of God. By personal fidelity to the highest we are aiding the moral development of mankind, and are furthering the advancement of all that is good and true in the world. Not only are we making {180} our own character, but we are helping to build up the kingdom of God upon the earth.

Repentance, Faith, and Obedience are thus the human factors of the new life. They are the moral counterparts of Grace. God gives and man appropriates. By repentance we turn from sin and self to the true home of our soul in the Fatherhood of God. By faith we behold in Christ the vision of the ideal self. By obedience and the daily surrender of ourselves to the divine will we transform the vision into the reality. They are all manifestations of love, the responsive notes of the human heart to the appeal of divine love.



[1] Irenaeus, Contra Haereses, III. xviii. 1.

[2] Matt. xx. 28; John xi. 51; Matt. xxvi. 28; Mark xiv. 8, 9.

[3] The Analogy, part II. chap. v.

[4] 2 Cor. v. 14 f.; Rom. vi.; Ephes. iii. 16, 17, v. 8.

[5] Gal. ii. 20.

[6] Meyers, Saint Paul.

[7] See Blewett, The Christian View of the World, pp. 88 ff., where this subject is suggestively treated.

[8] Christ and Paul.

[9] Matt. iii. 8; Luke iii. 8.

[10] Acts xxvi. 20.

[11] Rom. xii. 12; Titus iii. 5.

[12] 2 Cor. v. 17; Gal. vi. 15.

[13] See Begbie, Broken Earthenware.

[14] Varieties of Relig. Experience.

[15] Mark x. 15.

[16] Man and the Universe, p. 220.

[17] Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 80.

[18] Cf. Foundations: a Statement of Religious Belief by seven Oxford men, Essay VI., pp. 274 f.

[19] Matt. xviii. 3.

[20] Matt. xiii. 58; Mark vi. 5.

[21] Cf. Stalker, The Ethic of Jesus, p. 179.

[22] Das Wesen des Christenthums, p. 91, quoted by Stalker, idem, p. 176.

[23] Luke xxi. 19.

[24] Life's Basis and life's Ideal, p. 255.



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SECTION D

CONDUCT

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CHAPTER XI

VIRTUES AND VIRTUE

So far we have gained some conception of the Christian ideal as the highest moral good, and have learned also how the Christian character is brought into being. We now enter upon a new section—the last stage of our inquiry—and have to consider the 'new man'—his virtues, duties, and relationships.

The business lying immediately before us in this chapter is to consider the accepted standards in which the Christian good is exhibited—the virtues recognised by the Christian consciousness.

What, then, are the particular forms or manifestations of character which result from the Christian interpretation of life? When we think of man as living in relation to his fellows, and engaging in the common activities of the world, what are the special traits of character which distinguish the Christian? These questions suggest one of the most important, and at the same time one of the most difficult, tasks of Christian Ethics—the classification of the virtues. The difficulty arises in the first instance from the ambiguity attaching to the term 'virtue.' It is often loosely used to signify a meritorious act—as in the phrase, 'making a virtue of a necessity.' It is frequently employed generally for a moral quality or excellency of character, and in this respect is contrasted with vice. Finally, virtues are sometimes identified with duties. Thus we speak of the virtue of veracity. But obviously we may also refer to the duty of veracity. The word arete; signifies 'force,' and was originally used as a property of bodies, plants, or animals. {184} At first it had no ethical import. In Attic usage it came to signify aptness or fitness of manhood for public life. And this signification has shaped the future meaning of its Latin equivalent—virtus (from vis, strength, and not from vir, a man).

Plato gave to the term a certain ethical value in connection with his moral view of the social life, so that Ethics came to be designated the doctrine of virtues. In general, however, both by the Greek and Roman moralists, and particularly the Stoics, the word virtus retained something of the sense of force or capacity—a quality prized in the citizen. The English word is a direct transcript of the Latin. The German noun, Tugend (from taugen, to fit) means capability, and is related to worth, honour, manliness. The word arete does not frequently occur in the New Testament.[1] In the few passages in which it appears it is associated with praiseworthiness. In one passage[2] it has a more distinctly ethical signification—'add to your faith virtue'—where the idea is that of practical worth or manhood.

Virtue may be defined as the acquired power or capacity for moral action. From the Christian point of view virtue is the complement, or rather the outcome, of grace. Hence virtues are graces. In the Christian sense a man is not virtuous when he has first appropriated by faith the new principle of life. He has within him, indeed, the promise and potency of all forms of goodness, but not until he has consciously brought his personal impulses and faculties into the service of Christ can he be called truly virtuous. Hence the Christian character is only progressively realised. On the divine side virtue is a gift. On the human side it is an activity. Our Lord's figure of the vine and the branches represents the relation in which Christian character stands to Christ. In like manner St. Paul regards the manifestations of the Christian life as the fruit of the Spirit—the inevitable and natural outgrowth of the divine seed of life implanted in the heart. Hence arises the importance of {185} cultivating the inner life of the spirit which is the root of all moral excellency. On the other hand it must be remembered that Christian morality is not of a different sort from natural morality, and the Christian virtues are not merely supernatural qualities added on, but simply human virtues coloured and transfigured by grace and raised to a higher value. The power to act morally, the capacity to bring all our faculties into the service of the spiritual life, is the ground of Christian virtue just as it is of every natural excellence. From this it follows that the distinction sometimes made between natural goodness and Christian goodness is unsound. A virtue is not a superlative act of merit, implying an excess of excellence beyond the requirements of duty. From the Christian standpoint there are no works of supererogation, and there is no room in the Christian life for excess or margin. As every duty is a bounden duty, so every possible excellence is demanded of the Christian. Virtues prescribe duties; ideals become laws; and the measure is, 'Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.' The Stoic maxim, 'Nothing in excess,' is inadequate in reference to moral excellence, and Aristotle's doctrine of the 'Mean' can hardly be applied without considerable distortion of facts. The only virtue which with truth can be described as a form of moderation is Temperance. It has been objected that by his doctrine of the 'Mean' Aristotle 'obliterates the awful and absolute difference between right and wrong.' If we substitute, as Kant suggested, 'law' for 'mean,' some of the ambiguity is obviated. Still, after all extenuation is made it may be questioned whether any term implying quantity is a fit expression for a moral attribute.[3]

At the same time the virtues must not be regarded as mere abstractions. Moral qualities cannot be isolated from the circumstances in which they are exercised. Virtue is character in touch with life, and it is only in contact with actual events that its quality can be determined. Actions are not simply good or bad in themselves. They must {186} always be valued both by their inner motives and intended ends. Courage or veracity, for example, may be exercised from different causes and for the most various ends, and occasionally even for those of an immoral nature.[4]

For these and similar reasons some modern ethical writers have regarded the classification of the virtues as unsatisfactory, involving arbitrary and illogical distinctions in value; and some have even discarded the use of the word 'virtue' altogether, and substituted the word 'character' as the subject of ethical study. But inasmuch as character must manifest itself in certain forms, and approximate at least to certain norms or ideals of conduct, it may not be altogether superfluous to consider in their relation and unity those moral qualities (whether we call them virtues, graces, or norms of excellence) which the Christian aims at reproducing in his life.

We shall consider therefore, first, the natural elements of virtue as they have been disclosed to us by classical teachers. Next, we shall compare these with the Christian conception of life, showing how Christianity has given to them a new meaning and value. And finally, we shall endeavour to reveal the unifying principle of the virtues by showing that when transformed by the Christian spirit they are the expressions or implicates of a single spiritual disposition or totality of character.

I

The Natural Basis of the Virtues.—At a certain stage of reflection there arises an effort not merely to designate, but to co-ordinate the virtues. For it is soon discovered that all the various aspects of the good have a unity, and that the idea of virtue as one and conscious is equivalent to the idea of the good-will or of purity of heart. Thus it was seen by the followers of Socrates that the virtues are but different expressions of one principle, and that the ultimate good of character can only be realised by the actual pursuit {187} of it in the recognised virtues. We do not sufficiently reflect, says Green, how great was the service which Greek philosophy rendered to mankind. From Plato and Aristotle comes the connected scheme of virtues and duties within which the educated conscience of Christendom still moves when it is impartially reflecting on what ought to be done.[5] Religious teachers may have extended the scope of our obligations, and strengthened the motives which actuate men in the performance of duty, but 'the articulated scheme of what the virtues and duties are, in their difference and their unity, remains for us now in its main outlines what the Greek philosophers left it.'[6]

Among ancient moralists four virtues, Wisdom, Courage, Temperance, Justice were constantly grouped. They were already traditional in Plato's time, but he adopts them as fundamental. Aristotle retained Plato's list, but developed from it some minor excellences.

Virtue, according to Plato, was the health or harmony of the soul; hence the principle of classification was determined by the fitness of the soul for its proper task, which was conceived as the attainment of the good or the morally beautiful. As man has three functions or aspects, a cognitive, active, and appetitive, so there are three corresponding virtues. His function of knowing determines the primal virtue of Wisdom; his active power constitutes the virtue of Courage; while his appetitive nature calls for the virtue of Temperance or Self-control. These three virtues have reference to the individual's personal life. But inasmuch as a man is a part of a social organism, and has relations to others beyond himself, justice was conceived by Plato as the social virtue, the virtue which regulated and harmonised all the others. For the Stoics these four virtues embraced the whole life according to nature. It may be noticed that Plato and Aristotle did not profess to have created the virtues. Wisdom, fortitude, temperance, and justice were, as they believed, radical principles of the moral nature; and all they professed to do was to {188} awaken men to the consciousness of their natural capacities. If a man was to attain to fitness of life, then these were the fundamental and essential lines on which his rational life must develop. In every conceivable world these are the basal elements of goodness. Related as they are to fundamental functions of personality, they cannot be less or more. They stand for the irreducible principles of conduct, to omit any one of which is to present a maimed or only partial character. In every rational conception of life they must remain the essential and desirable objects of pursuit. It was not wonderful, therefore, when we remember the influence of Greek thought upon early Christianity, that the four classical virtues should pass over into Christian Ethics. But the Church, recognising that these virtues had reference to man's life in relation to himself and his fellow-men in this world alone, added to these the three Pauline Graces, Faith, Hope, and Charity, as expressive of the divine element in man, his relation to God and the spiritual world. The first four were called natural, the last three supernatural: or the 'Cardinal' (cardo, a hinge) and the 'Theological' virtues. They make in all seven, the mystic perfect number, and over against these, to complete the symmetry of life, were placed the seven deadly sins.

II

Their Christian Transformation.—But now if we compare the cardinal virtues with the conception of goodness revealed in Scripture, we are at once conscious of a contrast. We seem to move in a new atmosphere, and to be confronted with a view of life in which entirely different values hold.

1. While in the New Testament many virtues are commended, no complete description occurs in any single passage. The beatitudes may be regarded as our Lord's catalogue of the typical qualities of life, and a development of virtuous life might be worked out from the Sermon on the Mount. Beginning with poverty of spirit, {189} humility, and meekness, and rising up out of the individual struggle of the inner man, we attain to mercifulness and peaceableness—the spirit which bears the poverty of others, and seeks to make others meek and gentle. Next the desire for righteousness finds expression in a readiness to endure persecution, to support the burden of duty in the midst of worldly conflict; and finally in the highest stage the light of virtue shines through the clouds of struggle and breaks forth spontaneously, irradiating all who come into contact with it, and constituting man the servant of humanity, the light of the world.[7] Or we might turn to the apostle Paul, who regards the virtues as the fruit of the Spirit, describing them in general as 'love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, faith, gentleness, humility.'[8] A rich cluster is also mentioned as 'the fruit of light'—goodness, righteousness, truth. A further enumeration is given in Colossians where the apostle commends compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, forbearance, and forgiveness.[9] And once more there is the often-quoted series in the Epistle to the Philippians, 'Whatsoever things are true, reverent, just, chaste, lovely, and kindly spoken of.'[10] Nor must we forget the characteristics of love presented in the apostle's 'Hymn of Charity.'[11] To these descriptions of St. Paul there ought to be added the remarkable passage in which St. Peter unfolds the process of the moral life from its seed to the perfect flower.[12] Though the authorship of this passage has been disputed, that fact does not make the representation less trustworthy and typical as an exhibition of early Christian morality. According to this picture, just as in St. Paul's view, the whole moral life has its root in faith, and character is nothing else than the working out of the initial energy of the soul into virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity—all that makes life worthy and excellent. Character is not built like a house, by the addition of stone to stone. It is evolved as {190} a plant from a seed. Given faith, there will ultimately emerge all the successive qualities of true goodness—knowledge, temperance, patience—the personal virtues, rising upwards to godliness or the love of God, and widening out to brotherhood, and thence to charity or a love of mankind—a charity which embraces the whole world, even those who are not Christian: the enemy, the outcast, and the alien.

These descriptions are not formal or systematic, but are characterised by a remarkable similarity in spirit and tone. They all reflect the mind of Christ, and put the emphasis where Jesus Himself invariably laid it—on love. But the point to which we desire to draw attention is the contrast between the classical and the Christian type of virtue. The difference is commonly expressed by saying that the pagan virtues were of a bold masculine order, whereas the Christian excellences are of an amiable and passive nature.

Yet if we carefully examine the lists as given in Scripture, we shall see that this is hardly a just distinction. Certainly Christianity brings to the front some virtues of a gentle type which are apparently wanting in the Platonic catalogue. But, on the other hand, the pagan virtues are not excluded from the New Testament. They have an acknowledged place in Christian morality. Fortitude and temperance, not to speak of wisdom and justice, are recognised as essential qualities of the Christian character. Christianity did not come into the world as the negative of all that was previously noble in human nature; on the contrary, it took over everything that was good and true, and gave to it a legitimate place. Whatsoever things, says the apostle, are true and just and fair, if there be any virtue or praise in them, think of these things.

Courage is not disparaged by Christianity. In writing to Timothy Paul gives to this virtue its original significance. He only raises it to a higher level, and gives to it a nobler end—the determination not to be ashamed of bearing testimony, and the readiness to suffer hardship for the Gospel's sake. And though the apostle does not expressly {191} commend courage in its active form in any other passage, we may gather from the whole tenor of his life that bravery, fortitude, endurance, occupied a high place in his esteem. While he made no parade of his sufferings his life was a continual warfare for the Gospel. The courage of a man is none the less real because it is evinced not on the battlefield, but in the conflict of righteousness. He who devotes himself unnoticed and unrewarded, at the risk of his life and at the sacrifice of every pleasure, to the service of the sick and the debased, possesses courage the same in principle as that of the 'brave man' described by Aristotle. Life is a battle, and there are other objects for which a man must contend than those peculiar to a military calling. In all circumstances of his existence the Christian must quit himself as a man, and without courage no one can fulfil in any tolerable degree the duties of his station.

In like manner temperance or self-control is a truly Christian virtue, and it finds repeated mention in Scripture. When, however, we compare the conception of temperance as formulated by Aristotle with the demand of self-denial which the enlightened Christian conscience makes upon itself we are struck with a difference both in the motive and the scope of the principle. Temperance as Aristotle conceived it was a virtue exhibited only in dealing with the animal passions. And the reason why this indulgence ought to be checked was that the lusts of the flesh unfitted a man for his discharge of the civic duties. But, in view of the Greek idea that evil resides in the physical constitution of man, the logical deduction would be the total suppression of the animal passions altogether. But from the Christian standpoint the physical instincts are not an evil to be crushed, but rather a legitimate element in man which is to be disciplined and brought into the service of the spiritual life. Temperance covers the whole range of moral activity. It means the practical mastery of self, and includes the proper control and employment of hand and eye, tongue and temper, tastes and affections, so that they may become effective instruments of righteousness. The practice of {192} asceticism for its own sake, or abstinence dictated merely by fear of some painful result of indulgence, we do not now regard as a virtue. The true form of self-denial we deem to be only rendered when we forbid ourselves the enjoyment of certain legitimate inclinations for the sake of some higher interest. Thus the scope of the virtue of temperance has been greatly enlarged, and we present to ourselves objects of moral loyalty, for the sake of which we are ready to abandon our desires in a far greater variety of forms than ever occurred to the Greek. An indulgence, for example, which a man might legitimately allow himself, he forgoes in consideration of the claims of his family, or fellow-workmen, or for the good of mankind at large, in a way that the ancient world could not understand. Christian temperance, while the same in principle with the ancient virtue, penetrates life more deeply, and is fraught with a richer and more positive content than was contemplated by the Greek demand.

And the same may be said of the virtues of Wisdom and Justice. Wisdom is a New Testament grace, but mere calculating prudence or worldly self-regard finds no place in the Christian scheme of life. We are enjoined, indeed, to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves in our relations with men; but what we are urged to cultivate is a mind for the right interpretation of the things of God, that spiritual insight which discerns the things of the Spirit; and, while recognising life as a divinely given trust, seeks to obtain a wise understanding of our duties toward God and man.

While the other virtues are to a certain extent self-regarding, Justice is eminently social. At the very lowest it means 'equal consideration' for all, treating, as Kant would say, every man as an 'end,' and not as a means. Morally no man may disregard the claims of others. It is said, indeed, that we must be 'just before we are generous.' But a full and perfect conception of Justice involves generosity. There is no such thing as bare justice. Righteousness, which is the New Testament equivalent, demands more than negative goodness, and in Christian Ethics {193} passes over into Charity, which finds and fulfils itself in others. Love here and always is the fulfilling of the law, and mercy, benevolence, kindness are the implicates of true justice.

2. It is thus evident that the cardinal virtues are essential elements of Christian character. Christianity, in taking over the moral conceptions of the ancient world, gave to them a new value and range by directing them to new objects and enthusing them with new motives. It has been truly said that the religion of Jesus so profoundly modified the character of the moral ideals of the past that they became largely new creations. The old moral currency was still kept in circulation, but it was gradually minted anew.[13] Fortitude is still the cool and steady behaviour of a man in the presence of danger; but its range is widened by the inclusion of perils of the soul as well as the body. Temperance is still the control of the physical passions; but it is also the right placing of new affections, and the consecration of our impulses to nobler ends. Justice is still the suppression of conflict with the rights of others; but the source of it lies in giving to God the love which is His due, and finding in the objects of His thought the subjects also of our care. Wisdom is still the practical sense which chooses the proper course of action; but it is no longer a selfish calculation of advantage, but the wisdom of men who are seeking for themselves and others not merely temporal good, but a kingdom which is not of this world.

The real reason, then, why Christianity seems by contrast to accentuate the gentler graces is not simply as a protest against the spirit of militarism and the worship of physical power, so prevalent in the ancient world—not merely that they were neglected—but because they and they alone, rightly considered, are of the very essence of that perfection of character which God has revealed to man in Christ. What Christianity has done is not to give pre-eminence to one class over another, but to make human character complete. Ancient civilisation was one-sided in its moral {194} development. The pagan conceptions of virtue were merely materialistic, temporal, and self-regarding. Christ showed that without the spirit of love even such excellences as courage, temperance, and justice did not attain to their true meaning or yield their full implication. Paul, as we have seen, did not disparage heroism, but he thought that it was exhibited as much, if not more, in patience and forgiveness as in self-assertion and retaliation. What Christianity really revealed was a new type of manliness, a fresh application of temperance, a fuller development of justice. It showed the might of meekness, the power of gentleness, the heroism of sacrifice.

3. It is thus misleading to say that Christian Ethics differs from ancient morality in the prominence it gives to what have been called 'the passive virtues.' Poverty of spirit, humility, meekness, mercifulness, and peaceableness are indeed the marks of Christ's teaching. But as Christ conceived them they were not passive qualities, but intensely active energies of the soul. It has been well remarked that[14] there was a poverty of spirit in the creed of the cynic centuries before Christianity. There was a meekness in the doctrine of the Stoic long before the advent of Jesus. But these tenets were very far from being anticipations of Christ's morality. Cynic poverty of spirit was but the poor-spiritedness of apathy. Stoic meekness was merely the indifference of oblivion. But the humility and lowliness of heart, the mercifulness and peace-seeking which Christ inculcated were essentially powers of self-restraint, not negative but positive attitudes to life. The motive was not apathy but love. These qualities were based not on the idea that life was so poor and undesirable that it was not worthy of consideration, but upon the conviction that it was so grand and noble, something so far beyond either pleasure or pain, as to demand the devotion of the entire self—the mastery and consecration of all a man's powers in the fulfilment and service of its divine end.

Hence what Christianity did was not so much to institute {195} one type of character for another as to exhibit for the first time the complete conception of what human life should be—a new creature, in whom, as in its great Exemplar, strength and tenderness, courage and meekness, justice and mercy were alike combined. For, as St. Paul said, in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female, but all are as one. And in this character, as the same apostle finely shows, faith, hope, and charity have the primary place, not as special virtues which have been added on, but as the spiritual disposition which penetrates the entire personality and qualifies its every thought and act.

III

The Unification of the Virtues.—While it is desirable, then, to exhibit the virtues in detail, it is even more important to trace back the virtues to virtue itself. A man's duties are diverse, as diverse as the various occasions and circumstances of life, and they can only come into being with the various institutions of his time, Church and State, home and country, commerce and culture. But the performance of these may be slowly building up in him a consistent personality. It is in character that the unity of the moral life is most clearly expressed. There must be therefore a unity of character underlying the multiplicity of characteristics, one single and commanding principle at work in the formation of life of which every possible virtue is the expression.

1. A unity of this kind is supplied by man's relation to God. Religion cannot be separated from conduct. If it were true, as Epicurus said, that the gods take no concern in human affairs, then not religion only, but morality itself would be in danger. As men's conceptions of God are purified and deepened, they tend to exhibit the varied contents of morality in their connection with a diviner order. It is, then, the thought of man's relation to God which gives coherence to the moral life, and brings all its diverse manifestations into unity.

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If we examine the Christian consciousness as presented in the New Testament, we find three words of frequent occurrence repeatedly grouped together, which may be regarded as the essential marks of Christian character in relation to God—Faith, Hope, and Love.

So characteristic are these of the new life that they have been called the theological virtues, because, as Thomas Aquinas says, 'They have God for their object: they bring us into true relation to God, and they are imparted to us by God alone.'[15]

2. These graces, however, cannot be separated. A man does not exercise at one time faith, and at another time hope or love. They are all of a piece. They are but different manifestations of one virtue. Of these love is the greatest, because it is that without which faith and hope could not exist. Love is of the very essence of the Christian life. It is its secret and sign. No other term is so expressive of the spirit of Christ. It is the first and last word of apostolic Christianity. Love may be called the discovery of the Gospel. It was practically unknown in the ancient world. Eros, the sensuous instinct and philia, the bond of friendship, did exist, but agape in its spiritual sense is the creation of Christ. In Christian Ethics love is primal and central. Here we have got down to the bedrock of virtue. It is not simply one virtue among many. It is the quality in which all the virtues have their setting and unity. From a Christian point of view every excellence of character springs directly from love and is the manifestation of it. It is, as St. Paul says, 'the bond of perfectness.' The several virtues of the Christian life are but facets of this one gem.[16]

Love, according to the apostle, is indispensable to character. Without it Faith is an empty profession; {197} Knowledge, a mere parade of learning; Courage, a boastful confidence; Self-denial, a useless asceticism. Love is the fruitful source of all else that is beautiful and noble in life. It not only embraces but produces all the other graces. It creates fortitude; it begets wisdom; it prompts self-restraint and temperance; it tempers justice. It manifests itself in humility, meekness, and forgiveness:

'As every hue is light, So every grace is love.'

Love is, however, closely associated with faith and hope. Faith, as we have seen, is theologically the formative and appropriating power by which man makes his own the spirit of Christ. But ethically it is a form of love. The Christian character is formed by faith, but it lives and works by love. A believing act is essentially a loving act. It is a giving of personal confidence. It implies an outgoing of the self towards another—which is the very nature of love. Hope, again, is but a particular form of faith which looks forward to the consummation of the good. The man of hope knows in whom he believes, and he anticipates the fulfilment of his longings. Hope is essentially an element of love. Like faith it is a form of idealism. It believes in, and looks forward to, a better world because it knows that love is at the heart of the universe. As faith is the special counteragent against materialism in the present, so hope is the special corrective of pessimism in regard to the future. Love supplies both with vision. Christian hope, because based on faith and prompted by love, is no easy-going complacence which simply accepts the actual as the best of all possible worlds. The Christian is a man of hope because in spite of life's sufferings he never loses faith in the ideal which love has revealed to him. 'Tribulation,' says St. Paul, 'worketh patience, and patience probation, and probation hope.' Hope has its social aspect as well as its personal; like faith it is one of the mighty levers of society. Men of hope are the saviours of the world. In days of persecution and doubt it is their courage which rallies the wavering hosts and gives others {198} heart for the struggle. Every Christian is an optimist not with the reckless assurance that calls evil good, but with the rational faith, begotten of experience, that good is yet to be the final goal of ill. 'Thy kingdom come' is the prayer of faith and hope, and the missionary enterprise is rooted in the confidence begotten of love, that He who has given to man His world-wide commission will give also the continual presence and power of His Spirit for its fulfilment.

3. Faith, hope, and charity are at once the root and fruit of all the virtues. They are the attributes of the man whom Christ has redeemed. The Christian has a threefold outlook. He looks upwards, outwards, and inwards. His horizon is bounded by neither space nor time. He embraces all men in his regard, because he believes that every man has infinite worth in God's eyes. The old barriers of country and caste, which separated men in the ancient world, are broken down by faith in God and hope for man which the love of Christ inspires. Faith, hope, and love have been called the theological virtues. But if they are to be called virtues at all, it must be in a sense very different from what the ancients understood by virtue. These apostolic graces are not elements of the natural man, but states which come into being through a changed moral character. They connect man with God, and with a new spiritual order in which his life has come to find its place and purpose. They were impossible for a Greek, and had no place in ancient Ethics. They are related to the new ideal which the Gospel has revealed, and obtain their value as elements of character from the fact that they have their object in the distinctive truth of Christianity—fellowship with God through Christ.

These graces are not outward adornments or optional accomplishments. They are the essential conditions of the Christian man. They constitute his inmost and necessary character. They do not, however, supersede or render superfluous the other virtues. On the contrary they transmute and transfigure them, giving to them at once their coherence and value.



[1] Phil. iv. 8; 1 Peter ii. 9.

[2] 2 Peter i. 5.

[3] Cf. Sir Alex. Grant, Aristotle's Ethics.

[4] Cf. Wundt, Ethik, p. 147.

[5] Green, Proleg. to Ethics, section 249.

[6] Idem.

[7] Matt. v. 1-16.

[8] Gal. v. 22-3.

[9] Col. iii. 12, 13.

[10] Phil. iv. 8.

[11] 1 Cor. xiii.

[12] 2 Peter i. 5.

[13] Strong, Christian Ethics.

[14] Mathieson, Landmarks of Christian Morality.

[15] Summa, I. ii.

[16] An interesting parallel might be drawn between the Pauline conception of Love as the supreme passion of the soul and lord of the emotions, and the Platonic view of Justice as the intimate spirit of order alike in the individual and the state, expressing itself in, and harmoniously binding together, the virtues of Temperance, Courage, and Wisdom.



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CHAPTER XII

THE REALM OF DUTY

We have now to see how the virtues issue in their corresponding duties and cover the whole field of life.

Virtues and duties cannot be strictly distinguished. As Paulsen remarks, 'They are but different modes of presenting the same subject-matter.'[1] Virtues are permanent traits of character; duties are particular acts which seek to realise virtues.

The word 'duty,' borrowed from Stoic philosophy, inadequately describes, both on the side of its obligation and its joy, the service which the Christian is pledged to offer to Christ. For the Christian the two moments of pleasure and duty are united in the higher synthesis of love.

In this chapter we shall consider, first, some aspects of Christian obligation; and, second, the particular duties which arise therefrom in relation to the self, others, and God.

I

ASPECTS OF DUTY

1. Duty and Vocation.—'While duty stands for a universal element there is a personal element in moral requirement which may be called vocation.'[2] As soon as the youth enters upon the larger world he has to make choice of a profession or life-work. Different principles may guide him in his selection. First of all, the circumstances {200} of life will help to decide the individual's career. Our calling and duties arise immediately out of our station. Already by parental influence and the action of home-environment character is being shaped, and tastes and purposes are created which will largely determine the future. Next to condition and station, individual capacity and disposition ought to be taken into account. No good work can be accomplished in uncongenial employment. A man must have not only fitness for his task, but also a love for it. Proper ambition may also be a determining factor. We have a right to make the most of ourselves, and to strive for that position in which our gifts shall have fullest scope. But the ultimate decision must be made in the light of conscience. Self-interest should not be our sole motive in the choice of a vocation. It is not enough to ask what is most attractive, what line of life will ensure the greatest material gain or worldly honour? Rather should we ask, Where shall I be safest from moral danger, and, above all, in what position of life, open to me, can I do the most good? It is not enough to know that a certain mode of livelihood is permitted by law; I must decide whether it is permitted to me as a Christian. For, after all, underlying, and giving purpose and direction to, our earthly vocation is the deeper calling of God into His kingdom. These cannot, indeed, be separated. We cannot divide our life into two sections, a sacred and a secular. Nor must we restrict the idea of vocation to definite spheres of work. Even those who are precluded by affliction from the activities of the world are still God's servants, and may find in suffering itself their divinely appointed mission. There is a divinity which shapes our ends, and in every life-calling there is something sacred. 'Saints,' says George Eliot, 'choose not their tasks, they choose but to do them well.'

But the decisions of life do not cease with the choice of a calling. At every moment of our career fresh difficulties arise, and new opportunities open up which demand careful thought. Our first obligation is to meet faithfully the claims of our station. But in the complexity of life we are {201} being constantly brought into wider relations with our fellow-men, which either modify the old, or create entirely new situations. While the rule is to do the duty that lies nearest us, to obey the call of God at each moment, it needs no little wisdom to discern one's immediate duty, and to know what the will of God actually is.

2. Conflict of Duties.—In the sphere of duty itself a three-fold distinction, having the imprimatur of the Romish Church, has been made by some moralists: (1) the problem of colliding interests; (2) 'counsels of perfection'; and (3) indifferent acts or 'Adiaphora,' actions which, being neither commanded nor forbidden, fall outwith the domain of Christian obligation. It will not be necessary to discuss at length these questions. The Gospel lends no support to such distinctions, and as Schleiermacher points out they ought to have no place in Protestant Ethics.[3]

(1) With regard to the 'conflict of duties,' when the collision is really, as it often is, a struggle between inclination and duty, the question answers itself. There are, of course, cases in which perplexity must occur to an honest man. But the difficulty cannot be decided by drawing up a list of axiomatic precepts to fit all conceivable cases. In the dilemma, for example, between self-preservation and self-sacrifice which may present itself in some tragic experience of life, a host of considerations relative to the individual's history and relationships enter in to modify the situation, and the course to be taken can be finally determined by a man's own conscience alone. Ultimately there can be no collision of duties as such. Once a man recognises a certain mode of conduct to be right for him there is really no choice. In judgment he may err; passion or desire may obscure the issue; but once he has determined what he ought to do there is no alternative, 'er kann nicht anders.'

(2) Again, it is a complete misapprehension of the nature of duty to distinguish between the irreducible minimum and acts of supererogatory goodness which outrun duty. {202} Goodness is one, and admits of no degrees. All duty is absolute. An overplus is unthinkable, since no man can do more than his duty. A Christian can only do what he recognises as his obligation, and this he ought to fulfil at every moment and with all his might. Love, which is the Christian's only law, knows no limit. Even when we have done our utmost we are still unprofitable servants.

(3) Finally, the question as to whether there are any acts which are indifferent, permissible, but neither enjoined nor forbidden, must also be answered in the negative. If the Christian can do no more than his duty, because in every single action he seeks to fulfil the whole will of God, it is clear that there can be no moment of life that can be thought of not determined by the divine will. There is no part of life that is colourless. There must be no dropped stitches in the texture of the Christian character.

It is most frequently in the domain of amusement that the notion of the 'Permissible' is applied. It has been contended that as recreation really lies outwith the Christian sphere, it may be allowed to Christian people as a concession to human weakness.[4] But can this position be vindicated? Relaxation is as much a need of man as work, and must, equally with it, be brought within the scope of Christian conduct. We have no business to engage in any activity, whether involving pleasure or pain, that we cannot justify to our conscience. Are not the joys of life, and even its amusements, among God's gifts designed for the enriching of character? And may not they, too, be consecrated to the glory of God? We are to use the world while not abusing it, for all things are ours if we are Christ's. Over every department of life the law of Christ is sovereign, and the ultimate principle applicable to all problems of duty is, 'Whatsoever ye do in word or deed do all to the glory of God.'

3. Rights and Duties.—The foregoing question as to the scope of duty leads naturally to the consideration of the relation of duties and rights. It is usual to distinguish {203} between legal and moral rights; but at bottom they are one. The rights which I legally claim for myself I am morally bound to grant to others. A right is expressed in the form of a permission; a duty, of an imperative. I may or may not demand my legal rights; morally, I must perform my duties. But, on the other hand, a right may be secured by legal compulsion; a duty, as a moral obligation, can never be enforced by external power: it needs our own assent.[5]

Strictly speaking rights and duties are correlative. Every right carries with it an obligation; not merely in the objective sense that when one man has a right other men are under the obligation to respect it, but also in the subjective sense that when a man has a right he is bound to use it for the general good. It is sometimes said, 'A man may do what he likes with his own.' Legally that may be true, but morally he is under obligation to employ it for the general good just as strictly as if it were another's. A man's rights are not merely decorations or ends in themselves. They are opportunities, instruments, trusts. And when any man has them, it means that he is placed on a vantage-ground from which, secure of oppression or interference, he may begin to do his duty.[6] But this moral aspect of right is often lost sight of. People are so enamoured of what they call their rights that they forget that the real value of every right depends upon the use to which they put it. A man's freedom does not consist in having rights, but in fulfilling them. 'After all,' says Mazzini, 'the greatest right a man can possess or recognise—the greatest gift of all—is simply the privilege and obligation to do his duty.'[7] This is the only Christian doctrine of rights. It underlies our Lord's teaching in the parable of the Talents. We only have what we use.

(1) Much has been written of the 'Natural rights of Man.'[8] This was the claim of a school of political philosophy of {204} which Paine was the most rigorous exponent. The contentions of Paine were met as vigorously by the negations of Bentham and Burke. And if it be supposed that the individual is born into the world with certain ready-made possessions, fixed and unalterable, the claim is untenable. Such an artificial account of man ignores entirely the evolution of moral nature, and denies the possibility of development in man's conception of law and duty. 'It is,' as Wundt says, 'to derive all the moral postulates that have been produced in our minds by previous moral development from moral life as it actually exists.'[9]

(2) But while the 'natural rights of man' cannot be theoretically vindicated, they may still be regarded as ends or ideals to be striven after. 'Justifiable or unjustifiable in theory, they may still remain a convenient form in which to couch the ultimatum of determined men.'[10] They give expression, at least, to a conviction which has grown more clear and articulate with the advance of thought—the conviction of the dignity and worth of the individual. This thought was the keynote of the Reformation. The Enlightenment, with its appeal to reason, as alike in all men, gave support to the idea of equality. Descartes claimed it as the philosophical basis of man's nature. Rousseau and Montesquieu were among its most valiant champions. Kant made it the point of departure for the enforcement of human right and duty. Fichte but elaborated Kant's view when he contended for 'the equality of everything which bears the human visage.'[11] And Hegel has summed up the conception in what he calls 'the mandate of right'—'Be a person, and respect others as persons.'[12] Poets sometimes see what others miss. And in our country, at least, it is to Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Browning, and still more, perhaps, to Burns, that we are indebted for the insistence upon the native worth of man.

But if this claim has only gradually attained to articulate {205} expression, and is only now being made the basis of social reconstruction, it must not be forgotten that it is essentially a Christian truth. In Harnack's language, 'Jesus Christ was the first to bring the value of every human soul to light, and what He did no one can any more undo.'[13]

When, however, the attempt is made to analyse this ultimate principle of manhood, opinions differ as to its constituents, and a long list of 'rights' claimed by different political thinkers might be made. The famous 'Declaration of Rights'[14] included Life, Liberty, Property, Security, and 'Resistance of Oppression.' To these some have added 'Manhood Suffrage,' 'Free Access to the Soil,' and a common distribution of the benefits of life and means of production. This is a large programme, and certainly no community as yet has recognised all its items without qualification. Obviously they are not all of the same quality, nor are they of independent validity; and at best they but roughly describe certain factors, considered by various agitators as desirable, of an ideal social order.

(3) We are on safer ground, and for Christian Ethics, at least, more in consonance with ultimate Christian values, when we describe the primary realities of human nature in terms of the revelation of life as given by the Person and teaching of Jesus Christ. The three great verities upon which He constantly insisted were, man's value for himself, his value for his fellow-men, and his value for God. These correspond generally to the three great ethical ideas of life—Personality, Freedom, and Divine Kinship. But although the sense of independence, liberty and divine fellowship is the first aspect of a being who has come to the consciousness of himself, it is incomplete in itself. Man plants himself upon his individuality in order that he may set out from thence to take possession, by means of knowledge, action, and service, of his larger world. Man's rights are but {206} possibilities which must be transmuted by him into achievements.

'This is the honour,—that no thing I know, Feel, or conceive, but I can make my own Somehow, by use of hand or head or heart.'[15]

Rights involve obligations. The right of personality carries with it the duty of treating life, one's own and that of others, as sacred. The right of freedom implies the use of one's liberty for the good of the society of which each is a member. And finally, the sense of divine kinship involves the obligation of making the most of one's life, of realising through and for God all that God intends in the gift of life.

In these three values lies the Christian doctrine of man.[16] Because of their fullness of implication they open out to our vision the goal of humanity—the principle and purpose of the whole process of human evolution—the perfection of man. Given these three Christian truths—the Sacredness of Personality, the Brotherhood of Man, and the Fatherhood of God—and all that is essential in the claim of the 'Natural Rights of Man' is implicitly contained. The one thing needful is that men become alive to their privileges and go forward to 'possess their possessions.'

II

SPHERES OF DUTY

We are thus led to a division, natural if not wholly logical, of duties which spring from these rights—duties towards self, others, and God. Though, indeed, self-love implies love of others, and all duty is duty to God, still it may be permissible to frame a scheme of duties according as one or other element is prominent in each case.

1. Duties in Relation to Self.—It is obvious that without (1) respect for self there can be no respect for others. I am {207} a part of the moral whole, and an element in the kingdom of God. I cannot make myself of no account. Our Lord's commandment, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,' makes a rightly conceived self-love the measure of love to one's neighbour. Self-respect involves (2) self-preservation, the care of health, the culture of body and mind. Not only is it our duty to see that the efficiency and fitness of the bodily organism is fully maintained, but we must also guard it against everything that would defile and disfigure it, or render it an instrument of sin. Christianity requires the strictest personal purity, purity of thought and feeling as well as of deed. It demands, therefore, constant vigilance, self-control, temperance, and even self-denial, so that the body may be, not, as the ancients thought, the prison-house of the soul, but the temple of the Holy Spirit. Christianity is, however, opposed to asceticism. Though Jesus denied Himself to the uttermost in obedience to the voice of God, there is in His presentation of life a complete absence of those austerities which in the history of the Church have been so often regarded as marks of superior sanctity.[17] It is unnecessary here to dwell upon athletics and sport which now so largely occupy the attention of the youth of our land. Physical exercise is necessary to the maintenance of bodily fitness, yet it may easily become an all-absorbing pursuit, and instead of being merely a means to an end, may usurp the place in life which belongs to higher things.

(3) Self-maintenance involves also the duty of self-development, and that not merely of our physical, but also of our mental life. If the body has its place and function in the growth of Christian character, still more has the mind its ethical importance. Our Maker can have no delight in ignorance. He desires that we should present not a fragmentary but complete manhood. Specialisation, though a necessity of the age, is fraught with peril to the individual. The exigencies of labour require men to concentrate their energies on their own immediate tasks; but each must seek to be not merely a craftsman, but a man. Other sides {208} of our nature require to be cultivated besides those which bring us into contact with the ways and means of existence. Indeed, it is only by the possession of a well-trained mind that the fullest capacity, even for special pursuits, can be obtained. It has become a commonplace to say that every man should have equality of opportunity to earn a livelihood. But equality of opportunity for education, as something which ought to be within the reach of every youth in the land, is not so frequently insisted upon. Beyond the claims of daily occupation every one should have a chance, and, indeed, an inducement, to cultivate his mental and spiritual nature. Hence what is called 'culture,' the all-round development of the human faculties, is an essential condition of moral excellence. For, as Goethe has said, the object of education ought to be rather the formation of tastes than simply the communication of knowledge. But most important of all the self-regarding aims of life is the obligation of Self-discipline, and the use of every means of moral culture which the world supplies. It is through the complex conditions of earthly existence that the character of the individual is developed. It will only be possible to indicate briefly some of the aids to the culture of the moral life. Among these may be mentioned: (a) The Providential Experiences of life. The world itself, as a sphere of Work, Temptation, and Suffering, is a school of character. The affections and cares of the home, the duties and tasks incident to one's calling, the claims of one's fellow-men, the trials and temptations of one's lot—these are the universal and common elements in man's moral education. Not to escape from the world's activities and conflicts, but to turn them into conditions of self-mastery, is the duty of each. Men do work, but work makes men. The shopkeeper is not merely selling wares; the artisan or mechanic is not simply engaged in his handicraft; the mason and builder are not only erecting a house; each is, in and through his toil, making his own soul. And so, too, suffering and temptation are the tools which God commits to His creatures for the shaping of their own lives. Saints {209} and sinners are made out of the same material. By what Bosanquet has finely called 'the miracle of will' the raw stuff of life is taken up and woven into the texture of the soul. (b) The so-called secular opportunities of culture. Innumerable sources of self-enrichment are available. Everything may be made a vehicle of moral education. Knowledge generally, and especially the ministry of nature, the influence of art, and the study of literature, are potent factors in the discipline and development of Christian character. To these must be added (c) The special religious aids and means of grace. From an ethical point of view the Church is a school of character. It 'guards and keeps alive the characteristic Christian ideas, and thereby exhibits and promotes the Christian ideal of life.'[18] Its fellowship, worship, and ordinances; its opportunities of brotherly service and missionary activity, as well as the more private spiritual exercises of prayer and meditation—all are means of discipline and gifts committed to the stewardship of individuals in order that they may realise the greatness of life's possibilities, and attain through union with God to the fullness of their stature in Christ.

But while the truth that the soul has an inalienable worth is repeatedly affirmed, the New Testament touches but lightly upon the duties of self-regard. To be occupied constantly with the thought of one's self is a symptom of morbid egoism rather than of healthy personality. The avidity of self-improvement and even zeal for religion may become a refined form of selfishness. We must be willing at times to renounce our personal comfort, to restrain our zest for intellectual and aesthetic enjoyment, to be content to be less cultured and scholarly, less complete as men, and ready to part with something of our own immediate good that others may be ministered to. Hence the chief reason probably why the Scriptures do not enlarge upon the duties of self-culture is, that according to the spirit of the Gospel the true realisation of self is achieved through self-sacrifice. Only as a man loses his life does he find it. To horde [Transcriber's note: hoard?] one's {210} possessions is to waste them. Growth is the condition of life. But in all growth there is reciprocity of expenditure and assimilation, of giving and receiving. Self-realisation is only gained through self-surrender. Not, therefore, by anxiously standing guard over one's soul, but by dedicating it freely to the good of others does one achieve one's true self.

2. Duties in Relation to Others.—We belong to others, and others belong to us. They and we are alike parts of a larger whole.

(1) While this is recognised in Scripture, and all men are declared to be brothers in virtue of their common humanity, Christianity traces the brotherhood of man to a deeper source. The relation of the individual to Christ is the true ground of love to others. In Christ all distinctions which in other respects separate men are dissolved. Beneath the meanest garb and coarsest features, in spite even of the defacement of sin, we may detect the vast possibilities of the soul for whom Christ has died. The law of love is presented by Jesus as the highest of all the commandments, and the duty to others is summed up generally in what is known as the golden rule. Of the chief manifestations of brotherly love mention must be made (a) of the comprehensive duty of Justice. The ground upon which justice rests is the principle that each individual is an end in himself. Hence it is the duty of each to respect the rights of his neighbours, negatively refraining from injury and positively rendering that which our fellow-men have a right to claim. Religion makes a man more sensitive to the claims of humanity. Mutual respect requires a constant effort on the part of all to secure for each the fullest freedom to be himself. Christianity interprets justice to mean emancipation from every condition which crushes or degrades a man. It seeks to create a social conscience, and to arouse in each a sense of responsibility for the good of all. At the same time social justice must not be identified with charity. Charity has done much to relieve distress, and it will always form an indispensable element in {211} the Christian's duty towards his less fortunate brethren; but something more radical than almsgiving is required if the conditions of life are to be appreciably bettered. Justice is a demand not for bread alone; it is a claim of humanity to life, and all that life ought to mean. Christianity affirms the spirit of human brotherhood—a brotherhood in which every child will have a chance to grow to a noble manhood, and every man and woman will have opportunity and encouragement to live a free, wholesome, and useful life. That is the Christian ideal, and to help towards its realisation is the duty laid upon every citizen of the commonwealth. The problems of poverty, housing, unemployment, intemperance, and all questions of fair wages, legitimate profits, and just prices, fall under the regulative principle of social justice. The law is, 'Render to all their dues.' The love which worketh no ill to his neighbour will also withhold no good.[19]

(b) Truthfulness.—Justice is not confined to acts, but extends to speech and even to thought. We owe to others veracity. Even when the motive is good, there can be no greater social disservice than to fail in truthfulness. Falsehood, either in the form of hypocrisy or equivocation, and even of unsound workmanship, is not only unjust to others; it is unjust to ourselves, and a wrong to the deeper self—the new man in Christ.[20]

Is deception under all circumstances morally wrong? Moralists have been divided on this question. The instance of war is frequently referred to, in which it is contended that ruse and subterfuge are permissible forms of strategy.[21] There are, however, many distressing cases of conscience, in which the duties of affection and veracity seemingly conflict. It must be remembered that no command can be carried out to its extreme, or obeyed literally. Truth is not always conveyed by verbal accuracy. There may be higher interests at stake which might be prejudiced, and indeed unfairly represented by a merely literal statement. {212} The individual conscience must decide in each case. We are to speak the truth in love. Courage and kindliness are to commingle. But when all is said it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that in the last analysis lack of truth argues a deficient trust in the ultimate veracities of the universe, and rests upon a practical unbelief in the divine providence which can make 'all things work together for good to them that love God.'

(c) Connected with truthfulness, and also a form of justice, is the duty enjoined by St. Paul of forming just judgments of our fellow-men. If we would avoid petty fault-finding and high-minded contempt, we must dismiss all prejudice and passion. The two qualities requisite for proper judgment are knowledge and sympathy. Goethe has a fine couplet to the effect that 'it is safe in every case to appeal to the man who knows.'[22] But to understanding must be added appreciative consideration. We must endeavour to put ourselves in the position of our brother. Without a finely blended knowledge and sympathy we grow intolerant and impatient. Fairness is the rarest of moral qualities. He who would estimate another truly must have what St. Paul calls 'spiritual discernment'—the 'even-balanced soul' of one 'who saw life steadily and who saw it whole.'

(2) Brotherly Love evinces itself further in Service, which takes the three forms of Compassion, Beneficence or practical kindness, and Example.

(a) Compassion or sympathy is a readiness to enter into the experiences of others. As Christians nothing that concerns our brother can be a matter of indifference to us. As members of the same spiritual community we are participators in each other's joys and sorrows, 'weeping with those that weep, and rejoicing with those that rejoice.' It is no mere natural instinct, but one which grows out of the Christian consciousness of organic union with Christ. 'When one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.'[23] {213} We fulfil the law of Christ by bearing one another's burdens.

(6) Practical Beneficence is the natural outcome of sympathy. Feelings pass into deeds. Those redeemed by the love of Christ become the agents of His love, gladly dispensing to others what they themselves have received. The ministry of love, whatever shape it may take, must, in the last resort, be a giving of self. No one can do a kindness who does not put something of himself into it. No true service can be done that does not cost us more than money.

In modern society it is inevitable that personality should largely find its expression and exercise in material possessions. Without entering here upon the question of the institution of private property, it is enough to say that the possession of material goods may be morally defended on the twofold ground, that it ensures the security of existence, and is an essential condition of the development of individual and national resources. The process of acquisition is a moralising influence, since it incites the individual to work, and tends to create and foster among men interchange of service. Property, says Hegel, is the embodiment and instrument of the will.[24] But in a civilised community there must be obviously restrictions to the acquisition and use of wealth. Unbridled appropriation and irresponsible abuse are alike a peril to society. The State has therefore the right of interference and control in regard to all possessions. Even on the lowest ground of expediency the very idea of property involves on the part of all the principle of co-operation and reciprocity—the obligation of contributing to the general weal. It would, however, be most undesirable that the government should undertake everything for the general good of man that is now left to spontaneous effort and liberality. But from the standpoint of Christian Ethics possessions of all kinds are subject to the law of stewardship.[25] Every gift is {214} bestowed by God for the purpose of social service. No man can call the things which he possesses—endowments, wealth, power—his own. He is simply a trustee of life itself. No one may be an idler or parasite, and society has a just claim upon the activity of every man. The forms of such service are various; but the Christian spirit will inspire a sense of 'the ultimate unity of all pursuits that contribute to the good of man.'[26]

The ministry of love extends over the whole realm of existence, and varies with every phase of need. Physical necessities are to be met in the spirit of charity. St. Paul pleads repeatedly the cause of the poor, and commends the grace of liberality. Giving is to be cheerful and without stint. But there are needs which material aid cannot meet—desolation, anxiety, grief—to which the loving heart alone can find ways of ministering. And beyond all physical and moral need is the need of the soul; and it lies as a debt upon those who themselves have experienced the grace of Christ to seek the renewal and spiritual enrichment of their brethren.

(c) There is one special form of practical kindness towards others which a follower of Christ will often be called upon to exercise—the spirit of forbearance and forgiveness. The Christian is to speak evil of no man, but to be gentle, showing all meekness unto all men; living peaceably with all men, avoiding everything provocative of strife; even 'forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you so also do ye.'

(3) Finally, we may serve others by Example, by letting the light of life so shine before men that they seeing our good works shall glorify God our Father. This duty, however, as Fichte points out, 'has often been viewed very incorrectly, as if we could be obliged to do this or that, which otherwise we would not have needed to do, for the sake of a good example.'[27] That which I am commanded {215} to do I must do for its own sake without regard to its effect upon others. Esteem can be neither outwardly compelled nor artistically produced; it manifests itself voluntarily and spontaneously. A modern novelist[28] ironically exposes this form of altruism by putting into the mouth of one of her characters the remark, 'I always make a point of going to church in order to show a good example to the domestics.' At the same time no one can withhold one's influence; and while the supreme motive must be, not to make a display, but to please God, he who is faithful to his station and its duties cannot fail to affect his fellow-men for good. The most effective example is given unconsciously, as the rose exhales its sweetest perfume without effort, or the light sheds its radiance simply by being what it is.

3. Duties in Relation to God.—Here morality runs up into religion, and indeed since all duties are in their last analysis duties toward God, Kant and other moralists have objected to the admission into Ethics of a special class of religious obligations. It has been well remarked that the genuine Christian cannot be known by particular professions or practices, but only by the heavenly spirit of his life.[29] Hence religious duty cannot be formulated in a number of precise rules. Love to God finds expression not in mechanical obedience, but in the spontaneous outflow of the heart. The special duties to the Divine Being may be briefly described under the main heads of Recognition, Obedience, and Worship.

(1) Recognition.—The acknowledgment of God rests upon knowledge. Without some comprehension of what God is there can be no intelligent allegiance to Him. We cannot, indeed, by logical reasoning demonstrate the existence of the Deity any more than we can demonstrate our own being. But He has not left Himself without a witness, and He speaks to man with many voices. The material creation is the primary word of God. The beauty, and still more the sublimity, of nature are a revelation through {216} matter of something beyond itself, a message of the spiritual, bearing 'authentic tidings of invisible things.' But nature is symbolic. It is a prophecy rather than an immediate revelation. Still it warrants the expectation of a yet fuller manifestation. That fuller utterance we have in man himself. There, spirit reveals itself to spirit; and in the two primary intuitions of man—self-consciousness and the sense of moral obligation—the presence of God is disclosed. But, higher still, the long historic evolution has culminated in a yet clearer manifestation of the Deity. In Christ, the God-Man, the mystery underlying and brooding over the world is unveiled, and to the eye of faith is revealed the Fatherhood of God.

The first duty, therefore, we owe to God is that of recognition, the acknowledgment of His presence in the world. To feel that He is everywhere, sustaining and vitalising all things; to recognise His will in all the affairs of our daily life, is at once the duty and blessedness of man.

(2) Obedience follows acknowledgment. It is partly passive and partly active.

(a) As passive, it takes the form of habitual trust or acquiescence, the submissive acceptance of trials which are ultimately, we believe, not really evils, because ordained by God and overruled for good.[30] This spirit of obedience can be maintained by constant vigilance alone.[31] While connected with the anticipated coming of the Son of Man, the obligation had a more general application, and may be regarded as the duty of all in the face of the unknown and unexpected in life. We are therefore to watch for any intimation of the divine will, and commit ourselves trustfully to the absolute disposal of Him in whose hands are the issues of our lives.

(b) But obedience has also an active side. Faithfulness is the complement of faith. The believer must exercise fidelity, and go forward with energy and purpose to the tasks committed to him. As stewards of Christ we are {217} to occupy till He come, employing every talent entrusted to us in His service. Work may be worship, and we can glorify God in our daily tasks. No finer tribute can a man give than simply himself.

(3) Worship.—The special duties of worship belong to the religious rather than the ethical side of life, and do not demand here more than a passing reference. The essence of religion lies in the subordination of the finite self to the infinite; and worship is the conscious outgoing of the man in his weakness and imperfection to his Maker, and it attains its fullest exercise in (a) reverence, humility, and devotion. The feeling of dependence and sense of need, together with the consciousness of utter demerit and inability which man realises as he gazes upon the majesty and grace of God, awaken the (b) instinct of prayer. 'It is the sublime significance of prayer,' says Wuttke, 'that it brings into prominence man's great and high destiny, that it heightens his consciousness of his true moral nature in relation to God; and as morality depends on our relation to God, prayer is the very life-blood of morality.'[32] The steadfast aspiration of the soul to God, whose will is our law and whose blessing is granted to whatsoever is done in His name, is the habitual temper of the Christian life. But prayer must also be particular, definite, and expectant. By a law of our nature, and apart from all supernatural intervention, prayer exercises a reflex influence of a very beneficial character upon the mind of the worshippers. But he who offers his petitions expecting nothing more will not even attain this. 'If prayers,' says Mr. Lecky, 'were offered up solely with a view to this benefit, they would be absolutely sterile and would speedily cease.'[33] The purely subjective view of prayer as consisting solely in 'beneficent self-suggestion' empties the term of significance. Even Frederick Meyers, who lays so much stress upon the importance of self-suggestion in other aspects of experience, admits that prayer is something more than a subjective {218} phenomenon. 'It is not only a calling up of one's own private resources; it must derive its ultimate efficacy from the increased flow from the infinite life into the life of the suppliant.'[34]

(c) Prayer attains its highest expression in Thanksgiving and Joy. Gratitude is the responsive feeling which wells up in the heart of those who have experienced the goodness of God, and recognise Him as the great Benefactor. Christians are to abound in thankfulness. We live in a world where everything speaks to us of divine love. Praise is the complement of prayer. The grateful heart sees life transfigured. It discovers everywhere tokens of grace and hope,

'Making the springs of time and sense Sweet with eternal good.'

Peace, trust, joy, hope are the ultimate notes of the Christian life. 'Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.' Thanksgiving, says St. Bernard, 'is the return of the heart to God in perpetual benediction.'

In the kingdom of love duty is swallowed up in joy. Life is nothing but the growing realisation of God. With God man's life begins, and to Him turns back at last in the wrapt contemplation of His perfect being. In fellowship with God man finds in the end both himself and his brother.

'What is left for us, save, in growth Of soul, to rise up, far past both, From the gift looking to the Giver, From the cistern to the river, And from the finite to the Infinity And from man's dust to God's divinity?'[35]

'God,' says Green, 'is a Being with whom we are in principle one, in the sense that He is all which the human spirit is capable of becoming.'[36] In the worship of God, {219} man dies to the temporal interests and narrow ends of the exclusive self, and lives in an ever-expanding life in the life of others, manifesting more and more that spiritual principle which is the life of God, who lives and loves in all things.[37]



[1] Paulsen, Ethics, bk. III. chap. i. Cf. also Wundt, Ethik, p. 148. But see also W. Wallace, Lectures and Essays, p. 325, on their confusion.

[2] Mackintosh, Chr. ethics, p. 114.

[3] Cf. Haering, Ethics of Chr. Life, p. 230.

[4] This seems to be the position of Herrmann; see Ethik.

[5] Cf. Eucken, Life's Basis, p. 185.

[6] Maccunn, Ethics of Citizenship, p. 40.

[7] Duties of Man, chap. i.

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