Morality as a Religion - An exposition of some first principles
by W. R. Washington Sullivan
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"Religion is Morality recognised as a Divine command." —IMMANUEL KANT

"The mind of this age has fallen away from theology to morals. I conceive it an advance." —EMERSON





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A recent work by M. Guyau was originally announced under the title of The Non-Religion of the Future, and, doubtless, an impression is generally prevalent that, with the modification or disappearance of traditional forms of Belief, the fate of Religion itself is involved.

The present volume is a plea for a reconsideration of the Religious question, and an inquiry as to the possibility of reconstructing Religion by shifting its basis from inscrutable dogmas to the unquestionable facts of man's moral nature. It is now some fifty years since Emerson wrote that "the progress of Religion is steadily towards its identification with Morals," and foretold "a new Church founded on Moral Science . . . the Church of men to come". It is more than a century since the immortal Immanuel Kant startled Europe by the betrayal of the immensity of the emotion whereby the contemplation of "man's sense of law" filled his soul, shedding henceforth an unfading glory about the ideal of Duty and Virtue, and elevating it in the strictest sense to the supreme height of Religion. What these men—the prophet and philosopher of the New Idealism—thought and did has borne fruit in the foundation in America, Great Britain and Ireland, in France, Germany, Austria and Italy, of Centres or Societies of Ethical Culture which assume as axiomatic that there is, there can be, no Religion but that which makes us one with the Moral Progress of Humanity, by incessant co-operation with "the Power that makes for Righteousness". If Religion be, what its name signifies, the unifying principle of mankind, in no other wise can we be possibly made One with each other and with the Universal Power than by so living as to secure the ends for which worlds and men exist. As the great Ethical prophet of the West expressed the truth: "My Father worketh even until now, and I also work". In such co-operation by moral life we place the very essence of Religion.

With a view to propagating such a conception of Religion, wholly based on Morality, a Society was founded in the autumn of the past year which assumed the title of "The Ethical Religion Society," and described itself as a branch of "The Ethical Church," "the Church of men to come," which is one day to emerge from the united efforts of all who believe in the everlasting "Sovereignty of Ethics," the unconditioned Supremacy of the Moral Law. The Ethical Movement is now beginning to spread in Europe and America. It is represented very largely in the United States, where, indeed, it was inaugurated some twenty years ago by Dr. Felix Adler, of New York; in Germany, by a score or more of Societies; in Italy, in Austria, in Hungary, and quite recently in France and Norway. London, of course, is represented by numerous Societies, and Ireland possesses one at Belfast. So far, there has been nothing definite accomplished towards a federation of these representative Bodies, though some preliminary steps have been taken in the formation of an international committee. The various Societies are quite independent, nor are their speculative opinions always in agreement. One only principle is universally and unreservedly acknowledged, namely, the absolute supremacy and independence of Morality, whatever philosophical differences may exist as to speculative matters connected therewith. The Movement stands for freedom. In certis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas.

As regards the Ethical Religion Society, which meets at Steinway Hall, Portman Square, and for which alone the present volume has any claim to speak, it may be said that it expresses the Ethical interpretation with which the teaching of Kant and Emerson, and the Idealist school generally, have made us familiar. During the year of its existence it may be said to have met a certain need, and to have gained numerous adherents from amongst those who, finding it impossible to "stand upon the old ways," were yet in need of an Idealism and an inspiration of life. The teaching given weekly at its Sunday Services is summarised in the following chapters, which are published under the impression that some information respecting a Body which is content to make the Moral life its ideal and reverence Conscience as "the highest, holiest" reality, may be welcome to religious idealists generally. The volume is altogether of an introductory character, and merely aims at conveying the central truth of Ethical Religion expressed by Immanuel Kant in the well-known words—Religion is Morality recognised as a Divine command. Morality is the foundation. Religion only adds the new and commanding point of view.







Some fifteen years ago a discussion was carried on in the pages of one of our leading monthlies on the profoundly important question, "The Influence on Morality of a Decline in Religious Belief". Men of every shade of opinion, from Roman Catholicism to Agnosticism, contributed their views, and, as might well have been expected, they came to the most contradictory conclusions. The Roman Catholic and Anglican writers appeared to think that the mere husk of morality would be left with the disappearance of Christianity; that a sort of enlightened epicureanism, a prudent animalism, would sway the greater part of mankind; in a word, that we should be "whited sepulchres," fair to look on without, but "inside full of dead men's bones, and all filthiness". The agnostic was no less certain that morality, which had outgrown the cumbrous garments manufactured by theology, would get on equally well in the handy raiment provided by science. The Rev. Dr. Martineau, speaking as a theistic philosopher, accurately delineated the boundaries of religion and morality, proceeded to show the untenableness of these two extreme positions, and nobly vindicated the complete autonomy or independence of ethics, whether of theological or scientific doctrines.

Before stating the views which an ethical society advocates as to the relations between religion and ethics, it would be very opportune to remark that in the symposium or discussion referred to, sufficient emphasis was not laid on an extremely important distinction which should be borne in mind when we estimate the comparative importance of religion and ethics. It is this. Religion, to ninety-nine out of every hundred men who talk about it, does not mean religion in its genuine character, but philosophy. A man's religion is merely a synonym for the reasoned explanation of the universe, of man, and their destiny, which he has learnt from the particular ecclesiastical organisation to which he belongs. Thus, the Christian religion means to the Anglican the Bible as interpreted by the Thirty-nine Articles; to the Dissenter, the same book, as interpreted by some confession, such as the Westminster, the Calvinistic, or the like. To the Roman Catholic it is synonymous with what has been, and what in future may be, the verdict of a central teaching corporation whose judgment is final and irrevocable. Similarly, religion for the Mohammedan is the precise form which his founder gave it, whilst the Buddhist is equally persistent in upholding the version of Sakya Mouni. Now, it is plain that religion itself is one definite thing, and cannot be made to cover a multiplicity of contradictory statements. What, then, are these Catholic, Protestant, Mohammedan and Buddhist religions? They are not religions at all: they are merely philosophies, or systematised accounts of God, the world, and of man, which have obtained large support in earlier stages of the world's history. Religion itself is a thing apart from these ephemeral forms in which it has been made to take shape. It is the great sun of reality, whose pure and authentic radiance has been decomposed in the spectrum of the human brain, each man seizing on an individual ray of broken light and making that the sum and substance of his belief.

Our little systems have their day, They have their day and cease to be; They are but broken lights of Thee, And Thou, O Lord, art more than they.

It is the aim of this movement, for the establishment of ethical religion, to re-discover to man's wondering eyes the imperishable beauty of a religion allied to no transitory elements, wrapped up in no individual philosophy, bounded by no limitations of time, place or race, but ever the self-same immutable reality, though manifesting itself in most diverse ways, the sense of the infinite in man, and the communion of his spirit with that alone.

Speak to Him, thou, for He hears, and spirit with spirit can meet, Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands or feet.

What has philosophy, creed or council to say to that high and ennobling conception? Shall "articles" and "confessions" venture to intrude there in the innermost sanctuary of man's spiritual being and dictate to him what he shall hold or not hold of a reality about which he alone is conscious? What has the conflict about the Hebrew cosmogony, of Genesis, baptismal regeneration, or the validity of orders to do with that serene peace in which religion alone can dwell? It were profanity surely to intrude such strife of words in a sanctuary so sacred as that.

One of our saddest thoughts as we reflect on the "little systems," so called, of the day, must be that they have so inconceivably belittled religion, tearing away that veil of reverence which should ever enshrine the Holy of Holies. The only atmosphere in which religion can really live is one of intense reverence, and when we hear of revivals, pilgrimages, elaborate ritualism (I am afraid Emerson describes it as "peacock ritual"), we may safely doubt whether the soul of religion be there. It is an excitement, a large advertisement for one or other of the many ecclesiastical corporations of the age, but where is the lonely communing with the Unseen, as revealed in the story of Jesus or the Buddha? The reason why Jesus is so fascinating a memory to his church disciples is that he is so wholly unlike them. So little is there really spiritual and suggestive of the higher life in what is exclusively ecclesiastical, that in their best moments men instinctively turn away from it, and find inspiration and peace in quiet thoughts about the Master, who said, "The Kingdom of God," that is the kingdom of righteousness, or the ethical church, "cometh not with observation," and "The Kingdom of God is within you". The more inward religion is, the less formalism it employs, the more ethical it becomes, the nearer it approaches the ideal of the great Master. A pure and saintly inspiration, an ennobling and yet subduing influence, a solemn stillness and hushing of the senses that would contend for mastery, an odour blown from "the everlasting hills," filling life with an indescribable fragrance; such is religion as professed and taught by Jesus, and such is the ideal of the Church of Emerson, builded on the purified emotions of the human heart.

Perhaps I have now indicated what I mean by religion, "pure and undefiled," though I know too well what truth lies hid in those words of the "Over-soul," "Ineffable is the union of man and God in every act of the soul". The spoken word does but suggest, and that faintly, what the inner word of the soul expresses on matters so sublime. Still, so far as the limitations of thought and speech permit, we have shown how religion is the communion of man's spirit with the "Over-soul," the baring of his heart before the immensities and eternities which encompass him, the deep and beautiful soliloquy of the soul in the silence of the Great Presence.

Draw, if thou canst, the mystic line Severing rightly His from thine, Which is human, which Divine. —Conduct of Life.

Let us now pass on to inquire what are the relations between religion so conceived and ethics or morality. In the first place, it must be laid down as clearly as words will permit that religion and morality should always be conceived as separate realities. Of course, there can be no such thing as religion "pure and undefiled" without morality or right conduct; nevertheless, the two words connote totally distinct activities of the soul of man. We shall best explain our meaning by pointing to the obvious fact that there have not been wanting men in all times who have exhibited an almost ideal devotion to duty without betraying any sympathy whatsoever with religious emotion such as has been described. They have no sense of the infinite, as others have no sense of colour, art or music, and in nowise feel the need of that transcendent world wherein the object of religion is enshrined. I should say that the elder Mill was such a man, and his son, John Stuart Mill, until the latter years of his life, when his views appear to have undergone a marked change. Some of his disappointed friends ascribed the change to the serious shock he suffered at his wife's death. There may possibly be truth in that opinion; "the winnowing wings of death" often bring about a searching change. No one yet has ever been able to seriously live up to the Hedonistic rule, "eat and drink for to-morrow we die". If death were announced, the very last thing man would do would be to eat and make merry.

However, it is notoriously possible to "bring forth fruits of righteousness," or, to use modern language, to live the good life, without seeking any help from that world of the ideal in which religion lives. This teaching, of course, is diametrically opposed to that of the Churches, who lay it down almost as an axiom that without such extraneous assistance as "grace," generally conveyed in answer to direct supplication, or through the mystery of Sacramental agencies, such as Baptism or the Lord's Supper, it is fairly impossible to keep the moral law. To the credit of humanity, this dark theology has been falsified by results in countless instances, and never more frequently than to-day. Men whose names are in the mouth of everybody have lived and died in the enjoyment not merely of the esteem, but of the reverent admiration of their age, whose lives were wholly uninspired by religious motives. I need only mention Charles Darwin, and when we remember that not even sectarianism ventured to dispute his right to rest within the hallowed precincts of an abbey-cathedral, ecclesiastics themselves must be fast forgetting the deplorable narrowness of old views which made morality and dogmatism inter-dependent terms.

Nevertheless, it must be conceded, and such men as I have spoken of were the first to admit it, that lives such as these are necessarily imperfect. The stunting or the atrophy of the religious instinct, the hunger and thirst for something beyond the sphere of sense when left totally unsatisfied, produces at length a restless, tormented feeling, which turns the very joy of existence to sadness, and dims the light of life. Such men may plunge into pleasure, absorb themselves in their books or research, wear and waste themselves in the making of wealth, and for a time they are satisfied. But the imperious craving reasserts itself at length; there is the cry of the soul for some lost inspiration, some transfiguring influence to soften the hard way of life, console a lonely hour, comfort a bereavement, inspire that tenderness and sympathy, without which we are scarcely even human. One remembers Darwin's sorrowful admission, that the deadening of his spiritual instincts left him incapable of enjoying, or even tolerating, the rhythm of the poet's verse. The world has heard the note of weariness with which Mr. Spencer absolved himself from further effort on behalf of science and man. The late Prof. Romanes, in his volume entitled A Candid Examination of Theism, made the melancholy declaration that the admission of a philosophy of pure mechanism or materialism had, for him at least, "robbed the universe of its soul of beauty". In later years, as is well known, the same writer came to see things with other eyes. Mind took the place of force as the ultimate fact of creation, and with it the sun of loveliness returned once more.

Have we ever sufficiently reflected that the purely negative philosophy has done nothing for idealism in any shape or form? It has inspired no art, music or poetry. With nothing to draw upon but the blind whirl of infinite atoms and infinite forces, of which man is himself the haphazard and highest production, it has contented itself with the elementary work of destruction, without even attempting to dig the foundations for anything which it is proposed to erect in the place of what has been destroyed. "Scepticism," says Carlyle, "is, after all, only half a magician. She calls up more spectres than she can lay." Scepticism was, nay is, sometimes, a necessary attitude of the human mind. But man cannot live on doubt alone, and therefore, though we profoundly believe the possibility of living the good life independently of religious sanctions, we unhesitatingly affirm the deep need man has of religious emotion to satisfy the ineradicable instinct of his nature towards communion with the unseen world. Here are the words of a man who had exhausted the possibilities of life before he wrote them, conveying in the simplest, though most penetrating way, a most momentous truth: "Fecisti nos Domine ad Te, et irrequietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in Te". "Thou hast made us, O Lord, for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it find rest in Thee." And if we would have a modern commentary upon this saying of the fourth century writer, Augustine of Hippo, here are a few words of Victor Hugo, spoken in the French Parliament of the forties: "Dieu se retrouve a la fin de tout".

Before leaving this point, it would be well to complete the argument by distinctly stating that, as morality is possible without religion, religion—or rather we should call it religiosity—is possible without morality. This is a matter of very great importance, and what has been asserted will help us to understand the curious phenomena one meets with in all periods of the world's history—men and women, apparently of undeniable religious instincts, exhibiting a most imperfect appreciation of the far more weighty matters concerned with moral conduct. I am not speaking of downright hypocrites who make religion merely a cloak for the realisation of rascally designs. I speak rather of such individuals, who, while betraying a marked religious fervour, showing itself in assiduous attention at church services, proselytising, and religious propaganda generally, manifest on the other hand little or no delicacy or sensitiveness of conscience on purely ethical matters. Take for example such men as Torquemada and the inquisitors, or Calvin amongst the Protestants; take the orgies of sensuality which were the necessary accompaniment of much religious worship in Pagan times, and, if we may believe travellers, are not wholly dissociated with popular religion in India and China to-day. Or, again, take such a case as that of the directors of the Liberator Building Society, men whose prospectuses, annual reports, and even announcements of dividends, were saturated with the unction of religious fervour. Or, take the tradesman who may be a churchwarden or deacon at his church or chapel, but exhibits no scruples whatever in employing false weights, and, worst of all, in adulterating human food. An incalculable amount of this sort of thing goes on, and, whether it be accurate or not I cannot say, it is often ascribed to small dealers in small towns and villages, "pillars of the church," as a rule, which they may happen to attend.

Now, in all these cases there is no need to suppose conscious hypocrisy. Unconscious, possibly; but, though the heart of man be inscrutable, we need not necessarily believe that such phenomena are open evidence of wilful self-deceit. The far truer explanation is, that religious emotion is one thing and moral emotion quite another. The late chairman of the Liberator Building Company, I can well conceive, was a fervent and devoted adherent of his sect, and was not consciously insincere, when, in paying dividends out of capital, he ascribed his prosperity to the unique care of a heavenly providence which especially occupied itself about all he personally undertook. The rascality of Saturday was entirely forgotten on Sunday, when, with bowed head, he recited his metaphysical creed or received the parting blessing. The Sunday service, the surpliced choir, those melting hymns, the roll of the organ's mysterious tones throughout the holy edifice, the peculiar sense of spiritual well-being and prosperity which it all combined to produce was probably a joy of his life, and by no means the meanest. The mischief was that he had no moral sense, and the word honesty and duty connoted nothing real to his mis-shapen mind. He was a morally deficient being.

Now, the ethical Church has come for this great purpose, to make us see the repulsiveness of a religion of that kind, to assure every man that no religious services, any more than the eager subscription of antiquated formularies, constitute the essence of religion. That is built on the moral law, and unless it come as the crown and glory of a life of duty, then that religion is a shameful thing, the sacrilegious degradation of the highest and holiest thing on earth. It has come, this ethical Church, to reinforce the wholly forgotten teaching of the Hebrew prophets of the utter emptiness of all religion devoid of moral life, the vanity of sacrifices, oblations and rites, the hollowness of formularies, creeds and confessions, the indispensable necessity of an ethical basis for all religious belief and practice. "What more," asks Micah, "doth the Lord require of thee than to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

It has come also to indicate the true relations between ethics and religion. Ethics are truly the basis on which religion is built, but when once the sacred edifice is fully raised, a beautiful reaction is set up (at least in the ideal good life), and religion becomes one of the strongest incentives to a dutiful and virtuous life. This is the explanation of the truly ideal lives lived by men and women of deep personal religion, in all sects and creeds, European and Asiatic. This, too, is the justification of that oft-repeated and profoundly true saying, that all good men and women belong to the same religion. It is to that one true, pure, and aboriginal religion we wish to get back, in which we discover the best ally of morality, the all-powerful incentive to a life wholly devoted to duty and the service of the human brotherhood. The allegory of the Last Judgment, as it is called, as depicted by Jesus himself in the Gospel according to Matthew, emphasises this ethical truth in words of great solemnity. The sheep and the goats are distinguished, not by the possession or non-possession of miraculous spiritual powers, professions of belief or Church membership, but by the humble devotion exhibited to suffering humanity, and steadfast perseverance in the path of duty. How was it possible, we ask again and again, for such a religion as that to be transformed into the thing of shreds and patches of bad philosophy as set forth in the Nicene and Athanasian Creed?

Forget all that, we would fain exhort men, forget all but the words that made music on the Galilean hills, the life "lived in the loveliness of perfect deeds," the veritable exemplar of a religion founded on the moral sentiment. To be touched by the influence of religious emotion is to approach in greater or less degree to the image and character of Christ. To live a life of devotion to duty, however humble our station may be, is to range ourselves, with that great Master of ethics, on the side of an eternal order of righteousness which can never fail. It is to work with that soul of reason dominating everything in the animate and inanimate world, to co-operate with it towards the fulfilment of those high ends which are predestined for humanity. Every man must make his choice. Either he will ally himself with all that makes for moral advancement—his own, that of others, and consequently of the world—or he will fight for the powers of retrogression and decay. He will live for the hour and its momentary pleasures, fight for his own hand alone, forget mercy and pity, seldom think, never reflect, and at length, sated and yet dissatisfied with all he has experienced, sink impotently and ignobly into the grave. Immanuel Kant lays it down as an axiom that the moral law must inevitably be fulfilled one day in every individual human being. It is the destiny of man to be one day perfect. What a searching change must sometime pass over those who have taken the wrong side in this earth-life, who have helped on the process of disintegration, and contrived to leave the world worse than they found it! They fight for a losing cause: they lose themselves in fighting for it.

It has been said, I have heard it said myself, that "ethics are cold". Possibly to some they are; but at any rate they are grave and solemn when they hold language such as this to the pleasure-loving, the light-hearted, and the indifferent. To tell a man to do his duty in spite of all, to love the good life irrespectively of any reward here or hereafter, may sound cold after the dithyrambics of the Apocalypse or the Koran, but of one thing we are assured by the experience of those who have made the trial of it themselves, that any man who "will do the doctrine," that is, live the life, shall know at once "whether it be of God"—that alone is the unspeakable peace, passing all understanding.

But ethics are not alone. As I have endeavoured to point out, religious emotion which grows out of the moral sentiment is the most powerful stimulus towards the realisation of the good life, and I consequently urged the supreme value of true religion, as both satisfying the emotional side of man's nature and stimulating him towards that sacrifice of self—that taking up of a "cross," as Jesus put it—which in some measure is indispensably necessary for the attainment of character.

But I in no wise concede that ethics are "cold"; I in no wise admit they are uninspiring. The consciousness that a man possesses of being one with the great Power of the universe in making for righteousness is surely an overwhelming thought. If man would but think, he would come to feel with Emerson "the sublimity of the moral laws," their awful manifestation of the working of infinite mind and power, and of man's nearness to, or rather oneness with, that Power, when he obeys them. He would come to thrill with an indescribable emotion with Kant, as he thinks of the infinite dignity to which fellowship with those mysterious laws elevates him. He would realise the truth of the solemn words:—

Two things fill me with ceaseless awe, The starry heavens, and man's sense of law.

Ethics cold! Then what else is left to inspire to us? We are bankrupt. What is there in all the Churches to help humanity if not their ethics—ethics which are not the perquisite of any sect, no mere provincialism of any Church or nation, but the heirloom of mankind?

What, we ask, is there to cheer the heart in the Thirty-nine Articles, the Vatican decrees, or the Westminster Confession? What mysterious inspiration lurks in the dogmas of the Oriental councils of 1600 years ago, dogmas to be believed to-day under peril of perishing everlastingly? We do not concede that the ethical Church has no message to the heart, no comfort for the emotions, no solace to the deeply tried and afflicted. A Church which preaches the imperishability of every good deed, the final and decisive victory of the good; which reveals to us not only mind, but beneficence, as the character of the supreme Power in the universe; which bids us remember that as that Power is, so are we, moral beings to our heart's core, and, in consequence, to take the place which belongs to us at the side of the infinite righteousness for the furtherance of the good—such a Church, such a religion is not destitute of enthusiasm and inspiration. A philosophy such as this, a religion such as this, will one day sweep the English-speaking countries in a tempest of enthusiasm. It will be welcomed as the final settlement of the conflicting claims of mind and heart in man, the reconciliation of the feud too long existing between religion and science. Everything points to its immense future. Within the churches its principles are tacitly accepted as irrefutable. We claim such men as Stanley, Maurice and Jowett as preachers of the ethical Church, and their numbers are increasing every year among the cultured members of the Anglican clergy. Leading men of science are no longer committed to a purely negative philosophy, while one and all would be prepared to admit that if religion we are to have it must be one in complete harmony with the moral sentiment in the best men; in other words, a Church founded on moral science, the ideal of the saintly Jesus, and of all the prophets of the race.

NOTE.—"I can conceive the existence of a Church in which, week by week, services should be devoted, not to the iteration of abstract propositions in theology, but to the setting before men's minds of an ideal of true, just and pure living: a place in which those who are weary of the burden of daily cares should find a moment's rest in the contemplation of the higher life which is possible for all, though attained by so few; a place in which the man of strife and of business should have time to think how small after all are the rewards he covets compared with peace and charity. Depend upon it, if such a Church existed, no one would seek to disestablish it."—HUXLEY. I know not what better words could be chosen wherewith to describe the ethical Church.



Since the era of the re-birth of learning, each successive century has been generally distinguishable by some marked intellectual development, by some strong movement which has taken deep hold of the minds of men. Thus the Renascimento period was followed by the century of the Reformation, and that again by the inauguration of the era of modern philosophy, while the eighteenth century has been claimed as the Saeculum Rationalisticum, the age of rationalism, in which the claims of reason were pushed to the forefront in the domains of religion and politics. Nothing remained after that but an age of physical science, and surely enough has been given us in the nineteenth century which may with equal accuracy be termed the Saeculum Scientificum.

It cannot be doubted that a sort of mental intoxication has been set up as a result of the extraordinary successes which have rewarded the efforts of scientific investigators. Everything now-a-days is expressed in terms of science and its formulae. Evolution is the keynote to the learning of the age. Thus Mr. Spencer's system of the Synthetic Philosophy is a bold and comprehensive attempt to take up the whole knowable, and express it anew in the language of development. It is emphatically, professedly, the philosophy of evolution, the rigid application of a purely scientific formula to everything capable of philosophical treatment. Now, having discussed the question of ethics and religion, their distinction and their intimate relations; having shown how that religion comes as the crown and glory of the ethical life, the transfiguration of the ethical ideal and the most powerful stimulus towards the realisation in practice of what is conceived as theoretically desirable, it remains for us to complete our treatment of this aspect of the ethical problem and determine the relations existing between morals and science.

This question we conceive to be of vital importance. Just as we must be inexorable in refusing to base our ethic on religion, and still less on theology, so must we be equally determined in repudiating the claim often put forward, that morality is a department of physics, or in any way founded on physical science. The scientific professor, feeling the ground strong under his feet, and sure of the applause of his very numerous public, has made a bold bid for the control of the moral order. He has made a serious attempt to capture the ethical world, and to coerce morality into obedience to the inflexible formulae of physics. The evolutionist, in particular, is consumed with an irresistible desire to stretch the ethical ideal on his procrustean couch and to show how, like everything else, it has been the subject of painfully slow growth and development, and that when the stages of that growth have been accurately ascertained by research into the records of the past, the essence of morality is fully explained. Originally non-extant, it has become at length, after aeons of struggle, the chief concern of man, the "business of all men in common," as Locke puts it, all of which philosophy is tantamount to saying, that morality is merely a flatter of history. When you know its history, you know everything, very much as a photographer might claim to exhaustively know an individual man, because he had photographed him every six months from his cradle to his grave. A very inadequate philosophy of ethic, this.

But, before coming to close quarters with this extremely interesting problem, I would protest that we are sincere in our loyalty and enthusiasm for physical science, sincere in our deep admiration for its chief exponents. We claim to be students of the students of nature, for, after all, nature herself is the great scientist. The secrets are all in her keeping. The All-Mother is venerable indeed in the eyes of every one of us. "The heated pulpiteer" may denounce modern science as the evil genius of our day, the arch-snare of Satan for the seduction of unwary souls and the overthrow of Biblical infallibility, but we are not in that galley. As true sons of our age, we are loyal to its spirit, and that spirit is scientific. The late Professor Tyndall said of Emerson, the veritable prophet and inspiration of ethical religion: "In him we have a poet and a profoundly religious man, who is really and entirely undaunted by the discoveries of science, past, present and prospective, and in his case poetry, with the joy of a bacchanal, takes her graver brother science by the hand, and cheers him with immortal laughter. By Emerson scientific conceptions are continually transmuted into the finer forms and warmer lines of an ideal world." It is in no spirit, therefore, of hostility to physical science or her methods that we venture to point out that the term science is not synonymous with experimental research. The most brilliant work of Darwin, Kelvin or Edison in no wise alters the fact that there are more things in heaven and earth than are revealed by their microscopes or decomposed in their crucibles. Mental science, and above all moral or ethical science, have a claim to be heard as well as physics. Philosophy, strictly speaking, working by the light, not of the senses, as does physical science, but by the higher light of the intelligence alone, must be reckoned with by the thoughtful man. Yet this is precisely what so many of the lesser luminaries of science, the popularisers of the great discoveries made by other and greater men, appear to be wholly unable to see. They have borrowed their foot-rule for the mensuration of the universe, and they apply it indiscriminately. Everything, from the dead earth to the glowing inspiration of the prophet's soul, must be labelled in terms of that infallible instrument. If it cannot be reduced to their exiguous standard, so much the worse for it. Science, or rather "the heated pulpiteer" of science (for these inflammatory gentlemen are found both in the pulpit and at the rostrum), can take no account of it, and that settles the matter once for all.

We may proceed to offer a few illustrations of the attempt of the scientist to capture the domain of ethics. The late Professor Huxley, of whom we would speak with all the respect due to his high position as a scientific expositor, roundly asserts that "the safety of morality is in the keeping of science," meaning, of course, physical science. The same authority considers science a far "better guardian of morality than the pair of old shrews, philosophy and theology," in whose keeping he evidently thinks everybody, not a scientist, believes morality to rest. The teaching of such men as Mr. Spencer, Mr. Bain, and Mr. Leslie Stephen, though they lack the vigour and picturesqueness of Mr. Huxley's unique style, comes to much the same thing. Under the extraordinary delusion that all the world, excepting a few enlightened scientific men, believes morality to be under the tutelage of a "pair of shrews," to wit, philosophy and theology, they at once proceed to fly to the opposite extreme error, and to proclaim that it is under the guardianship of physical science. We have already satisfied ourselves that morality is not based on religion, but contrariwise that religion is built on the sanctified emotions of the human heart, that is on the moral ideal—"a new church founded on moral science"—and as to theology, I should not waste my time in attempting to show that morality is not based on that. But it will be worth our while to show that Mr. Huxley and his brethren are under a serious misapprehension when they suppose that having dispossessed theology of a property which no sane man believes it ever possessed, they are at once entitled to appropriate the same themselves in the name of physical science. We shall see that there is a third claimant in the field of whom the extremists on either side appear to have lost sight, and that when the case is fully set forth a verdict in its favour will be inevitable. Meanwhile, let us look at the scientific claim. Is the criterion of conduct in the custody of the scientific experimenter? If a man wanted to know whether a certain act was good, bad or indifferent, such a course of conduct permissible or not, is he to consult the biologist or the chemist?

I venture to affirm, in language of the most explicitness, that physical science can know absolutely nothing about morality; that ethics are a matter of profound indifference to it, that, as Diderot, the encyclopaedist—certainly not suspect in such matters—says, "To science there can be no question of the unclean or the unchaste". You might as well ask a physician for an opinion about law as to put a case of conscience before an astronomer.

There has been, as a matter of fact, an extraordinary amount of loose thinking concerning the precise relations between science, ethics and religion. The churches, having become irretrievably discredited in their doctrinal teaching (their very ministers, in the persons of Stanley and Jowett, openly avowing disbelief in their articles and creeds), religion has come to be looked upon as a sort of no man's land, and therefore the legitimate property of the first occupier. Science, as the enterprising agency par excellence of the century, has stepped in, and in claiming to exhaustively explain religion, virtually claims to have simultaneously annexed morality, erroneously looked upon as a department of religion.

But a little more careful thinking ought to convince the most eager of the advance-agents of physical science that the discipline they serve so loyally is altogether unconcerned with the moral life, and wholly incompetent to deal with its problems. Mr. Frederic Harrison once asked, and with extreme pertinence, what the mere dissector of frogs could claim to know of the facts of morality and religion? Positively nothing, as such, and in their more sober moments "the beaters of the drum" scientific would appear to be well aware of the fact. For instance, Mr. Huxley himself, oblivious of all he had claimed in the name of physical science, asked with surprise, in what laboratory questions of aesthetics and historical truth could be tested? In what, indeed? we may well ask. And yet the physical science which is avowedly incapable of deciding the comparatively insignificant matters of taste and history is prepared to take over with the lightest of hearts the immense burden of morality and to become the conscience-keeper, I had almost said the Father Confessor, of humanity! I imagine Mr. Huxley himself would have shrunk before the assumption of such responsibility.

But let us approach the matter more closely. To physical science, one act is precisely the same as another; a mere matter of molecular movement or change. You raise your arm, you think with the energy and profundity of a Hegel; to the physicist it is all one and the same thing—a fresh distribution of matter and motion, muscular contraction, and rise and fall of the grey pulp called brain. A burglar shoots a policeman dead and the public headsman decapitates a criminal. To physical science, those two acts differ in no respect. They are exercises of muscular energy, expenditure of nervous power, the effecting of molecular change, and there the matter ends. But surely, you would urge, the scientist would discriminate between those two acts. Most assuredly. The one he would reprobate as immoral, and the other he would approve as lawful. But, be it carefully noted, he would do this, not as a scientist, but as a citizen respecting law and order and upholding good government based on morality and justice. As a moralist, then, but not as a scientist does he pass judgment, for there is no experimental science which deals with such matters. Physics concerns itself solely with what it can see and handle—nothing else. The actions, therefore, of right and wrong, justice and injustice, morality and immorality are simply unintelligible to it, just as unintelligible as they are to the most highly developed animal. It is the fully developed mind or intelligence alone which apprehends the sublime conception of duty, and the indefeasible claims which it has upon the allegiance of the will, and, in consequence, the scientist who denounces injustice and iniquity is no longer on the tripod of the professor, but in the rostrum of the ethical teacher. If I may say so, it supplies us with an admirable illustration of a quick-change performance. The same man performs a double part, and so adroitly is the change managed, that the performer himself is deceived into thinking that he is still the scientist, whereas he has become for the moment the moral professor. But he did not acquire that new teaching in the laboratory; he learnt it in the study.

But there is distinctly one point of close contact between science and morality, which we must not omit to point out. Physical science, particularly physiology, from its intimate acquaintance with the human organism, is admirably adapted for the function of a danger-signal, so to speak, to warn the ignorant and indifferent that a life undisciplined and ill-regulated cannot but end in irretrievable disaster. It thus most powerfully subserves the ends of private and individual morality, just as historical science, which, as Professor Huxley accurately noted, can in no wise be tested in a retort or a crucible, can point the moral when the lawless actions of public bodies or nations threaten the foundations upon which society rests. The physiologist can preach a sermon of appalling severity to the drunkard; he can describe internal and external horrors (as certain to ensue in the victim's case, as night follows day), compared with which the imaginings of a Dante are comparatively tame. He can likewise depict a deplorable future of disease and decay as reserved for the vicious. He can point to a veritable Gehenna strewn with the corpses of unnumbered victims. He can prove to demonstration, if we listen to him, that no organisation such as ours can resist the awful strain put upon it by the poison of alcohol, and the enervating results of an undisciplined existence. "Reform," he can tell us, "or go to perdition;" and most valuable his sermon will be.

Would that men, so favourably endowed with this intimate knowledge of the intricacy of the workings of our bodily frame, so utilised their great powers in the service of ethics, pointing out to the reckless transgressor what a scourge nature has in store for him, what indescribable disasters he is preparing for himself by his audacity in venturing to break her holy laws. In the Church which is to be, "the Church of men to come," the scientist will fill this very role. As the best interpreter of nature, he will be most fitly chosen to discourse to us of nature's laws. The priests of humanity in days to be will not be consecrated by a magical transmission of imaginary powers, but by their ascertained capacity to open a door in heaven and earth and reveal to us the secret workings of the Soul of the World. We shall meet in united worship in the great cathedrals, but no more to repeat the dead formulae of a past which is gone, but to hear the living word of to-day, the last revelation the Supreme has made, be it through the mouth of poet, prophet, philosopher or scientist. Then, and only then, shall the Catholic or Universal Church be born, "coming down out of heaven from God," visibly embracing all humanity, because excluding none prepared to subscribe the aboriginal creed of the supremacy of ethic, the everlasting sovereignty of the moral law.

But while we candidly acknowledge the priceless services which science can render to morality in the way indicated, this in no way warrants our assenting to Mr. Huxley's dictum that science is the guardian of morality. As a matter of fact, science points at the deplorable results of excess without any regard to morality whatsoever. She announces them as definite facts, as certain as to-morrow's sunrise, because she is intimately acquainted with the human organisation and the laws which control it. But she ventures on no opinion as to the moral worth of the acts in question; she registers results and there her work ends. If the scientist does happily go farther, and point out that conduct conducing to such disastrous consequences must be irredeemably bad in itself, he is doing most praiseworthy work, but he is no longer the scientist. He has slipped off his tripod, and is repeating the lesson of the moralist. Let us suppose the acts in question were not followed by unfortunate results. Say, for example, that by uttering a falsehood, by altering a figure in a will, or on a draft, one could inherit a fortune, what physical science could prevent our doing so, or instruct us as to the honesty or dishonesty of the contemplated action? Put thus, we see at a glance that the matter is outside the province of science, and quite beyond its jurisdiction. Morality, therefore, so far from being in the custody of science, has nothing whatsoever to do with it, but belongs to an entirely different order, and is ascertained by totally different methods.

If one would know the origin of the theory we are at present freely criticising, it can be indicated in a moment. The most ordinary induction has satisfied men that, in the long run, the Hebrew singer is right when he says, "The way of transgressors is hard". Wrong-doing and calamity are inseparably connected. Those laws, through which the voice of the Supreme is ever heard, are so intertwined in their action, that the infraction of one leads to the infliction of retributive punishment by the other. We break a moral law, the physical law will take up its cause, and we suffer. We have come, I say, to see the universal validity of this rule, the absolute irresistibility of the laws under which we live. Hence, a shallow judgment has been hastily framed that you may always judge of the morality of an act by the consequences it produces. If the results are good, then the action is good; if evil, then the action is adjudged bad. This is, in substance, the Benthamite or utilitarian ethic, Bentham roundly maintaining that crime is nothing but a miscalculation, an error in arithmetic. It is the failure of a man to count the cost, to weigh the results of what he is about to do. That being the case, the scientist being persuaded that utility and pleasure make an action good, and uselessness and pain make it bad, he was able to conclude at a stroke that one action differs only from another in the results it produces, and that since science was admirably equipped to take stock of results through its statistical bureau, she, and not the hideous old shrews, theology and philosophy, was the rightful protectress of morality.

But we, who believe with Immanuel Kant, that the "All's well that ends well theory" has no place in morality, refuse to recognise that the character of an action is determined solely by the results it produces. We believe that some actions are intrinsically good, and others intrinsically bad, totally irrespective of the good or evil they may effect. We believe with the Stoics and with Jesus that evil may be consummated in the heart without any evil results appearing at all. We believe that thoughts of envy, hatred, malice, are in themselves bad, irrespective of results, that such a thing as slander is ipso facto stamped as irredeemably bad long before any of its evil consequences may be manifest. We look not so much to consequence, but to the intention of the doer, and the intrinsic nature of the action performed. Pleasure and pain considerations are the last things we take into account when we weigh an action in the scales of justice. The theory is therefore hopelessly inadequate to our needs; it breaks in our hands when we attempt to use it, and, consequently, we refuse our assent to the proposition that because science can occasionally predict results she is therefore entitled to patronise ethics.

The truth is, that ethics need no such patronage. Neither the theologian nor the scientist is essential to their well-being. Ethics are beholden to neither of the two claimants who dispute the honour of their parentage and protection. They rest on that alone on which everything in this miraculous universe, science itself included, ultimately rests, the reason which is at the heart of things. The moral law, the sanction of the eternal distinction between right and wrong, a distinction valid before the very whisperings of science, aye, and of the voice of men were heard upon this earth, is, to the stately and impressive system of Emerson and Kant, the first-born of the eternal Reason itself, the very apprehensible nature of the Most High, which, the more men grow in the moral life, the more they recognise for his inner-most character and nature. Things are what they are, and actions are what they are, not because of the ephemeral judgments of a tribe or nation of men, but because they cannot be otherwise than they are, good or bad in themselves, judged solely by reference to that everlasting law of righteousness, the aboriginal enactment of the Eternal.

Men point to the growth and development of the moral sentiment in man, they show how he has grown from savagery to civilisation, and think therein that they have explained everything. They are like the photographer I spoke of above. They have found out the history of ethics, and they think there is nothing more to know. Far from it. Identically the same might be said of music and logic. Man once beat a tom-tom, and now he writes operas and oratorios. He once rambled, now he reasons. Will any sane man delude himself into believing that music and logic are nothing more in themselves but the history of the successive stages through which they have naturally and inevitably passed? Neither then is ethic and the moral law. It is not man's creation, it is not his handiwork. It is no mere provincialism of this dwindling sphere of ours, but a fact and a law supreme, holding sway beyond the uttermost star, valid in infinity and eternity, at this hour, the sovereign law of life for whatsoever or whomsoever lives and knows, the adamantine foundation upon which all law, civilisation, religion and progress are built.

"This is," says Burke in his magnificent language, "that great immutable pre-existent law, prior to our devices, and prior to all our sensations, antecedent to our very existence, by which we are knit and connected in the eternal frame of the universe, out of which we cannot stir." And not only Burke, but centuries before him, the great Roman orator, in language equally sublime, professed his enthusiastic belief in that same law, which "no nation can overthrow or annul; neither a senate nor a whole people can relieve us from its injunctions. It is the same in Athens and in Rome, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."



In the present chapter we propose to discuss the gravest of all the grave problems which gather round the central conception of ethic as the basis of religion. There are, it may be said, two great schools which hold respectively the doctrines which may be not unfitly described as the significance and the insignificance, or rather, non-significance of ethics. The latter school, which is that of Bentham, Mill and Spencer, is content to take ethic as a set of formulae of utility which man has, in the course of his varied experience, discovered to be serviceable guides of life. There is no binding force in them; the idea of a conscience "trembling like a guilty thing surprised" because it has broken one of these laws, the hot flush of shame which seems to redden the very soul at the sense of guilt, the agony of remorse so powerful as sometimes to send the criminal self-confessed and self-condemned to his doom, is all said to be part of an obsolete form of speculation. There is merely "a feeling of obligation," such as an animal may experience which is harnessed to a waggon or a load, but any real obligation, authoritatively binding on the conscience of man, is repudiated in terms.

Now this teaching I venture to describe as the insignificant ethic, the ethic which connotes nothing beyond the "feeling of obligation," and refuses to recognise in morality anything but a series of hints casually picked up, as to how mankind should behave in order to score in the game of life.

The significant ethic, on the other hand, discerns in the law of morality the pathway into the transcendental world, the realm of reason beyond the boundaries of the sense. It sees in morality the basis of religion; it discovers the fact of man's freedom to conform or not to conform to the eternal law; it unveils the reality of life beyond this earth-stage of existence, and last and chiefest of all, it discerns, in the words of Immanuel Kant, "a natural idea of pure theism" in the unmistakable reality of the moral law, from the very obvious fact that laws do not make themselves, but are enactments of reason or intelligence.

We propose, therefore, to address ourselves to the fundamental question—the question of questions—the being of a subsistent intelligence and a supreme moral will, responsible for man and all things, whom we in our own tongue name God, though it were more reverent to think and speak of the awful truth with Emerson, as the "Nameless Thought, the Super-personal Heart". We are to treat of theism, the philosophical, not the theological, term to designate the truth that the universe owes its existence to infinite Power and infinite Mind, and that morality is a fact because that Power is moral also. To quote Whittier's well-known lines, which express the essential truth of theism in words of exceeding simplicity combined with philosophic depth:—

By all that He requires of me I know what He Himself must be;

or, to quote the more vigorous, but equally common-sense statement of the facts by Carlyle: "It was flatly inconceivable to him (Frederick the Great) that moral emotion could have been put into him by an entity which had none of its own". And finally, we propose to speak of theism, thus defined, in its relations to ethics or moral science, the discipline which treats of human conduct and its conformity with a recognised law of life, the systematising of those principles of life which man has learned by reason and experience during the course of his sojourn in this sphere of existence.

Let us begin by some attempt at a definition of our terms. Ethics, I take it, we are agreed to consider as the science concerned with conduct; that is, with the actions of man in so far as they conform or do not conform with a standard of right, whatever that standard may be. Ethical, moral, morally good, right, we take to be synonymous terms. The word metaphysical male olet, no doubt. It is unpalatable, and is suggestive of, if not synonymous with, the unreal. However, I do not think we need be concerned now with the repute or disrepute of metaphysic generally, since we all are agreed that theism, or that reality for which theism stands, is in the super-sensible, super-experiential world, and therefore if theism is an implication of ethics at all, it is, of course, a metaphysical one. As to theism itself, things are not quite so clear, for the term covers, or may be made to cover, a number of philosophic systems which are not in harmony with one another. Thus the theism of the Hebrew Scriptures would possibly be atheism to Hegel, while the great idealist's position might be pantheism or worse to a High Church curate. To us theism means that at the ground of being, at the heart of existence, there is a self-subsistent reality which we call by the highest name we know, viz., reason or mind. "Before the chaos that preceded the birth of the heavens and the earth one only being existed, immense, silent, immovable, yet incessantly active; that being is the mother of the universe. I know not how this being is named, but I designate it by the word 'reason'." [1] Absolute, unconditioned intelligence is the Theos we acknowledge. This is the formulary of our philosophical creed, and as Luther fastened his forty theses to the doors of the Wuertemburg Cathedral, I affix my two humble propositions to the postern of the ethical church, namely, first, that "In the beginning was Mind," and next, that the moral law is the highest expression of that Mind. And, moreover, that as the mind in man is so ordered as to naturally proceed from the more known to the less known, from the ascertained fact of the moral law, we ascend to the source of the moral law, which, like all things, takes its rise in the apeiron, the Boundless of Anaximander, the Infinite of Mr. Spencer. Theism, then, as thus explained, one discerns as an implication of the indisputable fact of morality, of the sovereignty of ethic, of the indestructible supremacy of conscience.

And here one may be allowed to quote a singularly luminous passage from the Cours d'Histoire de la Philosophic Morale en 18eme Siecle of Victor Cousin, p. 318. "Kant remarks at this point," he says, "that we have no right to derive our moral ideas from the idea of God, because it is precisely from the moral ideas themselves that we are led to recognise a Supreme Being, the personification of absolute righteousness. Consequently, no-one may look upon the laws of morality as arbitrary enactments of the will of God. Virtue is not obligatory from the sole reason that it is a Divine ordinance; on the contrary, we only know it to be a law of God because it already commands our inward assent." This is essential Kantism, the gospel of the Critique of the Practical Reason, and the Religion within the Boundaries of mere Reason. Not ethics, then, from theism, but theism from ethics. Not morality from God, but God is known from and through morality.

Now, here we may be justified in remarking, by way of a preliminary indication of the truth, rather than of an argument, that the preponderant weight of modern philosophical authority is emphatically in favour of some such interpretation of ethic as Cousin sketches from Kant. Whatever the cry of "back to Kant" may actually mean, an idealist ethic is in the air of the schools of this country and America. I am not oblivious of such names as Spencer and Stephen, nor of Hoeffding or Gizycki abroad, but I think it undeniable that what we mean by the metaphysical implications of ethic commands the assent, not merely of the prophets of the church ethical, such as Emerson, Carlyle and Ruskin, but also of the rising men amongst us who are carrying on the philosophical traditions of the country. But passing by the argument from authority, let us approach the question from the standpoint of reason.

We may appeal, in the first place, to the truth implied in the very expression the Moral Law. But it must be explained that by the term moral law we do not mean a code of five, ten, or fifty commandments, but simply the expression of the ethical "ought," the announcement of the supreme fact of moral obligation in general, that is, the duty of unconditionally obeying the right when the right is known to us. It is no more the duty of the moral law to set about codifying laws than it is of the conscience to practise casuistry. Conscience is not a theoretical instructor, but a practical commander. The intelligence, the reason in man it is to which is allotted the function of formulating laws and of deciding what is and what is not in conformity with right. Once that is decided, according to its light, by the reason, then conscience steps in and authoritatively commands that the right is to be unconditionally obeyed. And this, of course, solves that venerable objection that conscience can be no guide because moral codes have changed and are changing, and are not alike in various ages and countries. Conscience has nothing to do with the excesses of Torquemada, or libidinous rites of Astarte. Reason was at fault, not conscience, and that supreme judge, misguided by the reason, appeared to give a false judgment, whereas, true to itself for ever, it simply pronounced in each and every instance, that the right must be obeyed. Like the needle in the compass, it undeviatingly points to the polar star of duty.

Let us proceed with our analysis of the conception of the moral law.

There are various schools of ethics, but they are all united in maintaining some obligatory force in morality, that whatever may be the precise meaning of the solemn word right, the right is binding on the allegiance of our will. Hence Emerson, of the rational school, is philosophically accurate when he deduces purity of heart, or uprightness of intention, and the law of gravitation from the same source. They are both laws, one valid in the spheres, the other valid among men, the one only difference being that whereas the spheres compulsorily obey the law of their existence, man by the noble obeisance of his will—an obeisance which, as Kant points out, raises him to an immeasurable dignity—voluntarily submits himself to his law, and thereby fulfils the purpose of his life.

Moreover, we must reflect, as the law of gravitation, which as physical beings we obey, is none of our making, but merely our discovery, so is the moral law, the eternal distinction between right and wrong, no creation of man's. He is born into a world not his own, and he finds himself surrounded by an order which is not within the sphere of his control. The law, for instance, of numbers, the law of thought, the facts of the universe, organic and inorganic, the bases on which he has erected what is compendiously called civilisation—are all provided otherwise than by his efforts. He is born into an order of reason which, by obedience to the law and light of reason within him, he has developed into the stately fabric of organised, social, political, intellectual, in a word, civilised life. But, I would repeat, the basic facts of this life are none of our creation; they are our discovery, and no more the invention of man than America is the invention of Columbus. Hence, with the master-poet of Hellas, we must acknowledge those—

agrapta kasphale theon nomima ou gar ti nun ge kachthes, all aei pote ze tauta, koudeis oiden ex otou phane—

the unwritten irresistible laws, ever-living, whose origin no one can tell.

It would be of no avail, I submit, to point out to Sophocles, as Spencer pointed out to Kant, that a knowledge of the early condition of man would have made short work of these sublimities, that the cosmical man was before the ethical man, in whom we discover very little evidence of these majestic laws of such universal and undeniable validity. The reply would be that the growth of them is only evidence of what was potentially present from the first, that just as the beating of brass was no obstacle to the ultimate evolution of the opera or the oratorio, or the first vague feelings of wonderment with which primitive man surveyed himself and his surroundings to the creation of the world of science and philosophy, so the undoubted fact that man was unmoral at the start is no obstacle to the belief that the moral law was as existent then as now. Nay, just as the cosmic process itself from the first contained the promise and potency of an organic form ultimately to be called man and to become "the crowning glory of the universe," so also, we hold, it contained the potentialities of that whereby man was enabled to crown the splendid edifice of creation by the imperishable deeds he has done, and that just as it would be futile to ask one to point out traces of man amongst "the dragons of the prime," or some Bathybiotic slime, so it would be equally irrelevant to demand indications of moral life in the tertiary man. But, as in the savage of to-day, as in the infant, it is there; and the fact that it ultimately appears shows that it was there. So surely as the laws of music, mathematics and thought, are of the Sophoclean category of eternal facts, man's discoveries not his creations, so also are the moral laws, and, therefore, when Mr. Spencer points out the aborigines who are destitute, to all appearances, of what we understand by the term morality and traces its growth through almost everlasting generations of men, he is but describing the history of ethic, the development of morality, just as one might write the history of music, or of the rifle, from the days of the blunderbuss to the Mauser or Lee-Metford; but what ethic, what morality, is in se, he leaves untouched. The form differs from the content, history differs from the reality of which it is the history, and morality is more than the story of its vicissitudes, of its gradual, painful development from the pre-historic times to our own.

What, then, is morality in se apart from its history? It is, as asserted, that universal law, obligatory on all rational beings in virtue of their rationality, binding them to live for the right. The instinct of humanity is with us, that instinct which commands a man to live for the right, and instinct does not err. Just as we instinctively recognise a righteous retribution in the downfall of the wrong-doer and feel outraged when he prospers, even temporarily, in his wickedness, so we equally apprehend by an immediate intuition that what is recognised as the good ought to be obeyed, and loyally obeyed, by a man. Fais ce que tu dois: Advienne que pourra, is the expression of this faith that is in humanity, and I cannot conceive how any ethical philosopher can venture to contest its truth, no matter what his test of morality may speculatively be.

And, now, we may point out what we conceive to be the significance, the implication of the facts just set forth. If we are to think about the matter at all, if we are not to adopt a Positivist attitude and absolutely bar metaphysic as a sterile and unprofitable investigation, it seems to me that the moral law, like all law, points unmistakably to reason as its source; and since, as already pointed out, man does not create the moral order in which he lives any more than he creates the mathematical or chemical laws which he uses, but simply discovers them by observation, the moral law must be the expression of a mind other than man's. When we say "other than man's," we do not mean specifically, but individually, for we hold the specific oneness of all mind in all intelligent creatures from first to last. We mean, the moral law is an expression of the "Mind which is the Whole," the Mind which is the Infinite, so that, just as Mr. Spencer refers everything ultimately—and in this he is "not far from the kingdom of God"—to an "Infinite and Everlasting Power," we refer everything, the moral law above all, which to us is the highest expression of the Divine known to this earth, to an Infinite and Everlasting Mind, the Soul of the World, the Soul of all souls, the inexhaustible Intelligence upon whose treasury I am drawing now as I think and write, upon whose stores all creatures are drawing in every intelligent action of their lives.

Law we define as an ordination of reason. From first to last it is so. From the laws which we daily obey to the everlasting laws holding the spheres together—can we account of them as other than the expression of reason? So do we account of the moral law, with this essential difference, that while the rules of man, the laws of man, may be arbitrary, the moral law is no arbitrary enactment, but essential righteousness; it is the Supreme Mind and Will in actual manifestation—the moral law is God. I mean thereby that it could not be otherwise. It is beyond the power of omnipotence to dispense with it. Right recognised as right could never be other than right, it could never become wrong, any more than two and three could become interchangeable ideas. One may say now that this definite act is right, and a century later that it is wrong; but for all that, for all the imperfection, the limitation, of our intelligence, as much in the moral as in the mental spheres, one thing is certain, that the right does exist and is eternally dissevered from the wrong, and that this "quite infinite distinction" is the instant revelation of Supreme Mind.

Now, if to bar this conclusion it were argued that so far from the moral law being an expression of mind, supreme or otherwise, it was merely the generalised experience of mankind which had discovered that certain acts were attended by pleasurable or useful results, and certain other acts by painful and mischievous consequences, which had led men to describe the first class as good and the second as evil, one might reply that herein we have stated a truth but not the whole truth. To us the fact that good living and well-being are so intimately associated, and that "the way of the transgressor is hard," is only one more evidence of the main contention of our school. Surely, if man awakes to the discovery that the laws, neither of nature, health, nor of private or public life, can be violated with impunity, more than ever is he convinced that the universe is, in Emerson's singularly expressive phrase, "so magically woven" that man must come to ruin if he sets himself to systematically disregard them. The word "woven" is an illumination in itself, showing how the warp of constant nature and life and the woof of man's conduct are meant to work and must work harmoniously together. And if this be indeed so, if we adopt Bentham's language and call "pleasure and pain our sovereign masters," what have we but a further indication that things are so ordained, that the universe is so constructed, so to speak, that you cannot get the good out of it unless you conform to moral law—in other words, that in the long run wrong, virtue and happiness are reconciled? Well, but the ordering of things, the ordaining of a course of things, what is this but the work of intelligence? And therefore Bentham, no less than Kant, contributes his quota to the universal conclusion that the moral law implies theism in the sense explained. Wherefore, it may be added, there is no reason whatsoever why a rational ethic such as has been sketched should not avail itself of the unquestionable services of experience in determining what is and what is not in conformity with morality. If a man sees the world as one, and all intelligence as one, he will be assured beforehand that things are so constituted that mischief cannot permanently or ultimately befall him if he lives what he knows to be the life. And, therefore, the considerations of pain and pleasure, utility and mischievousness, are extremely serviceable criteria whereby we are assisted in that codification of morality, in that determining of what is good and what is evil, only it must ever be pointed out that they are not the ultimate explanation or basis of morality, which is built, not on any hedonistic or utilitarian foundation, but on the reason in us, in the universe, which commands us to live as offspring of that reason, or as Paul puts it from his point of view, as "children of the light".

And, in explaining why pleasure and pain cannot be regarded as "the sovereign masters" of ethic, we may add to the evidence for our conclusion. It appears that Bentham and his school do not observe the proprieties of language in identifying the moral good, the moral right, with pleasure. The ideas are really incommensurate, as is well pointed out in Schurman's monograph on the Kantian and the evolutionary ethics of Spencer. The ethical "ought," the word which gives the keynote to the whole science, does not and cannot mean what is "pleasurable," "serviceable," or "useful". The word essentially implies the "ideal," the conformity to a definite standard of right, the approximation towards a goal or standard of conduct implicitly recognised as absolute good. But the ideas of "pleasurable," "useful," and the like concern the moment only; they merely suggest that man should secure the advantage offered or avoid the pain which may befall him here and now, or some time subsequently to his contemplated action. Hence there is no obligatory force in this ethic. Prudential motives, suggestions of expediency, abundance of counsel, if you will; but we miss the note of authority, the commanding voice, the categorical imperative, the solemn injunction, "Thou canst, therefore thou must". Indeed, it seems difficult to see how one could convince a man on hedonistic or utilitarian grounds that a course of conduct on which he was bent, and to which he was allured by the overmastering impulse of a vehement nature, and which promised him sensible gratification, possibly even material advancement, was not legitimate. I do not press this, nor do I suggest that moral elevation of life is not discernible amongst professors of this interpretation of ethics equally with those who take an idealist view. All I say is, that the recognised terminology of the ethical life, the "ought," the "must," receive an ampler recognition, a fuller interpretation, in the rational schools than in those of Bentham and Spencer.

And, finally, we may approach the question from the point of view of evolution. Everybody knows the pitiless manner in which the late Professor Huxley contrasted the ethical man with the cosmical process, how he pointed out that the one hope of progress lay in man's ability to successfully combat by ethical idealism the rude realism of the material order of which he is a part. The facts need no exposition. Every man has the evidence of it in himself, in the periodical insurrection of the ape and tiger element in him against the authority of some mysterious power which in the course of his long sojourn here has been acquired, and to which he recognises that the allegiance of his life is due. That tearful, regretful expression of the Grand Monarque, after one of Massillon's searching, scathing sermons on the sensual and spiritual in every man, "Ah, voila deux hommes que je connais tres bien!" may be repeated with even greater truthfulness by every one of us, now that Darwin has superseded St. Paul in the explanation of the phenomenon.

Now, here we have a surprising contradiction in Nature, the startling apparition of an element in man so utterly opposed to all that is beneath him, that a scientific chieftain tells us that his only hope is to kill out that ape and tiger, or at any rate keep it under unceasing control. Whence is this extraordinary human element, and what explanation can be given of the contradiction unless there be some higher synthesis into which the antinomy is taken up and resolved into unity? If out of the primordial nebula both the cosmos and man, with all that he is, have been evolved, then it would appear, plain as the writing on the wall, that some extraordinary transformation has come over the scene as soon as man appeared, and that an element utterly irreconcilable with all that has appeared previously manifests itself in him, not as an accident or a fortuitous occurrence, but as an essential, nay, as the essential law of his being.

How can we explain this? How can we account for this complete volta face in Nature, which bids man turn his back on all that made the universe and him, and resolve to live by a law so irreconcilable with the methods of the cosmos, that I take it we should be justified in saying that had it been in operation before man Nature itself could not have been evolved?

We believe the contradiction receives its explanation in the synthesis already suggested, that above the two processes, the cosmical and ethical, there is another, that of absolute intelligence or mind, energising through them both from first to last, but in widely different ways. In the cosmos, by ways which we describe as non-moral; in us by law, which we recognise as moral. In every grade of being, in every stratum of Nature, the self-same ever-active Mind is manifest, nay, the very distinctions of Nature's life are fixed by the intenser or remisser energy wherewith the eternal Mind functions in them. From first to last it is mind-power behind all and in all. "In the beginning was Mind; in the beginning was the Reason." Lao-tze is right; the Alexandrian mystic is right; En arche ho Logos, and the Mind was the light of man, the light of reason, the holier light of conscience, leading him if he will but follow it, in the way which has been described in language of philosophic precision by the Hebrew poet as "the way everlasting".

Man may sing a Magnificat, because mighty things have been done in him, such as a cosmos or an infinity of worlds never knew or shall know. And thus the very contradictions manifested by evolution do but contribute to the truth of the general conclusion, that there is a Power, not dead, dull, inert, but an ever-living, ever-energising Mind, whence the mighty procession set forth, unto which it is ever returning. There is a Power above the water floods and cosmic disasters which is bringing to fulfilment purposes known from everlasting, which we are compelled to acknowledge as beneficent. We see its workings in history, in the rise and fall of nations; we witness the morally, no less than the physically, unfit fall out of the ranks. Progress here and there may seem to stop, but the course of things is "never wholly retrograde". Is not that hope strong in every man of us, going before us as an unquenchable light, encouraging us to persevere even to the end, because we shall not be deprived of the fruits of our toil, and no demon power shall come to dash the cup of happiness which we have striven to fill?

And what is this but to confess that the Power manifested in the cosmos is identical with the Power manifested in life, that physical and psychical are ultimately one, that virtue and well-being are indissolubly associated? What is this but to confess the supreme synthesis, embracing all apparent contradictions, the ultimate harmony in which all discords are ultimately merged and lost for ever? What is it finally but to proclaim our faith one with that of the most eloquent voice heard in this century, poet and philosopher in one, the sublime Victor Hugo: "La loi du monde materiel, c'est l'equilibre, la loi du monde moral c'est la justice"? Pindar's words again! "Justice is rightful sovereign of the world." The Reason which is revealed as equilibrium in the spheres, reveals itself as justice among men. Both spring from one indefectible source. "Dieu se retrouve a la fin de tout."

[1] Lao-tze, quoted in Huc's China, vol. ii., p. 177.



To think of what Immanuel Kant has been to the many men and women of this century, who, having unlearnt the old traditions, had not yet found a new inspiration—the souls that were athirst for the waters of life which the ancient wells could no longer supply—is to be reminded of the pious and generous tribute which the Jewish exiles, after their sad return from the Babylonian captivity, paid to Nehemiah and his brethren, the reorganisers of their race. "Let Nehemiah," they said, "be a long time remembered amongst us, who built up our walls that were cast down, who raised also the bars of the gates!" Precious indeed is the man who can recreate the shattered fabric of the Commonwealth, re-enkindle the pure flame of patriotism, and restore the inspiration of religion. A benefactor indeed is the thinker who can give us a glimpse of the Divine on rational terms, satisfy the exigencies of the intelligence without denying the cravings of the heart, and provide an idealism for the inspiration and guidance of life.

Perhaps it is not too much to say that the temporal destitution of the repatriated Jews was a symbol of the religious and ethical decay of the last century. Protestantism of the orthodox type, which essentially was and is nothing more than the substitution of a book for a Pope, the pruning of the tree dogmatical, the lopping off of some of its more reprehensible excrescences, had visibly failed to meet the necessities of "the irresistible maturing of the human mind," to quote an expression of Emerson's. The older Church had prophesied accurately enough that Lutheranism would turn out but a half-way house to infidelity, and sure enough it did. Its thorough application of the principle of private judgment in matters of religion could no more justify the inspiration of Leviticus than the federal headship of Adam and the dogma of endless vindictive punishment. Hence Lutheranism necessarily meant the gradual disintegration of dogma, that is, of all super-rational truth, for every man "outside the sacred circle of those bound over not to think".

When we remember, in addition to the decay of Protestantism, that Roman Catholic countries afforded more than sufficient evidence of the inability of their own religion to meet the increasing needs of the age—how France, Spain, and Portugal were devastated by the sceptical disease; how they insisted on and carried the total suppression of the Jesuit Order, beyond compare the ablest body of men their Church had ever produced; how the French Revolution was in its inception profoundly anti-Christian, and in its progress even anti-religious—when, I say, we call to mind these facts, we are able to appreciate the accuracy of the statement that, through the maturing of the intelligence of man, the ancient traditions had lost their hold, not only of Protestant, but of Catholic, lands. Without leaving for a moment the eighteenth century, I think we are warranted in stating that the close of the nineteenth century does not witness a rehabilitation of those traditions. The truth is more obvious than ever that in the men of to-day,

The power is lost to self-deceive With shallow forms of make-believe.

Now, it would appear that Immanuel Kant was the man of destiny for the work of the reorganisation of ethical and religious life. I look upon him as the morning star of the New Reformation. He witnessed in his own day the very low-water mark of scepticism, reaching even to the gross atheism of Holbach in the Systeme de la Nature. He had the advantage of everything which David Hume, "the Prince of Agnostics," as Mr. Huxley styled him, found to say, and indeed Hume exercised a marked influence on his German brother-savant, as we may, perhaps, later see. The whole work of the Encyclopaedia in France was done under his eyes; the galaxy of brilliant writers who composed that school were contemporaries of Immanuel Kant. He witnessed the crash which accompanied the downfall of the old regime in France, the enthronement of anarchy in the place of government, the complete eclipse of religion, and the worship of reason symbolised on the altar of Notre Dame as my tongue refuses to describe. It was the era of the deluge: the water-flood had burst upon Europe; and there was nothing, no institution of State or Church, no philosophy, no religion then extant that could stem the rush of the torrent. Never was the effeteness of ancient systems, the impotence of the old idealism, more conspicuous. In the midst of this wreckage the problem of reconstruction had to be faced. Immanuel Kant did face it, and his object was to provide against the recurrence of atheisms and anarchies, to make godlessness and revolutions impossible, to ensure religion's being a help instead of a gross and deplorable hindrance to progress, and to provide man with an idealism and an enthusiasm which would satisfy his utmost desire for knowledge, and yet stir the pulses of his moral being by the suggestion of an irresistible emotion.

Such I conceive to have been the work which Immanuel Kant undertook in the system of the transcendental philosophy.

The name of this thinker is so famous, I had almost said so venerable, in the ethical Church, that I may be allowed to put before my readers, who may be unacquainted with the details, a few personal or biographical notices concerning him.

Immanuel Kant was born at Koenigsberg, in Prussia, on 22nd April, 1724, of humble parentage. He was apparently destined for the Church, since his first efforts were directed towards the study of theology in the university of his native town. But natural science and philosophy proved of far more powerful attraction, and, abandoning Divinity, he earned his livelihood, first of all, by acting as a private tutor in the neighbourhood of Koenigsberg, and afterwards by assuming a similar office in his own university. He subsequently, at the age of forty-six, became a professor of the Philosophical Faculty, a post he retained till his death in 1804. The deep reverence and religious emotion which betrays itself in Kant's ethical writings was probably due to the influence of his parents. His father was venerable in his eyes as a man of moral worth. Honesty, truth and domestic peace characterised his home. For his mother the philosopher cherished the tenderest of recollections, and to her religious feeling, detached as it was completely from formula and system, he probably owes the fervour with which he speaks—as do Emerson and Carlyle—of the sublimity of the moral laws, and of the infinite dignity of a life lived in harmony with them. When he lost his father at the age of twenty-two, he wrote in the family Bible: "On the 24th of March my dearest father was called away by a blessed death. May God, who has not vouchsafed him great pleasure in this life, grant him the joy eternal!"

After a youth spent under the spell of such surroundings, we are not surprised to learn that Kant was of a singularly grave, gentle and quiet demeanour, which in old age tended to deepen into austerity and increased conscientiousness, were that possible, in the fulfilment of his duties. With the simple words, "It is the time," his servant Lampe called him every morning at five minutes to five, and never to the end, according to the testimony of his servant, was the summons disobeyed. In the thirty-four years of his professorship he was reported to have been only once absent from his chair, and that owing to indisposition.

Kant lived a solitary life; he never married. Like more than one eminent man in the past and present, absolute want prevented his inviting the woman he loved to share his lot. The world has just learnt that Tennyson was engaged to his wife for twenty years, from her seventeenth to her thirty-seventh year, owing again to stress of circumstances, and there is living now one eminent man for whom, as for Immanuel Kant, comfort, competence, and fame have come too late to allow of any share in the blessing and joy of home. Such things cannot but deepen the hold these elect spirits have and shall have upon men unto all time.

Of religion Kant conceived a noble idea, but he did not find it realised in the Churches of his day. Sacerdotalism, even in its mildest forms, was abhorrent to him. During his manhood he never entered a church door, a fact which is a source of deep pain to many of his most enthusiastic biographers. Once only did Kant take his place in the procession which made its way to the cathedral on an especial day in the year, and was joined by the rector and professors of the university, but on arriving at the door he turned back and spent the hour of service in the retirement of his rooms. To his free soul it was a performance, professional and sectarian, and in consequence, something of a profanation. His disciple Hegel must have been moved by similar feelings when he replied to the questioning of his old housekeeper why he did not attend Divine service, "Thinking is also a Divine service!"

Nature had an irresistible fascination for him. He learnt that also from his revered mother, whose joy it was to take her child into the world of Nature, where the Soul of the worlds is so conspicuously at work, and instil into his young heart a deep and tender love for the beautiful life around him. Thus he couples the impressive spectacle of the holy night, revealed in the shining of the eternal stars, with the supreme object of emotion, the moral law within the heart, as the most awful of realities.

But not only for Nature in her sublimer aspects did he conceive so reverential a feeling, the humbler exhibitions of beauty and wisdom were equally moving to his awakened spirit. Once he told his friends, whom he constantly had with him at his dinner-table, he had held a swallow in his hands and gazed into its eyes; "and as I gazed," he said, "it was as if I had seen heaven". The great lesson of Mind in Nature he had learnt well at his mother's knee, and he never forgot it. Children, so recently come out from one eternity, their souls so well attuned to the wonderment and mystery there lies hid in things, are peculiarly susceptible to such beautiful influences. Nature is the temple in which their tender souls should learn their first lessons in worship and see the earliest glimpses of the Divine.

Kant lived into his eightieth year, surrounded by the homage of Europe, which made him, in a sense, the keeper of its conscience. His ethical treatises caused him to be consulted from the most distant lands on questions of moral import. It is on record that many of his correspondents paid insufficient postage upon their letters—a fact which meant considerable loss for the philosopher. Indeed, so habitual was the forgetfulness of these ethical sensitives that Kant at length refused to take their letters in. After some thirty years of professorship in his own university his marvellous powers began to fail; his memory served him no longer; his great mind could think no more the thoughts sublime. The keen senses grew dull, and the light of his "glad blue eyes" went out. His bodily frame, which by assiduous care he had maintained as a worthy organ of his mind, sank into weakness. His last years, his last hours even, are described by his well-beloved disciple and friend Wasianski with a faithful and pathetic minuteness which, in the view of some of the great thinker's deepest admirers, might well have been less microscopic. The spectacle of a great mind losing itself at length in the feebleness of age, almost the imbecility of second childhood, might well, they consider, have been withdrawn from the vulgar gaze. "Yet," as the late Prof. Wallace most truly remarks, "for those who remember, amid the decline of the flesh, the noble spirit which inhabited it, it is a sacred privilege to watch the failing life and visit the sick chamber of Immanuel Kant." [1]

On the 12th of February, 1804, in his eightieth year, he passed away, the victim of no special ailment or disease, but exhausted by the life of deep and strenuous thought upon the most profound and sacred problems which can agitate the mind of man. Simple and unostentatious to a degree during his life, the great master left instructions that he was to be buried quietly in the early morning. But for once his wish was disregarded, and amid the mourning of his Alma Mater, his townsfolk and the neighbourhood around, he was laid to rest in the choir of the University Church, which during life he would never enter. As with Kant so with Darwin, all men instinctively feel—even the most narrow of sectarians—that the lives of such men were—I will not say religious—but religion, and so they lay them at last within the shadow of their altars as the worthiest and best of the race. It shows us how deeply seated is the ethical emotion in man; it shows us that the religion of every man at his best moments is such as Immanuel Kant described and realised in his calm and beautiful life—a religion based on the sublime realities of the moral law.

And now, perhaps, we may say something of the thoughts of our philosopher, though at present it cannot be more than of a fragmentary character. If the ethical movement is to prove enduring, the name and teaching of Immanuel Kant must be frequently before us, and numberless opportunities afforded for an ampler account of his doctrine. For the moment my purpose was rather to put before my readers some idea of the man himself whose teaching is now exercising so deep an influence on the religious tendencies of the hour.

Every time you read of the vicar of a parish changing pulpits with his Nonconformist brother; every philanthropic meeting you hear of as addressed by clergymen of all denominations; every garden party given by a bishop or a dean to a Dissenters' Conference; every advance you gratefully note towards a wise and patient tolerance of theological dissensions, the sinking of sectional differences in the interests of a higher and purer life—ascribe it all to the beneficent influence of Immanuel Kant. Before his day all these fraternisings would have been impossible; the ancestors of these reconciled brethren were ready to scourge and burn each other, until Kant came and shamed them out of their narrowness and bigotry. Men talk no more of "mere morality," as though it paled into positive insignificance by the side of the dogmatical majesty of articles and creeds. Kant has taught them "a more excellent way," and in so far as they have learnt that one lesson, they and we are members of the one great Church—the Church of the ethically redeemed, the Church of men to come—the idealism, the enthusiasm, of the ages to be. Never let it be forgotten. We are not concerned to controvert or to destroy. The message of Kant to the Churches is that in all essentials we are at one with them, and the trend of thought is now setting visibly towards the substitution of an ethical for a doctrinal basis of religion. You are powerless to resist the times, we would urge. Whether the old names and formulae survive or not, "the irresistible maturing of the general mind" will make it impossible for men to acquiesce in any religious belief not grounded on the conviction that the sole test of a man's status is not what he believes, but what he does. This is Kant, this is Christ, and this is the message of the ethical Church.

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