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THEOLOGICAL TRANSLATION LIBRARY 



VOL. XXV 
HAERING'S THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 



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Descriptive Prospectus on Application. 



THE ETHICS OF 
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 



BY 

Dr THEODOR von HAERING 

PROFESSOR OF DOGMATICS AND ETHICS IN THE UNIVERSITY OF TUBINGEN 



Translated from the Second German Edition by 

JAMES S. HILL, B.D. 

RECTOR OF STOWEY, SOMERSET 



With an Introduction by 
Rev. W. D. MORRISON, LL.D. 

RECTOR OF MARYLEBONE 



WILLL^MS AND NORGATE 

14 HENRIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN, LONDON 

NEW YORK: G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 

1909 



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UmiAHY 
UNIVEIISITY OF CALIFORiNU 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE. 

Books on ethics abound, but scarcely books on Christian ethics. 
When the qualifying word is added the supply is not so great. 
It is commonly thought that ethics is a science that may be 
examined and treated like any other science, apart from all 
presuppositions that transcend the present life. Psychology 
may pursue its way untrammelled by the hypothesis of a soul. 
It seeks to explore mind by careful observation of mental processes 
and physical experiments and inductive reasoning, and to reduce 
the region of spiritual mystery to an exact science. Cannot 
ethics proceed in an analogous way ? Whether this may be so 
or not, certain it is that there is no accepted theory of ethics. 
Ethics is based in metaphysics, and the metaphysical basis will 
determine the character of the theory. This is shown in the 
first part of the present work, and English students who desire 
more information and instruction will find it in such works as 
the Methods of Ethics of the late Professor Sidgwick, the Types 
of Ethical Theot-y of the eloquent James Martineau. Mill's 
utilitarianism will represent the hedonistic or eudaemonistic 
point of view, while the evolutionist's theories are treated in 
Spencer's Data of Ethics, Stephen's Science and Ethics, and 
Alexander's Moral Order and Progress. Bradley's Ethical 
Studies represent Hegelianism as conceived by him in an English 
dress. There are many useful works of an introductory kind 
which may be recommended, as Mackenzie's Manual of Ethics, 
clearly written and useful, and Muirhead's Elements of Ethics, 
with Sidgwick's History of Ethics. 

In all such works, and many others easy to mention, old and 
recent, the practical part is usually limited in range, if treated 
at all. Dr Haering's work differs from all such treatises in that 



vi TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

it professes to be distinctively a work on Christian practice. It 
assumes, as every Christian must, the existence of God, and the 
unique character of Christ and the Christian religion. If 
Christianity is a unique religion, and has its system of morality, 
then the investigation of this system cannot but be a work of 
both theoretical and practical importance. 

Of especial importance must such a treatise be to the clergy- 
man and Christian minister. It is not possible for him to fulfil 
either his pastoral or preaching functions without dealing with 
ethical problems. To do this effectively he must do it on 
system. On what system ? There are large numbers of those 
who hold the clerical office who have no acquaintance, or but 
a limited acquaintance, with psychology, so needful for every 
teacher. The subject is one more or less compulsory on the 
secular teacher, and (one would suppose) needful for the spiritual 
guide. Much more necessary is it to possess a coherent know- 
ledge of ethics. Psychology may show us how to teach ; ethics, 
what to teach. 

It is true that the subjects with which the Christian minister 
has to deal soar above the moral into the spiritual atmosphere, 
and that, as commonly conceived, there are doctrines of pure 
revelation on which he must dwell ; but it is also true that the 
preacher, especially the * practical "" preacher, can scarcely select 
a text in which there is not some moral duty that needs to be 
enforced. In the ordinary course of his studies and pastoral 
practice it will go hard if he has not to think out the bearings 
of duty and thus slowly accumulate useful ethical knowledge. 
But such knowledge is apt to be miscellaneous, incoherent, 
guided by no principle, and lame accordingly ; or it is made up 
of scraps which, when duly traced home, belong to different 
and inconsistent systems, an incongioious mixture of Paley and 
Butler and others. For all such students a systematised treatise 
like the present will prove invaluable ; if not one with which it 
is possible always to agree, yet one that will guide and stimulate, 
and help to systematise thought. 

The author is a Protestant of the * Evangelical Church "■ of 
Germany, a State Church, under those peculiar conditions 
which it is not easy for the English Churchman to understand. 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE vii 

Roughly speaking, it is as if in England some of the communions 
outside the Church of England were 'levelled up' into 
'Establishment' and State recognition. The numerous Kirchen- 
rechtlichen Abhandlungen show the complicacy and variety of 
the conditions arising. From this it follows that the author 
may be expected to deal with his subject from the strictest 
Protestant point of view, and also, as he does towards the end, 
touch on questions that are not of immediate interest to the 
English Churchman. It may not thus be possible always to 
agree with the author's statements or feel deep interest in his 
particular problems, save as they serve to show how, under 
varied conditions of Church life, ethical problems are constantly 
arising everywhere and need the proper ethical equipment for 
dealing with them. The whole work, therefore, is interesting 
to the English reader, and the translator has done his best to 
present it in as fair a form as a style occasionally difficult to 
follow admits. 

JAMES S. HILL. 

Stowev Rectory, 

Aumist I9O8. 



INTRODUCTION. 

As The Ethics of the Christian Life is the first volume of Pro- 
fessor Haering's which has appeared before the English-speaking 
public in a translation, it may be of interest to introduce it 
with a few words as to the personality of its author. Dr 
Haering was bom in Stuttgart in 1848, and after completing 
his academic education at the Universities of Tubingen and 
Berlin, he returned to Tiibingen for a short time, but soon 
afterwards entered upon parochial work at Calw and Stuttgart. 
In 1886 he was called to the Chair of Theology at Zurich, 
where he succeeded Biedermann, one of HegePs most eminent 
disciples. In 1889 Dr Haering left Switzerland for Gottingen, 
taking the Chair left vacant by the death of Ritschl. Here 
he remained till 1895, when he returned to Tubingen. Like 
most of the younger school of German theologians. Professor 
Haering has felt the influence of Ritschl, and has adopted 
many of his theological methods, even when arriving at con- 
clusions of his own. His principal works are the present 
volume and a volume which he published two years ago on 
the Christian Faith. In both of these works he has the 
same object in view — to interpret the Gospel in the language 
of the age and according to the needs of the age. 

W. D. M. 



CONTENTS. 



INTRODUCTION. 

1. The Term Ethics .... 

2. The Problem of Ethics . . 

3. Philosophical and Theological Ethics . 

4. Division of the Subject 



PAGE 
1 

2 
3 
4 



PART I. 
CHRISTIAN ETHICS AND ITS OPPONENTS. 



Chapi'er I. 



FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS OF ETHICS 



1. Concerning Action 

2. Concerning Moral Action 

Its Value 

Its Contents . 

Its Form (the Moral Law) 

Its Origin and Validity . 



10 
11 
13 
13 
18 



Chapter II. 

THE OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS. 

1. The Opponents of all Morality as hitherto conceived . 
The Devaluation of all Values ..... 



24 
25 



xn 



CONTENTS 



2. The Opponents of Definite Christian Ethics — 
Utilitarian Ethics (Hedonism) 
Evolutionary Ethics (Evolution) 
Positivism .... 
Pessimism .... 
Mixed Systems 



24 
89 
48 
49 
52 



Chapter III. 
THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS. 

1 . Reason of the Aversion to Christian Ethics 

Course of the Argument 

2. Conscience and Freedom 

3. Conscience — Theories tested by Facts . 

The Problem presented by the Facts 



4. Freedom 



and 



Free 



(1) Connection between Responsibility 

dom ..... 

(2) Moral Freedom 

(3) Objections to Freedom as defined 

Arising from Facts . 

Arising from the Idea of Causality 

(4) The Meaning of Freedom 

5. Morality and Religion 

(1) Morality without Religion 

(2) Christian Morality and Christian Faith 

(3) The Truth of the Christian Faith . 

(4) The Unsurpassed Superiority of Christian Ethics 



57 
63 

64 

64 

72 

76 

77 
79 
84 
85 
89 
92 

95 

97 
100 
lOS 
104 



CONTENTS xiii 

PART II. 

CHRISTIAN ETHICS AS A COHERENT SYSTEM. 

Chapi'er IV. 
PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS. 



PAGE 



1 . Evangelical and Roman Catholic Ethics . . . Ill 

2. Evangelical Ethics in agreement with Scripture . Il6 

Division of this Section . . . . . 123 



Chapter V. 
THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD. 

(Christ the Principle of Christian Ethics.) . 125 

1. The Highest Good the Kingdom of God in Christ 127 

2. The Fundamental Notion of the Kingdom of God . . 131 

Love and Law ....... 138 

3. Detailed Explanation, particularly in contrast to the 

Kingdom of Sin 138-148 



4. The Great Commandment of Love to God and our 
Neighbour after the Example of Christ 

(1) Meaning of the Law 

(2) Form of the Law .... 

(3) Contents of the Law 

(4) The Example of Christ . 



156 
158 
160 
163 
174 



5. The Deepest Spring of Action, the Love of God in Christ 

as Incentive and Motive Power (Faith and Works) 178 

(1) Faith and Works 179 

(2) Faith and Repentance 188 

(3) Gi'ace and Freedom . . . . . 1 89 

(4) The Reproach of Hedonism . . . . 19O 



XIV 



CONTENTS 



Chapter VI. 

THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN, OR 
CHRISTIAN PERSONALITY. 

(Individual Ethics.) 
Terminology and Division of Subject 

1 . The Commencement of the New Life 

2. The Development of the New Life 

(1) Duty and Vocation . 

(2) Fundamental Notions 

(3) Conflict of Duties . 

(4) Supererogatory Duties 

(5) The Permissible 

3. \^irtue and Character . 

Sense of these notions, /;. 246 — And the Keynote 
of the Christian Character, p. 250 — Blessedness, 
p. 253 — Freedom, p. 255 — Honour, /;. 256 — 
Humility, p. 262 — The Christian in conflict 
with Sin (Temptation), p. 264 — Means of 
Virtue, Asceticism, p. 272 — Vows, p. 277 — 
Fasting, p. 280 — Prayer and Meditation, p. 
280 — Sin in the Christian Life, p. 292 — Sin 
and Assurance of Salvation, p. 297 — Christian 
Perfection, p. 303 

Certain Duties and Virtues ..... 



196 

198 

208 
209 
210 
223 
231 
236 

245 



307 



Chapter VII. 
CHRISTIAN LIFE IN SOCIETY. 

(Social Ethics.) 

(1) Relation to Individual Ethics and Division 315 

(2) The Notion of Civilised Society and Custom . 320 

Marriage and the Family ...... 322 

(1) The Christian Idea of Marriage and its Justi- 
fication ........ 325 



CONTENTS 



XV 



(2) Consequences and various Questions 
(a) Chastity .... 
(h) Family Life 

(c) Legal Questions, Divorce, etc 

(d) The Status of Woman 

3. Friendship ...... 

Remarks introductory to the following notices of 
different forms of society, and in particular the 
idea of work .... 

4. The Industrial Life — Work 

(1) Theories of Political Economy 

(2) The Social Question of the Day 

(a) The Grievance , 
(6) The Indictment 
(c) The Cosmic Theory at the Base 

5. Judgment of Christian Ethics on Economic Theories 

Application to the Questions of the Day 

6. Science and Art ...... 

(1) The Intellectual Life — Science 

Definitions .... 
Value of Knowledge 

(2) The Esthetic Life .... 
Nature of the Beautiful : Productivity and 

Receptivity in Art 

(3) Christian Judgment : Art and Religion 

(4) Companionship .... 

7. The State 

(1) Notion of 

(2) Meaning of , . . . 

(3) The Christian State in particular 

Sunday .... 

Oaths 

The School .... 
Patriotism .... 



PACK 

385 
335 

337 
341 
342 



348 

352 
356 
361 
363 
364 
371 

374 
380 

385 
386 
387 
387 
391 

392 
396 
400 

402 
403 
406 
411 
413 
414 
417 
418 



XVI 



CONTENTS 



(4) Certain Aspects of the State— 
(a) Constitutional Law . 
(6) Revolution 
(c) Punishment (Capital) 
(rf) International Law (War) 
(e) Politics 

8. The Church 

(1) Nature of the Church 

Need of a special Religious Community 
Closer Definition of its Work 

(2) General Meaning of Law for the Church . 

(3) Important separate Questions connected with 

Law ...... 

(a) Multiplicity of * the Churches ' 

(b) The Clerical Office .... 

(c) The Constitution of the Church 

(d) Church and State (the National Church) 

(4) Special Questions affecting the Life of the 

Church ...... 

The Effect of single Smaller Congregations — 

(a) For closer Pastoi-al Oversight . 

(b) Home Missions, Special Missions, Societies 

for these 

(c) The Supply of an Efficient Ministrj' 

A Believing Ministry 

The Question of the Faith . 

(d) Foreign Missions 

Conclusion : From Social to Individual Ethics 



The Ethics of the Christian Life 



INTRODUCTION. 

The term ' Moral "' Philosophy is a translation of a Latin 
word, and this in turn of a Greek word which properly 
means the science of habits. The word is, however, now 
usually taken to mean the science of morals, i.e. a body of 
doctrine not on the way in which men are actually accustomed 
to act, but what it is they ought to do and how they ought 
to act. Ethics therefore defines the nature, meaninp^. and laws 
of this important part of human lifp, thaf is^ nf ^orals. , and 
critically compares the various ideals. 

In what then do the nature, meaning, and laws of Christian 
Ethics consist.'^ How ought we to regulate our lives as 
Christians ? It would be strange to speak of the seriousness 
of the question. It concerns all. It concerns youth, acutely 
aware of life, and living as though it had a thousand existences — 
happy is he who early recognises its purpose! It is for him 
who is near its goal, while he who is at life's zenith can only 
make a right use of it who clearly realises what it is intended 
for. And as the seriousness of the question is clear it would 
be strange to dwell longer on its difficulty. For although 
Christians do not doubt that they ought to order their lives 
according to the will of God as revealed in Christ, yet in the 
New Testament they are often exhorted to prove what that 
will is ; which they can only learn in many a circuitous way. 
And why has the doing of the will of God such significance at 

1 



2 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

all ? Why, alongside the question, What must we believe ? 
is there that other, What ought we to do? — alongside the 
Christian Faith the Christian Life ? 

Especially serious and difficult for our day is the question as 
to the Christian life. Everything is in a state of flux ; nothing 
seems to stand firm, even among those who desire to take the 
Gospel in earnest. For instance, they judge very variously as to 
the relation of the Christian to the world. Ancient as the subject 
is in itself, these varying judgments are connected with the fact 
that old problems present themselves to us in wholly new 
shapes, complicacy and urgency, and demand their solution on 
the basis of Christian ideas. How does the Christian stand in 
regard to the industrial battle ? How to a law M'hich touches 
the boundary of art ^ How to the trial of a cleric on a 
question of mere doctrine } Must or can all those points 
remain unsettled because every one has enough to do to save 
his own soul .? Surely, if it is only a matter of diversity of 
opinion in respect of a truth which in its kernel is not con- 
troverted. Now the question, How are we to order our life ? is 
by no means answered only in the Christian sense. There are 
foes all around us. One class of opponents will indeed for 
the most part allow that to be considered good or evil which 
Christians regard as such ; but it must be set free from any 
belief in God. Now, can that be the same thing? Others 
suppose they can give us an ethic better suited in moral 
content to the needs of actual life than that of an obsolete 
Christianity with its law of love. Lastly, the opinions are 
increasing in number of those who deny any distinction what- 
ever between good and evil ; or, more precisely, of those who 
call evil that which has hitherto been regarded as good, and 
call that good which has so far passed as evil. Consequently 
the battle is not merely concerning the Christian faith on which 
rests the Christian life, but about the regulation of the life on 
Christian principles ; and the historical epoch in which we live 
has grown in many respects similar to that in which the ancient 
world was in conflict with the purer life of the early Christian 
Church, and the Church brought forward the silencing argu- 
ment of fact. Facts can only render modest services in this 



INTRODUCTION 8 

argument ; nevertheless, they are not contemptible. The 
argument further must have close regard to the special situa- 
tion which has just been pointed out. We may not present 
Christian Ethics as if no other system were in existence. 

This problem is not an isolated one, but to a considerable 
degree touches the question as to the relation between philo- 
sophical and theological ethics. It is therefore a matter of 
prime consequence for the friends of the latter to remember that 
it damages its own cause if it allows the fruits of philosophical 
investigation to remain unused ; as, e.g.^ what human reflection 
has worked out on the basal relations of ethics in regard to 
Rule, Motive, Purpose of moral action. Theological Ethics 
does thereby damage its own clearness as well as its capability of 
being intelligible to others. The same thing is true if it decline 
to carefully examine the varied conceptions with regard to its 
fundamental concepts presented by history, or will not penetrate 
into the rich history of moral ideals. It is only in this way that 
Christian Ethics can comprehend its own ideal. Only, in both 
these investigations it must be on its guard against unwittingly 
appropriating or giving recognition to ideas at variance with 
those grown on Gospel soil. In particular, its advocates must 
not allow themselves to be swayed by the prejudice of their 
opponents that philosophical knowledge stands on a surer founda- 
tion than theirs because drawn from reason only. As if it must 
not be decided what then, closely taken, reason is, and what 
intrinsic right it has to decide the question : What is the Good ? 
Thus from this point Christian Ethics sees itself referred to the 
need of critical comparison and contrast with non-Christian 
systems. In the absence of this the best treatment will find no 
firm basis. 

Therefore, in what follows we distinguish, as in architecture, 
between a plan and its elaboration. Or, in other words, even 
Christian Ethics stands in need of some defence (Apologetics) 
against its foes ; mindful, of course, that the best defence is a 
victorious attack. Such defence is naturally only possible if the 
nature of the subject to be defended is accurately known. Now, 
Doctrine (Dogmatics) and Morals (Ethics) are the two main 
constituents of Christian teaching. On external grounds of 



4 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

convenience they are separately treated, but they form one whole. 
Doctrine shows us how the kingdom of God becomes to us an 
assured personal possession, as God's gift by faith in Christ ; 
Ethics how this faith is our incentive and motive power to 
co-operation in the task, implicate in the gift, of realising the 
' kingdom of God ' more and more for ourselves, so that it may 
' come ' here in time and there in eternity. Or, Doctrine shows 
us how our assured faith of salvation and divine adoption into 
the kingdom of God is the work of God's love : Ethics how this 
assured faith of salvation manifests its activity in love to God 
and our neighbours. Thus Ethics rests entirely on Dogmatics, 
and yet the latter is not complete in the former precisely because 
the great gift of God has the special peculiarity of shaping itself 
into a task. This must be more fully entered into later. Here 
we only point out that Faith and Love form an indissoluble 
unity, and it is as a whole that it must be brought into com- 
parison and contrast with every opposing system of Faith and 
Practice. For this battle Dogmatics and Ethics, in which the 
Christian system is brought out in all its aspects, give us the 
right weapon. The victory of the Christian system must be 
grounded on its intrinsic superiority. But for our purpose 
Apologetics must in inverse order be the foundation of Dogmatics 
and Ethics, for it is only by comparison with opposing systems 
that we can become acquainted with that superioritv which is 
grounded in its nature. And if, as here is the case. Ethics is 
separately treated, it is still impossible to dispense with the 
Apologetic foundation. If this Apologetic basis were treated 
independently as common to Dogmatics and Ethics, and prefaced 
to both, then Ethics would immediately follow Dogmatics ; the 
conclusion of Dogmatics would be the certainty of salvation by 
faith, and this certainty the beginning of Ethics ; while that which 
is usually treated as a final section of Dogmatics, Eschatology, 
would form the conclusion of a complete presentation of the 
Christian Faith and the Christian Life. 



Part I 
Christian Ethics and its Opponents 

This part falls into three sections. The first is on the indispensable 
fundamental concepts of Ethics generally. The second is on the 
most important opponents of Christian Ethics. The third is on 
the truth of Christian Ethics in contrast with opposing systems. 
On the order of single portions of the exposition different opinions 
may be held. For instance, the positions of our opponents would 
be plainer if both the nature of the Christian Good, and the common 
or related attitude in regard to Conscience and Freedom, could 
have been earlier explained. But then other greater inconveniences, 
and especially unprofitable repetitions, would arise. 



CHAPTER I. . 
FUNDAMENTAL ETHICAL CONCEPTS. 

Of Action. 

What do the terms ' moral,"' ' the good,"" mean ? In such a 
proverbial expression as ' Conscience is the chamber of justice ' 
a tiTith is proclaimed whose value cannot be overestimated, that 
in actual life there is a common agreement widely prevalent as 
to what we ought to do, and that the question rather is as to 
our will to do it. But not only has that common agreement its 
limits in the wide world and in the individual heart, as we are 
constrained to confess at the outset ; but also the very fact that 
we frequently do not will what we ought compels us to inquire 
what is the nature of this remarkable 'ought' with which the 
will is by no means always at one. In this, magniloquent 
sentences and formal definitions do not help us. It may, 
amongst other things, be quite correct to say that morality 
consists in the submission of our personal life to absolute law. 
But how much is there in such a proposition which in turn 
needs explanation ? As good as all of it : Law, and Absolute 
and Personal. Will all give the like explanation of such terms 
and all agree to the whole proposition ? Examination, too, as 
to the usage in ethics of the main concepts ' good ' and ' bad ' 
does not help us much, exciting in our minds as the words do so 
many sensuous ideas; as, e.g., we speak of 'good' food and a 
' good "■ conscience, a ' bad ' finger and a ' bad "* action. It is 
thought that more will be gained by comparing moral action 
with the other activities of the human soul ; what we call ' good ' 
with that which is named 'true,' 'beautiful,' 'just.' But how- 

7 



8 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

ever simple that may seem, still every one understands the same 
words in a different sense, and the confusion only grows greater. 
If, then, in such simple explanations there is much that is 
indefinite, we may yet say to ourselves : This is only a search for 
a path in the world of ethics ; it will of itself only disclose its 
wealth when we have found a way of access for our reflection. 
It is a presupposition grounded in the nature of the case that 
our reflection must, as hitherto has been regarded as self-evident, 
start with the inner life of the individual. Certainly every 
system of ethics remains incomplete which does not somehow 
shape itself into social ethics; but it is true that that which 
merely begins at this point is obscure, provided the clearness of 
every science depends on its commencing with a subject of 
examination such as first presents itself and is intelligible. 

The word ' action ' is of prime importance in the science of 
ethics. Thus we may ask : What is the nature of ' moral action ' .? 
For no one really denies that it is concerned with action. We 
all are so far under the influence of the Gospel that we cannot 
simply confound doing and knowing. " If ye know these things, 
happy are ye if ye do them." It is possible to be very wise 
and very learned and yet be a bad man. Good and bad do not 
in the first line depend on knowledge (important as this must 
be in and for itself as well as for action), but on 'feeling' 
and * will.' Knowledge is the more complete the mo"3 closely 
it apprehends its object, quite independently of the significance 
which it has for us, for our weal or woe. But feeling and will 
have to do with us more intimately, and with that which is for 
us of value. But what sort of value is moral value .'' And still 
more do good and bad depend on the will than on the 
emotions, however certain it is that feeling and will cannot be 
separated. ' You did not will ' to do it is an expression which 
belongs to ethics ; while enthusiasm for the beautiful, or a want 
of appreciation of it, is a matter of passive feeling and imagina- 
tive power. To will what is good is naturally expected of all, 
but not, or not with like insistence, that all should appreciate 
the beautiful. ^Esthetics is not on the same level with ethics. 

Meanwhile we may hope that the nature of moral action will 
become somewhat clearer to us if we call to mind what we 



FUNDAMENTAL ETHICAL CONCEPTS 9 

understand by ' action "* in general. Action clearly is a kind of 
activity. Even the forces of nature work ; the most violent 
changes are wrought by them. But they do not ' act.' Nay, it 
is only with reserve that we allow the use of the word to 
animals. To this notion there belongs conscious self-determina- 
tion, reason, choice, in distinction from mere desire. If now we 
emphasise in the definition ' working with conscious self-deter- 
mination, with rational will,' the terms ' conscious,"* 'rational,"" 
a threefold question lies therein : Whereto ? How t Why ? or, 
in other words, such ' working "" sets before itself a goal ; would 
realise a purpose, in a definitive way and manner, according to 
a rule (Norm) and from a definite spring of action (Motive). 
If we emphasise in these words : ' working with conscious self- 
determination, with rational will"" the term self-determination 
( ' will ' or ' choice ' ), the question at once arises. What does that 
import ? And we at once stumble on the mystery which will 
accompany us through the whole of ethics, in the depths of 
which our thoughts might overwhelm us, were it not a matter 
much more close to our consciousness than to our cognition ; this 
mystery of our self-activity, our self-determination, of the power 
which we know as our innermost self, the kernel of our ego. 
All this is, of course, no great advance in our knowledge. But it 
is, so to speak, concerned only with raw material. He who 
regards this as a trifling matter at the commencement will have 
later on cause to repent his neglect. In these simple reflections 
which have busied us, those fundamental concepts have their 
origin which have always been important in ethics : Good, 
Duty, Virtue. They correspond to the three words, End, Rule, 
Motive. And here, in reference to these three, the following 
propositions, still of course only in shadowy outline, may find 
mention : Moral Good is the moral End considered as realised. 
The moral rule impelling the single act of will to the realisation of 
this end is called duty ; the moral motive considered as an 
acquired power of the acting will is called virtue. The idea 
'Thou oughtest,"* which turns on our decision, the idea, i.e.^ 
of responsibility and freedom, gains its clearness from the 
fact that we give heed to that speciality of the will (its power 
of decision), and allow it full play. 



10 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

The plainer it becomes in this way what action is, the more 
urgent grows the question : What is moral action ? 

Moral Action. 
The ' Value ' of Moral Action. 

In order to get a clear answer we may in the quiet of our 
own reflection employ a simple expedient. We ask ourselves 
what is all that which men have called ' good ** and ' evil ' since 
those words were used ? and how various are the things which 
are so called even to-day ? And yet, in spite of all this variety, 
what is meant at the bottom by the judgment, it is 'good"" 
or 'bad,' and at the moment we utter it? E.g. to care for 
our own family, to provide for one's household, as the Scriptures 
say, is most certainly moral action. Of course, understood in 
an infinite variety of ways, if we realise to ourselves the long 
history from the simplest family relationships to our own more 
complicated ones. Infinitely diverse too, if we think of the way 
and manner, the rules by which this care has been exercised, and 
of the motives which have impelled thereto. Was not war once 
regarded as a legitimate method ? Even amongst ourselves does 
not judgment fluctuate as to what is proper in business profits ? 
Just as various if we look at the motives. We may care for our 
own for honour's sake, but also from self-sacrificing affection, with 
complete self-denial ; and, indeed, just as well because we know 
nothing higher than their relationship to us, as because we 
consider them as belonging to the kingdom of God. Invol- 
untarily are we compelled to apply the above-mentioned ethical 
master ideas — End, Rule, Motive. And above all, that other 
point of view thrusts itself forward : In what sense is such action 
an affair of the will .? not merely of determination and steadfast- 
ness, but also of responsibility and freedom ? But if this action, 
however indefinite it seems, has been and is regarded as moral, 
so there has been and is always the feeling present that it has 
a unique value. Without perception of value there is no action 
at all ; the ' end ' is somehow a ' Good.' It passes for * Moral,' 
however — whether rightly or wrongly is not now in question — 
because an especial value is ascribed to it. More precisely : 



FUNDAMENTAL ETHICAL CONCEFfS 11 

As we can only speak of the value of an action in relation to the 
doer of it, we mean that which, while in regard to his feeling 
it is intelligible, is at the same time something transcendent 
and absolute. What this feeling is can only be known through 
personal submission and obedience by means of which the agent 
first realises what that real value is. A unique dignity, a lofty 
incomparable majesty, clings to the question : What is the 
' Good ' ? And looking closer, we must repeat what is said 
above — this dignity attaches to all the relations of this question, 
to all aspects of moral action, to ' End,"* ' Rule,' ' Motive,"* as 
to the marvellous depth of the expression ' I ought,'' of the 
feeling, i.e., of obligation which lies in it. Nor is it needless 
to insist once more on the truth that the distinction between 
ethics and aesthetics lies in the fact that the former is a 
question of the will. The two are, however, related in so 
far as they each postulate a value transcendent and absolute, 
while the latter makes its appeal to passive feeling and not 
to the will. 

Of course, by these assertions we are led into the midst of 
the debate about ethical postulates. When, for instance, we 
speak of value-feelings in treating of the nature of moral habi- 
tudes, we find om"selves in lively conflict with those who consider 
that Ave are sacrificing the uniqueness of the moral postulate ; 
while, on the other hand, there are those who emphasise this point 
of the feeling of value, because by co-ordinating moral action 
with other actions which arise from desire — though it stands 
in the highest category — they are able to understand it better. 
Still, so much must be at once said : neither of these positions 
takes sufficiently careful note of the immediately given facts 
of consciousness — whatever may be the ultimate decision as to 
their reality. This is only done when we have deducted nothing 
from the proposition above enunciated, that no action without 
perception of the value of the action can be thought of at 
all. Even the greatest opponent of the idea that somehow 
moral action is grounded in the realisation of a valuable end, 
because, as he thinks, it thus sullies itself with the " serpent-trail 
of the struggle for happiness "'' (Kant), is compelled to describe 
the feeling of respect for moral law — which he (Kant) regards 



n THE ETHICS OP THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

as the sole ground of moral action — in such a way that the 
excluded value-perception is imperceptibly reinstated. And, 
moreover, that subjection under merely formal law (which is 
alone recognised by him) is not entirely devoid of moral 
content, and consequently unfruitful for actual life, simply 
because a definite end — such as the realisation of self, or the 
social life of men in righteousness and love, or whatever other 
ideal may be set up — dominates the consciousness of the 
agent. If we think this away, then we are unable to understand 
why that magisterial motto : " Act so that the principle of 
thy action may be a principle of action to all others" 
cannot be used in the sense of a sheer Egoism. This rule 
contains the demand to act aright only if a rightly ordered 
community is presupposed to be the highest end of our action. 
But we may now really on good ground reject Kant's scruple, 
that by recognition of that feeling of pleasure (which is bound 
up with the moral demand) and of valuable 'End,' moral 
action is hereby tarnished ; but we must not therefore grant 
to his opponents the right to finally confound moral with 
eudaemonic action. For not only are the value-feelings them- 
selves of various value, which the advocates of eudaemonic 
ethics allow, and name moral only certain definite value- 
feelings — what they are we will presently examine ; but it is also 
a mistake to place, without further inquiry, our percep^-ive value- 
feelings in the same category with those value-feelings which 
are purely subjective in their nature. In particular, it is still an 
open question whether it is not the case that the existence of 
such higher and exalted value-feelings can only be affirmed on 
the ground of actual experience, or whether they are not really 
the immediate delivery of consciousness — the validity of which 
must later on be treated more fully. This much we unhesita- 
tingly and emphatically affirm without any reserve : If the 
ethics of the categorical imperative and teleological ethics — 
as the points at issue may be formulated — were in irreconcilable 
opposition, we should decide in favour of the former, and be forced 
to find the true nature of morality merely in the harmony of the 
will with prescribed duty (i.e. absolute law). But the net result 
of our explanation is that no such alternative ' either,' ' or,' is 



FUNDAMENTAL ETHICAL CONCEPTS 13 

found in the actual experience of the moral life ; and that 
there are no discoverable reasons which compel us to assert 
its existence. In all essential points the close examination of 
the simplest formula of common speech : ' Thou shalt do this ' 
— any definite thing — will lead to an unabridged knowledge of 
the subject-matter. 

Content of Moral Action. 

And now we are already in a position to define more closely 
what is meant by the proposition : ' A feeling of absolute 
value' which it is the work of the will to realise. First of all 
we may again think of ' ends,' ' motives,' and ' rules ' of moral 
action, and fix our attention more closely on the ' ends ' from 
which rules and motives can be deduced, so far as they belong to 
this and not to the other fundamental point of view summed 
up in the phrase ' Thou shalt.' It is just as impossible to say 
that all men naturally strive after the same moral ends as that 
all regard their moral content as equally good. That God has 
written in the hearts of all men, as men. His perfect will in 
unmistakable impress — for a proof of which appeal is often 
made to the witness of St Paul (Rom. ii. 14-16) — is by many, 
strangely enough, always regarded as the Christian view. In 
reply to this misapprehension, it is sufficient to point to the 
pains the Apostle takes to exhort Christians to "prove what 
the will of the liOrd is " ; still more, how impressively he 
emphasises the truth that the perfect image of God has been first 
exhibited in Christ, " the second man." Nay, his entire mission- 
ary activity — just as in all such activity, in the past and at the 
present time — is the best answer to that exaggeration. As 
certainly as our missionaries are not deceived in their confidence 
that in the most degraded nations they will find something in 
the human heart which responds to their message of the royal 
law of love, so sure is it that there exist alongside this prejudices, 
errors, perversions of all sorts, so that the greatest moral horrors 
(as we judge them) pass in the judgment of the heathen for 
actions that are praiseworthy. The opinion that the imperative 
' Thou shalt ' as an implicate of the mere possession of reason — 
if this categorical imperative be brought into clear cognition — 



14 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

suffices to tell us what is good and evil, in spite of the actu- 
ally varying moral imperatives of individual nations, has 
been proved to be untenable. We have already seen what 
justifiable purpose lies at the basis of this opinion of Kant's, 
but that it endeavours to deduce too much from ' Thou shalt,' 
and that he puts into it this content in order to fetch it 
out again. 

The proposition that all men are by nature at one in their 
judgment of what is good and evil — which is a heritage handed 
over from the Stoic philosophy to Christianity — has been slowly 
destroyed by conflict with irrefragable facts. The conflict has 
not been destructive merely, though it often seemed like it. 
Many wage this argumentative warfare with passion as if those 
firmest principles of all human morality, which have endured 
unimpugned through long centuries, were at stake and about to 
be overthrown. Many rest in the assertion, " How often has that 
at one time appeared good which at another time and to another 
people has seemed evil ! "" But is there really nothing at all 
which has some common element ? Are there not at least 
common tendencies of the moral sense, common lines of 
direction of the moral judgment ? We may name two in 
particular. 

First : That action anyhow passes for good which is not 
simply an assertion of self-will, or a search for personal happiness, 
but is, in contradistinction to this, a subordination of our 
personal will, and an effort to secure another's good. Altruism 
is often spoken of as an antithesis to Egoism, by which is meant 
not the benefit of the personal ' I," but another's good. Only 
let us realise the incalculable variety of the forms and gradations 
in which such regard for another may appear. It is a far cry to 
Christian love of our neighbour ; and yet in many of these 
poor signs do we recognise something of the character of that 
which in its completeness is Christian love. Among the lowest 
races, in a sea of selfishness — yet how often is there a drop of 
self-denying sacrifice glistening like a pearl ! And there are 
broader streams of benevolence, sacrifice, self-denial among 
highly-developed nations, such as Roman uprightness, German 
love of fatherland, Buddhist pity ; many efforts, too, of the 



FUNDAMENTAL ETHICAL CONCEPTS 15 

present time, which do not recognise the fount of love from 
which the Christian draws. 

Secondly : Every sort of mastery of a merely natural impulse 
by feelings of personal self-regard, by self-respect and dignity, 
in short by culture, passes for ' good.' Of course, all these ex- 
pressions are taken from the higher stages, but in their final 
meaning they are applicable to the lowest. The African despot 
given up to licentious sensuality who conquers his agony in the 
presence of a foe is a witness for this, and not merely the sage 
who in India and Greece excites our admiration by his freedom 
from the desire and passion of the passing moment. How much 
these two primal relations of morals stand in the foreground, 
how much they are connected with the sense of absolute worth, 
is shown by that use of language in which the word ' moral ' 
describes mastery of a sensual impulse and particularly of that 
which is extremely difficult to control, the sexual impulse ; and 
again par excellence is used of our behaviour to our fellow-men. 
This indicates the truth that he only can assume the right rela- 
tion to another who has found his right attitude to himself, and 
vke versa. And also we may here remember that the two great 
root-stems of all moral action, individual and social, have their 
origin in this double relation, and so it would be false to disjoin 
them. In reality it is the union of them which will bring us 
ever deeper into the nature of moral habitudes. 

Two other fundamental characteristics are not so simple as 
these to explain, namely, our lordship over external nature, and 
reverence for and trust in a supreme power, God. The remark 
must for the present suffice that it is self-evident that a relation 
to God is only considered to belong to the sphere of ethics by 
those who regard religion as something entitled to take front 
rank in a Christian system. For such persons, faith, trust in 
God, is the real ' Good.' It is from faith that there issues love 
to our neighbours and self-conquest. But as to the other point, 
rule over external nature, it is at least even now sufficiently 
plain that it is a result as well as presupposition of om" self- 
conquest, and that it finds its greatest value when used for 
another's good. But we may not recognise all mastery of nature 
as intrinsically good; otherwise we should be abolishing the 



16 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

distinction between ethics and civilisation of which we must 
soon speak. 

Still, that we in some measure know of what sort the actions 
are (as to content) with which our judgment that they are 
moral actions is bound up, gives us no exhaustive ideas of what 
the ' moral "" is. We said above (p. 8) that the sense of 
absolute value belongs to certain actions not only in relation 
to their content, but also essentially as they are the product 
of our own self-determination. It is this mystery of the ' I 
ought' that we must closely attend to. {Cf. Reischle et alii.) 
This is the core of our question as to the special characteristic 
of the moral life. And it is only in this way that what has 
been said as to the content of the moral life can be rendered 
quite clear. Our goodwill towards others, that discipline of 
our own nature we cannot understand as moral action com- 
pletely, unless we have first understood that we are to recognise 
their value in our innermost will. It is easy for Christians to 
distinguish this ' Thou shalt ' as moral law, and so to make it 
clear that it is comparable with all other laws which we know 
in the realm of moral action ; with those of law and custom 
as with those of prudence and of natural inclination. The 
more everyone selects examples from his immediate experience, 
the clearer the matter becomes. 

Let us take some example of self-conquest or of goodwill 
towards others. So long as we can assign no other reason for 
our conduct than that 'It is just my way,' and for the opposite 
' I do not care to,' so long are we under the law of natural 
impulse and Inclination. Of course, it is scarcely possible to 
call that action a law which is subject to such fickleness. But 
however fortuitous it may appear to the observer, for the agent 
himself it is his nature as somehow determined, the law of 
his action. To describe this, St Paul uses the illuminative 
expression " the law in our members." If such a man is under 
some external restraint, and cannot realise his wishes at the 
moment, he experiences a discomfort similar to a disturbance 
of his bodily health. At the same time, let us not forget how 
nearly such action can, in outward seeming, be related to the 
*Good.' It gives undoubtedly indications of a certain good- 



FUNDAMENTAL ETHICAL CONCEPTS 17 

ness of disposition and of a natural moderation which rises 
not a bit higher than the stages described. In virtue of this 
content a shimmer of goodness radiates it ; but will anyone 
name it ' Good "" ? We spontaneously place Prudence, which 
acts by rule, in a higher position ; at least, if we think of the 
effort which it presupposes to reach an end correspondent to 
our personal inclination and our natural search for happiness. 
A whole world artistically ordered owes its existence to the 
wise calculation of utility, and there are many stones in this 
building which, to the superficial observer, resemble the genuine 
precious stones out of which the temple of the ' Good ' is 
constructed. There is a business (let us say) famous on account 
of a stability which has never been shaken. Unexpectedly a 
crisis arises. It can be obviated, it seems, by a single false 
report which its proprietor may spread. Yet inherited advan- 
tages and acquired experiences unite in enabling him to form 
the judgment that the probability of maintaining his position 
by these means is less than the probability of the misfortune. 
He forbears the lie ; all the world praises him ; a thousand 
existences are saved with himself. Which is praised, the 
prudence or the morality .? Of course only his prudence, 
supposing the world to know why he acted thus and in no 
other way. And he congratulates himself on his prudence ; 
he has no inner witness that his action is ' good ' which makes 
him happy. On the other hand, if he finds himself mistaken, 
he is vexed over his false calculation ; he has no sense of guilt. 
But the wealth of life from whose many resources we would 
fain light upon the single ' value ' which we may dare call ' the 
good' is far from being exhausted. Perhaps the calculating 
skill of the supposed merchant is at an end, and because he 
has made utility the highest aim of all his actions he is re- 
solved to try the disingenuous means ; but thought of the law, 
supported by the state, restrains him. He has the fear of 
punishment. The man whom we are thus regarding at the 
crisis of a decision may possibly have somehow reached the 
•full conviction that he will not fall away from earthly righteous- 
ness. But another motive may be a law to him — the respect 
for custom, the firmly fixed judgment of society, of the special 

% 



18 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

circle or of the whole population to which he belongs. Perhaps 
this is an urgent call, a law often binding with more strength 
than the law of the state ; for how hard it is to bear the 
disrespect of society ! how deadly its ban ! how sweet and 
stimulating, how indispensable for innumerable persons, is their 
honour ! In fact, the boundary line between the law of custom 
and the law of morality is often imperceptible. And still, 
although this respect for custom is not the highest of motives, 
yet the door of morality has now been opened. Inclination, 
Utility, Law, Custom — important as each one of these things 
is in its place, and indispensable in the economy of life, nay, 
valuable as means of training for that which is to be, as steps, 
i.e.^ to higher things, all of them pale before the splendour of 
the moral imperative, ' Thou shalt ' — the moral law. 

What is its characteristic? It asks no longer If? and 
Whether ? It derives its validity from no external source, but it 
demands absolutely (Kant's categorical imperative). To this 
speciality of its requirement corresponds the effect which our 
submission to absolute law or our resistance to it has in our 
innermost self: it is something quite unique. Resistance to 
absolute law is not punished by the natural displeasure which 
desire denied awakens, nor by the feeling of disgust that we 
have acted so stupidly, nor by the fear of punishment, nor by 
the censure of society, but by the feeling of guilt — the severest 
of all. I have lost my true worth, and I am compelled to con- 
demn myself even though all the world should exculpate me. 

On the other hand, accordance with absolute law does not 
bring with it a natural complaisance; neither contentment at 
the triumph of our own prudence, nor the enjoyment of others' 
respect : it is rather an experience of ' value ' which carries with 
it neither success nor misfortune. It is that experience of a 
unique and incomparable dignity which consists in the unity 
and freedom of the inner life — unity because no changing 
circumstances of life determine his will who understands and 
recognises the command ' Thou shalt.** In the midst of confusing 
multiplicity he has realised himself as something ' whole,' and 
has reached ' unity,' and he has gained an independence and 
freedom so unique that it is to him inconceivable how others 



FUNDAMENTAL ETHICAL CONCEPTS 19 

can misemploy this term for the unrestraint of impulse or the 
prudent use of events and human beings which to him appears 
to be servitude. All the more surprising is such an effect of 
right action since obedience to an absolute command may 
really be mere renunciation ; the pain of self-denial ; and that 
sharpened by the fact that the urgency and reality of those 
other volitional reasons may in the presence of 'Thou shalt' 
appear as a powerless phantom-king. 

This fundamental fact of the moral life we can comprehend 
in no other way than by the thought that in it we really reach 
our destiny, the deepest characteristic of our spiritual life — the 
impulse to unity and freedom. As in a dream we strive after 
it in a thousand purposeless ways so long as we only live for 
the moment and for desire. Our enjoyment of the beautiful 
carries us higher and deeper ; but even freedom of contemplation 
is not the highest; 'eternal life' in the enjoyment of a work 
of art is not the deepest peace of inner unity ; it is only ' the 
good will ' that becomes both whole and free in its doing. 

Such considerations bring us of themselves still deeper into 
the marvel of the moral world. Is not this independence and 
freedom of a human being standing in the stream of the 
transitory his unity with the ultimate foundation of all reality 
— with that reality which is of the highest value .? And does 
it not hereby first attain its truth ? And further, while that 
'Thou shalf depending on the determination of our will 
involves our responsibility, we can do no other than unreservedly 
accept the fact of this freedom ; or, again, give up what we have 
asserted of the moral law. On this point we must, in order to 
obviate confusion, observe that the word freedom is used in 
another sense than just now — not of the internal sense of 
independence, but of the freedom to decide. What this precisely 
is we (in order to avoid repetitions) postpone to that part of 
our treatise in which we must give a more connected account 
of the tremendous question whether it is possible reasonably to 
maintain the unlimited force of the imperative : ' Thou shalt.' 
And for the same reason we must also consider how the moral 
law asserts itself in that highly complicated phenomenon which 
in our language we call the conscience. Our examination so 



20 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

far has been nothing else but an attempt to illustrate those 
separate aspects of moral action of which we for the most part 
think when we speak of conscience. 

Avoiding this kind of way of looking at the subject for the 
present, we must be careful, in lespect of this imperative * Thou 
shalt,' to avoid an exaggeration. We must not be understood 
to assei-t that it is always and everywhere and in every man 
felt to have equal force. It may often be a very insignificant 
phenomenon, may so far as our judgment of moral content goes 
even be an unmoral something by which, however, even in the 
abandoned, or in those still very imperfect, there dawns a 
presentiment of the majesty of the moral law in distinction 
from those other powers — even that of custom — which bind him 
the most strongly. There can, on the other hand, be a highly 
developed social custom of wide prevalence without the single 
individuals on whom it has influence experiencing the absolute 
demand which the 'good' makes on them. It is plain that 
'Thou shalt' cannot with like ease connect itself with any 
content ; absolute law in the strictest sense can only be that 
which is of universal application for individuals under all 
circumstances of life, and still more for collective mankind. It 
would be easy to work out the idea that between the two main 
lines of the moral life, that is to say of self-discipline and 
benevolence, and the form of absolute law an inner affinity 
subsists; that with progress in respect to that content this 
form of the moral law comes into continually clearer conscious- 
ness ; but that it is only in union with the highest content 
that ' Thou shalt ' becomes perfectly intelligible, or, in terms of 
Christianity, that it is in conversion that it is truly realised. 

All those main points of view of moral good, from which its 
nature is plain, have been treated as simply as possible, and 
perhaps become still plainer when attention is drawn to the 
fact that these aspects are often not at all explicitly dis- 
tinguished. And the reason of this is that, as a matter of fact, 
they stand partly in an inner relationship to each other. 
Prominence has already been given to the statement that 
' norms ' and even ' motives ' in respect of their ascertained 
content can easily be deduced from ' ends.' The norm, however, 



FUNDAMENTAL ETHICAL CONCEPTS 21 

so far as there is bound up with it the sense of obligation, 
stands in closer relation to the command, ' Thou shalt ' ; and 
it cannot be gainsaid that personal subjection to an absolute 
law is the highest moral spring of action. Other questions 
having more immediate reference to motives may for the time 
being be set aside — such as that whether motives become 
active through special emotions, or by realisation of ideas of 
value, and in particular how both these springs of action may 
be interconnected ; and again how far motives must be, or 
rather can be, both impulse to, and power for, moral action. 
But while these internal relations between the various chief 
points of view and their closer definition have justice done to 
them in the course of our examination, it is a source of endless 
confusion when they are not, so far as practicable, plainly 
distinguished at the outset as we have above attempted to do. 
In particular, it is only possible when these are thus presented 
to test each ethical view as a whole, and to see whether and how 
far it does justice to those points of view which are determining 
factors in our knowledge of ethics. For if these have not all a 
like claim to consideration, at any rate reasons ought to be 
given for leaving them out of account. Instead of this, " new 
outlines of a morality of the future" are appearing which 
plainly show that their authors have no suspicion of the fulness 
of these at least possible points of view. 

All so far established has reference to the fundamental 
concepts which throw light on the nature of ethics. We add 
to our notice of this raw material of concepts just for the sake 
of completion the following, with a view to later necessary 
discussion. The much-used expressions, ' empirical,' ' intuitive "" 
(idealistic) ethics, relate to the origin of morals. The first of 
these seeks that origin in the experience of the individual, and 
especially in that of nations ; the second does not necessarily 
deny the value of experience, but lays stress on the view that, 
in the last resort, we must assume the existence of an original 
moral faculty in men. Two other terms, 'autonomous' and 
' heteronomous ' ethics, relate to the basis on which the validity 
of ethics rests. The first affirms that this basis is in the human 
will itself; the second, that it is in something external, whether 



« THE El'HICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

in God, or in some other authority in life, such as the Family, 
the State, the Church, or the like. For the present it is enough 
to ask whether this antithesis is not comprehended in a higher 
unity. The Christian conception of morals plainly points to 
this. Of course, the view taken of origin and validity depends 
on that of the nature of ethics. Finally, there are those who 
speak of the ' principle ' of ethics, and by this is meant that 
which is the decisive thought in any intuition of the Good — 
the Christian idea, for instance, or the Buddhist. But it is not 
for the most part made clear by some under which of the above- 
named points of view this decisive thought is contemplated, 
whether, «.<?., under that of the highest end, motive, rule, or 
under that of the imperative ' ought," or, as the subject really 
requires, under all these points of view. This want of per- 
spicuity veils the weak spot in any particular form of ethics, and 
silence is maintained on it — for instance, on such a point as to 
the motives of good action. For, as Schopenhauer says, " how 
does any assertion about the Good help us if we cannot show 
how it becomes operative ? "" 

We may conclude our discussion of fundamental concepts by 
an appeal to actual life. These notions gain colour if we grasp 
the moral process in an event in which this process presents 
itself to us most immediately and personally, such as the effect 
on our own personality of morally exalted persons. W!.at is it 
that we experience when we come into contact with a will 
ruling over its natural impulses and strong enough to 
dominate us ? which ministers to us of its goodness and serves 
the world and time because devoted to the service of the 
Eternal ? We are at once in a special manner humbled and 
exalted as we stand face to face even with a stranger in whom 
we seem yet to get a glimpse of our true nature, and are 
confronted with the question whether we ourselves are now 
willing what and how we ought to will. This experience, 
which makes the life of the poorest rich, and without which the 
richest are poor, we have attempted in these formulas to bring 
in a preliminary way to the simplest possible expression. 

Still, one net gain of these general explanations must be 
insisted on. However much they still consistently stand in 



FUNDAMENTAL ETHICAL CONCEPTS 23 

need of closer definition, they have certainly advanced us 
further than that conception of moral action according to 
which it is merely reasonable action, the action of reason 
on nature, which is Schleiermacher''s view. In fact, this does 
not mark out the sphere of morals but of civilisation, the 
conquest of nature whether for the ends of practical life or in 
the intellectual region of science and art. We who live to-day 
have been more urgently compelled than earlier generations 
to recognise that the advance of civilisation is far from being 
coterminous with the progress of the Good in the world ; nay, 
that very much indeed that has the most incontrovertible 
claim to the great name of the Good can only maintain itself 
in antagonism to an immorally shaped civilisation — one of the 
hardest tasks of Christian ethics. Civilisation and morals must 
be sharply differentiated at the outset — and this quite apart 
from the fact that in such an idea of ethics it cannot be made 
at all clear in what respect moral action differs from other mental 
activities. With this conviction another closely coheres : that, 
if we are to be content to consider the will as a peculiar faculty 
which arises in the self-development of our life, and not closely 
investigate the meaning of the obligation 'Thou shalt,' ethics 
cannot attain its proper dignity. 



CHAPTER II. 

OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS. 

We started with the thought that it is indispensably necessary 
to compare critically and contrast the systems of our opponents. 
In order to become acquainted with them all accurately we 
should be obliged to take into consideration the whole of 
those fundamental concepts noted in giving some provisional 
account of ethics. We should be obliged to ask our opponents 
to define End, Motive, Rule, as well as how they understand 
the moral imperative ' ought," whether they assign it any value, 
and to what extent. We must likewise hear what their opinion 
is of the origin and value of morals. Such a procedure would 
bring to light the immense variety of answers given to the 
question : What is the Good ? The knowledge which would in 
this way be elicited whether these fundamental concepts are 
closely connected with each other, and in what way, would be 
particularly instructive. Irrespective of the minuteness of this 
procedure, it would, however, not clearly bring out the positions 
of the most important of the opponents. Still, from which 
of the many once more mentioned points of view are we to 
commence our short review ? The moral imperative ' ought ' 
seems the most natural starting-point. But opponents often 
boast of their advantage in being able to state the goal of 
Christian action with more clearness than Christian ethics. 
Besides, on the question of norms or rules — on that which 
* ought "* to be done — there is less dispute ; for at any rate all 
alike consider benevolence towards others and the conquest of 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 25 

self as Good. That is, of course, only correct up to a certain 
point ; even here the differences are much greater than at first 
sight appears. Now, can we put the question of motives so far 
in the rear as many do ? Often enough will the conviction arise 
that so little can be said of these because we have so little that 
is satisfactory to say. But let us follow our opponents into 
the region in which they see their strength. And indeed in 
this way we have, in the main, only to consider the resolute 
opponents of Christian ethics. That which separates others 
who are largely its friends, and do really admit the force 
of the moral imperative 'Thou shalt,' can be dealt with in 
the course of our proof of the truth of the Christian 
position. 

Still, the common conviction that men are right when they 
surround the word ' Good ' with a special sanctity, and that, 
in spite of all errors and failures, they are not, at the bottom, 
deceived as to what at any rate should be named ' Good,' 
does at least so far bring our opponents into unison with 
Christian ethics. It was reserved to our generation to maintain 
the opposite opinion and render it impressive and influential 
in wide areas — in other words, to set up an ethical system 
which can only claim this name, because, of course, it gives 
some answer to the question : How are we to order our 
lives ? but not because it would order them in accord with 
the ' Good "" in a meaning in which this word is comparable 
with the sense hitherto assigned to it. This great contradic- 
tion not merely of Christian ethics, but of every possible 
system of ethics (in any intelligible use of words), it is very 
necessary that we should note attentively. 

The Devaluation of All Values. 

We do not suggest that ideas of this kind have never been 
thought before. Socrates combated the Sophists on these 
points ; they return again in the issue between Christianity 
and the ancient heathen world, and also at the close of the 
mediaeval period, in the renascence previously to the Reformation. 
But more resolute, bolder, more reckless and influential than 



26 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

such leaders, Friedrich Nietzsche sets himself " on the further 
side of good and evil"; declares that the prevailing judgment 
ou good and evil is a mere prejudice which has arisen from the 
enslavement of the weak ; that it is an inversion of the original 
judgment of men that the * Good' is what is strong, superior; 
and he demands a return to the original conception, so that 
mankind mav be raised on to a nevf, plane ; and the ' super- 
man,' the goal of all desire, maj come; and in the eternal 
ditnilarity of all things may come again and again. This, in 
brief, is the content of Nietzsche's message, of his gospel, which, 
appearing in a series of critical essays, he announced with the 
tone of a prophet under the title ZarcUhti-ftras. L«t us try to 
give some account, in his own words, of the meaning of this 
message. 

" Forward ! '^ he cries ; " even our old morality belongs to 
comedy. Whoever would have peaceful slmnber used before 
falling asleep to speak of 'good' and 'evil'! There is an old 
delusion which is called good and evil ! The old tables must 
be broken to pieces: 'Thou shalt not steal,' 'Thou shalt do 
no murder'! Nay, do not spare thy neighbour! Good men 
never speak the truth! Be coiuageous, impassive, scornful, 
violent, then wisdom will love you ! Your love of your neigh- 
bour is only a bad form of your love of yourself: rather do I 
counsel you to flee from your neighbour, and to keep love at 
the furthest distance." 

Therefore good and evil in the usual sense is a delusion. 
But how did this delusion arise? 'Good,' responds he in 
answer, was once that which is strong, noble, mighty. Therefore 
did the weak, justly oppressed, resist with the only weapon 
they had. They made weakness into a virtue, proclaimed 
submissiveness, good faith, love, and also self-conquest, con- 
siderateness, moderation in the presence of reckless power 
'good.' Weakness was tortured into merit, feebleness into 
goodness, abjectness into humility, subjection into obedience. 
At the goal salvation beckons as a reward ! The time will 
come when weakness is strength ! It was the priests who led 
the way in this devaluation of the term ' good,' for they were 
not strong, certainly not the Jew-priests. It was thus this 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 27 

slave-revolt in morals began. Christian love is but the most 
alluring form of this slave-morality ! It was the man who let 
himself be bound in social fetters, this fool, this yearning and 
despairing prisoner, who invented *the evil conscience "* which 
is in sooth the most dismal of diseases. 

*'Yet there is healing. I teach you of the 'super-man.' 
Your * mere man ■■ is something to be conquered ! What you 
call happiness, virtue, reason is but poverty and sordid ease. 
It is the grand contempt for these that fashions 'the higher 
man.' Not your sin but your contentedness cries up to heaven ! 
^^^lat is good and what is bad only the man of master-will 
knows. And it is he who makes human destiny, gives to the 
earth its meaning, and shapes the future ! It is he who ordains 
what is 'good"" and 'bad."" He will remodel everything that 
' was ■' until his will says : I would have it so ; so do I will. O 
will ! turning-point of every difficult}', spare me for a great 
victory ! It is to this ' higher man "' and only to him, the man 
of master-will, that that is good which is now called bad — the 
three evils, sensuality, tyranny, selfishness ! Sensuality, the 
fire which bums up the rabble, is to the free hearts, innocent 
and free, the pleasure-ground of earth, the generous thank- 
offering of the future to the present. Tyranny, the fiery com-age 
of the hard-hearted, will then be like to generous aspiration ! 
And selfishness, the saving, wholesome selfishness, which springs 
forth from the mighty soul of him of powerful frame, beautiful, 
victorious, refi'eshing ! But the first-bom is ever a sacrifice ! 
It is a thorny path along which this man of master- will must 
go ! Pleasure, comfort in the sense of the mass of men, is not 
his lot." 

This hope of the coming of the ' super-man "* is not fulfilled 
once for all. The inextinguishable desire of life finds rest only 
in the thoiight of eternal return — that desire for life which 
glows in the song : — 

O Mensch, gib Acht I 
Was spricht die tiefe Mittemacht ? 

Ich schlief, ich schUef. 
Aus tiefem Traum bin ich erwacht. 

Die Welt ist tief. 



28 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht 

Tief ist ihr Weh. 
Lixst — tiefer noch als Herzeleid. 

Weh spricht : vergeh ! ^ 

" Surely all desire longs for eternity, longs for deep, deep eternity. 
And the thought of return to life again which stills this desire 
of life is this, that all things come back again and we with them, 
and that we have already existed innumerable times, and all 
things with us. Now I die and in an instant I am nothing. 
But the tangle of causes in which I was inextricably involved 
returns again. They will recreate me. I myself am a part of 
the causes which perpetually repeat themselves. I do not return 
to a new life but to this very self-same life, the eternal return 
which I teach as the fate of all things and of all men."" 

This allusion to Nietzsche could not be very brief. For his 
influence cannot be underestimated by anyone who sees things 
clearly at the present time and asks by what tendencies it is 
moved. Remembering the personal fate of the originator, in 
the mental gloom which settled upon him, double reticence is 
imposed on our judgment. Even those who do not write of his 
life's work from the Christian standpoint have called to mind his 
own words : " My insight was too deep ; now 1 care for nothing. 
Have I any harbour, any goal, whither my sail may carry me ? 
Thy danger is no small one, thou free spirit, and wanderer ! Thou 
hast lost the goal, and so hast lost thy way too ! " 

If we look shortly at the subject-matter, the principles only, 
it is allowed even by his admirers that his idea of eternal return 
is presented with no perspicuity. Nietzsche saw in it salvation 
from pessimism, but as a matter of fact it is an abyss of misery. 
So far at least Nietzsche was not able to make his other 
principle, that of the ' super-man," plainer. In his negations he 

^ O man, give heed ! 

What says the deep midnight ? 

I slept, I slept. 
Out of a deep dream have I awaked. 

The world is deep. 
And deeper than the day declares. 

Deep is its woe. 
Desire — deeper than heart-sorrow. 

Woe says : Perish ! 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 29 

is clear, in that " breaking to pieces of the old tables." But so far 
as anything definite is said concerning his idea of the 'super- 
man,' it is nothing fresh. It really lies altogether outside the 
old ethical idea, but in one respect it is a first step to it — the 
mastery of powerful natural impulses. Every advance beyond 
this first step mankind has felt to be moral advance. On the 
other hand, his " noble men," his " excellent men," are not in 
their mutual intercourse devoid of esteem and respect, they are 
not quite outside ' good ' and ' bad ' ; the eagles are only become 
lambs as compared with eagles, the lion has among lions become 
a child. There is still more recognition of the ' good "" in the 
old meaning, and indeed in its Christian connotation, in the 
honour given to suffering. " Comfort as you understand it," 
cries Zarathustras to the adherents of hedonistic ethics, " is 
really no goal which can be regarded as an ' end.' The 
discipline of sorrow, of great sorrow, know you not that this 
discipline can alone exalt man ? " The earnestness of the 
question by means of which the thought of eternal returns to 
life is made to sink into their minds is quite reminiscent of the 
' old tables.' It is, " What are we to do, that we may wish 
to do it innumerable times ? " So much the more remarkable is 
it that, with such a deep understanding of single sides of 
Christian morals, he exhibits a passionate opposition to it as 
founded on religion. ' God is dead.' The belief in the ' super- 
man ' takes the place of belief in God ; it is, so to speak, religion 
without God, against God. The real contradiction in this 
whole prophesying comes out most clearly in this very point : 
not perchance simply for the Christian judge, but in the pathetic 
self-confessions of Zarathustras. " I do not know the blessed- 
ness of receiving. It is my poverty that my hand never ceases 
from giving. O misery of all givers ! O silence of all who 
spread the light ! So great is the price which the ' super-man ' 
pays who says, '" God is dead ' ! Woe to him who has no home 1 " 
All the more pressing is the question how to explain the 
inordinate success of Nietzsche. Some have pointed to the force 
of his utterances, the most intensely German of all German 
literary styles {deutscheste DeutscK) since Goethe. It reminds 
us, in fact, of his own saying : " Of all writings I love that which 



30 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

a man has written with his blood."" It has also, without reason, 
been said that the curt, fearless, oracular style suits the spoilt 
and hurried taste of the present day, which indeed is only 
receptive of a conception of the cosmos which shall be entertain- 
ing. We must explore deeper sources than this. To begin 
with, the sole dominance of the intellect in its poverty had 
become oppressive ; the will to live awoke. The intellect had 
announced ad nauseam its decision that all * value,' all that is, is 
lost. So Nietzsche's desire of life was felt as a deliverance. Men 
rejoiced to feel that the world was no longer emptied of meaning. 
And others had likewise to the point of weariness extolled the 
unprofitable life, devoid of content as it is, of mere happiness. 
Thus many a young man was jubilant with the thought of ' the 
super-man "" who dares to be what he is ; to whom the crown of 
thorns which awaits the pioneer seemed more desirable than base 
comfort or indifference. But of course innumerable persons 
thought themselves of the number of the 'super-men' only 
because they shunned the labour to become real men at least in 
the present conditions. They forgot the saying of Goethe, the 
author of this idea of the ' super-man ' : " Scarcely are you free 
from the grossest illusion, scarcely are you master of your early 
childish will, than you think you are ' super-man ' enough and 
that you may neglect to fulfil the duty of a man." 

Thus has Nietzsche produced many of those effects on which 
he himself first poured out his Zarathustrian scorn and con- 
tempt. Many runlets trickle down from his elevation into the 
depths of practical materialism, of cultured and uncultured 
coarseness, for which he felt such a deep and sovereign contempt. 
Others again carry out his ideas not on the vulgar level, but 
into the region of platitude, as, e.g., when they make their appeal 
to him for the thought that by regulation of marriages the 
' super-man ' may be bred. Consequently it is not easy rightly 
to depict Nietzsche's influence. Still, even this short dissertation 
would be too short if no notice whatever were taken of the 
abundant traces of his ideas, or certainly of his style of thought, 
in the latest literature. It is necessary besides to emphasise 
most strongly that it is just in those poets who show these 
traces the most evidently that other influences, which are in 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 31 

part antagonistic, are operative. Most plainly, as is natural, 
the negative side of the philosopher comes to light. It was in 
himself the stronger, and it was the easiest to understand and 
to use. Thus if Sudermann in Sodom's End says : " Wit is the 
master of the world ; Wit represents to us nature, truth, morals. 
Long live his majesty, Wit! " Or "there is no love, no duty, 
only nerves. We live in a world in which nothing is holy, and 
there is no sin ! You may do and dare all, for it clothes thee ! " 
And how notable the following equivoque : " I want again to 
know how an honest man feels. I want again to be able to 
work. Give me a fetish in which I can believe."" Answer : 
" Do believe in yourself." But he : " Ha ! ha ! in myself ! " Or 
a saying like this : " Beasts are we all ; all that is of importance 
is that our skin should be finely marked. And a specially fine 
tiger of a beast is that which we call personality." 

This last saying particularly reminds us of Nietzsche and his 
' blonde beasts ' — the Germans in their savage power, before they 
were infected with the ' slave-morals,' In the above context it 
may at the same time serve as a proof how much better these 
modern poets have succeeded in pouring scorn on the old 
morality than in giving ideal shape to the idea of the ' super- 
man.' These new people of Sodom go to destruction along with 
the old Sodomite morality ; they are too weak to set up new 
tables. And when one of Sudermann's or Gerard Hauptmann's 
heroes makes the attempt, it remains an attempt only. Well 
says Martha in The Home : " I am I, of myself I become what 
I am ; ... if you had any suspicion what life is in the 
grand style ! — the putting forth of every power, a taste of every 
sort of guilt. Guilty we must be if we would grow. We must 
become greater than our sins ! " Clear only in its negations is 
this picture. And in the Submerged Bell all the grandilo- 
quent language is unable to deceive us as to the inner weak- 
ness of the ' Master Henry ' : the greater the expectation as to 
the doings of the ' super-man,' the greater the disillusionment 
because he is in fact no actual existent. Nay, even he who is 
far greater, Ibsen himself, is only the prophet of a doubtful future ; 
powerful in his destruction, poor in his constructiveness except 
when he exhibits those goals which are like those ever sighed for of 



32 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

old: when "truth and freedom are to be the pillars of the 
coming social era,'' But this again shows us how one-sided it 
would be to assert that there are more than points of contact 
between these visionaries and Nietzsche. We shall consequently 
meet them again in a wholly different context. 

Our object has simply been, before setting before ourselves 
the great variety of moral ideals which are in competition 
with the Christian conception, strongly to emphasise the fact 
that a powerful tendency of the present time runs counter to all 
that has heretofore been regarded as 'good' and 'bad,' set 
forth in the expression "devaluation of all values," "the 
thither side of good and evil." If we do not, while we listen to 
expressions of the opinions and spirit of the present time, always 
hear something of this roaring surf which threatens to sweep 
away all morality as an island in the ocean, then not only is our 
observation incomplete, but we fail to have a full conception of 
the seriousness of the conflict. 

The Opponents of Definite Christian Ethics. 

How we can find our way in the multitude of those views 
which offer themselves as substitutes for the Christian system, 
and even compatible with it so far as they do not aim at any 
' devaluation of values ' in the sense spoken of, has been above 
alluded to (p. 24 f.). Their advocates themselves see an ad- 
vantage in being able to state the end of moral action clearly 
and convincingly. Therefore let us consider what they have to 
say on this point. The remaining criteria or points of view to 
which we drew attention will of themselves receive their due 
attention when we would discover what is to be understood by 
the term Good. Thus : to what Goal is action or conduct to be 
directed if ii is to be called Good ? Now it is the special feature 
of modern ethics that it seeks this goal here and now, in the 
world of our experience. The really chief objection to Christian 
ethics is that, transcending this world, it sees the highest goal of 
the moral life in the eternal kingdom of God. Consequently we 
must commence with those exponents of modern ethics who treat 
that characteristic mark which they boast as their advantage 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 33 

with the most seriousness. Should it then appear that all by 
no means confine themselves within this limit, but rather look 
beyond this boundary, and instead of limiting the goal of action 
to this world (immanent ethics) conceive of one that is above it 
(transcendent ethics), then we possess a doubly welcome reason 
for asking this question : Is it not possible that this trans- 
cendence is an inseparable part of the nature of morality ? And 
then still further, if this be so, is not the way and manner in 
which Christians define this goal far preferable ? An important 
difference is manifest in the first class of these most distinctively 
modern systems, not only for the Christian observer, but one to 
which prominence is given by their exponents ; and although as 
a matter of fact it nowhere appears in a pure form, it is 
important as regards the treatment of the subject-matter. 
Namely, the following : — If the final End which we ought to 
realise by moral action is one that belongs entirely to the 
present, and is a part of our experience in this world only, then 
it may either belong immediately to our inner life as the agents, 
or it may lie in that which we realise by our action. We take 
this now merely as an expression of a simple fact. Of course we 
cannot make anything at all an End — there is nothing that we 
can will to realise — which has no value for us. That is simply 
impossible (p. 8). If, therefore, we have said the End which 
we would realise by our action may lie outside us, that is not the 
same as saying that this is something indifferent to us, but only 
that it is not ' Good,' ' Moral,' merely for the sake of the value 
which it has for the agent. In the other and first-mentioned 
case this is exactly what is asserted. The agent cannot wish for 
anything but his own pleasure, his happiness, his desire, however 
variously the term is used : of course it is not merely sensuous 
desire that is here thought of. But this is undeniable : if the 
final Goal of moral action is the agent himself alone, that is self- 
evidently the same as saying — the End is his happiness or 
pleasure. Therefore it is that this view of ethics is called the 
eudaemonic (hedonistic), the happiness- or pleasure -theory of 
ethics ; the other, evolutionary ethics, or the ethics of de- 
velopment. For according to the latter, vice versa^ the goal 
of action is not merely the pleasure of the agent, but some- 

3 



S4 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

thing of value which somehow, independently of the agent, is 
evolved by his action. 

Hedonvitic Ethics. 

Let us first of all consider the first, the eudaemonic (or 
hedonistic) ethics. The ' End ' of moral action is happiness ; 
that action in fact is good which realises this End. 

It is not easy to present such a theory of ethics fairly. For 
one thing, because, to begin with, it appears contradictory to 
bind the Good and the Pleasant so closely together, whereas 
we know that each one experiences, although involuntarily 
and even unwillingly, how easily and frequently those two 
claimants for pre-eminence disagree. We may on this refer to 
the earlier examination of the conception of moral value- 
feelings (p. 11). It is under the pressure of this objection 
that the adherents of that view often try to do more to secure 
themselves against it than is compatible with their foundation 
principles. Mindful of this, we must begin with the proposition 
that no serious friend of hedonistic ethics will assert that the 
action which merely secures the pleasure, the happiness of the 
moment is moral action : that would be nothing but mere 
selfish action, naked egoism ; and with the other proposition, 
that it is not isolated feelings of desire that are intended, but 
an enduring condition, and, generally, not mere passive feelings 
of desire, but satisfying exertion of all the powers as a whole. 
Let us, to begin with, merely put a note of interrogation to 
the second proposition, and ask, Is it clear ? While, as to the first, 
it is thus explained : — Good is that which seeks the happiness of 
the whole, or, more carefully expressed, with reference to that 
which is more easily attainable, the greatest happiness of the 
greatest possible number. In its place of origin, in England, 
this is often called utilitarianism. We in Germany rather speak 
of the "common welfare" theory (social eudaemonism), a term 
which at the same time has respect to the closer definitions of 
both the above propositions. 

We may not deny a certain attractiveness in this system. 
It has, for the judgment of the average man, something 
illuminative in its simplicity, something attractive in its 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 35 

considerateness. We cannot forget how exalted ethical science 
has often enough been too little regardful of the desire of men 
in their misery for some measure of assured well-being, and 
this doctrine must many a time have appeared to be a weapon 
in the struggle for happiness. And it is little marvel that the 
originators of this utilitarian ethics were with such ideas 
considered to be all but inspired men. Benthamism appeared 
like a revelation ; and J. S. Mill attractively depicts how even 
unbroken sensuous enjoyment, at its highest, could not be 
compared with that feeling of social and intellectual value 
which was summed up in the idea of "the greatest possible 
happiness for the greatest possible number." But on such 
utterances a judgment may follow which has to do, not with a 
depreciation of noble endeavour, but with exact knowledge of 
the real question at issue. Above all, the question forces itself 
on us. What sort of circumstances and activities are they which 
guarantee the greatest good, the highest happiness, the welfare 
of all ? We might expect that, if the idea of morality is based 
on that of happiness, then no sort of uncertainty could in any 
way prevail as to what happiness is. That is indubitably not 
the case. When this utilitarian ethics arose it had a very 
strong inclination to connect happiness closely with cash. For 
such a view there would probably be no small majority, 
supposing the question as to the sense in which happiness 
should be taken could be put to the vote. Doubtless by such 
means the weak side of such ethics would stand out with 
special clearness. Consequently we are assured that it is 
self-evidently a question about the higher ideal value ; and one 
of their spokesmen has said : " Better a discontented man than a 
contented hog " ; or, " The need of needs is that a man should 
prove himself worthy of that name." This form of closer defini- 
tion does all honour to the hearts of the hedonistic moralists ; 
but does it to the logic of their thinking ? For, even granted that 
it is these higher ideal activities which most further our happiness, 
it must still be asked more definitely : What then are they ? 
How does it stand in regard to many discoveries and inventions ? 
How with reference to enjoyment of noble music ? In this 
difficult situation it is not surprising that very frequently it is 



86 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

just a ciraUiat in definiendo that is described if we say : That is 
moral which furthers the general welfare ; our welfare consists 
in furthering the higher moral ' Goods.' At best we are helped 
out of this fix by emphasising quite strongly that other relevant 
self-interpretable proposition, that it is just the welfare of the 
whole which, rightly understood, is the true happiness of the 
individual. But supposing this assurance suffices, is it more 
than an assertion, if in fact a wholly new position is not thus 
taken up ? 

If this idea of the ethically good (the general welfare) which, 
in opposition to Christianity, is so highly praised for its simple 
intelligibility and applicability amid this our earthly life, is in 
no wise clearly definite in itself, the same thing is true also 
of the moral rules (norms) which are deduced from it. An 
example : — That the soldier may not forsake his post may be 
deduced certainly from the point of view of the general welfare. 
But that a man who, according to human calculation, is 
indispensable for the general welfare should venture his life to 
save a child cannot be so deduced. And yet probably for 
most adherents of hedonism that would be a particularly good 
action. Of course one may again explain this by saying that 
unselfish love is the highest human feeling of pleasure. 

But then the above question is raised in an acuter form, and 
one quite inevitable, when we inquire as to the motives of the 
action. The defect of the eudaemonistic standpoint comes into 
a still more evident light than when we only have regard to the 
end and norm. What is it that ought to impel each individual 
to be zealous for the common good .? Perhaps the thought, ' If 
I do not help, 1 shall not myself be helped.' This reflection 
will only bring us forward a little way on the right path. It is 
precisely in the most serious resolves that its powerlessness is 
evidenced. At the bottom it is only a shift of utilitarianisin 
that it expresses itself so undecidedly about the relation between 
personal and others' welfare. At first it says grandly : Happi- 
ness is the End, and everyone rightly thinks of his own. But 
soon it is his own and another's as well. After a while: Of 
course another's comes first ! Of course ? If this were said 
to commence with, the strong predilection for it would dis- 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 37 

appear. No ! if utilitarian hedonism is to be taken seriously it 
must, as its more keen-sighted exponents do (as we have already 
repeatedly mentioned), openly accept the conviction that from 
its very commencement feelings of benevolence (altruistic 
regards) are found in men, and not merely those which are 
selfish. That benevolence can arise out of pure selfishness 
can never be established. Limitation of selfishness through a 
necessary regard for others may, but not actual benevolence. 
But even this admission — which, however, is never really made — 
does not suffice. For how far ought I to follow the impulse to 
personal pleasure, how far that of benevolence to my neigh- 
bour ? More precisely, how much of the former and how much 
of the latter will most surely further the general welfare ? To 
this clearly only a very complicated calculus could make answer. 
Who can form it ? Scarcely the philosopher, even when he has 
a sufficiently great self-confidence in his own skill. It is more 
convenient to make appeal to the spirit of the community, to 
its historical experience, which is handed on as a heritage to 
each fresh generation, and especially to the great pioneer spirits. 
But when this impossibility of a calculus is admitted, the 
principle is given up that we can with direct certainty realise 
from clear, strong motives a plain and intelligible End, the 
greatest happiness of the greatest number of individuals. 
History, the spirit of the times, the power dominating the 
individual life — these ideas are all alien growths on this soil. 
Such thoughts belong rather to the sphere of evolutionary 
ethics. 

It is scarcely necessary to make specially prominent how 
little the cult of hedonism is suited to the experience of 
obligation : ' Thou shalt ' ; and that therefore not only is not 
that triad of principles (End, Motive, Norm) adequately defined, 
but this is true also of the other point of view, that of the 
absolute law. On the utilitarian principle the majesty of this 
' Thou shalt ' is to be derived from a calculation of utility, from 
the approval of society, the pressure of the state, the sanction 
of religion as not yet fully developed : these are to be regarded 
as the strands of the cord out of which the conscience is made 
up. The reckoning will not tally even if we add the above- 



S8 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

mentioned ideas (in part often little emphasised, in part taken 
in another way), such as ' natural feelings of benevolence,"' ' great 
men," * heredity.' It is, however, perfectly clear that the whole 
basis of eudaemonism is too narrow : that human nature, on the 
knowledge of which it is built, is not perfectly known in its 
depths. Humanity does not consist of a totality of individuals 
essentially alike : its manifold unity, its historical development, 
its deepest nature is misinterpreted. For this evolutionary 
ethics on which the hedonistic-utilitarian leans for help has 
the keener eye. The former does of itself point to the latter, 
and the boundaries of both are fluctuating. 

It may be asked in advance in what circles the ethics of 
hedonistic utilitarianism prevails, since, on account of its final 
presuppositions, it might be thought that it can find no place 
in a time when the idea of evolution is predominant ; and it 
shares these presuppositions with the century of the Renascence, 
which was dominated by the idea of the natural equality of all 
men. Now it is certainly in process of retiring into the back- 
ground where close thinking prevails, but not so much in the 
immediate feeling of wider districts of human life. To many its 
recommendation is its simplicity, which is more apparent than 
real ; and still more the close relations of the happiness and 
welfare theory to the economic question. So the great majority 
of the social-democratic party shows a very great leanir.g to it. 
And even the so-called ' Ethical Society "" is established for the 
most part on the utilitarian ethic. Many of its adherents 
verbally praise sacrifices for the good of others, which have a 
resemblance to Christian love of our neighbour ; others demand 
such righteousness in all human collective life as shall bring with 
it perfect happiness. The claim that all this has a scientific 
foundation, and that as contrasted with Christian ethics, 
which has * only ' a religious foundation, is scarcely intelligible 
at a time when, face to face with social eudaemonism, the 
right of the single personality is advocated without limitation, 
as by Nietzsche; and when, on the other hand, there is the 
conviction that the evolutionary theory of ethics affords a much 
safer foundation for the moral life. 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 39 

Evolutionary Ethics. 

Utilitarian hedonism, because it inscribes Happiness on its 
banner, and we all are desirous of being happy and therefore feel 
ourselves pleasingly affected when happiness is declared to be 
the final goal of the moral life, is alluring ; yet it is really for 
this reason that we feel indisposed to put faith in this message. 
We at once feel that there is a difference between that which 
is ' pleasant ' and that which is ' good,' and that the words 
ought not to be too closely identified, however much we should 
like them to be. We have this feeling also in regard to all 
those enrichments of the connotation of ' the pleasant ' intro- 
duced as quietly as possible by utilitarians. They almost all 
originated in the evolution theory. We may provisionally 
remark that the solution is found not in the idea of being 
happy but of being ' something,' and we then at once feel that 
we have made some approach to the true meaning of the Good, 
however indefinite. It may perhaps be much too indefinite, but 
still a step towards the truth. To become ' something ' aside 
from the idea of ' being happy ' is an approach towards the com- 
prehension of what is meant by ' moral.' ' To be something ' — 
that calls us onwards and upwards, and we have a presentiment 
of that transcendent value which, however much it is now our 
possession, is still more than we have at present attained to, 
and helps to raise us to that which we ought to be — to 
' something ' right, whole, complete. Good. 

Of course, when closely examined, this concept of evolution is 
ambiguous, and exhibits numerous faults — so ambiguous that 
it is patient of all the various meanings which the history of the 
term has already given it. Evolution is an illuminative concept 
when we think of the life of a plant which unfolds itself from 
the seed and the root to the stems, leaves, flowers, and ripe 
fruit, back to the seed again. This is a real ' becoming ' anew, 
a growth from within in harmony with the nature wrapped up 
in the seed. Evolution is a term applicable to all 'becoming' 
in nature, to the formation of the solar system from nebulas, 
the formation of the crust of the earth, the series of living 
existences ; even to history, e.g. the development of Luther into 



40 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

a Reformer, or of the German Empire, and to every realm of 
the mental and moral life generally. We cannot speak of its 
application to the moral life without calling to mind what the 
connotative marks are which the idea must have, or rather, 
which are almost everywhere taken for granted, when it is applied 
to the remotest realms, as if there existed a common agreement 
as to its meaning, an accurate, sharply defined notion of it. 
ITiat this is not so is at once its charm and its danger. In its 
general use, so various as it is, at the bottom there is merely the 
assumption of gradual, progressive realisation of that which, with 
definite powers, already exists in germ, whether this may concern 
single forces or a definite whole of such forces, or finally the 
totality of all forces. In this manifold application of this 
notion, so little defined, the danger generally is great of conceal- 
ing our want of actual knowledge by the use of a term. This is 
true not only in relation to the idea of End, but also to that of 
efficient cause, but most of all to the careless elimination of the 
original idea inseparable from the notion of evolution, of a 
causal unity at the base of this evolution, i.e. of design, power, 
driving force (on these logical difficulties in the concept cf. 
Sigwarfs Logic). Still more fateful for ethics is something 
else, though, for the most part, merely for the present tendencies 
of thought. To a greater extent than ever before the conscious- 
ness of the exhaustless wealth of the forces which the world 
of our experience discovers to us has come to our generation. 
The pressure of this world is so involuntarily powerful that it 
easily becomes overwhelming and gains the sole dominance over 
our souls. 

This world becomes unconsciously the ' be all and the end all ' ; 
it fills up the pleice of God ; it is even the Infinite, not merely 
in the sense in which it, without doubt, presents itself to us as 
such, but as the Absolute ; for a personal God there seems to be 
no longer room. And indeed there is only the universe, if it 
is taken in detail and as a whole in the light of the theory 
of evolution. Overwhelmed by it, to the modern consciousness 
it seems as if by this magic word — which at least appears to 
open up long-veiled secrets — the final secret itself had been 
brought to light, and in the discovery of the laws of develop- 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 41 

ment the riddle of the world was solved. This tendency 
of thought puts itself forward in opposition to Christian faith 
in a double direction : a double direction is especially strange 
and repugnant in this matter. Namely, it is at once opposed to 
the idea that a personal God, distinct from the world, works 
on the world and in the world ; and that in the course of 
cosmic process any phenomenon is of surpassing importance or 
eternal significance. The two theses are naturally connected, 
and at the bottom are finally based on that grave defect in the 
development theory, the want of precise definition, the indeter- 
minateness of the use of the term evolution. Evolution has 
had its greatest triumphs in the realm of nature. It is con- 
ceivable that it could be so applied in the spiritual sphere as 
it has approved itself in the other ; and even the methods of 
investigation carried over, as improved, from one sphere to the 
other. Conceivable but not warrantable ; because the whole 
hypothesis rests on an imperfect insight into the nature of 
knowledge. But it is just this that is of decisive importance in 
ethics. Does not the word development contain in itself, as 
a matter of course, ideas which, however valuable in another 
realm and in another context, directly contradict the nature of 
the moral will .? Is not, e.g.^ that imperative so often alluded 
to, ' Thou shalt,' put into the background or given an 
imperfect connotation .? Is not this so when under the pressure 
of the common idea of development, of the point of view of the 
gradual progressive ' Becoming "* ; that is, in fact, in the kingdom 
of nature it stands in the fore-front of our consciousness .? Is 
not the possibility of an inner transformation essentially a 
strange idea to the worshipper of the modern evolutionary 
theory "^ 

Still the question here is not yet about our verdict on 
evolutionary ethics, but to give a short exposition of its nature. 
When it is said : ' The end of moral action is the development 
of the moral capacity,' of course not much is said so far ; for 
every capacity can develop itself. In fact, the most varied 
content has been accepted for the idea of evolution : and, 
indeed, both for that of the individual and for that of mankind. 
Accordingly the ethics of the individual and of universal 



42 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

evolutionism are phrases used. To the first class all those belong 
who inscribe on their banner the perfection of personality, how- 
ever varied their thoughts of this perfectibility. In particular, 
the Stoics grandly regarded it as the independence of the wise 
man of all external circumstances, as the independence of a 
person face to face with nature ; in which thought we clearly 
again discover the one mark of the moral, of which we spoke, 
and in fact pui-sued with so much zeal that we were logically 
led much further, namely, to the unreserved recognition of an 
' Absolute I^w' and of an 'End' lying above and outside the 
world. Otherwise this Stoic independence, while we admire it, 
gives us the impression of want of content and of something 
unreal. 

For us to-day that form of perfectibility which concerns the 
individual is the most important, and which we find embodied in 
the arresting splendour of the highest genius, Goethe, in his 
youth, and made intelligible to all by his poetic creation. The 
ideal is a nature cultured to a fine personality, in the fulness 
of his life, the harmonious self-realisation of the individual in 
the wealth of his nature (the individualistic-aesthetic ideal). 
The phrase 'good and bad, like nature '' reminds us without 
giving us any explanation of the questionings which arise as soon 
as we seriously try to distinguish the natural from the moral. 
The fii-st part of Faust will for ever remain the great memorial 
of this ideal, i.e. one side of Faust. The picture of him exhibits 
quite different features, and the deeply pathetic 'judged,'^ 
'saved' in the prison scene is itself a profound Christian judg- 
ment on that ideal, when it puts itself forward as the highest. 

' The allusion is to the close of the first part of Faust : 

Margaret. 
Thine am I, Father ! O shut not the gate 
Of mercy on me ! 

Ye angels ! ye most holy spirits ! now 
Encamp around me ! and protect me now ! 
Henry, I tremble when I think on thee. 

Mephistophehs. 
She is judged ! 

Voice (from above). 
Is saved ! 

Blackie's translation.— Tr. 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 43 

Of course in this way the first part ends with a great question, 
and the answer which the second gives is not a definitely 
Christian one, however much Christian influences make 
themselves felt even there. Or, more precisely, the individual, 
evolutionary ethics does in Goethe merge in that other, the 
form above mentioned, in the idea of universal evolution. It 
is on mankind as a whole that attention is fixed, on the wealth 
of its development up to now. From it there falls light on 
further progress : Forward ! cries this solution, in all the realms 
of creative mind ! To contribute his share to this general 
progress is the task and the pleasure of the individual. Let 
the words of our poet be a witness of that : — 

The world is wide and life is broad. 
Years of striving, apart all fraud. 
Often seek we for its meaning, 
On each fresh solution leaning. 
All the past of good it gives me, 
All the new truth freely take we. 
Glad in mind and pure in will 
The goal of life advances still. 

West and East, the ancient and the modern, nature and spirit, 
all existence is comprehended in the idea of a great develop- 
ment. There have been immense alterations in men's modes 
of thought and life since the death of Goethe. But it is 
impossible to overestimate the influence of the evolutionary 
hypothesis on moral conceptions even for our generation. We 
must for the present refrain from more than noting how by 
its indefiniteness it exactly fits in with this change. Many 
individual forms once famous, in which it shaped itself — e.g. 
Hegel's philosophy — are gone ; the tendency to be antithetic 
to Christianity (as regards the points above mentioned) remains, 
and has increased in many respects. In the exuberant rhetoric 
on the occasion of the Goethe commemoration, the keynote was, 
as a matter of fact, the glorification of the evolutionary 
hypothesis. It is to this that the vow refers : " Thy teaching 
we will honour, thou great one, thou exalted one, the 
unsurpassed and unsurpassable, comparable to no other earthly 
being ! " 



44 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Leaving such rhetorical flights of festal poetry, the 
evolution theory has in sober scientific earnest found a 
significant explanation in the ethics of Wundt. The ethical 
end is the development of mankind in its entire psychical 
being, as this works out in the great social activities of 
Religion, Science, Art, Community, State. It is an unending 
task at which mankind labours ; the sense of its development 
is consciously felt only at intervals ; its impulse is ever to rise 
above itself to higher stages. The seat of this development, 
i.e. the final operative force, is the collective will. Prevailing 
over the individual will, it creates and sets forth new ' Ends ' 
(' Heterogeneous Ends '). There is no need to point out the 
grandeur of this conception. This is quite another end than 
that of the greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible 
number. There is no need ingeniously to explain away all 
that so far has been regarded as exalted and noble, or recognise 
it stealthily, and an infinite perspective is opened up. Accord- 
ingly, the rules of action become more definite, and they are 
vastly more nearly related to those of Christian ethics. 
Naturally, the highest summits reached by the present are 
the true starting-points for future development ; while a 
special advantage is, at least to begin with, the emphasis laid 
on the will as the vehicle of development. By this it becomes 
intelligible to the individual how it is that those dominating 
motives are serviceable. But the more willingly we recognise 
this the less is it possible to suppress a doubt. If, that is to 
say, the collective will is the absolute lord of the individual 
will, then this latter disappears as an independent entity. The 
individual will is only a form of the collective will ; nay, in the 
end it is appearance contrasted with reality. It thinks it 
decides, and the decision is really imposed from without. It 
does not act, it is acted on. That is, the moral life is a really 
remarkable compound bit of the life of nature : ' Thou shalt ' 
and ' I will "" are lost. This we must at any rate assert, although 
the proof of it can only be adduced later on. What is more, 
this glitter of grandeur is dimmed by that by which at first 
the moral end was illumined. This happens directly we 
seriously reflect that in the last resort the ideal remains a 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 46 

great unknown something. It will never show itself complete 
in the course of development to any generation. 

Development pushes on,irrestrainable, infinite. This 'infinite' 
has double meaning. It blinds us so long as we regard it as 
synonymous with 'absolute.' But it cannot help becoming 
clearer to us that it means without end^ and the absolute 
without goal. At this point the great question is suggested 
whether the moral end ought to be limited to this world, 
whether the final word of wisdom is the ethics of the present 
life, the ethics which makes this ' Immanence ' its base. Here 
we may just call to mind two sayings of Goethe, the great 
originator and, so to speak, saint of this moral philosophy. 
The first stands in the suppressed epilogue to the second part of 
Faust : " Man's life is like a poem ; it has certainly its com- 
mencement and its end, but yet it is not a whole." The second 
runs : " How stale and flat is such a life if all its activity, all its 
driving leads continually to fresh activity, and at the end no 
desirable end accomplished rewards you ! " It would indeed be 
insipid to call the great, glorious ends, Country, Knowledge, 
Art, ' flat ' ; but is it not necessitated that there must be a 
' final desirable end ' when work for them with continually 
fresh courage and ever like faithfulness is possible .'' 

It is not all the representatives of the evolutionary ethics 
who are to be so named to-day who have conceived and 
elaborated their principles like the above-named philosopher. 
Some have no more than an inclination for this essentially 
eudaemonistic ethics to lean on the evolutionary theory. 
Others follow openly and with pride the flag of evolution, and 
do in fact give to their principles a special turn or colour 
according to the special department of life in which their 
activity lies. For one the principle of evolution receives an 
aesthetic stamp ; for another the love of country fills the soul 
as the highest end of life. At the present time two particular 
types of the evolutionary ethics are widely spread and popular. 
One of these is determined by natural science, the other by 
political economy. Marx and Engel saw in the evolution of 
economic conditions, in the production and the use of economic 
products, the core of all evolution. The evolution of all other 



46 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN IJFE 

forms of activity is only an associated phenomenon of the 
former. Even art and religion are therefore only reflex 
phenomena of the battle for bread, the means of living. This 
is the science of brotherhood, the single infallible panacea in 
the circles of social democracy— or, to speak more accurately, 
that so called by their leaders, for the masses favour utilitarian 
. hedonism. But these ideas of Marx excited them to the con- 
flict. Everything is to be made to turn on the alteration of 
present industrial conditions. 

Monism. 
Often the industrial is associated with the natural science 
basis, and this latter is on its own account a great power, 
especially in the upper ten thousand. Not infrequently the 
system of ethics influenced by science and erected on this 
foundation is called Monism, a term emphasising the unity of 
the spiritual and the natural in the cosmic process, in which 
unity the former is subsumed under the latter. Thus all is 
natural in agreement with the tendency of the day, proud of 
its great scientific achievements in the mastery of nature. In 
this direction goes, e.g., the influential work of Spencer, whom 
Darwin called 'our great philosopher. "" To others the term 
Monism is merely a grand name for the materialism which is 
no longer attractive, or a veil for general obscur'.ty in final 
questions (cf. HaeckePs Riddle of the Universe). A difference 
which grows more marked has here arisen. The evolutionary 
ethics associated with scientific concepts had at first an intellig- 
ible leaning to recognise unregarding brute force in the battle of 
existence, even in the sphere of human life, therefore inclined 
to favour egoism and to derive from that the ever-weak impulse 
to benevolence. Others in an increasing number consider 
benevolence a product of the battle of selfish interests which 
has thus grown into a law of human life. ' You cannot go 
back to a stage that is passed and won,"" it is proclaimed to 
those who draw such a conclusion from the evolutionary 
theory : * the sympathetic-altruistic social sense, once created, 
is eternal and rises to ever-fresh developments.' ' I am not 
justified in doing just as I like because I can." ' The personal 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 47 

ego has become wide as the world ; the love of our neighbour 
stands high over all,' Occasionally in this circle the voices are 
heard of those who seek to bind the idea of development with 
that of real freedom ; or anyhow sing psalms over its development 
in individuals which, if taken seriously, must lead to the 
recognition of a degraded idea of responsibility in any adequate 
sense. Strong words may be heard about that misconceived 
determinism which leads to a fatalistic disregard of personal 
veracity, and results in the unfruitful worship of the idols 
of evolution. 

From this it is intelligible that there are not wanting those 
who attempt to reconcile monistic and Christian ethics, who 
with more cleverness than clearness explain the idea of evolution 
as essentially similar to the following of Christ, the core of all 
religion. That is useful, say they, which helps the individual ; 
good, that which is for the common welfare. And it is by 
evolution that this ' good ' is victorious ; this morality is the 
development of our nature. Drunkenness will cease like slavery. 
We are only at the commencement. The true, the good, and 
the beautiful are that Self which is more than we are. It will 
be achieved. We shall consciously become one with the All 
good or with the ' moral All.' Our power will hereby grow in 
an unsuspected way, the duration of existence will increase, nay, 
the dream of eternal life become an actuality ; a man without 
this hope is like an eagle with its wings clipped. At the com- 
manding word of science religion will rise from its bier, it is not 
dead (Powell). But the development theory and the Christian 
faith have been made to approach each other with more modesty ; 
in England the literature increases which makes use of the 
heading ' Christianity and Evolution.' We shall need to make 
up our minds under what sole conditions a real, honourable 
peace is possible : the merely clever institution of a relation 
between terms is little helpful, as, e.g., the juxtaposition of 
original sin and evolution in the proposition that we bring the 
ape and the tiger with us into the world as a result of evolution. 

Again, it is to be emphasised that the indefiniteness of the 
concept evolution allows of very various moral ideals, and that 
it is scarcely by more than a courteous etiquette that very 



48 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

varied and contradictory ideas are recommended to the modern 
consciousness. Especially has that double tendency in ethics 
under the influence of physical science a not inconsiderable 
counterpart in present-day literature. Besides the tones which 
clearly recall Nietzsche, and in part are more intimately con- 
nected with the idea of heredity, right on to the extreme that 
we do not properly speaking live, but are creatures indwelt by 
phantom spirits, there are other commingling tones which 
laud love as the highest bloom so far of evolution, and as the 
ripening fruit, by its own inherent force, of the future, e.g. — 
"How shall I call it.? — self-sacrifice, self- suppress! on .^^ It is 
somewhat that has to do with self, or rather is the antithesis of 
it. That impresses me, and so you can make much out of me " 
(Sudermann) ; " and everything is indeed forgiven thee but that 
one thing, that thou hast no will " (Ibsen). 

Positivism. 

Positivism is the next most nearly allied to the ethics so far 
treated, the evolutionary. This peculiarly employed term is 
intended to mean that only facts of observation ought to give 
answer to the question : How are we to order our life ? This 
so far nobody at all will deny, and the definition will be better 
understood by the converse : the facts only, with express exclusion 
of any inquiry as to the final Why .'' Wherefore H What the 
meaning of this is will be made clear by comparison with 
evolutionary ethics. The evolution idea remains undefined in 
its system, and many of its most logical exponents speak in the 
plainest possible way, and with a kind of enthusiasm, of the 
unattainability of any knowledge of final ends, and of how 
much of obscurity there is in the ' whence,"* the past. Positive 
ethics says : Let us stand aloof from the unascertainable, let us 
shake ourselves free from the pursuit of the impossible and so 
employ our whole energy on the attainable. Let us determine 
the laws of conduct from the facts accessible. Not only are the 
gods dethroned, but also science, with its search for final causes 
and a final end, metaphysics as well as theology. Both these are 
dissolved by the third — the only science is the knowledge of the 
laws of actual life and activity, biology, i.e., in reference to the 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 49 

individual, sociology in relation to mankind. Mankind ' con- 
tinued long to want ' until it turned from the ' ought to be ' to 
what really is. Ethics thus becomes social statistics, a theory of 
the self-ordering of society. The solution runs : Reverence the 
men of knowledge, and down with parties 1 The faith which we 
favour is a demonstrable one, when all the hollow idols of the 
old morality, such as freedom, lie on the ground. Now, what is 
the content of this demonstrable belief? Order and love, the 
sacrifice of the strong for the weak, reverence of the weak for 
the strong — in short, an altruistic realism. Providence, the 
moral ordering of the world, find their seat in the souls of men. 
The highest law which the science of sociology finds is the law of 
the organic union of mankind. Thus far positive ethics has 
designated itself the rehabilitation of Christian ethics without 
God. Man, the known nature of mankind, humanity, becomes 
men's God. So in the definition of the ethical norm this ethics 
has a point of contact with the Christian system. Love of our 
neighbour is often attractively lauded. Important authors like 
George Eliot, Loti, have, not without success, pleaded its cause. 
And what is more, it has not failed in works of mercy. In the 
French home of Positivism (Auguste Comte, Littre) homes for 
the poorest of the poor, for children suffering from incurable 
maladies, the result of social neglect, have been founded under its 
auspices. Whether that law of the social organism can really 
be derived from facts of observation only ; whether it really is 
so plain as its adherents think, and further, how it may be carried 
out in individual wills, unless these are made into mere involun- 
tary tools of a natural necessity ; whether, finally, ethics can stop 
short of a clear, known, final End, — all these questions are here 
only noticed in passing. 

Pessimism. 

As ' Positive "" ethics becomes most easily intelligible from the 
defects of the evolutionary, and is, so to speak, an abbreviated 
form of this system, so that the two often enough intermingle, 
and especially where the originally French principles of Positivism 
have found entrance into England and Germany ; so we can 
best grasp the one more remaining system, that of conscious 



60 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Pessimism^ from the main defects of all the ideals so far con- 
sideretl, and as we have seen them appear as competitors for the 
approval of our generation. We must revert to the point, on 
the divergence of opinion on the determination of the moral 
goal, some seeking it in this world, and others in that which 
transcends it. The competitors so far considered of Christian 
ethics all belong to the first class. But no art can juggle away 
many unsolved questions by this means. Let us reconsider 
how End, Norm, Motive were defined ; further, how the impera- 
tive 'Thou shalt' found in these systems no recognition — every- 
where questionings of this sort. One system criticised another, 
and then suffered a similar fate itself. It is intelligible even 
apart from Christian ethics how that, contemporaneously with 
them all, the appeal to that which is independent of this world 
was not wholly silenced. And indeed, irrespective of Chris- 
tianity, in the sense of a negation of the world. The tendencies 
described all found their support in love of life filled with the 
faith that the goal was attainable at which they aimed, 
and that it was worthy of self-sacrifice. Of course other wefts 
in the web repeatedly showed themselves, but optimism pre- 
vailed ; what was dark might perhaps be interpreted as the 
intensity of bright light. On the other hand, he who purposely 
directed his attention to defects, and as a result doubted whether 
a goal belonging to the inner being could be the final goal of 
human endeavour, and he who at the same time, for whatever 
reason, declined the supersensual goal which the Christian faith 
regards as characteristic of moral action, were logically forced to 
the ethics of pessimism. This says : The extinction of existence, 
as worthless, is the true End of moral action. Not only is there 
unalterably far less pleasure in the world than pain (consequently 
all eudaemonistic (hedonistic) forms of ethics precarious), but 
also all the much-belauded ' goods ' of evolutionary ethics dis- 
appear on close consideration. In its innermost core society is 
ever growing worse. Honour without virtue, reason without 
wisdom, satiety without happiness, are its stamp, on which, too, 
there is more of evil than of virtue. ' Cheap and nasty ' is the 
main principle of human action. Man is a compound of wicked- 
ness and stupidity in which the latter predominates in the 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 51 

masses, and the former in men of position. These resemble 
wolves, those sheep ; they are companionable from vanity, 
sympathetic from selfishness, honest from fear, pacific from 
cowardice, benevolent from superstition (Schopenhauer). Of 
course it is possible to paint in less glaring colours ; but it is a 
feature common to and significant of the whole of the ethics of 
pessimism that it puts its finger on the weak places of its 
opponents, that it does not allow itself to be blinded by big 
words about high aims, and particularly that it brings to the 
forefront more strongly the neglected question as to the inner- 
most motives of action. It holds an annihilating mirror in 
front of superficial temporal happiness. But yet it has always 
itself been helpless when confronted with the reproach, that in 
reality it is not a doctrine of human action but its annihilation ; 
and that it remains utterly inconceivable what sort of connec- 
tion must subsist between that in the highest decree trans- 
cendent End, nihilism, and the individual actual Ends which 
are to be the means of its realisation. To throw up this life 
voluntarily, or passively to await its cessation, appears to be the 
solitary clear result of this wisdom of the worthlessness of 
existence. And on motives for such action pessimism has 
nothing convincing to say. How could the idea of that worth- 
lessness conquer the pressing impulse of the moment, whatever 
worthless End it would pursue ? Even the much-praised thought 
of ' in harmony with the Infinite,' in the consciousness of which 
we feel ourselves free from the illusion of existence (E. von 
Hartmann), will not be proved powerful enough for that ; 
although he who hesitates agreement is warned that he is 
proving himself a despiser of the food of the gods, which is too 
fine for his appreciation. He who, finally, admits that the 
principle is indeed comfortless, but would regard it as a necessity, 
is in duty bound to the proof that the pessimistic verdict on the 
world and on moral action in particular is necessary ; a proof 
which neither has been nor can be produced in the nature of the 
case — quite irrespective of the fact that the enthusiastic adherents 
of this pessimism are most numerous amongst the so-called 
' well-to-do,' and do in actual life frequently behave in 
accordance with a wholly different verdict on the world and on 



52 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

men — a witness to the inextinguishable pressure of existence in 
human society. 

Mixed Systems. 

Our survey of the main views on ethics which struggle with 
the Christian system for mastery over the minds of men of our 
time would be quite incomplete if we were not to mention in 
conclusion two other points, the first of which relates to the in- 
numerable indefinite combinations into which these main views 
are worked up. These do not in themselves invariably exhibit a 
sharply defined outline. Equally difficult of apprehension is the 
mixture of views found in the manifold actualities of life. We 
might even speak of an ethics of the average man or of an 
unethical average opinion. Frequently enough we find in the 
same issue of a daily paper the greatest contradictions reposing 
peacefully side by side — praise of truth and of lying, of sacrifice 
and of selfishness. In commemorative leading articles we find 
appreciation of the value of self-sacrifice for the individual and 
for the nation, while at the bottom of the paper, in the 
feuilleton, incense is burnt to lust. In this the journal is a 
mirror of the times ; a sign of the times is also the luxuriant 
growth of ever new mageizines, in which each one promises to 
settle this problem of civilisation of the present day finally and 
for ever : often also combining the most contradictory contents. 
And in actual life, alongside the hard battle for bare bread is 
the search for happiness, i.e. for money, and both intertwined 
in all stages of society ; stories of the old nobility, how honour 
is often dishonoured by high and low ; the recreation of many 
nothing else but enervating work. Alongside this the 
humblest fulfilment of duty without reward ; eyes eager and 
hearts pulsating with desire for all that is noble in every 
position and calling of life. 

The second point for the needful completion of our review is 
a glad reference to the wide circles and eminent names of those 
who have a cordial regard for Christian ethics, but cannot and 
will not be considered as acknowledged adherents. To render an 
impartial judgment on them is thus especially difficult. Their 
antagonism to any alliance partly depends on their adoption of 



OPPONENTS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 53 

a wonderful metamorphosis of the content of all Christian 
ethics, while they yet consider themselves as its true repre- 
sentatives, — we may mention perhaps Tolstoy ; partly also that 
they agree to the Christian morality with considerable 
reservations as to the Christian faith, — we may think of many 
noble representatives of philosophy, statesmanship, historical 
science, physical science, literature. Nothing would be more 
unchristian than to pass an excluding judgment on these 
persons ; scarcely anything more perplexing, for the reason 
that it is impossible to apply any definite test to their views. 
But in a connected way and without repetition it is only 
possible to examine them in the course of the treatment to 
which our subject leads. 



CHAPTER III. 

THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS. 

We have made some acquaintance with our opponents. Our 
review resembled progress through a picture-gallery where works 
of very various styles are brought together. If we reflect that it 
is not a question of works of art, but on the moral shaping of 
our lives, then our first impression will be a depressing one. And 
that not merely for the Christian. Opinions widely spread 
recognise a great danger in the fact that, to a surprising degree, 
our generation is lacking in unity of conviction. And indeed 
who can deny that many of those difficulties which consume the 
energies of men of this generation arise from this — that there is 
no longer any common certainty as to the final Ends, Rules, and 
Motives of our action ? For example, many social disputes were 
once less pressing and acute because rich and poor, high and low, 
in possession of common needs, not only assembled together in 
the same church, but also recognised the word which they 
listened to there £is the unquestioned basis for their most secret 
emotions, their will and thought ; although their logical con- 
sequences were not always acted on in actual life. Still, they 
breathed an atmosphere, so to speak, of final convictions. At 
present these are themselves so various that often enough one 
person does not any longer understand another, and does not even 
take any trouble to arrive at such understanding. Each one looks 
at things in his own way. Oddly enough, too, every fresh origin- 
ator of a new view of the cosmos claims that his is for the whole 
world, and demands its attention. It is easily conceivable how 
in such claims the promise is often in inverse proportion to its 

54 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 55 

fulfilment. So far, however, as one system notices another, it is 
often keener in its criticism than convincing in its constructive- 
ness. In the general estimate, therefore, the doubt continually 
deepens whether any truth and conviction can be gained in final 
questions, since every displaced cosmic theory is succeeded by a 
superfluity of newly offered ones. It is only in one point that 
any number of persons are completely agreed, and that is that 
the Christian ethic has lost its certainty. 

An unbiassed observer might really get another impression as 
to that certainty : not only because, as a matter of fact, the 
moral ideal of Christianity, so often said to be dead, still exerts 
an immense silent influence, but also on account of its intrinsic 
character if it is only even superficially compared with its famous 
rivals. These mostly emphasise one of those points of view 
which pressed on our attention in considering the moral 
habitudes, but it cannot be concealed how many others are 
neglected. On the other hand, how complete in itself and yet, 
on all sides, rich in its bearings is the Principle of Christian 
ethics ! And if that is mainly only an external, formal advantage, 
yet in regard to content it affords a presumption in favour of 
Christian ethics. That is to say, it really avoids the defects 
which overwhelm the others and with which they have been 
reproached not merely from the standpoint of Christianity — 
the difficulties which result from the assumption of a merely 
temporal ' End ' and optimistic tendencies ; and also not 
removed by the transcendental negations of the pessimistic ethics. 
Is it not possible that the Christian system, with its supersensual 
and positive ethical End, may unite the advantages of the others, 
and eliminate their failures ? And may not its answer on the 
origin and validity of ethics likewise surpass that of the others ? 
Wherefore, then, considering this possibility, the courteously 
cool or sometimes passionate rejection of it ? 

Now certainly an accurate knowledge of the nature of 
Christian ethics must form the foundation of a fitting proof 
of its truth. It is only on a close understanding of its unique 
character that we can base arguments for its truth. So far as 
that goes, all that is said later on concerning the Christian 
life is the setting forth of a demonstration of the peerless 



66 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

superiority of Christian ethics. A passing and brief reference 
to the master-ideas will leave us in no doubt where the real 
difficulty lies, and to what points a defence and logical argu- 
ments must be directed. Let us use the criteria or points 
of view once more mentioned which continually come to the 
front when we seek to know what morality really is, what 
its origin, and what constitutes its validity. The highest End 
of Christian good action is the kingdom of God^ The kingdom 
of God is the fellowship of created spirits with the personal 
God of love and with each other in love, realised in the divine 
self-revelation through Christ. This highest End is now to be 
partially realised under our present earthly conditions, and 
completely in another world. The highest A^07-m or Rule of 
life is that supreme command of love to God and our neigh- 
bour including all other commands in itself. The Norm is 
determined by the End. The deepest Motive is tlie.love evoked 
by divine love. In this lies the incentive and motive power to 
the fulfilment of that supreme command by which the highest 
end, divine sonship in the kingdom of God, is realised. The 
unique feeling of obligation, 'ought,'' * Thou shalt,' is accentuated 
in connection with these master-principles more urgently than 
in any other ethical system, and yet without exaggeration, as 
so easily happens in the case of the others when the subject is 
taken seriously. Pondering this uniqueness, the friend of 
Christian ethics cannot help asking in what other system these 
often-mentioned relations have fuller justice done to them, more 
simply, plainly, deeply, or more coherently : — The individual and 
the community, utility and evolution, this world and the next, 
the glorification of this world or the renunciation of it; as 
well as all sides of morals, our relation to our neighbour, to 
our own nature, to the world outside of us, to God ; and all so 
consistent that End and Rule and Motive are contained in the 
one word Love ; even that bitter word : * Thou shalt ' acquires 
a more cheerful and stimulating sound without the sacrifice 
of its seriousness, but rather gaining fulness of truth — true 
obedience and submission which is real freedom and independ- 
ence. To its adherents. Christian ethics so surveyed seems to 
be the completion of the others. For does it not combine the 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 57 

truth of the empirical and intuitional theories in regard to the 
origin of ethical ideas ? It is indeed the ethics of experience, 
of a grand history which has its goal in Christ, its centre and 
its source in Christ ; a history, too, whose final reason, law, and 
goal is the living, personal God, who has so endowed and 
equipped men that they ripen for their eternal destiny by 
means of that history. And the validity of ethics rests both 
on their own personal will and on the will of God in insepar- 
able synthesis, so that what are called the autonomy and the 
heteronomy of the will find a uniting principle in which 
freedom and dependency are one as in no other way whatever. 
I^ast and not least, Christian ethics can frankly recognise the 
contradiction between the ideal and the actual, between the 
imperative ' Thou shalt ' and the ' I cannot,' because it knows 
how it is overcome. Elsewhere this gloomy fact is passed over 
with as much haste as possible, apprehended for the most part 
inadequately, or contradictory judgments are allowed to suffice ; 
but here evil may be called evil, because a 'good wilP is 
recognised, which has exercised a constraining power over the 
most evil, the redeeming love of God as the expression of the 
will of God in Christ. This is more consolatory and truer than 
that judgment of evil given by pessimism, which is the only 
other earnest one. Certainly the principles of Christian 
morality call forth some fresh and serious doubts on which we 
must shortly dwell. But for its friends this does not destroy 
the joy they feel in the contemplation of its grandeur, and only 
provokes their zeal to gain an understanding of its truth. 

The Aversion to Christian Ethics. 

Whence, in despite of this, arises the widespread and deep 
aversion to Christian ethics ? We shall gain the most accurate 
and most valuable answer if we do not, first and foremost, give 
heed only to acknowledged opponents, with some of whom we 
have already formed acquaintance ; but, at present, confine our 
attention to those parties and names which we have spoken of 
as for the most part friendly. Whatever it is that they object 
to will be worthy of our closest attention. It is noteworthy 



58 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN IJFE 

how many among them agree in the classification and character- 
isation of ethical theory. They distinguish Greek ethics as 
that of an aesthetic naturalism, and Christian morality as that 
of the revival of supernatural motive in ethics ; modern ethics 
beginning with the Renascence as a resumption of the Greek 
ideal deepened and broadened by the progress of civilisation. 
Ethical philosophers, whose views differ greatly, agree in this 
view, and to many proof of it seems to be hardly necessary. 
In innumerable utterances of present-day opinion this verdict 
on Christian ethics is treated as if obviously true. The Christian 
ideal is regarded as a break in the continuity of development 
resumed at the Renascence, enriched by Christian influences. 
It is worthy of remark that Kant is for the most part regarded 
as giving pause to this continuous development, however much 
his services to ethics are praised. This we note, that inexorable 
categorical imperative, the ' ought ' of this philosopher, gets 
buried under the eulogies they bestow on him. They find that 
principle just as distasteful as the seriousness of the super- 
natural motive in Christian ethics. 

This representation of Christian ethics vaguely outlined is 
neither correct nor consistent. It is not correct ; for it rests 
on the implied, though neither proved nor provable, assumption 
that the Roman Catholic view of Christian ethics is the truly 
Christian one. Some examples may be given. It is raid that 
the whole of the ' cardinal virtues ■* of the ancient moralists have 
been depreciated by Christianity. For the Greeks, insight, 
wisdom, was the sum-total of th&«ioral life ; the wise man was the 
good man ; the sum of life is knowledge. But the Gospel praises 
the ' poor in spirit ' as ' blessed,' and triumphantly asks, ' Where 
are the wise ? ' * Has not God chosen the foolish things of this 
world ? ' Just so with the second great virtue — courage. In 
ancient ethics, manly courage, foe against foe ; in the Gospel, 
the praise of gentleness, of meekness, of renunciation of rights 
without limit and at any cost, even to 'turning the other 
cheek'; military service and the bearing of arms practised 
with an evil conscience. It is equally so with the third virtue, 
' temperance ' or self-restraint. In its stead there are the fearful 
sayings about ' plucking out ' your ' eye,' ' cutting off your right 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 69 

hand,"" ' taking up the cross."" Finally, thei*e is no sense of justice 
recognised; the life of the state and social life are regarded 
with mistrust and only endured on account of indispensable 
needs ; in fact, it is the kingdom of the ' Prince of this world,"" 
of the *liar and murderer from the begiiming,"" of Mammon. 
Besides, there is everywhere a limitation of the natural to the 
point of annihilation ; love, they say, is the antithesis of all 
noblesse oblige ; the whole tone of human feeling is altered ; 
there is no joyous pride, only contrition and humility ; no 
joy and honour, but submission to grace is to be accepted. 
Indeed, if that were really the whole of Christian ethics it 
would deserve, after all its long prevalence, to retire before the 
more luminous beginnings of Greek wisdom ; and it would be 
the task of this generation to carry this on according to the 
needs of the richer civilisation of the present day, taught by the 
experience of centuries. And as there lives the Greek in every 
wholly and fully cultured man, we all feel, at least in the bloom 
of our youthful aspiration, that picture is a trial to us. But 
it does not strike at real Christianity, as it shines out in the 
person of Christ ; it strikes at the monastic ideal, and even at 
that only on one side of it. 

Without pursuing this here, we have next to affirm the 
opinion that such a description is not justifiable, and to add 
the further one, that it is not consistently carried through, 
inasmuch as it is immediately allowed that a series of important 
ideas have become the property of the consciousness of our 
time by means of Christianity, and that these must not be 
lost. In a fine way this has been shown with regard to three 
such ideas, those of suffering, sin, sacrifice (Paulsen). Suffering 
is ennobled by Christianity ; as a means of education we cannot 
eliminate it from our deepest convictions without impoverish- 
ment. Sin and guilt are something ineradicably real ; we cannot 
comfortably depart this life with the confession : " Without 
repentance I die, as I lived without guilt."""" The hymns 
" O Lamm Gottes unschuldig " (' Thou spotless Lamb of God "") 
and "Wenn ich einmal soil schieden"" ('When I hence must 
go "") have a far wider influence than on acknowledged Christians 
only. " Finally, the world lives by the voluntary sacrificial death 



60 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

of the innocent. Isaiah liii. is the right text for a sermon on 
the history of the world." We are compelled to say that 
such deeply moving words on the value of Christian ethics 
cannot be made to harmonise with the above-mentioned view. 
It bursts the framework ; for the Gospel is something else, 
higher, deeper than, so regarded, it appeared to be. What at 
first seemed to be so repellent will reveal itself to the penetrat- 
ing intelligence as the needful bitterness of the husk if the 
sweet kernel which is its life is to remain uninjured. 

If now that verdict so far, when closely examined, is neither 
justifiable nor logical because it allows itself to be offended by 
that ' other-worldliness,"" by the transcendence of Christian 
ethics, it must be just this that is the stumbling-block. And 
it is on this the deepest reason of their opposition rests, viz. 
that in the Christian faith these two things are taken in earnest 
— the combination of the living, personal God of holy love with 
the idea of ' other-worldliness.' If this transcendence is confined 
to the horizon of thought merely, and is regarded as solely a 
denial of the finite, then they will allow it to pass as an 
intellectual idea, and as one which is really at bottom harmless. 
Further, if God and man pass over into one another in pan- 
theistic fashion and coalesce, who is there, say they, who wishes 
seriously to combat a poetic illustration of reality ? It is 
different with the Christian faith in God with its pressing, 
(many say) its obtrusive claim on the whole life without 
exception and without reservation, on the whole heart, soul, and 
strength. 

It is precisely in this aversion or aloofness from the definite 
Christian idea of God that we may discern the true character 
of the intellectual sway of that which is called by the very 
indefinite name of the * modern consciousness,^ so far as this 
name may be taken to designate anything intelligible ; or, more 
precisely, if we wish to grasp the sense which it has in the 
vocabulary of the day in its relation to Christian ethics. For 
in a thousand respects every man now living is a ' modern 
man'; but the expression used with such emphasis and self- 
consciousness is intended to express a certain definite opinion 
on final questions as the only one justifiable and the only one 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 61 

that is of present importance. And the more closely we 
troubled ourselves as to the origin and nature of this modern 
consciousness, the more would the above general definition seem 
justified. It is not the place here to ask from what sources 
the stream has flowed. In such a voyage of discovery of origins 
it would be necessary to go back to the last centuries of the 
mediaeval period, when the human mind grew conscious of itself 
as antithetic to all around it ; it would be necessary to follow 
up further all the manifold devious paths by which emancipated 
mind conquered the world, the secrets of the inner conscience 
and faith as well as the outer phenomena of discoveries and 
inventions. But its two main springs, the idealistic and realistic, 
we find at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the 
nineteenth centuries — the time when, after the great revolution, 
and ,the creation of a new state, without any history, in the 
New World, undreamt-of changes were consummated, as in a 
jtorm, on the one hand in philosophy, art, and religion, and 
on the other hand in physical science, technology, politics ; which 
makes it intelligible how those who were affected by them 
designated their attitude ' modern ' in a far deeper sense than 
former generations when referring to the times preceding them. 
It is difficult for us, standing in the midst of this current, to 
decide whether in our estimate of these epochs and their 
meaning we have the right perspective. We may recognise 
one thing that concerns us here. This high estimate of the 
human mind which is likewise a note of the modern conscious- 
ness reaches back in its last roots to the word and deed of 
those who regarded the soul as of more value than the worlds. 
And when this is the case now there ever lives the conviction 
that divine sonship in the kingdom of God preserves an unsur- 
passable value, but only as a freely accepted gift through that 
much - contemned ' grace ' ; while on the contrary all self- 
deification of the human soul is the destruction of a right 
estimate of life as a whole. In other words, the Christian 
judgment on the modern consciousness will never allow that 
in its deepest and best it is not of Christian origin, though now 
erring and straying far from home in a world which, made into 
a god, can never be God ; it is thus that it is in its sensitiveness 



est THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

for every impression full of true feeling, and still, in the midst 
of its infinitely increasing wealth, discontented. There therefore 
might be repeated all that has already been said on the 
evolutionary theory of ethics. For this theory is the general 
favourite of the modem consciousness, and not simply a form 
of modern ethics. So it is needful once more to bring into 
prominence how various are the incongruous elements of this 
modern consciousness. Not merely is it stronger in its negation 
of Christian ethics than in any lucid explanation of what it 
would substitute — as is in part confessed by its spokesmen in 
impressive terms — as, e.g.^ Ibsen : " My task is that of inquiry ; 
to answer is not my part."" It is more important to note that 
thorough-going investigators into the realities of this great 
world and into the deep places of human life, with their 
intelligence k^nly alert for reality, encounter the hard facts 
of sin and guilt, and that not merely as an interesting problem, 
which for purposes of poetry or as a subject of psychical analysis 
cannot be dispensed with ; — no, but because it awakens a desire 
for redemption. Thus, then, responsibility is not an explicable 
delusion, or a mere idea on which we may write books, in order 
to provide the means of discussing the subject more fully among 
one''s personal acquaintances ; and consequently the will is not 
merely a compound phenomenon resolvable into nerve-irritations, 
but the power of moral decision in regard to something of 
real value. And this value reaches upward into an eternal 
invisible world which is beyond the twilight boundary of the 
visible. Let us recall some sayings of this sort : — " Upward ! 
on to the mountain"'s top, to the stars and to the great silences ! 
— I or falsehood — one of us must yield. For himself alone 
there is no one. Empty space itself fill with something that 
resembles love ! " These are of course often only very indefinite 
words, but the deep aspiration which is a ' note ' of them brings 
us further. If this be so, surely it is possible that Christ may 
again become something more than a temporal deity, and His 
cross more than a symbol of the rejuvenescence of the forces 
of nature ; He may as a conscience be a companion in the mill 
as well as on the summits of life, and not merely as a ' vision,'' 
but in the actual presence of His Person. 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 63 

Line of Argument. 

According to the proverb, ' It is proper to learn from your 
foe,' we are confronted with the task of proving" that the chief 
objection of the modern consciousness to Christian ethics — 
which is to its supernatural character — is unfounded ; of demon- 
strating that its indissoluble union with faith in God is its 
greatest advantage. It would, however, not be a suitable course 
to take to address ourselves at on eg to this problem and to deal 
with it separately. For many do not at all acknowledge the 
close connection of morality and religion — that is to say, of 
Christian morality and Christian faith — who yet do emphasise 
the distinction between the moral and the natural. This is the 
case not merely with Kant, who, in this point, stands so close 
to the Christian ethical position that he is subject to the same 
condemnation on the part of many moderns for having broken into 
the ' normal moral evolution of humanity.' Briefly, the acknow- 
ledgment of an Absolute unites the Christian ethics with that of 
many of its opponents, who, however, will not admit it as super- 
natural in the sense of a religion ; and to a certain degree this is 
so with all who at all speak of the ' Good,' ' the moral ' in 
earnest. If it is shown in the long run that to be consistent they 
must go further, the review of their position serves likewise for 
the explanation of more important and more difficult ideas. 
And without doubt the course of proof is to a great extent 
common. In the main the question at issue is on the already 
defined principle of morals, and at its highest the notion of an 
absolute law (p. 12). The main point now is to consider it 
closely, to examine the foundation of its claim, and to 
invalidate the objections raised to it. In this argument every- 
thing must start from the question of Freedom^ which was above 
merely mentioned (p. 19) ; and instead of the term ' moral law ' 
which was also merely then mentioned, comes in that of Conscience 
not yet expounded. When this problem is solved we shall have 
the right basis for further examination how far morality and 
religion are interconnected, and why they properly belong to 
each other. In this second examination the first will find its 
conclusion. The friends of the ethics of the imperative ' Thou 



64 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

shalt ' will then be fuUy convinced that it is consistent to take 
a second step. And then finally we are in a position to make it 
clear why the adherents of Christian ethics look upon it as peer- 
less, and that they are right even in a conviction which challenges 
so much. 

Conscience and Freedom. 

Above all, the concept or notion of conscience demands close 
consideration. It has already been remarked that tlie question 
is essentially one that concerns the same main point as the 
nature of morals, particularly of the absolute moral law (p. 19). 
But not only does the notion of conscience demand the most 
areful investigation because it plays a very great part in the 
common speech of actual moral life (how frequently is conscience 
spoken of ! how seldom the absolute moral law !) ; but also for 
the reason that by its explanation the other becomes plainer ; and 
especially because a series of objections whicli it is thought may 
be victoriously raised against the idea of a * conscience ' makes it 
evident on what point the greatest force in the defence of ethics 
must be directed, and what it is possible to give up to 
attack. For this purpose it will be useful to briefly pass in 
review the most important theories of conscience, so that they 
may serve to illustrate each other, and, in the end, the decisive 
question may emerge. 

As is so often the case, the juxtaposition of the most extreme 
views is illuminative. We also may find that at single points 
there are many bridges which afford a passage from one system 
to another and back again. On the one side, quite in accordance 
with a right view, as they themselves often proudly assever- 
ate, stand the enthusiastic devotees of conscience, who cannot 
give it enough praise in explaining its nature, origin, and 
significance. 

Nature of Conscience. 

As to its nature. To those above alluded to conscience is — as 
to what first of all concerns its form — a clear consciousness of 
good and evil, accompanied by a feeling of absolute obligation, 
and correspondent therewith (each according to his conduct) of a 
feeling of pain or approval which is unique. This conscious- 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 65 

ness exhibits its power in two ways. First of all, it 'precedes ' 
our action, in order to regulate it, commanding or forbicftiing. 
In short, it is an inner infallible guide. Secondly, it follows 'our 
action, judges it, praising or punishing, as a good or evil con- 
science; 't is an unescapable, internal judge. How gorgeously 
have both these ideas been depicted in lively colours ! — without 
at once coming to grips and passing judgment at once on this 
doctrine of conscience, we may say, depicted in such colours 
and tones as have been learnt from life ; to the greatest 
poets an inexhaustible theme, for the simplest minds intelligible 
and impressive. As far as regards the content of this law- 
giving and judging conscience, it is considered to be essentially 
the same at all times and in all persons ; while the Christian 
command of love to God and our neighbour is merely its simplest 
expression. Of course it is not denied that there are obscura- 
tions of this clear light. This is explained by sin. This is 
the cause of the waywardness of conscience, but despite this way- 
wardness the original clearness of its witness shines forth with 
brightness. While such great things are affirmed of the nature 
of conscience, things too high could not be said of its origin. 
It was God's voice in men — if the thought of God must nojt 
intrude into ethical theory, then it is the voice of the pure. 
' practical reason "* itself. Nay, many were inclined to accepjt 
a special faculty of the soul as the throne of so exalted a 
revelation. If we seek to know who were the sponsors of this 
doctrine of conscience, we must for its beginnings go back to 
the mixture of nationalities in the Roman Empire, at which 
time the anciently venerated moral ideals suffered dissolution ; 
the old basis was changed from an outward to an inward 
authority. The idea of a common human nature, not fully 
defined, was formulated. It was to this, e.g., that St Paul 
appealed in his mission preaching, although he exhibits no 
sympathy with the other proposition. These conceptions 
became elaborated in the theology of the Church, and attained 
definiteness in the Middle Ages. After becoming a part of 
Church teaching in connection with the idea, so widely popular, 
of the common natural equality of all men, this view was 
shattered by the Renascence. Yet the doctrine of conscience 

5 



66 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

_now gained a new significance. It became generally regarded, 
and is indeed still regarded by many, as the immovable 
foundation of morality, a basis for which no proof is requisite, 
and for that very reason as the principal ground of theistic 
belief and its weightiest evidence. The conscience witnesses of 
God within with far more assurance than the book of nature, 
and this demonstrable 'theism thus becomes a starting-point 
for the mysteries of a definite Christian faith. The law of 
conscience convinces of sin ; the world perishes without the 
atonement ; it is on the ground of conscience that it is reasonable 
to believe in redemption. A conclusion the reverse of this 
was drawn at the Renascence. For it, the conscience has such 
a secure supremacy that the doubtful mysteries of the Christian 
faith may be neglected, the accusations of conscience need not 
be taken too seriously, and no redemption by a God-man is 
necessary. But for wide circles the supremacy of conscience 
had already been shattered. Let us fix our attention on the 
confessed opponents of this ethical theory so far described. 

It has often been called idealistic (intuitional), while the 
rival theory is named the purely empirical. The distinction 
arises from the diverse views of the origin of conscience, and 
each is taken to express such a valuation of it as is grounded 
in its nature. Thus, on the one part there is a deep reverence for 
the clear, infallible law and judicial authority in our o'vn bosom 
which can only be worthily spoken of as the presence of God in 
men, or likewise as the most real and most inalienable, as well 
as the highest dignity of man — the last support of all genuine 
manhood. On the other part, the inclination to dethrone this 
royalty by casting doubt on the dignity of its origin, the clear- 
ness of its decisions and demands, the compass and power of 
its influence. That which seemed so simple, and self-explanatory 
in its simplicity, is drawn into the complex phenomena of every- 
day life and the vortex of history. 

It is not, first of all, the purely empiristic teaching concerning 
conscience which now concerns us so much as its criticism of 
the above-mentioned intuitional theory. It is initially possible, 
however, that the empiricists may have weighty objections to 
allege against its doctrine, drawn from the ' experience ' from 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 67 

which their name is taken. Nay, we must at once acknowledge 
they are largely right in their criticism. The description of 
conscience which we have given may be derived from what is 
a true estimate — that a crown is at stake, in reality the moral 
dignity of human nature ; yet the description may be inaccurate. 
It is possible that its advocates have forgotten that the inter- 
lacing of moral with natural (or non-moral) elements in the 
account of its origin, and the apparent insignificance of its 
kingdom, is no counter-proof of its reality, independence, and 
majesty. In fact, the theory does not in manifold ways accord 
with experience. The phenomena of conscience, forn^ftlly^ 
regarded, are much more complex: imagination and judgment, 
impulse and fancy, frames of mind and emotions are frequently 
confusingly intertwined, and consequently the distinction be- 
tween the antecedent pronouncement of conscience and its 
subsequent judgment, its hortative and warning, its accusing 
and approving functions, is drawn out too sharply and not 
accurately. For everyone knows how much there is of 
uncertainty in the deliverances of an evil conscience after the 
deed, as in its warning voice before the action. It is clear 
that facts contradict the assertion that conscience everywhere 
makes the same essential demands. Language is a plain enough 
witness of this when we speak of the artistic, the commercial 
conscience, or of the Greek, the Buddhist, the Christian moral 
sense. It varies also according to nationality, times, positions, 
and, not least of all, persons. For that I can only follow my 
own conscience is at the least recognised in Evangelical 
ethics. What a multiplicity of questions lies in a word so 
quickly uttered ! In any case, as a matter of fact, conscience is 
a whole with a very varied content. And it is not sufficient to 
look upon sin as a sufficient cause. It may be so to a large 
extent ; that it is not the only one is shown by any adequate 
apprehension of the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, with 
its ' I say unto you,' for anyhow each of these constitutes a 
new commandment. If thus the nature of conscience is not 
accurately described, still less is its origin properly accounted 
for. Finally, we have no interest in defending it merely on the 
ground of the importance of this doctrine ; especially since 



68 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

history has shown that, once a weapon in the armoury of 
Christian belief, it can just as easily be used for controverting it. 
Still it is worth remembering that the design of the theory and 
its main principle may be right, even although its detailed 
elaboration is sacrificed to its foes. The theory advanced by 
these opponents is just as little, yea, still less, satisfactory. 

It is summed up in the idea that the so-called phenomena of 
conscience are illusory and are temporarily essential for the 
advancement of mankind on the path of its development. 
With a true insight into their origin they will slowly disappear. 
As a concession to facts it is openly allowed that, at present 
(merely in relation to the present and for the consciousness of 
the individual), there is a difference between what is good and 
useful and what is hurtful and evil. But it is merely losing 
your way in a cul-de-sac, it is said, to stop short at the con- 
sciousness of the individual and suppose that in this way 
conscience can be undei'stood. We must go deep down into 
the secrets of history. This teaches ^ us murder was originally 
merely an injury ; it was education and heredity that made it 
wicked. This transformation was completed in even greater 
degree and with constantly increasing refinement. Out of little 
particles of conscience, so to speak, larger masses have been 
formed, until finally you get the immense, mighty whole of 
conscience. So the blood-feud was weakened to compensation 
made to the injured neighbour, then paid to the next-of-kin. 
This compensation was changed to legal punishment, and so 
on to the elaborated and detailed system of jurisprudence of 
our present civilisation. However the judgments of praise or 
blame on the part of conscience arose, they will disappear with 
the explanation of its origin. It has, we are assured, done no 
essential mischief, and even so far accomplished some little good ; 
after a sufficient space of time it will pass away until the deep- 
rooted prejudice disappears from every mind. Others, again, 
explained this history of conscience less by a natural and necessary 
evolution than as a result of conscious design. Conscience is a 
powerful instrument, now for the strong and now for the weak, 
and the elimination of conscience a condition of human advance 
* Paley has a famous passage in his Moral Philosophy to the same effect. — Tr. 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 69 

to a higher stage. But in the present connection this distinc- 
tion is of little importance. 

Is this type of doctrine of conscience, resting on the experience 
to which it makes appeal, justifiable .'' We do not need to seek 
for an answer direct from the Christian standpoint. It is, at 
least in part, at once given to us by those who, in crucial points, 
stand closer to it than its definitively Christian exponents. 
First let us hear what they have to allege against this theory of 
conscience, and then see what they would put in its place. If 
there then remains an unsatisfactory residuum, we shall once 
more have to resume our search ; and conscience under such 
varied illumination, showing ever more clearly its greatness, 
cannot but exhibit to us the determining issues on which all 
assurance with respect to it depends. It is plain that those who 
place conscience so low and make it merely a transitory illusion 
have not taken sufficiently careful note of its operations. It is 
certainly easily intelligible that certain rules of action which 
originated in reflection on that which may be beneficial or 
detrimental, have been impressed by teachers on the rising 
generation, or by the guide on those he leads, without their 
having any consciousness of the ground on which such rules 
rest. It is an undeniable fact that the human will can be 
largely influenced. Nay, indubitably this phenomenon of history 
has often been of the greatest importance. These stages in the 
formation of conscience may have happened in the manifold way 
depicted by some, e.g. the repression of blood-feud may be to a 
great extent founded on its injurious consequences. The real 
problem, however, would be to show how, through education, 
habit, heredity, such rules of behaviour have so become a part 
of our conscience as to give rise to that form of consciousness 
we' experience when we are speaking of ' our conscience."" It is 
admitted by those who thus solve the problem of conscience 
that it is a different experience which we have when we say this 
action is 'good,"" than when we are content with the judgment 
that it is beneficial, or when we simply act in accordance with 
the rules which have been impressed on us, or do something 
because it has become to us a self-explanatory habit. There- 
fore the most peculiar feature of the operation of conscience 



70 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

is not explained, namely, the fact that I ascribe to the resolves 
of conscience a pre-eminent value in comparison with all 
reflections on use, law, custom, and appreciate my own worth 
according as I have obeyed or disobeyed the monition of 
conscience. Now, what is it in this feeling of worthiness or 
unworthiness which depends on my accord with my conscience 
or my disagreement with it ? 

This problem many now attack in good earnest who in their 
judgment do not only yield the palm to that theory first above 
mentioned, but generally speaking remain in close alliance with 
it : — I mean those who unite the idealistic or intuitional with the 
empiristic interpretation of conscience, giving greater weight to 
the latter element. They say that the phenomena of conscience 
cannot be explained as a transitory illusion ; they are rather 
a permanent and highly important means for the realisation of 
the moral end. While they agree on this matter, they, of 
course, separate when they come to the interpretation of 
conscience ; and general differences, such as we have encountered 
as existing between hedonistic and evolutionary ethics, as well 
as transitions from one view to the other, are here met with in 
the actual treatment (p. 24). Sometimes the conscience is 
considered as an abiding and indispensable means for the further- 
ance of the general well-being ; sometimes as a step forward in 
the development of the individual ; and, in an especial manner, 
for the evolution of human beings as a whole. The first group 
sees the final reason and justification of the phenomena of 
conscience in the carefully calculated utility which rules of 
action sanctioned by conscience and protected by a peculiar 
inviolability have for the general well-being. By the reflections 
which thus arise, this group sees itself necessitated to accept 
the thought of original moral feelings of self-respect and 
benevolence which assert themselves in actual experience and 
which we call conscience. Besides this, they silently borrow 
something from the ideas of the second group, and willingly 
speak of the gradual spread of such feelings through the whole 
mass of mankind. It is, of course, obviously much more natural 
for this second group not only strongly to emphasise at the 
outset the existence of such higher feelings, such ideal feelings, 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 71 

but especially to lay stress on the supremacy of the collective 
over the individual will, so that it is the former that carries out 
in the latter whatever is of ' value. "* 

On this latter assumption the objection that, by this theory, 
the most important element in conscience is wholly disregarded, 
does at the least disappear. It does thus recognise an absolute 
value realised by the mysterious might of the collective will. So 
far as the individual will is consentient to the collective will the 
agent experiences a unique moral advance in life, which we all 
know when we follow conscience, and a blighting condemnation 
when we have resisted it. Resisted — we use the expression in- 
voluntarily. The adherents of this doctrine of conscience also 
employ the expression. But can it be justified ? Is not conscience 
too strong, too personal, too conscious of freedom for those ex- 
planations ? Or, in another way the operation of conscience is 
more closely noted than in the above — the feeling of absolute 
value is recognised, but yet not completely, not in its whole 
depth. It is not exhausted in speaking of the achievement of 
absolute value by the will, or perhaps saying that disinterested 
actions, in distinction from those that are self-regarding, give 
a permanent satisfaction, and that this is the reason of its 
victory in the battle of the inner life. Due regard must be 
paid to the idea that the will intends to decide for what is of 
absolute value — that it recognises this value in a personal 
decision. It is only when this feeling of freedom is recognised 
that the life of the conscience is completely described. This is 
not yet the assertion that there is such a thing as ' moral 
freedom,"' which is a proposition that must first be proven. 
StiU, the feelings of freedom belong to the complete description 
of the phenomenon to be proved. We merely ask for the present : 
May not the difficulties by which this idea of freedom are 
complicated arise from the reason that our inspection breaks off 
before we get quite to the end ? And is it not further possible 
that the disinclination, often scarcely disguised, to the idea of 
conscience at all arises from a cause which is at bottom the 
complexity of the idea of freedom ? 

In order to get a clear answer we have to contemplate the 
facts of conscience still closer ; in doing this we are brought to 



72 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

the theory which is a combination of the empiristic (or intui- 
tional) with the idealistic, in which now the latter element is 
predominant. And first of all as the form of the phenomenon 
rather than its content. The simplest introspection may prove 
to everyone that an evil conscience after the deed is far away 
the clearest deliverance of conscience, and so, according to 
the above-mentioned terminology of the old doctrine, is the 
judicial, retrospective conscience. Next to this in order of clear- 
ness is the judgment, ' You ought not to do that,' before the 
action, and so is the prospective, monitory conscience. So un- 
deniably do these experiences stand in the foreground, and as 
a matter of fax:t the first in front of the second, that ethical 
philosophers of importance will not recognise the so-called 
sanctioning conscience at all ; a good conscience is for them 
only the absence of an evil one. Who is there who never knew 
that feeling of great, of unique joy which makes its appearance 
after a right resolve, especially if it has cost a struggle ? and 
even before the resolve, who has not heard that quiet, true voice 
which as by the presence of a friend or of a father blesses us 
with a feeling of home-like security so long as the readiness to 
follow it prevails ? But such recollections are indeed a witness 
that the most urgent tone of conscience is, * You ought to have 
done difFerently.' This presupposed, we can in the operations 
of conscience distinguish three relations. The first esr;3ntially 
concerns the world of imagination. In the imagination of a 
specific fact (whether of ideas, words, deeds is here indifferent) 
there is associated the imagination of its opposite. Thus with 
the cognition of the way in which we have acted there is 
associated the relative idea of how we ought to have acted ; on 
the other hand, when we are on the point of acting we have the 
idea of how we ought not to act, and the converse how we ought 
to act. The Priest and the Levite "passed by on the other 
side." Now, if the thought of this conduct of either of them 
occurred to them again, perhaps quite undesired, possibly whilst 
being admired in Jerusalem for pious deeds of charity ; close by 
the im£ige of himself hastening away for safety, each sees another 
in which he is stopping to afford succour to the wounded man. 
y\ce versa, the Samaritan, alongside the picture of how he saves 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAxN ETHICS 73 

his neighbour, sees another of how he might have taken care of 
himself. Similarly, when we put ourselves into the required 
situations we find that it is not after the fact but before the 
action that this feeling arises ; that is to say, with our imagina- 
tion of a completed action that of the contrary possibility in- 
variably associates itself. The second part of this phenomenon 
of conscience belongs essentially to the emotional nature. That 
feeling of pleasure or displeasure repeatedly to be mentioned 
which is so peculiar, and even unique, associates itself with the 
imagination of an action past or future ; it cleaves right closely 
to it, but it is all the same independent of it in so far as its 
consequences in relation to the external world are concerned. 
Its consequences in relation to the agent by which he feels his 
self-respect injured or helped, confirmed or denied, vivified or 
blighted are related to self alone — but this ' self alone "" is every- 
thing (p. 16). The Samaritan staked his life, and in so doing 
gained a life that is worthy of being so called. The Priest and 
the Levite saved their life and lost it. Many specifics for this 
deepest of all ills have been discovered, praised, used. Immense 
efforts have been directed to this end. It remains unattainable 
as long as there is a ' conscience "* which even when it slumbers 
spontaneously wakes up again. Evangelical ethics stands on 
the conviction that it is aware of the way which alone can be 
taken save at the expense of conscience, which does not lull it 
to sleep but makes it keener. But what is the most painful 
thing in this feeling of smart ? Here on this second character- 
istic of the nature of the processes of conscience there appears a 
third which is in this connection of the most importance. Those 
before mentioned are recognised by the above-named exponents 
of conscience ; but the one now to be mentioned is a burning 
question in the decisive contest. It belongs to the sphere of 
Will. This is the mystery of the world. Every action is my 
own. My 'ego' cannot declare itself as something separate 
from its own doings. If this were otherwise, it would be utterly 
impossible to speak in any strict sense of a recognition of an 
absolute law if this recognition was an independent something 
outside the purview of the will. We are now evidently at the 
point which was above seen from a distance. All the ways of 



74 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

regarding the subject run up into the great questions of 
responsibility and freedom. 

Before we expound these we must complete our consideration 
of the way in which the conscience asserts itself in experience 
by expressly mentioning that only the great common marks 
should be brought into prominence, for the experiences of 
human consciences are as indefinitely numerous as individual 
men, both as regards their original and acquired strength, 
bias and composition of their mental faculties. And for the 
sake of clearness a single operation of conscience has been 
considered, while in actual life it is just that bent of mind 
which is formed of the individual phenomena which is of the 
greatest importance. We may reflect on the pathetic picture 
of a human being burdened by the ceaseless pressure of 
conscience ; or on the inspiring vision of the peace of con- 
science which we see embodied in Jesus, Then the mis- 
conception scarcely needs to be averted that, in that which 
has been advanced, we maintain the existence in all cases of 
an equal functional endowment of conscience. It is rather 
in the battle of life, in the inconceivably manifold chances and 
changes of life, that the individual is led to such experiences. 
But certainly this is on the basis of a definite groundwork of 
the complex interaction of thoughts, feelings, and exercises 
of will-power which is marked by the presentiment of some 
absolute value for which it is bound to decide. 

Finally, a brief reference may again be made as to the content 
of judgments of conscience. Christian ethics has no cause 
whatever to belittle in this the immense influence of history ; 
it sees in Christ in ' the fulness of time ' the express image of 
God ; it believes in the living God, who as the God of order 
gradually realises in time His eternal counsel. What it must 
needs desire in reference to content are those ideal feelings 
which, as we saw, are discerned as soon as our reflection on 
these fundamental moral problems goes deep enough. 

This whole examination of conscience ought to serve to 
closely define that one main subject to which any justification 
of Christian ethics is compelled conformably with the subject 
to direct itself ; namely, to that uncompromising 'Thou shalt' 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 75 

which is a stumbling-block to the modern consciousness, and 
which many will yet not sacrifice, who still definitely share 
with Christian ethics a belief in the other great stumbling- 
block of this consciousness, the union of morality with religion. 
At present we are plainly enough cured of that delusion, 
once and still widely spread, that conscience is in itself an 
unambiguous whole, quite clear in itself; even requiring no 
proof; in a position to bear the whole edifice of morality. 
On the contrary, we are compelled to confess that the examina- 
tion of conscience calls forth many difficult questions which 
tend to shatter the validity of morality and have been actually 
used for that very purpose, e.g. the largely changing content 
of conscience. But we have surely found more than this. Not 
indeed an impregnable rock, but a fact which, the more we 
investigate it the more does it appear to be worthy of 
justification, which the more entirely we let it pass for just 
what it is does it also show what it is that is in need of 
justification, and gives such a determining element as is 
demanded for this purpose — namely, that imperative 'Thou 
shalf in its full sense, or that absolute moral law. And 
indeed it is such imperative in this inseparable combination 
with the consciousness of personal moral freedom the neglect 
of which appeared to us as a defect in so many investigations 
of conscience. Our immediate task is to find a foundation 
for the moral law, and with it at the same time for that which 
is inseparable from it, moral freedom. Still more. Even 
the method of a possible foundation is already suggested to us. 
The question is not as to the explanation of the moral law and 
freedom in the sense that we would show from what causes 
our subjection to the moral law arises. That would be self- 
contradictory, provided that this subjection is a fact of our 
freedom. It is rather our task to show what significance, for 
the individual and for mankind, such a moral law only 
effectuating itself in freedom possesses, and then how the 
objections raised against this idea of freedom can be overcome. 



76 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LtFE 

Freedom. 

We may begin either with the moral law or freedom. But the 
idea of freedom is so great an offence to the modern consciousness 
that whatever we may choose to say about the significance of 
personal sacrifice for the 'good' is either not listened to, or 
receives a false interpretation, so long as the antagonistic bias 
against freedom is not destroyed. By this course what we have 
to say on the meaning of the imperative ' Thou shalt ' comes 
into a clearer light. We recognise that the simple idea to 
which this justification amounts is only capable of proof accord- 
ing to the nature of the subject, and in all simplicity. 

It is self-evident that we must first of all say exactly what we 
understand by the ' freedom '' which we wish to secure against 
objections. There is, however, a still more immediate problem. 
The whole difficulty, that is, would fall away altogether if a 
proof were gained that we have no compelling reason to speak 
of freedom merely on account of that imperative ' Thou shalt."* 
Shortly put, is there a necessary connection between responsibility 
and freedom ? In our doctrine of conscience (p. 72) it appeared 
that, if the will of the agent is not recognised as final and 
decisive, we have no exhaustive account of the real phenomenon. 
It appeared to us to be insufficient to emphasise the feeling of 
the obligation of the moral law, the absolute imperative 'Thou 
shtdt,' and its unique inner effect, according as we submit to it 
or not ; rather were we led on to the thought of responsibility 
in the strict sense there spoken of, how it includes the idea of 
actual freedom, not merely the idea of " an agent acting under 
the impression of freedom."" But we are always again hearing 
the decided assertion : it is precisely when responsibility is 
completely recognised that there is no possibility of freedom 
open ; it is only the denier of freedom who can speak of 
responsibility. For when freedom is assumed, where is the 
' subject,' ' the person ' whose personality and whose actions can 
be judged } As he is free to act in any way at any moment, 
a person with a 'free wiir would be incapable of feeling 
responsible for his actions ; in such a complete indeterminateness 
there is no action of which he could affirm, It is my own ; there 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 77 

would be no tree able to bring forth fruit ; this uncertainty in 
his resolves is the antithesis of responsibility. Teachers, for 
example, have on the instigation of this self-same idea declared 
that their art would founder on this unknown free will incapable 
of the influence of motives, which never offers to another a firm 
hold on which it is possible to trust, and with which we can 
reckon. We are compelled to have regard to these and similar 
objections if in what is hereafter said we are to understand what 
freedom means. We see from them that this notion can be 
defined contradictorily and confusedly in reference to the idea 
of responsibility on account of which that of freedom is asserted. 
But as to the truth of the proposition that freedom and 
responsibility are mutually exclusive, unfavourable judgment in 
regard to it is awakened by the circumstance that cool writers, 
intelligent and sober, grow excited over it. Probably they find 
it necessary thus to strengthen their faith in their assertion that 
it is an absolutely necessitated, determined will that alone can 
feel responsible for its actions — these not being really its own 
doings, but mere ' happenings ' to it. For how, it is asked, can 
the following propositions be refuted } We cannot be considered 
accountable for action in which our consciousness of personal 
agency is suspended. Organic existence is a slow process of 
evolution ending in man. The consequences of this are : ' I ' 
was born with this or that character, and had such and such 
guardians, teachers, instructors. Teaching and example 
operated just according to the relation which I — this product 
of evolution — bore to them. And it has thus come to pass that 
I at this moment have this feeling of compassion or that of 
delight at another's misfortune. The whole of the cosmic 
process must have run another course for me to have any other_ 
different feeling in ever so small a degree. And just so, that 
I now speak thus with reference to freedom and responsibility is 
necessitated, and if the reader is not convinced it is equally a 
matter of necessity. When 1 say, ' I Avill write,' or ' I will not 
allow myself to be convinced,"* I act also under this law of 
necessity. Any such resolve of the will is a necessarily 
determined action — determined by the sum-total of all causes 
and effects. Now, we cannot be considered accountable for action 



78 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

thus arising in which consciousness of personal agency is 
suspended (Ree). This is refreshing clearness. Of course it is 
said in order to lessen the impression produced by this clearness 
— so says the materialist ; but the modern monist is not involved 
in this consequence. He says, if we only recognise the 
uniqueness of this mental (psychical) process, and its inexplica- 
bility on grounds merely naturalistic, i.e. mechanical, and its 
complete inner unity, i.e. its empirical character (see below), then 
the strongest determinism, the conviction of the absolutely 
necessitated nature of all such psychical phenomena, is quite 
compatible with a recognition of responsibility and accounta- 
bility, as also of guilt and repentance, of the evil and the 
good conscience — nay, renders these facts intelligible. Mere 
shifts ! For the question at issue is not at all as to the different 
modes of its activity, whether it is mechanical or psychical 
causation, but whether that activity is necessitated. But if it 
should be said that the result of voluntary action, precisely 
described, is determined by psychical causes as distinguished 
from mechanical activities, while it is not contained in these 
causes and is the production of something new (Wundt), then the 
dreaded idea of freedom which had just been ceremoniously dis- 
missed is modestly allowed to enter by a side door For surely a 
determined result arising from precisely determined causes is 
contained in those very causes. Such attempts are consequently 
proofs of the fact that the proposition is justifiable when it 
is affirmed that responsibility and freedom are indissolubly 
associated. It is thus no more than a mere oracular utterance 
when we are told that we ought not to say, ' I could have acted 
differently,' and also, * I could not have acted differently,' but 
simply, ' I am not the person I ought to be.' This is the 
continual effort to disguise the real point, and while strongly 
emphasising, ' I was under obligation to act so or thus,' that is, 
' I was bound ' to veil or forget to note the corresponding 
proposition, ' I was to blame for acting differently from what I 
ought ' ; which is to say, ' I was the originator of action which 
might have been differently performed by me.' Now it is on 
this latter in connection with the former, and not merely on 
the first alone, that the feeling of responsibility depends. Assent 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 79 

to the actual state of the case is more easily obtained if we make 
it quite clear that it is by no means the same thing to recognise 
the intimate connection between responsibility and freedom, and 
to recognise that these two intimately connected concepts really 
denote some actual reality and are not merely illusory. Of the 
nature of freedom we are not now treating, but insisting on this 
connection, and that he who recognises responsibility must 
affirm freedom as well. And for this the greatest antagonist of 
freedom gives a quite unexpected witness. To think of " the 
feeling of responsibility," says Schopenhauer, "for what we do, 
our accountability for our actions, without self-contradiction, 
without allowing : ' I can do what I will,' i.e. without freedom, 
passes my power of comprehension." Since, then, Schopenhauer 
must in denying freedom deny responsibility, he denies the latter 
only for this world of space and time, and takes refuge in a 
freedom which is independent of this world as is its final 
reason. Whether this idea is not self-contradictory is not now 
our question ; but merely the confession of the greatest 
antagonist of freedom is to us of importance, that the sacrifice 
of freedom can only be made by the sacrifice of responsibility. 

It is still possible for the objection to be raised that Christian 
ethics ought to be very cautious (as it has so far happened) 
about entering the lists for freedom, since surely St Paul and 
all the Reformers have borne witness to the great might of 
grace and to the helplessness of the human will. Luther, 
e.g., says : " If anyone affirms that it passes his understanding 
how to reconcile the omnipotence of God and the moral freedom 
of men," he answers, " It passes my comprehension too " ; that is 
to say, our Reformers have recognised the relation of grace to 
freedom in the strict sense as an impenetrable mystery, without 
casting aside either the one or the other. Calvin, e.g., main- 
tained both that Adam fell because God so ordained it, and 
that Adam fell by his own fault. But many now appeal to the 
Reformers who are not able to recognise the fact of freedom, 
and so regard guilt ultimately as an illusion. 

But what do we understand by the freedom which it is 
purposed to justify against its foes ? The path to an answer is 
so far indicated to us by what has been said, and what it is can 



80 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

now be in all respects made unmistakable. It is not for any 
and every reason, but for the sake of responsibility, that our 
freedom is important, ^fherefore at the outset it is to us 
very much a matter of indifference what has been maintained 
of the nature of freedom. It is indifferent that it is sometimes 
too much and sometimes too little, because, as often happens 
in such cases, that which is too much is where the real issue is 
concerned, too little, and vice versa. We already know that the 
freedom we mean is not the capability of deciding at any 
moment for any conceivable, especially for one of two antaggn- 
istic possibilities without motive. Our opponents are very 
willing to saddle us with this notion, in order to show that it 
is impossible to speak of the responsibility of a will so in- 
determinate, capable of any transformation at any second, 
which so conceived cannot be regarded as a ' will "" at all. 
Because we grant this at once, those pictures, all more or less 
humorous, of a will which finds its historically famous type in 
the domestic friend with the grey coat who died of hunger 
between trusses of hay, because, in a complete state of indecision, 
he was incapable of adventuring his motionless tongue on either 
of them, do not affect us at all. It is more important to 
delimit the freedom of moral resolve against the ' too little,' 
against the assertion of mere self-activity or spontaneity, 
absence of external incentive, while at the same ti'ne it is 
maintained that compulsion, necessity as to the inner course of 
our presentations, emotions, volitions, is just as complete as in 
the movement of the heavenly bodies. Clear, conscious reflec- 
tion and voluntary determination may be at the same time 
emphasised in strong expressions : still stronger is the appear- 
ance that it is the real freedom that is confessed (for which we 
are concerned) when reference is made to the fact that this 
psychical or intellectual freedom (as it is called) is developed 
in the life of the individual, that the immature child does not 
possess it, nor an imbecile, because it is inseparable from the 
clear self-consciousness which can alone present to the mind 
its entire rich content. But this self-consciousness itself is 
conceived of as a completely determined unit, just as deter- 
mined as the external world with which it stands in a nexus 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 81 

of causation ; and accordingly reflection and decision are 
necessarily determined, however much they present themselves 
to our consciousness in the forms of our psychical life as our 
very own. We have the feeling that we ourselves determine, 
but in reality we are determined. We think that we act ; in 
reality we are acted upon through and through. Certainly this 
psychical freedom is the necessary presupposition of moral 
freedom ; we do not ascribe the latter to the immature or to 
the imbecile, because they do not possess the former. But 
psychical freedom is not the same as moral freedom. What is 
the difference between them ? No more and no less, we maintain, 
than what is essential to preserve the integrity of responsibility 
undiminished. And that is the power to submit to, or to resist, 
an intelligible ' ought "* ; to say yes or no when a moral com- 
mand, that is, an absolute demand, is made on the decision of 
the ego. Then, moreover, we really understand (as has been 
already so frequently affirmed) to some degree, perhaps, why it is 
that obedience or disobedience to a categorical imperative, an 
absolute command, has as its consequence generally a special 
feeling of pleasure or displeasure ; but not its whole uniqueness, 
not why I must stand alone as the doer of the deed, and in the 
case of transgression know myself guilty, and find the keenest 
sting of guiltiness in this feeling that I was not under compul- 
sion, but could have done differently, instead, finally, of being 
able to console myself with the reflection that somehow I was 
subjected to a fate and to cruel necessity. If we define moral 
freedom — which, taken as an isolated expression, is of varied 
connotation — thus : ' I can will what I will : I can will what 
ought to be but not what must be nor even what can be : I can 
begin a new series starting with my volition — it is to be under- 
stood in the assigned sense. But it is essential to examine more 
in detail the point at issue into which all such concepts run up, 
which, put in brief form, are so easily misunderstood. 

Our opponents, for instance, think that their game is an easy 
one when they point out that all action is determined by 
motives, and that the advocate of freedom ignores this most 
certain of all psychological facts. By this assertion they 
cpndemn him for a mistake which he has not at all committed, 

6 



82 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

The acknowledged moral imperative is without doubt a motive, 
and even conceivably the strongest of all : we know at once the 
majesty of the 'ought' and the unparalleled self-condemnation 
with which it threatens us : we know also that it is no tyrant 
which demands blind obedience, but a monarch whose service is 
freedom — our true life, which is alone worth living. But the 
question is whether the force of this motive is only felt accord- 
ing to the determined character, training, habit of the agent 
(according, that is, to his empiiical character) on the one hand, 
or according to external circumstances on the other hand ; or 
whether the agent has the power residing within himself to give 
to that motive a strengthened force, the preponderance over 
all those resisting inclinations and impulses which are the 
product of the above-mentioned factors ; whether he has merely 
the power to maintain and develop himself as he is, in his given 
nature, or to renounce and deny that given nature in order that 
by the death of the natural Self he may gain his true life. 
Differently expressed : there is of course no action without its 
motive ; but the question is how the determination of motive 
arises and how one becomes the decisive factor. The more 
plainly a moral action comes to the focus of consciousness, 
the more clearly is it seen that the final motive is the absolute 
imperative in the recognition of which we reach our true destiny. 
But with this, with this consciousness of an intelligible main 
motive, there is associated the feeling of freedom, the feeling 
that we allow it to prevail as a main motive because we so 
resolved without compulsion ; the feeling that we have given it 
the predominance over other motives in doing what we could 
have done otherwise. Our opponents unwittingly bear witness 
that the experience is rightly described in such sentences by 
resorting to hyperbole, and speak, e.g.., of the strengthening of 
the motive by the agents, or praise their obedience to the 
moral imperative as if they could have acted differently. The 
totality of the circumstances (they say) are of course not in our 
power ; but all the more earnestly ought we to attend to those 
factors of moral activity which are in our power ; we ought to 
apply ourselves to strengthen moral motive as far as possible ; 
to transform our individuality, and the like. This sort of 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 83 

demand — understood as an unbiassed reader will understand 
it — -says just what we have above asserted. But shall we 
not say : Why their illusive speeches ? For what is the real 
meaning when it is said : ' We ought to strengthen motive as 
much as possible,' and silently think : ' but that is impossible "■ ; 
or, ' We ought to pay serious attention to the factors which are 
in our control,' and silently think as well : ' Those on which the 
matter really hinges, are, however, not in our power."* In the 
sense which has been now precisely delimited, the advocates of 
freedom should openly admit even the expression ' freedom of 
choice ' ; no cheap sneer ought to restrain us, or else there will 
ever be an ambiguity. In the moment of moral resolve he who 
makes the decision is " not under the compulsion of any external 
or internal circumstances as by an irrefragable necessity to 
affirm a determined possibility, but he decides independently 
for one of the various possibilities " (Sigwart). 

In this place again we are justified in declining all exaggera- 
tions, even those which emerge in the recognition of the correct 
principle that freedom is solely maintained for the sake of 
responsibility, and is consequently but the freedom of moral 
resolve. Even to this there is often granted a greater extension 
than is compatible with experience, just because the idea of 
responsibility is extended further than its nature permits. 
There is not only no such thing as responsibility in the strict 
sense for the actions of another, except so far as they may have 
been conditioned by my free act or have become my own ; but 
also that is an exaggeration as unavoidable as it is dangerous 
that I am responsible in the full sense for every one of my 
own actions, and accordingly free in respect of it. Christian 
ethics especially has no need whatever to depreciate what its 
greatest exponents have said on the slavery of the natural will, 
and of the curse of evil action which must beget fresh evil, and 
just as little of its boast of its life in the Spirit, of its joy in 
the Good. Nay, still further, no single moral resolve is made by 
a naked ego, void of content, but by a personality already 
determined — determined in all stages on the side of evil and of 
good. It is impossible for any formula to include the wealth 
of life in this respect. The art of the poet embodies for us 



84 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

some surprising and especially attractive cases ; but life is 
richer than the greatest art. In the Christian doctrine of sin, 
especially of 'offences,'*' we shall have to recollect this. As to how 
much responsibility, and corespondently how much freedom in 
the sense above defined, each person has, no individual Christian, 
acccording to the testimony of St Paul, is in a position to pass 
an impartial judgment on himself. The most penetrating self- 
judgment finds its issue in the word : " He that judgeth me is 
the Lord"(l Cor. iv. 3). Nevertheless, a moral judgment on 
the character of others as of ourselves lies on the assumption 
that somehow, at some time and under some sort of circum- 
stances, everyone is responsible, and on that account on the 
whole free — this much-misemployed word so understood as to 
mean that he by his own resolve can accept or reject the 
intelligible moral imperative. Granted, as we must later be 
convinced, that the most important act of freedom is the 
acceptance of the divine work of redemption (inclusive of all 
the preparations for it) which frees the enslaved will, then 
all that is so far adduced is valid, and that in the plainest 
possible way. 

However cautiously the idea of freedom may be circumscribed 
and bounded, not merely for the sake of antagonists, but 
for its own sake, it still offers sufficient opportunity for attack. 
How are we to set in order the most important arguments 
against freedom, in order to put them to the proof,? It is said 
there can be no freedom ; the assumption violates a law of 
thought. And it is said there is none; for facts are against 
it. Which objection is the more terrifying ? It appears to be 
the first, so far as it excludes from the circle of those with 
whom we can seriously treat the advocates of freedom, what- 
ever one may say as to facts. It appears to be the second, for 
facts are irrefutable. But possibly the question is as to facts 
which are only dangerous on a fixed interpretation, and perhaps 
the unthinkableness is too hastily affirmed just because other 
facts are not allowed their due weight, but are too hastily inter- 
preted in harmony with an apparently self-intelligible idea. 

* ' Offences ' in the sense of leading others into sin, as in St Matt, xviii. 6, 7 
and parallels. See below, pp. 88, ijo. • ' /» 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 85 

Let us begin with facts. Two groups require notice : special 
and surprising facts of statistics of morality, of hypnotism, of 
heredity ; and general facts observable in every psychical process. 
Let us put the last first. For, supposing the reasons can be 
given why xve think we are free to act ; supposing freedom can 
be proved to be an illusion, then the whole question is settled. 
No one torments himself with a mysterious process when it is 
shown that it contains no mystery. Possibly this is also the 
case with regard to the feeling of freedom. The assertion is 
not sufficient that our feeling of freedom is essentially more 
unassailable than any other fact (Lichtenberg). And really 
many believe that they can show how the illusion of freedom 
arises. With more acumen and brevity than others Schopenhauer 
has attempted to give this proof. He shows that the question 
ought to be put precisely thus : Can I will, what I will ? Not : 
Can I do what I will ? It is obvious that the latter may be 
affirmed ; but the affirmation is valueless, for how can a 
voluntary agent do any other than he wills ? But that the 
first is to be denied, viz. that we can will what we will, or 
freely and of ourselves bring about a decision as between two 
possible courses. This Schopenhauer endeavours to establish by 
a close analysis of the so-called free action, namely, by an 
analysis of motives. His picture of the holiday-maker who 
reflects on the possibilities of his free decision is famous. " I 
can — he possibly says to himself — either go a walk or I can go 
to my club, or from the top of a tower admire the sunset, can go 
to the theatre, visit a friend, can run off to the city gate and 
never return ; but none of that will I do, but I will voluntarily go 
home to my wife.'"' That is, says Schopenhauer, as if the water 
in the pond spoke and said : " I can go into the waves as high as 
a house — yea, into the stormy sea ; I can go rapidly down — yea, 
in the stream ; I can tumble spurtling from the height — yea, in 
a waterfall ; I can mount up freely into the air — ^yea, in the 
fountain ; I can pass off into steam — yea, at 80° Reaumur ; 
but none of that will I do, but I shall remain quietly in the 
crystal pond." That is, that 'can' is never present as an 
actual thing, unless quite definite causes are present ; but then 
that is just the same as necessity. Precisely so with the man 



86 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

with his evening oft'. The motives which he can present to 
himself for the one or the other conclusion — for the walk, or 
the theatre, or the home-going — are not a whit less compulsory 
than the mechanical causes which keep the water in the pond 
or raise it in the air, or boil it into steam. The difference 
between internal motives and external causes is only that those 
are thoughts which we imagine to ourselves in the form of 
reflection one after another. This is the one chief cause of 
the illusion of freedom, viz. our failing insight into the 
compulsory power of motives. The other lies in our not 
knowing precisely the second factor in the calculation, or at 
least only gradually learning to know it, namely, the determined 
mental habitude, the determined bias of the will — the ' empirical 
character' — on which those motives light, which is itself formed 
by disposition, education, habit. According to the difference 
in the bias of the will, will be the difference of the impression 
made by these motives ; but always an absolutely necessary one. 
Accordingly, if in the above example of reflection the person 
saw a denier of freedom standing by, he would apply himself 
possibly to giving a demonstration of freedom instead of going 
home or to the theatre. But this would only be the case if the 
idea of refuting the foe of freedom was for his mental habitude 
a stronger motive than those motives which should plead for 
the other possibilities : absolutely necessary is the resolve also 
in this as in all other cases. It is not always that we are able 
to complete the calculation, because, in thinking retrospectively 
of a decision made, we cannot name all the motives in their 
order of strength, nor the several items which made up at that 
moment our empirical character; but the imperfection of the 
calculation is, it is said, no ground for denying the daylight 
clearness of the idea. 

Now, as far as the idea is as clear as daylight we have already 
recognised it and used it in order to make plain the nature 
of moral freedom (p. 80). That motives may operate like 
mechanical forces as causes is indubitable, and the recollection 
of the effects of a cry of ' Fire ! ^ in a crowded theatre is merely 
a clear illustration. We have further emphasised that no 
resolve can happen without operating motives ; nor forgotten 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 87 

that these likewise owe their different methods of exhibition 
to the disposition of the individual. Nor have we under- 
estimated the importance of the empirical character. And 
this so little that we should have nothing to object to in the 
example given, if it were made complete by the inclusion of a 
moral action in the strict sense. Suppose in the course of 
reflection on the holiday occasion referred to, instead of the 
continual series of pleasant alternatives, there was the case of 
a poor invalid some distance outside the city to be visited, 
involving an unpleasant renunciation of all enjoyment of the 
off" evening, then we would consider our philosopher right if 
he said : If he goes to the invalid friend, then the moral motive 
of compassion becomes the strongest for him because that 
emotion is grounded in his character ; and another person with 
other innate or acquired bias of will would just as certainly 
not visit the sick. But Schopenhauer's whole statement could 
only suffice as a proof against freedom if it were already proved 
that the decision in favour of one motive in preference to 
the other is excluded, which even our opponents from their 
point of view, with their contradictory hyperbolic utterances, 
are grudgingly inclined to recognise as the really decisive 
constituent of our personal experience (p. 82). And we may 
once more refer to the fact that it is just the most acute 
antagonist of freedom who is not finally content with that 
reply. That is, so soon as the feeling of responsibility is brought 
into the question, he says that responsibility without freedom 
is quite beyond his comprehension. Accordingly he betakes 
himself to the shift of a timeless freedom (p. 80). The cir- 
cumstantial exposition now considered, which has been so often 
admired and often repeated with less of grace, is therefore only 
a little drama, which for a while, like dazzling fireworks, makes 
you forget how deep is the darkness in which this most ancient 
of problems, that of freedom, still remains. What we do gain 
is a deeper insight into the nature of the psychological processes 
with which a free resolve is involved. It is not shown that 
there is no such thing. The facts admit another interpretation, 
and even demand it, unless responsibility is to be a mere empty 
delusion. The force of motives in their connection with the 



88 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

already existent bias of will may be fuUy recognised, and yet 
we may assert that the ego can carry the motive of the moral 
imperative against all other motives and in opposition to the 
existent character, if it were only in single moments ; if it 
were only then perhaps when, as the Christian says, the gracious 
will of God lays hold on the human will. 

Are the other facts which are said to contradict freedom of 
more force? They contradict on a whole only a notion of 
freedom arbitrarily set up, and do not reject as unintelligible 
that which for the sake of the moral life alone is dear to us. 
The inheritance of certain dispositions, and in fact heredity in 
all departments of the psychical life, Christian ethics can fully 
accept, as well as the influences of human society and of external 
circumstances. How much more difficult or easier the battle 
of morality may be for one in comparison with his neighbour 
can only be imperfectly determined by themselves or by their 
immediate earthly judges. That they, despite all other weights, 
can of themselves cast another weight into the scale the feeling of 
responsibility convinces them precisely when they allow it its 
due force, without exaggeration and without concealment ; and 
where they are in doubt they appeal to the omniscient. Also 
the much-vaunted calculations of statistics of morality are not 
in need of any sort of clever manipulation. They do give 
valuable peeps into the power of social circumstances, the 
interlacing relations of all with all who have been previously 
or contemporaneously similarly situated ; therefore into the 
significance of the world and of ' offence ' in the sense of the 
Holy Scriptures. The tabulated statistics, which exhibit for 
great groups and spaces of time a similar number of crimes, 
would only be a proof against the freedom of the will if they 
comprehended such actions as were carried into execution in 
like situations by a like number of men, i.e. in equally gi-eat 
temptation (want, power of resistance, etc.), and an equal 
number of external occasions for the crimes in question. It is 
clear that this cannot be asserted in reference to the mere figures 
of cases lumped together. Lately, hypnotism has often been 
vaunted as a proof against freedom. It was curious when, from 
the theological side, joy was loudly expressed that, through this 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 89 

influence on the soul-life, drunkards hitherto irreclaimable could 
be ' converted.' It was not less curious when doctors believed 
that they could now at last give the death-blow to the idea 
of freedom. Both ought to have been aware that that sort of 
phenomenon only sums up facts little known before or regarded, 
of the way in which the influence of another's will may make 
itself felt, and nothing more. 

CaiLsality and Freedom. 

The only really formidable antagonist of the freedom of the 
will is not any fact. Facts are only adverse by the impugnable 
interpretation set on them. It is rather the uninterrupted 
cohesion of all reality, i.e. the idea of universal causality. It 
has been possible to come to an understanding so far in regard 
to all other objections, and we do come across many utterances 
which go further in the way of reconciliation than logical con- 
sistency allows (p. 82). But in the rear of all these objections 
there stands that which is derived from causality, which is 
supposed fatal to all explanation. " If there were freedom," 
says Schopenhauer, "the intellect would cease its activity at 
the moment of its acquirement, for causality as a law is the 
commonest ' form ' of the thinking faculty."" " There can be 
no freedom ; a causeless occurrence, an occurrence not adequately 
grounded, is a contradiction in terms." 

When our opponents call causality a law of thought, what 
they mean to say is : Thought is unable to conceive of any 
reality otherwise than that — as a necessary effect of its causes, 
and in turn a cause of fresh necessary effects — it is an absolutely 
determined whole in the uninterrupted cohesion of all reality. 
It is then self-evident that there can be no free actions. Or, to 
put it in other words, they make what is unthinkable the 
same thing as the inexplicable, and have in this intelligible way 
renounced freedom. But is it correct to say that causality 
thus understood is a law of our thinking .? This much only is 
correct, that without understanding it in this sense any know- 
ledge having a constraining force for a sound mind, i.e. any 
empirically scientific knowledge reducible to universal pro- 
positions, is impossible. That is to say, this interpretation of 



90 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

causality is not an axiom of thought but a postulate in our 
search for the uninterrupted correlation of our knowledge 
(Sigwart, Loffk, ii. 21). 

Of course so powerful is the impression of the causal nexus 
in the kingdom of nature, and at the same time so intimately 
intertwined with our inner moral life, that this admission that 
the idea of free determination is not unreasonable will always 
seem a mere empty possibility to him who has not amved at 
a clear idea of the importance of such freedom. For indeed 
the recognition of this freedom finally involves nothing less 
than that the whole knowledge of nature, however firmly 
compact and irrefragable, does not embrace all that really 
exists ; nor even in its own department all that actually is, in 
all its respects — not, that is, in the whole depth of its reality ; 
that there is still another world beyond that which we can 
reckon and measure, even the world of freedom, which exhibits 
itself as transcendent. In other words, the recognition of 
freedom is the rejection of the monism of which the modern 
consciousness is so proud (p. 46). This is a price which only 
he will pay who recognises the surpassing value for which it 
is not too high a price. Above this strong law of causality 
in the given sense there is a stronger; the freedom which we 
assert must show itself to be this stronger one. It must so 
manage its cause as to show what depends on it, what its 
value is, what is at stake, if men are forced to bid farewell to 
it as to an old delusion. If the opponent seeks to depreciate 
this value in any way, its advocates must put the matter in a 
clear light. Here too honesty is the best policy. The more 
we can concede to them, the more will what remains, though 
apparently little, be shown to be all-important. 

Our opponents often emphasise that this feeling of moral 
obligation united to this feeling of freedom has, in the centuries 
of its rule, accomplished little enough. As all storks do not 
sacrifice themselves for their offspring, but only those which are 
impelled to it by their necessarily determined nature, so has it 
been, spite of all talk of duty and freedom, with men so far ; 
and will continue to be in the future, even when these sermon- 
isings on responsibility and freedom are a thing of the past. 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 91 

Even progress will not be stopped when this happens. Out of 
the actual needs of human society new rules, better and more 
serviceable to the needs of the common life, will continually 
develop ; the individual will be forced to follow them, partly 
consciously as the result of education, partly unconsciously by 
the still more potent influence of heredity. Even then a sort 
of feeling of responsibility will not be quite absent ; while 
yet the imagination that we could act differently than we do 
will naturally disappear. But human society is in any case in 
need of laws ; to maintain these is the purpose of punish- 
ment ; the idea and sensation of punishment is then the still 
possible effective sense of responsibility, and the normal motive 
for human conduct is found in the sphere of law. When this 
is not present, the doctor must be called in, for men without 
this feeling of responsibility are mentally incapable. No ob- 
jection need be raised that by the feeling of responsibility 
something different from that heretofore accepted is understood : 
why may not mankind, arrived at a new stage, be suffered to 
give a new connotation to old terms, and use them in a new 
sense ? Why not, say they, go a step further .? Let us allow 
that those rules of conduct which are essential to human society 
do so operate — such was once the machinery of the world — 
that such actions as are not in accordance therewith are 
accompanied by that remarkable feeling of pain which has 
hitherto been called a feeling of guilt, in the sense that the 
guilty person is the voluntary author of his own action. Of 
course (they continue) that appears to us as really a gross 
illusion ; but certainly we may assume the possibility, and for 
the previously explained reasons grant that it is at the least a 
possibility, that it is just in this way the sense of ' oughtness,' 
the deepest meaning and highest ' value ' are achieved. Our 
opponents shall not say that we are not initially able to follow 
their thought, so little are we in need, on the contrary, of 
keeping back any question whatever. E.g.^ the advocates of 
freedom, however it may be limited, do not doubt that its 
decisions for ' the good ' are by no means unimportant in their 
totality. Only it is self-evident that this is not demonstrable to 
the opponents of freedom. 



9« THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAxN LIFE 

But if we followed their boldest thoughts into their most 
secret recesses, what could we object to them, what ought we 
to retain, in spite of all, in order to hold aloft the banner of 
freedom ? One thing, only one thing, would be different in a 
humanity which had seen through the great delusion of freedom, 
and regulated its action in this new lucid apprehension of the 
delusion it had seen through. One thing would be different, 
and that the thing in which they had so far seen the highest 
attainable ; in which they realised their true self — that feeling 
of self-hood which has its origin in subjection to an absolute 
'ought,' by means of a personal act held to be free. Goethe 
has put the confession of faith of the determinist in finely 
chiselled words : " So must you be : you cannot escape from 
self : thus said long ago sybils and prophets : and no time and 
no force can dismember the impressed form which so long as 
it lives, develops." 

Tlie same Goethe has done homage to the majesty of the 
ethical point of view in contradistinction to the aesthetical 
consideration in the confession : — " When a man endures the 
hardest, and puts constraint on himself, then you may point to 
him joyfully and say — that is the man, that is himself," and — 

Never let thy courage falter, 
Let the crowd drift idly by ; 
Who never with his task will palter 
Can accomplish all that's high. 

That would no longer be true. Then the greatest of evils, 
which is guilt, this man of the future would no longer know 
in the old sense. But the capacity for this feeling humanity 
has long considered to be an attestation of its dignity. Then 
on this point also there prevails, far beyond the circle of those 
who openly take up the cross of freedom, a silent agreement. 
Theoretical deniers of freedom, who cannot do enough to 
ridicule belief in freedom as the acme of folly, do when any 
occasion of self-judgment arises act as if there were such a 
thing as freedom. This is seen from the fact that they grow 
angry if they are treated as if there were no freedom ; they 
feel such treatment as an indignity. And what is true of 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 93 

individuals is true of mankind as a whole. Doubtless man 
can exist without any belief in freedom, but not without a 
loss of that which, however blurred and obscure, he has regarded 
as a dignity belonging to human nature. Are we to allow 
ourselves to be lowered to the position of mere marionettes 
on the stage of life ? Even hero-worship, often strange enough, 
is a kind of irregular craving for the idea of liberty. Strange, 
if we do homage to men of genius, at festivals held in their 
honour, while on the same occasions we are assured they are 
the product of necessity. And yet in this there lies an 
unconscious protest against the devastating scepticism which 
denies freedom. 

Why is it so ? What we propounded at the outset is now 
intelligible. Our mental life has its specialty in a mainly 
unconscious striving for self-realisation, for independence of 
the nature within us and outside us. It presses forward to 
this goal in many ways — in the conquest of external nature, 
in the spiritual nature by means of art and science ; but in no 
way so deep and high, so mightily and inwardly concentrated, 
as in the activities we designate as moral, in the full recognition 
of an absolute law as a fact sui generis. It is in this that man 
is raised above the diverse events of the external world, and 
also of the multiplicity of his own natural impulses, and reaches 
an inner unity, and raises himself above all limitation of 
freedom. And it has likewise already been made clear that 
this freedom reaches its goal in communion with others. Here 
it is pertinent once more to emphasise the point from which 
we started out. This demonstration of the importance which 
belongs to freedom and moral law is no actual proof, cannot, 
and is not intended to be so, in the sense that the unwilling 
can be compelled by it. The only possible proof which is to be 
wished for in the interests of the subject is contained in the 
demand that the moral law should be recognised by acting 
the part of a free man, and thus freedom itself be experienced 
as a reality. But this appeal is no shift of embarrassment. 
This culminating justification of the absolute law, of the 
' ought,' of responsibility, of freedom, or, differently expressed, 
of conscience, fits in exactly with the subject which needs 



94 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

justification, and may with good conscience be said to l)e 
complete. It is shown that the idea of ' ought ' is inseparable 
from responsibility ; the idea of responsibility from that of 
freedom ; and how this latter is to be understood in such way 
that no well-founded objections can be raised against it. More 
the advocates of freedom cannot desire for themselves. " He 
is happy who can only be sufficiently assured that there exists 
no proof of its impossibility" (Kant). And then we realised 
to ourselves what it is that depends on the meaning of that 
' ought "■ which is inseparable from freedom of the will ; which 
is nothing less than the personal dignity of the individual and 
the dignity of human nature. From all these premisses there 
arises the unavoidable conclusion found in the summons and 
appeal to use that freedom, for there is no other way of reaching 
a conviction of its reality. A parable of this foundation truth 
of the moral life intinides upon our attention, which in its core 
is as old as the experience of this truth itself, but acquires 
new significance in the fierce battle on this question of free 
volition. A wanderer has lost his way on the mountains, and 
his companions ; a return is impossible, and in front of him 
is the yawning abyss. A bold spring is his only chance. But 
first he demands proof of its feasibility. Then he must perish. 
The importance of the leap, if it succeeded, was clear to him, 
and he could be convinced ' that no proof of its impossibility 
exists.' But he wanted more, impossible in the nature of the 
case. So he made his choice, refusing to put the matter to the 
test, to his own undoing. Perhaps we may say that there is 
an increasing readiness to agree with such reflections, and, at 
the least, to make it quite plain that if there is a moral life 
it can be of no other kind than this ; and that life in the deepest 
sense is valueless if there is no moral life of this kind. We 
hear it again and again more openly said on this question of 
free volition : It is usually only insoluble problems that are 
thus never-ending. And it is little likely that the kind of 
assertion will long continue which says: The believers in free 
volition are the half-convinced persons who, in their uncertainty, 
seek support in those whom they suppose to be absolutely 
great, while the wholly convinced, standing with their feet 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 95 

firmly planted on a full reality, though subject to outward 
changes, have no need of such idols. The heat shown in the 
battle for this conviction scarcely beseems the subject. Happily, 
however, in such personal devotion to an ideal there is a point 
of unity for all who will personally battle for the good, however 
they may contend as to its meaning. 

With such thoughts we stand without perceiving it on the 
threshold of the second problem which we must add to an 
apologetic of Christian ethics, and that is the justification of a 
connection between morality and religion. 

Morality and Religion. 

This connection is the really deepest offence which the 
modern consciousness takes to Christian ethics (p. 50 fF). By 
the idea of a personal God of holy love, all ethical principles 
become so transcendently, so supersensuously defined, that 
modern ethics — essentially psychological and of this world — 
discovers a feeling of antagonism, all the deeper because it is 
not always conscious of it. We kept this antagonism in the 
background, because a common agreement on another import- 
ant point with a system of ethics not distinctively Christian, 
seemed possible and advantageous. That point was in reference 
to the great questions of the moral law and freedom, as well as 
its immediate experience in the phenomena of conscience. 
But this very investigation now points beyond itself to the 
connection between the moral and the religious. For that 
' ought "" understood in its depth makes the question unavoidable 
— is it really intelligible if we stop within the circle of our 
mental life ? is not the moral, so to speak, something towering 
over us ? If we, possessing a responsible personality and recog- 
nising an absolute law, are raised above the nature which is in us 
and outside us, is this prodigy, this break with the woild, this 
unity with its correspondent freedom, this dignity of personality 
and of a realm of persons anything reasonable in itself if we 
stop with self? We have already seen above that that absolute 
' ought ' has not any content you please ; and that it can only 
be properly understood when united with a quite definite 



96 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

content, and one that is the highest conceivable (p. 26). 
Submission to the monastic ideal does not lead to real unity 
and freedom of the inner life ; certain though it be that it has 
been recognised innumerable times as an absolute command to 
be aimed at. But how are we to define that highest conceivable 
content, and what is its origin ? Christian ethics believes that 
it has the satisfying answer in the Christian idea of God ; and 
judges that even those friends of the imperative ' ought,"" who 
hold back from the religious conception of it, can find no 
unimpeachable reason for the common ' Goods '' (so far defended), 
except in this theistic belief. But as soon as this name of God 
is mentioned, those who have so far been friends are accustomed 
with notable promptness to unite with our opponents, and 
assure us that the idea of God endangers morality. The many 
various objections which are heard all end finally in hetero- 
nomy^ and eudaemonism. Religious ethics asserts that the 
validity of our ideas of good and evil is dependent on external 
authority, in fact, on the will of God ; while, as a matter of 
fact, the decisive truth is that man is a law to himself, and in 
this finds the unity of his inner life. Religious ethics conse- 
quently is enslaving and insecure. Eudaemonism (or hedonism), 
not troubling itself about a law presented by the will, maintains 
that the Good to be aimed at is not internal harmony but 
sensuous happiness, even if it is that of the so-called 'other 
world/ The reference to the prospect of reward or punishment 
disturbs, it is said, the purity of moral motive, and deeply 
injures true moral power, however much it may at first sight 
appear to be an incentive. It would carry us too far to examine 
all these objections in the light of all the criteria or points of 
view named. In any case we are forced to ask, is modern 
ethics, when in earnest, so free and independent of that belief 
as it declares that it is when it criticises Christian ethics for 
associating it with its scheme ? And so far as it is free, is it 
logical ? After that we can without prejudice examine and 

^ Heteronomy is a term used by Kant as a designation for a false principle of 
morals such as receives acknowledgment when personal desire determines the 
right for us instead of moral law. ' Autonomy of the Reason ' is the recognition 
of moral law as the absolute law of life. — Tr, (Kant, Kritik c(er fraktischen 
Vemunft.) 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 97 

pass judgment on this synthesis, this connection of Christian 
faith with Christian ethics. 

Morality without Religion. 

Is there really any such thing as religion without morality, 
or morality without religion ? As a matter of fact, in the 
history of humanity both have entered into the most manifold 
unions, and these still persist alongside one another to-day, as 
the reports of travellers and missionaries as well as what we 
find around us show. And it is equally the case that both 
past history and present experience afford examples of how such 
unions become dissolved. At one time it is the gods who 
determine what is Good ; at another time what is then regarded 
as Good is put under their protection, and they themselves 
become idealised forms, and examples of what is Good. In 
what various ways that can be represented in the varying stages 
of religious and moral development ! But these questions, 
attractive and important as they are, do not concern us now. 
It is rather the question as to the inner connection between 
morality and religion. The task is difficult, because it is not 
easy to keep the investigation on a purely scientific level. If 
we note how frequently and deeply it employs the conversation 
of neighbours and the silent communings of our own minds, we 
shall recognise how easily personal inclination and dislike, 
desire and anxiety mingle. The question becomes more 
difficult through the impressive warning against judging others 
which is given by Christian ethics, and in general by reason 
of the real earnestness with which it lays stress on the 
worthlessness of religion without a moral standard. It is not 
he who says " Lord, Lord,"" but " he who does the will of my 
Father in heaven," who may expect to enter into the kingdom 
of God. Certainly this speaks of morality with a religious 
sanction, but yet we have a clear warning not prematurely, 
externally, and hypocritically to unite and confound the moral 
and the religious. In Church history is written the most 
forcible comment on this word. On the other hand, the 
readiness to give morality its full recognition even when it 
appears to be separated from the religious motive, has often 



98 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

been so great as to justify the use of the saying : " Be not 
righteous overmuch." That saying of our Lord Himself points 
the right way, which is to examine facts without preconcep- 
tions, and then only to draw the general inferences which they 
suggest. 

The facts point to the distinction between individual and 
the larger groups of human society. History has handed down 
no example of whole nations firmly and permanently maintain- 
ing high moral ideals disconnected from religious belief. But 
doubtless there are individuals who without any religious 
belief gain the respect of upright Christians ; by their moral 
life perhaps put them to shame. Particularly is that so in a 
complex civilisation. Therefore, in the middle of the nineteenth 
century the expression 'unconscious Christianity' found so 
much vogue. From such facts can anything conclusive be 
drawn as to the connection of morality and religion .? Shall we 
conclude that the moral life without Christianity lives on the 
reflex influence and the unconscious influence of Christian faith ? 
or, vice versa^ that they are the preludes of a future humanity 
whose morality is independent of religion .? 

It is said : " Nothing Utopian influences the mind of a moral 
agent ; the phantasy of God neither inflames him nor blinds 
him." " The forces which move men are known, calculable, and 
are the rule and reason of his endeavours ; the sacred majesty 
of life is felt." We must pause at such high-flown utterances 
of atheistic morality, and perhaps at the form which they have 
talien in the ethics of positivism. For in the absence of 
effective action and in the absence of a worthy content of action 
any comparison whatever with Christian ethics would fail. 
So we may leave this exalted language without corrective 
criticism. We merely ask whether it is quite intelligible in 
the absence of any definite judgment as to the course of the 
world in reference to this moral endeavour, and in the absence 
of any judgment whether it has been successful ; and if so, in 
what degree, and whether permanently or only for the time 
being. Now, there are many who answer this question 
quite openly something as follows : We do not know whether 
evolution will work out to a tragedy or a comedy, and we 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 99 

cannot alter it. We only see a portion and not the consumma- 
tion. Why do not all give the like answer ? Clearly? from the 
standpoint of irreligious morality, this is the only consistent 
answer. For a definite judgment would be a judgment on the 
world and the purpose of the world, and therefore a theory of 
the universe ; in short, a faith, perhaps not the Christian faith, 
but some sort of one. This would be to admit that the 
morality in question is not independent of religion, and yet 
that it is independent was the very proposition asserted. But 
why this great aversion to plain and open utterance, or, anyhow, 
why so much reserve ? Indeed, why so many poetic expressions 
like 'sacred majesty of life,' 'eternal powers of human 
nature ' ? It may possibly arise from a secret longing for a safe 
foundation for this boasted independent morality. 

We may most speedily arrive at some explanation of this 
question by separating it entirely from the question as to the 
religious motives of action. The Christian not only sees no 
reason to oppose the anxiety felt as to introducing the idea of 
God too prematurely and in the wrong place, and thus disturb- 
ing the purity of moral action, but can understand this 
feeling most unreservedly, and express it most vigorously. For 
the hunger after righteousness to which Jesus promises satisfac- 
tion is not quieted by the unnourishing bread of a self-invented 
religion which he who thus hungers hastily oiFers to himself. 
His hunger is really a hunger which only righteousness can 
satisfy. Therefore the question simply is whether the man 
who desires the ' Good ' and the Good only can reasonably be 
without some judgment on the reason and purpose of the 
world, without a theory of the universe. Even Kant, who so 
sternly shut out theistic belief from a consideration of this 
question of the ethical springs of action, did not demand that 
the moral man should refrain from any question whatever as to 
the realisation of the Good. So it is too openly a contradiction 
to speak of an absolute ' ought "■ in reference to the realisation 
of the highest End, and notwithstanding, to declare that it is 
indifferent whether it is realisable or not, whether in respect of 
good and evil ' reality ' is indifferent or not. Almost innumer- 
able checks confront the idea that absolute Good is realisable. 



100 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Would that it were merely checks from external nature ! 
Would that the most oppressive were not in ourselves, in our 
will which has heard the command of duty ! This is the line 
of thought whose simple convincing power misleads so many 
representatives of atheistic ethics to half-mystical expressions, 
and the point in which they are antagonistic to religion. A 
melancholy resignation is often some sort of compensation for 
that from which they shrink, and which yet forces itself on 
their attention. This finds utterance in their confessions : 
"Denial makes the bosom heave."" But yet we may say 
that it is essentially the contradiction of Christian ethics 
in which they are living; what they call independent ethics 
and free from religion is itself the offspring of antagonism 
to the religious system. That which they could consistently 
assert of co-operation for the general welfare, or the progress 
of mankind, is less than their language seems to imply. And 
the reason is that some glimmer of light from the kingdom of 
God, which they consign to the land of dreams, falls on them ; 
and the voice of duty in the individuals which they derive from 
His relationship to His family borrows its impressive earnestness 
from the old truly absolute ' ought ' of Christian morality. 
But this verdict leads us further to the relation between — 

Christian Morality and the Christian Religion. 

If then morality without religion is shown to be not con- 
sistently thinkable, then it is at once settled that a purely 
sceptical attitude towards the question of a theory of the 
world is not tenable. But this attitude is, in the decisive point 
to which we just drew attention, that of irreligious ethics. It 
is only real conviction which can dispose of that difficulty. 
And we must really draw attention to the fact that the general 
admission that ethics and a world-theory belong together is 
insufficient. We must go deep down to the insight that to a 
definite moral idea a definite faith corresponds — to the Christian 
ideal the Christian faith in God. Or, to connect this with 
what has gone before (pp. 33 fF., 38 ff., 48 ff.), if we are once 
for all quite convinced why it is that an ethics which does 
not transcend this world ('immanent ethics') remains full of 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 101 

contradictions, and that is because it only gives an uncertain 
answer to the ' why ' and ' wherefore ' of the world, it is then clear, 
right down to the ground, that the pessimistic theory of the world 
does not logically accord with real moral action — such moral 
action, I mean, as is directed to one End that is attainable, and 
does not consist of the destruction of existence, in fact, 
annihilation. Rather the faith that is demanded by ethics is 
that the reason and purpose of the world is the ' Good,' the 
noblest characteristic of that true reality, the Absolute, God. 

This is not a matter of irresistible demonstration, as the 
acceptance of even the hypothesis is the result of a free volition 
(p. 370 ff.) ; but the idea is irrefutable provided that the absolute- 
ness of the ' ought ' is accepted unreservedly, and made clear in 
its entire significance, consequently irrefutable as a postulate of 
the moral consciousness. (On the insufficiency of the postulate 
itself cf. the following section). And it is important to 
emphasise that aU pantheistic uncertainty must be kept apart 
from this idea of God. Perhaps we may not say that it is 
merely for our human point of view that the ' Good ' is the 
highest quality of the Absolute. Such an explanation is quite 
conceivable on account of the closely connected difficulties 
which, to our thought, grow out of the idea of a God of 
personal goodness. But it contradicts the purpose for which 
in our present argument the idea of God has been introduced. 
Where shall we find the unconditioned ' ought ' if in the 
Absolute the antithesis of good and evil is destroyed, and evil 
is only the necessary shadow of the good ^ And how is the 
commandment of love to assert itself against the might of the 
stronger ? It was significant that some years ago, when a plan 
was formed to afford help to the poorest classes in London by 
a great organisation of charitable aid, it even met with the 
contradiction that these starvelings had no right to live. 
Here two beliefs encountered one another ; two sorts of belief 
in regard to final reality. Is there in its innermost core that 
which is 'good,' or are good and evil only our human point 
of view ? Such a foe of the waifs of society, among those who 
think like this, was not devoid of sympathetic recognition of 
the glory of goodness, but his sympathy was bounded by the 



102 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

final idea he had of the plan of the work. In it goodness was 
for him merely a beautiful illusion, not an all-mastering reality. 
The perception of this is so much the more important because 
an unclear recognition of the ' good ' as the reason and goal of 
the world, or, so to speak, a half-belief in the essential goodness 
of the Absolute, often appears in the ornamented rhetoric of 
poetry, and so disguises its defects, as for instance in many of 
the exponents of evolutional ethics. It is surely not fortuitous 
that in the great optimists, like Goethe, deep doubt as to the 
progress of the good finds utterance ; and it is merely hushing 
up this when stress is laid on the unused-up sources of energy 
of the country population .as means by which the effete cities, 
full of moral azote, may be rejuvenated. So it is quite clear 
that many adherents of the modern ethics above delineated 
have more frequently asserted than proved the existence of 
progressive development. They exist to a great degree on the 
heritage of Christian theism without adequately recognising 
its uniqueness, and so are always in danger of succumbing to 
pessimistic ideas. 

Therefore the connection of morality with religion is no 
reasonable reproach to Christian ethics. On the contrary, the 
unavoidable question as to the realisation of the ' good ' demands 
that every system of ethics should have its final reasons, its 
cosmic theory, its faith, i.e. every system that wishes somehow 
to distinguish between the moral and the natural, and has any 
apprehension of something higher than itself. It cannot push 
that question aside as irrelevant ; which is as much as to say, it 
cannot permanently be consciously atheistic, it must have the 
courage to venture to grasp the supersensual. And this grasp 
cannot be on empty space, on nothing : pessimistic ethics is a 
self-contradiction. But there exists also a superficial faith in 
the power of the good in all kinds of forms. This may indeed 
suffice for an indefinite moral endeavour. A whole series of 
stages of moral and religious doctrine corresponding therewith 
may be shown to exist. This is the case even within Christianity, 
as, e.g., the God of the Renascence idea of piety — the indulgent, 
all-loving Father — clearly belongs to a morality of the universal- 
benevolence type, i.e. a form of utilitarianism. A look into the 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 105 

depth of that ' ought ' and up to the heights of a supersensual 
world should be a recollection of and return to a God of 
redeeming love. Guilt and grace are mutual implicates. And 
thus every step in the illustration of Christian ethics becomes 
also an advance in knowledge of the inseparability of Christian 
morality from an unabridged Christian faith. Then it becomes 
lucidly clear — what would be merely wearisome to enumerate — 
how all the aspects of the Christian ' goods ' are determined by 
the Christian faith — all those fundamental relations which we 
have had to consider from the beginning. It is not by any 
means merely the question, Will the Christian ' good "" triumph ? 
that finds its answer in a Christian belief in God. It is on 
this faith that the content of this definite morality which is 
distinct from every other is founded, its Ends and Rules. From 
this flow its Motives ; out of this that ' ought ' has its wholly 
unique tone. It is on this account that the elaboration of 
these ideas will first give a convincing refutation of the 
objections which modern ethics raises against ethics based on 
religion, and particularly against ethics so entirely based on 
religion as is the Christian system. 

We have now spoken of the close connection of morality 
and religion. 

With regard to 

The Truth of the Christian Faith 

nobbing decisive is so far proved. For a demand, i.e. a 
postulate, never proves that it will be satisfying, just as the 
coherence even of the greatest ideas proves nothing as to their 
reality ; and as religion itself has never sought to find its basis 
in the reasonableness of its data, but has offered itself as a 
reality to experience. 'J.'his is the point where the justification 
of ethics (whose principles we would delineate) depends on 
dogmatics, or in which both merge in the wider scope of 
apologetics (p. 4). We do not mean that apologetics can 
adduce an irresistible proof of the existence of God, but it can 
show what are the limits generally within which such proof can 
be given, which are not drawn by the arbitrary desire of the 
believer, or even of the man of good moral intention, but by 



104 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

the character of the cognition and of our cognitive faculty itself. 
Further, it is by no means only the Christian faith, but every 
faith, every conviction as to the reason and purpose of the 
world, which has its roots in our emotional and voluntative 
nature. But this faith need fear no objection on its part arising 
from the inner limitation of its cognitive faculty, as it rather of 
its own self offers a reasonable answer to the final questions of 
cognition. And in fact it is precisely the moral will which, with 
good reason, is primarily interested in the shaping of a final 
conviction, and consequently ethics is the mainstay of a genuine 
apologetic. But in such investigations the question again arises 
afresh, and all the more urgently, just so far as we can be con- 
vinced that the idea of God is not our idea merely, but is the 
highest reality ; and then such an apologetic can show in its 
wider scope that only the self-revelation of this God can bring 
us to a conviction of His existence, show us what those character- 
istics are which the idea carries to gain our confidence, and how 
the religious history of mankind, and more especially that 
embraced in Jesus Christ, is able to produce in us the conviction 
of a revelation deserving of our confidence. It is not on the 
indifferent, but on him alone who desires the reality of the 
highest worth, in harmony with the special claim it makes on 
him, for him who hiingers after righteousness, that this con- 
fidence is wrought by means of that deepest of reciprocal actions 
(which we either already know, or it is our duty to experience) 
between our moral effort and the God who in Christ works in 
us ' to will and to do.' But still, the third and last task comes 
before us in order to justify Christian ethics, and that is — 

The Unsurpassability of Christian Ethics. 

Its opponents might agree with all that has been so far said, 
in the sense that the propositions on the moral law and freedom, 
as well as the obligatoriness of Christian morality, are in them- 
selves consistent; but yet the fundamental doubt is not thus 
met, whether this Christian morality is in itself really the best. 
It is precisely the knowledge which has just been emphasised, 
that every moral conviction corresponds logically to a religious 
conviction of a like kind, which tends to strengthen this doubt. 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 105 

This can only be satisfactorily overcome by a double demonstra- 
tion. First, that no moral ideal which has so far appeared in 
history surpasses that of Christianity in inner content and in 
practical feasibility. Secondly, that it can never be surpassed 
in the future. 

A good part of the first proof has already been given, and it 
is only needful to expressly recall what was said in the light of 
the point of view with which we are now concerned. We have 
already found a standard of judgment (pp. 6, 28). The palm is 
due to that moral ideal which guarantees most securely the 
inner independency of our personality, and binds mankind into 
a unity of such personalities. This goal is attained by the 
recognition of the absolute law. But, we said, it is not any 
content that is proper for a truly absolute ' ought "*; e.g., the 
adherents of the ideal of the common welfare, the utilitarians, 
could not convincingly show how far every individual ought to 
recognise in it a demand absolutely binding on his will. In the 
same way, the ideal of the complete cultivation of all our natural 
powers is not independent of a variety of presuppositions ; it is 
compelled to take into account favourable endowment, fortunate 
circumstances, and how all alike are not favoured. How could 
the demand depending on such conditions be absolute and 
applicable to all ? But this doubt generally and without reserve 
arises with respect to all moral systems as they came into vogue 
either before or after the Christian morality, and appear to-day 
as its rivals. The short review of the most important which 
occupied our attention earlier could easily be completed for our 
present purpose ; e.g., alongside the ideal of modern aestheticism 
more fully carried out would be that of the self-satisfied philoso- 
pher ; alongside that of utilitarian hedonism that of socialism, 
Athenian or Spartan ideals of citizenship ; and with pessimism 
would appear the Buddhistic self-negation with its pity often 
compared to Christian love. And then it would appear how 
these ideals, measured by that standard, have each of them a 
special value and each of them a special limitation : e.g., how the 
most glorious philanthropy which regards country and state as 
the highest good, or the most comprehensive utilitarianism, does 
not guarantee tlie full freedom of personality ; how the most 



lOG THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

exalted stoic philosopher or the individuality of the most richly 
artistic temperament sundered from the duties and life of the 
community grows narrow and poor ; how self-abnegation when 
it becomes self-effacement is not the true solution. And now, 
on the contrary, Christian morality ? It counts nothing trifling 
which is truly good in all these ideals ; it recognises heroes of 
self-denial and heroes of citizenship, pioneers of civilisation and 
creators of commerce ; but all this is not the highest, but of the 
kingdom of God only a portion : a proving of our self-sacrificing 
love of our neighbour on the basis and in the power of an 
experienced love of God, in which alone true freedom is found — 
the freedom of the sons of God in the eternal kingdom of God. 
Even in reference to the realisation of this ideal. Christian 
ethics has no need to shun comparison. Certainly it is a 
favourite topic of many opponents to scoff at its small success 
in the course of so many centiu-ies. Those who are just, 
however, not only admit that its effects reach out far beyond 
the circle of its confessed adherents, and ought to be valued and 
not lost ; but also cannot deny that it has shown itself effective 
under all conceivable circumstances : in the change of the times 
when battling with the ancient world as when rooting itself 
in the spirit of the Teutonic peoples ; in missions among 
uncivilised races in every generation and race ; in every condition 
of culture. 

But is this decisive in regard to the future of Christian 
ethics ? Is it for ever ? If it is the highest so far, is it on 
that account unsurpassable ? And if we are not able to conceive 
of anything above it, because for an ideal that possibly seems 
higher we must suppose quite another nature than that which 
we now possess, what does that prove.? Is it not the case 
that in all the departments of human activity, when, in the 
imagination of individuals and of mankind, they think they 
have reached the summit, this has been chided as false ? Never- 
theless the Christian Church puts forth this claim for its ethics, 
and the recognition of that claim and the recognition of 
Christian ethics appear to it one and the same thing. For in 
the recognition of its ideal it experiences an inner freedom 
which carries within it the pledge of eternity ; just because it 



THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS 107 

cannot separate itself from the certainty that the realisation of 
this ideal is only just at its initial stage, and that by an inner 
necessity it points to other conditions of existence. It is its 
much-scorned religious character that the Christian has to 
thank for this certainty that it is unsurpassable. Because the 
Christian task has its grounds in the gift of God, and this gift 
is personal communion with an eternal personal God, the task 
is as eternal as God Himself, and yet is complete at every 
moment of its realisation. Of course, this certainty is staked 
on personal experience, but how could it be otherwise in any 
system of ethics deserving the name ? And for whom can this 
kind of proof be of value but for those who have travelled 
some distance on the way recommended by this ethics ? Just 
on that account this latter consideration cannot be condemned 
as an overweening requirement. The Christian Church sets 
up this claim for itself from the inner compulsion of its 
faith. But it keeps itself quite free from coercion of others ; 
they are not to be led by delusion to this summit on which 
the infinite perspective oversteps the horizon, but to be invited 
step by step to enter upon the path which leads to the summit. 
But it would be false modesty if Christian ethics were to 
divest itself of this high feeling of its peerlessness. It is still 
the Christian faith in God to which it owes its superiority, 
and this faith has from the commencement been the ground and 
object of its special boast, in which there is no hurtful sting 
of vain conceit {cf. p. 54 fF.). 



Part II. 
Christian Ethics as a Coherent Whole. 

This part falls into three sections. They treat of the nature of 
the Christian ' Good ' ; of its realisation in the Christian personality 
(individual ethics) and in human society (social ethics). As a 
preliminary, the distinction between Evangelical and Roman 
Catholic ethics is defined, and it is shown how far in Evangelical 
ethics the Holy Scriptures is the supreme rule. 



CHAPTER IV. 
PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS. 

Evangelical and Roman Catholic Ethics. 

Wherever mention has so far been made of the Christian life 
it has been tacitly meant in the sense of Evangelical Christianity, 
and this is not less the case in what follows. This method of 
statement must, however, be justified, namely, that Evangelical 
Christianity is distinguished from that which is ' Catholic ' not 
merely in faith but in life, and indeed ' why ' and ' how,' both 
with reference to the former and to the latter. 

An example or two at the outset. We know how Luther 
judged of his Christian life before and after the great event, his 
"justification before God by grace through faith" ; how in him 
was repeated in new circumstances the experience of St Paul, 
" What was gain to me I counted loss for Christ." What then 
appeared to him good is now sin, and the reverse. This example 
is so significant because he could claim the testimony of his 
opponents that, measured by their standard, he had been really 
good ; that if any monk had deserved heaven by the works of 
the law, this was true of him (we merely note in passing the 
words ' law,' ' works,' ' desert'), and that in his monastic life 
apart from the world. Or we might compare the doings of 
the sisters of mercy with those of our Evangelical deaconesses. 
For even when every suspicion of depreciation is excluded the 
comparison becomes all the more instructive. Or we may 
realise for ourselves the difference between Evangelical and 
Catholic educational methods especially where, through historical 
conditions, there exists a considerable similarity of external 



112 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

arrangements, as in seminarial instruction and the like. Let 
us reflect in this matter on the earlier-mentioned criteria of 
good action as to its End, Rule, Motive ; on the ' ought ' and 
the ground of the validity of and the origin of this imperative. 
What a multitude of differences among those external actions 
so similar as to be scarcely distinguishable ! If it should be 
said that these examples are ingeniously selected, it is surely 
sufficient to point to the common daily life, if we are at the 
same time ready to allow the outward to guide us in judging 
of the inward ; and this outward life speaks an intelligible 
language. If we seek out comprehensive phrases we may say 
that the moral action of the Roman Catholic is legalistic 
and that it is not independent, and so of course it is also 
fragmentary and external ; and in this connection it is plain, 
though a matter of surprise to us, that it is counted as meri- 
torious. This is in relation to its form. In relation to its 
content it appears to us to be afraid of the world, ascetic ; and 
let us carefully note that this means that for the sake of this 
method it distinguishes a twofold morality — one which is in- 
tended for all, and a higher standard which is for the ' perfect."" 
Can it be wondered at that where such a great distinction is 
made the verdict on it wavers now to this side and now to that ? 
You get no ethics which deserves the name. To Roman Catholics 
the Evangelical ethics seems irreligious, impious, godleso. They 
find much which in their eyes seems most important almost 
non-existent with us ; to another, that which they recognise 
appears really to fail in what is the best, the holiest, true 
devotion. And so it may seem to them that we do not take 
our morality seriously when sacrifice, devotion, submission, are 
wanting and single actions are left free to be done or not by 
the indefiniteness of that ' ought.' Conversely, it often seems 
to us that their piety is not truly ethical in its character. 
However much occasion we may find for reflection and in 
individual cases for shamefacedness, ready as we may know 
ourselves to be for self-criticism, their subjection under a law 
which is not the law of the will appears to us to be without 
real ethical value. Its encompassing the whole life with a net 
of prescriptions requiring fulfilment occasionally amounts to 



PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS 113 

carrying out the individual will against God's will. And that, 
in our opinion, is the very antithesis of true religion, for which 
no resplendent appearance of self-sacrifice and unworldliness 
can be a substitute. 

It is further undeniable that a difference in judgment which 
goes down so deep as this two-sided morality can only have its 
roots in a fundamentally different conception of Christianity, 
if indeed both sides are really Christian morality, that is, a 
morality based on and defined by the Christian religion ; and 
we have previously seen that the special nature of every ethics 
answers to its religious character. What is this difference in 
religious experience .? The Evangelical Christian feels blessed 
in a humbly thankful trust in the present free love of God in 
Christ ; in this personal communion with a personal God he 
attains his destiny. And it is precisely in this faith that he 
finds his incentive and motive power to love God and his 
neighbour, because God, who receives him into communion with 
Himself, is Love ; and thus no personal communion and no 
blessedness of the same sort can exist without a participation 
in the like love, and in fact love with all the natural faculties 
which God has given him, and in all the natural circumstances 
in which He places him ; for the thought that God is the 
omnipotent ruler of the world is taken in all earnestness. There 
is the full recognition of human sin and guilt without pre- 
judice, and, what is more, with a strict recognition of them as 
a real contradiction to the true destiny of man. This is the 
whole morality of the Evangelical Christian, namely, love, which 
as a matter of experience springs out of faith in God. There 
is here no room for a law external to the will. We know well 
enough that moral life is a battle, and that the will of God to 
which we submit ourselves is our salvation, the realisation of 
our true destiny, which cannot be a burden. And if this will 
claims the whole life as its domain where duty is concerned, 
where is the moment in which it could withdraw itself .f^ In the 
smallest as in the greatest events this will is operative, and there 
is for it nothing else but God''s world in which everything is 
good in so far as it is the means for the realisation of the will 
of God. It is otherwise with the Roman Catholic Christian. 
■■ 8 '■ 



114 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

The salvation which is offered to him is supernatural in the 
sense that it is something which is external to his nature. For 
it is not personal communion with a personal God whose 
innermost mystery of holy love has been revealed, but the 
impartation of heavenly powers, a participation in the ineffable 
mystery of the divine life, which is certainly righteousness and 
goodness ; but this type of goodness does not represent the 
innermost nature of God. How can it possibly be otherwise 
but that the will of this God, so conceived, issues in a separation 
from all creaturely good, the suppression of natural desire and 
of the social intercourses of life ? It is an ideal which, of course, 
is only realisable by specially gifted persons. Such a content 
can only find its point of contact with the will in the form of 
an outward law ; it is, in fact, a something standing side by side 
with our will and foreign to it. And the further claim is that 
the same Church which has the control of the means of grace 
has the regulation of all moral endeavour; and step by step, 
hour by hour, this must be regulated by its sacred authority. 
It is impossible to be independent in good, and at the same time 
there is a false appearance of independence in representing the 
human will as co-operating with secret divine grace in the 
performance of meritorious works. The heroes of the Roman 
Church, who in a glow of devotion fit themselves for miracles 
of self-sacrifice, never attain that moral independency which we 
call personal life in the good. Their piety is not the personal 
subjection to the personal will of God, and so their morality is 
not that personal freedom of which we speak. 

And thus it becomes intelligible why each chai-acteristic 
example of moral endeavour exhibits the marks which we 
placed in juxtaposition at the outset; and also why it is, as we 
explained, that the verdict wavers on the subject, and why we 
generally find it so hard to understand one another. It is not 
merely a question of phrases ; they often sound so similar as to 
be interchangeable. Thus it is said, "The new law, the law 
of Christ given through the Church, is like the law of nature 
in its subjectivity, freedom, vitality, and yet is above it.'^ Have 
we not also boasted of this subjectivity, freedom, and vitality 
of the moral law of action in our Evangelical sense ? But for 



PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS 115 

the Catholic Christian all that depends on subjection to the 
rightly constituted Church. Nor do we recognise, as they do, 
that 'law of nature' as 'an innate and inalienable basis of 
moral thought "* by which we are brought to the conviction of 
the divine constitution of the Church. 

The Protestant intellectual basis of ethics has not only need 
to justify itself in contrast with the Roman Catholic as that 
which is truly Christian, but, curiously enough, also against the 
modern consciousness, which is largely inclined to regard the 
Catholic view of morality as that which is primitively Christian 
and to let it pass for that which is alone genuinely Christian, and 
on that account all the more resolute in discarding it. They 
regard the Reformation ethics not merely as a breach with 
Rome but with Christianity ; as the first great step to its 
separation from it ; and as paving the way for a purely secular 
ethics. It is comprehensible why Rome collects all such 
opinions zealously, and uses them in its own favour. The full 
exposition alone can demonstrate that these views do not fit in 
with the facts of the subject. But it is, in advance, intelligible 
why the present age, no longer believing in itself, feeling help- 
less in the severe conflict of real life and especially of its political 
life, is crying out for a rehabilitation of Christian morality, and 
is more ready to find support in the Roman Catholic than to 
trust to the Evangelical view. The yearning for an appreciable 
authority finds satisfaction in the former, while it has grown 
accustomed to see in the latter the first beginnings of free- 
thinking and revolution. With Rome's political friends, them- 
selves sceptically inclined and only valuing the faith of the 
masses as means for their ends, are associated the sentimental 
Romanticists, whose fanaticism in allowing themselves without 
realising it to become tools in the service of that designing 
party seems more harmless than it really is. If hereby on both 
sides the Catholic morality is frequently appraised as the more 
popular, the more intelligible to the masses, and the more 
effective for their purposes, it must be remembered that a 
different colouring is given to it according as it is in the position 
to work itself out in a purely Catholic district or is in a 
situation of severe rivalry with Protestant influences. The 



116 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

convinced Evangelical has no need to deny that his own moral 
convictions make larger demands on will-power, if his ethics is 
not, where this is deficient, to carry with it dangers to which 
the Catholic system is not so readily open. But in this fact he 
sees merely an indirect proof of its fundamental superiority. 

Ought Evangelical ethics to take into consideration the 
difference between Lutheran and Reformed 'i The answer will be 
different according as each one judges as to the difference in the 
way of understanding the Gospel. And he who is inclined to 
regard this for the time being as a question of significance will 
not be able to speak so confidently on this subject as in the 
case where the point in debate is the position of the law in 
Evangelical ethics, and of the basis of moral action in justifying 
faith. 

Another question closely connected with the Evangelical system 
of morals needs to be answered as a further preliminary. What 
is the standard to which appeal must be made in judging the 
statements of this system .? Generally speaking, the answer 
cannot be doubtful : Divine revelation, on which our religion 
rests, which settles its character, as it is the ground of its truth ; 
therefore, more particularly, the Holy Scriptures, which contain 
the decisive testimonies of the faith. This follows simply from 
the close association of Christian ethics with the Christian 
religion as both are understood by the Evangelical Church. 
Because these two things are so inseparably conjoined the 
Holy Scriptures are not only the rule and standard of doctrine 
but also of morality. Just as little is reason assigned a place as 
judge in the Evangelical system of ethics as it is arbiter in 
doctrine. Hence we introduced a proof of the truth of Christian 
ethics in order that this appeal might not seem to be delusive and 
fanciful, and certainly not a fetter or a hindrance but an appeal 
reasonable in itself, and intelligible from the nature of ethics 
and indeed of this ethics. This excludes the permissibility of 
assigning to religious experience the right of final decision in 
moral questions, if this means religious experience disjoined 
from divine revelation, if we mean by religious experience some- 
thing different from belief in revelation. The Evangelical 
conception of ethics assunies that ev?n the Chiirch is not 



PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS 117 

superior to the Scriptures. The Catholic idea of legalistic 
subjection to the Church appears to us unethical. Therefore 
we cannot advocate a system of ethics which finds its supreme 
rule in the letter of Confessions of faith (i.e. creeds). Are we not 
ourselves, however, in danger of getting into a similar condition of 
external servitude to the Holy Scriptures ? And if we save 
ourselves from that, are we not in danger of falling hopelessly 
into the unlimited caprice of mere pious experience.? These 
questions are generally explained more with reference to questions 
of belief than those of ethics. If the same danger happens in 
either case, both are required. We enter upon this question in 
the case of ethics not with a series of general propositions but 
by giving simple examples, from which the most needful state- 
ments may be derived. 

One of the chief questions is the difference between the Old 
and the New Testaments. He who would deny this difference 
has need to ask himself the question whether he, as a Christian, 
can appropriate the language of many of the so-called ' cursing 
psalms "* and use them in prayer in their original meaning ; and 
if so, whether that meaning would agree with the spirit of Him 
who on the cross prayed for his enemies, and whether he would 
not have first of all to bring them to Christ's cross and there 
transform them. It is true that to persecuted Christians like 
the Puritans and the Huguenots in dire need they have often 
enough proved a consolation and an inspiration ; but Christian 
consolation and Christian inspiration can they be only through 
such transmutation under the cross. How much misery of 
conscience did it bring the Reformers when they undertook to 
condone the bigamy of the Landgraf of Hesse by appeal to the 
history of the patriarchs ? How far was Christian opinion per- 
turbed when the execution of Servetus was justified from the Old 
Testament ? Both to the joy of Rome, inasmuch as when 
occasion needed it could represent its own thoroughly doubtful 
morality as the stronger, and at the same time declare that the 
supreme jurisdiction of the Church over the Bible was plainly 
inevitable ; and on another occasion, inasmuch as it found a 
welcome precedent for the persecution of Protestants in its own 
camp. But it is equally certain that ethics would suffer loss 



118 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

without the most ample use of the Old Testament. Ethics 
would not only be deprived of an inexhaustibly rich profusion 
of illustrations, of a unique picture-book, but also of a great aid 
in the education of individuals and of society in the full mean- 
ing of Christian morality itself. For just as this is built up on 
the foundation of the preparatory revelation, so individuals and 
nations repeat in their own case these histories of a progressive 
revelation. Without the figure of Abraham, simple as was his 
shepherd life, and yet as inexhaustibly profound as the starry 
firmament ; without the main pillars of simple reverence for 
God, and trust in Him, of love to those nearest to them, as 
these things are embodied in those narratives of the Old 
Testament, there could be no understanding of the New ; with- 
out absorbed study of the prophets, no deep consideration of 
their fulfilment. Even quite apart from definite Christian 
ethics, we should be compelled to take to heart what the great 
Goethe, the connoisseur of human nature, witnesses to the 
influence of the Old Testament on the elemental basis of his 
own most characteristic culture. In his distracted life and his 
hap-hazard acquisition of knowledge he found help there in 
concentrating his mind and his emotions into tranquil activity, 
and ' found himself whether in the greatest isolation or in the 
best society. The more dissipating our present-day life is, right 
on from our early start in it, the more need is there for this 
home of the heart. 

If we can without serious difficulty sum up all that has been 
so far' said, in the proposition that no constituent part of 
Christian morality can be founded solely on the Old Testament, 
but that the great importance claimed for it can only be main- 
tained on the ground of the New Testament^ yet when we turn 
to this, new and serious difficulties confront us. Most persons 
will admit, of course, that every single precept given by the first 
disciples is not applicable as a part of Christian ethics for all 
times, as soon as they are reminded of such details as those in 
Corinthians (1 Cor. xi. 4) of praying with the head covered or 
uncovered. Where more important matters are in question this 
admission is made less readily and less generally, as possibly in 
the opinions of St Paul on marriage and the status of women. 



PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS 119 

But the admission that is made, small as it is, cannot but suggest 
caution in the enunciation of universal propositions, even with 
the good design of laying down an immovable foundation for 
the Christian life. That word, " If they keep my saying, they 
will keep yours," stands in need of elucidation. The Lord who 
calls Himself the 'Truth' does not ask us to veil any fact. 
And that word does not mean the Apostles only, although it 
refers to them in an especial degree, as the original recipients 
of His words, chosen to be such by Him, trained by Him, and 
filled with His Spirit, as well as intellectually capable. But, 
it might be said, so much the more certainly is every word of 
Jesus Himself regulative for Christian ethics, and its whole 
compass to be ruled by His words alone. But to take literally 
His saying as to those who " make themselves eunuchs for the 
kingdom of heaven's sake" is rightly regarded among us as an 
immoral perversion, and that as to offering the other cheek as 
comparatively harmless. Where is the boundary-line between 
the literal and the genuine spiritual meaning ? Now, the whole 
problem as to how far the words of the Lord are the supreme 
standard of Christian ethics demands a much wider setting. 
And on this account : a multitude of serious moral questions 
occupies our attention which did not concern early Christianity 
at all, or not in the same way. Not in the same way, because 
at first the whole energy of the Church, even in its outward 
attitude to daily life, was bound to be directed to its chiefest 
anxiety for the coming of the Kingdom more entirely than was 
the case later. Not as if this anxiety ought ever to be less than 
its chiefest anxiety, but still it is in a different way as determined 
by the course of history, which is under divine guidance, how- 
ever much affected by human sin. Thus, in the Epistle to 
Philemon it is perfectly clear that the slave was in Christian 
judgment intended to be regarded as something more than a 
slave, and it is equally clear that at first the institution of 
slavery remained untouched. The same thing is true of the 
position of woman ; of the appeal to the secular law on the part 
of the Christian; and of engaging in public life generally. 
However we may determine as to details, the fact which is of 
importance for us here remains just the same : that a series of 



120 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

moral problems did not concern the early Church in the same 
way as it does us. There are others with which they were 
scarcely concerned at all. For instance, commercial life of course 
stood in need of direct illumination from the Christian faith, as 
the Epistles to the Thessalonians show. But asocial question — in 
the same sense as for us in this day of machinery, when not only 
has slavery been abolished, but also feudal service and every 
legal form of personal dependence — did not exist for the early 
Church, because no such conditions existed in its day. Just so 
is it in relation to the Church. It is thus clear that moral 
commands cannot be directly taken from isolated sayings of the 
New Testament. This is practically impossible on account of 
the actual character of the New Testament. 

But still more. It ought not to be othenoise. No moral 
command ought to be directly taken from an isolated saying 
of the New Testament. If we were to assert this we should 
abandon the idea of the conformity of our whole daily life to 
Scripture requirement. Clearly so for those particular depart- 
ments of it which lay outside its horizon, and, looked at more 
closely, even for those which were then already important, since 
in the course of history certainly one period never corresponds 
exactly to another ; and even where there is an apparent 
similarity there is a different undercurrent and another 
colouring. In truth, on this presupposition Christian ethics 
would not be unsurpassable as the Christian Church is convinced 
is the case. For as it is surely undeniable that history offers 
new problems, these could only be regarded as indifferently cared 
for if they were not from the outset considered in the utmost 
detail. It is only if by faith in Christ there can be to each 
generation, in its special need, a certainty what the will of God 
revealed in Christ means for it and desires from it, that the will 
of God can ever prevail. It is one of the encouraging features 
of the present time that almost on every side the principle is 
admitted that it is only in this way that our life can be 
Christianly ruled, and only thus with complete earnestness. In 
the department of doctrine, Christianity has many more 
opponents ; in ethics it is impossible to live consistently without 
it, and life is stronger than a preconceived idea. Ethics con- 



PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS 121 

sequently helps doctrine to reach a purer form. This truth 
might probably be more universally accepted, and still more 
pleasing would be such general sanction, if its exponents were at 
all times ready and ever more ready to learn from the foe a 
reverential attitude towards the Holy Scriptures ; if they 
would think no saying unimportant, and seek to ascertain the 
permanent value of that which was spoken for the occasion. 
By this means, in fact, that which appears to be merely indifferent 
grows significant without any limitation of required freedom ; 
rather, on the contrary, strengthening and increasing it. 

This freedom, moreover, cannot be given up without giving up 
the essence of Christian morals. There can be no other kind 
of scriptural conformity at all that does not mean disturbing 
and perverting the Gospel, which in the Scriptures bears witness 
to the grace of God, and to the morality conjoined with it. 
For we at the outset arrived at the conclusion that moral 
action is action according to an absolute law which the will 
can recognise as its own ; in the fulfilment of which men attain 
their true destiny, freedom from all the world within and 
without. That for the Christian the will of God is the ' Good ** 
has not appeared to us as a contradiction of this freedom, but 
as its completion. The service of God is 'perfect freedom. "^ 
But that is only true if this service is not mere self-subjection 
to a number of isolated commands, but one that issues from a 
confidence in the will of God revealed in its innermost nature. 

Certainly we must accept with gratitude all single precepts 
met with in the New Testament which are so clearly conceived, 
so plainly shaped by the Spirit who created the Word that it is 
at once clear to us that every other utterance, when tested by 
these precepts, is inferior to them in force and point. But the 
duty of proving " what is that good and perfect and acceptable 
will of God " we have not carried out until such a saying has 
been made clear to us in its connection with the central truth 
of the Gospel, and we, in applying it independently to our 
particular circumstances, can determine what it now means for 
us. " This is the will of God in Christ for you," says St Paul, 
when he gives the last decision from which there is no longer 
any appeal. Therefore he says ' the will,' the one all-embracing 



122 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

will. Every student of the Scriptures recognises that the 
Apostle, filled with the Spirit, did in faith receive from that 
great will of God those striking words to the Thessalonians 
on the necessity of work, and those to the Corinthians on 
purity and Church unity. It is only following his example if 
we say : From the principles of the Christian ' Good,' as it is 
made certain to faith from the revelation in Christ, we have, 
likewise in faith, to derive all the single propositions of ethics 
and to test them by it. " Let every one be like minded "" with 
Jesus Christ (Phil. ii. 5), and " Whatsoever is not of faith is sin "" 
(Rom. xiv. 23). This is the true conformity to Scripture of 
Evangelical ethics. 

Of course it is not merely the Roman Church that scoffs at 
this ' secure insecurity,"" and offers, by its infallibility, to every 
halting Christian soul at the confessional box a certainty which 
cannot deceive. Even amongst ourselves the complaint is still 
heard that the appeal to Scripture is liable to be arbitrary ; 
that as a matter of fact in such appeal we import our own ideas 
into the Scripture, and that it is always exposed to this danger. 
For example, in the question whether our present Church polity 
(or changes in it) is conformable to Scripture, only one thing, 
it is said, can save us from perplexing fallacy, and that the 
unreserved following out of all the demands of the New 
Testament literally. We will not here raise the question 
whether the grandiloquent proposals of those who make them- 
selves heard on this question are practicable — nor whether 
they are at all possible ; whether, for instance, the Church of 
Corinth or the Church of Jerusalem, with or without a 
community of goods, should be taken as model ; or whether 
any such formal arrangements, viewed as obligatory, are in 
accordance with the genius of Christianity. We desire now 
mther to point out with insistence that our principle is not 
meant to imply that anyone who chooses has the right to 
derive from a principle of Christianity — just as he is pleased 
to take it — rules for the regulation of the life of the Christian 
Church. As the Evangelical Christian judges, it is rather the 
case that by the method of freedom of faith the principle taken 
from Holy Scripture becomes continually more clearly under- 



PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS 123 

stood in the course of history, works itself out into continually 
clearer distinctness. We may add that the' confidence in 
which believers are established in the promise of a Spirit who 
should "lead them into all truth*" has never been deceived. 
Did not St Augustine under diverse circumstances more clearly 
understand the Gospel than anyone between him and St Paul 't 
Yet he gained that knowledge from St Paul's writings. And 
Luther under the guidance of St Augustine dived deeper than 
he into the meaning of St Paul's doctrine of justification. 
Each time this deep insight into God's gift corresponded to a 
deep insight into the problem inseparable from it ; the progress 
of faith answering to the progress of the Christian life. Thus 
occupation of our thought with that objection which we called 
the conformity of Evangelical ethics to the Holy Scripture 
serves only to a better comprehension of its true meaning. Of 
course the actual proof is, in this connection, reserved as to 
whether we have not ingeniously forced what was a matter of 
historical development into the origins ; that is to say, whether 
the idea of individuality and the results of civilisation ought 
not to be acknowledged to be a completely new attainment of 
history. On that we must speak later in treating of the idea 
of the highest good, of civilisation, of character, etc. Therefore 
we are fully conscious of the danger of artificial Scripture proof 
even on this point. But the fundamental principle above spoken 
of follows simply from that which has been explained as to the 
connection of the Christian life with Christian faith. And we 
may at once say that even those who raise this objection insist 
that those wider developments of Christian morality have their 
base finally in the Christian idea of God ; and for them this idea 
of God depends on the revelation in Christ. Now we have its 
regulative testimony in the Holy Scripture. What objection, 
then — leaving out details — ought to be raised to the notion 
thus set up of a Scripture proof ? 

The Division of the SuBJEcr-MATrBR. 

The formal divisions of Christian ethics are not nearly so 
much settled by tradition as those of doctrinal theology. So 
much the more must we have regard to the fact that it is most 



124 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

agi*eeable to the nature of the subject to treat it in the simplest 
way possible. ' Bearing this in mind, we are justified in dis- 
tinguishing between individual and social ethics. That is, the 
ethical forms of the personal life, and of social life on Christian 
principles, have each their separate divisions. Of course, 
where it is a question of alternative courses of action, ' either,^ 
' or,"* the whole subject-matter must be treated from the point 
of view of individual ethics, by reason of the unique value 
which every human soul has in the view of Christian ethics. 
But this ' either,*" ' or ** is not existent ; and it merely produces 
an impression of artificiality if the groups, ' family,' ' state,"* and 
the like, are considered as merely theatres of activity for 
individual persons. But this procedure essentially fails to 
estimate the real value which society, without depreciation of 
the individual, finds as a Christian community of those who are 
adopted into the kingdom of God. Of course, when we come 
to details, various sorts of difficulties arise from this mode of 
dividing the subject. To follow them out is more interesting 
from the point of view of methodology than helpful in treat- 
ment. It may be sufficient to remark that the whole of the 
subject-matter appertaining to individual and social ethics is 
not treated so that no gaps are left, in a way that a complete 
treatment might demand. For instance, art is treated in the 
section on social ethics only. The alternative proposal to 
consider the whole subject-matter from the point of view of 
what the ethical ' Good ' is, and to determine the value of each 
moral 'good"* both for the individual and for society, would 
make it difficult to do full justice to the other aspects of the 
subject, which concern Norm and Motive. It is, in fact, asking 
that these two divisions of individual and social ethics should 
be treated closely together, and grounded in one delineation 
of the innermost essence of the Christian Good. But so far 
that has only been done cursorily — once, in order to help us to 
compare the Christian ethical ideal with others, and again, in 
order to set ethics of the Evangelical kind in contrast with the 
Roman Catholic system. To do this explicitly is our next task. 



CHAPTER V. 
THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD. 

Christ the ' Principle ' of Christian Ethics. 

When we asked what it really is that constitutes the ' Good/ 
or what is the principle of ethics, we found that the considera- 
tion of it in various aspects was helpful to us in understanding 
the term ' Good "* in those various significations which are 
frequently not clearly distinguished. These we must recall. 
We refer to those questions : What is the ' Good,' considered 
from the point of view of its End, Rule, Motive, and the 
imperative ' Thou shalt ' ? The other questions, What is its 
Origin ? and what its validity ? are, in their relation to 
Christian ethics, most closely associated on account of the 
connection that exists between Christian morality and Christian 
faith. Our love of God and of our neighbour in the 
kingdom of God, which has its origin in God's love to us, 
depends wholly and entirely on that exhibition of His love 
which is found in the revelation of His love in Christ. This 
is the foundation on which it rests ; which gives it its value ; 
which wholly and entirely determines its End, its Norm ; from 
which arises all possibility of its existence, and which is the 
impulse and energy of it in its commencement, continuance, and 
completion. Even the imperative 'Thou shalt' is something 
wholly unique, and it is so on account of the fact that the will 
to which it appeals is a will which has apprehended the love 
of God, and has been able to understand and apprehend that 
love, because it has long previously wrestled with that ' Thou 
shalt.' Therefore we are able and are compelled to maintain 



126 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

that, rightly regarded, Christ is the principle of Chrvttiaii ethics^ 
and that too when we take the term ' principle ** in all the 
relations just referred to. The New Testament expresses this 
truth in the plainest manner by the use of every possible 
preposition in connection with Christ. ' Of,' ' out of,' ' through,' 
'to,' 'according to,' 'on account of,' 'in' Christ all Christian 
men act, believe, love, live, and die. All the moral action of 
Christian men is referred to Christ as the personal source of 
the highest ' Good.' To win Christ is the same as to win a 
'jewel,' 'life,' 'the kingdom.' All that the Christian does, he 
does after Christ's example. He aims at conformity to Christ 
and to be fashioned after His image. It is ' in Christ,' i.e. 
impelled and strengthened by Him, that the goal can be reached 
in such a way. Therefore it is Christ who is the pre-eminent 
' Thou shalt ' to Christians, because He not only points out the 
goal, the way and the source of power, but He Himself is all 
these things. To lay hold of Christ is to lay hold of true 
freedom, while to resist Him is the greatest and, ultimately 
regarded, the only sin. All this implies that because He 
reveals the only good God, and because by our trust in Him 
God actually gives Himself to our experience (that is to say, is 
operative in us, producing greater trust in Him), this Christian 
faith in this God is inseparably one with the Christian moral 
life, as was shown to some extent previously (p. 100 ff.), and must 
now be treated in detail. 

One aspect of this faith must be specially emphasised. 
Christ occupies this unique position in Christian ethics inasmuch 
as it is one and the same person who is the historic Christ and 
the glorified Saviour. His historic life is such as to awaken 
our confidence that He is not confined within earthly bounds ; 
that as the glorified Saviour He is eternally perfecting what has 
already been begun in His earthly life. It is thus that the pre- 
eminence of Christian ethics depends on Him. Every appli- 
cation of it to new circumstances, the whole development of it 
on earth, and in conditions of existence which transcend all that 
is earthly, find in Him their reason and support, their measure 
and end. It is He who unites those spatial and temporal 
conditions which for our present knowledge are incompre- 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 127 

hensible. To explain and assign reasons for this significance 
of Christ's person for ethics forms part of the subject-matter 
of doctrinal theology ; but its real character would be imperfectly 
conceived if we did not at the outset give due prominence to 
this thought, or if in our subsequent treatment we lost sight of 
it in any way. Of course it would be tediously circumstantial 
to be constantly repeating the idea. 

The further arrangement of our thoughts is conditioned by 
this idea. It is under this presupposition that we are sure that 
nothing essential will be omitted when we speak of ' End,' of 
the highest Good of Christian moral actions, of the highest Norm 
which corresponds to this end, and of the Motive for its 
realisation as all alike inseparable from Christ. For it is by 
this method that it is made clear that the Christian life rests 
completely and fully on the foundation of the Christian Jhith, 
since this Christian faith is itself, in respect of its innermost 
nature, moral faith. That is to say, it is the faith that men, 
who are engaged in a moral contest, who 'hunger after right- 
eousness,' have in the gracious self-revelation of the only good, 
God, the perfect Father in Christ, who bestows salvation on 
them by filling them with the righteousness for which they 
hunger (St Matt. v. 6). 

The Highest Good is the Kingdom of God. 

All action has an end at which it aims ; all moral action is 
the endeavour to realise moral ends, and whenever it has 
attained the higher stage it embraces in itself all individual 
ends in one single highest ' Good,' to the realisation of which 
the highest value is assigned. We have already shown by the 
most important examples of present-day thought how variously 
the highest Good is defined. We have so far used the term 
' Kingdom of God ' for the ' highest Good ' of Christian ethics. 
Following the New Testament, other terms too have been 
employed : ' self-denial,' ' repentance,' ' crucifixion of the flesh.' 
These awaken the feeling that abnegation of the natural life is 
the essence of Christian ethics, whereas they only express one 
part of it. Other terms, such as ' self-realisation,' ' holiness,' 
'likeness to God,' are too indefinite, or have likewise too 



128 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

individual a reference, and do not also regard the community of 
individuals. Next to ' Kingdom of God,' the most suitable 
may possibly be ' divine adoption,' or ' the realisation in love 
of justification by faith'; and especially this latter, by which 
ethics directly joins itself on to doctrine ; and the Evan- 
gelical standpoint at once stands out clearly, except that 
in this the individual is too much in the foreground. With 
the term ' Kingdom of God ' the individual is recognised more 
surely in his full importance, for the Kingdom of God is the 
kingdom of the children of God ; while, on the other hand, the 
term 'divine adoption' or justification gives full recognition 
to the collective whole. And he will especially have a 
preference for the use of the term ' Kingdom of God,' as the 
highest ' Good ' in ethics, who in dogmatics sees the nature of 
our religion most compactly comprehended in the same word. 
Of course it is possible that a doubt may arise : if religion is 
concerned with dependence on God, while ethics somehow with 
self-activity, ought the same notion to be supreme in both ? Now, 
it was maintained to begin with, and subsequently repeated, that 
the reason of the special interconnection of faith and life, 
such as characterises Christianity, lies in the nature of our 
religion as of our ethics ; and in it there also lies the reason for 
the fact that the term ' Kingdom of God ' has so unique and 
twofold a suitability for being the fundamental idea of doctrine 
and of ethics. 

But it has been declared with considerable emphasis that we 
cannot j ustify the employment of the term ' Kingdom of God ' 
in ethics at any rate from the New Testament. In the lips of 
Jesus Christ it means, it is said, the Sovereignty of God, which, 
by the mighty power of God, will in the future dawn upon us 
from heaven. In a wider sense it means that inexpressible 
fulness of all the best 'Goods.' Thus its realisation is not 
exactly a human problem ; it is not an ideal which they 
realise by their activity ; certainly not of such sort as that its 
true nature consists in the establishment of a great communion 
of love. This objection, so far as it concerns us, may be set aside 
most convincingly rather by asking whether the ideas which we 
sum up in the term ' Kingdom of God ' aj-e in unison with the 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 129 

whole character of Christ's teaching than by entering in detail 
on the tedious question as to what sense He attached to the 
term ' Kingdom of God.' At all events we do, on the whole, 
best satisfy the requirement as to its Scripture use and Scripture 
proof by maintaining that it is really a Gospel use. There can, 
however, be no doubt on the subject: the great 'gift of God,' 
as it is always called, and described in manifold ways so as to 
express its varied inexhaustibility — as, e.g..^ 'fellowship with 
God,' ' born of God,' ' dwelling in God,' ' eternal life,' ' know- 
ledge of God,' ' fear of God,' ' trust in God,' ' love of God,' 
'righteousness,' 'salvation,' 'peace,' 'joy,' 'glory' — this gift is 
of such a kind that it is of itself a task to be performed. More 
closely : it is said with much insistence that first of all the 
Kingdom (God's work and the gift of gifts) is only shared in 
by those in whom it is real, who desire to fulfil God's will, and 
in fact can only be regarded as the reward of such fulfilment. 
That might certainly in and for itself be a very external relation 
between ' gift ' and ' task,' and does indeed forbid us distinguish- 
ing both by the same term, ' Kingdom of God.' But in what 
does the ' gift ' consist ? Not in material comfort but in 
true righteousness; in doing the will of God, which becomes 
active in our will ; in fellowship with the Father who is per- 
fect, with God who is love ; and in communion with all the 
children of this Father. This is the condition to which the 
gift is attached. Both are therefore of the same nature and 
consequently inseparable. Luther hits the sense of the New 
Testament with his sayings : " The Kingdom of God is nothing 
else than being full of all virtue " ; " To take pleasure in God's 
law is salvation " ; " The accomplishment of His good will in us is 
life " ; " God living and ruling in us is the enjoyment of the 
highest good." And it is instructive to contemplate under this 
aspect those other terms, too, which express the highest Good. 
Unless we make clear to ourselves this inseparability, because 
they are pairs, of ' gift ' and ' task,' we cannot understand them 
at all. But still more : earnestly as Jesus insists that it means 
striving after righteousness, and that its result is the possession 
of rigliteousness, He leaves it in no doubt that this would be for 
ever in vain if God did not bestow it ; that prevailing courage 

9 



130 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

for the struggle has its source in the power of the joyful news 
of that which God does. Conversely, as unreservedly as He 
offers this gift as a present only, so emphatically does he 
accentuate that no one can rejoice in the gift who will not 
attempt the task ; that he who has received forgiving love 
without stint, should without stint practise forgiving love ; 
that the very condition for understanding this task is to receive 
the gift ; for spiritual poverty is itself a yearning for the coming 
of the Kingdom, a personal hunger after the ' Good ' of 
righteousness. In this deepest sense the ' gift ' does on account 
of its nature become a 'task/ This at the same time settles 
that other disputed question, so far as it relates to ethics — 
whether the Kingdom of God is only something in the future. 
It is much the same thing as asking whether the term denotes 
any reality in this world. On account of its nature the 
Kingdom of God is already a present reality where men believe 
on the Father and love the brethren. That in this way the 
Kingdom of God is, with regard to its earliest beginnings, 
realised under earthly relations is indubitable ; but Christianity 
in its fulness does not really know of any other kingdom except 
that which springs out of eternity and stretches out into 
eternity. 

Now this justification of the notion 'Kingdom of God' as 
a comprehensive expression for the highest Goal of moral 
endeavour, the highest Good of Christian ethics, is, at the same 
time, the justification of what was, at the commencement, 
asserted with regard to the distinction and interconnection 
between doctrine and ethics (p. 4). Both have the Kingdom 
of God as their subject, but the former looks at it as a 'gift,' 
which, however, is certainly necessary for the performance of 
the ' task " ; the latter regards it as a ' task ' which is wholly 
grounded on the ' gift.' But the deepest reason why ' gift ' and 
'task' are so especially one lies in the deepest nature of 
Christianity— in the fact that it is the perfect moral religion ; 
in which phrase at one time the emphasis is on ' religion,' and 
at another time on ' moral,' but so that the former is the noun 
and the latter the adjective. Why.? Because our God, the 
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in Him is ' our Father,' 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 131 

is the alone ' Good,' God the perfect Father (St Matt. v. 48, 
xix. 17) wlio is love (1 John iv. 8). 

And now, if without the consideration of isolated sayings it 
is proved from the subject-matter that the idea of the 
Kingdom of God, the fellowship of created spirits with the God 
of holy love, and with each other, indicates the highest aim of 
Christian moral endeavour, as the content of the Christian 
faith, so it may be affirmed that there are not wanting various 
single statements in the New Testament, in the words of the 
Lord as well as of His Apostles, which teach it. And because 
such express words, as well as the entire witness of the New 
Testament, are available for a clear understanding among 
Christians of the highest moral ' Good,' it is essential to define 
the idea of the Kingdom of God in detail. Previously to, and 
apart from, the elaboration of individual and social ethics the 
term remains a blank idea compared with the immediate 
feeling of value which it possesses for the Christian in its New 
Testament presentation, and its rich illustration in history 
and life. It is sufficient to insist on some specially important 
characteristics of the concept ' Kingdom of God.' Because it 
is perfect communion with God and man, and rests on the 
basis of God's love to us, and so everywhere presupposes 
it, it is essential that this idea of love should be at once 
so far expounded that its further connotation may not be 
obscure, and its importance for Christian ethics left in no 
doubt. ^Its importance consists in its relation to the highest 
Good in the supreme command and the deepest of all motives. 
In Christian ethics love is the 'be-all and end-all,' and this 
fact awakens at once an impression of its special unity and 
independent wholeness. Where is there another system of 
ethics which could express so simply by a word the End, the 
Norm, the Motive of moral action ? 

Love is the endeavour of a society of sentient beings to 
realise from good-will and benevolence, by surrender on the 
one part and appropriation on the other, some common Ends. 
In its final ground it is benevolence and surrender, altruism 
and self-renunciation ; for pleasure without benevolence would 
be selfishness, and benevolence without pleasure would be the 



132 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

cold fulfilment of duty. Anyhow, there is a strong tendency 
in common language to give currency to this clear connotation 
of the concept ' Love/ The longer we consider it the more do 
we feel that it is an inaccuracy to speak of love of nature, of 
plants, of animals. And just because the object of such love 
is not a sentient being, or certainly is not such in the sense of 
one in common with whom we should realise a common End ; 
and when we nevertheless speak of love in such a connection, 
we assign feeling to that which is incapable of it, and conscious- 
ness to that devoid of it ; and so make it an object of actual 
love in our imagination, or with some sort of conviction that 
its true nature is hidden from superficial observation. But how 
heterogeneously conceived is such a notion of love so defined ! 
Yet not more heterogeneous than that which we call natural 
and religious love. Only what this means must be accurately 
conceived. Both the pleasure and benevolence, as well as the 
common End which love desires to realise, may be of a natural 
or moral kind — and that, too, not only at every conceivable 
stage, but also in every possible combination. The fii'st ; for 
the common Ends form a richly articulated whole : e.g., help 
in the guidance of our personal life stands higher than help in 
the advancement of a single part of our vocation. It is true 
also that benevolence and pleasure have degrees of strength 
and persistency without the lower being necessarily non-moral. 
The second is true inasmuch as I can from purely natural 
benevolence and pleasure help another in a moral End, or even 
from moral motive assist him in a natural End. If we have 
so far only made clear by some examples what a fulness of 
possibilities real life exhibits (say) in friendship, we have 
nevertheless gained a conviction of the inexhaustible fulness 
which that simple formula comprehends. And it is also clear 
that the higher love, as ethically determined, stands so much 
the higher, the higher those moral ends are which are striven 
for in common ; and so much the purer is that benevolence 
and good pleasure — that is to say, the more purely benevolence 
and good pleasure are determined by that absolute ' ought.' 
And this can be the case not merely in the form of a moral 
struggle, but also so that it becomes, as is said, a second nature 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 13S 

(see further on Individual Ethics). But that such love must be 
persistent and fill the whole soul requires no proof. In the 
degree in which this is the case, benevolence rises to self- 
sacrifice, and in this way pleasure attains its highest conceivable 
satisfaction. And, in fact, whether it happens that love is 
understood or resisted, or it meets with indifference and 
resistance, it is by this very means that it grows to maturity. 
For the whole secret of love is that to give is to receive ; 
sacrifice is gain. This is the unsung song of the poet, the 
never-exhausted thought of the philosopher, the real wonder 
of the moral world, but nowhere more simply and grandly 
uttered than in the saying that "he who loses his life shall 
find it," to life eternal (St Matt. xvi. 25). 

It is to Him who spoke this word that Christian faith, and 
with it Christian ethics, owes the privilege of seeing in the 
developed idea of love an essential attribute of God. This idea 
is an expression for the reality of God in Jesus Christ exhibited 
to faith ; and all that may now adorn itself in the world with 
the name of love appears to the Christian Church as an effluence 
of the love of God revealed in Christ. Men know what love 
truly is because they experience the love of God (1 John iv. 10). 
Therefore for Christianity the proposition, ' God is love,' is 
not somehow a metaphorical designation which must be supported 
and explained by mystical ideas of God as 'the reason and 
purpose of the world,' as the ' Unconditioned ' ; nor is love a 
mere attribute of the ' Absolute.' It is rather that this 
indefinite idea, ' reason and purpose of the world,' this idea of 
the ' Absolute ' — a term capable of varied connotation — and 
also the idea of ' absolute personality,' have for the Christian the 
definite content — Love. Those ideas are needful statements of 
our knowledge of God, and it is the task of theology to make 
clear that they are summed up in the proposition, ' God is love.' 
But we may — nay, we must — confine the given connotative 
marks of the 'love' of God within the sole limits obvious to 
Christians, so that we do not wipe out the distinction between 
Creator and creature. Love between God and man is founded 
in its commencement, continuance, and completion in the freedom 
of the divine love. In this meaning the Father is called the 



154 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

* Father which is in heaven,'' and God''s love said to be ' holy,' 
exalted above the world. Under this reservation there need be 
no dread of anthropomorphism conceivable ; inasmuch as, when 
we speak in fact of a common End of His pleasure and His 
benevolence, we can only speak of these things in the terms 
which express our own inner experience. It would endanger 
religion to omit this reservation — that is to say, it would endanger 
the moral value of the notion, since it would then become a mere 
empty expression : ' God is love.' Therefore we understand 
why we cannot speak otherwise of God. Of course we think of 
Him after our image because we are made in His, and because 
made in the living consciousness that (again to speak humanly) 
the inner life of God in its formal relations must be to us a 
mystery, however certainly the meaning of this inner life has 
been intelligibly made known. And we can prove that those 
who scoff at this Christian knowledge of God, on account of 
these limitations, do not afford in our view anything more 
satisfactory with their idea of an unconditioned absolute. 

What may faith then indicate as the purpose which in the 
fellowship of love is common to us and God.-^ Certainly not 
something merely natural but ethical. Consequently it does 
not speak of the love of God to the natural world, but to a 
nature spiritual and moral. With more particularity, this End of 
the Kingdom of God is the fellowship of created spirits, who, 
blessed in the love of God, do on this ground love God and one 
another as comprehended in Christ. Here in truth there 
appears to be some obscurity. To love means the furtherance 
of some common End ; the highest common End is the Kingdom 
of God, i.e. the fellowship of love. But the truth is, only in 
this way does it become quite clear that our God is love. As 
Luther says : " If anyone would paint God and make it like the 
original, he must form such an image as is neither artistic nor 
human, and indeed neither angelical nor heavenly, but just God 
Himself." The gods which men form for themselves are gods in 
the immeasurability of their selfish enjoyment. The true God 
who reveals Himself to us is God in that He loves and will 
give and offer Himself, will pour Himself out and naturally in 
the inconceivable fulness of His divine reality, in order that 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 135 

those who are taken into His fellowship and receive gifts from 
Him may be made rich by giving, by acts of liberality and 
sacrifice, and thus be like to Him, and in Him find their true 
life again, in the whole fulness of the capacities bestowed on 
them ; not that this fulness of power constitutes the essential 
nature of our God, but His love, and this love is in reality our 
new true being. Just as we may be allowed to speak of a 
common End of God and of man because God is love, so also 
the other marks of the notion of love, benevolence, and good 
pleasure have their highest reality in God's love. It would be 
necessary to write out the Holy Scriptures to exhaust the 
characters which are comprehended in this proposition : ' God is 
love.' This love is His blessedness. There with especial 
frequency the steadfastness of His love is insisted on. It is ' for 
ever and ever,' ' before the foundation of the world,' ' God is 
faithful.' And the accumulation of comparisons, that He loves 
as Father, Mother, Friend, Bridegroom, and more than all of 
them, helps us to feel that no such earthly imagery exhausts the 
personal inner reality and many-sidedness of the divine love. 
The last-named comparison reminds us how the love of God is 
perfected in the conquest of human indifference and hostility. 
It leaves freedom for erring and straying, and follows the most 
perplexing unfolding of character with longanimity and patience ; 
but it reveals itself most gloriously in love to those at enmity 
with Him — enmity of the keenest sort, inasmuch as the enemies 
are sons, who are able to know what love is, and yet refuse its 
return ; and this love even to death becomes the source of a 
trustful return of love (2 Cor. v. 15). Its really conscious 
rejection is the morally necessary end of all possible fellowship 
in love : true love will sacrifice itself to overcome opposition, 
but it cannot force itself on others, it cannot compel love ; for 
this would no longer be love. 

We must ever keep in mind this ideal concept of love as it is 
only reached in the Christian faith when Christian ethics is 
spoken of as the highest End of the Kingdom of God, the 
kingdom of love. It grows clearer from step to step why there 
can be no higher moral End, and why at every stage its realisa- 
tion is salvation ; and there is no other End which is so completely 



136 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Good and so entirely 'the Good' {cf. later the exposition of 
separate sides of this concept, and on the keynote of the 
Christian character). 

''Legal Right.'' 

If love is the holy of holies of the Christian moral world, 
and on that account needed to be discussed at the very beginning 
when determining its nature and treating of the notion of the 
highest Good, here the fore-court of this holy of holies 
demands brief attention, i.e. the idea of Legal Right. For a more 
particular examination all the conditions fail us at present, but 
it must be mentioned in order that the whole context to which it 
belongs may not be obscure. For this purpose it is sufficient that 
we set forth only so much as is admitted of the much-debated and 
stillby no means unanimously conceived notion of legal Right. 
We therefore mean by legal Right the publicly recognised order- 
ing of the common life of men by the delimitation of individual 
claims and of the free use of their powers so that respect for all 
others is incumbent upon each, and at the same time that to 
each one also is guaranteed the respect due to himself (whether 
and how far definite possessions are assured by this may now be 
left out of consideration). By the development of the notion 
of love it has already been made plain that Law is not the final 
word, and cannot be the highest thought of Christian ethics, 
that every over-val nation of systems of Law is only possible 
at the expense of the Kingdom of God. In this latter is found 
intrinsic value, unity, freedom ; in the former there is externality, 
multiplicity, coercion. The defect we found in so many systems 
of utilitarian ethics is that they can by their endeavours issue 
in nothing higher than mere justice, which in the absence of 
a deeper foundation and a dominant End becomes in reality 
often enough merely complete injustice; for how without a 
secure standard is it to be determined what is right, and make 
this operative in the absence of love ? But in Christian 
ethics more essential at the outset is the battle against the 
under-valuation of legal Right Legal Right is the indispens- 
able presupposition of the fellowship of love, and of the greatest 
possible exercise of love in compass of influence and intrinsic 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 157 

contents. This is only conceivable for a multitude of individually 
diverse human beings existing in space and time under the 
presupposition of fixed rules of intercourse and of recognised 
limits of the arbitrary will of individuals. We should, so to 
speak, not be able to perform any actual action from love if we 
were obliged in every single case to fix first of all its conditions. 
Everyday life presents innumerable proofs of this simple truth. 
The teacher could not influence his scholar at the right place, 
and at the right time; and just as little the artisan, the mer- 
chant, the artist bring his contribution to the highest good, in 
the absence of Law. Multiplicity of details and incalculable 
conditions blasting every ' good will ' would burden our inter- 
course in the absence of Law. Love would fall to pieces in 
mere attempts, in essays dependent on accident, to realise itself 
in love. Love needs for its successful activity a certain unre- 
strained freedom of movement and a field of action in some 
measure prearranged, while of course it is not denied that it is 
able to win thoroughly effective victories in battle with the 
most inimical circumstances ; by service apparently unworthy of 
it ; by the most insignificant preparatory work ; by the clearing 
away of thorns and undergrowth. But not without reason in 
the same Acts of the Apostles which shows how the love of 
Christ triumphed over unrighteous persecution is it boasted, 
" Then the Church had rest and was edified.'''' Yet in this End 
so far treated the significance of legal Right for Christian ethics 
is not yet exhausted. It is not merely a presupposition in the 
external way thus far intended. No ! It is also a trainer in 
love, even when it is only a task-master. The necessity of 
paying regard to others, the necessity of recognising the claims 
of others, is a school for the moral will, without which it always 
remains unskilful in showing real love to others. Consequently 
it is clear that a system of Law does not owe its origin to sin ; 
but, however much its genesis may be bound up with the re- 
quirements of utility, its final ground is moral feeling, the idea 
of moral fellowship ; and consequently the validity of Right 
has its deepest root in the feeling of an absolute value. 

After having shown that the Kingdom of God is the highest 
aim of Christian moral endeavour and the highest ' Good,"* and 



1S8 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

for the sake of explaining it defined the notion of love, which 
lastly made necessary a passing reference to the notion of Right, 
we now draw express attention to some of the most important 
aspects of the idea — Kingdom of God. 

'File * Kingdom of God." 

In showing that the fundamental relations which must 
necessarily be taken into account in any consideration of the 
idea of the greatest * Good ' form an inner unity (although 
they often appear as contraries), we have made at the same 
time a contribution to the demonstration that Christian ethics 
is the highest, inasmuch as it avoids the failures of the other 
great systems, and combines their deficiencies into a higher 
unity (p. 106). That above all holds good because what is 
' moral "* implicates a definite relation to one''s personal as well 
as to external nature, and to other human beings ; and if the 
ethical system in question has somehow a connection with 
religion, it has a relation to God also (p. 15). If we make 
it clear to ourselves what is the judgment of Christian ethics on 
this, we then also find a satisfactory answer to further questions ; 
for instance, how to conceive the relationship between the 
temporal and eternal character of the highest Good, and how 
to determine the relation of the individual to s(x;iety. Finally, 
it is a feature of the Christian doctrine of the highest Good 
that it does not need in any of these directions to throw a veil 
over a fact generally curtly dismissed, the contradiction to the 
highest ' Good,' in the existence of evil and sin. 

Our highest good, the Kingdom of God, includes all the 
above relations, to God, to ourselves, to our neighbour, to the 
world. When we remember how otherwise it is now our own 
improvement, now the good of another, now God's honour, now 
His sovereignty over the world which is emphasised, then we 
do find remarkable the ease with which they are all recognised 
in the Christian conception of the highest 'Good.' Let any- 
one attempt to think any of them away, and every sound 
Christian feeling rises in resistance. But it is still more re- 
markable how the variety is combined into a unity. In the 
harmony of these four fundamental notes the leading ones are 



THE NATURE OP THE CHRISTIAN GOOD J 59 

the Great God and our neighbour. Among these God's love 
stands in the fore-front. ' One thing is needful ' ; the greatest 
of all ' Goods ' is God. But love to God is not by any means 
what it ought to be without love of our neighbour. God is 
indeed love ; love does not exist without fellowship in His 
innermost purpose ; he who loves God loves his brother whom 
God loves. God's love has as its End His Kingdom, which is 
the union of the many so that they may be one with Him, and 
with one another. Therefore it is that he who has fellowship 
with God aims at the Kingdom of God. This fundamental 
truth is, with complete intention, made the subject of a whole 
epistle of the New Testament, the first Epistle of St John. E-g-') 
we read (iv. 12), if we love one another, " God abideth in us, and 
His love is perfected in us." Whether we are to understand 
' His love "" of God's love to us or our love to God, in either case 
the significance above mentioned of brotherly love is given to 
it. God's love to us, which awakens our love to Him, finds its 
completion in our loving one another ; and our fellowship with 
God is such that we really love those whom He loves, and as 
He loves. This love to one another is not a second something 
superadded to our love to God, but the latter completes itself in 
the former, and is not existent where the former is not. But 
who can love God and his neighbour without mastering his 
own nature, and through it the world outside of him ? without 
becoming a person, without gaining a uniting centre and 
spiritual independence of the many disintegrating and antagon- 
istic impulses and the immeasurable torrent of changing impres- 
sions from the external world ? Without being a ' person,' and 
desiring to be such more and more, it is impossible to understand 
another, to help him, or to personally, minister to his well- 
being. And to love God, who is a Spirit, is only possible for a 
being endowed with a spirit who desires to be spiritual. And 
reversely : who can find for himself and in relation to the world 
gain the freedom of personality without love to God and his 
neighbour ? 

In this special unity of the various fundamental relations of 
ethics in the highest Good of the Kingdom of God we have 
ground for asserting that it overcomes the antithesis of trans- 



140 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFEi 

cendental ethics and immanent ethics which was of so much 
importance in the review of the main systems of ethics which 
are at variance with the Christian conception. It insists more 
strongly than any other system that the greatest 'Good' is 
above this world ; for God, with whom our fellowship in love 
is the highest Good, is believed in with all sincerity, not merely 
as the ' unity of the world,' as its ' reason and purpose,' but 
as plainly distinct from it, and nevertheless finally Himself in 
the light of a deeper meditation. There is no room for worldly 
blessedness ; it is only acceptance in that blessedness of the 
only blessed God which is worthy of that title. And it only 
becomes actual in men who desire God as nothing but the 
highest Good ; for whom the wealth of this world pales beside 
God ; whose desire aims in such a way at complete fellowship 
with God, that every earthly advance, however great, in that 
direction sharpens the longing for its completeness. We can- 
not weaken the meaning of any of the New Testament sayings 
which emphasise this truth without sacrificing the essence of 
Christian morality. It is just on this point that it is of 
importance not merely to understand but to recognise personally 
the indispensability and the indestructibility of the sayings of 
Jesus, impressive enough by their paradoxical form, such as the 
' plucking out the eye.' He who has his highest good in that 
which is above the world, and carries it through as the highest 
in his struggles with the world, knows that he is also called to 
that even in the most unlikely place. 

And there is just as little room for avoidance of the world as 
for finding our happiness in it. This avoidance, closely taken, 
only suits that idea which makes cessation of existence the end 
of endeavour ; the end of Christian morality is the saving of 
the soul in God's love, and life in this love. Therefore is that 
utterance, " All things are yours 'j)(l C^r. iii. 21), as unlimited 
as that,."! counted all things but loss "(Phil. iii. 7). For the 
reasons now repeatedly given, God, who is the highest Good, 
is the God of omnipotent love, by whom, through whom, and 
for whom are all things (Rom. xi. 36), whose the world is, 
and whose world wholly and fully serves the purpose of His 
love — indirectly so far as it contains creatures who find their 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 141 

destiny in His love ; directly so far as it helps them in the 
realisation of their end, and in this faith knows no bounds. 
Once more that series holds good : God, neighbour, the 
personal and external nature. But particularly in its attitude 
to the latter does it become especially clear how remote the 
Christian moral Good stands from avoidance of the world. 
Nowhere else is the natural so completely subordinated as here, 
but also in no other system of ethics is there such complete 
freedom given ; and if that subordination is recognised so un- 
reservedly recognised. This attitude is only possible if God is 
God in the Christian acceptation. Only if the highest End of 
endeavour is the experience of God's love in mutual love, and 
indeed of a certain endeavour carried to its accomplishment 
despite all struggles on the basis of that great gift of the 
love of God — only then can all else be estimated at its true 
value and neither depreciated nor overestimated ; for it is 
worth just so much as it signifies for that highest ' Good."" No 
human caprice decides this, but its existence in a world which 
for faith is God's world, in which all that God has created 
has its own special value. Without such a highest Good, life 
is merely dying of thirst for life ; small and great forsake the 
world as disillusionised conquerors ; with it, life is a struggle 
which carries within it the pledge of eternal fulfilment. 
Certainly in its detailed application to the complex questions 
as to the significance of civilisation in Christian morality this 
idea yields many a difficult problem. So much the more is it 
needful to make it clear in advance how it results from the 
Christian notion of the highest Good. 

That this is a reality we may see in the picture of One who 
strives for nothing else but to live obedient to the Father, in 
that Father's love, and who has a firmer footing in this world 
than any other, while he strives after what is beyond it ; who is 
not of this world and has not his highest Good in this world, 
but rather is ready at every moment to renounce the whole 
world and deny himself if the Father so wills ; but for whom on 
that very account the smallest thing is great and eternity is 
present in the midst of time ; whose life, without anxiety, without 
disgust, with no mere resignation, without ennui, is a trustful 



142 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

activity, a gi-eat victory of life springing from and issuing in 
eternal life. He is not intended merely as a pattern or as 
virtue for our imitation, but as a reality of the highest Good 
for us in the same sense as St Paul's 'to win Christ "■ can be 
compared with ' the Kingdom of God,' ' to inherit life/ 

There are two words, much misused yet indispensable, which 
may pass muster as a kind of proof whether the asserted higher 
unity of the temporal and eternal, of God and the world, in 
the Christian idea of the highest Good has a truly Christian 
meaning. I mean the terms mysticism and eschatology. The 
first of these, of course, merely refers to one of the relations now 
in question, to the expression of which it has attained through a 
long course of history. The point now in question is not whether 
there is such a thing as the immediate influence of the divine on 
the human spirit, nor even whether any operation of God has 
of itself given its form to the historic revelation, but rather 
whether a direct fellowship between God and man apart from 
his relation to the world may be asserted or rjot. Indubitably, 
yes ; but only in the sense so far carefully delimited. The very 
heart of the highest Good for Christian ethics would be taken from 
it if we in any way weakened the idea that God is Himself the 
final End of our effort, and that love to God on the basis of His 
love to us is the one and all. But it is love to God, whose nature 
is love, whose eternal love no one can in love understand and 
experience save by entering into the service of His love, where, 
and as, and when He wills, i.e. always, everywhere, and with 
the whole heart in the actual world which He created and gave 
to us ; involved in this reality we have the certainty that the 
eternal love of God will ever open up new and still greater 
realities of life, in the experience of His love for ever and ever. 
The other word, however, eschatology, does explicitly emphasise 
the last-mentioned fact, that the present world is only an 
incomplete stage, a transition : inexpressibly important, for 
without faithfulness in that there is no higher stage, and 
certainly not the stage of completeness ; not the stage of com- 
pleteness if we consider that it is perfected only above the present 
measure of our experience, and do not still assume the same 
conditions of existence. Therefore, courageous work in this 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 143 

world because ' it is God's will ' ; restless activity in the peace 
of God's love for no moment of this activity is indifferent, or it 
would not exist at all as certainly as God is God. And there 
must be no illusion of an earthly perfection. If, in the 
beginning of a new century, Lavater utters the greeting : 
" Kingdom of God, the ardent desire of all the good, wilt thou 
come with the new era ? " there is yet a glance raised above 
the earthly course of time. So the most faithful champions 
can without disillusion pass to their rest, and others step into 
the vacant places, with ever-old, ever-new courage. No 
imaginative picture of a kingdom of God fulfilled on earth 
scorns their energy, and cripples it if it postpones their hope ; 
but faith in the really eternal Kingdom of God which is not 
confined within the boundaries of our present earthly experience 
is the ' victory which overcometh the world.' But once more 
this faith cleaves to Christ who is exalted above this world 
because He while here overcame it. 

And in the same way the highest Good of Christian ethics 
surpasses the other systems, in that it is raised above the other- 
wise irreconcilable opposition of individualism and socialism. 
These words are understood in the quite general meaning 
which forms the basis of their application in the whole of 
individual and social ethics, and which may be simply defined 
thus : Individualism subordinates society to the individual ; 
socialism, the individual to society. 

In this most general sense socialism exists in all departments. 
It dominates Plato's view of the state : the rearing and 
education of children is arranged by the state. In changed 
historical conditions, to Hegel the state appears as realised 
moral reason. In that most general sense the Roman Catholic 
conception of the Church is socialistic : it has a constituted 
society, a sacred language, and demands the sacrifice of conviction 
for the saice of the unity of the Church — e.g.^ after the Vatican's 
decree of infallibility. In social life the word is especially 
familiar, but here its proper sense is in reference to the means 
of production ; the individual should be subordinated to the 
collective whole. But quite apart from such spheres of its 
application, the term socialism generally means such a mode of 



144 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

thought as implicates that the individual with his claims 
should be subordinated to the whole, to society. In the survey 
of modern competitors with the system of Christian ethics 
we frequently uttered the reflection that in the utilitarian ethics 
as in many forms of evolutionary theories the individual does 
not get his share of consideration. 

And we also discovered the contrary in egoistic ethics of the 
most varied kind, such as the ideal of aestheticism — the indi- 
vidual personality fitting itself for artistic production ; and also 
that of the self-contented philosopher. Energetic champions 
of Christian ethics have championed systems thoroughly egoistic. 
" Society," says Vinet, " is not an organism, but only an arrange- 
ment." " The individual,"" says Kierkegaard, " is in truth the 
only subject of ethics." And as above socialism, so now 
individualism in all its special spheres claims attention. 
There is an individualistic conception of marriage according to 
which it has its value for the married pair but not for society ; 
of the state too, according to which it is merely the guardian of 
the rights of the individual ; of a state confederacy like that of 
the ancient German ' Bund,*" which was much more than a 
federal state. Individualistic Church organisations are, as the 
name shows, such as that of the Independents in Holland and 
England ; and even the Evangelical Church of Germany is, on 
the whole, properly understood, individualistic in comparison 
with the Romish Church. In the economic question, Adam 
Smith is the protagonist of our modern socialists. 

In reality there can be no such thing as pure socialism or 
pure individualism. The more thoroughly both are carried 
out, the plainer do their imperfections become, and the 
more easily does the one change into the other. In history 
they alternate in very strange proportions ; mostly so that the 
predominance of the individualistic becomes a tyranny, and 
that of the socialistic poor and vapid ; and also in such a way 
that each of these sets of epithets may be applied to each. 
Are we at the present time more socialistic ? It is often asserted, 
and many reasons seem to favour the idea. But the whole 
democratisation, not merely and not even chiefly, of national and 
social life, but still more of general opinion, is rather an effort 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 145 

for equality on the part of individuals who consider themselves 
equals than a real equalisation in a well-articulated society ; 
and consequently the individuals who overtop others, or think 
they do, assert themselves in their way with the utmost possible 
lack of restraint, without regard to society. But, generally 
speaking, that inner unity which is at all periods esteemed 
essential, and therefore is said to be ' longed for,' between the 
individual and society has on the whole remained but an ideal, 
except in so far as definitely Christian influences have made 
themselves felt. For instance, the 'human society*' of the 
Stoics, which has real points of contact with one side of our 
conception of the highest Good, in so far as it means human 
fellowship in love, has only touched reality to the degree that 
fellowship with God is its type, its motive power and reason. 
The ancient and famous comparison of the human body St Paul, 
as is known, appropriated, but he used it in a deeper meaning 
than before, and above all so that now what was regarded as an 
ideal obligation became a real one, because this brotherhood 
was made an actual fact, and by faith in God the Father in 
Christ the Kingdom of God was so far realised. In the Kingdom 
of God the quarrel between the individual and society is made 
up. For the individual knows that God loves him, and he 
loves God ; he possesses and strives after the greatest Good in 
its innermost core ; he has personal fellowship with a personal 
God. But he obtains this privilege only when and because 
he is connected closely with all others who believe in and love 
the God who loves him ; for it is only in the unifying love 
of all to each that God finds that reciprocal love which fully 
corresponds to His everlasting love as Creator, in its whole 
compass, and in the completeness of all its relations. On that 
account there is no contradiction in it, because each individual 
who is conscious that it is by God's love that he is awakened 
to the love of God, loves God in such a way that it is imputed 
to God when the love of created spirits is said to be a really 
personal love in return for God's eternal love as Creator. It is 
not that the love of the individual is as such something 
imperfect in itself; its limitation arises from man's position 
as a created being, and he overcomes that limitation, so far 

10 



146 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN IJFE 

as is possible, by the maintenance of his life in the fellowship 
of all who love God. 

It becomes, moreover, quite plain from this reflection how 
immense the value of the individual really is. In the absence 
of the higher unity, Christianity would have to be recognised 
as individualism. This truth is most simply and impressively 
expressed in St Luke (xv. 6), " Rejoice with m^,"" ''Mi/ sheep which 
was lost " ; and Luther has rightly emphasised the meaning of 
'me' and 'mine,"* without falling on any contradiction to the 
' us "" and ' our ' of the Lord's Prayer. In the difficult questions 
arising in detailed ethics, we shall often need to call to mind 
this great principle. The individual is for God of so great 
value that it is not proper to allow, even apparently, that the 
individual gains his value only through society, and not rather 
that the progress of all social movements depends on individual 
personalities ; all the forms of exaggerating the value of 
corporate action and of social programmes have light thrown 
on them by recognising this. And the individual who has his 
value for the community only possesses this value because, by 
God's love, he is a ' whole ' in himself, and is a growing person- 
ality, and as such knows that he is hidden away in God from 
the fate of earthly perishableness {v. 'Character"). Carlyle 
says : " Men speak too much about the world. Each one of us 
here, let the world go how it will, has he not a life c^ his own 
to lead ? One life, a little gleam of time between two eternities. 
. . . The world's being saved will not save us. . . . We must 
look to ourselves. . . . And on the whole ... I never heard of 
'worlds' being 'saved' in any other way."^ Only in a world 
of heroes can there be faithful obedience to heroic ideals. 

When these principles, both in relation to transcendent 
ethics and immanent ethics and in reference to socialism and 
individualism, are acknowledged in the Christian Good, the 
objection that it is only with difficulty that either that notion 
of individuality which is most strongly insisted on in the sequel, 
or the recognition of the blessings of civilisation, can be 
naturally derived from the original sources of our religion, falls 
to the ground ; as does the assertion that they ought rather to 
' Carlyle, ' Hero as Man of L-etters,' Lecture V., Lectures on Heroes. 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 147 

be exclusively regarded as new elements of Christian ethics and 
as a gain of modern life. The question, so far as ethics is 
concerned, is at the bottom a simple one : either the 
positions taken have their reason in the nature of the Christian 
Good or not. A proof from isolated passages of Scripture 
would be unnatural. So this is not attempted either here or 
subsequently, but has, on the contrary, been once for all 
disclaimed. 

One result only of what has so far been said may be insisted 
on briefly. That is, our idea of the highest Good represents an 
actual whole of graduated aims, i.e. it is a system inasmuch as 
it binds into a common unity all the main lines of moral effort, 
transcends all that is otherwise called temporal and eternal, and 
in addition reconciles all that is otherwise irreconcilable, in the 
claims of the individual and of society, and finally embraces in 
an articulated whole all the details of all conceivable moral 
Ends. Our conception of the highest End includes, in itself, 
all others in such a way that it finds reality in all of them ; and 
it lays hold, not only of that which is above all individual life, 
but that which is greater than its totality, God, regarded as 
really distinct from the world. The special sphere in which 
every individual can make his contribution to the realisation of 
the highest Good, his contribution to ' the coming of the 
Kingdom of God,"" and in which he is ever growing into a 
completer personality, is his moral, is his right moral vocation. 
So that this fundamental notion of individual ethics has its 
immediate source in a clearly apprehended idea of the highest 
Good, and does, besides, guard Christian social ethics against all 
triviality, for all that was ever a real summons to the earthly 
realisation of the highest End has permanent value even under 
new conditions of existence. Christian morality does not 
irritate the merchant or the artist with an oracular deliverance 
that his work has importance for this world only {cf. Richter's 
Life), and this because it recognises a highest End in so strict 
a sense that it is able to realise itself in every sort of End 
{cf. above on the transcendence and immanence of the ethical 
ideal). 

It would be instructive to consider the various aspects of the 



148 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Kingdom of God, as the highest Good in their inner coherence. 
For it is plain enough that they condition one another. God, 
neighbour, self, and the world are so bound together in the 
Christian notion of the Good because this is both transcendental 
and immanental — is, that is, both above us and in us ; and it is 
only because this is so that the statement above of the unity of 
graduated Ends holds good. Similarly, the individual and 
society are, at bottom, only one, as we Christians think, because 
our ' Good ' embraces both the temporal and the eternal, as 
contrasted, e.g.^ with the philosopher of the Platonic state, 
who concerns himself with the mundane affairs of the multitude 
only when conpelled, and until he can once more soar into the 
empyrean of thought. Only one other important consequence 
may be expressly mentioned, which arises from all that has so 
far been said, and that is its universality, since this highest 
good is realisable by everyone. Distinctions of sex, age, endow- 
ment, nationality, social position are not hindrances to the 
realisation of this Good, are indeed only the means by which 
it may fashion itself in an innumerable variety of forms. The 
deep conviction which the greatest of Christian missionaries of 
the early Church had of this certain truth was clearly one of 
the strongest sources of his power (Gal. iii. 28 ; Eph. i.-iv.). 

Sin. 

But this whole idea of our highest Good remains essentially 
imperfect if we do not take into our purview its relation to 
human sin. The Kingdom of God, according to Christian faith, 
is only gradually realised. That is, with the notion of the 
faith as existing under earthly conditions, and given in a way 
suited to creatures, its realisation might still conceivably be an 
uninterrupted progression ; but on the contrary its progress is 
through and in spite of resistance. It is the task of dogmatics 
to develop the nature of sin in various aspects and the ideas 
of Christian belief as to its origin. In this subject of ethics 
we have merely to illustrate the point that the Kingdom of 
God is realised in thorough-going opposition to a ' kingdom of 
sin ' (Schleiermacher), to the ' world ' in the Scripture phrase. 
The term * world "' has a long history behind it, which answers 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 149 

closely to that of the term ' Kingdom of God.' If the idea of 
the ' Church ' arose out of the original sense of the term 
'Kingdom of God' so 'world** came to mean all mankind not 
received into the Church. And to the ' Church,*" in the special 
sense used then of the clergy and monks, was opposed the 
term 'laity.** If the pietists of the Evangelical Church call 
their circle, with its special aims and tasks, the ' Kingdom of 
God,*" then the ' world ' to them is the less earnest members of 
the Church, who do not participate in their works. Just as 
little as the term ' Kingdom of God ** was understood by those 
who used these special historical and peculiar significations, 
just as little do we now correctly" use the word 'world.** 
Its importance for us is merely as the antithesis of the term 
' Kingdom of God ' in the meaning so far explained. 

Sglf-preservation and self-assertion are natural. This natural 
desire is only evil, and in relation to God sinful, when 
maintained against the absolute demand to realise the moral 
End ; and it stands in antagonism to it because it seeks to carry 
out its natural aims, and not to gain the true End by denial 
of the merely natural life. The world is the sum-total of all 
the human beings who act in opposition to the highest End ; 
it is the reciprocal action of evil wills, and, in fact, inclusive of 
all the conditions which result from their activities. The latter 
may not be excluded, as the notion of ' offence "* (aKavSaXov) 
to be presently considered shows. For instance, take the 
nmltiplicity of the arrangements in a modern city, whose whole 
existence makes up an enormous portion of the ' world,' even 
considered apart from the human beings, engaged in various 
activities, but not yet won for the Kingdom of God, who are really 
only products and, so to speak, mere precipitates of its activity. 
"All is fruit, and all is seed.**** We are accustomed to put 
^Jlesh ' next to the ' world.** This term too has its history. 
There was even a period when it was understood to import 
almost entirely the sense-iinpiilae^ in the narrowest meaning, 

whereas ^t^_Paul had. expressly ^ conceited iL_±o inrhida not 

merely envy and hate^but also a perverted relation _2L men to 
God^ ' In other respects it is in its way a term as wide as ' world.** 
In its use it is applied to individuals in the world, and not 



150 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

merely in reference to their actual sinfulness, but also as 
referring to their weakness and frailty ; by which their suscepti- 
bility to worldly influences, and their participation in that 
reciprocal action above spoken of, is made intelligible though 
not excusable. In this latter respect the term ' flesh ' has 
not got so definite an ethical impress as ' world "■ ; it does not so 
exclusively denote a definite anti-moral power, as is illustrated 
by the saying, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." 
Another reason is, that to no one who has found in the 
Kingdom of God the highest goal of his endeavour, who is in his 
earthly development ruled only by this highest aim in all the 
various decisions of his will, and more, who, ruled by the spirit, 
has still to combat the flesh — to none such do the Kingdom of 
God and the world stand as two external antagonistic powers, 
but the separation between the Kingdom of God and the world 
exists in every individual soul. What this means it is the 
business of individual ethics to define more closely. In the 
same way, in every social circle the Kingdom of God and the 
world stand alongside each other and mutually influence one 
another. 

As to the form in which the reciprocal action spoken of 
exhibits itself, the Holy Scripture denotes it by the term 
' offence ' {a-KavSaXov). The woe of Jesus Christ (St Matt, 
xviii. 7) is pronounced against the world because of ' offences,' 
because it is a world in which there are occasions of stumbling 
and temptations to evil. In looking at the interlacing influences 
of evil wills on one another, and the intermingling of good and 
evil in the individual self, it is possible to distinguish the 
character of the ' offence ' which is given by considering how 
far those who give it are evil, and how far they are good. 
The first kind of ' offence,' which is by far the most inclusive, 
may be regarded in the most varied points of view, and thus 
serve to make us aware in some measure of the inexhaustibility 
of the subject. For instance, such an * offence' maybe caused 
by wicked design— arising from jealousy of another's higher 
position, or the desire to draw another into the like depths of 
sin, as often happens amongst the young, — or from indifference — 
as when no respect is paid in our action or speech to the feelings 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 151 

of others, as when in Rome the 'strong' gave offence to the 
weak by their use of justifiable liberty in eating and drinking 
(Rom. xiv.); or from a supposed good design — as when St 
Peter, when he would restrain Jesus Christ from the path of 
suffering, and the Lord sees in this very thing an attack of 
Satan. In all these cases the evil, the sin to which the ' offence ' 
leads, is of very various sort. It is either to what is essentially 
the same sin — as when the impure word calls forth impure 
fancies — or the selfish deed incites to its repetition. Or it is 
to retaliation of evil which is itself evil — as possibly a scoff at 
religious truth may, instead of a return of love on the part of 
its defenders, call forth an unloving reply, a sinful witness 
instead of a genuine martyrdom. Most frequently, however, an 
tjjff'ence'' in the general meaning is that which leads tg a de- 
preciation of the power of goodness in those who are ' offended."' 
The ideals of youth wither in the hard battle of life ; the 
demands made on their own will-power, as on that of others, 
imperceptibly lessen. We are silent at words which once would 
have excited indignation. We think we are grown wiser, when 
in truth we have grown more indifferent, and by this want of 
moral tone we do now offend others in ever-increasing degree 
and ever-widening circles. For the most part this happens 
when persons of high position have no inkling of an idea 
that their * good form ' (according to the average opinion of 
the world) is a subtle poison to numberless persons, who have 
not the courage of resistance and to withdraw themselves from 
this immeasurable ' offence ' which surrounds them like the • ~^ 
air. We only feel what this world of 'offences'* is, in its / \,»r^ 
whole immeasurability, when we, reverting to this point, take 
note of the fact that it is by no means merely those indi- '•.•rr/*^* 
vidual persons who are evil that give ' offence ' ; but also those ' ^^ «.. ^ 
who are good do, with what is good, give offence to the evil . , , 
in that great interaction of influences. Namely, so far as * *' 
they exert influence on evil persons, who are at the least 
themselves so far good that they do in some degree feel the 
value and the intrinsic Tightness of the 'good,' and in whom 
now their antagonism to the good is merely strengthened, if 
they at any crisis have not the power to give themselves 



152 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

up to it, or not the moral courage to free themselves by action ; 
and especially by seeking the renewal of their weak will in the 
strength of the divine will. Commerce, art, science, home, 
school, state, and church yield speaking testimonies of this kind 
of 'offence.' The purest intention, the most upright will of 
him who is fullest of insight, the most amiable act, may give 
'offence,' call forth or increase or complete resistance to 
goodness. The same sun which expands the blossoms and 
ripens the fruit helps the development of the seeds of disease 
and of feverous miasma. It is enough to point out that the 
Pharisees were offended at the miraculous cure of the sick 
(St Matt. XV. 12); John the Baptist at the unostentatious 
course of the activity of Jesus, which was the only good way 
of action (Matt. xi. 6) ; the disciples at the sufferings imposed 
on Him by a divine necessity, and not prevented by divine 
interposition (St Matt. xxvi. 31), so that the cross itself was 
an ' offence ' unparalleled (1 Cor. i. 23). So that by this we 
can understand Luther's pregnant saying : " Offence here, 
offence there, necessity knows no law and has no ' offence,' " 
as a way of speaking of the existence of evil in the arrangements 
of a God of love. 

This whole thought will be still more convincing if we 
remember that the notion ' world ' is on all sides the antithesis 
of the term ' Kingdom of God.' As the latter is in its inner- 
most core the fellowship of love with God, so the deepest 
nature of the world is its 'sin' considered in respect of its 
relation to religion ; in all its stages, from indifference to 
enmity, to which the Holy Scriptures give so many names, 
and even more illustrative personal examples. As in the 
Kingdom of God our right attitude to our neighbours follows 
from a right relation to God, so in the world lovelessness in all 
its forms and degrees arises from a wrong relation to Him. 
And finally, it is just the same in reference to our own personal 
nature and that of others in all conceivable combinations of 
our relation to God and our neighbour. Nor is tiie parallel 
less strong in reference to immanental and transcendental ethics, 
to individualism and socialism, as well as the system of Ends 
above spoken of — all are dislocated and disordered. Thoroughly 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 153 

complex and incapable of disentanglement by human judgment 
is this whole we call the ' world,' because, as we are compelled 
to say, there are no clear boundary-lines which separate the 
world and the Kingdom of God. The points of contact run 
through each, through the innermost feeling and volition of 
those who belong to the world or to the Kingdom of God, 
only discerned by the Reader of all hearts. The adversaries of 
the Christian ethical ideals note with sharp-sighted acuteness 
how close is the mixture of good and evil even in those very 
spheres which stand especially near to the holy of holies of 
the Kingdom of God — as, for instance, the worldliness by which 
the Church is often characterised — so that to them there often 
appears to be nothing left of the actual Kingdom of the ' Good.' 
The consideration of the question. What is the world ? does of 
itself lead us on to ask still closer what importance this idea 
has for Christian ethics. 

It has the greatest conceivable importance, for there is no 
other ethical system in which evil is so unreservedly and in so 
unvarnished a way recognised as the antithesis of the good, and 
in which still further this deep knowledge of evil is itself only 
intelligible from a strong faith in the victory of the good. It is 
by our apprehension, in their whole depth, of the mysteries which 
lurk in the notions of the ' world ' and of ' offences ' that the 
depth of the idea of the ' Kingdom of God,' and more, the depth 
of its reality, grows clear. Evil is only made fully manifest by 
its antithesis to the good. In this there is a witness to its 
power, but still more to the power of the good which is strong 
enough to overcome the evil that is thus fully revealed. The 
Biblical expression that sin is a ' lie ' excellently expresses this 
point, for that expression is far from saying that it is not a 
reality, but rather says that it does not possess a final, the 
highest reality, which is the ' Good ' — or to express it by its 
antithesis, it is not ' the truth.' In this way it expresses with 
surpassing simplicity that it is only the ' good ' in its deepest 
ground that is of the most ' value.' The ' world,' the kingdom 
of sin. i s a f earful reality, and yet has only a specious show of, 
reality compared with the Kingdom o f God. It proves itself to 
be this most notably by the fact that it borrows the appearance 



154 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

of the Good, that it deludes itself with the idea that it ought to 
strive to attain 'goods' (that are only such in appearance) by 
following inviolable commandments (that are only inviolable in 
appearance) from motives that are good merely in appearance. 
But the pretence is ever dissolving, and will one day finally 
disappear. 

The grandeur of this faith becomes quite plain if we still 
further reflect that — as doctrinal theology makes clear and 
establishes — the ' kingdom of sin " is by no manner of means a 
necessary by-product in the development of the Kingdom of 
God, or an indispensable means for its actualisation, as a 
shadow is the inevitable concomitant of light. Sin is not a ' lie ' 
in the sense that it only seems to us to be sin, and disappears 
in the light of deeper reflection. Sin and guilt are distinguished 
from ' necessary incompleteness "■ more strongly in the Christian 
cosmic view than in any other. If pharisaic Judaism considered 
itself capable of reckoning up individual guilt, and of regarding 
evil in the mass as the punishment which God inflicts, yet in its 
deepest ground such views of sin and guilt were not taken quite 
in earnest. Still less is this so with the Buddhist notions of sin 
and guilt. Exaggeration and depreciation go hand in hand, 
hither and thither, in all shapes in the world outside Christian- 
ity. The true idea of the Kingdom of God excludes either of 
these, however often, in the course of the history of Christian 
doctrine, the old influences again make themselves felt. The 
idea of the ' world ' as the antithesis of the Kingdom of God cuts 
away all false excuses and unreal self-accusation alike. The 
want of self-realisation is not sin. God who is love will not 
force men into the fellowship of this Kingdom, but draw them, 
\^n their free love. Sin is the resistance of the human will to 
the will of a God of love. And in the kingdom of sin all sin is not 
the guilt of the individual, however certain it is that there can 
be no world of ' offences ' without human guilt. Guilt concerns 
sin which the individual could have avoided ; but who is there 
who dare say that he is personally without guilt, and is in no 
need of forgiving grace, as he needed delivering grace for all his 
sins ? And who can minify his guilt, who has but once honestly 
shunned all half-real exaggeration of it, and knows that it is 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 155 

God alone who sees through the mysterious interaction of wills 
in the kingdom of sin, and yet that the man himself is in his 
actions involved in it, even if those actions were only those of 
the inner life, and only consisted of non-compliance with 
obligation, and above all merely of ungrateful and unprayerful 
non-compliance ? This qualifying word ' merely,' which satisfies 
the superficial, is a trouble to the upright. Sin is no mere 
'veneer'; it is rather a perversion of personality. The turbid 
dregs rise to the surface when in unwary moments habitual 
* propriety gives way before passion {cf. Individual Ethics). It is 
to this kingdom of sin, known and recognised for what it really 
is, without exaggeration and without diminution, and, as experi- 
ence shows it to be, a most powerful reality, that the Kingdom of 
God stands victoriously opposed — in combat certainly, but in 
victorious combat, because it is Christ who wins the victory. 

For this reason Christian_.ethics is at once pessimistic and 
optimistic, but, as we found was the case with the other 
reconcilable antitheses, so here, in such way that even these are 
bound together into a really higher unity. The Christian who 
in his conduct aims at the highest 'Good' of the Kingdom of 
God has outgrown the self-deception of the ordinary superficial 
optimism. He can keep in sight the realities in which pessimism 
grounds itself, and go even deeper down still than it. For he 
is a convinced optimist for adequate reasons, because he knows 
the highest existent reality when and so far as he has his place 
in the Kingdom of God, and in all knows by experience what 
the coming of God's Kingdom means. Hence a unique unifor- 
mity of feeling and judgment associates together, down through 
the centuries, all who have been convinced by this Christian 
optimism. Not as if they were unmoved by the waves of 
the world, which must draw around them most closely for the 
highest Good's sake. It is not meant that the colour of their 
feeling, or the absolute content of their judgment, was the same ; 
for what a difference there is between the martyrs of the 
second century, Augustine, the Reformei's, the quietists of the 
period of the Renascence and ' the War of Deliverance ' I But 
the one thing that unites them in feeling and judgment is the 
certainty that they had that a good time was coming ; and by 



156 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

that they never merely meant an earthly future, but eternity. 
For the Kingdom of God is eternal. They see through all 
illusions, even those which on this earth surround the Good ; but 
they do not undervalue and depreciate what is good, however 
mixed up with illusions. No single moral good seems to them 
to be trifling because it is not the highest of all ; but they do 
not promulgate it as the highest Good, deluding themselves and 
others. And they labour for this highest Good with the whole 
force of their personality, and have the earnest faith that their 
work is not without recognition. Nor do they grieve over the 
small measure of their success, for they know that their work, as 
they are themselves, is hidden in the omnipotent love of God. 

The Chief Commandment is Love to God and our 
Neighbour after the Example of Christ. 

In. the same way that we define the highest End of moral 
action, so also do we that of the supreme Rule, or the law of 
moral conduct. And that as well according to its form as 
according to its content. For the mode and manner of my 
action is necessarily controlled by the End which I propose to 
myself If the Kingdom of God is the highest Good, and this 
Kingdom is pure love, because God is love, then the all- 
dominating Rule can only be uttered in one word — love ! The 
fellowship of love can only be advanced by love. And this 
Christian ' Thou shalt ' has a quite special ring about it ; it is an 
absolute command of a quite special sort, the love of God in the 
Kingdom of God is the foundation of our love, and the source of 
its power. There is no other moral law which is for the 
Christian so absolute in its requirements as this. The chief 
commandment for the Buddhist, whose aim is Nirvana, is 
different from this because the End proposed is different, how- 
ever similar to Christian love much of its pity may seem ; and 
he cannot feel how severe and at the same time attractive that 
command is in the absence of the background of motive : " Let 
us love one another because He first loved us.'' Hence the 
whole meaning which belongs to the idea of Right is different in 
each system of ethics just according as the highest End proposed 
is differently conceived Again, we dare not forget that in 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 157 

Christian ethics everything depends wholly and entirely on 
Christ, since He is, as explained before, in the most compre- 
hensive sense, its principle (p. 125). That is to say that in 
relation to our present problem Christ is the personal ideal 
embodiment of the Christian moral law ; the supreme com- 
mandment of the Kingdom of God is for us the example of 
Christ. 

We may find an aid to clearness in speaking of all these chief 
questions of the meaning of Right as a term in Ethics by 
recollecting that this most important point of view in all ethical 
reflection has at one time been exaggerated, and at another 
time had too little importance conceded to it. Now, as Christians 
we are convinced that Christian ethics offers more than either 
of these partial views ; that it rises above legalism which is the 
exaggeration, and antinomianism which is the undervaluation, of 
law; and that its real value naturally finds expression in the 
statements which explain the law in its form and content. The 
genuine Christian moral attitude towards the law receives 
illustration from the fact that in the Christian Church at one 
time legalistic influences have been predominant, and at another 
time antinomianism. We are obliged to call the Roman 
Catholic conception of morals legalistic. The Council of Trent 
expressly anathematised the proposition that ' Christ is not 
a law-giver.' Legalistic too is that obedience to the letter of 
the law of many sectaries during the first struggles of the 
Evangelical Church, against which even the Augsburg Con- 
fession of Faith pronounces its disapproval (Art. 6, 16, 20).^ 
Legalistic are many statements and methods of thought of the old 
pietism as they are discussed in Spener''s Theological Reflections.^ 
Not only did the ancient Church, on the other hand, charge 
its Gnostic opponents with antinomianism, but also Rome the 

^ See pp. 170, 174, 178, Sylloge Confessionum. Clarendon Press, Oxon. , 1827. 
— Tr. 

2 The works alluded to were published by Spener in 1700-1702 in 4 vols. ; and 
(after his death) in 1711, 3 vols. : Theologische Bedenken. Spener (1635- 1705) was 
the originator of the Pietists in the Lutheran Church, whom Tholuck speaks of as 
"one of the most spotless and purest among the distinguished persons in the 
Lutheran Church in the seventeenth century," as well as the most useflil. See 
Tholuck, Geschichte des Pietismus, — Tr. 



158 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Reformers, and the Reformers the sectaries, when under the title 
of the 'freedom of the spirit' they praised what was really 
carnal licentiousness. That aesthetic personal culture which in 
the name of artistic originality casts aside ordinary morality is 
antinomianism. These few examples show how very various are 
the applications of the terms legalism and antinomianism. In 
the main and on the whole it is clear that up to the time of the 
Reformation Christian ethics, according to the judgment of the 
Reformed Church, was inclined to the former, and the Evan- 
gelicals, in the opinion of their Roman opponents, appear to lapse 
into the latter ; while it, on its own part, claims to be a return to 
the Gospel which stands clear of these contradictions. As to 
the reason why legalism appeared so early in Christianity and 
endured so long, later researches have shown that it is scarcely 
accurate to find it in Jewish pharisaic elements, or in the reflex 
influence generally of the Old Testament, and on the other hand 
to assign all that is antinomian to the influences of Greek 
civilisation. This Greek world was in another way inclined to 
see in Christianity the new law which leads to life. 

The Meaning of the Law. 
This may in Christian ethics be shortly put thus : If we 
look back to the doctrine of the highest Good, and especially 
to that of the deepest Motive of action, we shall se*» that by 
the conception of the Kingdom of God, as already set forth, 
all idea of a meritorious attainment of the highest Good by 
fulfilling the law is excluded (against all legalism) ; equally so 
is that idea that it can become a personal possession without 
fulfilling the law (against all antinomianism). If we have 
rightly defined our highest Good (p. 127), if the Kingdom of God, 
the fellowship of love to God and our neighbour, is the aim of 
our endeavour, by reason of God's love to us, and if it is thus 
a continually increasing task to be performed, arising out of a 
gift bestowed, how can it then be said that we merit the 
love of God ? Does a child merit the love of its parents ? It 
is able to love because it is loved. But it is equally true to 
say that the child can only really experience the love of its 
parents in loving fellowship with them by returning their love. 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 159 

And further, another side of the same truth is important. Can 
we earn a 'good' which is of another sort than the act by 
which we earn it ? If the highest Good, the goal of moral 
endeavour, were a heaven of earthly delight, there would be a 
sense in which it could be spoken of as something to be earned. 
But if it is fellowship in love with God and man, if the new 
heavens and the new earth are that wherein dwelleth righteous- 
ness, if, that is to say, endeavour and aim are of the same kind, 
then every step on the way forwards is an attainment of the goal, 
and the ultimate goal cannot possibly be reached in any other 
way. But there is no sense in speaking of desert in connection 
with it. In each respect the Roman Catholic doctrine of the 
meaning of the law is a perversion of the Gospel, however much 
it may insist that merit is only possible on the ground of grace. 
Since it asserts along with this that eternal life is the reward 
of merit, it injures the idea of the free grace of God, which St 
Paul speaks of : " Otherwise grace is no more grace " (Rom. xi. 6). 
And in addition, eternal life must in its nature necessarily be 
something different from that which constitutes the character 
of moral action ; or, so far as both are really homogeneous, it is 
merely in the negation of this world, renunciation of its claims, 
reception into the ineffable divine nature, concerning which 
nothing definite can be affirmed, except that the real divinity 
of this ideal at any rate is not that which consists of love. 
On the other hand, of course, we of the Evangelical faith have 
not always unreservedly acknowledged that without the per- 
formance of the divine will, without the fulfilment of the law, 
there is positively no salvation. Just because the goal striven 
for is of the same character as the rule of conduct which guides 
on the way, and just because grace is grace, and the fellowship 
with God opened to us is the fellowship of love, there is no 
participation in this highest Good in the absence of obedience. 
In their aversion to legalism the Evangelical Churches, at any 
rate the Lutheran Church, have not always in this matter 
kept themselves free from antinomianism. They rejected the 
extraordinary proposition that good works are detrimental to 
salvation, and insisted that there is no genuine faith without 
works ; but they shunned the statement that they are necessary 



160 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

to salvation, even in the quite indispensable and quite innocuous 
sense which follows from what has been thus far explained {cf. 
Formula of Concord, 2 pt., 4. 24 ff.). If salvation is the salvation 
of God who is love, it cannot be separated from love. Other- 
wise there arises a contradiction (which is only with difficulty 
concealed) to clear statements of the New Testament which 
once and again connect plainly salvation with the performance 
of good works {cf. St James i. 25 and St Matt. xxv. 1 ff.). 
Without this admission, too, it is not easy to think of the 
highest Good as ethical. In individual ethics it is to be shown 
more particularly how little insistence on this truth detracts in 
any degree from the full meaning of free grace and ' salvation 
by faith only.' And here too the significance of the law will 
grow plainer if we speak of the form of the law. 

Form of the Laxv. 
Here again the Evangelical doctrine on the antithesis between 
legalism and antinomianism is maintained. Two important 
points are in question : — Firsts the law of God, as it concerns 
Christians, is not a number of single commandments, which 
have been once for all established in a statutory form, which 
demand single good works, but the entire will of lifld* which 
demands from every individual in his own personal circumstances 
a special good character and a special mode of life vhich is a 
unity in itself (c/! ' Duty,' ' Calling," ' Virtue,' ' Character,' below), 
and by means of which each makes his contribution towards the 
realisation of the Kingdom of God. This is opposed to all that is 
merely legalistic in its nature — e.g.^ to the 264 prohibitions and 
the 284 precepts of the rabbis, the 10 divine and 9 ecclesiastical 
precepts of the Eastern Church, the 10 commandments and 5 
ecclesiastical precepts of the Roman Church. What a simplifica- 
tion there is in the answer of Jesus Christ recorded in St Mark 
xii. 29 ; in the word of St Paul, Rom. xiii. 8 ff. ; and the 
* new commandment ' of St John xiii. 34 ff. ! And let us think 
too of the ' work ' which Jesus finished, and in which His work 
is perfected ; of the work for which St Paul relinquishes all, and 
in which he becomes the Paul we know ; which in the most in- 
significant calling gives an eternal value to the obscurest life ! 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 161 

And further, as opposed to all antinomianism, the divine law is in 
the infinite variety of its application to every individual life and 
in its illimitable suitability to the exigencies of changing times 
by no means a mere indeterminate Norm, but one set in sharply 
defined outline, as, e.g. , is shown by St Mark xii. 29 ff. In fact, 
it is only thus that it can be an all-embracing Norm, applicable 
to every individual situation, and yet a definite rule of moral 
conduct. 

Secondly., the law is not a demand which is heterogeneous 
to and in antagonism to the will of the Christian, which turns 
on blind obedience, and seeks to ensure this obedience by the 
fear of punishment and hope of reward ; but a demand which 
makes its appeal to the true nature and destiny of man. It is 
man's own law, which is the known way to the End known to be 
the best End, " the image of that which he ought to be." This 
is against all legalism, or in this particular case hetero-legalism, 
as if the moral law could be something heterogeneous to the 
human will. But again it is against all antinomianism. This 
law of the ' Good ' is not carried out by a kind of naturally 
necessitated action, but turns on a responsible will, on a real 
' Thou shalt,"" and this at all stages of the Christian life right on 
to the last test of faithfulness. And in fact only thus can it be 
a moral command which is concerned with a will. 

Both propositions on the unity and definiteness, the subject- 
ivity and inviolability of the law are essentially and mutually 
interdependent. A law which is recognised by the inner man 
must be a unity ; and the reverse. And we must think of this 
when we assert that in Christian morality everything depends 
on the disposition, and it is on this account that it is a right- 
eousness which is better than that of the scribes and Pharisees 
that Jesus Christ demands in every true man. 

The true knowledge of these propositions, inseparable as they 
are from the principles of Evangelical ethics, and powerfully as 
Luther has borne testimony to them as one who had become free 
from the law, and had embraced the law of Christ (1 Cor. xi. 
21), has not always found unambiguous expression. The first of 
these principles, e.g.., is prejudiced by the reformed idea of the 
Sabbath commandment. The greatest respect for the English 

11 



162 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

method of its observance, which has become a national habit, the 
niost yearning desire to secure this blessing in a suitable form for 
our own country of Germany, must not be allowed to prevent 
us declaring that to ground it on the Decalogue is not strictly 
Evangelical. Not merely because in that case, to be consistent, 
the seventh day must be observed, since there can be no 
changing and strained interpretation of single portions of a 
valid commandment, which is to be literally followed. Rather 
is it to be interpreted in the light of the ' freedom ' with which 
Christ has made us 'free' (Gal. v. 1), and the fact that the 
observance of Sabbath days is expressly considered superfluous 
(Cor. iii. 16). This reason is also decisive against the attempt 
to trace the observation of Sunday back to the Mosaic law, 
and to secure it as a constituent part of the original order of 
God at the creation ; supposing that anyone now finds a single 
express commandment in the narrative at all. All such mist 
scatters before the clear sunshine of Luther''s explanation 
(Catechism, iii. 78 ff.) how the observance of Sunday flows as 
an external arrangement from obedience to the command of 
love to our neighbour, and how the true sanctity of Sunday as 
a means for the furtherance of the spiritual life obtains a safer 
guarantee than by any reliance on the letter of the law. In 
regard to our second proposition, the latest confession of the 
Lutheran Church has not given a wholly adequate expression 
to the Evangelical principle of Luther ; but as regards this 
* third use of the law,' as it is styled, it may be spoken of more 
particularly in connection with the doctrine of sanctification. 

All that is to be said of the form of the law is embraced in 
the words of the royal law of freedom (St James ii. 8, 12), or 
of the law of the Spirit (Rom. viii. 2). Freedom from the 
multiplicity of single precepts and from all external coercion, 
but freedom for the good and in the good, which constitutes 
our true destiny, is really royal. The natural man, the flesh, is 
enslaved under the yoke of a law foreign to his true nature, 
torturing him with a thousand demands. The Spirit which is 
from God, fellowship with whom is our aim, brings the scattered 
fragments into a unity, and changes force to freedom. And 
all that which systems of ethics previously to Christianity, or 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 163 

external to it, have imagined of the nature of the absolute law 
here finds its fulfilment. Hence here once more that which was 
said at the beginning of the nature of ethics must be called to 
mind (p. 10). But why ? 

Content of the Law. 

The answer to the question only becomes clear by considering 
what this content is. If we have above rightly stated the 
highest Good of Christian ethics, there can be no doubt as to 
the content of the highest Norm. It is love of God and our 
neighbour (St Mark xii. 29 ff.). For so. End and way, the Good 
to be striven for and the Rule of endeavour, generally correspond 
to each other. But this correspondence is, on account of the 
nature of its highest Good, the closest in Christian ethics. How 
then could the kingdom of love become real by any other kind 
of action than by love ? For instance, by this it is impossible 
that all action should be mere denial of the natural impulses, 
action essentially ascetic, though it is as certain as the kingdom 
of heaven itself that its supreme commandment must be directed 
with sharp severity against all unspiritual worldliness- The 
only question_that raises a difficulty is whether we can .alojigaidfiL 
love of God and our neighbour speak of love of self^ Occasion 
for this question is given by the commandment, " Love thy 
neighbour as thyself," and in the history of Christian ethics it 
has been much discussed. One thing is clear anyhow, and that 
is, that love of self cannot be spoken of precisely in the same 
sense as love of our neighbour, for love presupposes fellowship 
between different persons. At the same time it is easy to 
understand that self-denial for the sake of some personal high 
purpose has moral value. We condemn him who throws himself 
away in uncontrolled, blind obedience for another"'s will and 
pleasure just the same as we do the selfish man. If we ask more 
particularly as to the measure and manner in which each one 
ought to realise himself, and, so to speak, love himself, no answer 
can be given different from that which follows from the axioms 
on the relations between society and the individual (p. 141). 
We can neither injure our own personality from love to another, 
without injury to that other, nor put social considerations in 



164 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

the background from self-love without injury to oneself. If 
the latter is immediately obvious, the former is confirmed a 
thousand times over in daily life. If Jesus Christ, through a 
weak sentimental love to all the world, had not asserted Himself 
in His battle with the Pharisees, He would have endangered His 
incomparable life-work, His unique life-work. He was hated 
because He would not call evil good, and overcame hate by 
love ; but the contempt which falls on him who does not know 
what he means would have rendered this victory impossible. 
Or in the limited circle of domestic training, compliance under 
all circumstances and renunciation of personal self-respect out 
of pretended love is destructive of moral influence ; it is only 
apparently love. So marvellously are the individual and society 
bound together in the kingdom of love that both can only 
reach their goal in union with one another. Genuine self-love, 
if the equivocal term must be used, is then the will of each man 
to become a satisfactory member of the Kingdom of God, a 
moral personality in fellowship with God and his neighbour, 
and to train himself so to be. 

In this way it becomes clear that the idea of self-love does 
not belong here at all ; it is no side-piece to the love of God 
and our neighbour ; rather, in so far as it possesses an unin- 
pugnable meaning, it has already been elucidated when we 
settled the relation between the individual and sociecy. Here 
the only question with which we are concerned is that love to 
God and to our neighbour cannot be thought of disconnected 
from a right relation to our own nature and to a nature 
external to us ; but for this purpose the phrase self-love is 
plainly as unsuitable as possible. 

Lave to God is the supreme command as certainly as that 
God is the chief Good, and therefore love with the whole heart. 
Nothing else can take the place of this love ; everything else 
gains its value from it. St Paul says that renunciation of 
property and giving our body to be burned is worthless without 
love to our neighbour; but the same thing is true if this is 
not also love to God — of course an impossibility if we under- 
stand what Christian love of our neighbour means (see below). 
Whatever that is glorious was said of love, when we spoke of 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 165 

God's love to us (p. 133) ; of whom it is said, " God is love." 
The same is true in a figure of our love to Him called forth by 
His love to us. Here is unequalled satisfaction and unparalleled 
self-sacrifice ; here is a true fellowship which aims at the same 
single, grand End, the eternal God ; and of this eternal love 
stooping to the bounds of time, we ourselves are partakers in 
time and in eternity : " As He is, so are we in this world.'" 
Hence all descriptions of love to God are merely weak words, 
even that well-known explanation : " To love God is to take 
God as the chief Good ; to cleave to Him with our hearts ; 
to be ever mindful of Him ; to be ever desiring Him ; to find 
the greatest satisfaction in Him ; to give ourselves up wholly 
to Him ; and to be ever zealous for His honour." 

But against this explanation doubts have been raised by 
those who question the notion of love to God generally, or 
certainly essentially delimit it. Nay, it has been said that the 
Holy Scriptures keep the notion of the love of God in the 
background, and not without reason. This latter statement 
is, of course, in view of St Mark xii. 29 f. and Rom. viii. 28, 
somewhat extraordinary, and completely so if we take St John's 
first Epistle into account. But, notwithstanding, the warning 
to be careful is not without reason. The doubt in the final 
ground touches a point which we have been obliged to pay 
regard to when speaking of the chief Good. These doubts 
take their rise in the anxious fear lest a false mysticism may 
foist itself into Christian ethics (p. 142). In this place this 
objection has a twofold significance. First, thus : It is said 
that love to God consists according to its nature not in any 
direct relation to God, but on the one hand in our love to our 
neighbour, and on the other hand in a devout attitude to all the 
events of life, in childlike trust in God's paternal Providence. 
But this is going right back to the explanation of the question, 
What is loving God ? And on this point there can be no 
disagreement that a love to God which is not love to our 
neighbour, and which does not, in humility and patience, 
make the best use of God's ways, is a hypocritical imagination. 
On this point much has already been said, and will be often 
said in the application. It is hence quite in order if all the 



166 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

separate aspects of love to God are expounded in a closer 
examination, and determined in their mutual relations. But, 
all this presupposed, there still remains the inalienable right to 
insist how, in the words ' love to God,' the real question is as to 
an actual personal fellowship with God whose nature is love ; 
and how it is in this alone that the reason is found for a trustful 
acceptance of divine providences, and the duty of loving our 
neighbour. Both have a meaning, because the Christian is 
permitted to love God who first loved him ; he is allowed to 
aim at this most valuable reality — but how poor are such 
expressions ! — personally to make a personal return of love for 
the love personally shown to him ; a love *' directed not to the 
gifts but the source of the gifts" (St Augustine). And this 
is so because he " regards God as the chief Good, and can find 
in Him the highest happiness "" ; and what more is mentioned 
in that explanation, which in its final statement reminds us, 
as forcibly as needfully, how brave also that love to God, if it 
is to be really genuine, must be in its zeal for the honour of 
the holy divine love. 

And this last remark may at the same time show that also 
the other side of this objection, that the expression 'love 
to God"* has a false, mystical ring in it, can be disposed of. 
Many are afraid that by its use the essential distance between 
God and the creature is obliterated, and that a falsely con- 
fident and flippant idea of sensuous love degrades the purity 
of the relationship between God and man. Hence, it is 
said, instead of speaking of love to God, generally it would 
be preferable to speak of trust in God. In reference to this 
anxiety it may simply be said, misuse need not prevent the 
right use. According to the verdict of Church history, the 
misuse has been manifold ; there has been a predilection for 
the use of falsely interpreted words of the Song of Solomon. 
But it is possible to misuse the term faith. Not merely a cold 
vagueness, but also irreverential confidence in the compelling 
power of prayer, have been allowed to be called faith. Allow- 
ing that love to God still remains an invincible idea, on this 
very account, because without injury to the deepest reverence, 
and indeed rather by means of reverence that humbles and 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 167 

exalts, the truth receives unmistakable expression, how fervent 
without sentimentality is that love to God which lives in this 
genuine feeling: "This is my joy ! that I draw near to God"! 
He who would deny that, may be invited to rewrite the Psalter 
as the hymn-book of the Christian Church of all times accord- 
ing to his principles. Certainly, it will always be a special 
touchstone of the modesty of devotional language, whether those 
who use it fear, love, and trust God always in the right place, 
and employ none of these terms separate from their inner 
connection with each other. For, rightly understood, all trust, 
all faith even as mere acceptance, is a readiness to receive, a 
drawing nigh to God because He draws nigh to us, a response 
to His word. All love to God, even the highest conceivable 
joy in Him, abides in confidence and self-giving; neither faith 
nor love is ever without reverence and reverential humility in 
view of His ' unspeakable gift.' Hence, in harmony with this 
(reverential) loving faith and (reverential) believing love are 
spoken of. But here in ethics, where the question is as to 
the realisation of our God-given destiny, we speak, follow- 
ing the words of Jesus Christ, of love to God ; of belief in 
doctrine when it explains how all our doing is grounded in 
God's work for us. Hence we have later on to speak in 
detail of the relation between 'faith and works,' i.e. of how 
far then the love of God as the experience of faith is a 
motive to the love of God and our neighbour and the source 
of its power. 

The last consideration may also remind us in what especial 
sense the expression 'love to Christ' is justifiable in Evangelical 
ethics. Facts — like those periods in the history of the Mora- 
vians which proved to be times of sifting — show with especial 
clearness the close danger in both the respects above discussed. 
If we are conscious of its possession, and are ever mindful that 
love to Christ is love to Him in whose love humanly brought 
near to us and His love to the death the love of the Father is 
now operative in us, we dare not measure out and narrow down 
the peculiar force and fervour of such love by paltry precepts. 
Its charter of freedom is the question, " Lovest thou Me more 
than these ? " (St John xxi. 15). 



168 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

The command of love to our neighbour (St Mark xii. 29 ff.) 
is called the second commandment, and like unto the first of 
love to God. Instead of many commandments there is only 
one, and that can only be love to God. But with this love to 
our neighbour is so closely connected that only as the com- 
panion to the first can it be called the second commandment ; 
which, on account of its inner relationship and even unity with 
the first, is not really a second; and, surely with reason, is 
together with the first called the ' only commandment,' in order 
that it may suffer no misinterpretation, but acquiescence in its 
true tenor. After what we have said as to the highest Good 
(p. 138), this state of the matter needs no fresh explanation. 
God is love, and this is the irrefragable reason why we have 
received such a command that " he who loves God should love 
his brother also." But the mode and measure, the compass, of 
Christian love to other men we have still to explain with more 
particularity. 

In respect of its Mode, Christian love is fellowship for the 
advancement of the highest common End, i.e. the Kingdom of 
God; its reason is not found in natural benevolence and 
beneficence so far as the person beloved and the person loving 
are ' the natural man,' with rich or poor gifts, and in necessities 
of whatsoever sort ; but in that benevolence and beneficence 
which have a Christian moral quality ; because each or^a knows 
that he, with the object of his love, has been called by the love 
of God to an eternal fellowship of love ; called, too, each in his 
special natural endowment, through the multiplicity of the 
forms of which an immeasurably rich and articulated whole of 
associated men can, in the love of God, arise. This Christian 
love is, therefore, in the way it exhibits itself, essentially 
different from all that has, in the moral history of mankind, 
borne the name of love, because its End and Motive are different. 
It is a long, tortuous path from that obscure benevolence and 
sympathy, joined with selfishness and struggling emotions, to 
Christian love, which in its innermost core is care for souls, 
advancement in that " eternal share in His abiding place." Even 
a high stage of this moral development is that sense of wisdom 
which says : "When injured, be reconciled ; but if treated with 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 169 

contumely, revenge yourself! Bear trifles from your neighbour, 
but it is slavish to put up with base treatment ; but blame- 
worthy not to be moderate in revenge." There are deeper tones 
than these, as the Platonic word : " It is better to suffer than to 
do wrong," or the Sophoclean : " It is not for mutual hate, but 
for mutual love that I am here." These are almost prophecies 
of Christian love of our neighbour. No Christian will under- 
value the Buddhist pity ; and in the humanity of modem society 
he sees fruit fi'om the same root, and a continual and needful 
spur to his own perfection ; and more, a wholesome mirror of 
shamefaced self-examination. But how far the greatest of these 
sayings are behind the full content of the Christian conception 
of love, this humanity itself shows when it counts with much 
assurance on persons who are Christianly disposed for the 
performance of many of its services of love, while it perhaps 
ridicules their faith. Other services are left entirely to them 
because this humanity finds in them nothing which has sense or 
value for it ; apart altogether from the idea of power to perform 
such deeds as the succour of those who have fallen by the fault 
of society, the castaways of society — the salvation of the lost 
into a new and eternal life. Christian love of our neighbour is, 
as to its character, wholly determined by God's love to us ; it 
has here not merely its reason and motive power, on which we 
must speak when dealing with Motives, but also its example. 
In its warmth and clearness it is that of the great sun of love 
which rises on the evil and the good, in order that all may be 
perfect as the Father in heaven (St Matt. v. 48). 

The measure of our Christian love to our neighbour is only 
intelligible in this same way. It cannot be defined more simply, 
deeply, inexhaustibly than in the saying of the great command- 
ment in St Mark xii. 29, " as thyself." The final motive of self 
cannot be more severely condemned while yet the indispensable 
right of the real self is recognised. But this negation of egoism, 
and at the same time of all exclusive and indeed impossible self- 
sacrifice, has meaning only because in the chief Good, and on 
that account also in the chief commandment, as we saw, society 
and the individual no longer separate themselves as antagonistic 
to each other, but become truly one in God; and can only 



170 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

possess and love God when they become mutually united in 
love, blessed in the service of self-denial. 

It is no otherwise with the extent of Christian love of our 
neighbour. It is in real earnest universal love of mankind, and 
knows no distinction of race, age, position, nationality, religion, 
or of natural gifts (Gal. iii. 28 ff.). Nevertheless the term ' love 
of our neighbour ^ has a quite pre-eminent significance. It is 
not merely only the most cheerful but also the most accurate 
conceivable. For it is a reminder that the universal love of 
mankind can only become real for every individual in every 
single item of his action in his special situation, in a quite 
special way, if quite distinct human beings in their special 
position are in need of his love and can be reached by it. It 
is the enduring protest against mere phrases, the continual 
demand to give the case of the individual amid the encircling 
millions individual care in real earnest. It is just this modern 
humanity that is in danger of treating in a way that is at 
bottom loveless individual specimens of the human race, for 
whose love, elevation, and advancement it professes enthusiasm. 
Universal love of mankind " often draws the line at the un- 
washed." That saying wards off self-deception and the decep- 
tion of others, as found in St Luke (x. 29, 36), " Who is neighbour 
to him who fell among thieves 't *" Properly understood, every- 
one has neighbours in space and time. He is, too, a true 
neighbour to them by his loving action. These must be led to 
experience it, and, as the result of the experience on their part, 
be ready where and how they can to help others in the best way. 
Thus Jesus became neighbour to His disciples, and awoke in 
them a love which 'constrains' them without reserve to His 
service (2 Cor. v. 14). It is not by a " mass of love that 
He combated the misery of men," but He exercised on one 
person after another that love which put and solved the 
question of eternal life, and which overcame the world. Social 
ethics has to show how all our natural moral relations and all 
forms of society, family, friend, nation, place, and all that is 
material, offer occasions for such Christian love. Every merely 
general proposition is poor compared with this wealth. 

The inexhaustibility of this love of our neighbour is revealed 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 171 

by a glance at the manifold stages of its realisation. The two 
limits are brotherly love and love of our enemy. When the 
love of our neighbour is understood and returned, it finds its 
completion in brotherly love, of whose praise the New Testament 
is full. To maintain and to renew it in new forms is a pressing 
problem of the present time. Rejected Christian love finds its 
completion in the love of our enemy — that indispensable proof 
whether our love corresponds to its divine type. He who loves 
his foe holds energetically to his design to advance another in 
the highest End even when he, so far as in him lies, runs counter 
to our highest End ; to help him in his endeavours even, if so it 
must be, by the sacrifice of his own natural life — and herein he 
maintains and gains his true life. When we have thoughtfully 
considered the idea of God's love (p. 1 64), then all this is seen to 
be indisputable. For instance, the idea that the demand to love 
our enemy is to be conceived on an eschatological basis, because 
in the near dissolution of all earthly society even the antagonism 
of our enemies does of itself cease to be an evil, is the greatest 
conceivable misconception of the word of Jesus Christ. This 
would be no ethical foundation even for the lower stages of moral 
development. It is of most service to the introduction of the 
Christian ideal into actual life to bear in mind at present how far 
between these two limits it moves hither and thither, how far 
in general righteousness is from being the norm which is still 
to be realised. But if such righteousness does not issue from 
and aim at love, this latter still remains for Christians among 
its high ideals. 

Inasmuch, however, as the commandment of love to God and 
our neighbour cannot be fulfilled in the absence of a right 
relation to our own nature and to external nature, we have 
now in this place to speak, although briefly, of the attitude 
of the Christian to his oxon nature and to that of the xcorld. 
The moral culture of the natural powers of our minds, in 
thinking, willing, and feeling; their continuous and unified 
employment in the realisation of Ends ; their control by the 
sense of personal dignity, even if only obscurely felt, had to be 
mentioned at the outset when the question under consideration 
was that of the one chief regulative principle of all moral life. 



172 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

How these powers of the soul are collected into a unity is explained 
in our treatment of the Christian character. Their relation to 
the physical life, the normal attitude of the Christian to it, 
requires notice in our present context. What this attitude 
should be, will again be most clearly shown by contrasting the 
overestimate and underestimate of its value. The overestimate 
is seen in a twofold form, that found in Grecian aestheticism, 
and that in modern materialism, however far these intellectual 
tendencies are distinct and separate. In the former we find 
unrestrained aestheticism, the absorption of the powers of body 
and soul with objects of beauty ; in the latter, what we call 
spirit is merely the combined effect of * force,' which is one with 
matter, according to those who, weary of pure thought, are 
worshippers of physical science posing as an explanation of the 
cosmos. As to the underestimate, this may appear in the form 
of Buddhistic or monastic asceticism, or as spiritualism of some 
sort. The Christian, in spite of all the unsolved mysteries 
(2 Cor. V. 1), which he realises more personally than those who do 
not know the highest life by faith in the omnipotent love of the 
Father, knows that his body is (apart from sin) (1 Cor. xv. 
45 ff.) the God-designed instrument and outward embodiment 
of the soul, and designed to be a temple of the Holy Ghost 
(1 Cor. vi. 3 ft'.). The highest life is not the physical, sensuous 
life, but that of the personality ; but the former is the divinely 
intended means of realising the latter. God and the Christian 
who loves his neighbour are to bring this instrument to the 
fullest perfection ; and also here it is true that, the more com- 
plete is the subordination of all means to the highest End, the 
more does the special significance of these means for this End 
become clear. Bodily exercise (1 Tim. iv. 8) "profiteth a 
little," i.e. compared with discipline in godliness ; but that it 
is important in its sphere is repeatedly insisted on in the 
New Testament, often in the same contexts which warn against 
excess (1 Tim. v. 23; Col. ii. 23). This bodily exercise 
is according to its nature as much discipline as a means 
of health, a check to sensual impulse as well as its proper 
satisfaction and education. A warning like that of Rom. xiii. 
14, " Make provision for the flesh, (but) not to fulfil its lusts,"" 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 173 

is applicable to both deviations from the right way, that of 
depriving the natural life of its divinely ordered rights, and that 
of asserting them at the expense of the chief Good. The saying 
of Rothe has a deep meaning : " Sinful man has too much and too 
little sensualness." In the kingdom of sin the physical life is 
sick in all forms and degrees, with and without the fault of the 
individual person. Depression and excitement, insensitiveness 
and sensibility, strangely intermingled, alternate in the same man. 
These frames of mind intrude even into the holy of holies of 
prayer. Who is there who is not weak in some point ? There 
are many who would found a society in which the word ' nerves ' 
should never again be uttered. Anxiety for the maintenance of 
bodily health lays hold of them like an infectious disorder ; the 
doctor takes the place of the pastor (understood not merely in 
an official sense). But with this anxiety there is conjoined a 
readiness to live regardless of health in eagerness for enjoyment, 
in the most reckless accumulation of business engagements, and 
so undermine health, and then seek its restoration by unnatural 
means ; while even noble attempts at counteracting this 
tendency are in part scarcely less artificial. There is a want 
of " soundness in the good will,"" as Rothe says. If that were 
present the bodily appetites would largely adjust themselves; if 
not, there would be the power and willingness " to live suitably 
to our environment,"" and even to make suffering — far from all 
crass want of sensitiveness — into a work of faith and love ; with 
the eye fixed on Him who will glorify our " body of humilation " 
(Phil. iii. 21). That these propositions are not in themselves a 
guarantee against unloving judgment on others, or senseless 
severity to ourselves, is in need, as the whole context shows, of no 
elucidation. 

As to its principle, we have already spoken of the attitude of 
the Christian to external nature and to the world (p. 139). The 
law of the Christian life which emerges is, however, more easily 
explained in detail elsewhere. It may merely be mentioned that 
the expression ' love "* of nature, and especially love of animals, 
is, as regards Christian ethics, and in connection with love of 
God and of our neighbour, unsuitable. It does not fit in with 
the true idea of love. Joy in nature is not love. Our right 



174 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

relation to the animal world has its origin rather in reverence 
for the Creator and a fellow-feeling for our fellow -creatures 
(Prov. xii. 10; Jonah iv. 11). The present day often shows, 
in the same degree that genuine love of mankind is wanting, 
a weak tenderness in regard to animal life ; a descent from 
the soundness of the feeling which Christianity sanctions to 
Buddhistic flabbiness. For instance, the deep revolt against 
animal torture, under the mask of science, from vanity and 
coarseness of feeling becomes without reason a deep-seated 
aversion to all experiments on living animals, even in the service 
of purposes that are higher; and the exquisite titillation of 
over-excited nerves in certain forms of sport leads some to the 
rejection of all sport whatever. Yet the latter example does at 
the same time show that when we enter upon details we soon 
enough reach the boundaries, which in the common judgment are 
drawn by the rights of the personal conscience. 

Everything that is to be said of the supreme Norm of 
Christian moral action is embraced illustratively in the 

Example of Christ. 

The precept of love cannot be completely expressed by any 
formula. Without illustration the notion is in great danger of 
being an empty expression. The old motto : " Precepts teach, 
examples follow," belongs, in fact, also to the doctrine of Motives, 
but necessarily at the same time to that of the Rule, the law of 
Good. And if this is true in every system of ethics, it is 
especially so in Christian ethics, on account of the nature, 
content, meaning which the law implicates. In this sense, too, it 
is true that Christ is the principle of ethics {cf. p. 125). Jesus 
Christ is the type of the ' Good," as it exists in God's eternal 
nature, and in the form of a. human personality. He is the 
" image of the invisible God" (Col. i. 15), and so the image of 
the personal life of man in which He was created (1 Cor. xv. 
45), after which he, as sinful, is to be renewed (Col. iii. 10). 
Understood in this way, Christ is the moral law incarnate, 
although He is no new lawgiver, as the Tridentine Council (6. 21) 
asserts with emphasis against the Protestant. For everything 
that we have said of the law of the 'Good' is in His person 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 175 

a reality, and He illustrates this reality in all its relations, both 
as to form and content. It is in Him that we see what is meant 
by the law of the ' Good "" not being a sum of single precepts but 
the sole will of God. Every moment is occupied by the great 
work which the Father gave Him to do, but every moment we 
may also say just as in that work He ever alike aims at the one 
goal which stands before Him : " I have finished the work which 
Thou gavest Me to do " (St John xvii. 4). Hence for Him too 
this law is a law of freedom ; what He does and what He leaves 
undone both have their springs in His inmost spiritual nature ; 
His life is so much a life of obedience to the Father that He can 
call it His " meat and drink" (St John iv, 34). But it is a real 
command that He follows, which He must fulfil through conflict 
(St Matt. xxvi. 42) : " Not My will, but Thy will." And 
what this will is, is comprised for Him in the content of the 
greatest commandment. He came by the love of God to save 
men for God's love. That He can only accomplish by loving to 
the end, God, and ' His own ' because He loves the Father. 
Everything serves this love which is proper to His image, with 
its strongly marked features of self-denying and world-renouncing 
zeal. Jesus is consequently no mere ascetic. He protects His 
disciples against the exacting demands of ascetical precepts. 
He fights against the special, individual ' prescripts ' which were 
made in the name of religion, and which find their force merely 
in such sayings : ' Touch not, handle not."* He was compelled to 
hear the scoff of His foes, that as contrasted with St John the 
Baptist He was ' a winebibber."' He is no ascetic, because He 
is more than the greatest of them, the ' Son,' who at all times 
does the good pleasure of the Father whose almighty love 
sanctifies and does not sacrifice and destroy the world. This 
is not a mere utterance of faith ; historical investigation is 
more and more forced to this conclusion. Yet there are some at 
the present time who in the picture of Jesus see, as it appears to 
us, only the reverse side; others only His austerity, severity, 
renunciation of the world ; of one whose attention was fixed on 
the future. But neither can deny the other side, save at the 
expense of historical accuracy. And if they do as a matter of 
fact recognise these same things, but only as something 



176 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

inexplicable and incidental, and in particular the indications 
of openness to the world as the revelation of a healthy nature, 
as fragments from a rich table, then they make His personality, 
without intending it, a psychological riddle. These are not 
irresolvable contradictions. Their unity does not lie in the 
surface but deep down, in the certainty of this single truth, 
that He is the Son of this Father and that it is His will to be 
so at every moment. 

A closer statement of what this example of Jesus means is of 
importance, for the sake of clearness of thought and on account 
of its practical consequences. This example cannot consist 
in the individual features of His life as individual, nor in 
His life as a whole, if it is only considered in its outer aspect. 
It consists rather in the essential nature of His whole disposition 
of mind as it is illustratively exhibited in the whole picture. 
For this picture — provided it is to belong to this actual world — 
bears the sharply defined features which mark His special 
vocation, such as is found in no other, and which He carried out 
under wholly special circumstances. If we were to make Him 
an example in this sense, then we should deny the possibility of 
His being an example. If He can be this for all changing 
periods, and if He is to be this without the denial of His 
unique dignity as our Redeemer, it can only be by that in Him 
which is most subjective and unique, which expresses itself in 
His mien and detachment, such as can never be repeated. It is 
a particularly glorious side of faith in Christ that its object has, 
by His ascension, disrobed His earthly image of all temporal 
limitations, and by this means became transformed into an 
example for all men, various as they are, and for all periods, 
different as they may be. There is another reason why this 
must be so : the other notion of what His example is does not 
harmonise with the Evangelical method of understanding 
Christian ethics. It would destroy the unity and independ- 
ence which is inseparable from the nature of real moral action, 
Jesus would be the promulgator of a law which would have 
a statutory stamp, and be permanently external to the will. 

Hence in the Evangelical Church the phrase ' imitation of 
Christ,' in its external connotation, can have no right place. 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 177 

All copying of His life is at once excluded. ' Imitation of 
Christ "■ can be taught in very various ways. The Catholic 
mode is perhaps most plainly seen in the method of St Francis, 
concerning whom a Book of Conformity to Christ is designed 
to show how everything in the life of Christ had its parallel 
in His great disciple, even to the marks of the cross and 
ascension ; or in the fanatical idea that it is possible to follow 
Jesus in His redemptive work ; or in the rationalistic 
attempt to make the virtue of Jesus an example in every respect. 
And these three forms pass over into one another in various 
ways. But even that form which is connected with those 
named by its similarity, which says that the single sayings of 
Jesus Christ in their isolation should be regarded as rules to 
be followed, is doubtful. Jesus Himself, according to St John 
(xviii. 22), did not literally fulfil His own rule of offering the 
other cheek to the smiter (St Matt. v. 39), in order that He 
might fulfil it in a deeper sense. He has even on this point 
shown the way to freedom. After all, the high estimate of 
Thomas a Kempis"" Imitation of Christ is beside the mark. 
It is only Evangelical when and so far as it can help in the 
carrying out in the life of the apostolic reminder to " do all in 
the name of Jesus " (Col. iii. 17). To " do all in the name of 
Jesus,"" in the sense of the law which has become personal in 
Him, is to imitate Christ. To do all ' in Christ,' eating and 
drinking, waking and sleeping, praying, troubling, glorying; 
in anxiety, in life and in death, — to do this ' in Christ ' was not 
for St Paul a suitable formula of speech, but a reality. And 
now, since no doubt remains as to the principle, we may add 
also that, if in spite of this the expression ' imitation of Christ ' 
has been degraded and become suspicious, it is only a sign 
which betrays the fact that there is a proneness to weaken 
down the whole sternness of the Christian command, in (if 
needs be) its inmost world-renouncing severity. As opposed to 
this inclination, even a drastic reminder of walking ' in His 
footsteps,' and the pathetic question, ' What would Jesus do,' 
in my place .? may be justifiable. Only in this there exists the 
danger of carrying out artificially made plans of life in a 
fantastical way, and of despising daily tasks in simple circum- 

12 



178 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

stances. The phrases ' in the name of Jesus ' and ' in Christ ' 
have more depth than breadth of applicability. 

The Dekpest Spring of Action ; oa Love of God in Christ 
AS Incentive and Motive Power ('Faith and Works'). 
The clearer our conscious grasp of the grandeur of the chief 
End and the supreme Rule, as each is understood in Christian 
ethics, the more urgent becomes the question as to the Motive 
of action which seeks for that End in that way. Ever and anon, 
in every single statement in which we tried to make the ' Good ' 
and the ' Law ' clear to ourselves, we might have interpolated the 
demand, ' How do we come by such action ? ' Such a question 
would nowhere be a mere factitious interruption ; on the 
contrary, is one difficult to keep back. The exponents of other 
than the Christian ethical view do not infrequently allude to 
this difficulty ; the measure in which they feel and recognise 
this is indeed a proof of thoughtfulness and impartiality. Of 
course, as long as End and Norm are dominated by the idea of 
utility there is no need for a doctrine of Motives. But is the 
question then an ethical one ? So soon, however, as the ethical 
is recognised in its true character, it is indeed easy to say what 
is the high motive for doing the ' Good.' Purely for the sake 
of the ' Good ' ; but it is hard to say whence the motive power 
is derived for such action. In Christian ethics especially is 
this difficulty accentuated. It does not extenuate the contra- 
diction in which we are found to the divinely 'Good'; it 
knows that there is a kingdom of sin in which we are all 
guiltily involved (p. 148). And it has an ideal so unsurpass- 
able that we cannot speak of motive at all in relation to it, 
save such as is of the purest and deepest. In the kingdom 
of love there can be absolutely nothing done in the love of 
God and our neighbour save from love. And by this the 
question as to the motive power to truly 'good' action is 
unavoidable and, as it seems, impossible to ignore. It is just 
in the answer to this question that the Christian Church has 
from the beginning seen its superiority. Many a time those 
noble spirits who sought refuge in the Church from the Graeco- 
Roman world thought almost less of finding a new End and a 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 179 

new Law of their action, than of the certainty of its truth, and 
the motive power for its reahsation. In the experience of the 
love of God lies the impulse and motive power to 'good' 
action, to love. This is the Christian 'Thou shalf and the 
Christian ethical ' Thou canst.' (If we here speak in this way 
of ' Thou shalt,' whereas it was, we said, to be treated under 
another point of view, that of the supreme command, yet this 
stands in no need of justification after what has been previously 
said on the ethical principle {cf. pp. 12, 56, 95) ). This 
simply sublime thought it is proper to explain more at large. 
The expression just used for it harmonises with Evangelical 
ethics. But in the formal Confessions of our Church this 
question which is to engage our attention is usually treated 
under the heading of Faith and Works. 

Faith and Works. 
This title has reference to Catholic teaching. And the 
Catholic Christian traces the motive power to good works back 
to the grace of God in Christ. It is a conviction common to 
Christians that moral endeavour does not reach its aim unaided ; 
and that it is not sufficient to assert that the idea of God is 
one inseparably connected with the idea of the Good in order 
to necessitate, for the sake of this context of ideas, the existence 
of God (Postulate, p. 103). Christian morality for all forms 
of faith rests on reality, i.e. on the revelation of the holy and 
gracious God. But for the Romish Church (p. 114) this grace 
is not properly that personal loving will which, effectual 
through Christ, creates anew our wills, but a mysterious force 
operative through the sacraments. So far as any personal 
transaction is in question at all, free will works together with 
sacramental grace, and performs good works which merit 
salvation. In this view good works and this eternal life, 
the vision of God, stand to one another in an external relation ; 
they are the divinely ordered method of acquiring this reward ; 
but the End is of another kind than the way which leads to 
it ; or their inner unity and conformity are at any rate not 
unreservedly carried through. The incentives, therefore, to 
good works are hence necessarily eudaemonistic ; something 



180 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

else is aimed at than the Good merely ; and in the same way 
this motive power to the Good, since it is a compound of the 
grace given and free will, is not in itself a unity and a 
satisfactory whole ; — a judgment by which, of course, the 
pious Catholic is not touched who with a pure heart seeks 
God even with incomplete idea and unsufficing powers. Or, 
more closely, the Romish doctrine does not i<now the 
highest and purest spring of action in our sense even where 
it praises in enthusiastic words love to God, and supposes 
that it surpasses ours in earnestness and warmth. It is not 
less clear that its works are isolated performances, by which way 
of speaking once more we do not pass judgment on the personal 
morality of members of this Church. In short, the Reforma- 
tion objection is intelligible. The Roman Catholics neither show 
what good works are, nor how they are done, and no reproach 
against Evangelicals is less founded than that which affirms 
they depreciate good works. On the contrary, they speak with 
open plainness of true Christian perfection, on which there was 
in the School theology profound silence, while much that 
was useless was discussed. They make it intelligible how grace 
is the spring and motive power of doing good with pure 
intention. The latter point is the problem with which we 
must at once busy ourselves ; the former is also in this place 
an important application of what has been said above of the 
highest commandment. And in fact it is easy to put the 
inexperienced right — both as to the more precise affirmations 
of the Reformers and those of Holy Scripture — who have been 
captured by opponents, or by the term ' good works,' on which 
the latter have put a false stamp. A favourite passage of 
Luther''s was that saying of our Lord on the " good tree which 
bringeth forth good fruit" (St Mark vii. 17). In the New 
Testament the number of our good works is spoken of, but only 
where no misconception is possible. Alongside works there 
significantly appears the 'walk,' the doing of 'the Good' (St 
James i. 4; Phil. i. 22 ; 1 Thess. i. 3; St John xvii. 4; 
1 Pet. i. 17 ; Rom. ii. 7). And we may not forget that the 
question here treated concerns all those fundamental relations 
of the ' Good ' repeatedly discussed, on which we fixed attention 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 181 

in speaking of the content of the highest Good and the supreme 
commandment. A closer examination of those propositions 
is needful in which our confessional writings say how, i.e. for 
what reasons, good works are wrought, or how for the sake of 
clearness the incentive and the motive power to good action are 
distinguished. It is not invariably the case that these two 
points, incentive and motive power, or. Why should we ? and 
Why can we do the Good? are intentionally separated, since 
they are, as a matter of fact, closely connected ; and it is easy 
to see that the first of these took the second place because a 
strong feeling of the moral motive power which belonged to the 
newly discovered faith was a part of their life. But the Re- 
former's distinction is helpful to lucidity, and even in the New 
Testament the two are distinguished as in the deepest ground 
one. We ought to love because " the love of God has appeared "" 
and " He who is born of God " loves ; " the love of Christ con- 
straineth us " ; " to whom much is forgiven, the same loveth 
much " ; and he who will not miss his reward is to forgive " unto 
seventy times seven."''' That imperative 'Thou shalt' is ac- 
centuated and deepened ; that ' Thou canst ' is now true, and 
both have become one by faith in God's forgiving love. 

Why ought we to do 'good works,"* to love God and our 
neighbour ? Plenty of answers are ready. " On account of 
God"'s command "" ^ (Conf. Augsb. vi. 20.) " For the honour of 
God and to His praise and glory "'"' (Apol. vi. 77) ; as a confession 
of our faith (Apol. iii. 68) ; for the exercise of our faith ; to 
prove the reality of our faith and as witness to it (Apol. iii. 
63). The Holy Spirit too is spoken of as bestowing the impulse 
to good works. And why can we do ' good works ' ? whence 
do we gain the power for a new moral life ? Here the answers 
are less various. They run : Through the Holy Spirit who is 
given to believers ; and from faith ; on account of faith ; they 
are the fruits of faith (cf. the places cited above); and especially 
from thankful faith. At the bottom the twofold answer is the 
same — the Holy Ghost and faith are the incentive and motive 
power of the new life. For what was additionally included 
in the first question can be traced back to faith. Faith has 

^ " Bona opera mandata a Deo facere." 



182 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

respect to God's commandment, and is a belief in God's faithful- 
ness ; and God's commandment and God's honour are at bottom 
one. This depth of meaning has its sources in the Christian 
idea of what God is. 

But the Holy Ghost and faith are inseparably connected. 
What that means when it is said the Holy Ghost is the 
incentive and power to the new life, we apprehend, if we 
understand what that means, when we say it is the incentive 
and motive power of the new life. In brief, and without intrud- 
ing too much into doctrine, this is so on the following grounds. 
To have the Spirit of a father or of a friend is just the same 
as * having the mind ' of the friend or the father. But along 
with this very many also say that the father or the friend is 
somehow the originator of such disposition of mind. In any 
case, to have God's Spirit means to be * spiritually minded ' ; to 
aim at God's End ; to be ruled by the law of His will ; 
governed by the same motives as God; to love as He loves. 
For when we say, 'God is love,' we necessarily mean, in our 
human speech, to say that ' God is Spirit ' ; we presuppose the 
form of a spiritual personality when we speak of love ; and 
by the term ' Holy Spirit ' we mean in the New Covenant 
not merely in general that the divine nature is alone, un- 
approachable, incomparable, but that He is also this inasmuch 
as in His innermost spiritual nature He is love. And we 
mean also something else when we speak of God's Spirit ; 
we mean that He produces in us a likeness of mind to 
Himself; and it is in this that the greatest emphasis lies 
when we speak of our fellowship with God. Now, God 
gives us His Holy Spirit, and therefore that mind which con- 
stitutes His nature. And this not in some way inconceivable. 
Truly the dwelling of God in us and His gift of His Spirit 
is the eternal secret of God, and for us the eternal reason for our 
worship. This indwelling gift is not bestowed accidentally, 
vaguely, without rule, as if it had no definite content. En- 
thusiasts fancy that God can at any moment do any imaginable 
thing in a human soul, and make His Spirit operative in it. 
Our Evangelical Church rejoices in His work wrought in us 'in 
Christ,' who is Himself full of the Spirit, but acknowledges this 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 183 

work is bound up with the word of the Gospel. For us the 
Spirit and the Word are mutually conjoined. It is by faith in 
the Gospel, by trust, that it becomes to us a personal possession. 
Hence it is by the faith, by the trust, which we personally ex- 
perience that we understand the working of the Spirit in us ; and 
what that miracle of God's Spirit working in the human spirit 
means as a matter of our experience. It is on the ground of 
such experience that we are able to understand it. We do not 
mean that it is all one whether we use the term Spirit or faith. 
We must speak of the Holy Spirit if we are to express in 
unambiguous language the fact that what we experience is from 
God ; that faith is not mere fancy or a dream, but a real work 
of God in us. But we may simplify our question as to the 
incentive and motive power to the new life by asking : How far 
does each rest in faith ? 

The Incentive to Good Works. 

First of all as to the incentive. Different paths lead to the 
same goal. We might start from God's forgiving grace, that 
will to love on which faith lavs hold, or from the nature of 
faith. God forgives sins. But this does not mean that He 
remits all external punishment of sins, and leaves the state of 
the man just what it was. It means He removes the sense of guilt, 
the feeling of alienation ; that He brings the sinner into fellow- 
ship with Himself, makes him blessed in the possession of 
justification, and receives him as a child of God into closest 
fellowship with Himself. This fellowship is, moreover, fellow- 
ship with the perfect Father, the one good God. The nature 
of this fellowship and the blessedness of it constrain our love. 
It is impossible to obtain its possession and not desire to retain 
it, and not desire too to be blessed with that blessedness which 
is a part of the nature of God, of which we have become sharers 
freely and gratuitously. It is the same thing viewed from 
another side, i.e. from the point of view of faith, to say that it 
is impossible to believe in God's prevenient love and not at the 
same time to have sympathy with God's designs. Where this is 
not the case such persons do not know what personal faith is. 
I cannot appropriate to myself the love of a friend without 



184 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

willing what he wills, and I can only have fellowship with him 
in love by having that love which makes up his being. 
Speaking strictly, we cannot quite say that the incentive to the 
love of God and our neighbour is the result of our faith in God''s 
love to us. It is rather the result of the great gift received by 
faith. This is the immediate incentive to the new life in which 
our love to God and our neighbour becomes manifest. And 
why the love of God and of our neighbour are indissolubly 
connected needs not to be repeated (p. 168). The new spiritual 
life of the Christian does not turn away from God when it turns 
to our neighbour, but by this love of our neighbour it turns to 
God and rests in God. All that we receive from the divine 
fulness in faith is that which immediately impels us to the love 
of God as to the love of our neighbour, and this is so because 
God is the Love which realises itself in His kingdom. 

It is now clear of itself how far the answers of our Confession 
of Faith spoken of above, although not so in their verbal ex- 
pression, are yet at bottom one. They do, however, only express 
one aspect of the truth. For instance, when it is said we do 
good works ' on account of the divine commandment,'' even the 
most advanced Christian has in this the wholesome reminder 
that the new life does not follow the course of nature, but is, 
and continues to be, a moral life ; that it is perfected in 
submission to the will of God, and in the struggle to do it. 
But the other idea of ' grateful love ' is far clearer. It is quite 
right in its assertion that moral action has an incentive in 
grateful affection. But of course we must not think merely of 
' giving thanks,' however important this is ; nor of ' proving our 
gratitude,' as if we could give some recompense to God, however 
indispensable devotion of the whole life in gratitude to God is ; 
nor of ' being thankful ' in the sense of exuberant emotional feel- 
ing, however unnecessary it may seem to protest warmly against 
the superabounding emotionalism of enthusiastic spiritual hymns. 
The incontestable and unimpeachable correctness of the idea of 
grateful love is clear from the above ; otherwise those precious 
stones (such as Gal. ii. 20; 2 Cor. v. 14) must be removed 
from the fabric of the New Testament. 

Quite naturally the consideration of this question, Why ought 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 185 

good works to be done ? passes over into the next : How can they 
be done ? How far do we comprehend faith as the motive 
power of the new moral life ? Because, once more, fellowship 
with God, and the blessedness found in it, are bestowed in faith 
by the forgiveness of our sins. We said above it constrains to 
good action, because its nature is such that it cannot be 
obtained or retained in any other way than by our will to love 
because God is love. Now we say it is the motive power to 
good action, and we are able to love because of the fellowship 
and blessedness we have as God's gift. It may be that the 
explanatory definitions of the reason of this, in our Confessions 
of Faith, are not sufficiently perspicuous ; also that faith is 
represented in some of the statements as too much a matter of 
natural power, from which the fruit of good works necessarily 
proceeds. But by experience the plain and inexhaustible truth 
of that witness is abundantly evident ; I mean, the truth that 
we are not able to do the * Good "■ so long as we do not possess 
an experience that it is the highest Good. Man can do much ; 
but he has no power to love God and his neighbour as long as 
God and his neighbour appear alienated from him, and at 
enmity with him, because he thinks that they, by disturbing his 
own aims, disturb his happiness. It is impossible to eradicate 
the passion, the human hunger for happiness, as long as man is 
what he is. So long as he seeks that happiness in himself, and 
in the world, he cannot love God, and will ever remain unblest. 
Every advantage gained proves illusive, carries him farther from 
his goal, because he pursues a wrong way. And the deepest 
misery is the feeling of guilt with which his alienation from 
God burdens him, because he, by his own act and deed, runs 
counter to that which is his true destiny. But now God 
forgives the debt, adopts him as His child, bestows upon him 
the blessedness of His fellowship. Thus the hindrance is 
removed to doing the Good ; the way is open. He is now in 
the right way because by that unspeakable gift he is also at the 
goal ; at that goal which is ever to be gained afresh in the 
eternal gift — a gift which, on account of its nature, becomes a 
task to perform eternal as God Himself. But all this is realisable 
in faith : Faith itself ; trust in God's revealed grace, the readiness 



186 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

to receive it is the great new motive force, and the only one 
which enables us to do the Good. Man can only love God and 
his neighbour because he is beloved by God ; can only give 
because it is superabundantly given to him. There is no longer 
hunger for happiness, which was a hindrance to true love 
because this love and our own happiness appeared irreconcilable. 
There is no longer fear of evil which continually threatened the 
desired happiness, and so was a hindrance to all love. Every 
event, pleasure, and burden of this life is the leading of the 
Father, a demand on the child, who has grown rich in the love 
of the Father, to exercise love to others, in that state of life in 
which the Father, whose world this is, desires that love to be 
exhibited. So could Luther rightly say that " He begets us 
anew, and transforms us ; slays the old man ; makes us quite 
different men in heart, courage, sense and capacities. Oh, Faith 
is a living, energetic, mighty thing ! It does not ask whether 
there are good works to be done, but has already done them and 
is always doing them." ^ 

These words of Luther have found a place in the last of our 
Lutheran formularies, as no one understood the connection of 
faith and works so profoundly as he did. They may here at 
the same time stand for an answer to the question, which 
likewise need be no longer ambiguously answered, which follows 
on what has been said, and that is, whether this cor.iiection of 
faith and works is in the strictest sense indissoluble. In the 
older formularies that was regarded as self-evident. Hence, 
although the usage varies as to individual terms, in the main 
such words as regeneration, justification, renewal, restoration, 
and similar expressions were regarded as synonyms. In that 
latest formulary, however, renewal is definitely spoken of as 
following regeneration, although with the proviso that the 
question is not one of order of time, but of order of thought. 
And by this is not meant that which we call sanctification, the 
progress of the new life, but the life itself. The reason for 
such modification of doctrine is clear and indisputable, and 
that is, the consolation of justification by grace without works 
must be safeguarded. But this end may be attained in another 
• Preface to Epistle to Romans in Luther's Commentary. — Tr. 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 187 

way. The above statements no one will be able to misconceive 
as imperilling the principle ' by faith alone.' But that He 
who 'freely gives us all things" is, in and with our faith, the 
direct incentive and motive power to the new life is both set 
forth in the New Testament as something self-evident and is 
the experience of all believers. Utterances like those of our 
Wurtemburg Book for Confirmees on the first and second use 
of faith are therefore to be correctly explained in the sense of 
the Reformers. If that had always been done, if the intimate 
connection of faith and works, of justification and adoption on 
the one hand, of childlike prayer and a holy life on the other, 
had been inscribed in the heart, in the way I^uther explained, 
then no such confused and bewildering preaching as that, for 
example, of Pearsall Smith (1875), with all his personal zeal, 
would ever have taken so strong a hold on Germany. What 
was good in it was not new but old, frequently adulterated 
Lutheran and New Testament truth, and the rest fanaticism. 
{Cf. Doctrine of Assurance.) 

These statements on faith and works are the common property 
of the Protestant Churches. The difference between Luther 
and the Swiss Reformer does not concern the principle that 
faith is the motive power and incentive to the new life, or the 
reason why this is so, but only the closer definition of the sphere 
in which this moral action shall operate ; and correspondingly 
as to the degree of warmth in which it is to manifest itself 
externally — so far, it is true, a somewhat different direction of 
thought, and then, of course, of kind of faith as well. Zwinglius 
was a statesman and a warrior with the same saving faith as 
that which made Luther endure, wait, often restrain and curb 
statesmen. Luther saw the danger as quickly as others, and 
realised the difficulty not less acutely than they. But the 
faith which he expresses in his hymn, " A strong tower is our 
God, a trusty shield and weapon," is the great truth for him, 
in the sense that his faith here reposes rather than is externally 
active. Still, who would say that this resting on God was not 
in his case the highest action, activity, work, a reposing on 
God's eternal power.'* And who is bold enough to say that 
the battles of the Churches founded by Geneva were not battles 



188 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

for faith which saved Protestantism ? The Evangelical notion 
of faith is so profound that it not merely allows but 
demands such apparently widely opposed manifestations of its 
activity. 

So far this would be an incomplete statement unless attention 
were explicitly drawn to the fact that the faith which is the 
incentive and motive power to the new moral life cannot be 
disconnected from repentance. Some word, then, must be said 
on faith and repentance. It is of no importance to the main 
question that the use of these terms is confused. Of course, 
the idea of recompense by painful penance is excluded. It is 
' change of mind ' that is meant, so far as this word implicates 
not merely turning to God but aversion to sin, and this 
aversion it is which is emphasised. The Augsburg Confession 
in Art. 12 calls it ' sorrow for sin ' and a ' troubled conscience,' 
and when this is conjoined with faith it names it penitence 
and considers it synonymous with ' conversion."" In our context 
it is enough to insist that the faith of which such great 
things have been said is altogether and in all respects the 
faith that is penitential, sorrowful, and grieved at the thought 
of sin ; but that sorrow alone, apart from faith, can never be 
the motive power of the new life. And this is the answer also to 
that moot point much discussed in late years, whether repentance 
arises from the law or the Gospel. Our Reformers rxiaintained 
both. Now, since Luther had experienced -the terrors of a 
troubled conscience wrought in him by the law, and on quite 
another side had such experiences as those of his Saxon 
pastoral visitation,^ it was impossible to undervalue the law as an 
educative power. But that the true sorrow for sin is not to 
be severed from belief in the Gospel these theologians firmly 
held. This, in fact, was the new element in their knowledge. 
In general only this much may be affirmed : first, that a 

' One of the early effects of the Reformation in Saxony was that great 
confusion arose through the break-down of the old conditions, increased by the 
incompetence of many of the clergy to deal with the circumstances that arose. 
Luther made a visitation in 1527 in connection with Melancthon. Arrangements 
were made to secure proper teaching, church discipline, and an order of worship. 
One fruit of this visitation was the compilation of Luther's Large and Shorter 
Catechisms. — Tr. 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 189 

troubled conscience and the terrors of the law have an 
undeniable, though of course in details very varied, value for 
those not yet conscious of salvation, while repentance is a grace 
of the Gospel, and it is really only converting repentance when 
united with faith. Thus, in the life of the true Christian 
repentance is fundamentally a Gospel grace. This will be 
further elucidated in individual ethics when treating of what 
is called the third use of the law. 

Taking a thesis from doctrinal teaching, it is here proper 
to make reference to the relation between Grace and Freedom, 
God's work and man's. From the principles of our religion, 
from its teaching concerning God, man, and sin, we arrived in 
various passages at the result that God's working is regarded as 
creative. Our formularies therefore rightly say that the natural 
man cannot dispose himself to divine grace, prepare himself 
to seek it, to turn to it or work together with it, as if it were 
a co-ordinate factor. The same statement is applicable also to 
the new man, the renewed man, in the sense that a co-operation 
of God and man as if they were two homogeneous forces of the 
created world has no place even after conversion. ^ 

Even in human relations of mutual trust such ideas are 
unsatisfying. In education, in friendship, two natures do not 
work homogeneously. It is the higher nature that calls into 
activity the trust of the lower. It would be absurd and, more, 
destructive of the whole relationship of love if a child should 
consider his will as a will co-operating with his father's. The 
relationship is one of the subjection of one will to the other. 
Nor is this conclusion disturbed if the child has made that will 
his own. How much more must the will of the Father of all be 
regarded as creative ! Only it is needful once more to insist 
that man's trust in God's grace is voluntary, and is his free act 
as a responsible being. Man is not a mere passive instrument, 
he is not like a stick or a stone — nay, he is worse than this, 
since he can resist. These are generally not only unsatisfactory 
illustrations — because they are taken from the natural kingdom, 
while this is a question which concerns the spirit — but they 
explicitly deny, in a way our fathers would not deny, responsi- 
bility. For it is not possible, while ascribing resistance to 



190 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

divine grace to man, to ascribe grace to God alone. And for 
the question under consideration it affords no help to say that 
the power to believe is given, not natural to us, however true 
that is in the other meaning of the above example. Conse- 
quently what has been said earlier as to the indispensableness 
and the correctness of the idea of moral freedom as real freedom 
to decide for or against the Good, finds here its most important 
and indisputable practical application. 

Having treated the deepest motive of Christian moral action, 
we may now finish a former discussion, and finally dispose of 
the charge of hedonism (eudaemonism) brought against Christian 
ethics. 

The Charge of Hedonism. 

This charge, usually brought against every system of ethics 
which has a religious foundation, is levelled against the 
Christian system with constantly increasing energy, since here 
it meets a great antagonist. With remarkable frequency there 
is, at the same time, the opposite charge, that Christian ethics 
unnaturally suppresses every natural desire for happiness. 
Both are with some difficulty combined in the idea that 
renunciation of this world is balanced by happiness in the next, 
since for the purpose of such a statement the Christian hereafter 
has all too little sensuous colouring. To such a peculiar 
method of attack no disproof is immediately obvious, and no 
doubt there are at least individual passages of the New Testa- 
ment, particularly the use of the word rezvard, which do 
repeatedly awaken in the cursory reader the feeling that the 
charge of hedonism is intrinsically justified. A verdict becomes 
easier, in the opinion of many, because both sides provisionally 
understand one another ; since even in a system of ethics which 
is exclusively and fundamentally hedonistic appeal can be made, 
for educative reasons, to invitatory motives, which represent 
the Good as the Useful, the True as the Prudent. They attract 
attention, they give the enslaved will corn-age for effort. 
Truly : only the effort will show soon enough that these motives 
are not long-enduring ; that only the good will leads to the End 
whose incentive and motive power we have become acquainted 
with. To say that those treasures are worth striving for which 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 191 

the thief cannot break through and steal is just as illuminative 
as it is insufficient to conquer the natural inclination for earthly 
good. The idea of a public reward of closet prayer and alms 
given in secret has never produced men of much prayer and 
self-sacrificing zeal, even when the profounder meaning of such 
sayings has been apprehended. It is consequently a constant 
dispute about words whether such an educative reference is to 
be found in the words of the Lord. 

If we look at the assertions which are without doubt 
fundamental, the worth of the objections may perhaps be 
examined in the following order. There is no question that 
the care of the Father in heaven is promised to all the members 
of His kingdom. " All other things shall be added to them "" ; 
they are of more value than the birds and the lilies. But 
riches, honour, pleasure are nowhere promised to them. That 
promise confines itself to what is absolutely needful, if a man 
aims at the highest End as it is desired he should. The great 
care, supreme care, at every stage of the earthly career he only 
can exercise from whom anxiety for earthly good, as the 
greatest, has been taken away, so long as he in his earthly 
conflict stands for the Good. Very well, say our opponents; 
but that really means speculating in sensuous enjoyment, and 
seeking for it, if future happiness is promised as 'the new 
heavens and the new earth,' ' drinking the fruit of the vine 
new,' ' sitting down ' with the Patriarchs, ' thrones and crowns.' 
Now, the barest justice demands us to note that such sayings 
(which are infrequent) must be taken in connection with those 
sayings which are more numerous and less metaphorical, and 
that it is then easy to comprehend them, but not conversely. 
He ' who hungers after righteousness ' is filled — with righteous- 
ness. Righteousness dwells in the new heavens and the new 
earth. The ' pure in heart ' shall see God — God who is Spirit, 
Light, Love. His fellowship, moreover, is an eternal fellowship 
with the members of His kingdom. And further, if God is to 
be 'all in all,' and the Good realisable under the conditions 
of our outward life, how would it be otherwise expressed than 
by such a saying as that of the ' new world ' and the ' new 
body ' ? From all the ideas which the Christian can conceive 



192 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

on the subject, from all presentiments that when that which 
is Good is perfected then all that is true and all that is 
beautiful will be perfected, we thankfully turn back to those 
plain words on righteousness, so inexhaustibly profound. 
Again, our opponents object, it is still a suspicious thing that 
it is said that this future glory is guaranteed to faith, for in 
this way the purity of the motive in seeking for the Good is 
clouded. As if the guarantee 'in faith' did not exclude all 
intellectual certainty, all compulsory conviction. The exponents 
of this objection ought at least so far thoughtfully to consider 
the fact of faith as to perceive that there is in it, for the 
natural sense, little that is persuasive and enticing. The 
gladness of hope (Rom. v, 1) is wholly and entirely grounded 
on the 'peace and joy"* of the new life, which our opponents 
in this context value lightly, and regard as quite insecure. If 
notwithstanding they find in it a stumbling-block, then their 
charge that Christian ethics is hedonistic amounts in the end 
to the idea that it is ethical, although it is not faith in the 
victory of the Good. This idea has already been refuted in 
the first part. 

Still, it is possible that the word ' reward ' may be felt to be 
a difficulty. But this idea of reward is only hedonistic if it is 
united with the idea of merit. If it were possible by good 
action, and especially by specific works which transcend mere 
duty, to merit happiness, and such happiness as, according to 
the nature of the subject, must be happiness of a different kind 
from life in the ' Good,' in love, then the purity of the moral 
incentive would be disturbed. The contrary, as has now been 
often observed, is the case, and is most explicitly asserted in 
St Luke xvii. 7 ff., St Matt. xx. 1 ff. The self-confession of the 
great champion in 1 Cor. ix. 15 fF. shows this at once. His 
'reward' he gains by voluntary sacrifice of his whole person, 
exhibited in renouncing all claim to the support of the churches, 
and he but wishes to become a sharer in the Gospel which he 
preaches. Tliis is his 'reward.' And so there lies in the 
natural employment of the term 'reward' — a use certainly 
borrowed from the ethics in which ' right ' is a leading notion 
and transferred to the kingdom of love — for the most part, 



THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN GOOD 193 

merely a plain and important allusion to the meaning which the 
moral endeavour for salvation in the Kingdom of God has on 
account of its nature, of which we have frequently spoken and 
shall speak again. Consequently, the question is, as regards 
this endeavour in the Kingdom of God, really one that concerns 
personal freedom, and so it is that reward is spoken of; exactly 
as also of a righteousness of God which has respect to man's 
behaviour to his fellows (Heb. vi. 10). Both these words, 
reward and righteousness, emphasise the truth more strongly 
than any other that the reaping corresponds to the sowing 
(2 Cor. ix. G). If the reconciliation of divine grace and human 
freedom is not perceivable by Christian knowledge at its earthly 
stage, there is no clear contrariety between grace and reward. 
Hence it is not advisable to use the term ' reward of grace ' 
carelessly in religious address, because it easily produces the 
impression that there is no serious regard paid to moral 
endeavour; or because, conversely, it serves merely for a 
covering of the self-[)leasing idea of merit. The term has 
an indisputably correct meaning founded on St Matt. i. 20. 
According to this, the final reason for speaking at all of a 
reward is only the goodness of the ' goodman of the house.' 
Then haughtiness and envy, the hypocritical glance at our 
own doing as our own, and harsh judgment on others are 
excluded. 

Of course he who raises the complaint of hedonism against 
any system for which the accomplishment of the Good generally 
is not merely self-denial, nor the exaltation and enrichment of 
the life in this way, but life which is truly such and in harmony 
with our destiny, will not be won over by confuting argument. 
But he has not a higher but only an incomplete knowledge of 
ethics. In the salvation which consists in divine adoption 
eudaeraonism of the unethical type is overcome because this 
transcends mere moral rigorism. Stress was laid on this at the 
outset (p. 10), and now after this fundamental explanation 
of the nature of the Christian Good no more is to be said. 
In addition, we have become acquainted (p. 181) with that 
great gift of the Love of God as the sole sujfficient motive power 
of our love, and how this highest Good is received, kept, and 

13 



194 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

perfected in moral action will be shown under various headings 
in the following exposition. 

And thus, finally, this consideration that the love of God 
experienced in Christ is the deepest motive to Christian morality, 
the incentive and motive power to love, precisely because it is 
felt to be the highest Good, brings to its proper conclusion 
all that has been said of the relation of religion to ethics, and 
afterwards applied and more closely determined. They are 
really inseparable. Not only does Christian ethics rest wholly 
on Christian faith, but also Christian faith itself is throughout 
ethical in its character, which only belongs to the man who 
recognises the moral requirement, bows himself before the Good, 
yearns after the Good. Of course full knowledge of the Good 
springs out of a really deep desire of the Good itself, and 
from the drawing near to us of Him who alone is the good 
God. But this drawing near is only for him who is resolved to 
understand and to recognise that it is the drawing near of the 
good God. And what is true of the first movement of faith is 
true also of each stage of its development. 

Herewith we are led to the threshold of our next section. 
We have been involuntarily compelled to touch on terms like 
conversion or regeneration, but they belong as fundamental 
concepts to the teaching on Christian personality. Still, in 
passing on to its consideration it may, for the sake of logical 
completeness, be at least mentioned that we might here, at the 
conclusion, discuss in unison with our prime principle (p. 118) 
how far Christ is to be regarded as the deepest Motive of 
Christian moral action, precisely in the same way as we had to 
conclude our teaching on the highest Rule with Him (p. 174). 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN, OK 
CHRISTIAN PERSONALITY. 

Individual Ethics. 

The reason for this division and for the distinction drawn 
between individual and social ethics has been given above 
(p. 124). It follows from the nature of the Christian Good, 
which we have realised to ourselves in the first section of our 
dissertation, that we must now represent in two sections, 
independent yet frequently crossing over into one another, how 
the life of the individual and how the life of the community 
shape themselves under Christian influences. 

The main thought of this whole section, that we are not born 
Christians, but that we become Christians (as St Augustine says), 
and that the change involved is a fundamental one, is, after 
all that has been said, beyond contention (St Mark i. 15 ; 
Rom. xii. 2). If we are all bound up in the kingdom of sin 
(p. ] 48 ff. ), then we all need transformation ; and if this affects 
our deepest nature, then we all need a thorough-going change. 
When this deepest of all springs of action becomes operative, 
and the Christian strives for the Christian End in harmony with 
the supreme Rule, other and lower motives of action are subdued. 
This truth is independent of the varied ways in which the 
truth is, as to details, expressed. The most frequent desig- 
nations of this phenomenon are ' conversion ' and ' regeneration.' 
These terms are of course by some variously understood 
and different values assigned to them. For instance, in our 
formulary it is necessary to closely consider whether they in 

195 



196 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

their former context mean a total change in every respect, or 
in the narrower sense the planting of faith in us ; also whether 
these expressions mark the event more as the work of God, 
or more as something that we can really experience of ourselves. 
But since we convinced ourselves that, when faith is given, all 
is in reality given, the first distinction is not of so much 
importance. But as far as regards the second the word 
' regeneration "* more plainly emphasises (in harmony with 
its derivation) that the new life is God's work ; while 
'conversion,' or turning again, is something realised by man's 
own personal action. Hence the first expression is doctrinal, 
the latter ethical. Both mean essentially the same thing, i.e. 
they refer to this great change in all its aspects, but under 
different points of view. This must be emphasised, or otherwise 
it would be easy, in what follows, to overlook the express 
reference to the divine work ; but to maintain this, with the 
complete absence of ambiguity with which it needs to be main- 
tained, in harmony with the experience of all truly converted 
persons, whether eminent or obscure, is not an affair of ethics 
but of dogmatics. 

But that unimpeachable great truth of conversion contains 
a difficult problem, and one clearly enough of fresh importance 
for the present time. The statement set forth above is a 
judgment on the subjective nature of conversion. The pro- 
blem it contains may be put thus : What is the relation 
between this subjective nature and its realisation at a given 
time.'* Is this experience, which is in its nature new, an ex- 
perience of something new at a given time, limited to this 
time .'' In short, is there such a thing as the point of transi- 
tion from the old to the new life ? Now, as a matter of fact, for 
Evangelical Christians, that saying of Luther, which is true to 
Scripture and experience, is beyond debate — a Christian man is 
ever growing, not a finished product. There is no such thing 
as a sudden conversion, as if by magical transformation. It is 
precisely the work of Christian ethics to portray this growth ; 
it is a carrying out, rightly understood, of the first Reformation 
thesis, that a Christian's life is a daily repentance ; for we do 
not give the term repentence its Evangelical meaning if we are 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 197 

not permitted to call it conversion. Repentance is a change of 
mind (a fxeravoia : Mark i. 15). But in that statement of 
Luther's it is the conversion of the Christian that is spoken of. 
Is there no such thing as conversion to Christianity ? and that 
in the midst of Christian influences ? Is it a mere methodistical 
exagijeration if we take conversion at a definite time as a 
complete turning to the Christian Good, and even assume that 
there is a fixed point of transition from the old to the new life ? 
In that case are we not supposing that the other term for 
conversion, regeneration, is something scarcely intelligible ? Or 
should the latter be regarded as merely a metaphor for some- 
thing thought of as done completely and at once, which is 
only actually done in a gradual development ? and the 
metaphor is (say) used merely when the fact is to be looked 
at from its divine side, because indeed God's doings can only 
be thought of as complete, and independent of time. What this 
problem means becomes especially plain by the subordinate 
question, whether that sudden change, if we are to assume that 
it is such, is, at any rate in its main features, an occurrence 
similar in all cases ; and whether any consciousness of it is 
present in the subject of it. This latter subordinate question 
clearly illustrates what the main question implicates ; the former, 
under what conditions it has any intelligible meaning at all. 
However it is decided, it is important enough to deserve special 
mention. For in this way it is most convincingly clear what, on 
general or Evangelical principles, is to be understood by conver- 
sion. Hence we purposely speak first of the commencement of the 
new life of the Christian personality ; and then of the progress 
of the new life, of its growth and increase ; of the development 
of the Christian personality. That is, we examine whether this 
distinction is justifiable. Here also terms are of little import- 
ance — for instance, whether the development is to be called 
sanctification, and the commencement renewal, or whether 
possibly the term conversion should be reserved for this; although 
we may be certain that the propriety of this latter limitation is 
of itself a matter of serious doubt, because it almost necessarily 
leads into a methodistical rut. 



198 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

The Beginning of the New Life. 

In the New Testament the first impression that we have 
plainly is that, not only is the distinction between the old and 
the new life strongly emphasised, but that it recognises a decisive 
turning-point, a crisis which (in keeping with the then historical 
conditions) coincides in the main with the transition out of 
the old religion, whether it was Judaism or heathenism, into 
the Christian Church. And fresh intelligence from the mission- 
field serves as a constant reminder of such New Testament 
accounts of the origins. For instance, there is a story of the 
Buddhist youths who, in many respects already become 
Christians, would not break with a particular sin, and for that 
reason declined baptism, and then on account of this obstacle 
at once gave up their disinclination. It is instructive, with 
the help of a concordance of the Bible, to learn how numerous 
are the fine distinctions of terms in various parts of the New 
Testament writings, in the words of the Lord, of St Paul, 
in the Acts of the Apostles, in the Apocalypse ; and still that 
first impression is the general one. Throughout these passages 
the question is of an important recommencement, a sheer 
division, a revolution of the innermost nature, a change of 
mind. Closer consideration modifies but does not destroy this 
first impression. It modifies it, for change of mind, conversion, 
is required of those who are already within the Church, and 
have been perhaps for long time past, and so far as human 
judgment goes are distinguished members of it. We may 
think of the Epistles to the Churches of the Apocalypse. This 
observation in its double aspect is corroborated by the fact 
that other expressions besides change of mind and conversion 
(neither of which is relatively employed so much as is some- 
times assumed) are used in a quite similar way both of a 
decisive turning-point and of a repeated ' turning again "" to 
the truly ' Good.' The concordance will supply the proofs, in 
the use of such words as * sanctify,' ' renew,' ' enlighten,' * rising 
again,' 'putting on Christ.' In short, the great question of 
which we are seeking an answer is, by the New Testament 
itself, set in a clear light, and, reserving all special exceptions, we 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 199 

may at once say, set forth in such a way that to ignore the idea 
of a sudden change and fresh start in the strict sense, and such 
as actually completes itself at a given time, is maiming New 
Testament teaching, just as much as is the assertion that it is 
concerned with this simply and entirely. 

We must similarly conclude in relation to that special side 
of our question which asks whether this new beginning is, in the 
main, alike in its character in all instances. Now, on this point 
the contrary proposition is maintained, because it is said that 
the New Testament emphasises the utmost conceivable variety 
of process, especially in its individual biographical notices. 
What differences between the 'conversion' of a St Paul, of 
St Peter, of St John ! This is also shown by the different 
expressions employed — 'enlighten,' 'sanctify,' 'awaken' — which 
do not mean stereotyped stages of a ' plan of salvation,' but 
describe the same thing in different aspects. Similarly, a stress 
is laid, which is exceedingly remarkable, on the different circum- 
stances in which the spiritual forces which are operative in 
conversion are displayed. For instance, we may recollect that 
in the same book, the Acts of the Apostles, the Samaritans 
are baptised before they receive the Holy Ghost, while Cornelius 
receives the Holy Ghost before he has been baptised. And 
yet, in spite of this, there is at the bottom a spiritual similarity 
in the main point. " Old things are passed away " ; " If any 
man is in Christ Jesus he is a new creature." And all who are 
in possession of this new life are represented as having a clear 
consciousness of it. ' You know,' ' we know ' are expressions 
used again and again. Here too in all degrees and forms of 
clearness. 

But, now, have these expressions any application to us, in 
our circumstances so variously different from those of the com- 
mencement of Christianity ? If the new life in the Christian 
society is formed in those who have already been baptised as 
children, and have from that time been under the incalculable 
influences of Christian education, — can this new life be regarded 
as new in the same degree and sense as in the case of a 
missionary convert.'* Can it be even in its main features 
regarded as similar in character.'' And must such change 



200 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

always be considered to be a conscious one ? Does not the 
sul)ject itself rather suggest that we should avoid all questions 
of this kind, and confine ourselves to the simple illustration of 
gradual growth ? 

We do get some light by the recollection of the old 
Protestant theologians'* term, the so-called 'plan of salvation.' 
Even in the Shorter Catechism of Luther the words 'call,' 
'enlighten,' 'sanctify' are not taken to mean distinct and 
definitely bounded stages in the development of the new life. 
But this was soon done. The usual order, that presently 
obtained, was calling, enlightenment, regeneration, faith, 
justification, mystical union, renewal, sanctification, perfection. 
Against this various objections are possible : as that they 
unite points of view really distinct ; do not sharply define the 
separate notions for themselves, nor show clearly their mutual 
relation. Here we are simply concerned with the question, so 
far as it is relative to our point, whether the commencement 
of the new life either can or ought to be separated from its 
progress. And then we are compelled to note that the greater 
the attention paid to infant baptism, the more importance was 
attached to it, and the more it was looked upon as regeneration, 
the less inclination was there to answer the question by looking 
at actual life ; or if that was done, there easily arose opposition 
to this teaching on infant baptism. Accordingly, in that 
doctrine of the plan of salvation, in general, too great a 
uniformity was insisted on compared with the wealth of life's 
experiences, and yet too little similarity in the main thing. 
On the one hand there was a danger of setting up a stereotyped 
pattern. On the other hand the importance of faith was 
lessened. It is not made plain enough that faith is ' the one 
and all' when faith and justification are reckoned as separate 
facts, or as stations in a journey. And then of necessity 
there could be no secure assurance of the presence of the 
new life, a difficulty to which pietism is never wearied of 
drawing attention, without being able to give a satisfactory 
solution of it. 

It was therefore an advance when Schleiermacher simplified the 
doctrine of salvation, and only distinguished commencement and 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 201 

continuation. If he called the latter sanctification, we must of 
course recollect that this is a limited use of a word which is 
taken in a wider sense in the Holy Scriptures, and in the formu- 
laries of faith in a different sense as the equivalent of renewal, 
the implantation of the Holy Spirit. But this simplification 
opened the way for a question, Can we speak of ' conversion ' in 
the case of a Christian born into the Church ? This simplifica- 
tion also averted the danger of laying down the same course 
which all must follow, however different their personalities. 

Led by such historical reminiscences, we can now show the appli- 
cability of the above-mentioned Principles of the New Testament. 
To this we are moved by observing that the idea of conversion, 
although it is certainly one of the most frequent conscious or 
unconscious reasons for the aversion to Christian morality, is yet 
one that appears to be prevalent in the highest forms of ethics. 
That the higher personal life is relatively to the natural life 
something really new, and consequently not something that 
proceeds in the way of gradual evolution from what is natural, 
but by a new commencement, transformation, breaks with the 
past, is witnessed in the most varied languages by the religious 
mysteries, proverbs of the wise, creations of poets. The newest 
literary works speak of a resurrection, awakening from the dead, 
in their titles. These are old terms familiar to the Christian. 
Nay, when St Paul employed them he could calculate on being 
understood in the Greek-Roman world, in which the noblest men 
of genius had anticipatively summed up their wisdom in such 
terms. Nor since then has the message remained dumb. * Lose 
all, find all," ' Die and thou livest,' ' Venture nothing, win nothing. "" 
And it is always an evidence of the earnestness of moral require- 
ment, and a proof that it summons to new conquest, when the 
watch- words ' regeneration,' ' conversion ' ring out clearly. It is 
in Christian ethics, however, that this tone is the fullest and 
clearest. What would Christianity be without this new begin- 
ning ? We have above reflected on the call to change of mind 
(or ' repentance,' jULeTavoia) with which Jesus Christ begins His 
preaching, and that the letters to the seven churches of the 
Apocalypse contain the same truth ; and how St Paul speaks of 
the ' new creature,' and St John of the ' birth from above.' 



20a THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN IJFE 

And these are not bold metaphors, but experiences, when it is 
said, * I live, no longer I,' and * Old things are passed away/ 

But it is just here that in Christian ethics the question 
becomes a burning one, whether these are genuine experiences, 
and such experiences as are with good reason continually new ; 
whether such exalted language has any relation to plain reality ; 
whether they are not condemned as falsities by the undeniable 
facts that, apart entirely from conversion, good is found, and in 
spite of it much evil exists. And all the more when the self- 
same men who uttered these enthusiastic confessions also with 
no less plainness said with regard to the converted, " If we 
say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves" (1 St John i.); 
" not as if I had already attained." Conversely we read, apart 
from the new life, of the recognition of a seeking for ' glory, 
immortality "■ (Rom. ii.), of the noble and the good which comes 
from God; and in St John (iii.) of a 'being in the truth' and 
a ' coming to the light.' It is easy to compose this irreconcil- 
able (as would seem) contradiction by a curtailment of one or 
the other truth, and in the history of Christian ethics this has 
been attempted in one direction or another. Methodism sees 
previously to conversion nothing but darkness, and after con- 
version nothing but light, and no real sin afterwards.^ Ordinary 
rationalism sees in the word conversion or regeneration only an 
unsuitably conceived expression for the really purely gradual 
development of the ' Good." The New Testament and the great 
witnesses of Christian morality give another solution. Life now 
exists under a new rule. The change is not a quantitative one, 
it does not concern the whole compass of the moral life in like 
proportion and in a like way, but it is qualitative. It is the 
spiritual turning of the soul towards a new and unsurpassable 
End according to really new rules, from a new and unique reason, 
which is at the same time its only sufficient motive power. The 
inner inclination of the soul is different ; the heart, the deepest 
disposition of the soul, is renewed. The Christian ' Good,"* 
however similar it may be to the non-Christian, is in all these 
respects of another and a higher quality ; and the same thing is 

' This expression is stroi^er than the authoritative doctrine of Methodist bodies 
warrants. — Tr. 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 203 

true of the evil existent ; that too is now different. There is 
now a personality who truly desires the ' Good/ and that the 
highest conceivable ' Good,' with which he is fundamentally one, 
and by which he is ruled — the * new man."* But also this new 
man is not at the first commencement a complete man. He has 
the incentive and motive power essential to growth, but he must 
grow even from the very first. The new spiritual bias can only 
gradually spread its influence over all the departments of its 
subjective and objective life, and this bias becomes the more 
firmly fixed by this means. Those who are dead to sin are 
under obligation to destroy individual sinful impulses ; the new 
personal spiritual life governs the body and its members (Rom. 
vi. 1, c/! vi. 12 ; Col. iii. 3, cf. with iii. 5). And the more pro- 
foundly the changed person recognises his sinfulness, the more 
every advance in good is an advance in the knowledge of that 
sinfulness, the more matured becomes his conviction that to live 
the new life is a matter of daily endeavour, and only proves its 
reality in combat with ' the old man '' ; and there is " a daily 
solution of the great riddle which every man is to himself ■" 
(Otinger). (This thought is all the more acceptable as it is in 
the final ground only an application of what has been previously 
adduced and said concerning faith as incentive and motive power 
to the new life.) 

It is in this way, because conversion is of this nature, that a 
double error is overcome : the one that the moral life falls into 
two disconnected portions ; the new life takes the place of the 
old in a magical sort of way ; the other that, generally speaking, 
there is in reality nothing new in it. Man in conversion does 
not become externally another ; but his thinking, willing, and 
feeling gain a new content, and what is more, just that con- 
tent after which all those impulses that were good in him 
blindly strove. What he loses is not his true self, but the 
perversion of that self. This loss is therefore his gain. His 
turning away from sin and his turning again are a return to 
his home. For the Christian Good is, as we saw, adoption into 
the Kingdom of God and man's true destiny. In Christ man 
is complete. For the same reason both retrospectively and 
prospectively the unity of the life and of its consciousness is 



204 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

preserved, and yet there is a new element present. The material 
which the renewed will has to fashion in conformity with the 
destiny now recognised is precisely the same as that which the 
unconverted person had given him, the inner world of his own 
* ego,"' and the world external to him. By patient labour it is 
his task to smelt this stubborn material in the fire of the new 
love, enkindled by God's love, and to refashion it for the service 
of the Kingdom of God. How inexhaustible this task is, is 
uttered in the humorous saying : " Man must first turn 
Christian, and then the Christian turn man.'' 

The clearer this Evangelical notion of conversion becomes, 
the clearer is it that our question as to whether a distinction 
is to be made between the commencement and continuation of 
the spiritual life is to be answered in the affirmative. That 
spiritual inclination to the Christian good is either present or 
not present ; the man is either converted or not converted. 
That is the more undeniable, the more frankly — as we just 
attempted to show — all exaggeration is avoided. It is on 
account of exaggeration that there is yet so much mistrust of 
that truth. Therefore it is necessary to explain the matter 
still more carefully, and that may be done the most simply by 
closer examination of the two subordinate questions which have 
repeatedly engaged our attention (p. 199). Is it possible, 
and are we obliged in spite of all the immense differences of 
individuals, to regard conversion as something essentially the 
same in all cases ? And is it so, and ought it to be so, that 
somehow there is always a consciousness of it present ? 

These, once more, are points in the illustration of what 
Christian ethics is, on which it must be repeatedly said — How 
poor all formulas are in comparison with the riches of life's 
experiences ! With this reservation we may note the following 
distinctions. The influences brought to bear upon the penitent 
soul are indeed infinitely various both in respect of those that 
are general in position, circumstances, persons, and those that 
are specially connected with the Church. Similarly various 
is the treatment of these influences by the individual. He can 
allow or disallow, and this again in all forms and degrees of 
insistence. Acceptance or rejection may have more the form 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 205 

of an almost automatic act, or of conscious will ; may be 
indifference to the Good, or kindly acquiescence, enmity to 
or enthusiasm for the Good. We may reflect how manifold 
the circumstances may be. Hence it is that " one is bent, the 
other broken.'*'' " Nail and screw get their due,'*'' but in what a 
different way ! And good and evil alike form an articulated 
world. How do we stand to God, to our neighbour, to our own 
and to external nature .'' As certainly as that Good is finally a 
unity, and finds its point of unity in a right relation to God, 
so certainly is it true that one needs to be converted more from 
an unloving mind ; another from alienation from God ; a third 
from dissoluteness ; and a fourth from worldliness. One is 
more impressed by need, and another more by the feeling of 
sinfulness. So in one case conversion is more the decisive 
* Yea ■* to the promise of pardoning grace ; and in another, 
more the creative energy of the will of God in the soul. Now, 
if examples are searched for from past history, and collected 
from the small circle of personally assured observation which 
may, at least for some special cases, seem to bring some items 
of the fulness of this series of possibilities under a common law, 
then from such examples the question is asked whether in any 
one of these cases those who are concerned have themselves 
denied the necessity and reality of a conversion in the sense 
above given, or, if the question could just be put, would deny it. 
St Augustine, Luther, Bengel, Schleiermacher are examples. 
In our present-day life the ' saved '' of the Salvation Army 
in our great capitals ; normal developments in the bosom of 
Christian families — all these, in most important respects, may 
be great contrasts, but in the point decisive for our present 
purpose they agree. All needed the foundation of conversion 
(in the previously determined meaning of the word), and this 
is, in spite of the enormous differences, similar in the deepest 
ground, exactly in the way the New Testament suggests. And 
here it is especially important, as far as regards Church 
influences, not to attach either too much or too little value 
to them. Especially important is it to recognise that the 
Methodist undervaluation and the High Church overestimate 
of the importance of infant baptism are inaccurate. And in 



206 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

reality this overestimate does not merely appear in a dogmatic 
form ; it is possible to attach too much value to the incalculable 
influences of the Church. If the question of conversion is 
regarded as superfluous for one who is within the Church, 
the earnestness of the Gospel demand is curtailed. It is 
somewhat different if it is insisted on that the conversion is 
not an intellectually cognisable process. In regard to individual 
susceptibility to all good influences, the truth may be insisted 
on that it is only when this personal susceptibility for the 
spiritual mystery of the Gospel is real and present that 
conversion takes place. This does not detract from a 
recognition of the infinite variety of experiences, but it 
preserves the definitely Christian sense of the word conversion. 
Where there is merely a weak emotion and vague feeling of 
wretchedness, there is no conversion of this type. Our God is, 
as we ever repeat, the only Good God, the perfect Father. 

And this brings us to that further point, whether there is 
necessarily a consciousness of conversion present. Public 
exhibitions of fanaticism and undignified obtrusiveness make 
an impartial attitude to this question difficult. The importance 
of the matter itself surely demands this impartiality and makes 
it a possibility. Who wishes to contradict John Wesley, when 
he says that eight o'clock in the morning of the 24th of May 
1738 was very memorable, when he, engaged with Luther\s 
preface to the Romans, was assured as never before of the reality 
of his new life ? Yet we ourselves cannot regard this experience 
as of such radical consequence for him as St Paul's vision of 
Christ on the way to Damascus. And now let us once more 
recall the plenitude of possibilities, as above mentioned, which 
history and life exhibit as realities. But if we should from this 
draw the conclusion that for this reason there is generally 
speaking no consciousness of the new life, because this conscious- 
ness is so different in every individual, and because within the 
Christian Church the recollection of a decisive turning-point is 
proportionately infrequent, then this would be a fallacy of the 
most fatal kind, and recognisable as such, because logically it 
would necessitate the denial of the assurance of salvation. We 
may be possessed of a well-founded objection to all coercion in 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 207 

this mysterious sanctuary of the inner life, to all excitement, 
which changes into lassitude, and to the unworthy enslavement 
of souls in which it thus celebrates its triumphs. We may feel 
compelled to resist them with all spiritual weapons, which, in 
this case particularly, means to combat ,them by means of a 
theology which enters deeply into the great questions of the 
spiritual life, and to expose the soul-endangering uncertainty of 
a faith which is only faith in one's personal conversion, instead 
of trust in the cross of Christ, and to warn against the too gi*eat 
importance connected with this attached to personal experiences 
and memories — where ? how ? when were you converted ? And 
yet, nay it is precisely at this point we may ask whether there is 
not a danger within the Christian Church of excluding the 
question as to a real conversion from the sanctuary of one's own 
personal life, and from any serious self-examination. But to 
enter more deeply into the matter we need more facts to go upon. 
All we would do is to put in the right light the high importance 
of the idea of the commencement and continuation of the 
Christian life. And it is obvious that the ideas thus discussed 
are equally applicable to the following section. 

It still requires notice, that an attempt has been made to coin 
a special word to convey the idea of the preparatory movement 
of a radical conversion, of a decisive change in relation to the 
Good, and 'awakening' has been proposed. But the objection 
to it is not merely that in the New Testament it is rather 
impressively used of the turning-point itself, and in addition 
that it first of all designates God's work, and on this account is 
less suitable as an ethical term ; but also in the latest Church 
histories it has been preferred as a term by those who show a 
want of reserve in their judgment on the inner life of others, 
and lack Gospel sobriety. They call others 'awakened' in 
contradistinction to themselves, ' the converted,' and violate 
Christian delicacy. For the less we would yield to a false fear 
of the idea of a radical conversion, the more must we avoid all 
appearance of abuse. 



208 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

The Progress of the New Life, the Evolution of 
Christian Personality. 

Terms here too are of little importance. We may just as 
well speak of daily repentance, or of progressive conversion, of 
sanctification in distinction from radical renewal or regeneration 
or conversion. Only it ought again to be remembered that 
the word sanctification, as specially used among us, occurs in the 
New Testament in another and partly more general sense (of 
commencement and continuance alike) ; partly in a differently 
defined sense (of a beginning strictly speaking), which is un- 
doubtedly the usual one employed in our context. 

The division of the present section is settled for us by the 
main aspects under which we explained the nature of the 
Christian Good. Man is a new man if he, assured by faith of 
the love of God, strives from this deepest motive and deepest 
motive power to act conformably to the supreme law, the highest 
End, in all his doing. And this ' new man ' grows if he is 
ever more and more guided by that supreme Norm in every 
event — from this arises the doctrine of duty and calling. And 
he grows if he is even more completely determined by that 
deepest incentive, that unique motive power — from this arises 
the doctrine of virtue and character {cf. p. 9). How and why 
both these stand in inseparable and reciprocal connection will be 
clear later on. But how Christian character works together 
with faithful fulfilment of duty for the realisation of the highest 
Good is on the one hand discussed in social ethics ; and on the 
other hand that realisation on account of the marvellous nature 
of this Good of this Kingdom of God, consists in the fulfilment 
of duty and the practice of virtue. And the discussion of duty 
and virtue will lead to the section on the fundamental basis of 
Christian character (cf. in addition the note on the main 
divisions of the subject (p. 124) ). It might still be questioned 
whether a general explanation of the factors through which, and 
the laws by which, the new life of the Christian personality is 
developed could not precede the sections named. But the first 
of these {i.e. the factors) would only be a repetition of that 
adduced on the 'nature of the Christian Good,' and in part 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 209 

that on ' the beginning of the new life,' without being by this 
anticipation, and apart altogether from any special application 
of it under the headings of ' Duty and Calling,' ' Virtue and 
Character,' any more explicit than in the earlier passages. In 
the same way the second question of the laws, if touched upon 
here, would not get much beyond generalities. For instance, 
if we spoke of a law of continuity or of unity or of degenera- 
tion in reference to the Christian life, we might say something 
just as indubitable as, without closer inspection (which is only 
possible by means of those concepts), it is valueless. If, how- 
ever, we should illustrate by natural analogues, then, because 
we have not as yet defined those indispensable concepts, the 
danger of obscurity is great. Hence such ingenious writings 
as those of Drummond, Natural Law in the Spiritual Worlds 
have not escaped this danger, however imperishably valuable 
they may be as means of illustration. 

Which is to be put first, ' Duty and Calling ' or ' Virtue and 
Character ' ? The latter seems preferable, inasmuch as in this 
way the development of Christian personality is at once 
delineated ; the former, inasmuch as so the teaching of virtue 
and character is without particularisation plainer ; but subject 
to the objection that by giving it precedence the idea of law is 
made of more importance than that of duty, as has already been 
said in speaking of the commencement of the New Life. 

Duty and Calling. 

The various attempts briefly and compactly to say what duty 
is, all amount to saying that duty is the application of the 
moral law to the action of each person in his individual case. 
• We speak of the duty of a Christian not to deny his Lord in 
times of persecution ; of the duty of the Christian head of a 
family to care for the proper welfare of its members in his own 
special way according to their special need. But we do not 
speak of a ' law ■" in reference to the pastoral office or of martyr- 
dom. But duties flow from the supreme ' law ' of the Christian 
Good, and find the more varied application according to con- 
ditions, gifts, education of each person. Such an application 
or individualising of the moral law does not in the least rob 



210 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

the law of its absolute validity, or give up anything of its 
all-comprehending breadth and unique grandeur, or by such 
individualisation deprive it of its inspiring power. On the 
contrary, it is thus that the imperative ' ought "■ becomes a 
reality, in its binding and liberating energy, and in the in- 
exhaustibility of its content. It is consequently precisely in 
reference to the idea of duty that antinomianism comes in : 
" I cannot bear that harsh, hateful word, duty, duty, duty " ; and 
conversely so does legalism, in that sense of an inflexible feeling 
of duty that is censurable. But all the master-truths of the 
meaning of law gain their clearness from the notion of duty. 
In the real world the highest End can only be realised by a 
single will in a definite place at a definite moment, and only 
in one definite respect (p. 147); therefore the action directed 
to this end must be regulated in a quite definite way by 
the moral law. How are the pretensions of the individual and 
of society to be peacefully reconciled in any given action ? 
(individual and social duty). Over what department of action 
does it extend ? What moral quality is chiefly to be called 
into requisition? For instance, courage or prudence,'' How 
much moral power has he who is called to perform the action 
at his disposal ? Or in other words, if the highest Good has been 
rightly defined, then the motto for everyone at every moment 
and in all circumstances is. Do what true love demands. But 
what does it demand from me in my particular place ? That 
is the question of duty. 

In the main this is as good as saying that the answer to this 
question can only be given by each one for himself. Otherwise 
we must keep back all of what we could make our boast as to 
the spiritual nature of the law and of the personal independence 
of the Christian (p. 160). The judgment of duty is the judg- 
ment of my conscience. It is not in vain that the usage of 
language conjoins these two — duty and conscience. Again, it 
is not as if the sternness of that ' ought,' or its content, was made 
a matter of individual preference. The conscience, as we said 
earlier, ought to be trained to continually greater sensitiveness 
to fulfil the whole compass of the divine will. And it may 
really be guilt, if I do not in an individual case recognise what 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 211 

my duty properly is. But herewith the precisely decisive point 
for the present content is recognised. What was said in the 
general teaching on conscience (p. 64) — the variety of con- 
science in the individual, as in whole social circles — here gains 
greater clearness and an important application. For this reason 
all attempts to enumerate duties, and so to lead to the know- 
ledge of a particular duty in an individual case, are of no value — 
for instance, that the general duty precedes the special, the 
absolute the conditioned, the simple the complex. Also, iiTe- 
spective of the fact that these notions are not all sufficiently 
definite in themselves, in the stress of decision in actual life 
they are scarcely of any use at all. Life unfortunately presents 
cases that are mostly complex, so that the ' simple ' rule is felt 
to be mere sarcasm. A decision available in all cases is 
generally impossible, nay, a contradiction in itself, as soon as the 
idea of duty is accurately conceived. What my duty is now 
depends, on the one hand, on my whole development up to the 
present time, on the ground of special endowment and provi- 
dential guidance as well as on the way in which I have turned 
them to account ; and, on the other hand, in the particular moral 
work which is presented to me in the particular moral situation 
in which I am placed. If we now call both these by the name 
of duty, and not merely, as is often too superficially done, only 
the last-named, then the only possible answer to the question 
what is my duty runs — Do what thy calling demands of thee. 
Or, moral duty is wholly and entirely the duty of my calling. 
But that is only another word for the same thing which was 
explained before — only each individual can finally settle the 
judgment as to what his duty is. 

Still, this idea of calling needs a close examination in the 
first place, according to the aspect of it mentioned ; secondly, 
according to that which calling means in the particular sphere of 
the individuaFs work. The more we search into it, the clearer 
will it become to us that that other side of the idea must likewise 
receive its due attention provided the proposition, ' Our duty is 
that which our calling prescribes,' is to be both true and useful. 

The quiet influence of Christian ethical principles shows 
itself with especial plainness in the widespread use and the great 



212 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

honour of the word ' calling.' It means, put quite generally, 
the regulated activity of the individual in the associations of 
society — a point which will receive our attention in social 
ethics. And besides, by vocation in the narrower sense is under- 
stood our civic calling, that activity which makes up the 
special life-task of each individual, and accordingly necessarily 
settles his situation in social life. By ' calling ' in the wider sense 
is understood a regulated activity in the different social circles 
in which we have to move without detriment to our special 
task. The merchant, the scholar is also a member of a family 
and of society, a citizen, a member of a church. The special 
calling of the wife is more one with her calling as a member of 
a family than that of the husband, etc. But whenever the 
word calling is used it is not merely an expression for something 
actual, but also for something important. Even he who has 
no calling, who can really be said to have none, takes pains to 
ennoble his nothingness by the name of a calling. ' My calling 
does not permit me,' ' demands it of me,' and the like modes of 
speech are often excuses for moral sloth. For the word sounds 
well, we feel a reverence and joy in its use. Only in our 
calling do we do something right and become something right. 
Glorious gifts, assiduous diligence, are profitless for ourselves 
and for others without the firm grasp on the idea of a calling. 
Why is that so.? and why is it that it has such singular 
importance in Christian ethics ? 

Calling in the New Testament is the 'effectual calling' of 
us by God into the Kingdom. But now, as this, the highest 
End of all Christian moral action, is, as we saw, an articulated 
whole of single ends, and each single End in this whole 
must realise a part of that whole, so the New Testament itself 
paves the way for the easily intelligible usage of speech, 
according to which the earthly sphere of our activity — in which 
God's calling into His Kingdom meets us — is, because we take 
that earthly calling in earnest for the purposes of the spiritual 
kingdom, designated our ' calling.' St Paul says (1 Cor. vii. J20), 
" Let each remain in the calling wherewith he is called," and 
although it is certain that the word here means our heavenly 
calling, yet Luther's translation hits off its significance, " in the 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 213 

state of life in which he is called." This sublime idea we may 
put into the formula, " Without an earthly calling there is no 
heavenly calling, and without a heavenly calling there is no 
earthly calling." That is, so far, whoever does not love God 
and his neighbour in a wholly definite situation in actual life, 
in regular labour, does not do this at all ; and so he does 
nothing that is really Good and is not a really good man, a 
Christian character. He therefore misses also his calling in 
relation to the Kingdom of God, his heavenly calling. *' A shoe- 
maker, a smith, a labourer — each one has his trade, work, and 
office, and yet all are at the same time considered ' kings and 
priests,'' and each one ought to be useful and serviceable in his 
office and work to others." " A poor servant-maid has joy in 
her heart and can sing, ' I cook, I make the beds, I sweep the 
house. Who has bidden me? My master and my mistress 
have bidden me. But who has given them such authority over 
me .? God has done this. Ah, then so it must be true that 
I do not only serve them but God in heaven. How then can 
I be more blest? It is just the very same as if I were cooking 
for God Himself in heaven ' " (Luther). How many an attempt 
is made to devote oneself wholly to the heavenly calling in 
vain, for ourselves and for others, because we desire to realise 
it as our earthly vocation only, and so deceive ourselves. But 
also, conversely, without the heavenly calling there is no earthly 
vocation in the deepest sense of being a co-worker together 
with God and a real member of His Kingdom. Certainly it is 
only with respect that we think of all those who without this 
sunlight do yet fulfil their perhaps hard, poor, workaday 
vocation in never-wearying faithfulness. But the deepest 
reason for such faithfulness in our vocation is still trust in the 
great One who called us, who also esteems even the least of His 
servants. If we were to succeed in extirpating this root from 
all hearts, there would no longer be such a thing as a vocation 
even in business. We return with all this to what has been 
said earlier, that the highest Good both transcends us and is 
immanent in us, and that it gives to the individual as to the 
community the right of forming part of the ordered whole of 
'Ends 'and 'Goods.' 



214 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Still clearer do these two principles become if we consider 
whether they are applicable to our earthly vocation. Without 
doubt one vocation is, in and for itself, more nearly related 
to the whole of all the Ends comprehended under the highest 
End which looks to the whole of the moral world than 
another; and so, rightly conceived, one earthly calling nearer 
than another to the heavenly. And it is possible to think out 
a long series of stages between the highest calling, the vocation 
of Jesus Christ, in which heaven and earth embrace, down to 
the very lowest. If such a system were outlined we should have 
— if the full notion of the Kingdom of God is to have its due — 
to place on the one hand those types of calling which are 
concerned with human intercourse, and their advancement in 
the highest End above and over those which aim at the 
conquest of nature : for instance, the vocation of deacons and 
deaconesses above that of the mere scholar. On the other hand 
we should have to recognise fully — since God is love and the 
type of all truth and beauty — the value which a vocation with 
these aims possesses even though it is not the highest. We 
rightly feel gratitude to a Newton or Kepler for discovering the 
'laws of motion,'' and a Haydn and a Palestrina for their 
melodies ; Livingstone for his discovery of the Dark Continent ; 
the merchant for his gain ; the statesman for his victory ; and 
all may believe that the work of their earthly calling serves the 
Kingdom of God — work which is the fulfilment of 'all good 
desires. "■ But two important considerations essentially limit 
the practical importance of the statement which we have made, 
that one earthly vocation is, in and for itself, more nearly 
related to the heavenly than another. One of these is suggested 
by poetry, which sings of freedom and of the burden of every 
position in life ; and popular language has drawn attention in 
laconic terms to the special honour and the danger of various 
vocations, such as the phrases ' painstaking erudition,' ' learned 
arrogance,' 'learned obstinacy,' 'artistic happiness,' 'artistic 
humour,' ' artist's frivolity,' ' peasant faithfulness,' but also 
' peasant stupidity.' The principle of our modern commercial 
life that ' time is money ' has also its meaning for eternity, and 
the main terms in the vocabulary of the merchant, 'profit,' 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 215 

'credit,' remind us, in spite of all misuse, of the deepest 
foundation of all social life, trust, and enduring gain. But 
further, it is plainly undeniable that many a specially high 
vocation has more dangers for some persons who occupy 
them than for other individuals. St Paul pleads for the * less 
honourable ■* members of the body (1 Cor. xii. 12 ff.), and 
()tinger meditates on the women who there in the villages 
' wash their children, nurse and tend them,' and expresses the 
wish that he may gain as high a place as they hereafter. That 
serves to remind us in particular of the important truth that 
no one may in his civic calling sacrifice, or as scholar or official 
neglect, his family. So then — and that is the main point — the 
deciding judgment of God only asks finally for the faithfulness 
(St Matt. XXV. 32) with which each has fulfilled his calling, 
whether insignificant or important. And according to this God 
sets him over much or little in the completed Kingdom of God, 
and entrusts him with his calling therein. Some presentiment 
of this eternally binding standard of judgment finds a place 
amid this world of earthly illusions in the quiet reverence which 
faithful men and women, fathers, mothers, teachers, friends, 
colleagues, gain from others, whether their external stations are 
high or low, and gain all the more because they do not seek it. 

This Christian idea of vocation can by its own power over- 
come the hardest foes which stand in antagonism to the claim 
of its universal applicability. We may briefly indicate our 
meaning by reference to such phrases as ' the choice of a 
vocation,' ' the man without any calling.' Provided it is God 
who calls us, then personal choice of a vocation can only consist 
in each of us learning to listen for the call of God in our 
natural bent and God's leading. This inner conviction is often 
rendered harder to follow by the misconceptions or vanity of 
parents. It is rendered more difficult still by the fact that only 
a minority is favoured by outward circumstances in the actual 
choice of a calling as indicated to them by the special gift they 
possess. And herewith emerges the host of difficulties which 
in present-day commercial life are antagonistic to the carrying 
out of the Christian idea of vocation. Are not innumerable 
persons in truth without a calling because it does not appear 



216 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

that the work, the business which alone presents itself to them, 
can be called a vocation in the sense defined ? Is it a vocation 
to be constantly mechanically attending to a piece of modem 
machinery, and spend a whole life at that ? If we reply, that 
is not the only vocation of such an employee, that he goes from 
the manufactory into his family, then the accusation is brought 
forward that this too is offered up on the altar of the modem 
Moloch. And it is not merely in this particular sphere that 
we are unable properly to speak of a vocation, for there are 
besides wide social circles of those who are bound fast in the 
service of sin in manufactures, trades, politics. Such questions 
lead us deep into social ethics, and we shall there meet with 
them again. Here the answer may be given that, so far as 
such accusations are justified, they form an urgent call to those 
who are more favourably placed, to those who have a vocation 
in the proper sense, to make it a part of their duty to help 
the down-trodden and endangered to a truer vocation. The 
so-called 'lucky' persons are often without vocation. It is 
their duty to make a vocation for themselves by loving service 
performed, not as a new form of pastime, but with real energy 
and perseverance. If all society acted on such principles, so as 
to render it possible for those who wish for it to find a vocation, 
then only those disabled by affliction could be considered to 
be without a calling. But we know that even from beds of 
affliction streams of blessing go forth, such as glorify even 
suffering itself. 

Now, after having brought home to ourselves the notion of 
what vocation means, there is no more proof needed of the 
above statement that our duty is that which our calling 
prescribes, and that this proposition gives a surer guidance for 
daily resolves than those artificial precepts, 'Absolute duty 
comes before that which is conditional,' and the like. In fact, if 
we realise in each case what our vocation demands, there is 
withal a far-reaching assurance afforded us that we shall do the 
right thing and be continually preserved from useless trifling. 
But of course no absolute security. For this calling, as we saw, 
is no simple whole. For instance, what is the boundary-line 
between the claims of civic and of family life in an individual 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 217 

rase ? Still more striking is the fact that even in like circum- 
stances of a vocation he who is called upon to act has his own 
special character and personality. The Christian too, as we 
may note, if we recall the teaching of conversion as above given. 
If, then, the proposition that duty is that which our calling 
demands of us is to be correct, then we must use the word 
' calling ' in a still wider sense than we have so far understood it, 
and in that most comprehensive way on which stress was laid 
at the beginning (p. 212). Hence even those who most 
reverence vocation — understanding the word in the sense 
usually given — are wont to insist on the conclusion that there 
are cases in which the duty of love goes beyond the sphere of 
our calling, and there it scarcely has a clear boundary-line. I 
ought then to ask which of such actions as are possible to me 
are of the deepest and widest concern ; which it is that lies next 
to me and is most pressing at the moment? But then it is 
clear that the proposition that ' duty is that which our calling 
demands from us *■ is more a convenient formula, a practical and 
not altogether unfruitful abbreviation, and not properly speaking 
fresh Icnowledge. It is also clear that we are brought back to 
our starting-point, that what duty is can only be settled by the 
personal conscience dependent on its idiosyncrasy and the circum- 
stances in which each is placed at the moment of resolve. In 
both each perceives and honours the call of God to do God''s 
will at each moment, and to advance Ihe coming of His King- 
dom ; in both, too, he sees his vocation and the judgment what 
his duty is rests upon reason. It is because the judgment 
is a personal one that the Holy Scriptures demand that it 
should be 'proved'' (Rom. xii. 2) what God''s will is in a 
particular case. Even all the directions of the most dis- 
tinguished Christians how the will of God may best be done 
— such as Spener"'s Reflections or the modern Queries on 
Conduct (Funke) — can only be aids to learning how to prove it 
for oneself. Such independence, felt in conflict to be necessary, 
is still recognised in deep experience as the highest honour and 
happiness. But herewith we are come to the limits of the 
notion of duty, and perceive how closely it is connected with 
that of virtue and character. 



218 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

If we now ask — still keeping to the question of duty — 
what then is the content of duty, there is no further explan- 
ation needed. All duty, Christianly defined, is the duty 
of love, as certainly as that the highest command is the 
love of God and of our neighbour. What that means has 
partially been already explained, and partially will be further 
explained in individual and social ethics. Only one point 
stands in need of special attention, and that is the so-called 
legal duty in contradistinction to the duty of love. This legal 
duty is so to be understood as to imply a concern for the 
rights of others and the guarding of one''s own. Is thei-e 
any place in Christian ethics for this notion of legal duty ? 
Have we not just declared that all duty, Christianly defined, 
is the duty of love.'' The distinction lies in the earlier 
definition (p. 21 6) of the relation between love and ' law.' 
These distinctions will appear fully justified precisely when 
applied to difficult situations in actual individual life. This is 
emphatically true of to-day. For we do not need to select 
examples from the past of that depreciation and rejection of 
legal duty, particularly the duty of preserving our own rights. 
In our midst at the present time Tolstoy combats the idea 
with an enthusiasm and devotion comparable to those of the 
great protagonist of the past, St Francis of Assisi. From 
childhood— he relates of himself — he had been instructed to 
respect those arrangements which by the use of force protected 
him from the bad man, taught him to defend himself against 
the wrong-doer, and to revenge injury by force. " Everything 
belonging to me — my peace, the safety of my person, my property 
— all rested on the law, ' a tooth for a tooth.' But Christ says, 
' Resist not evil.' I understand that He means just what He 
says. Obedience to this unrespected command of Christ would 
regenerate the world. If men would only cease altogether from 
insisting on their rights ! " Thus the literal understanding of 
the Sermon on the Mount (St Matt. v. 21-28) has the effect on 
Tolstoy of a new commandment. He sums it up in five precepts, 
but that which is here relevant is the fourth and certainly the 
master-law. And we apprehend that he has found innumer- 
able admirers. Legal right formulated by modern society 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 219 

down to the finest ramifications, but in the absence of love 
grown to be thousandfold wrongs, has awakened a yearning for 
a love to which ' rights ' appear worthless, and even as the 
occasion of our misery. Let us leave out any judgment how 
far the enthusiasm for Tolstoy is followed by obedience to his 
teaching, or merely a new form of flabby pleasure-seeking, which 
seeks a brief gratification of a taste for the sensational. Let us 
simply examine what amount of truth there is in that battle 
against ' rights.' To begin with, we are unable to acknowledge 
its method of Scripture interpretation (p. 119). It is false in 
method so long as its exponents have not the courage to apply 
it to all similar words of the Sermon on the Mount — as, for 
instance, to take St Matt. v. 25 literally, or even St Matt. xix. 
12, which Tolstoy himself unhesitatingly twists into another 
meaning. It is besides condemned by the actual conduct of 
Jesus Christ, who did not, according to the narrative (St John 
xviii. 22), offer His other cheek to the smiter, but really did 
fulfil it in the probable meaning of His saying, " Resist not evil " 
(St Matt. V. 38), because He did what is more difficult, meekly 
maintained His rights, and by this means moved the soul of the 
offender in love ; whereas the literal compliance would in truth 
have been a loveless act. In general, the whole attitude of 
Jesus Christ gives the impression of one who valued his rights 
in an honourable way unless he renounced them for the sake of 
love. In the same way St Paul, although he was ready for any 
sacrifice (2 Cor. vi. 3 ff".), still claims his civic right (Acts xvi. 
37, xxii. 25). Irrespective of Scripture proof, if it were not 
existent, renunciation of rights, understood as a general 
command, is condemned by the experiences of history. The very 
opposite of the end aimed at has occasionally been reached by 
such attempts. But let us rather reflect on the profound 
reason why it cannot be otherwise. The question of legal 
right is most easily understood from considering the most uni- 
versal statements of the relation between love and legal right, 
and after such consideration it is impossible that the real value 
of such opinions as that of Tolstoy should remain concealed. 

If the legal right is indispensable as a presupposition, but 
only as a presupposition, of love, we immediately see the reason 



220 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

and meaning of the validity of legal right, as well as the 
extent of that validity in relation to love. The latter law of 
love says that all such duties ought to be fulfilled only for the 
sake of love, really and truly for its sake. And in the Christian 
meaning it can only be fulfilled when it issues from this fountain, 
and where there is true love it will be fulfilled in conformity 
with this conception. Or it may be put in this way : the 
fulfilment of merely legal requirements, or legality, without 
morality is not Christianity, and just as little is morality 
without legality. Immature love at one time seeks its freedom 
in the depreciation of prescribed right, and at another time its 
bounden duty in making too much of its importance. But it 
is only when we carefully note the extent of the applicability 
that this truth becomes unmistakable. The purport of the 
principle here is : — Legal duty is to be absolutely fulfilled 
except where the agent, in the judgment of his conscience, 
regards it as imperative that he — this particular man, in these 
actually existing circumstances, at this present time — can only 
fulfil his duty of love (that which the law of love now demands 
from him) by setting aside just right, whether it be by re- 
nunciation of his own right or the infringement of another's. 
In these exceptional cases he must recognise the universal claim 
of law as in general representative of the claims of love by taking 
on himself the consequences of setting aside law when he 
infringes the rights of others or renounces his own, i.e. be 
prepared to suffer as a martyr. This principle may be carried 
through in all cases, and this alone corresponds to the right use 
of the much-misapplied word, martyr, as (Acts iv. 19) is said, 
" We must obey God rather than man." Ecclesiastical law does 
not perhaps come before the law of the state ; but the supreme 
law of the Kingdom of God, the precept of love, stands above 
state law or ecclesiastical law, in such way, nevertheless, that 
he who contravenes the law does homage to the moral majesty 
which belongs to it by taking upon himself (if needs be) 
punishment or loss of his rights. If this consideration, on the 
one hand, is anticipating what we have to say on the doctrine 
of Christian ethics as applied to the state, it is still to be 
emphasised in the present context that the principle thus 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 221 

adduced is as such valid equally in the respect due to the rights 
of others as to the preservation of our own. Of course, the 
setting aside of our own rights in order to fulfil the law of love 
is much more frequently a duty than the invasion of the rights 
of others. Our natural selfishness waxes only too zealous in 
reference to our own rights ; while our judgment, corrupted by 
selfishness, all too easily palliates our attack on others' rights, 
and covers it with the mantle of pretended good intention. 
There is scarcely anything that injures the Gospel so deeply as 
the want of rectitude in its representatives. Conversely, the 
impression produced by patiently suffering wrongfully when it is 
the result of pure lovingkindness is overwhelming. And that is 
the reason why admonitions like that of Tolstoy can scarcely be 
valued too highly. They are a powerful call to repentance to 
Christendom, not to bury the absoluteness of our duty of love, 
which Jesus Christ inculcates in sayings which make so great an 
impression because they invite contradiction, under elaborated 
statements on the importance of legal rights. Notwithstanding 
this, all that such prophets would put in the place of the Gospel 
view of this great problem is false ; and even in the individual 
resolves of actual life, the honest use of the principle thus 
adduced will carry us further than an uncertain depreciation of 
rights for the sake of so uncertain and precarious an exercise of 
love. Circumstances noticeable in family life and in Christian 
social circles afford easy examples to everyone. When these are 
weighed there will be little inclination to maintain the explana- 
tion fashionable at this time, that Jesus wished to see His 
sayings literally fulfilled in the brotherhood of His true disciples ; 
or to agree with the pretensions of a Protestant monasticism 
which, by the renunciation of all rights, thinks to make a 
profound impression on a selfish world. 

/* the Christian subject to the Law ? 
It still remains to be mentioned that in this explanation of the 
notion of duty, and after having considered the doctrine of con- 
version, we have now a thoroughly plain answer to the question, 
only earlier referred to cursorily, whether the Christian is subject 
to the law, and if so, to what eootent ? In opposition to Roman 



222 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Catholic legalism as well as to fanatical licence, and having in 
mind many practical difficulties in the way of making this Protest- 
ant reformed view intelligible to the ordinary man, the Formula 
of Agreement (Art. 6) decided that the Christian is spiritually 
free from curse and compulsion of the law, while it is certain 
that he and he only lives in the law of God ; but that he, 
inasmuch as he still has to do battle with the 'old man,' is 
under the law in respect of its sanctions and judgment. TTiis 
last power of the law they called its ' third use ' (in contra- 
distinction to the legal meaning of the term), i.e. its usage in 
jurisprudence, according to which it means the preservation of 
discipline and order against disorderly and unruly people, and 
from its use as a ' schoolmaster to lead us to Christ,** in which 
it means its purpose is to lead men to the knowledge of their 
sinfulness and to seek for grace. The aim of this statement is 
no doubt right. It requires to be insisted upon earnestly that 
the Christian has to fight with sin in the meaning of the 
words (Gal. v. 16), " Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil 
the lusts of the flesh."" But the method of expressing it is 
wrong. Both too much and too little is ascribed to the law in 
relation to the Christian. Too much, for the regenerate man is 
not even so far as the ' old man ' is concerned ' under the law ' 
so much as the unregenerate, because the battle of the former 
is one of the 'fruits of the spirit." Too little, for even the 
regenerate man does not pursue an even path like ' the stars in 
their courses ' ; but, if it is true that ' to be a man is to be in 
conflict,' so is it doubly true 'to be a Christian is to be in 
conflict ' (2 Tim. iv. 4 ff.), after the example of the 'leader and 
finisher,' Jesus Christ (Heb. xii. 1). Or, to regard the same 
matter under another point of view, by this distinction the 
unity of the new life is endangered ; and the reason of this is 
that the character of conversion, as strictly a personal rather 
than a natural act, does not hereby obtain its due and unequi- 
vocal recognition. But we must, above all, bear in mind, in 
order to rightly understand the notion of duty, all that has 
been already said about the law, and especially its significance in 
Protestant Christian ethics (p. 158). Legalists and antinomians 
advance their objections to this closely defined notion of duty. 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 223 

Coiiflict of Duties. 

The Protestant Christian idea of duty is made clearer by the 
discussion of three separate questions which, if we look back, 
that is, on their long and complicated history, may be designated 
master-questions in the doctrine of duty. But in the same way 
as what has so far been said illustrates these points, so herein 
lies also the answer to these questions. It is remarkable that 
neither the one nor the other has invariably received recognition, 
and accordingly in dealing with them the three connected and 
relevant questions have not been treated connectedly. Their 
purport is, Can contrary actions be for the Christian at one 
and the same time a duty ? This is the debatable point of 
collision or conflict of duties. Further, Can the Christian do 
more than his duty ? This is the moot point of works of 
supererogation or 'counsels of perfection' in lieu of precise 
commandments. Finally, Are there for the Christian man 
moral actions which do not properly fall in the category of 
duties ? — that is, the moot question of actions that are in- 
different, the so-called ' adiaphora,' actions neither bidden 
or forbidden, but allowed. All three questions are (with 
Schleiermacher) to be answered with an absolute negative 
if what has been said of duty is correct. But a proof of this 
is essential, because these important points have not always 
been considered in their natural context ; besides that, many 
of them have been mixed up with other difficult notions, the 
discussion of which is still of value in ethics. 

When the collision of duties is really a question of a struggle 
between duty and inclination, there is no need to discuss the 
point at all. The term is in that case merely a fig-leaf to 
cover moral indolence. People set before themselves or others 
two courses of action between which they must decide, as if 
they were duties, in order to disguise the fact that they are 
slaves to their inclination at the expense of real duty. For 
instance, suppose I in sooth decide between my much too great 
inclination to good-fellowship and my duty to my family in 
favour of the latter, but my decision for the latter is affected 
by my desire to adorn my civic calling. The time-honoured 



224 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

examples of the Schools (really worthy of discussion) of so- 
called collision of duties are generally such as partly refer to 
a supposed conflict between the duty of self-preservation and 
our duty to our neighbour (individual and social duty) ; and 
in part between two duties of love to our neighbour (say, 
for instance, kindly treatment of him, or apparent severity 
in order to train him, mostly cases of conflict between love 
and truth) ; partly between love of our neighbour and love to 
God. If we assume that here there is really a conflict of duties, 
we must of course seek for rules which may make the matter 
plain by setting up an orderly series of such rules. These rules 
are partly formulae. For instance, prefer the negative duty 
to the positive, the general before the particular, the categorical 
to the hypothetical ; and if there is some act whose moral 
justification is dubious, do nothing if you are in a state of 
doubt. It is instructive to examine examples of all sorts. 
Then we gain the impression that all these rules, except perhaps 
the last, are worthless. And indeed because other moralists 
take the first in the exactly reversed way, and with better reason. 
Of their unsatisfactory character we were compelled to express 
our conviction at the beginning of the section concerning 
' duty."* They do not set forth any clear idea of duty, such as 
that duty is always law individually applied ; and for that 
reason these rules on closer consideration must be for the 
most part reversed. It is no better with the attempts made 
to draw up an appropriate list of duties in order of importance, 
such as : Prefer the religious duty before duty to self, duty to 
self before duty to our neighbour ! Why not duty to our 
neighbour before duty to ourself.? And is there merely an 
alternative ? And, above all, what can that mean in a system 
of ethics which has, as its axiom, *L.ove thy neighbour as 
thyself'.'' and in which the love of our neighbour is so 
narrowly joined with the love of God ? If we are wishful to be 
thoroughly convinced how insufficient all such rules are, we 
may count up all the conceivable cases in reference to the 
frequently treated master-example of the two shipwrecked men 
who seek to save themselves on the same plank, but recognise 
that it is only possible for the plank to bear one. It is as easy as 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 225 

it is valueless to say that they are to enter upon a rivalry of 
self-sacrifice. Doubtless in Christian judgment such sacrifice 
in and for itself is the highest moral action ; and without over- 
refinement it may be assumed that in a case of urgency of the 
kind here supposed many will put too high a value on such a 
critical decision. What the duty of one so situated may be 
can only be settled by his conscience. The person of heroic 
temperament will act differently from him who is reflective by 
nature, the man of ripe experience otherwise than the tyro. 
Or, we may say, we recognise in reflecting on these so-called 
collisions of duty that there are no such things, when we under- 
stand how it is that they appear to exist. The supreme moral 
End is realised in a rich united whole of graduated Ends, and 
accordingly the highest moral command is articulated in a 
united whole of graduated commands. But which of these 
Ends, and according to which of these commands, the individual 
Christian shall realise at any given time, a precept as such can 
never and on no occasion decide. For this it is quite unsuited, 
and the decision is made by the moral personality in accordance 
with his endowment, course of life, development, and in 
accordance with the particular sphere in which he finds 
himself placed by the call of God. In short, the different 
moral interests (i.e. those individual Ends with their corre- 
spondent Rules) are not the same at any definite moment of 
actual life in the consciousness of all Christians. The perception 
as to what is the duty to be done is the solution of this collision 
(not so much of ' duties ' as) of claims amid that variety of 
moral interests, at the moment of action, as Rothe says. Thus 
our former statement of the completely individual nature of 
duty has been confirmed and cleared by this examination of 
the so-called conflict of duties, as well as also of the value and 
limits of the term 'call of duty.' For even the rules thence 
derived (incomparably better than those previously rejected) — 
What duty lies nearest to my calling? what does this call 
demand of me ? — are only right if the word ' call "" is interpreted 
in its widest sense ; in which case it in no way gives help which 
enables us to dispense with a personal resolve (p. 218). Still 
more obvious now is the need of accentuating the duty of 

15 



226 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

forming our own judgment and of seeing that our conscience 
is trained in the highest school. The more a resolve 
spontaneously issues from such a trained conscience, as a 
product of acquired sensitiveness, the better. The decision is 
never a purely natural one, but has a moral quality. The 
two poles of such an education of conscience are, as has been 
excellently said, passion, which knows no difficulty of decision, 
and sees nor cares to see any collision of Christian moral Ends 
(not duties) ; and the other pole is Jesus Christ, who in earnest 
conflict ever recognises and desires what the Father desires. 
Our uncertainty, our long hesitation, is the result of sin, yet 
by no means always so. Of the growth in certainty of moral 
judgment Master Eckard's saying is applicable: "I shall be 
grieved if to-morrow morning I have not grown brisker.'''' 
And the exhortation 'to buy up the opportunity "* ('redeem- 
ing the time ■*) belongs here. And that all this work can only 
thrive in the atmosphere of prayer needs no proof (see below). 

Developed teaching on conflict of duties shows quite clearly the 
distinction and also the contrast between Protestant and Roman 
Catholic ethics. According to the Roman Catholic idea, these 
conflicts are so frequent that the insight of the ordinary Christian 
is insufficient for true decisions. Help therefore is given in con- 
fession by the father confessor. The profound reason of this 
want of independence has been shown earlier. The Christian 
is not so united to God that he becomes master of everything ; 
he is not so far one with God's will, which is his destiny and his 
salvation, that he moves invariably in this will as a free child of 
God. One fearful result of such want of independence is that 
even opposites may be regarded as equally moral if it is possible 
to assign reasons for either. This is the so-called probabilism 
of Jesuit ethics. It has its name from its asking what degree 
of moral sanction, probability, acceptance an opinion must have 
in order that it may be followed rather than another, which 
really appears to be the more morally right, and worthier of 
sanction, in the place of the one which the conscience at first 
accepts. Naturally this moral calculus requires that as many 
opinions as possible, and as many authorities as possible, should 
be counted and compared with one another. The sole moral 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 227 

authority, the conscience bound to the will of God, is subjected 
to many supposed authorities. In this way caprice has full 
play ; any reason, any authority may carry sway in favour of any- 
thing worth wishing for. Moral freedom is annihilated. The 
favourite j ustifying reason that this probabilism is a protection 
against caprice in the Either confessor, as against the immaturity 
of the penitent confessing, and by it both are saved from too 
anxiously busying themselves with dangerous and frivolous 
things, is not merely dragged into a curious light by the 
improprieties of which serious Catholics themselves complain ; 
but they presuppose that continued moral infancy, which we 
have already declared inacceptable, is ethically justifiable (p. 112). 
All that is thus generally needed is a system of casuistry, i.e. 
a systematic treatise of single moral questions irrespective of 
the conscience of the individual, and this casuistry it is that 
leads to probabilism. How this Jesuit theory of supposed 
conflict of duties is connected and even coincides with an 
unmoral idea of expediency, and further still with that of 
supererogatory duty, will become clear when these points are 
discussed. 

Among the cases of so-called collision of duties is the very 
old one of the conflict between a duty of love and a duty to 
truth, and even the individual examples are fixed by a firm 
tradition — such questions as the lie in jest, the polite lie, the 
paedagogic lie. For instance, the case of saving an innocent 
person by means of an untruth, the equivocation by the doctor 
and the family to spare the person dangerously sick, deception 
practised on the enemy in war, etc. In such cases must truth 
give way to love ? There is an imposing list of famous names 
for and against. Unreservedly against any sort of untruth are 
St Augustine and Calvin ; on the other side are Chrysostom, 
Jerome, Luther. There is the same difference among ethical 
philosophers : on the one side Kant and Fichte, and in the latter 
case the majority — that is, at the present time. The names are 
to the point, for they show how inconsistent it would be to 
assume in their relation to our question the presence or absence 
of more or less moral earnestness. For of course the question 
of the ' needful lie "* of the ordinary stamp, such as only springs 



228 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

from the need of the natural, not of the moral man, is no more 
in place here than was the previous one of the conflict between 
duty and inclination. Nor can we allow it to be supposed that 
the question is not rightly put, or rather that it disguises a 
problem which goes deeper down than our present limits. 
Within these limits it must be put more accurately than is 
often the case. It may be taken thus : Can conscious want of 
truth in a definite situation ever be a moral duty for the 
individual ? And the answer to it must be in the affirmative 
if our general result has been right. For we saw that any 
judgment in a given alternative, Is this, or that, my duty? is 
a matter of personal decision. For example, take the case which 
the ancients discussed, whether there are circumstances in which 
the wife of a sick man ought to keep back from him her 
knowledge of the death of their son ? We must say. Here two 
moral interests meet in conflict. Which of these is to be 
decisive for the resolution in favour of one or the other depends 
on the respective moral positions in which the sick man stands 
and in which she stands relatively to him. It depends on this 
whether it is a moral duty to announce or to conceal the fact 
of the death. If we should deny this, and especially the morality 
of concealment, then we should be forced to give up the 
Protestant notion of duty, and even the Protestant idea of 
moral independence, and no pretended regard for the apparently 
greater rigour of the opposite opinion should lead us astray. 
If now the opinion thus expressed still is by no means universally 
satisfactory, to some appearing too lax and to others too harsh — 
because the former assert that the maintenance of truth is under 
all circumstances the sole moral duty, while the latter require 
the relinquishment of truth in favour of love in general, and 
leave out that proviso, * according to the moral standards of the 
persons concerned' — then this dissatisfaction can only have a 
deeper reason which has nothing at all to do with the doctrine 
of conflict of duties, but which concerns rather the question of 
the absoluteness of the duty of veracity. 

The matter becomes clear if we put the question thus : Can 
unveracity become a duty, viewed from the standpoint of an 
ideally moral perfection ? Or in other words : Is truth an 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 229 

aspect of the ' Good ' ? does it form one of the universe of 
interests with regard to which in each case of actual performance 
of duty, as we saw, a resolve must be taken ? Or is it possibly 
the inalienable presupposition of all moral action which it is not 
possible to disregard in any case ? A closer consideration of the 
above examples might lead to a solution of this problem, which 
is not a factitious one. A jocose lie is a contradiction in terms ; 
only a pedant will object to jocose speech. To abolish the 
unveracities of polite intercourse is a duty often underestimated ; 
a duty which the excuse that they are an expression of love to 
oui" neighbour will make all earnest-minded men feel the more in- 
sistently. In the sphere of education the advocates of unveracity 
are less numerous. It is quite clear what harm to mutual 
confidence arises from them ; how unnecessary it is if a wise love 
makes proper use of reserve in teaching, and of the promise of 
later information. It is also clear that by the denial of the 
right of fiction true poetry is no longer possible. The more 
serious cases are by no means of equal importance. Certain as 
it is that she who conceals the truth from the sick husband acts 
rightly in a given situation, it is also certain that those so nearly 
connected stand on a morally higher plane, if they have trained 
themselves to absolute mutual truthfulness, and if they are one 
in their trust in God, who will preserve those who rely on Him 
from injury, or will in any case do all things for the best. 
There remain now only the examples of necessary self-defence 
and of war. In both instances the relation of confidence is no 
longer present : absolute mutual truthfulness is therefore no 
longer to be expected. But these two cases do not stand on 
quite the same footing. If the point in question is the relation 
"of one individual to another, reservation plays a larger part than 
in war ; and it is also hardly the same thing when in one case 
it is property and in another life that is at stake ; and quite 
different if it is a question of one''s own and not another's life. 
Stories like those of John Kant among the robbers or of Oberlin 
( " Look to it, God of truth : I did my duty, Thou do Thine " ) 
it is easier to turn to ridicule than to refute their profound 
meaning. In war it has ever, even among Christians, been 
specially honourable, alongside obviously allowable injury to the 



THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

enemy by conscious deception, to be truthful in personal inter- 
course, so long as the purposes of war are not affected. Still, 
this last example is connected with the special question of the 
morality of statecraft which will engage our attention later. 
Here the point is to deduce some general proposition from these 
separate considerations. We are compelled to decide in favour 
of the more rigorous idea (if, as pointed out, the question is one 
that concerns the individual), and can only recognise one bar 
to the sway of the truth, and that is when the relation of 
confidence between the parties is clearly destroyed. The reason 
why this ought to be so we shall find in the fact that veracity is 
the main condition of the moral intercourse of love, just as is 
the case with Right ; but still more closely is truth bound up 
with love. Hence it happens that acting contrary to the truth 
as between individuals and where the community is concerned 
is different. The individual can be won by martyrdom for the 
truth's sake. This unique majesty of truth is willingly 
recognised when, as we attempted to show, the question is 
settled as respects individual duty. Such majesty of the truth 
Kant has in his mind when he says : " Falsity is sin against my 
true self-hood, against the manhood within. If I lie I degrade 
myself to a pretender, suicidally sacrifice my true self." And 
Fichte, against the defender of the ' necessary lie ' : " Then I ought 
both to believe you and not believe you at the same time. I 
cannot know whether your assurance that what you say you 
consider permissible is not itself a ' necessary lie.' " In definitely 
Christian ethics it may once more be called to mind how closely 
love is united with truth in the New Testament, whether the 
subject treated of is God's work or ours. St Paul thoughtfully 
lays the foundation of the ideal when he says : " Wherefore 
putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour, 
for we are members one of another." There a possible boundary- 
line is drawn, not in an external way, but in such a manner that 
it cannot be fixed by indolence. More detailed illustration of 
our question is obtained by the experiences of life, on which 
often enough the duty of veracity is undeniably not taken with 
sufficient seriousness, under the influence of inaccurate or mis- 
understood answers to this question ; and the ' needful lie ' of 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 231 

the German people in Luther''s phrase is becoming more common, 
and rapidly, in a time in which Neitzsche proclaims : " Good 
men never speak the truth." 

Simpler than this question of so-called conflict of duties is 
the second master-question of ethics, that of overplus of duty, 
works of supererogation. In Evangelical ethics the idea is 
absurd that a Christian can do more than his duty ; and this 
' more ' is understood in a twofold sense, of range of duty, and 
energy in its performance. That is, the Christian man can only 
do what he recognises as his duty, and this he ought to do with 
all his might. In neither respect has his will any alternative, 
except at the cost of being forced to condemn his action as 
undutifiil. This principle of Evangelical ethics becomes quite 
clear when tested by the case of Jesus Christ, though this may 
seem a sm*prising thing to do. Even He did no more than His 
duty, i.e. " He finished the work which His Father gave Him 
to do."" Offence at such a word arises merely from our quite 
rightly regarding His work as the highest act of His freedom ; 
but what is here true of Him completely is true of us in our 
imitation of Him as our model. And thus we also recognise 
the ground of this glorious truth. It is merely an obvious 
consequence of the notion of duty, as this is grounded in the 
nature of the chief commandment, and still further in that of 
the chief Good. In the judgment, ' This is my duty,' we settle 
for ourselves what the commandment of love to God and our 
neighbour means now, in the fulfilment of which we are now 
called to be fellow-labourers in God''s Kingdom. Good and 
commandment are of such sort that they can be fulfilled every 
moment, and are duly performed at every moment, however 
little there may be of outward show ; and that so that they 
completely bind the will, and make it completely free, because 
in this way the agenfs true destiny is realised. Quite simply : 
in every action which the Christian, so far as it is a duty, 
performs he loves God and his neighbour, as he now ought, 
wholly, or it is no love at all, and he knows that he is in this 
wholly bound and yet entirely free, impelled by the marv'ellous 
love of God, which is ever alike to him. 

On this point the general difference between Evangelical and 



232 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Roman Catholic ethics receives especial illustration. It is 
an essential characteristic of the latter to recognise action in 
excess of actual duty. It draws a strong distinction between 
commandments (the ten commandments, and the five of the 
Church, of which the latter refer to the observation of holy 
days and the attendance at mass on these days, fasts, and at 
least one confession and one communion a year) and Gospel 
counsels of perfection. These latter are harder to fulfil than 
the former, are not binding on all, but subject to the voluntary 
choice of the individual, and merit greater reward. In respect 
of their content they include every possible thing, even if it 
soars above the absolute command, special proofs of love, special 
prayers and special fasts, special trust in God. But in the 
narrower sense they understand by this three things : complete 
poverty, renunciation of all private possessions ; complete 
chastity, abstinence from marriage ; entire obedience to ecclesi- 
astical superiors. These are the three chief marks of a perfect 
life, which is also called the 'religious' life of the Gospel 
(rigorously based on the Sermon on the Mount), or the angelical 
life (anticipating the life of the angels in this world). Angels, 
to wit, need no earthly goods, know nothing of man and wife, 
and always stand ready for the service of God in prayer and 
dutiful love. The life of Christians living in the world 
approaches to this ideal — which only monks, and in particular 
priests, can unreservedly carry out — by means of those counsels 
of perfection in the wider meaning, followed as nearly as 
circumstances allow ; and those who are desirous of so doing 
combine in all kinds of religious communities, among which the 
third order of St Francis is an immense force in the Catholic 
world of to-day. 

The ground of this whole distinction between precept and 
counsel is an essentially different conception of ethics in its 
most inward nature. All that seems to us to be external, legal, 
detached, dependent, and isolated from the world here appears 
palpably before us (p. 114). If the 'Good' is not exhausted 
in love of God and of our neighbour, but the renunciation of 
the natural impulses is somehow something separate, then it is 
easily understood that this cannot be expected of all alike, and 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 233 

even need not be undertaken at all by the Christian, as his 
true independent life must ordinarily be understood. By these 
works of supererogation the Roman Catholic ethics for the most 
part means those works which in respect of their content are 
not required of all. Regarded closely, that other point of view 
is, as pointed out, of importance, viz. that the Good may be 
fulfilled with more or less of self-surrender. It has, however, 
been disputed at length how far the ' good intention ' belongs 
to a good work, and the papal decision against the thesis of the 
Jansenists that in the absence of love there is no true fulfilment 
of the law has never been retracted. 

For such reasons it appears to us Evangelical Protestants 
that the commendation of 'evangelical counsels of perfection' 
is in no way a spur to the highest virtue, to the heroic glorifi- 
cation of love ; for we ask, what is love, which does not give all ? 
Rather with our Reformers we regard it as a soul-endangering 
depreciation of the moral ideal ; a temptation at one time to 
levity, at another to presumption, both for the mature and the 
immature, and in both ways a source of endless scruples of 
conscience. Only we may not forget that the distinction is a 
necessary one on the Catholic conception of ethics. Also we 
may not in fairness omit to say that this teaching has always 
been accompanied by a happy inconsequence. Whereas we 
might, for instance, expect that counsels of perfection should 
avail as ' means of special salvation,' they are only lauded as 
a means of salvation generally. In this way the danger is 
obviated of Christians being separated into two wholly distinct 
classes, and the ' religious ' kept from boundless self-glorying. 

It still needs mention that with this idea of supererogatory 
works the Roman idea of meritorious work is most closely con- 
nected. Only it is by no means solely confined to this, as we 
Protestants are apt to imagine. The bare fulfilment of the 
commandments of God can be meritorious, and not merely 
following counsels of perfection ; but in general only what is 
done by the co-operation of grace with human free-will. Since 
we cannot, according to this definition of merit, of ourselves 
deserve grace, it is (so far as the words are concerned) right, if 
what is in one point of view merit is in another grace ; but, as 



234 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

a matter of fact, the contradiction between this and our con- 
ception cannot be bridged over. To the Catholic whose ideas 
conform to the standard of the Church the forgiveness of God 
appears greater if that forgiveness places the suppliant in the 
position of raising himself to higher things. We Protestants 
cannot conceive how we are to be independent otherwise than 
by forgiving grace ; free in God, not free from God. That 
again is a dividing line in Christendom. Only some persons 
happily do rise above this division in the Churches. There are 
Catholic protestants as well as, on the other hand, Catholics who 
live by the Gospel, however much embarrassed by their Church. 
So far, the question whether there is such a thing as a 
surplusage of good action would be sufficiently answered, if it 
were not that frequently an impression is made on Protestants 
by the Roman Church's use of favourite Scripture sayings 
as proof of their position. As concerns the content of these 
' counsels of perfection,' appeal is made to the ' counsel ' given 
to the rich young ruler (St Matt. xix. 21), as well as to all 
found in the words of Jesus Christ and His Apostles which 
warn of the danger of riches, or are closely connected with 
renunciation of earthly possessions. Proof-texts of the counsel 
to chastity are St Matt. xix. 11 fF. and 1 Cor. vii. 6 ff. ; for 
absolute obedience and the denial of self, St Matt. xvi. 24, and 
as special examples of it, St Matt. v. 18. The notional distinc- 
tion between a command and a counsel is found in the parable 
of the unprofitable servant (St Luke xvii. 13) compared with 
the dutiful and faithful servant (St Matt. xxv. 21) ; and 
St Paul (2 Cor. viii. 8, 10), when speaking of the collection 
for the poor saints says, " I speak not by way of command- 
ment," and "Herein I give my judgment (or counsel)"; and 
elsewhere (1 Cor. ix. 15, 17), " If I do this of mine oztm zenll, 
I have a reward ; but if not of mine own will, a dispensation of 
the Gospel is committed to me," where there is a free-will 
service and an enjoined office spoken of. On all such sayings 
we shall only speak in a way to avoid misconception, if we 
make a sharp distinction. What do the Scriptures really say 
about poverty, chastity, obedience? And what do they say 
about commandment and counsel ? Much in those passages 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 235 

stands in need of the most earnest consideration, in the same 
way as the Sermon on the Mount on our ' rights' and the 
passage in the Corinthians (i. 7) required attention. The 
indefinite feeling that it is all too easy to pervert such utterances 
of the New Testament in accordance with our exigencies is 
vindicated when we note that much of the Catholic teaching 
of ' counsels of perfection ' is taken from passages which have 
nothing at all to do with the point. Merely in passing we 
may draw attention to the unnaturalness of the application of 
the passage on self-denial, when the content of the words is con- 
sidered, to ecclesiastical obedience. But here comes in the second 
question : what do these passages say of commandment and 
counsel ? They do not treat of work to be done at the pleasure 
of the person to whom it is assigned, by means of which he 
may attain a higher perfection and a proportionately higher 
reward. The unprofitable and dutiful servants, if we examine 
them a little in their content, are not two classes, those who 
keep the commandments and those who follow counsels of 
perfection, but the same Christians considered from different 
points of view, both of which it is highly necessary for us 
alternately to consider; and on the absence of contradiction 
between them stress has already been laid (p. 189). So far as 
the rich young nobleman is concerned, the issue of the narrative 
shows that he ought to have recognised the demands of Jesus 
upon him as his duty, and that this was the condition of his 
attachment to Him and to His Kingdom. In the same way 
the word in St Matt. (xix. 12), " He who will receive it, let him 
receive it," turns on the moral power of judgment of the 
individual who is to decide what this mysterious saying means 
in his case, and whether it is a moral act. If the answer is 
'yes,' then it is his duty neither more nor less. Hence, even 
the saying which is, in point of content, related to the above of 
forsaking wife and parents may be quite general. And St Paul 
(1 Cor. vii.) plainly declares that the reader is himself to prove 
whether what he says is right, and if it is approved before the 
judgment-seat of his individual conscience, then he ought so to 
act ; but that the gift of grace is different to each, and duty 
accordingly. As to the meaning, this is the same as we settled 



236 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

in the matter of our calling. But here are no allusions to 

* counsels of perfection.' In that remarkable testimony of St 
Paul's (1 Cor. ix. 15) {cf, p. 192) he says plainly that any other 
conduct would be for him a sin, because a misuse of his 
freedom. This is possibly the sharpest conceivable antithesis 
to that of following a 'counsel of perfection' arbitrarily set 
before him, which brings a reward. What he calls a free act 
is the moral freedom of fulfilling obligatory duty, and its 
reward is that he is a partaker of the grace of the Gospel. 

If we pass from this problem of the supererogatory to the 
third master-question of ethics, to that of the permissible, it will 
not easily be doubted that this must be negatived. If the 
Christian can do no more than his duty, because in every single 
action he fulfils the whole will of God with his whole will, so 
far as it can be fulfilled in this single action, it is clear that 
there can be no moment in his action that can be thought of 
which is not in this manner determined for him by God's will, 
and not fulfilled in accordance with duty, and so no action 
that is less than duty demands. This first impression is also 
certainly the correct one, so that, generally speaking, these three 
master-questions of duty must either be collectively affirmed, 
or collectively denied ; and that, if the first two cannot be 
affirmed as valid for the Protestant view of ethics, the third 
must be denied also. But, again, that this impression is the 
right one is evident partly because the terms are often employed 
in various senses, partly because other difficult questions are 
involved which are indeed still more complex than that of the con- 
flict of duties and the question of supererogation. Formerly, the 
term ' adiaphora ' was most frequently used — the ethically 

* indifferent ' actions ; now, since Schleiermacher, the word ' per- 
missible' is more often employed. The spheres in which these 
notions have come under notice mostly concern the pleasures of 
life, and, though apparently outside the limit, religious customs. 
Every conceivable meaning has been given to them. Some saw 
in the admission of this idea the end of all morality; others, 
a special maturity of moral development ; a third party, a 
transition point between the two. Such varying opinions are 
only possible if different things are intended by the same term ; 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 237 

or certainly those who hold them are not fully conscious of all 
the conditions of the problem proposed. It helps us to under- 
stand if we no longer speak of allowable things or means, but 
of actions ; further, not of actions in general allowable, but 
those which are permissible to an individual in a definite 
situation, and one neither obligatory nor contrary to duty 
(as we assumed to be obvious when we, in our context, were 
speaking of the doctrine of duty) ; and finally of such actions as 
belong in the proper sense to the moral sphere, not those which 
are merely juridical or purely natural, and such as are not 
yet settled by moral judgment. 

The use of the term when questions of right are concerned 
may afford us the best aid to define its meaning for ethics. 
There its use is completely clear and unambiguous. That is 
allowable which law neither commands nor forbids, as, for 
example, that it is permissible to invest money so long as it is 
not at usurious interest and the like. This ' indifference ' of 
actions in this sense plays a great part in the ethical sphere, as, 
for instance, in education, so long and so far as morality is 
presented to the will as an affair of external law. And in fact a 
wise educator makes the circle of what is permissible continually 
wider, with the design that he may himself correspondingly 
limit it in training the conscience of the pupil. What a 
multitude of recollections are brought to the mind of everyone 
by this simple proposition ! And what a light it casts on the 
confessional practice of the Roman communion, which, dealing 
literally with the notion of actions of indifference {cf. above on 
conflict of duties), only trains up adult children^ — with all their 
boasted education — and not independent personalities. On the 
contrary, for mature Christians, for those who are in principle 
free from the law, for those who are ' converted ' and regenerate, 
for those to whom the will of God has become the law of their 
own will, nothing is any longer either commanded or forbidden 
in the former sense of what is right or lawful, but in the latter 
sense of freedom all is lawful. Hence St Paul has expressly 
adopted and recognised that motto of him who is free from 
the law, " All things are lawful " (1 Cor. vi. 12), and it receives 
the most extensive application in the permissible use of all 



238 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

conceivable 'Goods' (1 Cor. iii. 22) when he says, "All 
things are yours.*" But he said this, and could say it, because 
he wholly and completely set aside the notion of the in- 
difference of actions. The Christian is at every moment 
completely free from every single external commandment because, 
at every moment, he is determined and bound to duty by the 
complete will of God, which has become a part of his nature ; 
and because, without exception, he does all " in the name of 
the Lord Jesus, to the glory of God the Father ''' (1 Col. iii. 17), 
in the way that duty has been already explained. St Paul had 
occasion — face to face with special dangers existing in the 
Churches at Rome and in Corinth — ^to explain in all its aspects 
this apparent contradiction, " All things are permitted, because 
nothing is merely permissible " ; and that in reference to both 
these two things, enjoyment of earthly Goods, and the Christian 
attitude towards certain religious ordinances. This freedom, 
narrowed by no external law — " Every creature of God is good " 
— has its inner limits, and its criterion is full submission to 
the highest Norm, which flows from a consideration of the 
highest End, and that in all relations of the moral life. Personal 
independence was infringed by understanding " All things are 
lawful to me " in the lax way that obtained at Corinth ; for 
that reason St Paul says, " I will not be brought under the 
power of any " (1 Cor. vi. 12). And love was wounded : "All 
things are not expedient " (or profitable), " all things edify not." 
Both have their foundation in our relation to God. The 
Christian, to whom the world belongs, belongs to God (1 Cor. iii. 
21 ff.) : " All are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." 
In these statements St Paul has merely put into formal pro- 
positions what is actually given us in the example of Christ, 
both in reference to His attitude to earthly goods and to the 
worship of His nation. 

Now it is precisely in relation to this full obligation to 
individual duty that many moralists wish to use this notion 
of permissible things. And by this they wish to express their 
conviction that the moral action which is binding on individuals 
cannot always be made sufficiently clear to the judgment of 
others in the way the agent himself sees it. The term 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 239 

' indifference of actions ' or the permissible does therefore in 
their opinion guard the right of individual obligation and 
sets up a protection against the attacks of others, and is not 
merely opening a door to personal caprice. The purpose is 
clear and justifiable, the means of realising it not suitable. In 
practice the term only too easily gets used in favour of 
libertinism. A long history illustrates this, as, for example, 
the Jesuit use of the notion. In theory it is also unsuitable 
for the purpose of the question at issue, which is, whether 
moral actions are not, so far as the consciousness of the agent 
is concerned, embraced in the notion of duty, and whether 
there can for him be such a thing as doing less than his duty ; 
and not whether his individual performance of his duties is 
intelligible to a second person. This proposal to retain the 
notion of the ' permissible ' is instructive, because it vividly 
emphasises the purely individual character of duty, on which 
we have in our whole ethical doctrine laid especial stress. 

The consideration still remains whether the negative answer 
to our question — or, put the other way, whether the assertion 
that all moral action is measured by the idea of duty — can be 
proved to be correct in all cases in human life. Two groups 
have been discriminated — choice of a calling, marriage, and the 
like ; and, on the other hand, the province of recreation. In 
regard to the first, decision is easy. No one will wish to deny 
that resolves so important should be taken with a full conscious- 
ness of moral urgency, which, of course, is a matter for the 
judgment of the individual. But this grants for our context 
that there is at bottom nothing merely 'permissible"* in the 
moral life. That, as a matter of fact, men often enough act 
quite otherwise, and according to the individual position of 
the persons concerned cannot but act otherwise, is indubitable, 
but does not affect the principle. At the stage of moral 
development which these persons have reached it has not become 
clear to them that this or that action should be done on the 
principle of duty. They are so far still at the legalist stand- 
point of those for whom that is allowed which the law or custom 
allows, so far as they have conceived it, and which has not been 
actually forbidden. More difficult is the question of recreation. 



240 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

The objection appears to be irrefutable — to have a consciousness 
of fulfilling a duty with regard to recreation and asking ' What ?'' 
' How ? ' ' How much ? ' and the like is inconsistent with the 
very idea of recreation. The notion of a recreation implicates 
the consciousness of permission to take it, the consciousness, 
that is, of special freedom. But those who defend the idea of 
the ' permissible '' emphasise emphatically that recreation in its 
range and content must not merely generally correspond to the 
idiosyncrasy of an individual as his own personal aflPair, but 
that subsequent reflection, or the judgment of others down to 
minute detail, may bring home to him that a particular 
recreation is contrary to duty. In such cases at all events 
even those who favour the notion of the merely permissible 
would find this a contradiction to the notion of recreation ; for 
in these cases they even likewise assert that the idea of duty 
is determinative. But generally it is not easy to see why the 
notions of duty and recreation are contradictory, provided that 
duty — as is done by those who favour it — is taken in a strictly 
Evangelical sense, so that the idea of making recreation a duty 
cannot arise. If it is merely intended to assert that generally 
speaking the judgment of duty so far as recreation is concerned 
is not entertained with full consciousness, this is right. But 
the same thing is true also in regard to other provinces, and 
only in an especial measure applies to recreation, since this 
province is, as it were, concerned with the outermost circle 
of that kind of subject-matter which in its normal develop- 
ment only receives an ethical stamp quite gradually, and 
generally only under certain circumstances. Undeniably the 
moral tactfulness of a virtuous character plays a greater part 
than conscious judgment of what belongs to duty in such cases. 
In other words, we have here once more reached a point in 
which it appears that the doctrine of duty only in connection 
with the theory of virtue can exhaustively represent the 
development of Christian moral personality. But in order 
to avoid the appearance of allowing that this our principle 
has need in regard to recreation to fear entering into the 
consideration of the customary objections, we may still point 
out that even the choice of a walk (supposing that no sort of 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 241 

idea of duty comes into consideration, in which case even the 
opponent, of course, admits that recreation is limited by the 
idea of duty) may be made to depend on aesthetic inclinations, 
which, if such inclinations demand a moral judgment, form 
the ground of this individual judgment. But in no other case 
than as an hypothesis can such an 'if enter into our question. 
Then, of course, the whole dispute is almost entirely verbal 
only, but the master-thought of duty might become more 
plainly prominent in the decision given. 

As an illustration, a short resume of some examples of the 
doctrine of the morally indifferent, which have historical 
importance, may help us. 

In the Roman Church the question is one that concerns the 
meaning of the proposition that the end sanctifies the means, 
makes it morally justifiable ; or, in other words, if the purpose 
is allowable, the means to attain it are allowable. The dis- 
cussion has often been unnecessarily confused by the Protestant 
side not always making it sufficiently clear in what sense the 
proposition is at once justifiable. And, in particular, the 
notion of the permissible is for the reason given above to be 
excluded here, because this idea is employed on the Roman 
side to obtain an arena for the play of the moral will as opposed 
to the absolutely obligatory will of God. But that the highest 
moral purpose, and, properly understood, every higher means 
to its realisation, may require that which, irrespective of such 
consideration, is immoral, is self-evident. For instance, the 
purpose of self-preservation in a nation demands the sacrifice 
of human life in war ; and the saying of Jesus Christ (St Luke 
xiv. 26) requires, in the case of a conflict of duties, renunciation 
of the moral ' Goods "■ of family life for the Kingdom of God''s 
sake. On the other hand, the sense of that proposition in 
Jesuit morals (freed, as in the ethics of St Alfonsus of Liguori, 
from its most damaging points) shows most plainly in the 
scholastic example that fornication is permissible, if by this 
means the greater sin of adultery is avoided. Now, certainly 
marriage is one of the highest moral ' Goods,"" and on that 
account its infringement, if we are so to express it, is a ' greater 
sin ' than the immoral yielding of an individual to his sensual 

16 



242 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

impulse. But the question does not concern the application 
of this principle to a case of that kind. For he who thus sins 
does not, in doing or suffering, sacrifice a lower moral good for 
the sake of realising a higher one, like the disciple who, for 
Jesus' sake, dissolves the bonds of natural love ; but he cherishes 
a desire which, for the sake of personal purity, he ought to 
renounce ; just as he ought, for the same reason, as well as on 
account of the honour which belongs to it, to refrain from the 
infringement of the marriage tie. The Jesuit fallacy is easily 
disguised when an inattentive observer has not laid hold of the 
principles that will rightly guide him. In a system of moral 
' Goods ' marriage takes a supreme place. It is not noted, by 
such persons as are misled, that the proposition silently 
implicates that a lower moral Good belongs to the same 
category as a higher, and such as can never, under any circum- 
stances, be designated a moral Good at all ; that is to say, the 
immoral satisfaction of the sensual impulse. 

The Lutheran Church has twice engaged in conflict on the 
so-called ' adiaphora.' The first struggle, in the sixteenth 
century, referred to ceremonial customs in worship, and the 
constitution of the Church. Luther (here again the rediscoverer 
of St Paul) saw in such things wholesome and proper arrange- 
ments, provided they serve the purpose of edification. If this 
purpose is not directly contravened, then they ought, for the 
sake of peace and love, to be suffered, and even misuse borne 
with, and turned to the best advantage possible. Such arrange- 
ments are, in fact, merely ' swathing-bands ' for the 'infant.' 
The same St Paul who, face to face with obstinate legalisers, 
where the truth of the Gospel was in peril, yielded, ' no, not for 
one moment,' and resisted the circinncision of Titus, allowed it 
in the case of Timothy in harmony with his principles (Rom. 
xiv., XV.). After the death of Luther, there arose on account 
of the Leipzig ' Interim "" ^ the question whether its articles are 

^ ' Interim ' is the title given to the three formulas (Regensburg, Augsburg, and 
Leipzig) as bases of agreement between the two parties, representing the old 
Church and the Reformation, until a council should be called. The Leipzig 
'Interim' was the last of these (1548 a.d. ). With Protestant doctrine the 
Catholic forms of worship were allowed. For details see Herzog, Encyclopaedie, 
sub voce. — Tr. 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 243 

congruous with this point of view of the Reformer and the 
Apostle. This question of moral ' accommodation "* was — How 
far might they go in respect of those uses as to doing them 
and allowing them for their own communions, at a time when 
the imperial power thundered at the door? The formula 
of concord decided that in persecution confession is demanded, 
and compliance is sin ; in themselves the uses controverted are 
' adiaphora,' indifferent, good, or evil according to circumstances. 
If the question in this particular form is a matter of past 
history, it yet comes up again afresh in new shapes. How far, 
for example, does the use in worship of an ancient creed belong 
to uses of this sort ? Who are the weak and who are the 
strong ? What respect does one party owe to the other^s 
feelings ? Where is the boundary between justifiable concilia- 
tion and denial of the truth ? Perhaps Rom. xiv. and xv. 
are chapters not yet obsolete, and to the wisdom of these 
judgments of faith fresh fields are ever opened in which their 
value is tested. 

The so-called second conflict on the question of the adiaphora 
in the seventeenth century, related directly to the personal life, 
that is, the question of pleasures, especially happiness and the 
means thereto, sports and art. From the high watch-tower of 
faith Luther had said : " They who love God do not fix their 
mind at all on creature goods, for God attends to them. It is 
not the things that are forbidden, but disorder and their misuse. 
Use all things on earth, what, when, and where you like, and 
thank God. Keep free and untrammelled!" And with reference, 
for instance, to dancing at a wedding according to the country 
custom he says : " No importance is attached to such mere 
external matters where faith and love abide, so far as it is a 
matter of conformity to what is proper to your station." His 
praise of music is well known. It was from Calvin that a 
sterner judgment on these things pushed its way into the circles 
of Lutheran Pietism — for example, in its judgments on such 
things as the theatre, dancing, jesting. All enjoyment of 
natural things that goes beyond absolute need is not only sin 
by misuse, but is, according to this view, in itself sin. For only 
that is 'good' which is done directly and consciously to the 



244 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

glory of God ; and that means in continual self-denial, and 
fulfilling therewith the command of God : and so music must be 
religious, and our associations with others edifying. Dancing 
as bodily exercise, playing bowls for the sake of health, as at 
a health resort, is right. Taking a walk without this object in 
view betrays a heart which does not rest in God. Even children, 
as the severer school thought, ought no longer to play. If the 
orthodox opponents of those old pietists saw in such principles 
the denial of Christian freedom, they were right. But their 
own position was likewise a legalistic one when they rested 
content with showing that there was no express commandment 
in the Holy Scriptures against these things. This neither 
proved their real moral justification, nor won the insight that 
it is only the individual's judgment of duty that can in detail 
decide what is of profit to him. Neither was it plain to any 
of the opponents at that period that the whole battle refers to 
the province of the aesthetic, art itself, and that the questions 
in dispute that appear so widely separate, as to ceremonial in 
worship and as to social enjoyments, are connected. This 
perception — which we owe to Schleiermacher — is indispensable 
to a clear decision on Protestant principles. Reserving this for 
social ethics, we ought not at this point to refrain from saying 
that the pietistic opinion, although it certainly does not stand 
in the high level of the Protestant view of faith, still remains 
a serious means of self-examination for every seriously disposed 
Christian, whether he personally uses these principles conscien- 
tiously ; so that he may in each case recognise his duty, and not 
be guilty of a misuse, contrary to duty, of the notion of the 
permissibility of certain things. For instance, many a thing 
that Spener says about dancing which will not here bear 
repeating as he says it, requires to be translated into our terms 
for their purely Evangelical meaning, and their pressing 
necessity cannot be gainsaid without advising weak compliance 
with the tone and taste of the average man, with the name of 
'Christian freedom.' And all the less is there need for this 
gainsaying, as it is just Spener who has, more than the rest of 
those who thought with him, refrained from counselling external 
coercion in the province of education. 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 245 

Our doctrine of duty and calling has repeatedly brought us 
to a boundary stone whose superscription is — 

Virtue and Character. 

That is, as often as we have had to take note of the growth of 
the new man as a unique and grand whole we have approached 
this point. And actions done in accordance with duty are 
fruits of a good tree, and only good inasmuch as they are 
grown upon it and are not mere artificial adornments fixed on 
an unconcerned bearer of them. Nay, we may ask why it was 
only after the statements on the beginning of the new life, 
imder the title of growth, that we spoke of single actions, of 
duty and calling. This was done because in this way the moral 
character of the new life in its development would be shown in 
the closest way. That moral imperative ' ought,' in its strict 
application to each case of personal resolve, does not permit the 
thought to arise that this development is a naturally necessary 
one. But of course because it is a personal resolve we should 
always bear in mind the unique person for whom alone such 
resolves exist, and for whom alone there are such things as duty 
and calling. If this personality grows ever so much, precisely 
by its acts, and develops in the way of fulfilment of duty, we 
must now ponder the development which is really peculiar to 
it. The new man is in radical conversion put in the position 
that he finds his incentive and motive power to the love of God 
and his neighbour in his trust in God's love in Christ. The 
' Good,' Christianly considered, has become the innermost quality 
of his personal life, and it is so that this 'Good' becomes the 
fundamental ruling force in him. We now ask how this force 
shall work its way from the centre to the whole circumference, 
and penetrate all his faculties most completely. If the teaching 
of duty was the teaching of the law in its individual application, 
then the teaching concerning virtue is also the same, as the 
incentive and motive power to the ' Good ' in detail ever more 
fills the whole person, is ever becoming more personal. The 
variety of points of view which here present themselves will 
justify us in first of all considering the question in general. 



246 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

without any reference to sin. Then we may fix our attention 
on this battle between the old and the new man. 

Virtve. 

In the first task thus set the question may arise whether the 
title * Virtue and Character' is justifiable at all in Christian ethics. 
The German word is derived from the Greek,^ and means the 
persevering direction of the will to what is 'good' ; more precisely, 
since the word thus derived points to an acquired aptitude for 
good action, it imports a power acquired by our own doing, 
and that so that this power is thought of as a ' faculty.' It is 
distinct from right disposition as that which from within impels 
and qualifies for right expression. Activity is different from a 
merely internal state ; so that it is self-evident that in Christian 
ethics the sole value of such aptness and faculty depends 
on the soundness, depth, and strength of the innermost 
disposition. 

That this word virtue {aperr}) seldom occurs in the New 
Testament (used of God, 1 Pet. ii. 9, 2 Pet. ii. 3 ; of men, 
Phil. iv. 8, 2 Pet. i. 5) does not of itself prove anything against 
its appropriateness in Christians ethics ; and the sufficiently 
probable reason is that for immediate practical purposes there 
was no need for a comprehensive scientific expression, and so 
much the less as it is precisely used mostly in the commonly 
accepted sense. Also it is possible that its misuse by rationalists 
makes it intelligible how it became suspicious in wide circles of 
the Church, and in particular of pietism ; but this scarcely can 
destroy its usefulness. We must, however, exercise care, and 
avoid a possible danger which lies very near to its non-Christian 
origin. The acquired aptitude to good action, that is to say, 
put briefly, must not be thought of in a non-Christian sense as 
oiu- own, self-originated, natural merely. In the first place, not 
' our own,' which would be setting aside the supreme truth of 
Christian ethics, that all human goodness has its source in 
God ; and that the commencement of the radically new direction 

' Vide Kluge's Etymologisches Worterbtuh, sub voce 'taugen.' "The Teutonic 
verbal root ' dug ' might point to Aryan ' dhugh ' (Gr. Tvxn, fortune). To this 
are allied TsrVA/tj-and Tugend, TiUhtigkeit, aptitude, capacity."— Tr. 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 247 

given to the life is neither more nor less than the work of God, 
as is each greatest and smallest step in its development. " By 
the grace of God I am what I am,"" says St Paul at the zenith 
of his life (1 Cor. xv. 10), when the thought that his whole 
power was not unreservedly given to the service of God had 
long been impossible to him (1 Cor. ix. 16 ff.). In other words, 
we may only speak of Christian ' virtue ' if we keep constantly 
before us what has been said of the reception of faith as the 
fountain of all Christian morality ; were that fountain dried 
up, the moral life could not longer be maintained. Christ is 
and remains the principle, rather the personal originator, of 
holiness, as He is of that conversion which lays the foundation 
of the Christian life. And there is no necessity to enumerate 
the various words of the New Testament which express the 
master-thought of Gal. ii. 20, " I live, no longer I," in ever new 
forms. In reality there is, as we have often said before, nothing 
more independent than the ' good will,"* the ' new man "" ; the 
Good is really his own nature ; he is spiritually one with it. 
But this independence is dependence on God, taking from God, 
a continual receptiveness at all stages and in all relations. 
Thus the word virtue need not mislead us into the mistake of 
isolating one individual in contrast to another and regarding 
him as a separate personality exclusively as he is in himself^ — 
a personality which merely subsists on and represents its own 
moral wealth. God''s adoption is only found in the Kingdom of 
God ; there is no personal virtue separate from the virtue which 
manifests itself in love. Finally, virtue is no natural good 
which can grow like a plant, but (on this account the doctrine 
of duty precedes) it grows in conflict with our own nature and 
the surrounding world. There is no other certain way of 
becoming virtuous than by the ' strait way ' of duty. This is 
the truth which will still have to engage our attention when we 
consider the means of acquiring virtue. But this does not 
exclude but includes the thought that the will, when once 
guided and really determined in the direction of the Good, 
becomes a will which is ever more and more directed to what is 
good. When we were speaking of the doctrine of freedom we 
recognised that every free resolve of the will binds us either in 



248 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

the one direction or the other, that an evil deed has its curse 
and a good deed its blessing, in its inner influence on all 
subsequent acts. 

From all of which it is clear that the word virtue is the least 
questionable, simplest, and also, in comparison and contrast 
with others, the most suitable expression of the one master- 
point of view from which we must consider the develop- 
ment of Christian personality. It is scarcely necessary still 
to give emphatic expression to the thought that, as the supreme 
Christian End and the supreme Christian Rule is a whole, so 
at the bottom Christian virtue is one ; that is, the capacity of 
the will, acquired by practice, to be continually guided by the 
deepest motives, for the highest End and according to the best 
Rule. Just as it is obvious that as there is a system of Ends 
and Norms, so that one ' virtue ' is divided into many virtues. 
The opposite to virtue is strictly speaking the non-virtuous. 
We may speak of an unvirtuous act. Vice signifies only 
definite perverseness of the will, whether it be momentary, 
or a perversion that has laid hold of the inner man ; and in 
either case only when a considerable measure of readiness for 
evil has been reached. Discourteousness is not a vice, neither 
is cowardice, but certainly drunkenness and deceit are vices ; and 
all of these are unvirtuous acts. 

Character. 

The term character has the closest relationship to the word 
virtue so defined. This too means a permanent direction of 
the will to the ' Good "■ which is self-acquired. The usual 
connotation points to this, which is that character^ is some- 
thing determined and firm, in contradistinction to the softness 
and plasticity of such material as may be fashioned into any 
form. A virtuous man and a man of character are at bottom 
the same. But a virtuous man is not he who possesses one 
or the other virtue, but who exhibits the quality of ' virtue ' 
considered as a generic unity. We think then, when we use 

* Character is from a Greek word meaning to engrave, as on a seal or stamp. 
It is thus represented by the German word Geprdge, a stamp, which is here 
used. — Tr. 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 249 

the word character, on the constancy of the good will, not of 
the will as apprehended in isolated acts, nor generally speaking 
of this kind of activity at all, but of the inner nature of the 
man, and, in contradistinction to original disposition, of an 
aptitude which has already been tested ; and on that account 
we speak also, instead of using the word 'character,' of a 
personality which is an independent whole. But there is 
something more that is expressly meant by the term character, 
and that is that all the faculties are morally trained and have 
received a moral stamp. Explicitly we think of the given 
material which is being fashioned. And inasmuch as this 
material, in spite of essential similarity, is individually different, 
there are just as many different Christian characters. The 
natural peculiarity of the individual we call comprehensively 
temperament. Special gifts, particularly in the province of 
knowledge or of art, we name talents, after St Matt. xxv. 14 ff*., 
where originally that which is spoken of is of sums of money 
placed in trust. Special abilities in general are called gifts, 
and, when they are used in the conscious service of the highest 
End, gifts of grace or charismata ; and by this means emphasis 
is laid upon their origin from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. xii. 4 ff".). 
Of special importance in regard to the variety of equipment 
which we call temperament is the varying degree of emotional 
mobility and the character of the will ; and that both as 
regards the susceptibility to impressions and the reflex action 
of the mind on the impressions received. These are the 
temperamental differences so much spoken of, the importance 
of which is not doubtful merely because of the insecurity of 
their boundary-lines. In a brief form we may be able the 
soonest to say : the choleric and phlegmatic temperaments are 
closest related to the will, the sanguine and melancholy to the 
emotions. In the first-mentioned temperament excitability 
is prevailingly small, and in the last prevailingly great. Then 
it is at once clear how every temperament has its own 
excellences and dangers, and plainly too in regard to the 
development of Christian character ; but it never actually 
happens that there is no commixture. To this variety of 
natural disposition in individual cases, when we are speaking 



250 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

of the given material on which the moral stamp is to be 
engraven, we have to add the general distinctions of sex, age, 
nationality, social position. If we reflect on all these, we are 
easily convinced, also in this place, how little in Christian 
ethics any formula can exhaust the fulness of life. But it is 
a claim of Christian ethics, and the conviction of its exponents, 
that no hindrance which arises from this resisting material can 
render the education of Christian character impossible, and 
no natural advantage which that material possesses render it 
unnecessary. What is true of the commencement in conversion 
is true quite in the same way of the progress of the spiritual 
life. All ought to become Christian characters ; all can so 
become. Every character has its own peculiar impress ; but 
in all there is unity in the innermost direction of the soul 
to the highest End, in subjection under the self-same royal law 
of love from the deepest motive, and that the love of God 
experienced in faith. No Christian is like another, as no man 
is like another ; but they are one in Christ, who is the New Man 
from whose spiritual fulness they draw the power to use His 
inexhaustible riches in an especial way for their own good. 
It is only in this unity and diversity of character that there is 
a Kingdom of God ; and it is explicitly a measure of the ripe- 
ness of our own character how far respect for the idiosyncrasy 
of other Christian characters has been developed in us. The 
predilection for pattern characters, and especially the measuring 
of others by the standard of self, proves that he who does these 
things is not yet become a Christian personality. 

So far we have used the word character throughout in the 
good sense. But how much this word has emphatic reference 
to constancy of will, and the impress put upon the natural 
faculties, we may see by the fact that the usage of speech allows 
us to speak of a man of evil character, when the will con- 
sistently uses all the individual faculties in the service of evil. 
And so great is the likeness, so far as the exercise of will is 
concerned, that the evil will is in some degree in respect of 
form moral, and so far is will a presupposition of all true 
morality that a shimmering of the glory of the * Good ' falls 
even on the evil character. And this is not merely for the 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 251 

fancy of the poet, who understands how by this means to gain 
sympathy for his hero, if it is only a shuddering interest in 
him. Even on the part of the Judge of all a milder judgment 
(Rev. iii. 15) is pronounced on the 'cold' than on the 'luke- 
warm,' inasmuch as the former is more likely to repent than 
the man with weak character ; and in the case of its occurrence 
there is the promise in him of a subsequent special exhibition of 
the energy of Christian love. This is proved by many great 
examples in the Kingdom of God (1 Tim. i. 12 fF.). Nor does 
this cast any shade on the special glory of an early decision 
for the Good and for the harmonious, gradual development of 
the spiritual life. 

Character and culture go together, because the latter means 
the stamping and forming of material. Expressions like 
' cultivated intelligence,' ' a disciplined will,' ' a cultivated feeling ' 
show that this shaping of mental material embraces all the 
natural faculties. Nevertheless the word ' culture ' does not so 
expressly refer to the moral shaping of all the faculties as the 
term 'character.' Hence there is the general expression of 
'changing ideals of life,' which applies even to the Christian 
centuries ; and an appeal is made to seek to deepen the culture 
of character and mind, in the place of the more superficial and 
broader education of mere intellect, or a one-sided sestheticism. 
The acceptance of such opinions in society, and by persons who 
are by no means resolved to follow them, proves how deeply 
rooted is the feeling that no splendour of external refinement 
can delude, in regard to the utter worthlessness of it, where 
there is a want of high character. The question, What are you 
good for ? — the truth of the statement, ' At bottom we are only 
reckoned for what we are,' find a place in the background even 
of the superficial consciousness. At least, men widely fear to 
openly contradict this truth, because it is felt that by so 
doing they may expose themselves to a morally derogatory 
judgment. But where it is openly done, then that limit of 
moral godlessness is reached which St Paul (Rom. i. 28) calls 
' the reprobrate mind.' 

The idea of character, and in fact the word, is not found in 
the original documents of Christianity ; but by the characters of 



252 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

which it gives an account, and above all by the one complete 
character of Jesus Christ, authenticated by His life, it shows 
that the term character belongs to the sacred things of ethical 
terminology, just like that of ' calling,' and is nearer still than 
that to the innermost secret of the moral world, the love of 
God revealed in Christ. 

To give in detail what the essential features of the Christian 
character are in respect of content, would necessarily lead to 
wearisome repetition (p. 212). Of course they ever concern the 
self-same essential relations of all the moral life — the relation to 
God and to our neighbour, to our own nature, and to the 
external world. Of that we have already spoken in treating of 
the highest Good, the supreme Norm, the deepest Motive of all 
Christian action, and must again speak in their illustrative 
application to social ethics. Besides, the tabular enumeration 
of virtues, still needful for the sake of clearness, affords 
opportunity for bringing to our recollection any point which 
it is absolutely necessary to consider under each such aspect as 
is done here under the heading of character ; and also for the 
consideration of any other detail, which we can leave out at 
present, which it may nevertheless be indispensable to weigh 
when we explicitly treat of the formation of character and of our 
battle with sin. Still, irrespective of these special points of 
view, we may even now consider what that feeling is which 
accompanies the growth of Christian personality, of Christian 
character ; or what is the fundamental note of Christian 
character. 

So far as, in this matter, the question relates to the profit- 
ableness of good action to the agent, we may also say it 
relates to his immediate participation in the highest Good — his 
enjoyment of the End which is still present even while he is on 
the way to it. Yet phrases of this kind are easily misunder- 
stood, and of no great value unless all the earlier closer 
definitions are repeated or borne in mind. In simpler form, 
we may say the action of the virtuous character, wrought in 
conformity with duty, is inseparably associated with a feeling 
of dignity and honour as well as of blessedness and freedom. 
Both are plainly connected, but yet they are twofold. In 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 253 

the idea of honour there is an emphatic reference to the idea 
of a moral Judge ; in that of blessedness a similar emphasis 
lies on the profitableness of goodness in regard to our im- 
mediate emotional life. 

Joy and happiness are experienced when our circumstances 
in life accord with our nature, or, to use a graphic phrase, when 
they are such as that we ' see we live.' Hence it is that one 
calls that joy and life, which to another appears as suffering and 
even death. The highest conceivable degree of joy, of loving 
contentment, is called salvation ; not without the spontaneous 
background of thought that with the highest degree of salvation 
there is associated that of its greatest duration. Provided that 
our true nature, our proper destiny, consists in being good, in 
our actual harmony with what we ought to be, then must the 
realisation of that our true nature be accompanied by a feeling 
of the highest conceivable joy, of, in a word, blessedness or 
salvation. That is, it is in the moral life that we find our true 
life. It is not merely that blessedness may follow good action 
and goodness — that would be a blessedness alien in kind, and 
then goodness would be a means to an end foreign in character 
to those means, and in comparison with it lower. In fact, the 
New Testament, however much it avoids the restriction, on 
good grounds, of our blessedness to the world of our earthly 
experience, is full of passages which praise the height, depth, 
the absolute incomparableness of the blessedness of salvation 
now experienced by the Christian. It might be profitable to 
exhibit them in detail ; such words as joy, peace, life, blessed- 
ness, rejoicing in oneself, and others, in all their shades of 
meaning and inexhaustible applications. We can then be 
convinced how unfounded is the reproach that Christian ethics 
is gloomy and joyless ; as unfounded as the other assertion 
that it finally means the search for sensuous enjoyment. It 
leaves these contradictions behind, and is effective in composing 
the ancient strife which repeats itself in every breast, between 
virtue and happiness. It is the ethics of inexpressible joy 
(Pet. i. 8), which is a "joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. xiv. 17); 
in accordance with its origin inseparably one with the joy of 
the One who with such mystical openness witnesses of His joy, 



254 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

of that joy which is His own, unique, which cannot be taken 
away from Him (St John xiv. 16). Its ground is that He knows 
that He is beloved of the Father, and that He keeps Himself 
in that love by doing His will, and He Himself loves (St John 
XV. 11, xvi. 22, XV. 9 ff.) ; and out of His love, which is His life. 
His desire is to make this love and the joy of love in life a 
living reality for others. This joy is not the inner reward of 
virtue as a moral power which is dependent on itself; but the 
happiness of a love which, eternally loved, can do no other than 
exhibit love to others. Nor is it the outward reward of virtue, 
but it finds its completion in the agony of the cross. For the 
sake of this inner glory it bursts the bonds of earthly existence 
and is a joy "unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Pet. i. 8). It 
may easily be seen how here too all the master-relations of the 
highest Good come under notice ; at every point Christian 
ethics exhibits its uniqueness. Without again recalling detail, 
we must here draw attention to the way in which the New 
Testament — and that in all its parts — makes clear that this 
joy, salvation, this enjoyment of eternal life in the midst of 
time, and with the pledge of future completion, uniformly 
accompanies all the activities of the Christian character, both 
those which are religious and all those which in the more 
limited sense are moral duties. Founded in faith, and in that 
pure experience of the divine love which it receives, it is active 
in the virtues of humility, patience, hope ; in aspiration of the 
soul for God, prayer, as in those which belong to the love of 
our neighbour in their widest range. With special plainness 
and instructive clearness the first Epistle of St John says that 
eternal life in faith and love is now experienced (1 John v. 13, 
iii. 14). St James says that blessedness is experienced in 
'doing' (i. 25 fF.), as in patient endurance (i. 2 ff.). St Paul 
knows of a personal glorying which rests in the faith of justifi- 
cation (Rom. V. 1 ff.) and in self-denying service for the Gospel 
(1 Cor. ix. 15 ff*.). His powerful word, "Rejoice in the Lord 
always," he purposely gives twice over in that epistle of joy, 
the Philippians. This joy proceeds from the certainty of the 
nearness of the Lord ( " The Lord is at hand " ), from the absence 
of anxiety, from prayer (iv. 4-7) ; as fi-om diligent meditation 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 255 

on all that is "true, just, pure, and of good report" in human 
intercourse. Both series issue in the possession of " the peace 
of God " ( " The peace of God shall be with you " ), that peace 
which is the deepest ground of all Christian joy. But all this 
is merely the echo and explanation of the twofold unique 
foundation which Jesus lays in the Beatitudes (St Matt. v. 1 fF.). 
Why it cannot be otherwise has already been examined : even 
here we are led back to the deeper consideration — right to the 
sanctuary of the Christian faith — the completely distinct and 
unique thought of God as holy love. It is in Him that the 
reason is found why this prevailing view of the New 
Testament — that the blessedness of the Christian character 
is experienced in its activities — contains no contradiction to 
the idea of justification by faith alone {cf. pp. 95, 127, 179). 
Of coui'se a question will arise out of this when we sub- 
sequently have to ponder the fact of enduring sin in the 
Christian life. 

Next, let us note that in the New Testament the words 'joy,' 
' blessedness ' have a reciprocal relation to the word ' freedom "* ; 
and that in the sense that freedom is regarded as a Good, as 
life and salvation. Impressively does St Paul speak of never 
allowing himself to be overcome by natural impulses (1 Cor. vi. 
12 ff.) ; of his independence of human judgment, and that he 
dare appeal to the highest Tribunal (1 Cor. x. 29); of his 
standing above the highest powers of this world (Rom. viii.) ; 
of his not being ' initiated *■ into any secret ceremonies, but into 
that secret so hard to learn, how " both to be full and to be 
hungry, how both to abound and to suffer need,"" and of that 
greater difficulty, how to be " all things to all men " (Phil. iv. 
12 ff. ; 1 Cor. ix. 19 fF.). And all that because he is free from 
the law of sin and death, through the law of the Spirit of life 
which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. viii. 1 ff.). And the service of 
God Himself in which all this freedom is founded is to him 
" perfect freedom.'" It is the freedom of the sons of God, which 
is now already a real, and indeed the only true, though hidden 
life ; and which yearns for its full revelation, and has, in itself, 
the pledge that this desire will be gratified ; and yet this life is 
Christ Himself (Rom. viii. 15, 21 f. ; Col. iii. 1 ff.). We 



256 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

cannot be surprised at this interchanging relation of the words 
blessedness and freedom if we but think of the nature of the 
* Good.' Even here the Christian Good proves itself to be the 
perfection of all that is truly Good. We cannot define the 
nature of the moral life otherwise than that it is a life of inner 
unity and freedom ; and we cannot see our true destiny, our 
real being, in anything else. But the thought of this freedom 
is empty, so far as it gains shape at all ; the power of realising 
it is wanting. We seek this freedom in innumerable by-paths ; 
and if we divine the right way, this, oui' presage of it, brings 
Us only on a portion of our journey, and not yet to the goal. 
The will which thirsts for freedom sells itself into servitude. 
Our own nature, our fellow-creatures, the whole world becomes 
a fetter as long as we fain would regard this world, and gain it 
as our freedom. We have recognised the reason why this must 
be so. It is not any imperative ' Thou shalt "* ; it is only 
a quite definite one that can seriously put forward the claim 
to pass as absolute, because it truly leads to the possession of 
that freedom. And this ' Thou shalt,' which is the law of our 
own will, must be God's will borne by His might above the 
whole world ; and also in our weak will led by the proof of His 
love on to victory. In short, we must once more say all that was 
earlier adduced when speaking of the proof of the truth of the 
Christian Good. But that it has (unsought for) again ':nade good 
itself in our present context is itself a witness of the correctness 
of our fundamental position, and illumines it from every passing 
experience (pp. 20, 93, 104, 160). 

The distinction and the close connection of blessedness and 
honour have already been stated. In the former the good 
' character ' experiences that to be good is the true life ; the 
latter is the recognition of its moral value in any ethical 
judgment of it. Certainly there is no blessedness without the 
certainty of such recognition (even if it were in an appeal to 
the judgment of God unacknowledged by all the world), and 
all honour brings joy. But the notion 'honour' implicates the 
moral judgment of a Person, the decisive mark. If it is 
correct to say that the German word for honour is related to 
the word which means brass, then there was a sense-reference to 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 257 

this fact in the word itself.^ Thus, in the idea of ' honour "* there 
is the implicate of the splendour of the Good as exhibited to 
a judge, whether this judge is the person himself or another; 
or, finally, God as the reader of all hearts, and the sole Judge 
of all. Thus all those expressions which at first seem to be 
contradictory find their explanation ; as, for instance, ' to love 
honour,' ' seek for honour,"" ' receive honour,"" ' give honour,"" ' have 
honour"" ('have honour in the body""), 'a man of honour."" 
Shame is the guardian of honour ; it protects honour from 
violation by convincing him whose honour is infringed that he 
ought not to have permitted its violation. 

Simple as is this general notion of honour at the bottom, the 
way in which it is used is very manifold, as we may see by noting 
what is supposed to be worthy of honour and what is recognised 
as such. As a matter of fact, it has been made to mean almost 
anything, even opposite things. To speak more particularly, 
the way in which the ' Good ' is defined settles in any system 
of ethics the meaning to be attached to the idea of honour. 
Because the Greeks had a different moral ideal from that of 
Christianity (without prejudice to that common foundation of 
all ethics spoken of at the commencement of our work), they had 
a different notion of honour. The same thing is true within 
the limits of Christianity : the monk, for instance, considers 
that his honour consists in blind obedience, which to us Protest- 
ants seems unworthy of honour. But still more, it is Protestant 
ethics which makes it easier for us to see that every calling has 
its code of honour in accord with its special nature. However 
true it is that much sin tries to conceal itself under this cloak — 
' It is the code of honour in the circle in which I move ' — it 
must still be allowed that such code has a certain unimpeachable 
justification, since every moral calling has its own special 
importance in the whole of the Kingdom of God. ' Give the 
king due honour,"" ' Our industry is an honour to us,"" and the 
like phrases are but applications of the rule, ' Honour to 

^ As the Latin word aes-timo was connected with aes, brass, so Ehre, honour, 
with Erz, brass. But Kluge, Etymologisches Worterbuch, gives the more probable 
connection of both the Latin and German with Sanscrit root " />," to desire, seek 
to obtain. — Tr. 

17 



258 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

whom honour is due ' (1 Pet. ii. 17 ; Rom. xiii. 7). The 
almost inconceivably great variety of temperaments — that is, 
of the natural material out of which character is shaped — 
illustrates the same thing. The greater the resistance of the 
material, the greater the honour of victory over it. When we 
look at this we see how, to the widest extent, it is possible for 
us to be sincere in our deferential complaisance to another, and 
esteem him above ourselves (Phil. ii. 2), ' in honour preferring 
one another.' The general distinctions of sex, age, nationality, 
give a different impress to the notion of honour. The child's 
idea is different from that of the man, as is that of a woman, 
whose notion of honour is different from that of a man ; without 
any contradiction of Gal. iii. 28, but rather unfolding its 
meaning. Christian honour, then, which belongs to all, is, on 
account of its intrinsic inexhaustibility, infinitely manifold in 
its forms. 

Consequently to everyone there belongs just as much honour 
as is due to his goodness ; as much recognition as he, measured 
by the ideal standard, and according to his disposition and his 
special position, is found in moral judgment to be in harmony 
with the ideal. To the best belongs the highest honour, 
Christ ; to Him who in obedience endured unparalleled humilia- 
tion, unparalleled exaltation, the " Name which is above every 
name" (Phil. ii.). No honour at all to him who, so far as in 
him lies, rejects the binding force of the imperative ' Thou 
shalt ' ; declines his duty to others, as the selfish man, who is 
in both these points godless and ungrateful for the gift of God 
which should bind him to these duties. The only scintilla of 
honour that may be given to the idle lounger or the sensual 
man is that which arises from this fact of his eternal destiny, 
inasmuch as it is not for man to deny his immortal value so 
long as God gives him time to repent. 

From all this it results that to strive for honour, for 
recognition by a moral judgment, is a task for the Christian 
which he cannot forego, a task of moral endeavour which cannot 
even be thought of as non-existent for him. " Not to be excited 
about trifles, and yet to contend for a straw when honour is at 
stake," expresses a really Christian thought, how often soever 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 259 

it has been misused. Doubtless honour has its place in our 
life in the flesh. It is not merely a nation, but every individual, 
that is worthless if he is not prepared to sacrifice all for honour. 
Not to sacrifice all if need be would be not to recognise the 
duty of regarding our life here as the higliest of ' Goods ' ; it 
would not be goodness. Hence even in Christian ethics there is 
such a thing as justifiable moral self-esteem, legitimate pride. 
" I laboured more abundantly than they all " (1 Cor. xv. 9). Self- 
respect is a Christian virtue, self-degradation is in Christian 
ethics doubly reprehensible — a lie. But a Christian ambition — 
{Sio Koi (piXoTi/uLoviuieday " we are ambitious to be well pleasing 
to Him," R.V.) — is quite real in its endeavour to obtain re- 
cognition for the possession of true goodness, not its mere 
appearance. For this is hypocrisy, which is seeming to be 
good without really being so, the reverse of a good character, 
and the greatest and most subtle danger in the development of 
many a Christian. The German word is stronger than the 
Greek-derived representative, hypocrisy, which excellently repre- 
sents those more subtle forms of it which a coarser word dis- 
guises. It includes every sort of pretence. The pursuit of honour 
and praise, that is, the desire of recognition of our real worth, 
cannot be otherwise regarded than as inseparable from the pursuit 
of righteousness. In the education of those not come to maturity 
the prospect of such recognition should be a spur to the 
endeavour to be worthy of it. To awaken a mere covetousness 
of honour is an evil in the training of youth. For those who 
have come to years of discretion the pursuit of honour and the 
pursuit of goodness go hand in hand. 

But, now, the moral judgment from which springs the desired 
recognition of our worth is not always and everywhere a right 
one, or such as stands on a high level of knowledge and of 
purity of will. Our present statements only stand good 
without restriction so far as this may be assumed. In the 
actual world, on the contrary, we find that all the champions of 
the Good are now at war with the evil around them and in 
them, with the world and the flesh ; and besides, the Christian 
needs continually to ask himself how far his own or another"'s 
judgment is to be relied upon in awarding or refusing honour, 



260 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

or this moral recognition of worth. On this point we find a 
double warning in the New Testament, and easily perceive 
their connection with the highest truths. On the one hand, we 
are not to despise the worth of even an imperfect judgment, 
for there are elements of truth in it which a self-satisfied mind 
may easily overlook. Hence Christians are to walk honourably 
to those who are without {cf. 1 Cor. x. 32). But, on the other 
hand, all human judgment, even the best, even that of the 
Christian (and this particularly often) is fallible. To seek 
honour of men easily becomes a hindrance to reliance upon the 
highest court of appeal, the judgment of God. Even the 
tribunal within us cannot have the last word (1 Cor. iv. 4, " He 
that judgeth me is the Lord: I judge not mine own self""). 
Christ on the cross appeared as the least honourable of all men 
in the roll of the world's history, and yet before God that cross 
was the highest in honour, and to the opened eye of faith is and 
will be a spectacle of eternal glory. To dwell upon the honour 
which comes from men is one of the foremost hindrances to 
moral progress, and is a fetter as enslaving as Mammon 
(St John V. 44, vii. 18; 2 Cor. vi. 8). As a good rule of 
personal self-examination, it has ever been recommended to ask 
oneself the question : Does the thought of having acted 
foolishly in the opinion of our fellows bring deeper pain than 
the conviction of having sinned against God ? Luth:*r''s saying 
at Worms, " They have deprived me of fame and honour, but 
sufficient for me is my Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ," 
stands on a high level. 

In respect to violations of honour in social intercourse 
regulated by legal sanctions, those principles apply which we 
adduced above when dealing with right as duty. The so-called 
rehabilitation of this honour by the duel is neither harmless nor 
reasonable, nor necessary as an additional means for obtaining 
what the law already guarantees. It is not harmless, for the 
duel is an open breach of the law, a retrogression to the period 
of blood-feud, and in particular to that of the superstitions 
of the ordeal ; it is also an arbitrary endangering of another''s 
life. It is unreasonable, for it is not intelligible how by such 
means the wrong done by the offender is atoned for, or the 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 261 

honour of the injured person rehabilitated. Neither for the 
one end nor the other does the acknowledgment of equal social 
rank, which is implied in the challenge to a duel or its accept- 
ance, suffice ; and just as little to the purpose is the proved 
courage of the combatants, say, for instance, when the cause 
of offence is the accusation of dishonourable lying. It is 
unnecessary, for only the defender of duelling will assert that 
all other legal means are insufficient, which are not really 
sought for so long as the prejudice in favour of the necessity 
of duelling remains — quite apart from its actual necessity in 
some countries. Of course, in this asserted necessity the real 
thought which lies concealed is the desire of revenge. After 
all, it is the chief duty of the depository of state power, of the 
supreme protector of social order, to work for the abolition 
of duelling by all means, and that on account of the confusion of 
moral issues which obviously exists in those strata of society in 
which there are few who are themselves addicted to this breach 
of law. Only in reference to duelling we are bound to insist 
that we cannot make any exception to the rule given as to the 
personal character of every judgment of duty. Whether, for 
instance, an individual officer may refuse to comply with this 
form of protecting his honour at the price of dismissal from 
the service, when also his livelihood and that of his family 
depend upon his position, is a matter for his own conscience 
{cf. ' Conflict of Duties ■"). In some way quite different from the 
serious duel are the academic combats of students. The 
Christian moral judgment must notwithstanding be a stern 
one, on account of the waste of time inseparable from them : 
and still more because far more ideal wreaths of honour allure 
the youthful mind ; particularly under the sway of the general 
notion of standing up for oneself, to say nothing . of the desire 
which asserts itself in every young life to give much high evidence 
of a courageous bearing. Exaggeration of supposed personal 
honour and the absence of real honour are often quite close 
neighbours at the universities where such things obtain. 



262 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Hiimility. 

The words blessedness and freedom, dignity and honour, 
already discussed, which are the fundamental notes of the 
Christian character, get their full and deep quality first of all 
by their union with humility. Christian joy, Christian freedom, 
and Christian honour are humble — humble joy and humble 
glorying. It is clear from such phrases that humility is not 
a separate virtue, but properly and rightly is that which in its 
main import and intrinsic excellence gives the tone to the 
Christian character, and is therefore the common stamp set 
upon every Christian virhue. For this reason it is that the 
word humility is in a special degree a Christian term. The 
New Testament appropriates a Greek word which for Greeks 
themselves expressed their contempt for low mean-spiritedness.^ 
The Old Testament is on this point a prophecy, but not its 
fulfilment, for the ' poor,' ' oppressed,"" the ' afflicted," the humble 
sufferers of the Psalms and Prophets merely prepare the way 
for the meek and humble of heart of the New Testament. And 
even in the midst of the Christian world humility is not accorded 
the respect due to it, on account of the numerous misconceptions 
that have attached themselves to the mere word. It is almost 
easier to say what it does not mean than what its true sense is. 
It does not mean set reflection on the contrast be^^ween the 
finite and the Infinite, creature and Creator, nor the feeling 
of insignificance which thence arises. Christ, the example of 
true humility, is the Father's Son, and He brings us into the 
state of adoption. And His humility, and ours in His likeness, 
is the opposite of all self-produced and so easily self-pleasing 
work, by means of which man, unable to throw off* the pressure 
of life, makes that feeling of insignificance endurable. Just 
as little is humility simply self-humiliation arising from a 
continual reflection on personal sin or on human sin generally. 
Or otherwise where is the humility of Christ ^ And how much 
self-satisfaction may be bound up with a strongly marked sense 
of being a ' miserable sinner ' ! So much the more readily 
because in this way by such self-torment the word sin (a word 

* Vide Trench, New Testament Synonyms, pp. 145 ff. — Tr. 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 263 

which cannot be misemployed with impunity) is confounded 
with the mere sense of human imperfection, and by the 
exaggeration of its seriousness its true seriousness is lost, and 
the moral mixed up with what is natural. In justifiable 
opposition to that kind of misuse of terms, and with a clear 
reference to the New Testament, the view has recently been 
advanced that true humility means partly a ready acquiescence 
in God's providential guidance, and partly a readiness to serve 
His will, which is wrought by the joyful consciousness of God's 
love, just as the Son of Man, worthy to rule, resolved to be 
the servant of all ; and that this willingness to serve is the 
measure of true greatness in God's Kingdom. And certainly 
humility is not a barren emotion ; it is no wearisome, self- 
regarding virtue, which never issues in a resolve of the will ; 
certainly, too, humility is the highest courage, and this cannot 
manifest its energy otherwise than in subjection to God's 
guidance in the service of others ; and hence humility has 
express relation to our attitude to our fellow-men, and is not 
merely modesty. Still, the word cannot be taken in so narrow 
a sense. The observation already made, that all Christian 
virtues permit and require the epithet, compels us to give it 
a wider meaning. Humility is the reverential inclination of 
our souls to the almighty, holy love of God in yearning 
confidence, in yearning desire. It is in this respect the belief 
that this virtue is the childlike reception of the undeserved and 
inexhaustible grace of God. That this willingness to receive 
is the incentive and motive power of the willingness to bestow 
follows from the nature of God, and the quality of faith which 
is determined by that nature, as we have earlier set forth. 
In this master-idea, so taken, those other ideas at first rejected 
gain their justification, which concern the distance between 
God and man, and between the Holy God and sinful man. 
Yes, in its place and at its time, each according to his special 
character as an individual, each as he is led, both these sides 
of the whole truth gain a certain substantiality : " I a shadow, 
He, the fount of light," " For me and for my life nothing merely 
of earth suffices." The simplest and hardest proof of humility 
for all is that inner attitude in relation to those positions in 



264 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

life in which good fortune demands greater moral courage than 
misfortune. And another proof is found in willing, joyfiil 
service for the benefit of our neighbour. 

Sin. 
This idea of humility, too, like the rest of our exposition, 
leads us of itself to the explicit consideration of character in 
relation to sin^ and so to apply ourselves to the task named 
before (p. 148). The subjects on which it is necessary to speak 
as to this matter are numerous and various. Let us start by 
saying that the question really is as to the hindrances to be 
overcome in the progress of spiritual growth ; of continual 
* conversion ' ; of sanctification as the task to be carried to 
completeness. Then we find that there are three clear heads to 
which it is easy to give intelligible distinctness of meaning. 
They are, the enemy, the weapons, the victory. In other words, 
we consider the fact of temptation to sin in the way the 
Christian encounters it ; then the aids which are available in 
this battle ; and finally the success attained. That is, we 
ponder questions which concern sin in the regenerate ; the 
relation of sin and salvation ; the Gospel idea of perfection. 

Temptation. 
The word temptation suffers not infrequently from being 
used in different senses in well-known passages of Holy Scripture. 
God tempts no one, says St James. The petition in the Lord's 
Prayer, " Lead us not into temptation,"" assumes that it is God 
that leads us into temptation, or why pray that He may not 
lead us into temptation ? St Paul, in Corinthians (x. 15), 
expressly combines the two, as Luther clearly explains. The 
longer catechisms have not always presented the idea in its 
depth and freedom. According to them, God will protect us 
from being deceived and misled by the devil, the world, and 
the flesh, and in our contests with these will give us the victory. 
Many a time the old explanations are better than the new ; 
when, for instance, a distinction is drawn between the tempta- 
tion to evil and to good, explaining the latter idea by showing 
how in this ' good ' a temptation may lie, and then afterwards 



THE NEW IJFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 265 

it is found needful to put the question, Cannot even temptation 
be beneficial ? Besides this difficulty in the word temptation, 
there comes the other, which lies in a loose use of the words 
' world ' and ' flesh,'' and their relation to satanic temptations. 

Temptation is everything that can be a motive to sin, and to 
our wilful resistance to the will of God. This, of course, is 
understanding sin in the ordinary Evangelical sense, so that, as 
Luther says, " Nothing damns but unbelief."" Everything in and 
for itself can be such incitement to sin, even the greatest 
opposites, health and sickness, poverty and riches, society and 
solitude. And this occasion for possible sin may be external or 
internal — for instance, a talent which we possess, however good 
it may be in itself. But this only on the assumption that this 
outward or inward incitement meets with something in our 
ego that is receptive and responsive to it. Hence real tempta- 
tion is continual temptation of a definite person, and varies 
with the natural disposition, temperament, calling, and course 
of life. In the Confessions of St Augustine, and in the life of 
Luther, a special world of temptation is revealed ; for Jesus 
Christ temptation had a unique quality, as, say, in contrast with 
St Paul (c/. 2 Cor. xi. 21-33; Rom. vii. 7-25). The word 
in the Epistle to the Hebrews (iv. 15), " He was in all points 
tempted as we are,"" emphasises for our comfort the fact of 
His power to realise all our temptations, while it does not 
exclude but assumes that for Himself His personal aud unique 
temptations were such as sprang from His special calling as 
the Redeemer (St Matt, iv., xvi., xxvi.). 

Such temptation is necessary for every real moral develop- 
ment. It is in accordance with the divine will as the 
indispensable basis for personal resolves, as the inevitable 
material on which the fulfilment of duty turns. And this 
whether we explain away sin, or assume its immense activity 
in Paradise and out of it, as read in the early pages of the 
Bible. But temptation with the design that it shall result 
in sin is absolutely contrary to the idea of God. If it be said 
that such temptations proceed from the world and the flesh, 
then world and flesh are not here understood to mean that 
external incitement necessary to any actual temptation or 



266 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

the susceptibility to that incitement which in our ego is 
responsive to it, but we mean ' world ■" and * flesh "* in the sense 
already assigned to these terms (p. 152) as plainly set forth 
in Holy Writ — the world, that is, in opposition to the King- 
dom of God, the world as an expression for that interaction 
of evil wills everywhere present, although in incalculable variety 
of importance ; inclusive also of the social arrangements which 
are its product. Flesh as meaning that nature we possess 
already at enmity with God : " Every man is tempted when 
he is led away by his own lust and enticed" (James i. 14). 
If this infinitely complicated whole has been divided into ' lust 
of the eye,' ' lust of the flesh,' and ' the pride of life,' that 
has been done against the scope of the word, and necessarily 
leads to artificiality and superficiality. With regard to the 
temptations of the devil, experienced pastors have often in- 
sisted on the necessity of using caution in calling those such 
which it is very difficult so to regard, since the test, whether 
hard or easy, is necessarily subjective feeling. In the same 
way we have particularly to guard against thinking those 
sudden fancies and impulses which emerge without apparent 
reason as temptations of Satan, because they often enough 
arise from abnormal physical circumstances which mostly call 
for the treatment of the physician. Neither may we deny the 
danger of spiritual pride in this province. All those who have 
room in their belief for the idea of a background of a mysterious 
world of 'offence' are just those who will be most disposed to 
insist on this danger. It is, however, rather a subject for 
theology than ethics. When we are speaking of temptation, 
we are also standing on ground where the Christian neophyte 
should put a restraint on himself, and be ready to learn in his 
own case from the experience of others, and especially from the 
great heroes of faith in the Kingdom of God ; where he may 
learn of the strength and weakness of the human heart, and see 
the inexhaustible variety of change of feelings ranging from the 
joy of assurance of salvation to the severest spiritual contests. 
He is finally assured against all, who has penetrated through 
the darkness to the eternal light, and for whom the prospect 
of a great calm after the storm is one of the surest signs of 



THE NEW IJFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 267 

one earnestly struggling with temptation. This is the true 
preparation for death, and not weak trifling with self-produced 
dream-fancies. 

This explanation of temptation (which really deserves to be 
called a world in itself) becomes deeper and clearer as we gain 
an increasing insight into the subtle ramifications of the 
interconnected psychical and physical life {cf. p. 172). All 
the master-notions of individual ethics, as responsibility, 
personal worth, character, freedom, are, in this way, brought 
out of shadowy indefiniteness into the full daylight of reality. 
We may form some conjecture of the infinite variety in the 
comrades we have in this great battle of temptation, which 
is fought for the most part in secret. We learn to understand 
others, and gain caution in judging them. We give heed for 
ourselves even to that which is apparently trifling, which can 
have such serious consequences. We find our responsibility no 
longer merely in the moments of clear resolve, but in the secret 
most insignificant beginnings ; everything is important and 
significant. The exhortation to " watch and pray," to manliness 
and firmness, becomes a living word for our daily life. Especially 
is heedfulness of the temptation which is dangerous to an 
individual from his idiosyncrasy increased. The ancient 
saying, "Sin which lurks at the door," is true of every- 
one, but of everyone in a different way. The lurking beast 
at the door is not always the same, and the battle is not always 
the same. To ' flee ' is one way, and another is " to starve the 
beasts out, give them nothing to graze on in thy thoughts, 
and they grow lean and languid." Instead of that we feed 
them on the titbits of our fancy or the products of the 
lascivious imaginations of others. 

That everything may be a source of temptation, fortune or 
misfortune, has been above suggested ; yet with good reason a 
special word or two must be devoted to suffering, in consonance 
with our immediate feeling of its significance in such connection. 
Temptation from this source affects all those sides of the moral 
life so often named. Suffering makes us unruly, loveless, god- 
less, unless there is some counterbalancing influence brought 
to bear. Honest self-judgment stands astonished at the way in 



268 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

which it can make us stupid and indifferent towards things 
above, outside us or within us, and often so quickly. Complain- 
ing rebellion against fate, hardness and tyranny towards our 
neighbour, anxious and eager care for our personal well-being, 
is only apparent strength, and is in truth moral weakness. 
Suffering for the purpose of punishment no longer exists for 
him who is a child of God. This is most clearly seen in those 
sufferings which have their real origin in the sins and eiTors of 
earlier life, and even of our after life. They can become tempta- 
tions, such as we call severe temptation to unbelief, or a trial 
arising from doubt why it is that God does not remove the 
suffering if peace with God is a reality (Rom. v. 1). But then the 
victory consists in the firmly fixed faith that " there is no con- 
demnation to them who are in Christ Jesus,"" that that kind of 
suffering, however bitter it may be to our feelings, is yet no 
longer punishment, but the discipline of fatherly love, which — 
the very opposite of all human arbitrariness — in a wonderful 
way helps us forward to the goal of perfection (Heb. xii. 5). 
Such suffering has always been regarded as a sanctuary in the 
stillness of which it is only the sufferer himself who can find the 
proper answer to the questions : Why is this particular suffering 
sent to me .'' How far am I to meet it by work and prayer ? 
(2 Cor. xii.). In what way can it be made to serve my best 
interests ? How much Christian reflection has busied itself 
with this life-question of suffering is witnessed by the number 
of words which have on them the impress of the various sides of 
this educative power of suffering. In respect of the result for 
the sufferer are such words as refer to ' proving,"* ' purifying,"" 
'perfecting"' power; and designations famous in Christian 
ethics are such as ' martyr,"" ' witness "" in sufferings for others 
and to the glory of God, inexhaustibly illustrated in the picture- 
gallery of histories of saints, of the Scriptures, and the Church. 
All suffering attains its highest consecration when it is dignified 
by the name of the Cross, and a truly reverent piety will 
watch jealously lest, in common speech, this word should be 
misused by application to any pain which the natural heart 
shuns. It is only bearing the ' Cross '' after Christ in the 
strictest sense when suffering is borne in the power of the 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 269 

atoning Cross of Christ, in the spirit of His obedient faith and 
His patient love. All sufferings, of course, in respect of range 
can be subsumed under this head, however distinct the out- 
ward form of the suffering may be. In the chief place stands 
conscious sorrow over others' sin, enduring sympathy with 
others' deepest need. 

Suicide. 

Here, where the question spoken of is of suffering as tempta- 
tion, is probably the right place to consider the morality of 
suicide. For in Christian ethics it is only in such a connection 
from the point of view of trial, that it can explicitly come 
within purview. It is not an indifferent fact, in regard to a 
verdict on it, that the spread of suicide keeps pace, generally 
speaking, with the progress of civilisation, of our mechanical 
and intellectual mastery over nature's forces. It has increased 
in the last half-century with the immense impetus given to 
industries, commerce, and national education. During this 
period it has increased among the nations mainly affected by 
this impulse, and, among these, more among the German than 
the Romance nations, and among the latter more than among 
the Sclavs. Within these nations it has increased at the 
centres of civilisation, in the great capitals, and within these 
latter among those who are chiefly engaged in callings where 
culture is highest. But we are warned to be cautious of hasty 
conclusions, since, in Norway, with advancing civilisation the 
number of suicides in the last century has greatly diminished. 
The warfare waged against alcohol may perhaps have some 
connection with this. The causes in individual cases are often 
obscure, but, so far as they are ascertainable, it would appear 
that temporary excitement of passion is provable in a decreas- 
ingly small number of cases ; while in many cases disease is 
accountable ; in the vast majority, probably more than two- 
thirds, the cause is weariness of life slowly coming to a head. 
But this itself has its reason in the ruin of the life by economical 
or business or spiritual or moral causes, and that in such incon- 
ceivably great variety and combinations of circumstances as to 
leave no possibility of being able to assess the measure of 



270 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

personal guilt, and especially in those cases where the im- 
mediate causes are not such as drunkenness and dissipation, 
which are relatively plain and clear. Particularly shocking 
cases, as, for instance, youthful suicides, often cast light on the 
difficulty and necessity of plain speaking on the purely individual 
needs that arise in the spiritual, moral, and bodily development 
of the young life. In this task of the most personal care for 
souls love must always and ever be more ingenious in its faith- 
fulness. 

There is scarcely any point of ethics on which moral judgment 
has passed through so many and extraordinary alternations. 
The natural horror of death which characterises an unembarrassed 
mind, which does not willingly take this step into the dark 
unknown — man alone among the creatures of this world essays 
a voluntary death — was weakened at the commencement of 
complicated social arrangements by the tendency to excuse 
suicide, or even to glorify it, existing alongside this natural 
disapproval. The death of Saul seems much like the end of 
a course of disobedience, while it throws a sort of expiatory 
shimmer of light on a life which began with so much promise. 
The Stoic philosophy set the rule for that which appeared so 
grand in the end of Themistocles and Cato — if the circumstances 
seem unworthy, there is a way open ; the life that can no longer 
be lived with dignity may be left like a room filled with smoke. 
The faith of Christians gave them reason and strength for 
stern disapproval. So completely did this view pass into the 
general consciousness that it seemed no longer needful to appeal 
to faith. The heroes of German philosophy almost overpassed 
the Christian judgment in strictness. In the opinion of Fichte, 
"to take one''s own life is just the same as determining no 
longer to do one's duty ; our duty to God, to our neighbour, 
to ourselves.^ There were many causes which combined to bring 
about the breaking of the bow too stiffly bent. Medical science, 
which recognised the intimate dependence of the psychical on 
the physical life ; still more the popularisation of its actual and 
supposed scientific results ; the progress of social insight into 
the might of economic circumstances ; moral considerations 
which would not submit to those master-sayings — considerations 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 271 

which appeared to have sound human intelligence on their side. 
Why — it was asked always more insistently, — why not dare to 
take a life received unasked for ? or that which is grown to be 
merely a burden and a torment to others as to oneself? Nay, is 
not the ruined man still a man by at least courageously putting 
an end to a life already lost ? Is not such an end the opposite 
of the cowardice which these exalted axioms of philosophy would 
brand it as being ? And from this prevalent feeling the sincere 
upholders of the stern view, and especially the Church, found 
the growing need of facing the question : Whether, where the 
last honours of burial are concerned, in such cases the poor and 
rich, the respectable and the pauper, are alike impartially 
dealt with ? 

In spite of all the confusion of the moment, the principles 
of Christianity on this matter cannot be doubtful. That word 
"Judge not," set forth as an obvious rule for all, ought to 
make it clear to every Christian that there is no such thing 
as a ' lost ' life so long as that " To-day if ye will hear His 
voice" (Heb. iii. 7) has meaning. The Christian knows that 
nothing can separate him from the love of God, and that in the 
light of this love everything without exception is for the best, 
even the suffering that is unendurable without this faith, and 
that for the sufferer himself, as for his own immediate circle 
(Rom. viii.) ; that he is the Lord's, whether in life or death, and 
especially that he can die ' to the Lord,' in subjection to the 
will of the Lord, as to time and circumstances (Rom. xiv.). 
But we may go down a step further still into the labyrinth 
of the mind oppressed by sadness and weariness of life, and 
say, even where that living faith is not present at all, or is 
temporarily obscured, the common fear of God, the dread, 
however undefined, of that step into the unknown, that de- 
termination to pause before the final secret of our existence, 
may and ought to be a powerful obstacle to the carrying out 
of dark thoughts into darker deed. That is the meaning of 
the poet : 

Oh that the Everlasting had not fixed 

His canon against self-slaughter. . . . 



272 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

To die, to sleep, 
To sleep, perchance to dream ; — ay, there's the rub ; 
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come 
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil 
Must give us pause. 

But that the dread of something after death, 
. The undiscovered country from whose bourn 
No traveller returns, puzzles the will. 

Many doctors affirm that one reason of suicide is the cessation 
of belief in a hereafter. In Christian judgment, accordingly, 
suicide is a guilty act when and so far as that definite faith 
or religious fear could be present, and on that only God can 
decide. But Christian history is full of examples of how this 
temptation to suicide more frequently tortures men than a 
merely superficial view recognises ; and it is only known in 
confidential conversation how it is overcome by faith, and 
partly in ways that only those who are led in them can rightly 
declare to be marvellous. 

Asceticism. 

In the battle with temptation the Christian proves his 
weapons. He inquires for the means which will lead him on 
his course to the goal. Or then, if this goal is under our 
present point of view the ripening of Christian character, and 
the state of virtue, then he seeks for the means of realising it ; 
for the virtues which are the means for the cultivation of his 
character. But if that is correct which has already been said 
of the development of the new life, then the doctrine of moral 
gymnastic (asceticism) may be shortly dealt with. It is 
at bottom merely a question of setting aside a doubtful 
notion, and one that is in ethics dangerous. We have long 
noted that, as said, we become good when we do good ; the 
will grows firmer by practice on the material which divine 
Providence offers, by the fulfilling of God's will in a definite 
way. That is the secret not only of an active but also of a 
holy and, in both, peaceful life for Christ as for Christians 
{cf. Adolphe Monod, Farewell Addresses). "To walk in good 
works which God has prepared beforehand,"" that is the way 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 273 

in which we ourselves become a personal whole, and do our- 
selves become a work of God (Eph. ii. 10) : " We are His 
workmanship."" 

.... I 

Am no tongue hero, no fine virtue-prattler. 

I cannot warm by thinking 

Cease I to work, I am annihilated. (^Wallenstein.y 

But that is our question, Is it not possible to ' warm the will ' 
without being a ' virtue-prattler '' ? Is there no work that ma^^ 
be done merely for strengthening the will ? Did not Jesus go 
alone on to the mountains and into the wilderness for prayer, 
for self-recollection ? Such questions show in the briefest way 
possible that wholly distinct questions are mixed up and 
confused. Prayer, meditation, discipline of the emotional 
nature, all that we have long become acquainted with as 
important features of that image after which we have been 
formed and after which we are still to be fashioned, are our 
obvious task. But now the question is, are virtues attained 
in any other way than by being faithful to the task to be 
done, and by fulfilling every present duty, and so by prayer, 
meditation on God''s word, " keeping under my body " (1 Cor. 
ix. 27), at the time, in the degree, and as our course in life 
and special position or individual calling (in the widest sense of 
this word, as previously defined) demands for this purpose ? Or 
are there at least intervals in the Christian life which may be 
filled up by action, such as make no contribution to that great 
object ; which do not help in any respect to realise the ideal 
even in the smallest point, even by adding some minor branches 
to the tree ? Otherwise put, is there not action which has 
merely the purpose of fitting the will for future action, of 
increasing the quantity of the energy with which we may enter 
as trained combatants into the battle ; action which, as it is 
phrased, aims at the attainment of virtue as such ? It is a mere 
unimportant distinction, when those who answer these questions 
in the aflSrmative, with the usual expression, assert the right of 
asceticism, i.e. of the practice of virtue for practice' sake, or for 
^ Coleridge's translation. — Tr. 



274 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

the attainment of virtue, and employ this term asceticism some- 
times of all possible means of virtue, positive and negative, or in 
other words such things as gymnastics and cathartic discipline, 
or bodily exercises and the practice of strict purity, or only use 
it of the latter of these. Those who take this latter accordingly 
do not generally quote all the passages of Scripture which speak 
of diligence, bodily exercise, avoidance of slackness, and the like, 
but only those which refer to self-restraint, self-renunciation, 
self-denial, the " plucking out of the right eye," the " taking up 
of the cross."" Those who would include all possible means draw 
up in some detail — as far as the content is concerned — exceedingly 
attractive lists, in which they combine the points of view named 
{i.e. the ascetic, which is both practical and purifying, exercise 
and discipline) with a number of other items (such as our relation 
to God and one''s own self, and the latter again contemplated 
from the side of the intelligence and the will) such as correspond 
well to the opulence of life's experience. In which, therefore, not 
merely such things as fasting and prayer and vows, but also 
travel, diaries, and the like, have their place as means of virtue. 
But all earnest Protestant moralists, however much they may 
differ in such artifices, are one in regarding such means of virtue 
merely as means, and not as laying full claim to the title of 
meritorious action (cf. p. ^34). 

But has an idea of this kind in general its proper place in 
Protestant ethics ? We might hope that, when it is taken 
only and merely as just defined, this will be generally 
denied. Any example you like may serve to explain. In our 
time much is rightly said of temperance in the use of spirituous 
liquors. But the opinion that here we have a specially clear 
case, morally justifiable, for actual obligatory asceticism for 
us Protestants arises from want of clear knowledge. How far 
is this obligation to extend ? By this self-control it is said 
our moral power for action in other provinces is exercised. 
Doubtless this is often the case. But as soon as we think of 
a definite person in a definite situation, then we see that this 
is undoubtedly only the case when such temperance is under- 
stood to be merely one item in the whole of our moral task. 
To this belongs, as we have repeatedly insisted, the profitable 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 275 

subjection of all our natural impulses under the highest End ; 
and here we need that sound common sense which, to use the 
words of St Paul, not merely struggles against the carnal 
desires of the flesh, but also avoids undue regardlessness of 
bodily needs. Now, the duty of self-control certainly, for the 
vast majority of persons, presents a wider range when they are 
ready to recognise this duty. But this is only so far as the 
question is one of individual duty. That is to say, according 
to all said earlier, so far as it is a duty necessary to the 
realisation of one side of the moral ideal that self-control has 
for the person practising it the result affirmed of steeling his 
energy for other different duties. It has not this result at all 
when it is a mere exercise of determination. How conceited 
and how small many of the heroes of temperance and abstinence 
show themselves by ignoring this simple truth ! Nay, more 
than that, how unfit for practical action on the wide province 
of their whole life's task ; in the most favourable case capable 
in this and that point, but not men of God "thoroughly 
furnished to every good work." The delusion thus opposed, 
that such practice of virtue for practice' sake is a high stage 
of moral attainment, arises from the fact that it is not always 
borne in mind how inseparable are the whole of the funda- 
mental relations in the moral ideal, and particularly that 
relation of our own individuality to society. And if we, 
neglecting inward growth for this external morality, suddenly 
become aware, both for ourselves and for others, how hollow 
such morality is, because its roots are rotten, so conversely we 
overvalue the long-neglected work for a time, and give it 
an undue importance in an equally untrue way. Certainly 
so far as such work is done with earnestness, and further, 
in so far as it happens that personal morality first comes into 
existence in such effort, it would be wrong to undervalue such 
facts. Very often that motto is true of it : " Destroy it not, 
for there is a blessing in it." The true-hearted man is led on 
to something higher. This opinion as to the single case 
alters the principle in no wise. If we recognise the inseparable 
unity of moral gifts, then we see that no action is merely 
empty, but on the contrary mere self-discipline is so. Every 



276 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

genuine effort of self-discipline is undertaken in the realisation 
of the whole of our moral task, in a determinate respect, and 
every such action is a practising oneself in virtue. At the 
bottom, opponents admit this when they, at the conclusion 
of their eulogy of ascetic exercises, do all they can to warn 
against self-righteousness, and exhort to trustful reliance on 
divine discipline, which, apparently so incidental, is in reality 
that which is alone consistently carried through. For, in fact, 
attempts to equip oneself for calls to act, with which we may 
most probably be met, are aimless when we remember the 
limit of our insight and the changeableness of our feelings. 
Salvation from this self-torment is to be found in the faith 
that it is God who prepares for us the works in which we are 
to employ ourselves, who determines, limits, furthers, and 
hinders our action, as well in reference to the formation of 
our own character as in reference to His great Kingdom, 
provided we will that His will may be done. On that account 
the dispute over ascetic practice is no mere learned debate, 
but it is important in this subject of the Christian life that 
this obscure and unsatisfactory notion should be dismissed. 
If the above-chosen example appears like trifling, it may still 
easily be shown that others bring us to the same results. 
What is the practice of prayer just for the sake of practice 
but a strange, even unchristian idea ? The practice of prayer 
is a great factor in the Christian life, the right and duty of 
all the children of God, both (once more) different for every 
individual and for him in his individual experiences. Examples 
are, Luther during the Augsburg diet and in the sickness of 
Melancthon. The delusion that the practice of prayer for the 
sake of devotional exercise is good and praiseworthy again 
arises out of the fact that in the dissipating distractions of the 
world many do not seek or find the collectedness which is 
generally, and for them especially, necessary, without which 
they cannot be Christians at all, or fulfil their Christian calling ; 
and many must have merely self-chosen ' Christian influences ' 
brought to bear on them. So then it appears to them to be 
' pious "" if they arrange special devotional exercises. In truth, 
they must either so do the will of God in this or that measure, 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 277 

in this or that way, or they think they sin. But we should 
say that surely in certain stages of development — for instance, 
in the special temptations of youth — single moral actions 
{e.g. temperance) might merely serve the purpose of testing 
the powers ; then it can easily be shown that even these could 
not demonstrate their Protestant ethical character, even while 
they are capable of being regarded as individual calls of duty. 

In short, there are no such things as especial means of virtue 
rightly understood, ascetic exercises in the accurately defined 
sense (p. 273). There is only the training of self by readiness 
to submit to the training of the great Teacher, and that by 
being ready to fulfil the one great life-task, in the way in which 
it is to be realised by a definite individual in a definite 
situation. To put it otherwise, there must be readiness to 
fulfil the ' calling of life "* in the sense earlier defined. But 
this proposition will be still plainer if we consider some of the 
notions which are usually set forth as specially important 
examples of ascetical practice, such as vows, fasting, pious 
meditation, and prayer. But in what follows we use these 
subjects not merely as helps in our judgment on this subject 
of ascetical practice, but in order to avoid repetition we conjoin 
all that ought to be said generally of these important ideas in 
Protestant ethics. 

Vows. 

Vows occupy a special position. For vows can refer to all 
sorts of things — among other things, to fasting or prayer ; and, 
again, not merely to such (nominal) ascetical practices, but, for 
instance, to one single heroic act. The speciality of a vow is 
the form of the action — that is, the person who takes a vow 
binds himself in a solemn way by a voluntary promise for the 
most part by calling God to witness. In this connection we 
do not deal with the question whether such confirmation by 
oath in the name of God beseems the Christian, but whether 
that solemn promising has any value in relation to the moral 
growth of the Christian, and for his progress in holiness. Even 
in the Old Testament the vow takes a far more modest position 
than in other religions. It finds place there, but is not really 
recommended. The emphasis lies on the point that a vow 



278 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

once taken must be kept. And it is right not merely to call 
upon God in the time of need, but to thank Him afterwards for 
help afforded {cf. Ps. 1. 14, 15, 23). Jesus neither mentions 
nor uses the vow. In the case of Acts xviii. 18 and xxi. 24 it is 
disputed whether in the former passage it was St Paul or 
Aquila who shaved his head, and in the latter it was those 
who accompanied him who had taken a vow on themselves. 
If it was St Paul himself, then the general proposition which 
we have in any case to derive from the main principles of 
Evangelical morality apply to him. They may be arranged as 
follows : — Firstly, a vow is in general immoral which has for 
its end an immoral purpose, such as the person who takes the 
vow would at his stage of knowledge recognise as such. The 
robber who sees the blameworthiness of his doings, but in spite 
of that proposes to ensure the divine blessing on his transaction 
by a vow, is not condemned by Christian morality only. 
Secondly, that vow also is unchristian which is undertaken for 
the purpose of obtaining from God some kind of help in a 
plan not in itself evil, which he supposes he would not gain 
without such offering. For in this there is an idea of God 
supposed which is different from the Christian conception, 
although this sort of heathenish notion of God has survived in 
Christianity in manifold ways. Thirdly, a promise to God in 
which we pledge ourselves to conduct not required of us and 
connect it with an offering, from the conviction that we are 
doing something specially acceptable to God, or are thereby 
attesting our gratitude and reverence, is not in harmony with 
Protestant ethics. Such ideas of a vow presuppose the Catholic 
idea of transcending duty, that is to say, of meritorious action, 
and therefore stand or fall with this Catholic conception of 
Christian ethics. It is obvious, in reference to these three types 
of vow, that they, if undertaken, are no longer binding the 
moment their unchristian or unevangelical character is recog- 
nised. Thus the Reformation conviction threw off monastic 
vows ; nay, it is a duty to throw them off (Confession of 
Augsburg, Art. 27).^ They are contrary to divine precept 
{cf. above). And now, fourthly, those vows are unevangelical 
' Sylloge Confessionum, p. 219. — Tr. 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 279 

which are yet only justifiable for reasons of personal self- 
discipline. Those vows are not in any way in themselves a sign 
of special moral earnestness, which some persons take on 
themselves (who are far from all those unchristian or unprotestant 
ideas), in order by their means to provide support for their weak- 
ness — to use, in fact, a crutch. For instance, he whose heart has 
often enough learnt its own ingratitude may find it a duty in 
some special situation (external or internal) to force himself to 
the expression of gratitude by a vow. Or when there is often 
proved weakness in reference to the use of intoxicants, taking 
the pledge becomes a matter of duty. Yet it lies in the nature 
of the thing that all vows of this kind must be temporary in 
their character, otherwise they encroach upon the providential 
guidance. Official vows or oaths of office are nearly related to 
these ; related because they serve as a support to a weak will ; 
distinct because they are expressive of readiness to undertake 
the task which belongs to a calling and not to an isolated piece 
of work, and because they are imposed from without by the 
state, or by some community, or the church. On this account 
their importance is in one aspect greater, and in another less. 
In any case much more should be done to secure their 
simplification and limitation. Doubly so in the case of the 
confirmation vow. In this case the ideal and the actual often 
stand in fearful contrast. Generally all vows, so far as 
Evangelical, as Luther grandly expresses it {e.g. in the Larger 
Catechism), are inclusively contained in the baptismal vow, which 
in reality is no ' vow.' The whole Christian life is its fulfilment, 
the daily " creeping to the font " (Luther) ; the faith which is ever 
new, never complete, that God desires to be to me a gracious God 
and Father, is the only enduring incentive, the one single motive 
power to love and to serve Him ; and every individual vow is 
only justifiable when it is proved to be temporarily necessary 
for anyone from some special external or internal circumstance. 
Asceticism in the strict sense it is not ; it is not ' practice for 
practice" sake,' but that realisation of a part of his duty which 
is necessary for the individual, and only for him. 

This latter remark is still clearer in reference to the above- 
mentioned other portions of ascetical practice, and above all 



280 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

to fasting, i.e. the voluntary abstinence from food and drink, 
and from physical enjoyment in general. Simple as this defini- 
tion of fasting as to its content is, it is difficult to speak of 
its value without misconception. It is rendered easier by 
excluding at once in this case too the idea of supererogatory 
and meritorious action. The preaching of fasting in the Old 
Testament by the prophets is directed against such idea, and 
not merely the testimony of Jesus Christ. After this preliminary 
statement a double sense of the term fasting may be distinguished. 
It is, for one thing, merely the expression of an inward state of 
mind. It is precisely this meaning which stands for the most 
part in the forefront in the Holy Scriptures. A heart bowed 
down like that of Hannah, a nation visited with defeat and 
famine, fasts ; doubly so if pain and anxiety, connecting these 
visitations with sin, are felt, and if guilt burdens the conscience. 
The depression and humilation will voluntarily express them- 
selves by abstinence from physical enjoyments. But even in 
this respect the less demonstrative western peoples understand 
these outward tokens of grief. We may merely recall the 
painful impression which, for all refined sentiment, the shock 
of death or moral need calls forth, when in such circumstances 
importance is attached to eating and drinking. Fasting in 
this sense finds its plainest and purest expression in the word 
of the Lord, that the " friends of the bridegroom cannot fast so 
long as the bridegroom is with them,*" at the time when He is 
speaking of Himself and His disciples in contradistinction to the 
disciples of St John the Baptist (St Mark ii. 18 ff.); and in 
the saying inseparable from it, that His disciples when they fast 
" wash their faces and anoint their heads." This noble sense 
of fasting sets aside outward forms which are valuable only in 
a lower state of knowledge. The heart is directed to God 
alone. This as the really principal meaning of fasting has 
clearly nothing to do with any ascetical practice. It is 
impossible to practise this for practice' sake. It is the outward 
clothing of the inward experience. If the inward feeling is in a 
certain state, it is done spontaneously ; and in any other case it is 
hypocrisy, an appearance answering to no reality. But fasting 
has not merely the sense thus spoken of even in the history of 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 281 

Jesus Christ ; another appears, namely, it is to answer the 
purpose of making the physical impulses servants to the moral 
life. Both purposes are often united, and the latter is wholly un- 
impeachable : as well when the training of the moral capacity 
is in question as when, in consequence of past neglect of 
discipline, a determinate special counteractive is desirable. The 
Augsburg Confession i has the first in contemplation (xxvi. 33) 
when it says that it is the duty of all by bodily exercise so to 
discipline themselves that excess should not give occasion to 
sin ; and each should discipline his body so as to make it fit 
for, and not a hindrance to, each doing what his calling demands 
from him. Not in precepts of fasting but in such way does 
it recognise the place of fasting (1 Cor. ix. 27). The second 
is not less important. The temperance movement has its 
high value as such a counteractive. And it has this the more 
unquestionably the more it keeps at a distance from every idea 
of ascetical practice as 'practice for the sake of practice."" It 
is dutiful self-training for the realisation of an important part 
of the moral ideal, and that as completely individual. To put 
before the drunkard the notion of teetotalism as the whole of 
morality, or to wish to impose it on those who are in no danger, 
is and remains unevangelical. Also in this connection we 
expressly insist as above on the general proposition : so far as 
a temperance pledge is a question of the first earnest return to 
that which is good, perhaps at length definitely undertaken — a 
not infrequent occurrence where this matter of temperance is 
concerned — this overestimate of its importance in temperance 
missions is often more morally justifiable than the indifference of 
opponents. It is quite impossible to deny that the conscience 
of the community in its widest areas requires education in this 
question. How carefully suppressed the insight as to the 
services rendered by this movement to college life, to the 
nation, to the future! what rich sources of joy which have 
sprung up from the courageous fight against this consuming 
evil could be disclosed ! It is merely a special application of 
the purpose of fasting just discussed when it is insisted on as 

^ " Quilibet Christianus etiam corporali disciplina, laboribus, .... coercere 
carnem debet." Wide Sylloge Con/essionum, t^. hi. — Tr. 



282 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

a preparation for prayer or some special religious work. It is 
by complete mastery over the sensual impulse that a state of 
preparation is attained. As instances may be mentioned the 
temptation of Jesus, the preparation for the first Mission (Acts 
xiii. 1 ff.), and the like. The conviction we have of the danger 
of self-deception, and how easy it is, and particularly what injury 
to the work to be attempted, instead of assistance in it, results 
from unwise fasting (for instance, the excitement of, rather than 
the victory over, sensual passions), has partially blunted for us in 
our day the more refined feeling of the actual gain of reasonable 
self-discipline, and of the discipline of others in this very respect. 

Prayer and Devotions. 

Prayer and devotional exercises are frequently treated of 
under this head of ascetical practice. The error of such a method 
is in this case plainer than in that of the subject of fasting. 
For whereas fasting is a discipline of our own nature, here a 
human being becomes absorbed in God's word and communes 
with God. If this subject is treated under this head, then the 
deepest and holiest which the ' new man ' knows is brought down 
to the level of a mere means, and that only for the purpose of 
his own strengthening. Certainly prayer is in particular the 
richest and purest source of moral power. But as the most 
immediate expression of communion with God it is also the 
most direct participation in the highest Good, as so many de- 
votional hymns attest. For it is in its innermost nature nothing 
else but living faith, the outward expression of trust and the 
desire to grow in faith. And that is generally true of all genuine 
devotion or of mental collectedness before God and in God, and 
is not merely true of prayer proper. Besides this we may call the 
hearing of God's word by the name meditation, and the response 
of the soul to that word we may call prayer. Only we must not 
forget that there is no prayer without giving heed to God's 
word, to His love in which He manifests Himself; and that inner 
listening is itself speaking with God. But on this assumption 
the distinction made is an aid to clearness. Prayer is the imme- 
diate intercourse of the whole personality with God ; it is in the 
region of Christian knowledge that meditation perfects itself. 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 283 

The value of meditation as a protection against the danger of 
distraction can scarcely be overestimated. This danger pro- 
bably never pressed on any generation so much as on ours. 
For example, the press overwhelms us daily with a flood of the 
most contradictory and for the most part unimportant ideas, from 
which it is ever growing more difficult for the young to find the 
quiet needful for acquiring any fixed convictions. Christian con- 
templation is protected against the reproach of spiritual narrow- 
ness just because it has both the right and the power to draw 
everything that is of worth into its service. But it is not 
confined merely to Holy Scripture, but extended to all in which 
the Christian sees the working of God, in the history of the 
Church and of the world, as of the individual life, in art and 
nature, ever according to the gifts bestowed and the way in which 
each is led. In this matter there are sorts of religious medi- 
tation which use all legitimate material without constraint or 
artificiality, without becoming distracted by its variety ; faith- 
ful in this to the great type of that incomparable book of 
devotion, the Bible. For in fact the Scripture remains for all 
such devotional occupation of the mind as well its supreme 
standard as its greatest subject, and without this book devotion 
is indefinite and confused, emotional and unsound. It is 
wanting in backbone. The desire to train Christian character 
cannot be satisfied if the value of Bible Christianity does not 
gain more recognition — such character, that is, as grows out 
of devotional occupation of the mind with the Holy Scriptures. 
We are in the midst of the great battle about the Bible, which 
does not merely occupy the theologian, but has laid hold of the 
very roots of the Churches' life. But even in the midst of the 
battle we may say, the attack of human learning on the Bible, 
of which it itself knows nothing, and on the other hand the 
insight which is awakened that it must prove by its contents 
that it is for the believer the word of God, may contribute 
much to the furtherance of that devotional occupancy with it, 
and bring to those who love the truth the desire and the love of 
busying themselves with it untroubled about the opinions of 
friends or foes. Luther's saying is on this point true for every- 
one : " I ought to so regard the word of God that if God says 



284 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

something I should ask whether that does not mean me. 
Hence, brother, if you wish to compel me by God's word, then 
give me a text which touches me ; otherwise I give no heed 
to it." And in such meditation on the divine word, by a 
necessary reflex influence, that attitude to the Holy Scripture 
which is alone justifiable in the Evangelical Church is ever 
becoming more clearly known, and ever better grounded, of 
which we spoke earlier (pp. 1 16 fF.). Here we are only concerned 
with the fruit of Bible reading by learned and unlearned for 
the furtherance of Christian character. Under completely 
changed conditions, with an embarrassing plenitude of spiritual 
nourishment, in the midst of the haste of modern life the 
Holy Scriptures, divested of the halo of sanctity, will anew and 
in a fresh way become the home of the personal spiritual life ; 
unity in variety ; a resting-point amid useless motion ; a 
motive force for tasks which cannot otherwise be accomplished. 
The power of the word of God to shape character we often 
perceive with astonishment in the markedly high character of 
many so-called uneducated persons. In the confidential letters 
of our great statesmen it has unexpectedly been made even 
plainer. It will prove itself the only cure for that so-called 
culture which imagines that there is a culture which does not 
produce an independent personality. It is in this that there 
lies at the same time the sufficient pledge that such meditation 
is not mere contemplation which unfits for active life. The 
mere contemplative existence is condemned, root and branch, 
by this guide, the Holy Scripture, on which we rely for the 
purifying and nourishing of the spiritual life within. 

God's word, in which we become devotionally absorbed 
wherever and however it greets us, demands our response. 
This response is prayer, the intercourse of the heart with God. 
Disclosing Himself to us, He desires that we should open our 
hearts to Him. His return to us induces our return to Him ; 
a real intercourse is set up. Not as if every single prayer must 
grow up out of a fully conscious absorption of ourselves in the 
divine revelation ; even the cry of the long-estranged heart may 
be prayer. But this were not possible if we could not somehow 
lay hold on God's efficacious though often unacknowledged 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 285 

power and goodness. As all Christian life, rightly understood, 
is faith, so also must truly Christian prayer be ; and prayer is 
the most direct and the most spiritually essential utterance 
of faith. For this reason it has been often compared to 
breathing : " We breathe because we cannot help doing so, and 
this is the very reason why we wish to breathe and must 
breathe." That is true in fact of the freely necessary breathing 
of the soul in the air of eternity, of prayer. It is true of 
prayer because it is true of faith, because faith is the incompar- 
able giving of ourselves to God, and the willingness to receive 
God's gifts ; the marvellous experience of possessing and seeking 
to possess at the same time ; of attaining the goal, and yet 
never by complete realisation. But now, inasmuch as Christian 
faith reposes wholly on the nearness of God in Christ, and has 
this as its special stamp, so also is it with prayer. It is prayer 
in the name of Jesus (St Matt, xxviii. 29 ; St John xvi. 23). 
Whatever may be the meaning of these words as to their 
original signification, all the interpretations are right in sub- 
stance because they are mutually complementary — the utterance 
of the name of Jesus ; by the command of Jesus ; in the stead 
of Jesus ; in faith in Him ; according to His mind — both as 
regards the content of the prayer and the inner state of the 
suppliant. One of these is impossible without the other. The 
name of Jesus is the ground and the power of Christian prayer, 
and determines its form and content. Here especially form 
and content are of importance. In regard to form, it is prayer 
in the faith which lives in the prayers of Jesus Himself, in 
confidence and humbleness, its look directed to the Father who 
* freely gives "" ; the Father in heaven who gives from pure 
grace, who will be ' entreated of but not compelled. By this 
too its content is shaped — the final, great object of such 
believing prayer ' in accordance with the mind of Jesus ' cannot 
be other than God Himself. All the questions about prayer 
put by the Christian man are in principle answered by that 
word, ' in accordance with the mind of Jesus,' such as how 
thanksgiving and intercession are related in prayer ; how prayer 
ought to pass into intercession ; how all single petitions find 
their right place in the model prayer. It is only another mode 



286 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

of expressing the same fact when we say the Lord's Prayer is 
a model for all Christian prayer. For He who gave it is the 
foundation of our confidence when we appropriate this prayer 
to ourselves, and it has this stamp upon it ; no one can pray 
more heartily and reverently than, in its use. The Prayer 
embraces adoration and thanksgiving, or, if we leave out the 
doxology at the end, adoration is at any rate the dominant 
note, as found in the opening words. Prayer for ourselves is 
united with prayer for others at the beginning, ' Our Father. "" 

* Our daily bread ' is in the middle separate from those great 
prayers which make God's business ours, and our highest 
interest. The care of God who ' forgives ' keeps us and delivers 
us from evil. Thus we understand, since prayer is faith, and 
the 'Our Father' teaches us to pray in the name of Jesus, 
what Luther means when he says, " Faith is a perpetual 
' Our Father.'" 

There are two points to which we may explicitly refer. One 
concerns the fourth petition. It is our warrant for bringing 
our earthly cares to God. The Father of our Lord Jesus 
Christ would not be the omnipotent God of heaven and the 
earth ; the world in which He has put us, not God's world, if 
our petitions may refer to the eternal and not also to the 
temporal. For both are inextricably bound together so long 
as a Christian is here in the stage of growth ; and consequently 
it is not in keeping with the living trust of a child in his 
Father if that trust may not express itself in prayer for 
deliverance in the time of need, and for the bestow ment of 
earthly gifts ; so long as this earthly sorrow and earthly joy 
are, in His view, inseparable from that final end of all prayer, 
that God may be our God. It is this end that determines the 
value of those means, and it is here that the prayer for ' bread ' 

* daily,' ' to-day ' comes in. This position of the fourth petition 
points to this idea of ' value.' The name of God, the Kingdom 
and the Will of God, are for the Christian in the midst of 
the earthly battle not what they ought to be and will be if he 
is not allowed to pray for his daily bread. But when he has 
made this prayer, then the three last petitions, which are, in 
fact, the most important, are the most important for hiin, 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 287 

Unless anxiety about earthly good is removed, no man can, 
without self-deception, seek ' first of all the Kingdom of God 
and His righteousness' (p. 191), The fourth petition is only 
an application of the great principle that it is only he who has 
been ' made rich ' who is loved with ' an everlasting love,' who 
can do God's will with entire earnestness. In each single case 
of earthly necessity he ought, by believing prayer, to manifest 
the assurance of his faith. But it must be the prayer of faith. 

If the transitory usurps the place of the permanent and takes 
the first place in our endeavour, then our prayer for earthly 
goods becomes mere conjuring with words, leads us away from 
God, instead of closer to God, even though it assumes the 
appearance of the most heroic devoutness. The word ' in the 
Name of Jesus' is of especial importance in reference to the 
fourth petition. In no other prayer is the Father so confidently 
besought for all that is needful ; in no other is there such 
humble deference to the Father to vouchsafe to hear so that 
His will may be done. It is for this reason that it is precisely 
in this case that no external limits can be named up to which 
prayers for earthly good are justifiable as far as their content 
is concerned. Each one has, in the exercise of faith in each 
case, to make clear to himself what those limits are. They may 
be drawn widely or narrowly in faith or unfaith. Doubtless 
our outlook in prayer ought to be widened, and then our own 
personal needs will not loom so large ; but they do not, on that 
account, cease to be subjects for prayer. The same thing is 
true of the manner in which we pray for earthly good. Very 
closely connected with this manner of prayer is the imminent 
danger of ' stormy ' prayer, and yet the intermission of repeated 
and importunate prayer may arise from a reprehensible want 
of confidence in God. It is true that often enough the earthly- 
minded heart may be led by prayer to cease petitioning for 
some one thing, and that by prayer confidence in prayer may 
be increased. There especially law and compulsion find no 
ruling place, but trust, and trust of the kind that is not mere 
imagination, but such as will confess its want of steadfastness 
to Him who is " greater than our heart and knows all things," 
who will strengthen our trust. The riches and the freedom of 



288 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

our faith grow in clearness in this its sanctuary, and that 
phrase is a correct one which speaks of a ' world of prayer.' 

Intercession. 

A further question often occupies Christian reflection, when 
speaking of petition, and that is how far intercession ought to 
go. The answer to this question is also in the * Our Father.' 
The interests of the children of the heavenly Father are more 
personal than anything else, while at the same time they have 
interests in common with others wider than anything else. 
* Our ' and ' us ' instead of the natural ' my ' and ' me ' is for the 
Christian a really natural utterance. This faith in the Father 
cannot exist without love to the brethren, both to those who 
really are so and to those who may presently become so. And 
his love, because it lives in faith, necessarily expresses itself 
in believing prayer also for others, and that, as 1 Tim. ii. 1 
explicitly affirms, prayer of every sort, as supplication, thanks- 
giving, petition. Thus St Paul has the churches ' in his 
heart ' (Phil. i. 7) ; every heart-beat, every breath is for them. 
Love would not be Christian love if it were not true of it, ' I am 
responsible in God's sight for my love.' When intercessory 
prayer is taken in this obvious way, the objection need not 
arise — however much to each person the battle of faith is 
ordained to be and ought to be his own personal concern — that 
intercession is an interference with our neighbours' freedom and 
with God's arrangements. The Christian idea of the Kingdom 
of God, which it is the purpose of its Creator and Builder to 
build by earthly means, transcends these objections. The task 
of each co-worker with God (1 Cor. iii. 2) is to be faithful in 
the exercise of his influence on others outside, and in his 
intercession as the motive power of his work for them. And 
both are done in humility {cf. p. 262). Livingstone, ready for 
any sacrifice, prayed : " Wilt thou vouchsafe to me to make 
intercession for Africa ? " (cf. Gen. xviii.). That doubt 
besides may rise quite apart from the question of intercession — 
Who can at all measure the influence "of one person on another ? 
And who can deny the diversity of the divine gifts in the 
temporal development of His Kingdom ? Is it consequently 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 289 

necessary to deny the freedom of man or the righteousness of 
God? 

It may be merely mentioned in passing how in the Lord's 
prayer other subordinate as well as these primary questions in 
regard to the life of prayer find their answer. He who in his 
praying will be taught by the ' Our Father ' the manner and 
content of his prayer will gain the Christian sensibility required 
for ' praying without ceasing ' (St Luke xviii. 1 ; 1 Thess. v. 
17) ; and uniting this with the claims of special prayer just in the 
way both are needful for him, and both in the right proportion, 
such as is only possible for one trained by the Lord's Prayer, and 
whose Christian character has grown in this training. ' Praying 
always with all prayer' assumes that all prayer is in its final 
reason directed to one great object in the way that is fitting, that 
is, that it is wholly and fully the act of the living faith, which has 
its being in the revelation of the divine will. Such a faith as 
this impels to conscious intercourse with God in proportion as 
this revelation has a vivid hold of the outward and inward life. 
It is this that makes the soul fit for the reception of those 
blessings which come from special times of prayer, without 
which these may easily degenerate into formality. In the same 
way the thankful employment of special forms of prayer becomes 
merely the way to freedom in spontaneous prayer which comes 
from the heart; and in this way the use of human words is 
no hindrance to the ' unutterable groaning,' the assistance of 
the divine Spirit in our weakness. 

To speak of answers to prayer is clearly a subject for doctrinal 
treatment, and especially apologetics — that is to say, so far 
as it concerns justification of the idea against doubts — and 
relates to the question of Christian faith in God. But, on the 
other hand, it is the Christian life that makes it clear what the 
hearing of prayer means. Our communion with God is so vivid 
a reality, in faith, and in the prayer of faith, that the supposition 
that it is a mere means of self-contentment and self-encourage- 
ment, self-exaltation, and self-absorption, is at once shut out. 
And this is so with the above-given closer definitions, in the 
sphere of the outward as of the inner life. Those objections too 
are excluded which arise from the idea held by some who are un- 

19 



290 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

convinced of the power of prayer, of a logical necessity joining 
all things, which is not more important in regard to the outward 
than to the inward life, for all phenomena in both spheres are 
just as much or as little related to the idea of absolute necessity. 
That does take place which would not happen in the absence 
of prayer. But in Christian ethics, in the connected considera- 
tion of the Christian life, it is also quite clear that the divine 
answers to prayer are never evoked by human prayer save as 
those answers spring from the present willingness of God. 
His eternal love, which is under no natural necessity, discloses 
itself to that trustful faith which seeks to become a partaker 
in that love. God's will is pure goodness quite apart from our 
prayer. It is our prayer that makes us capable not merely of 
understanding the whole * riches of His goodness,' but also of 
desiring, in the strict sense, that God would give, and believing 
that He is able to give, because He desires to give, since He is 
love. In this connection two questions emerge for the believer 
in particular, which are not often discussed in the measure that 
the experiences of life seem to require ; and these concern 
prayer when faith is wavering, and the right and duty to hold 
firmly the possibility of answer to our own prayers. 

The first question is indeed a burning one in respect to the 
origin and development of a life of prayerfulness. It has 
received much attention ; as, for instance, A. H. Francke has 
forcibly discussed it. But it is of special importance at 
present in the battle with ' the modern consciousness.' Perhaps 
our answer — so far as it is possible to give a general one, and is 
not a question for which each one must now and again seek his 
own solution — lies in the connection of prayer with faith. We 
have seen that it springs out of faith and leads on to fuller 
faith. Now, the first part of this truth seems to exclude the 
prayer of the doubter. Often enough do we hear, ' I cannot 
pray, for I cannot believe.' But prayer without faith is degrad- 
ing it to a mere throw of the dice which forbids the possibility 
of reverence, perhaps of the last remains of such reverence ; 
and it leads into the danger of self-deception, and to a kind of 
self-hypnotisation which shuts out self-respect. But the con- 
clusion that, where there is a deficiency of faith, prayer is 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 291 

altogether impious and unworthy is still too hasty ; because 
the correct assumption that prayer grows out of faith is easily 
left too much undefined. Surely it never grows out of an 
absolutely perfect confidence ; otherwise it could never have the 
purpose of strengthening it. Nevertheless, there is an undeni- 
ably strong difference between a faith that is still incomplete, 
and doubt. But, on the other hand, is the doubt on the part of 
him who would willingly pray so decided, so certain of itself, 
that he for his part must give up prayer altogether? In that 
case it would no longer be the doubt of the seeker, but a 
decision against God. More particularly, in accordance with 
Christian conviction, there is no life in which there are no traces 
of the divine inworking, and hence none without traces of faith. 
It is this imperfect faith that the seeker may and ought to use. 
But still more important, and probably more convincing to an 
anxious mind, is that other portion of our statement about 
prayer, namely, it is the desire to come closer to God ; it is the 
wish to grow in faith. Of prayer it is true that it is not only 
' from "* but also ' to ' faith. Now, this desire for God even in 
strong doubt, in the midst of the great uncertainty of our own 
consciousness, can be very vivid and sincere. Then in God's 
judgment it is very possibly a sufficient substitute for the 
faith in which he who prays finds himself deficient. This is 
especially so if he has true readiness to do the will of God in 
real earnest (St John vii. 17). Nor must the idiosyncrasy of 
each person be forgotten, just as in the complexity of conditions 
it is not seldom the case that want of physical health is the 
origin of that self-torment over deficient faith which then 
demands other than ethical treatment. Finally, it is worth 
remarking that in a period which is not religious in its tendency, 
subjected to the overmastering influence of sense-experiences, 
many strange thoughts find expression on the character of 
religious certainty, as on the way in which we gain our know- 
ledge of God — as if it must be such a certainty as excludes any 
doubt on the part of any sane man. A deeper penetration 
recognises that those ideas are of that kind which contradict the 
nature of religious faith, and such as would make it impossible. 
Among the ethical means for the cure of that doubt 



292 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

gratitude for answered prayer occupies a high place ; for 
gratitude is the great secret of progress in the whole province 
of the Christian life. In this way we are led to the other 
question above mentioned : Is it the right and duty of faith 
thankfully and firmly to hold fast to the idea of answered 
prayer? In any case thankfulness ought to go far beyond 
all prayer, and experiences of special answers to prayer. There 
is scarcely any apostolic exhortation so insistent as that of 
being in all things thankful. But in that it is not excluded 
but included that we ought to be thankfiil for the answer to 
any prayer. Every prayer, as Luther says, concludes with " the 
amen of thankfulness." It is, however, never vain, however 
God may hear our prayer, whether granting or denying, because 
God gives us better than that. But even in the case of a 
special answer childlike confidence is the soul of gratitude. 
Neither a poor faith that in the absence of prayer this or that 
would not have been done, nor a restraint of special thanks- 
giving when a special providence forces itself on the attention, 
is Christian. To restrain gratitude is at one time as impious 
and disastrous to the increase of faith as it is to force it at 
another time. " God is greater than our heart " also in this 
that He seeks nothing but sincere faith, and not laboured 
prayer or gratitude. 

By this review of this grand peculiarity of the Christian 
character, its life in the world of prayer, we understand how 
profound is that often-used answer to the question : How ought 
we to pray .? " Reverently, as in God's presence, penitently, 
humbly, in true faith, in the Name of Jesus." At bottom 
these ideas are pure implicates and not at all mere assertion 
of the manner of prayer, but of the type of Christian character ; 
and indeed, as the word ' penitently ' explicitly reminds us, 
of the Christian in his battle with sin. 

Sin in the Christian. 
But we have still to speak of the issue of this battle, or, in 
other words, of sin in the regenerate and of the assurance of 
salvation, in spite of sin, and it is at this point that the idea 
of Christian perfection becomes clear. 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 293 

The New Testament is full of testimonies to the fact in the 
Christian life that the battle with sin is by no means always 
a victorious one. It exhorts with much earnestness, to become 
"dead to sin," not to "let sin reign in your mortal bodies," 
to be "planted into the new life," to "seek what is above," 
so that we vividly realise that such exhortations do not refer to 
a remote possibility of sinning on the part of the Christian, 
but a dangerous reality. We do, however, no longer refer 
that expression of the Apostle of his being " sold under sin " 
(Rom. vii. 7 ff'.) to St Paul the Christian. St Paul the 
Christian knows that he is "no longer the servant of sin," 
but freed from it. But the reason which made the Reformers 
and numerous others inclined to this interpretation we fully 
recognise as the truth which St Paul himself impressively 
bears witness to in other places (Gal. v. 16 ff.), that even in 
the Christian, nay, particularly in the Christian, there exists 
a severe struggle between flesh and spirit. With a wholly 
special design are the ideas of ' sinning no longer ' and ' sinning ' 
placed in juxtaposition in the first Epistle of St John. He who 
affirms that he has fellowship with God and sins is a liar ; 
he too is a liar who says "he has no sin" (1 John i. 8 ff., 
iii. 1 ff".). The apparent contradiction is merely the whole 
truth. A ' new man ' really exists, a good tree has been planted. 
But because it is a question of a ' new man,' and the metaphor 
of a tree, however excellent, is a mere metaphor ; because the 
new man does not like a plant grow according to natural laws, 
but as a personality, by a personal trust reposed in the personal 
God, in ever fresh states of the will, it follows that the old life 
of sin has its influences still, and must be overcome in daily 
conflict and by a complete overthrow. Nay, it is precisely the 
really renewed man who completely recognises how much there 
is of the ' old man,' of the ungodly, still left in him which 
must be given over to death ; and especially the best are often 
the deepest tainted with evil. So we comprehend the word 
in the Catechism that " we daily offend often." By this Luther 
hits the meaning of the Gospel, although it is certain that in 
the New Testament, especially in St Paul's writings, the 
emphasis naturally lies on the consideration of the 'new man,' 



294 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

the creation of divine grace, in accordance with his experience 
in missionary work. 

It is but consistent when the Romish Church judges differently 
of sin. Because it does not recognise any truly personal relation 
to God at all, in the sense earlier given, it consequently knows 
no ' new man '' in the sense of a radically new personality, no 
Christian moral character, so much does it at once overestimate 
and underestimate — now one and now the other — the sin of 
the Christian. It has on the one side spotless sainthood, yea, 
sainthood with superabundant merits ; and regards evil desire 
in itself as no sin, artfully disguising the contradiction of St 
Paul (fifth session of Tridentine Council), On the other hand, 
it teaches that the grace of justification is lost by mortal sin, 
and must be reinstated by means of the sacrament of penance ; 
and though it includes every possible ' mortal sin,' and demands 
from all, even its 'saints,' approach to the sacrament of 
penance, this holiness appears to us to be a very doubtful 
quantity. The reason of both propositions — which appear to 
us to be mutually contradictory — shows that they are not 
concerned with personal renewal, as we Protestants understand 
the word personal. Conversely, for the same reason our teaching 
on sin in Christian men must produce the impression on 
Romanists that we sometimes take sin too lightly, and at 
another time too seriously. The contrast of the two views 
becomes explicitly clear in the dispute on the question whether 
faith can exist where there is mortal sin. We negative the 
question. For us in the strict sense there is only one mortal 
sin which shuts out from salvation, and that is unbelief, because 
for us faith means a personal trust in God's personal grace. 
So long as this faith lives in the heart, it has a part in the life 
which consists in fellowship with God, whatever the danger to 
which it is subject, and however urgently necessary earnest 
repentance (in the Gospel sense of the word) may be. We 
really do take sin not less earnestly than our opponents, but 
more seriously. (On the question whether this loss of faith 
is possible, and whether there are circumstances in which it is 
recoverable, see below.) The Romanists answer in the affirma- 
tive, because for them faith is a belief of the creeds ; con- 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 295 

sequently, clearly sin may coexist with it, such as is 
regarded as heinous enough to require penance in which 
the forfeited grace of God is restored, and of course lasts 
until it is lost by the next mortal sin. The idea of unified 
will, of moral character which has its basis in the gracious 
will of God, is not duly recognised. Consequently by ' state 
of grace "* they understand something different from our- 
selves. 

There is one more opponent of our Protestant teaching of 
sin deserving of attention, and that is the fanatical theologian. 
The enthusiasts of the Reformation period maintained even 
then the sinlessness of true Christians. And in the present 
day we have it here loudly proclaimed, and at least as a passing 
phase, the eager cry — The Protestant Evangelical Church has 
no appreciation of the fact of a present and full salvation 
through Christ. Sanctification, say they, is a gift as well as 
justification which it is possible to receive instantaneously by 
faith. Occasionally such opinions are variously expressed. The 
Christian is sinful, but he commits no sins. There is such a 
thing as sinless perfection here on earth, and so forth. We seek 
in vain for clear definition of the idea. A complete gift of 
holiness — if by this is meant something new and special such 
as is not contained in the great master-truth of the Gospel that 
faith in God's forgiving grace in Christ is the motive force and 
incentive to the new moral life, to good action — is something 
unintelligible. It ignores the nature of the will. The divinely 
ordered distinction between way and end, faith and sight, is 
wiped out. The negative word sinlessness easily leads to a 
negative and ascetical idea of the Good ; and when to avoid 
open contradiction to explicit statements of the New Testament 
it is said that sin is a single, fully conscious, and designed 
breach of a divine commandment, then the kind of freedom 
from sin thus indicated is a very trifling claim which may do 
nothing else but weaken the earnestness of the Christian conflict 
with sin. We are involuntarily reminded of the Roman 
view. Of course it also is indubitable : — those warnings are in- 
telligible and justifiable according to circumstances, as against 
inconsiderate misuse of the doctrine of grace. However, it does 



296 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

not mean a deeper acquaintance with the Gospel, but a falling 
off from the ideal of our Church (p. 187). 

But can the sin of the regenerate man issue in the irrecover- 
able loss of a state of grace ? or, more closely, can a mortal sin, 
in the Gospel sense, result in a fall from grace generally ? Is it 
irrevocable, and such as actually ends in eternal death ? Strictly 
speaking, both these two questions arise ; but they are clearly 
connected with one another, so that they can only be affirmed 
or denied together. Whoever denies the first does implicitly 
deny the second ; whoever affirms it will find himself inclined to 
the affirmation of the second. The Protestant Churches have 
judged variously on these questions, the Reformed denying, 
the Lutheran affirming. Not merely single passages (like Heb. 
vi. 4 ff., X. 26 ffi) which Luther himself stumbled at as "hard 
knots," or 1 John v. 17, are in favour of the Lutheran view, 
but also the whole New Testament conception of the Christian 
life. However strong those metaphors taken from nature are 
which are employed for illustration, still the New Testament 
never regards the new life as a higher natural life, but as to be 
understood ethically. It is possible to be ever so enthusiastic 
and profound in speaking of moral necessity ; provided this 
necessity miist be ' moral/ then it is not a natural necessity, and 
to assert the impossibility of a fall from grace is wrong. With- 
out the contrary possibility that summons, " Work out your 
salvation with fear and trembling"" (Phil. ii. 12), has no clear 
meaning. The Apostle uses in relation to himself the expres- 
sion "if I may apprehend," "if I might attain" (Phil. iii. 12). 
The objection that such a fall is inconceivable, because it is the 
denial of the clearly recognised possession of salvation, fails to 
appreciate the mysterious depths of the inner life in which 
knowledge and will generally appear in contrast. But of 
course the final answer rests with the judgment of God and 
not that of our fellow-men where responsibility is concerned ; 
and "God is greater than our heart" (1 John iii. 20). This is 
doubly true when that idea of a possible fall is clothed in the 
words which have often proved the source of gloomy self- torment 
— the sin against the Holy Ghost. The application of the 
saying (St Matt. xii. 31) which in the first instance refers to 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 297 

those still unregenerate, to those in a state of grace is accord- 
ing to the other above-cited passages and on general grounds 
unobjectionable. Only in that case the utterance must be 
understood in the sense above defined. Then, without in any 
way depreciating the seriousness of the Gospel, the danger of 
misuse is obviated. This misuse is connected with the fact 
that it is precisely in such a point that it is difficult to recognise 
the limits of mental soundness, as, for instance, in the historically 
famous examples of a Francesco Spiera^ and others. 

Assurance of Salvation. 

But how may assurance of salvation be said to be consistent 
with sin in Christians .'' Assuming that the assurance of 
salvation is not a mere empty expression, it is a present 
experience of blessedness and a certain hope of blessedness, and 
is present blessedness in fellowship with God the only good, 
whose blessedness flows from His own eternal life, in which no 
one can share unless he shares in His goodness, in His love 
(cf. p. 182). But how weak is the faith in which we experience 
God's love, how poor our love to God and to our neighbour 
which grows from this faith ! But, nevertheless, are we to say 
that there is assurance of salvation ? It is here, in this very 
context, in which we can appraise the difficulty of this thought, 
that it is proper to bring the matter to a definite conclusion, 
having used it as a leading idea without always mentioning the 
phrase itself. 

The Evangelical Protestant Church makes its highest boast 
that in it the doctrine of assurance is preached and experienced. 
With full justification ; only we must be on our guard against 
the loss of this our superiority, and of regarding what the 
Romish Church offers to its members as valueless. For, if 
assurance becomes for us a mere expression, then that Church 
would have more than we, namely, the continual readiness to 
provide the means to impel to good works by its arrangements, 

^ A case similar to that of Archbishop Cranmer in English history. After 
becoming a Protestant in 1542, Spiera recanted under pressure in 1547. He died 
in despair, believing that he had thereby committed the unpardonable sin. He was 
a barrister near Padua. — Tr. 



298 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

particularly its sacraments. For the Catholic that is his trust, 
and the spur to his souPs yearning for heaven. It is repose 
and earnestness so closely united that we understand how a 
pious Catholic, in the presence of a Protestant who is certain 
of his salvation, may feel distressed because to him this 
assurance of salvation seems merely an empty phantasy. But 
yet only in the presence of a Protestant who had the word 
only without the thing. This is really our jewel. It is only 
through it that we become persons, independent men in free 
obedience. It is only from the assurance of salvation that we 
can do good works such as deserve the name. On this we have 
said enough. But on this account the question above mentioned 
is a burning one — How is it possible to reconcile the sin of 
the regenerate with his assurance of salvation ? The answer 
is found in all that has been already said in the foundation 
of the new life. It does not depend on what we do, or 
partly on God, partly on ourselves, but purely on God's free 
love, on the fact that He bestows on us His personal favour. 
Therefore also our assurance of salvation is not based on our 
doing, but on trust in God's love. But God's love really 
creates in us a new life. To trust in that love is the new 
life, and this life is blessedness. Or, to say the same thing 
in other words — we know nothing of ' empty ' faith. Faith 
is to us the most effectual and effectuating reality. But its 
basis is God's love and God's love in Christ alone. Hence the 
sole ground of the assurance of salvation is this love of God, 
Christ Himself. I^his basis is not destroyed by sin, but 
through it only made clearer to the mind. Again, the same 
thought may find expression in this way : since we are aware 
of our personal fellowship with the personal God, this, so long 
as it is present, soars high over our single and continually 
repented sins, which would disturb that assurance of salvation. 
In the state of grace forgiveness is ever present even along with 
our offences (Schleiermacher ; cf. Luther's Short Catechism), 

By reason of this assurance of salvation the right answer to 
the question is at once given as to how this assurance of salva- 
tion is experienced. If it is a genuine experience and not a 
mere idea, if it is to be regarded as a true idea, stamped with 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 299 

its value, and firmly maintained, then plainly the answer can 
only be — it is experienced in all the manifestations of the new 
life, realisable by us in sincere reverence, and humble confidence 
in God, especially in that proof of it, childlike prayer, and in 
love of our neighbour maintaining itself in the faithful 
performance of the duties of our calling. And that not by 
the exclusion but with the inclusion of all the fluctuations 
arising from the conflict with sin. Even in the life of St Paul 
the triumphant, " For I am persuaded "" (Rom. viii. 38) changes 
to the less jubilant "We rejoice also" in the confession of 
tribulations, of inner need and struggling weakness. But 
this struggling is itself a witness of the new life, and brings 
the ever new victory of an assured faith, which in very deed 
would not be faith if it possessed the certitude of an external 
fact. If bodily health is not merely the experience of every 
particular pleasurable feeling, but consists in the activity of 
the powers, so in the kingdom of the Holy Spirit and of 
freedom, with all the differences involved, is the new life of 
the Christian. There is here no danger that in this way the 
Christian"'s gaze is directed self-wards and his new life made the 
foundation of his confidence, that is, a foundation which is a 
continually shifting one. For, as we again observe, he knows 
what the firm foundation of this new life really is. But if 
this life does not show itself active, it is not really present. 
No wish that this obvious truth were otherwise will clear it 
away. For it is impossible to imagine a greater contradiction 
than to suppose that the living God interests Himself in a 
man, and yet it continues to be the same with him as before ; 
or, regarded from the other side, that a man can believe in 
God's grace and not the least alteration of his emotional 
life take place. Even among weak men that kind of fellow- 
ship would scarcely be regarded as worthy of the name. 

But is not this answer too simple and in the end unsatisfying 
so far as anxiety about assurance of salvation comes to us in all 
forms ? There is an abundance of instructions and of specifics 
for this anxiety. If we consider them, the solution above 
given will become clearer. Some of these are recommended by 
the Evangelical Churches themselves ; others more by different 



300 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN IJFE 

pious societies in the Church. To the former belongs the 
emphatic reference to baptism or confession or communion ; 
and beside this the advice to lay fast hold of the promise of 
salvation, to impress it on the mind, to grasp it with the will, 
to rest on it in feeling, or by vividly pressing the conclusion : 
Christ died for all who believe ; I believe, therefore. He died for 
me also. In the second class of methods of becoming assured 
of salvation, which, used by individuals, secured recognition 
amongst followers in these communions, and from thence spread 
more widely in the Protestant Churches generally, there belongs 
the high estimate which some attach to deep exhibitions of 
penitence, ending in an overflowing emotion of pardoning grace. 
Another is the instruction to vividly realise in the mind the 
image of the Crucified. Another is the counsel to become 
assured of salvation from every sign of an earnest Christian walk, 
especially self-denial of worldly enjoyment. The three last- 
mentioned ways to this desired end cannot, of course, rightly 
be connected without further explanation with the names of 
A. H. Francke, Zinzendorf, Spener, but represent rather the 
views of their followers. 

Perhaps we might arrive more easily at unanimity, so far as 
the subject-matter allows, if it were openly acknowledged by 
the opposers of these particular methods that they all are right, 
so far as they stand opposed to the widespread indifference on 
the question of assurance of salvation, which nevertheless, 
properly understood, ought to be the Christian's chiefest care. 
If this were acknowledged on one side, then it would be easier for 
others to examine whether these methods always pursue the right 
path, and whether they attain the end. The first must be doubtful 
to everyone who has a clear idea of the nature of grace and of 
faith, as we Protestants understand these things. Then we see 
that assurance of salvation cannot always be present in equal 
strength of feeling. We have already reminded ourselves 
that invariability of pleasurable feeling is not a proof of 
bodily health; specially long and lasting feelings of pleasure 
are on the contrary frequently signs of an approaching sick- 
ness. And those higher relations of mutual confidence 
among men, between mother and son, friend and friend, do 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 301 

not show such invariability. Of course there are festivals of 
love, in which we have a clear consciousness and enthusiastic 
appreciation of the sunlight which both illumines and warms 
us ; but the value of such occasions is tested in our every- 
day sober tasks. People do not say much about their 
love. Its certitude is only in the quiet, strong keynote of the 
life stirred, tempted, tried. It is none otherwise in the 
Christian life with the assurance of salvation. What the New 
Testament says of flesh and spirit and the ' piercing ' power of 
the Word (Heb. iv. 2) has its special meaning in this connection. 
But the methods recommended do not securely lead to the goal, 
always supposing that we have rightly defined it. For a heart 
which is agitated by such doubts is ingenious in knowing how 
to produce a new doubt about the means thus lauded — for 
instance, a doubt of the conclusion from the general promises 
of grace. The person concerned may raise continually fresh 
doubts whether he has the faith required. Then for him the 
conclusion is invalid. Or, he may fancy that he has this faith 
without possessing it. Then he deludes himself. Further, the 
recollection of his specially deep penitential emotion may 
become dim, or a doubt may rise as to its earnestness and depth. 
Zinzendorf himself, on his own testimony, was not always 
alike fit for his meditation on the wounds of Christ. To 
resolve to found an assurance of salvation on certain pious 
exercises, or self-denials, has already led many to spiritual pride, 
and in the end destroyed all assurance. But the whole of these 
methods separate the subjective from its objective ground, i.e. 
the grace of God in Christ, and so ascribe to faith what it, by 
itself alone, cannot accomplish. 

Thus we are driven back on the statement previously ad- 
vanced, that the assurance of salvation is experienced in the 
various manifestations of the new life. But when this state- 
ment is admitted we may without any ambiguity allow, may 
even rejoice, that each of those single answers to the question, 
*How can I be sure of my salvation?' contains a part of the 
truth to which value may be attributed by each according to 
his own especial need. Just as, in the case of some disturbance 
of the bodily health, the anxiety which this occasions is relieved 



302 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

by occupancy with some energetic work, so may the direction 
of the attention of the anxious Christian to some special con- 
firmation of his true Christian character serve to show him to 
whom he really belongs, spite of doubt. Still more important 
are those methods which vividly realise the final ground and 
anchoring place of all saving faith, God's grace in Christ. It 
would be both petty and untrue to deny that they have all 
proved valuable. But it would be just as petty and untrue if 
we were to wish to give more prominence to one above the 
other, and if we were not willing to range them all equally 
under the great main principle. The riches of the divine 
wisdom are as inexhaustible here as in conversion. Of clear 
and especial value is that question of Luther's, " Have you not 
then been baptised ? " — exactly in Luther's sense, for whom 
assurance was nothing but the express reference to the sole 
ground of all certainty of salvation ; for whom consequently 
it could not be separated from vital, real, but never wholly 
perfect faith, so that there is no longer need to speak of a 
special means of assurance. It would be a profitable task to 
point out how the whole exposition of the question, so far as 
it has wandered into aimless ways, is simply founded on the 
want of comprehension of the true Evangelical idea of faith. 
The mistake arises from speaking of a general faith such as 
obviously carries with it no assurance of salvation, because it 
is not ' faith ' in the full sense ; and on that account is sup- 
posed to be in need of all sorts of completions, confirmations, 
assurances, etc. 

From this point it is finally clear, too, what importance the 
growth of the new life — the manifestation of Christian character 
in useful work — has for its future perfection ; or, in the old 
formula, how * good works and eternal salvation ' are connected. 
The formulas by which the last of the Lutheran confessional 
writings sought to smooth the strife on this question are clearer 
in their design than satisfactory in their content. The state- 
ment (which some considered could alone guarantee the truth 
of justification by faith alone) that good works are a hindrance 
to salvation was rejected, as was the opposite proposition, 
which others considered the only safeguard of the true Gospel 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 

against abuse, namely, that good works are essential to 
salvation. But their negations were more definite than their 
affirmations as to what the right doctrine is. The statements 
deemed sufficient were that not merely on the point of 
justification but also on that of salvation good works are 
excluded, but they follow necessarily from faith, and they are 
proofs of faith. It is undeniable that the emphasis rests on 
the first proposition. It was feared lest the jewel of peace of 
conscience might be lost. That is clear too from the dispro- 
portionateness of the Scripture proofs : while Rom. iii. and iv. 
and Eph. ii. are expressly cited, 2 Cor. v. 10 is absent ; the 
passage which gives the unambiguous words of the Lord on 
judgment according to works (St. Matt. xxv. and parallels) is 
silently passed over, or set aside with the observation that by 
these works, works of faith are intended ; not recognising that 
the statement is clear as to judgment according to works. 
For ourselves, we need only to refer to what has been earlier 
said of the relation of faith and works. But in this connec- 
tion it is particularly clear that the emphasis may and ought 
to lie now on the one side and now on the other of those 
two inseparable parts of the same truth, according to circum- 
stances and occasion. This truth has room for the story of the 
malefactor on the cross, as for the insistence of St James on 
good works. No artificial reconciliation of individual passages of 
Scripture has succeeded or will succeed. The more the Christian 
experiences the inner unity of faith and works, the more surely 
will he grow in this conviction. Hence, after what has been 
now stated as to the ground of the assurance of salvation, every 
suspicion is completely excluded that this would be injured by 
recognising the connection, in unison with the clearest Scripture 
statements, between the moral action of the Christian and his 
eternal salvation. 

Christian Perfection. 

And now we have become acquainted with all the premisses 
on the ground of which a conclusion may be arrived at as to 
the meaning of Christian perfection. For they show us in 
what sense it is possible to speak of perfection, and in what 



304 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

sense we cannot speak of it. It cannot mean perfection in the 
sense that in it everything is included, and that he who possesses 
it is incapable of higher perfection. If this were so, then all 
must be false that has been said of the work of each person 
for the whole life-task, viz. that he is to perform his duties 
with the capacity with which he is specially gifted, in a 
certain social area, in his own calling, and that his power in 
this work is strengthened as well by conflict as by defeat. 
On the other hand, if there is no such thing as perfection, 
all that must be false which has been said of faith as the 
power of a new life, of faithful fulfilment of duty, and of 
the Christian character; inasmuch as all these things are 
only other words for that which is in itself the truly ' Good ' 
and therefore perfect in kind and in innermost content. And 
what is ' Good ' is certainly the criterion of Christian ethics, 
and in the last resort of every right system of ethics. Still, 
it may perhaps be possible to dispute whether this word 
' perfection "* ought to be used, or not rather avoided as open 
to misconception. 

We find it not infrequently in the New Testament, in many 
contexts. St James says : " Let patience have its perfect 
work, that ye may be perfect "" (i. 4), and he says that he is 
the ' perfect man "" who ' offends not in word."* He therefore 
recognises both a ' perfect ' person and a ' perfect ' work. The 
plain antithesis, though not always expressed, is clearly with 
that of a Christian who is not full-grown in work and 
character; but it is assumed in regard to all that they can 
and ought to be 'perfect.' In a similar way St Paul dis- 
tinguishes " babes in Christ," the immature in knowledge as 
in goodness generally (1 Cor. ii.); but he not only assumes 
that there are those who are 'perfect' in Philippi (iii. 15), 
but he also pleads in prayer that he may " present every man 
perfect in Christ Jesus " (Col. i. 28), and that they may now 
"stand perfect and complete in the will of God" (Col. iv. 12). 
This perfection is therefore not the privilege of a few. And 
how much it is perfection in kind and not in extent he im- 
pressively affirms when he says, "Not as if I were already 
perfect." Thus there is the reservation that there are stages 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 305 

of perfection. St Paul is aware that he "laboured more 
abundantly" than all the Apostles (1 Cor. xv. 10); but he 
certainly did not regard those other Apostles as immature 
Christians, but as 'perfect' in the meaning of Phil. iii. 15: 
" Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.'' 
In St John we read of 'perfect love' (1 John iv. 18) — 
' perfect,' that is, in kind, but not so that more love is not 
demanded. And as all are to possess it, it is certain that 
differences of degrees are not excluded. The same thing is 
true of the perfection of which our Lord speaks (St Matt. 
V. 48) (on St Matt. xix. 21, cf. p. 234). 

The Roman Church does not stand on this high level. It 
is true that its public teaching affirms perfection in the 
Christian who loves God above all, and loves all in loving 
God. Even in secular life this perfection may be attained, 
and not merely in monastic life ; and its counsels of perfection, 
strictly taken, do not set forth a higher perfection, but 
an ' easier and surer ' way to perfection (p. 232). But 
the Augsburg Confession is right when, in regard to the 
actual valuation of the monastic life, it insists that perfection 
in the mind of the Romish Church consists of perfection in 
single things — laying down assignable qualities in which 
perfection consists [cf. 'Counsels of Perfection'), and con- 
sequently measurable by external tests. Even in the Protestant 
Churches ideas of a similar kind are current, where sin in 
the regenerate is denied or veiled. The confession of faith 
mentioned, on the other hand, delineates the plain and inex- 
haustible image of true Christian perfection thus : " It is 
fearing God with the whole soul, with earnestness, accompanied 
by a heartfelt assurance and trust that God is for Christ's sake 
a merciful God, and that we ought to pray and desire from God 
what is needful for us, and seek help from Him in all trouble 
such as each may surely expect in his calling and position ; 
and that it is our duty to diligently practise good works 
towards those that are without, and perform the duties of our 
calling." These are the 'good works' which form the proof 
of our Christian character in regard to God, in relation to 
our neighbour, to ourselves, and to the world, as we have 

20 



306 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

already learnt. But the term 'Christian perfection' fell into 
disuse, and was all but crushed out of the terminology of 
Evangelical Christianity. The reasons were many and manifold. 
Romish and fanatical caricatures made the name suspicious. 
The comfort of justification by faith was thought to be 
endangered. In fact, the fundamental note of the judgment 
of the Evangelical Church on the Christian life had grown to 
be something different from that which rules in the Pauline 
epistles. Neither the exalted feeling to which St Paul gives 
utterance in all humility, nor the high praise which, along with 
unvarnished reprehension of the deep shadows which marked 
the position of the primitive Christian Churches, seemed 
appropriate for the conditions that obtained now. Since the 
world became Christian, Christianity had become of the world. 
And it was precisely those who were in earnest who necessarily 
based their judgment on all the finer ramifications of the inner 
life. Attention was fixed more on the imperfection of the 
Christian profession than on its perfection. 

The idea of perfection, rightly understood, conflicts in itself 
just as little with the recognition of ourselves as 'miserable 
sinners ' as judgment according to our works with salvation from 
judgment, by our faith — or, shortly put, as faith conflicts with 
works. It is precisely for this reason that giving up the use 
of the word ' perfection ' cannot be recommended, having, as is 
the case, such a firm basis in New Testament usage. The term, 
so to speak, recognises the duty of gratitude for God's work — 
how great it is, and how it ever demands more and gives more ; 
and the duty of self-encouragement in the maintenance of the 
position we have attained in order to fresh advancement. In 
this way both indolence and self-satisfaction are more securely 
overcome, than by merely being content with our personal 
imperfections. This is not adding anything new to what has 
already been said in treating of Christian character. The 
' new man ' is not perfect in its first stage, but comes into 
existence with the power of growth. The new man is to grow 
to adult manhood. This is just what is meant by the expres- 
sions — the Christian is an 'independent' entity, a whole 
Christian, a Christian 'character,' and his work is in itself a 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 307 

whole and independent. But even in this there is found the 
contrary of all idea of something ' finished,"" and room for the 
desire of perfection in another world. In order that all these 
thoughts may have due consideration, we regard the word 
' perfection ' as a term of value. And when it is taken in its 
true sense, then the danger is most safely obviated lest the 
various stages of progress made should become fixed in proud 
self- mirroring, or in harsh judgments on our fellow-Christians 
{cf. Phil. iii. 152 and iii. 15). And here it is, as elsewhere, easily 
comprehensible that the divinely ordered distinctions between 
members of the great kingdom have their abiding right — the 
theologian, the statesman, the artisan, the artist ; the differ- 
ences amongst these in natural equipment and mode of life. 
The same thing is true of the manifoldness of separate areas of 
society, the ' worldly ' and the ' religious ' ; for instance, the 
old pietists and the ' Hahnists "* of Wiirtemburg.^ 

What the practical value of all the thoughts just broached, 
referring to the development of the Christian character, is, may 
in conclusion receive further light from noting that only such 
a character, who is a whole but not a ' finished ' Christian, can 
conquer a foe, otherwise invincible, of the inner life — that is, 
splenetic humour. " For is not spleen,'' as Goethe says, " an 
inner discontent with our personal unworthiness, displeasure 
with ourselves ever associated with envy and spurred on by 
foolish vanity ? We see happier {i.e. better) men who make 
us unhappy, and that is intolerable." But now it will have 
become clear that the Christian is thoroughly freed from all 
such spleen, and the reason clear too. 

Certain Duties and Virtues. 

A ' perfect man "" in the sense just explained is like to no 
other. His character has on it a special impress according to 
his special natural capacity and his special relations ; and so 
each person has to settle for himself what his duty is in his own 
fixed circumstances, both external and internal. The unity of 

1 I. Michael Hahn (1758-1819) was the originator of a speculative theosophist 
system in antagonism to pietism and orthodoxy. His numerous followers did not 
form a separate body. They are also called ' Michelians.' — Tr. 



308 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

the ' Good ' is not destroyed by this, but on the contrary it is 
realised in all the fixed circumstances of definite men. But 
since these relations and these men have, in spite of all variety, 
something in common, we are able to speak and must speak 
of virtue and the axioms of duty. For instance, the virtue of 
benevolence is an indispensable one for all virtuous persons, and 
the duty of acting generously belongs to everyone, although the 
relation of this duty and virtue to the virtue and duty of thrift, 
equally incumbent on all, is diverse. 

A separate presentment of the principles of virtues and 
duties would lead to wearisome reiteration, for the content is 
necessarily the same. Only at one time the content is looked 
at from the point of view — this and that virtue is the acquired 
moral capacity to act in this way or that ; at another time from 
the point of view — this or that principle of duty says, Regard 
thyself as bound to act in this way or that. But such a 
separate treatment would not be merely wearisome, but also 
not suitable to the subject. For it conceals the truth of the 
intimate connection between virtue and duty previously dis- 
cussed, namely, that by the practice of duty we become virtuous, 
and virtue shows itself in dutiful conduct. 

A complete list of the virtues and axioms of duty to be thus 
presented in unison must enumerate both the contraries and the 
exaggerations, e.g. wisdom, folly, cunning ; courage, cowardice, 
foolhardiness ; confidence, pusillanimity, audacity. Further, it 
would be necessary to note the difference in relation to time, 
e.g. beginning and continuance. One thinks of the steadfast- 
ness of love — and also in regard to time and duration generally, 
e.g. firmness and obstinacy. Not less it would be required to 
observe the contrast of activity and passivity, so important in 
respect of person and person ; and the contrast of pliability and 
resistance on the part of the object. In fact, to carry this out 
in detail would be quite endless. Still, it is necessary to remind 
those who fancy that they can compile a complete list of virtues 
and duties of this fact. 

But even when we have declined to do this, it is in no wise 
simple to find even one general method of division, arising from 
the nature of the subject and so serving to illustrate it. Not 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 309 

infrequently virtues of character and virtues of duty are dis- 
tinguished from social virtues and social duties, while occasion- 
ally religious duties are added. But then is it not simpler on 
the whole to openly use the four main relations often mentioned 
already — of God, our neighbour, our own nature, and the world ; 
and then to distinguish between the virtues and duties which 
are always presupposed by those relations, and so can be re- 
garded as formal ? For, e.g.^ without wisdom there is no such 
thing as a right attitude to God or to our neighbour ; either to 
the physical impulses of our own nature or to the world outside 
us. It is interesting to note that these latter virtues have their 
prelude in the province which cannot strictly be called moral. 
For instance, a strenuous will is by no means, as such, a moral 
will in its full sense ; and we have had occasion to remark that 
there are evil characters who, on account of this firmness of will 
on the formal side, are nearer to goodness than those of weak 
character, although the former, on the other hand, as far as the 
content of the will is concerned, are antagonistic to goodness. 
In this the one main principle of all morality, the independence 
of the person in relation to external nature, asserts itself 
directly. The true dignity of personality is independent of 
that subjection to law which belongs to nature. And of course 
this is assumed when speaking of Christian virtues and duties. 

Those virtues and axioms of duty which are invariably 
paralleled with one another are so paralleled by reason of their 
connection with the three psychological divisions of the mental 
nature — intellect, will, and feeling. The German language has 
only recognised terms for the cardinal virtues related to know- 
ledge and will. In reference to the first of these psychological 
divisions, intellect, we name it wisdom when the intelligence is 
at bottom, however imperfectly, so trained in clarity and depth 
that it judges everything from the point of view of the highest 
end. The grand virtue belonging to the will we call courage or 
bravery when it is fully trained to such activity and persever- 
ance that it determines and governs all its doings in conformity 
with the highest end. The contraries of wisdom are folly 
and cunning; those of courage, cowardice and foolhardiness. 
According as we regard these two, wisdom and courage, as 



310 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

effective wholes, or as referring to each separate case of their 
use, we divide them into insight and prudence (discretion) sis 
relating to the intellect ; and as related to the will, into 
perseverance and determination. We have no special word in 
German for the third division related to feeling. Perhaps we 
might recommend * ideal feeling"' to denote the vivacity and 
constancy, the clarity and depth, which are in our mind''s eye 
when we think of 'feeling' as subjected to moral training, of 
the state of mind in which everything is felt according to its 
relation to the highest end, and rated at its true value. It is 
well known that wisdom and courage had their place among the 
four ' cardinal virtues ' of the ancients. But close adherence 
to ancient ethics has in this connection produced almost 
nothing but confusion. For plainly ' temperance ' refers to 
our own nature, and 'justice' is the comprehensive social 
virtue of the ancients. 

In these three formal fundamental concepts of wisdom, 
courage, ' ideal feeling,' those various subordinate notions may 
be arranged which are found in the language of Christian 
peoples, whether derived from the Holy Scriptures or not, such 
as watchfulness, sobriety, right judgment in all things, etc. 
There are also concepts which these three supreme ones include, 
as truthfulness in the widest sense, conscientiousness, simplicity. 
One may perhaps say they mark the unity of wisdom, courage, 
and ' ideal feeling,' and in such a way that in the same cate- 
gory each one of these in turn may form the leading one. But 
this usage of speech in respect of these terms is not clearly 
defined, and it is only in illustrative application that they find 
their value in the practical life of the Christian. How great 
this value is, the hymn " Holy Simplicity, marvel of grace " may 
witness.^ This simplicity in sincerity is also the secret of the 
deepest influence over others ; it works without violence, like 
Christ Himself. 

If we now note, as briefly as may be, how these formal virtues 
and axioms of duty find their definite content in the great 

* A hymn by Aug. Gottlieb Spangenberg on Christian simplicity, the Gospel 
' singleness of eye,' the simple life, 1704-1792 A.D. A friend of Zinzendorf and 
a Moravian bishop. 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 311 

sphere of the moral life, we see that love to God, of which 
we have spoken at length (p. 165), is essentially a humble 
love (p. 264). Also it may be here insisted that it is both 
directly built on God''s love to us, and in all its relations with 
the world as God's world it evinces its power, and that both 
when its attention is immediately occupied with it or raised 
above it. This love of God, regarded under the above 
formal aspects, is religious wisdom and the courage of faith. 
The first is the Christian virtue so forcibly emphasised and 
fervently prayed for by St Paul ; the latter as saving faith is 
distinct from the faith spoken of by him (1 Cor. xiii. 2, " all 
faith ") in spite of the sameness of the word. Religious virtue, 
regarded under the aspect of ' ideal feeling,' is divine blessed- 
ness. Christian wisdom finds the right light in which to regard 
all changes in historical conditions, whether in politics or in 
the prevailing cosmic philosophy, and refrains from all hasty 
opinion injurious to faith. It shows itself, in a refined form, 
in tact, which finds special mention alongside knowledge in 
Phil. i. 9, " that your love may abound in all knowledge and 
in all Judgment.'''' To the courage of faith belongs patience. 
The New Testament does not delineate this as a weak 
compliance, but mainly as firmness ; and indeed as a fully 
conscious stability, not merely generally in severely trying 
events, but in such as are felt to be trials of confidence in 
God's goodness and power. That is a saying of patient endur- 
ance, " I will trust and not be afraid," when the sun of divine 
love seems to be extinguished, and only appears like a far-distant 
star, to which the struggler with storm and darkness looks, 
hoping against hope. Patience and hope are therefore closely 
conjoined. All faith has, as often has been insisted on, a side of it 
turned towards the eternal future, while genuine patience is 
ever a conflict for this hope of faith. In conclusion, it is still to 
be emphasised that, inasmuch as the attitude of the Christian 
towards God is in all its relations maintained and fortified by 
prayer, it is proper to speak of prayer as a duty. We might even 
speak of prayer as a virtue, as in the language of devotion 
we speak of a man of prayer and a hero of prayer ; of course 
accompanied by the warning not to forget the importance of 



312 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

humility in prayer, and in every exhibition of the wisdom of 
faith and the courage of faith. 

The presentment of the virtues and duties belonging to the 
love of our neighbour naturally presupposes what was previously 
said at large on the nature of Christian love of our neighbour. 
Outside definite Christian ethics, the supreme virtue and duty 
we owe to other men is not infrequently called Justice. The 
higher the plane of such a system of ethics, the deeper is the 
conception of what this justice is. Especially grand is that 
delineation of the just man in Plato, who was compelled to die on 
account of his firmness in cleaving to justice, as if he were an un- 
righteous man, the martyr for righteousness' sake. Still plainer 
and having affinity in some features with Christian love, in many 
modern systems of ethics, is that in which justice is regarded as 
devotion to the great aims of humanity. When the virtue of 
justice is understood in this comprehensive and profound sense, it 
goes far beyond the virtue of justice in the narrow meaning, or 
the rectitude, which in Christian ethics — in harmony with what 
has been said on the relation between love and law — we must call 
its permanently indispensable presupposition. For the idea of 
a disposition to love in the absence of a sense of right is for the 
Christian a contradiction, however often in real life, in the case 
of those who have just become Christians, this contradiction is 
found. In the Christian love of our neighbour, again, that 
permanent presupposition can be distinguished from its innermost 
nature. This presupposition really consists in respect for others. 
And indeed, provided it is Christian ethics of which we are 
speaking, this respect for others is regard for the divinely ordered 
destiny of our neighbour, his divine sonship in the Kingdom of 
God. So it is, for this reason, respect for all that our neighbour 
possesses of natural gifts, and for the moral position to which 
he has already attained in his life, whether as the result of 
Christian influences or otherwise. For it is God who has given 
each natural capacity as means for the highest ends, and this 
moral position is the fruit of providential guidance and of the 
human obedience of each to it. This respect for others is 
accentuated with special earnestness in the New Testament, as, 
e.g.^ "Honour all men"" (J Pet. ii. 17), and "in honour pre- 



THE NEW LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN 313 

ferring one another " (Rom. xii. 10) ; and as a virtue it is illus- 
trated in the life of the Lord, as of His disciples. So to speak, 
this virtue and duty of respect, merely regarded from the other 
side, is modesty, ' thinking soberly ^ of oneself (Rom. xii. 3). 
Looking at another's character helps us to rightly estimate our 
own, and conversely. Aggrandisement of our own selves or de- 
preciation of others is an inexhaustible fount of misunderstand- 
ings in social intercourse which only modesty dries up. What 
in particular we call reasonableness and toleration are clearly 
only parts of this modest respect and respectful modesty. The 
form of respect which should prevail in social intercourse is 
courtesy. But why we have already assigned so special a place 
to truthfulness, and must allow that the strict view of this duty 
is demanded, is clear from what has just been said of respect for 
others. For without this respect the highest relation of confi- 
dence. Christian love of our neighbour, is destroyed in the bud, 
and indeed cannot be entered upon at all, since sincerity is the 
very foundation of its expression. And the inner limit of this 
duty spoken of is now far more intelligible. The various chief 
relations in which this love of our neighbour manifests itself 
may perhaps be most simply set forth if we divide them into a 
class in which there is the relation of giver and receiver, and a 
class in which no such relation exists. The latter includes such 
things as peacefulness, longanimity, and a conciliatory disposi- 
tion. In the former case we distinguish between the love 
of the receiver, or gratitude, and the love of the giver, of 
course bearing in mind that there can only be real love in 
mutual offices of kindness in giving and receiving, although in 
every kind of reciprocal relation. The love which bestows is 
attractive in friendliness of disposition, important not merely as 
a key to men's hearts, but also for the retention of the aroma of 
long-enduring fellowship of love. It is active in serviceableness 
to others and benevolence. In its quality of durableness it is 
faithfulness, that 'peerless treasure."" It is obvious now how 
much those ' formal ' virtues of wisdom, courage, ' ideal feeling ' 
are indispensable in the love of our neighbour. 

In regard to our own nature generally the union of wisdom 
and courage is often called the virtue and duty of self-restraint 



314 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

or temperance. In respect of our physical nature in the nar- 
rower sense, in regard to eating and drinking it is moderation ; 
in regard to the sexual impulse, chastity. Of this we need not 
speak until we come to the section on marriage and the family. 

In respect of external nature it is sufficient here to note that 
we comprise all single virtues and duties in intelligent industry 
and practicality. The latter is a particularly happy expression ; 
it marks out the right of the practical, and warns at the same 
time against the danger of personality being overwhelmed by it. 
But, again, that comes into consideration when speaking of the 
great social areas of human activity which make external nature 
minister to mind. That is to say, the inventory of virtues and 
duties which concludes individual ethics points us in every way 
to social ethics. 



CHAPTER VII. 

SOCIAL ETHICS. 

The Christian Life in Human Society. 

In asserting the correctness and the importance of having a 
special main division in the treatment of social ethics, it is 
assumed, from the Christian standpoint, that the importance of 
individual ethics has been fully recognised. When at the turn 
of a century the question is asked what has been the chief 
feature in the picture of the departing era, one of the many 
answers given is : The uprise of the social question. This self- 
characterisation awakens all kinds of reflections. To many it 
is certainly convenient to cry out for a reform of society and to 
forget that, in the last resort, society can only be improved by 
the individual, and not the individual by society, however 
highly we may rate the influence of society on the individual. 
The passage in the Lamentations (iii. 39), " Wherefore doth a 
living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins,?'"' is 
far more applicable to that ineffective censure of circumstances and 
conditions, and the uncertain pressure to secure their alteration, 
than any other in the Old Testament, for the Christianity which 
recognises, in the sense of St Matt. vii. 17, the importance of the 
person for this work of reform, and so for the ordering of all 
society. One-sided regard for general improvement tends to 
cripple the force of personal conviction and the sense of respon- 
sibility. If the conscience of the individual is stirred, this has 
its real value for the whole. " The world," says George, " needs 
to-day high endeavour : will and freedom are not words of 
empty rodomontade but sacred protestations." 



316 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN IJFE 

Nevertheless, it is inaccurate in Christian ethics to speak 
only of giving proof of the value of Christian virtues by the 
application of Christian principles of duty to the common 
customs of society. For in the idea of the highest Good as 
recognised by Christians the individual and society (indivi- 
dualism and socialism) are knit together in a higher synthesis 
nowhere else reached. Therefore, in any treatment apart 
from social ethics less value is assigned to the community than 
follows from the idea of the Kingdom of God. It is an inevi- 
table task, necessarily involved in the fundamental principle, 
that attention should be given to the way in which the highest 
Good, the Kingdom of God, begins to find its earthly realisation 
in human society. If each person may well perceive the limits 
of his power to consider the immeasurable breadth, and depth 
too, of human life, in the light of this Kingdom of God, at least 
the problem must plainly be set. For this highest and deepest 
fellowship in the Kingdom of God, springing from and founded 
on the love of God, only then becomes actual under earthly 
conditions when it is realised in those conditions which now 
exist ; that is, in the social spheres arranged by a God of 
omnipotent love for Christian men. Otherwise it remains 
empty, unreal, a pious wish, the exact antithesis of a kingdom 
of God, which is far from being an unsubstantial vision, 
but the highest reality, of the highest value. That saying, 
" Let us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and truth,"' 
means : " Let us love in the interchange of all the capacities 
and possessions which make up the fellowship of real men in 
this real world, as members of a family, of a nation, in the work 
of our hands or our heads."" But while the highest, the Kingdom 
of God, is realised in all these fellowships, they gain a Christian 
impress and thus must be considered in their Christian forms. 
Certainly much in earthly history has only a transitory value — 
nay, rightly understood, is all scaftblding destined to removal. 
But nothing is in vain which helps to perfection, until that 
which is perfect comes and that which is in part is done away. 
It is to think meanly of the rule of God if, in spite of all 
imperfection and sin, we think meanly of the framework of the 
growing Kingdom of God formed, guided, supported by Him. 



SOCIAL ETHICS 317 

As a matter of fact, we are at present led by this history to a 
stage of contemplation which is distinct not only from the 
Roman Catholic mistrust of all that is of this world (p. 112), 
but also from that Reformation idea that we ought in those 
forms of nature certainly to honour God''s will, but still without 
recognising in them the special value assigned to them by God's 
will for moral ends. In this particular, Protestant ethics may 
not go behind Schleiermacher, certain as it is that he only con- 
quered a new field for the activity of the Protestant fundamental 
principle, and but expanded Christian theistic ideas ; of course 
with the accompanying danger of confusing morality with 
civilisation. {Cf. below on the notion of civilisation ; also of 
the transcendence and immanence of the highest Good (p. 140) ). 
In connection with this, our conviction has grown more vivid 
and of more weight, that all those social activities have a high 
relative value irrespective of their Christian completion. Of 
this we shall have to remind ourselves when dealing with marriage 
and the family relationship. 

A double injury arises from the neglect to appreciate social 
ethics at its true value. The Christian himself has a doubtful 
conscience when he asks. Is not every step forward into full life 
a step away from God .? But anxious retirement from the 
world revenges itself only too easily by an over- valuation of the 
world, fear of its power or desire of its good things. And at 
the same time the influence of Christian ideas on society suffers 
loss. The regulation of society is left to the foes of Christian 
ethics, who willingly cast themselves into the broad stream of 
the world's activities, and do not stand doubtfully or critically 
on the bank. The problems here opened up receive illustration 
from Bismarck's correspondence, which has possibly contributed 
more to their elucidation — for those who are sympathetic — 
than great ethical systems. And if the right and importance 
of social ethics is unreservedly recognised, stress may be freely 
laid on its limitations. In solving the problems which life offers, 
it is ever creating new ones. It is not capable of solving all the 
riddles which arise from the complicacy of society and nature, 
the growth of civilisation from the state of nature ; and still 
less is it able to apprehend their inner unity, amid restless 



318 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

change. And so it is perpetually compelled to put to each 
person afresh the question of his duty. Both these limitations 
have their basis in the nature of Christian ethics, in its religious 
foundation, and its entire earnestness with regard to responsi- 
bility — which very things do, however, make up its pre-eminence 
over other ethical ideals. Still, we may say that in connection 
with this point in Christian ethics a principle of the Christian 
faith becomes more directly convincing than when standing 
alone ; namely, that if we had in every respect an adequate 
knowledge of God, then faith in God as the only God of love 
could no longer have any ethical quality. In the absence of 
this mystery of revelation the moral history of mankind, of each 
person, would be a merely natural development. 

Division of Social Ethics. 

As to the division of social ethics agreement prevails in the 
main, that is, on what are the most important groups of human 
associations which ought to come under consideration. These 
are the family, social intercourse generally, companionship and 
friendship, in particular the industrial life (the social question 
in the narrowor sense), science and art, the legally ordered 
community or state, religious association or the Church. The 
industrial group has not very long established a claim 
commensurate with its clearly recognised importance to be 
treated as a separate item. But there is no single social group 
can be found wider or standing out more distinctly from othei-s 
than this. For the concept ' society ' (in its widest connotation), 
which might be thought of as wider, does not in itself connote 
any special group, but is clearly a comprehensive term which 
may be used in manifold application for all the classes above 
named. It connotes the collective life of men regarded as an 
articulated whole, however various the type and character of 
their domestic, social, business, scientific, artistic, civic, religious 
life. * Society "■ is different according to the period intended or 
the particular class alluded to — for instance, ' society ' in the 
time of Louis XIV. and ' society ' in agreement with Earl 
Marx. From this it follows that it cannot be compared with 
the enumerated types. 



SOCIAL ETHICS 319 

While, then, there is scarcely any dispute as to the subject- 
matter of social ethics, it is possible, in forming a theory to 
account for this, to be easily led into subtleties. Thus there is 
the once-famous theory of Schleiermacher that it is the mind's 
activity in reference to nature, in its power intellectually to ap- 
propriate and symbolise emotionally, to shape spontaneously and 
organise externally, from which the forms of society issued, when 
it was once recognised that this activity is in part identically 
and universally the same in all, and in part is individual and 
peculiar to each. Still, as an example, the nature of art or of 
friendship is only obscurely described in this way. Moreover, 
the theory generally presupposes a notion of ethics which we 
rejected at the outset as too indefinite. In this case also it is 
simpler to recall those fundamental concepts of the moral life, 
God, our neighbour, our own nature, and that which is external 
to it. Each one of these, or several combined, yields the special 
content of the social groups enumerated. Thus, under the idea of 
the religious nature comes the Church ; from that point of view 
of free intercourse arises our relation to our fellow-men, which 
becomes fellowship in intellectual communion one with another ; 
under the notion of law and right is that of the ordered state ; in 
respect of external nature there is association in industrial life, 
science and art ; of course so that in every way all the various 
ruling relations receive attention in various proportions and in 
various ways. For instance, the industrial life is a specially 
important and difficult province of our relation to our 
neighbours, as one of love, just because it is concerned with the 
shares we are each to have in ' natural goods.' The family is, 
however, the grand basis and centre of all others, having its 
roots in the natural relation of the sexes. 

Among these groups, as above pointed out, those three are 
very intimately connected which relate to our mastery over 
nature, the industrial and technological on the one hand, the 
ideal group — intellectual in the narrow sense, for of course the 
technological department is in reality the dominion of the mind 
over nature — namely, art and science. This mental dominion 
over nature is called civilisation, and the society which correspond- 
ingly rests on it civilised society. But the word 'civilisation' is not 



320 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

always strictly used. It is employed sometimes so as to include 
family, social intercourse, and state, and even religion itself — in 
short, every advance over a mere state of nature. One thinks of 
many treatises of the history of civilisation in this sense of the 
word. The disposition to widen the connotation of the term is 
very intelligible. For one thing, the advancement of all depart- 
ments of life is greatly influenced by the progress of civilisation 
in the narrower sense. For instance, a higher development of 
the state without a higher development of scientific knowledge 
is in some measure inconceivable. Many a sanctuary of a once 
living religion has disappeared for this very reason, that its gods 
could not stand against advancing knowledge ; and conversely, 
the Christian is convinced that his religion can and ought to 
gain by every step forward in civilisation. But still more. 
Even the simplest activities of the moral life, for instance in the 
family, are inconceivable in the entire absence of civilisation, in 
the absence of dominion over nature, inasmuch as they are 
indissolubly connected with the regulation of our own nature. 
Nevertheless, it is advisable to give up this comprehensive use of 
the word because the danger is involved, or even there is a 
conscious design, in such use, to confound the moral with the 
natural, and sacrifice the distinction between the two asserted at 
the outset (p. 23). Even in the name of Christianity many 
are to-day enthusiastic for a so-called ' monism of ci vilisation,' 
and by this means do violence to the clearness of ethical con- 
cepts, and to its unique character. For in regard to the family, 
the ordered community, and entirely so in religion, the questions 
that arise are, irrespective of Christian ethics, altogether diverse 
from those in art, science, technology. Hence we avoid the 
ambiguity which lies in the expression, * the dominion of the 
mind over nature,' and rather say — the whole of social ethics is 
not included in the ethics of civilisation, but that the former in- 
cludes social forms which are fundamentally ethical in character, 
while there are others which have to do with civilisation 
(in the plain narrow sense). Of both. Christian ethics has to 
show how the specially Christian ideal ought to be realised in 
them. Only it is of course indispensable that great stress should 
be laid on the immense importance of civilisation for the 



SOCIAL ETHICS 821 

development of ethics generally, and of Christian ethics in 
particular, as will be done in what follows ; for example, the 
refinement of human society in the family, trade, the state, in 
companionship, in religious life, through technology, science 
and art. But this refinement, this advancement in civilisation 
in all the spheres spoken of, is not necessarily moral advance- 
ment. Often enough there arises by the advance a real danger 
of moral retrogression, and the idea of civilisation in general 
contains the hardest problems, as we may proceed to show, in 
reference to each single social group. Consequently it is more 
correct probably to decline the expression 'civilised com- 
munities' even as a comprehensive term for all social groups 
except family and Church, on account of the misunderstandings 
which it easily causes. 

The term ' customs ' deserves a word in this place on account 
of analogous difficulties. We call that sum of rules by the 
name customs, the authority for which is neither founded in the 
coercive power of law, so that one refrains from an act for fear 
of punishment, nor grounded on the personally free recognition 
of an absolute law, the breach of which brings with it a feeling of 
guilt ; but whose basis is the judgment of the public of a greater 
or lesser group. He who holds this cheap is held cheap, loses 
his honour in this public opinion and his social status. Custom 
in this sense regulates the whole of human life in all the men- 
tioned communities. We speak of family custom, artisan habits, 
honour among thieves. Church usages {cf. ' Vocation "■ and 
' Honour ' ), and consequently the term is of some importance 
for all parts of social ethics. Customs are founded partly on 
that refinement of the natural human collective life of which we 
first spoke in dealing with the notion of civilisation ; partly on 
the opinion set up by the particular social group concerned 
according to the stage of civilisation reached. For the latter 
reason custom is both a prelude to morality and a field for its 
exercise. But the school of custom does not always bring forth 
good fruits. We are bound to rate it highly so far as custom is 
the moral passed over into flesh and blood. But the limits of 
its value are just as clear ; namely, it depends on how far it asks 
itself what standard of moral conviction lies at its base. And 

21 



322 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

still more, it is merely in this closely defined sense that we can 
speak of a custom which is become ethical. For what is 
ethical is in its ultimate basis something personal and, just on 
that very account, something that transcends mere custom 
(p. 18). It is also of great value as educative for the individual, 
and is, in fact, ultimately only the means to this end ; for those 
who are trained to personal morality do no longer follow custom 
merely as custom. In this respect too what has been said of 
the attitude of the Christian towards honour is applicable 
here. Moreover, custom which is merely in keeping with a 
particular standard of civilisation (in the narrow sense of the 
term) may, although of considerable educational value, become, 
as is well known, a seductive temptation to immorality. 

Marriage and the Family. 
Following on the above general remarks on the nature of 
social ethics, important reasons for the discussion of marriage 
and the family in Christian ethics result from the fact that 
these are not the creation of Christianity. Firstly, it must be 
noted that the Christian doctrine of marriage and the family is 
to be derived from the principles of the Gospel, and not from a 
careless collocation of passages from the Old and New Testaments. 
Otherwise, what account could one give without untruthfulness 
of the narratives of the patriarchal times ? Nor do even isolated 
New Testament sayings form a sufficient foundation. For even 
that profound saying of our Lord, "They twain shall be one 
flesh" (St Mark x. 6-8), speaks of the indissolubility of the 
marriage between a man and his wife ; but that it is a relation 
Christian in its end, character, and motive is not contained in 
the words themselves. And even an express appeal to the 
varied sayings of the Apostle would not be sufficient for this 
purpose; for while Eph. v. 32 appeals to the 'mystery' of 
Christian marriage, so far as the apparent meaning is concerned, 
1 Cor. vii. 2 does not assign it a very high value. We must con- 
sequently be mindful, in this matter of Christian marriage, of 
the rules given earlier for the interpretation of Scripture. So 
then it follows from the fact above mentioned that, while it is 
indubitable that marriage, Christianly understood, has an incom- 



SOCIAL ETHICS 323 

parable moral value, and certain as it is that Christian morality 
according to the faith of Christ is the perfection of all morality, 
yet the institution of marriage has great moral value even 
where the highest ideal is not reached. This truth is in the 
midst of Christianity itself important ; its recognition will point 
the right way to a judgment of the value of various legal ordin- 
ances as to marriage, possibly some in our civil law-books. 
Finally, the value of the Christian conception of marriage and 
the family for Christian ethics is independent of historical in- 
vestigations on early and pre-Christian forms of the marriage 
relation. \^For generally the validity of a moral truth is inde- 
pendent of the means by which~"it has asserted itself in the 
course of history. What our present duty is, is determined by 7 
our present moral insight, in whatever way it may have pleased ) 
God to lead us slowly to it. Mankind, as a whole, can judge in 
no other way. The mystery of marriage as a type of the union 
betwixt Christ and His Church could neither be understood 
nor appreciated until the Lord and His Church were formed on 
the earth ; but now the Church is there it can be understood 
and experienced by its members. If this principle is recognised we 
may add that what is asserted as to the relation of the sexes in 
the grey dawn of history has in no way such secure basis as the 
originators of such theories seem to suppose. For example, the 
theory that in the so-called patriarchal period not only was the 
man the ruler in the family, but there was a ' matriarchate ' also, 
in which the mother was the chief factor in the family life, and that 
a period preceded this, before the family relation existed, when 
in the tribe promiscuous intercourse of the sexes was the usage. 
(Cf. Bachofen, Morgan, Population and Degeneration ^m the litera- 
ture of the Social Democratic propaganda.) Against this view 
objections have been raised not merely in the name of history, 
but also from the side of scientific research. Still, however 
that may be, historical researches have never got to the very 
beginnings ; and they concern the Christian faith merely in the 
judgment on sin. More important for us is the reference to 
the undoubted fact — because ever presenting itself in experience 
— that in the life of the family the natural and the moral are 
more closely conjoined than anywhere else. The one impinges 



324 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

on the other, and one arises out of the other. In this, for 
the Christian, there lies an inexhaustible incentive to prove here 
too the truth of the Pauline saying of the depth of the divine 
wisdom ; as for the non-Christian there is the insistent temp- 
tation to doubt not only God but also the independent basis 
of the moral element. And we shall see that this doubt may 
unite itself with apparently strong faith, and particularly when 
the demand is made to deny this natural element in the name 
of faith. It does indeed remain a mystery that God has so 
inseparably conjoined the ethically highest with the naturally 
lowest. It is a mystery which we reverence while experiencing 
its blessings, and of which no human intelligence can affirm 
that it has apprehended it in all its depth. For this very reason 
shame is given as its guardian. 

By these remarks the way is paved for what follows. The 
definite Christian idea of marriage must be first of all treated 
without discussing theoretical or practical doubts, for it is only 
thus that it can justify itself against these doubts, and give the 
right clue to their solution. 

The Christian Idea of Marriage. 

Marriage is the mutual moral life-association of a man and a 
woman. The essence of marriage lies in the unity of the natur- 
ally sexually different and of the moral relation between them. It 
is erroneous to think only on the imion of two persons of different 
sex ; just as erroneous to think merely of the moral union of 
two persons without consideration of the sex element. In the 
first case the ethical element is left out of sight, and in the 
second it is not marriage but friendship that is thought of. 
All that is ethical in Christian marriage is conditioned by the 
natural ; all that is natural ought to be wholly and fully stamped 
with the ethical. And indeed in this natural element there is 
not merely the physical but the mental differences of the sexes 
concerned ; and in both respects there is the general as well as 
special (or individual) elective affinity arising from this differ- 
ence. This mental difference of the sexes has been variously 
defined. It is, for instance, said, as by Lotze, that " the mind 
of the female particularises as that of man generalises " ; or as 



SOCIAL ETHICS 826 

Paulsen says, " Man seeks respect, woman love.'' No such 
formulas exhaust the reality which offers itself to experience, 
and which poets present in different aspects, giving expression 
to the deep feeling that the sexes in their union represent man. 
This inexhaustibly rich abundance of material (the physical 
and mental nature) gets in marriage an ethical impress, and that 
in all the fundamental relations of ethics : self-discipline, love of 
our neighbour, overcoming the world, trust in God ; above all, 
in the mutual relations of the married pair. It is only where^ 
there is real self-control that love between the sexes is possible 
without injury to personal self-respect. Otherwise, when there 
is a want of mutual respect the nearest neighbour becomes 
estranged from the nearest neighbour. By self-control, on the 
other hand, this grave danger of degradation becomes a means 
of self-conquest. The love of our neighbour is illustrated in a 
special form in the married relationship, and it has unique power, 
depth, glory. The sexual difference is in its way the greatest 
possible difference that can exist, and the union consequently 
forms a unique relationship. No man, however perfect, feels, 
knows, or wills precisely in the same way as a typical woman. 
When these thus diverse become one in love, then there is a 
unity in diversity. We might even explicitly say that a new , 
operative power becomes the possession of the married persons, 
for there is in reality a new experience not actually found in 
the consciousness of any human being without this union of the 
greatest contrasts. It really involves seeing with other eyes — 
which are still their own — hearing, feeling, judging, willing, 
acting, helping ; and this not by the sacrifice of the personal 
nature of each, but by its enrichment. Isolated examples dis- 
parage rather than interpret the great fact. Still, we may 
remember how the man's view of things, learning to see them 
with his wife's eyes, gains in appreciation of the trifles of life, 
which still are important, and apprehends the power of patience 
as a special gift ; how the woman, by sympathy with the life- 
work of her husband, is preserved from frivolousness. The 
married life of Luther, and, in the broad current of modern life, 
the sermons of Schleiermacher and the letters of Bismarck to his 
wife, are grand illustrations for us German people of the truth 



326 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

1 here set forth. They all at the same time show what in reality 
! is the indestructible foundation of an ideal marriage, and that 
[is faith in God. Otherwise, in the larger as in the smaller 
world, the world of the man and that of the woman are no longer 
the same. When the natural ardour is extinguished, differences 
of temperament, education, and culture, built on the strong 
foundation of sexual difference, grow into mental separation. 
Of course an upright will, even when it is not Christian at all, 
may fight against this tendency to a mere 'living with one 
another.' But the trials to which such a will is subjected may 
easily be too much for its power when the battle lasts long ; 
and lifelong habit, with the obtrusive examples of many sordid 
marriages, blunt its energy. It is otherwise when a common 
aim which is more than earthly unites them ; when access to 
the eternal home stands open, and there is common prayer for 
forgiveness and grace ; faith in the one eternally true God of 
love, such as makes all human love, of bridegroom, of husband, 
father, mother, brother, and friend, a symbol of its power. And 
also in this fellowship with God, which is the firm foundation of 
every true Christian marriage, one spouse ministers to the other 
in a way not otherwise possible. 

So far we have considered the nature of marriage in its signi- 
ficance for the married pair as persons who in marriage, and 
only by the completion thus given, experience personal advance- 
ment in the good, and consecrate themselves to God in this high 
school of faith and love. But this does not completely describe 
the nature of marriage. Even on its natural side it points 
beyond the persons as a pair to society as a whole. This smallest 
of communities among men is the grand basis of all others. 
And even in this respect that which is naturally sexual has in 
marriage a wholly and fully ethical quality. The new genera- 
tions essential to the earthly development of the Kingdom of 
God, the product of marriage, are trained by the married pair 
in the Christian family, in each home, in the particular circum- 
stances which are specially prepared by natural love, for which 
no substitute is possible. 

Both purposes which make up the nature of marriage, the 
^personal benefit of the married pair and the procreation and 



SOCIAL ETHICS 327 

training of children, are most completely realised together. 
The personal love of the espoused has no field for its exercise 
that touches it closer than the bringing up of children ; in no 
other point can a unity of interests which otherwise are often 
widely separate be found ; and no other makes such demands on 
the most personal devotion. On the other hand, this task 
cannot be successful unless they have gained already their true 
personality, and have found that higher unity of their in- 
dividualities in real affection. Hence it is just as erroneous 
to say that the purpose of marriage is personal completion and 
not mutual agreement in bringing up children, as to affirm the 
contrary. But it is intelligible that, in accordance with the 
tendency of the times, now the individual and now the social 
aspect may stand in the forefront. At the end of the eighteenth 
century it was the first, at the end of the nineteenth the second 
— of course with opposite dangers. For the truth is, it is a 
question of a single purpose with a double side. All that has 
been advanced on the relation between the individual and the 
community (pp. 143 ff.) is equally applicable to marriage, and has 
here a particularly profound significance. Here too man must 
not put asunder what God has joined together; namely, the 
principle of matrimonial fellowship on the basis of the natural 
sexual relation. But if it happens, as a matter of fact, that 
God denies the blessing of offspring, then this raises a question 
for the Christian couple in what other way they can attain a 
unity of purpose, and find thereby a means of showing their 
mutual personal completeness. The answer will be different in 
each case, but at any rate this love will always aim at avoiding 
secluding itself in weak and selfish isolation, but open itself to 
others in need. Not necessarily by adopting children ; for the 
failure to have offspring of their own necessitates double pre- 
caution in considering their capability of bringing up those of 
others. But . it is undoubted that numerous childless marriages 
give illuminative evidence that even this deprivation may be 
turned to a glorious account. And here not only the Christian 
principle finds illustration, that all things may be turned to the 
best account, but also the proposition often insisted on of the 
relation of the individual to the community ; in this case the 



328 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

relation of fellowship between the married couple themselves 
and to the human society propagated by means of marriage. So 
much does everything find its end in marriage in the completion 
of united personalities, of course in love, that even this essential 
deficiency in the natural foundation of the marriage tie, its non- 
fulfilment of its social purpose, may be overcome and find its 
compensations. 

In the ideas of marriage are included its indissolubility, 
monogamy, the fundamental equality of rights of the married 
couple. And these concomitants are indispensable both on 
account of the mutual fellowship of the married pair and on 
account of their relation to their children. It is only possible 
for that many-sided life of fellowship to perfect itself by such 
persons as are inseparably joined together. If, as in the case 
of polygamy, it is the dishonour of woman that is most evident, 
this is not absent in the man's case either. The same thing is 
true of the position of the rising generation. Not less is the 
indissolubility of the marriage tie implicate in the thought of 
this many-sided life-fellowship. And the serious endeavour to 
maintain it is impossible if the possibility of separation is even 
thought of. Further, the rightly regulated training of offspring 
is impossible. Finally, there is only a truly ethical life-fellow- 
ship when essential equality of rights is admitted. For if both 
the parties aimed at the like highest Good, but not wHh equal 
personal independence, then it could not be the like at which they 
aimed ; and the same thing would be repeated in reference to all 
the subordinate ends included in the highest Good. In equal 
measure the effect on the family is profoundly bad if the com- 
mand, " Honour thy father and thy mother^'' does not apply in 
the fullest sense. But this fundamental claim of equality of 
rights in all respects does not exclude but includes, by reason of 
the difference in the sexes, the right of the man to be the ' head 
of the woman"" and of the home. But this control is the 
opposite of coercion ; it is rather love itself under the ethically 
determined conditions of a true marriage and as settled by 
nature. 

On these three notes — the ' indissoluble,' ' equal ' maniage 
of 'one man to one woman' — it is quite clear that it is not 



SOCIAL ETHICS 329 

permissible to mix up the pre-Christian or even the Jewish 
ethical views with those that are Christian. The most recent 
history of missions bears witness to the difficult questions of 
conscience we are compelled to face at home and abroad, in 
order at the right time, and in the right place, to insist upon 
the Christian estimate of marriage. On the other hand, we are 
not to co-ordinate the question of a second marriage with the 
three requisites given. For this is in no wise contradictory to 
the Christian ideal, however often, as a matter of fact, this is 
asserted from want of ethical i<nowledge, and is even declared to 
be contrary to duty. But to see in a second marriage real 
unfaithfulness to the first, because personal completeness is in 
general supposed to be accomplished in this alone, is a want of 
accurate understanding and right estimate of the natural side of 
marriage. 

From the nature of marriage the principles that should guide 
us in entering upon it are easily deducible. Marriage is not 
ethically justifiable either when there is an absence of a real 
sentiment of love, or when this is not under moral control. 
The marriage for money comes under the first heading, as 
also the so-called marriage of convenience ; the latter is true 
of mere amorousness and the frenzy of passion. Only we may 
not forget that this irrefragable proposition finds the most 
various application in the fulness of life's interests, and 
that the wisdom and power of divine providence are able to 
overcome much human ignorance and confusing self-deception, 
though often by the discipline of trouble. But this does not 
affect the question of what ought to be and might be if men''s 
wills were clearer and stronger. The same thing is true when 
we come to define more closely the meaning of the above pro- 
position, and find that it is of individual application. For, 
speaking generally, we may just say — that in order to the real 
completeness of the marriage union, and that the personal per- 
fection of each in their calling and relation to society may be 
possible, the differences between the married couple must not be 
too great ; and yet there ought to be some difference. Otherwise 
the one has nothing to give and the other nothing to receive ; 
and they are not independent in their unity, or their independ- 



330 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

ence excludes fellowship. This statement is true, of course, in 
varied meaning and measure, of such differences as those of 
social position, age, education, religion. The two first are at 
times plainly a less hindrance than the two last, and they are 
all, with the above reservation, a limitation to marriage. But 
a glance at life shows how little an intelligence otherwise clear 
and practical avails in this particular sphere as a guarantee of a 
wise choice ; how pressing the danger is of being blinded by 
the glamour of passion, and overestimating one's power — as if 
it were an easy thing to do, for instance, to bridge over the gulf 
of a different educational standard. It is because the nature of 
marriage has its foundation in the most imperious of natural 
propensions that this is so. So much the more needful to 
remember, " If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God" (St 
James i. 5) ; " that is the true way to gain wisdom." There is 
no other way, probably, of winning that true naturalness in the 
intercourse of the sexes, without which a choice, clear in its 
reasons and yet leaving room for spontaneousness, is not con- 
ceivable. At a point where man's spirit and nature so 
strangely meet, fellowship with God — who created man's 
spirit and is the Author of nature — is the sole guarantee 
of their higher synthesis in man. It is only such personal 
sincerity that is in the position to find right answers to the 
innumerable questionings which start up in this region : for 
instance, whether youthful love and early engagement is a surer 
safeguard than a self-imposed restraint on the free unfolding of 
the natural affections. 

On the principles thus laid down marriage is for the Christian 
a divine ordinance (St Mark x. 6-8), and indeed as such the 
basis of Christian society. A complete ethical manhood formed 
by the union of the sexes grows into an ethical humanity, and 
so individual and social ethics here find their point of unity, 
and all other forms of society rest on marriage. This is conse- 
quently, for the earthly development of the Kingdom of God, the 
most important of human fellowships. Of course only for its 
earthly realisation, since its sexual base appertains to this 
present form of our existence merely. Those who are accounted 
worthy to receive that world " neither marry nor are given in 



SOCIAL ETHICS 331 

marriage '" (St Mark xii. 25). Certainly " when that which is 
perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away " — 
elementary knowledge, art, the control over the world ; and even 
the Church will be different when all is ' made new.' But 
marriage on its natural side belongs to the transitory in a 
wholly different and profounder way than even these intellectual 
activities. Still, so long as it endures it is second to no other 
association, but rather is the divinely ordered and most spiritual 
sphere of all ; not merely one of the means, but one of the chiefest 
means, for the realisation of the Kingdom of God rightly under- 
stood. Consequently it is under Christian conditions a duty to 
seek marriage, where there is no special reason which makes 
celibacy a duty for the individual. Apart from such cases, it 
ought to be acknowledged by everyone that there is no way to 
personal sanctification and usefulness to the corporate whole 
that is more pleasing to God. The popular jocose sayings on 
bachelorhood and spinsterhood rest in good part on the 
Christian belief which penetrates the general consciousness that 
marriage is the securest, because the most natural, field for the 
exercise of personal ability, and of all work for others ; that 
much-vaunted holiness and self-devotion are severely tested by 
the daily trials of the Christian household ; that it is a fact that 
the man who is famous in his vocation only becomes a whole 
man by the unprejudiced criticism of the genuine wife. And 
that other point is just as clear, that, although marriage is a 
means to advance the Kingdom of God, if the Lord of the 
Kingdom demands by His gifts and His leading of any indi- 
vidual abstinence from marriage, whether because the natural 
presuppositions, sexual sensibility, or business circumstances 
are wanting, or because such person feels that he caimot 
adequately fulfil the task appointed him, in the way duty 
demands in any other vocations, without abstaining from 
marriage, his place in the Kingdom of God is unaffected by 
this. The wide scope for possible self-deception again becomes 
obvious, and against this also there is the only remedy re- 
peatedly mentioned. But that the question is not one of 
manufactured difficulties may be realised by thinking of the 
missionary or the travelling explorer. And here too we must 



332 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

maintain that what duty is for such an one only the person 
himself can decide. It is precisely in this province that the 
counsels of the most famous counsellors with especial frequency 
lead away from that evangelical freedom which is one with 
God's will in respect of its full obligatoriness. 

This development of the idea of marriage is combated from 
several opposite quarters. To one it appears too lax, to another 
too stern, and to leave too much or too little room for the play 
of the natural propensions. Too little room by the stern require- 
ments of monogamy, indissolubility, and some sort of supremacy 
on the part of the man, even with fundamental equality of 
rights. If the last-mentioned objection is essentially a new 
one, the two former are clearly the revival of pre-Christian 
views, but elaborated altogether differently in detail and made 
more acceptable. At one time there is biting sarcasm over 
the innumerable unhappy marriages, whether among the lower 
orders through the pressure of hard work, or among the more 
fortunate classes who have no life-purpose (BebePs book on 
Woman, Ibsen's Puppenheim); at another time there is the preach- 
ing of free love in the attractive guise of the novel, represent- 
ing the bonds of matrimony as disturbing the proper development 
of the ' ego,' or in sheer coarseness claiming that nature should 
not be in bondage. Such opinions are felt by the Christian to 
be an insistent summons to seek to obviate the miseries of the 
' conventional marriage,' and to remove the social obstacles to 
family life, yet only so as to carry out the Christian ideal. 
The ' freedom of the flesh ' is to him slavery from which Christ 
has set us free. But so much the more seriously will he be 
compelled to note the objections which see in this elaborated 
idea of marriage a wrong compliance with sensual desire, and 
to protest against them generally or explicitly in the name of 
Christianity (cf. Grabowsky's impressive words). 

This latter protest is all the more worthy of note as history 
shows that those who raised it have contributed much to the 
elevation of family life. Sexual licence, easiness of divorce, the 
degradation of woman called forth a counter-movement even in 
the Greek world itself But the Stoic and Neo-Pythagorean 
philosophies were as little capable of a thorough-going reforma- 



SOCIAL ETHICS 383 

tion affecting the whole national life as legislative measures. 
It is the incontestable merit of the Christian Church that it 
translated sublime words and wishes into plain fact. But even 
the Church which sanctified marriage looked upon the unmarried 
state as the higher and more perfect ; understood the word 
chastity of the non-satisfaction of the sexual impulse ; was 
inclined to look upon sanctity as summed up in chastity, and, 
conversely, to regard the sexual propension as the root of sin. 
On the one side the Tridentine Council condemned those who 
did not recognise marriage as a sacrament which was the means 
of supernatural grace, and on the other side those who would 
not concede that virginity is a state of higher perfection. Even 
many Protestants occupy an inconsistent position in regard to 
marriage. Thus, if they consider natural desire as essentially 
sinful, they plainly forsake the Evangelical line of teaching, 
and are in contradiction both with the plain ruling of Jesus 
on marriage (St Mark x. 6-8), and with such passages of 
Scripture {e.g. 1 Tim. iv. 3) as are explicitly adverse to such 
reasoning. It sounds like Christian piety, and is in truth 
heathenish, when at the present time the question is put, with 
or without connection with the introduction of Buddhist ideas 
— How can Christians wish to bring children into the world, 
when they surely know that they will be born into a world of 
sin and misery ? Christianity, it is said, has not renovated 
personality in history. As if Christianity were cognisant of 
such a redemption as this, by the annihilation of the desire of 
life by natural process ! 

Still there are many to whom such assumptions and argu- 
ments are unwelcome, who yet share in a feeling of the higher 
value of the unmarried state at least secretly. For proof of 
this they readily appeal to some expression of the Apostle 
Paul. But that he did not give his ' counsel ■" (in the sense of the 
Roman Catholic Church) in contradistinction to commands we 
have seen earlier (p. 233). Here the point is as to the mean- 
ing of such expressions in reference to maiTiage, and the value 
set upon it generally by the Apostle. Now, in his elaborate 
explanation (1 Cor. vi.) it is certain that he insists upon the 
nearness of the Advent as the reason why he desires the celibate 



334 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

state also for others (v. 26), and prefers it on account of the 
'trouble in the flesh' marriage will bring (v. 28). In this 
same connection the self-same Paul distinguishes more strongly 
than elsewhere his ' opinion ' from the Lord's ' command,' 
although with the clear consciousness that he has "the Spirit 
of the Lord"; and in other utterances he places marriage so 
high that it is the type of the fellowship between Christ and 
His Church (Eph. v. 32 ; c/! 1 Cor. ii. 3). But undeniably he 
regards marriage essentially as a concession to weakness (v. 2) ; 
says, quite generally, that it is morally good " not to touch a 
woman" (v. 1); designates continence as a gift of grace (v. 7); 
and grounds this judgment on the fact that not only are the 
unmarried freer from worldly anxiety, but also freer to care 
for " the things of the Lord " (vv. 32-34). If we reflect on all 
this, and also note how strongly St Paul lays emphasis on the 
dignity of the man in comparison with the woman, then we 
may be inclined, in Evangelical ethics, in harmony with the 
principles founded on the usage of Scripture, to judge much 
as follows. In the saying of the Lord (St Mark x.) the position 
in regard to marriage corresponding with the genius of the 
Gospel finds clearer expression than in isolated utterances of 
the Apostle, which may have been influenced by his personal 
idiosyncrasy, his period, and his view of the frightful licentious- 
ness of the surrounding world. The Lord Himself, in Lhat plain 
saying treating of the indissolubility of the marriage union, 
and of the equality of rights of man and wife as something 
quite obvious, because it is God's ordination, and not adding 
any single prescript whatever, here as everywhere left it to the 
spirit of freedom to make its deductions from the principles 
laid down. In this sense Luther's battle about marriage was 
a harking back to the Gospel and a battle on its behalf. And 
so were all the new convictions which the German mind, under 
the influence of the Gospel, acquired as to the interpenetration 
of the natural and the moral in marriage, and of its completely 
unique character for each individuality ; and that, in this way, 
the sanctification of every person, as of the corporate whole, is 
inseparable from marriage and the family (Schleiermacher). 
Whoever considers this judgment as to the attitude of the 



SOCIAL ETHICS 386 

Apostle in regard to marriage, as justifiable from the Protestant 
principle of an appeal to Scripture, will be the very one who will 
also venture to go back on the question whether these passages 
exhaust the whole depth of the Pauline sayings. It has already 
been insisted on (p. 330) that the sexual relation is one that in 
an especial degree belongs to the transitory conditions of our 
earthly development (p. 331). Now, has not he who, in his 
individual opinion as to his duty, rejects this earthly means for 
the attainment of the highest purpose, the moral right to say 
(like St Paul in his glance at the nature of this means) that 
not to require them is ethically right, and even to wish that were 
the case with others ; especially if also, like St Paul, he 
insists on the danger of self-deception on this subject ? Is not 
that a fresh application of the saying of Jesus Christ (St Matt. 
xxii. 30) under definite conditions ? Is it not a logical conse- 
quence from the nature of the Christian good as transcendent ? 
From the Roman Catholic depreciation of the natural (and its 
obverse side, the overvaluation of it), this would be something 
fundamentally and entirely different from the idea of the super- 
erogatory and meritorious. It would be merely a due recog- 
nition of the right of private judgment and duty — for apart 
from this those who are unmarried sin— and that according to 
its special content, by remembering that our highest good is 
realised in a whole of ordered ends ; and becomes actually 
complete under other conditions of existence. St Paul there- 
fore designates his own dutiful realisation of a great good, in 
the scale of ' Goods ' (in which he without fanaticism assumes 
the standpoint of perfection), as a gift of grace, and desires it 
for others. Only if we are to complete this train of thought 
we should admit that the various single sayings used by St 
Paul, which can plainly be understood in that wider sense, are 
conditioned by his personal and general situation. 

Consequences^ and Various Questions. 

Here in connection with marriage is also the place to speak 

of chastity — ' morality ' in the clearly narrowest sense of the 

word. That ' chastity ' in marriage is not only the opposite 

of adultery, but modesty (not, however, prudishness) in the 



336 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

deepest sense, follows from the above idea. Among the pro- 
perties of true love a prominent place (1 Cor. xiii. 5) is given 
to its not " behaving itself unseemly."" The physically sensual 
act, as we saw, becomes ethically personal, in which lies its 
freedom and its obligation. If those who love one another 
" stand with their love before God," it is in this that, with their 
joy in God"'s gift, they also find the power of self-control ; and 
also the power of dutiful abstention arises out of such love. If 
in this sense a true marriage is the high school of chastity, so is 
chastity before marriage the most personal of marriage portions ; 
the greatest pledge of happiness. The different judgment 
found in very wide areas of society on this demand of chastity 
in the young man and the maiden cannot in any way be 
Christianly justified. How much in this respect public opinion 
is poisoned, how largely dishonour is done to the idea of 
marriage, and how shameless the idea of shame, was shown by 
Bjornson's ' Handschuh,' published in an otherwise respectable 
journal. Conscientious doctors testify that purity is health, 
even when preserved after hard struggle {cf. Ribbing, Sexual 
Hygiene). On the other hand, the beast in man becomes the 
more craving by weak indulgence, and the passions more un- 
natural than in beasts themselves {cf. cases in magisterial courts). 
That unchastity means to the Christian a dishonour to his 
person, and lovelessness under the guise of love, follows from 
what has been said before. The prostitution brought to the 
light of day in the society of the present only superficially dis- 
guises the widely existing slavery of women. Contempt for 
women prevails everywhere where the love of one man for one 
woman is undermined and this ideal no longer illumines and 
warms the youthful mind. It ought to be especially insisted, 
in opposition to the poetic glorification of impurity, that the 
true poetry of life perishes in it ; the emotions fullest of promise 
languish ; and the fatality is not confined to the individual, the 
corporate life is endangered at its very roots. The trade of the 
prostitute has been and is the beginning of the end of nations. 
Therefore society ought not to countenance prostitution in any 
form, as having the right of existence, but rather counteract its 
influence in every way for the protection of future generations. 



SOCIAL ETHICS 337 

For this end there is need of renewal right down to the inmost 
sensibility. Everyone must use the means for bringing it 
about — self-control, work, prayer. The question is one of a 
crusade for the salvation of the future ; the more successful, the 
more it is prepared for in the quiet of the pure heart and steadfast 
will. There is scarcely any point in which the task of Christian 
ethics is as difficult as it is pressing. But it is exactly when 
due account is unreservedly taken of the ' sexual need in man 
and wife' that the truth of the above propositions becomes 
all the clearer, while the inclination to enter on half-considered 
measures of reform grows less (for instance, what disparate 
ideas are combined in that grand word, ' the right of mother- 
hood'!); and at the same time the courage grows greater 
to work for a brighter future in which also in this region 
the imperial freedom — ' all things are yours ' — may wrest 
new victories. 

Family. 

Also in \he family relation, as in marriage, there is a special 
need that, as ethical love is on all sides conditioned by blood- 
relationship, it should be in every way ethically defined. For 
this too consists in the fellowship of moral personalities with 
those who are to grow to personalities, the children ; and as 
growing up with one another, the brotherhood and sisterhood 
of the family life. To this is to be added, among the 
better classes, close domestic relationship with those who are 
not equal in social position, the servants and dependants. The 
wealth of moral suggestions which are included in this is so 
great that among the strongest features of present-day dreams 
of the future there is scarcely one more God- forsaken thing than 
the wish to destroy family life. Among the tasks of the 
fubure there is scarcely one that is plainer than that the 
preservation and re-establishment of family life, in corre- 
spondence with the new conditions, should keep pace with the 
advance of all other forms of society. And as a fact the moral 
value of their reciprocal influence is for all the members of the 
family immeasurable. It has been rightly said that children in 
the family give more help than culture in the battle against 



338 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

selfishness. That is true of the selfishness of age as of children. 
In the constant presence of the workaday life, passed in 
common by those who are united by natural ties, there lie 
hidden moral problems, tests, powers, conflicts, advancement 
such as no human wisdom can exhaust by reflection. 

Education of Children. 
The education of children by their parents is a duty from 
which the claims of other duties in other social spheres cannot 
absolve, and a right which, as against the tendency to the 
dominance of the school, must be jealously preserved. This 
right and this duty belong to the father and the mother in 
the unity conditioned by their individuality. Even famous 
men have been known to be wanting in the appreciation of the 
dignity of woman and the blessing of family life who never 
knew a mother's care. The voluntary renunciation of this duty 
by numberless fathers is the surest evidence of their enslave- 
ment by social claims ; and they finally become as inefficient 
and dangerous to society as to their own household and them- 
selves. The passage 1 Tim. v. 8 refers to neglect of those 
nearest to us as a step back into heathen morality. The aim 
of education is the moral maturity of children on the basis of 
their assimilation of the moral quality of their parents — of 
course inclusive of useful branches of knowledge (but not so 
that these form the main end), and certainly not a mere heap 
of disconnected pieces of knowledge. Inasmuch as the jewel of 
the moral quality of the parents is sonship in the Kingdom of 
God, the Christianly moral education of children must be 
essentially religious. But the kernel needs a shell. To find 
the proper measure and form of religious influence is the crown 
of parental wisdom. In general it may be affirmed that, if 
sound, it is essentially an education in reverential and trustful 
love, and that so that, as Luther says, the parents are God's 
representatives. The assimilation of moral qualities must be not 
by compulsion but by free suggestion, in the way God Himself, 
the great Educator, acts. Natural interest will in itself per- 
ceive the opportunity of setting definite tasks, and of ad- 
ministering indispensable chastisement as purposeful means of 



SOCIAL ETHICS 339 

training. "High thoughts and a pure heart are what we 
ought to supplicate God for " ; and then the educational power 
of the parents, ruled by this principle, cannot be other than a 
means of self-education under the same guiding star. After all, 
it is clear that it is rightly said that love in relation to education 
shapes itself in the form of authority and respect, and the sole, 
all-comprehending virtue of a child is obedience based on 
gratitude, and trustful reverence. The more real the authority 
of the parent and the respect of the child, the more securely do 
they change their forms with change of age. It is especially 
difficult to exercise influence on young people who are growing 
up when the mother easily seems to be petty, and the father 
austere, because there is a want in them of something of the 
swing of perennial youth and the power to sympathise. 
Paedagogics is an art much described. But in that deepest of 
its branches, personal education, it may in general be said not 
to admit of a complete description. Various examples and 
rules from real life, such as one found in ' Old Flattich,' ^ are 
commonly more effective than discursive directions. 

Would that something of the same sort could be said of that 
present urgent question of domestic servants ! It is un- 
doubtedly the case that with the disappearance of the old 
relation an important means for a real understanding between 
classes and masses has been lost. What each person may do in 
his limited sphere to restore its old value a Christian conscience 
will not un plainly dictate. And such an one knows that it 
is not merely the wish to be accommodating that makes it 
hard to confute the talk on the overpowering might of circum- 
stances. On this subject Christian principles found in the 
New Testament are the more illuminative as their first appli- 
cation was to a world of slavery. Christianity did not at 
once abolish this social arrangement, certain as it is that it 
was incompatible with the spirit of the Gospel and must gradu- 
ally yield to it. How much more in a Christian world ought 
mutual sympathy in joy and sorrow to be developed in such 

1 See Herzog, Encyclopddie (sub voce). Flattich lived A.D. I7I3-I797. and 
was famous as a ' Pietist ' for his originality and devotion as an educator 
of youth. — Tr, 



340 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

ways as social differences allow, in faith and by fellowship 
in the highest things ! This too not by the restoration 
of vanished patriarchal forms, but in new shapes working 
from within. 

Legal Recognition of Marriage. 

Legal recognition of this 'fast tie' is needful for marriage 
not merely on account of the actual wickedness of human 
society ; no reasonable man will deny it for its own sake. It 
might, so far as itself is concerned, appear that marriage, as 
the most thoroughly personal of all forms of social intercourse, 
had nothing to do with law. On closer consideration it will 
appear all the more needful, not merely on account of its varied 
relation to civic life, legitimacy of children, inheritance of 
property ; but generally — provided we have determined aright 
the value of legal arrangements — this union especially stands 
in need of the recognition of law as a many-sided life- associa- 
tion for the mutual interchange of the highest personal 
property, in order to prevent any doubt in the public judgment, 
and avoid all other difficulties and uncertainties with respect to 
it. Obviously this public recognition is an affair of the State 
in its legal aspect. For the Church cannot of itself busy itself 
with the law. The Augsburg Confession does with great 
clearness explicitly reckon the marriage contract among the 
matters which belong to the civil government ; on the contrary, 
the Tridentine Council claims it for the Church. Although 
the Evangelical Church in Germany for a long time performed 
the legal part of the marriage contract, it did this (in harmony 
with Protestant principles) by the concession of the State, which 
so far gave over its control as to unite with the legal contract 
the blessing of the Church in one ceremonial act. It was a 
question in 1873 whether this condition of things should be 
abolished for the German Empire ; and for clear-thinking men 
it became a very serious point of advisability, but not one 
of faith. It is always an injury to the Church when these two 
distinct things are mixed up. By the civil procedure the duties 
of members of the Church are of course not affected. 



SOCIAL ETHICS 341 



Divorce. 



Divorce is also a civil question. Marriage is according to 
its nature (see above) an indissoluble union, and if the un- 
conditional saying of St Mark x. 11 appears, according to 
St Matt. V. 22, to admit of an exception — assuming that the 
words " save for the cause of fornication " are genuine — then that 
exception is only the recognition of an actually existent fact ; 
for by adultery marriage is ipso facto dissolved. On the other 
hand, Jesus Christ does not by His saying interdict the injured 
party from resuming cohabitation in certain circumstances, by 
the exercise of pardon, however little it may be possible to demand 
this in all cases ; since it must be left entirely to the judgment of 
the person concerned, and emphatically so, since it is a matter of 
purely personal feeling as to what duty demands. The passage 
in St Mark (x. 11) is not weakened by that of 1 Cor. vii. 10-15, 
for St Paul merely says that if the unbelieving husband or wife 
actually dissolves the marriage the other party is to remain 
content. On the contrary, careful consideration of this saying 
of St Paul may lead to a proper understanding of the saying 
of the Lord. St Paul does not recognise divorce in the case 
of Christians, and Jesus Christ has declared the divine idea of 
marriage, while knowing well, and not calling in question, the 
fact that " Moses for the hardness of your hearts " suffered 
divorce. Now, since Christian nations undoubtedly do not con- 
sist of those only who are really true disciples of Jesus, it is 
only in appearance that the Catholic Church, with its opposi- 
tion as a matter of principle to any divorce, is the truer pro- 
tectress of Christ's word, even when we leave out of account 
the unworthy shifts with which it finds a loophole for the 
great ones of the earth, as in the case of Napoleon ; a mere 
failure in form was held sufficient to justify a declaration of 
nullity. The State, in the case of a Christian nation, has 
merely the moral duty, in harmony with its real well-being, to 
render all easy divorce impossible, since the moral educative 
power of marriage for the married persons, as for their family, 
can scarcely be overestimated. But where the chief conditions 
of the marriage tie have been set at nought, its right and duty 



342 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

is to give legal validity to this fact. What ought to be the 
reasons for separation in various cases must be subject to the 
determination of the civil law and legal process, unless the moral 
purpose of divorce is to be nullified. The Christian Church 
has the duty of using all the moral means that are at her com- 
mand to secure the voluntary fulfilment of the command of 
Christ for Christians and by Christians, as well as to influence the 
spirit of legislative procedure through the moral earnestness of the 
members of the Church. But if this moral means remain fruit- 
less, then as a national Church it ought to rest content with the 
decisions of the State, and possibly set up a severer standard 
where questions of the re-marriage of divorced persons arise, 
which it may the more easily do as now the legal portion 
of the marriage contract is no longer its affair. 

The Status of Woman. 

When Protestant ethics speaks of marriage and the family 
it must also think of the question of the position of woman. 
For in clearly setting forth the importance of marriage, it may 
not overlook the fact that millions of women cannot find in 
marriage their highest vocation, the vocation of woman. And so 
much the less as Protestant ethics cannot point to the nunnery 
as in its way a grand solution of the difficulty. Of course this 
question of woman's position is very closely connected with 
other present problems of social ethics, and particularly with 
the economic question. The manifold answers suffer from not 
paying a really sufficient regard to the importance of marriage 
and the family. But even irrespective of possible solutions, the 
question itself is frequently obscurely put when no clear dis- 
tinction is drawn between the proposals for improvement called 
forth by undeniable abuses, and the attempts made to secure 
the all-round equality of rights for women. It will easily be 
seen that, the more the former are put to practical test, the more 
light falls on the latter. 

The exigency of the position does not depend merely on that 
fact from which we started, but almost as much on another, 
that by no means all who have found the highest calling of 
woman are equal to it. And in reality that is not true merely 



SOCIAL ETHICS 343 

of the mill-hand, who cannot attend to her home, but also of 
the lady who does not want to stay at home, or is even a 
stranger in her own house, because she does not find her sphere 
of work there ; and, as things are, for the most part cannot find 
it, since she was not trained to this, but to mere amusement, and 
only knows how to amuse herself — with her husband, her children, 
her household, her life. And, besides, the mill-hand has neither 
the time nor the education for fulfilling this vocation of woman. 
But now between these two facts — that not all women can find 
their highest calling in marriage and the family, and that not 
all who find it are fit for fulfilling it — not merely the undeniable 
connection subsists that the deficient capacity for this vocation 
of woman lessens the inclination of man to render it possible 
for them, and of woman to undertake it ; but there exists, 
and indeed in a much wider degree, a connection between the 
diiferent remedies. The only suitable remedy for curing the 
one evil does of itself lessen the other. That is to say, let the 
education of girls be different, an education in ' self-reliance 
and common sense,' so that they may be able to train others. 
In this way those who are shut out from marriage by their 
providential path would find a suitable sphere. There is 
everywhere a want of trained female forces for domestic em- 
ployment of every kind, nursing, teaching, education. It has 
been purposefully asked whether there should not be a training 
time for woman for her social work corresponding to the period 
of compulsory military service. Even now there is no want of 
the true nobility which prefers an active sympathy in the 
immeasurable province of womanly service to the empty life of 
pleasure, which at the same time so often exercises a disturbing 
influence on society by its wearisome gossip. It may be quietly 
left to the teaching of experience where the limits of this 
province lie, if the main truth is recognised that, as every 
sphere of usefulness is in its depths a service of love, it is 
woman that has quite peculiar gifts for this service, to 
which the highest dignity and honour belong, and that her 
service is all the more womanly service the more clearly it has 
reference to family life. To make girls fit for such service must 
be the aim of all reforms. In this is included that they are 



344 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

truly made free for such service, and this freedom is not only 
the means of learning to serve, but is part of the genuine 
service itself. 

The more remote the service of women gets from family life, 
the more shifting do the boundaries of the question of woman''s 
position become in the other point above mentioned, as to the 
all-round equality of rights with man. The term employed, 
' emancipation of woman,'' her deliverance from slavery, reminds 
us of the enormous guilt of the world of men, but contains, 
when this guilt is not minimised, a reference in itself to all the 
exaggerations which have allied themselves with and done 
injury to the whole movement. In any case the chief reason 
for complete equality, the equality of mental endowment, is 
dubious, because this expression is ambiguous — it may be 
equality in the sense of ' equal in value ' or ' equal in kind.' 
Now, he who recognises equality of value is not compelled to 
admit equality of kind. A judgment which is not entirely 
external cannot but consider the mutual attraction which exists 
between the sexes as founded purely on great physical differences, 
however difficult it may be to find a formula for them. Suppos- 
ing it be granted that the various mental faculties are present 
in like strength, that in particular a woman's understanding is 
not less acute than that of the man, the memory not less 
capacious or true — still these factors stand, so to speak, under 
another denominator ; the inner soul of sympathy, of emotion is 
different. The proofs asserted — the talent for rule of Elizabeth 
of England, of a Maria Theresa, a Victoria — only show that it is 
possible in special circumstances for a woman to reach the height 
of man in political life. Equality of value in every respect 
cannot be maintained by a reference to these illustrious names, 
and appeal made to them as the exceptions that prove the non- 
existence of a rule. To this psychological peculiarity there 
corresponds the difference in physical energy. Only man's 
fancy can assign to a woman less fortitude than a man when we 
only think that there is a fortitude of patience and suffering 
(which is perhaps the greater). But it is just as senseless to 
ascribe to a woman the same capability of bearing arms in the 
same way as man. By this fact complete political equality of 



SOCIAL ETHICS 345 

rights is excluded so long as this difference remains. To grant 
greater scope in public life than has been so far customary is 
in no way excluded, provided a form can be found which will 
suppress undesirable by-products. A very promising beginning, 
for instance, has been made in the civil law by allowing to the 
woman more independent control of her own means, especially 
when earned by herself. If we are yet unable to estimate what 
in this sphere the future may have in store, still less can we 
judge in advance as to the share to be given to woman in voca- 
tions hitherto closed to her. But, for instance, the limits of 
woman's capacity in reference to the doctor's calling are now no 
longer obscure, nor her special suitability for the profession 
within certain limits. Great difficulties arise on the question 
of the methods of her training for this end. But a ' will ' will 
find a way, provided that this will is a good will, and that is in 
this case a will which recognises a special natural vocation. 
The cry for all-round reciprocal equality is in the mouth of a 
woman a self-degradation, because a self-forgetfulness of her 
own true value. For what she effects in the history of mankind 
is at least as great as all the glory of man's deeds. Genius 
itself has its bounds, which do not necessarily exclude the most 
homely of women or mothers ; and the greatest of men have often 
declared that they owe most to their mothers. That under- 
valuation of self which is led astray by striving to be something 
more than womanly is only comprehensible on account of the 
overvaluation of themselves by men, who must more and more 
become convinced that their attitude is no very manly one. 

In the transition from the family to the other forms of social 
life we meet with the remarkable historical fact that the family 
was once the centre of all other social activities, and that when 
these latter asserted their independent existence the stability of 
family life from which they originated was shaken ; but at the 
same time they see the roots of their own life threatened by the 
dissolution of the family. The terms 'domestic economy,' 
'law of the household,' 'housekeeping books,' 'family por- 
traits,' ' the altar of the household ' excite deep reflections. 
If labour and learning, art and companionship, law and religion 
are disjoined from the home, they are homeless, and make human 



346 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

beings themselves homeless in all their knowing and doing, in their 
work as in their recreation, in their temporal as in their eternal 
interests. He who has not acquired in the nursery reverence 
for reality and a feeling for the beautiful ; he who has not 
in the little state of family life learnt to value law and love ; he 
who has not played and prayed with the father and mother at 
home — such an one is exposed to the temptation (each accord- 
ing to his power and position) to criticise all this particular 
sphere of joint human life, or some item of it, unsparingly; and 
to seek to alter it, now making too much of one point, and anon 
expressing contempt on another point ; here unsympathetic and 
there unduly enthusiastic. The old limit of domestic life cannot 
be restored ; but if anywhere, then it is here that the saying is 
applicable — Build anew and better. 

It is indifferent in what order the various social fellowships 
should be taken after that of the family, inasmuch as they all 
stand together in a reciprocal relation of influence. Only those 
portions of our civilised life, above mentioned, comprised under 
sociology, science, and art must be taken by themselves. The 
State, the legally ordered community, has its right place either 
before or after these three. Most naturally before any of them 
stands friendship. 

Friendship. 

Friendship is the enduring fellowship of persons such as enters 
into the very core of personal life. In this respect it is allied 
to the fellowship which belongs to marriage and the family 
life, but diff*erent from it because it is not conditioned by sex- 
difference and blood-relationship. This does not exclude the 
idea that it has its roots in elective affinity, and presupposes 
mental similarity and difference. Rather this is essential, for in 
their absence there cannot be friendship, but general Christian 
love or Christian brotherhood. It is a frequent and fatal 
illusion when it is supposed that all true Christians ought to be 
friends in the precise sense. In friendship too there rules the 
power of attraction of two natures mutually complementary. 
Hence the order arises : Brothers and sisters and relatives are 
given to us ; we contract marriage on the ground of natural 



SOCIAL ETHICS 347 

sexual love ; but we gain friends by free choice. No one can say 
to another — This person or that shall be thy friend ; we ought to 
love our neighbour. And from this it is at the same time clear 
how dangerous friendship is between relatives of the opposite 
sex, just because the frontiers of sexual love can only be guarded 
by a purity and moral energy which most persons more easily 
imagine they possess than actually are able to exercise. On the 
contrary, the married pair ought and can be always more and 
more the best friends. 

All conceivable common ends bind friends together. The 
End of ends can and ought to be sought for in all of them, 
and that is to experience somewhat of the meaning of that 
confession : — 

So I vow'd. 
Since I might never cope with thee in power. 
That I would love thee with excess of love. — Don Carlos.^ 

Youth is naturally the springtide of friendship, for then the 
awareness of personality, and the desire for its completion, puts 
forth its tendrils, and is not yet narrowed down by the various 
aims of practical life. But just on that account it is true of 
great men at the summit of their ambition that " a little true 
friendship is worth more than all the mere respect of all men."" 
And not only have those true friendships of youth which have 
been lastingly preserved their special grace, but even those 
formed later, when the normal time of friendship is past, just 
because they required more moral energy to form them. In the 
larger circles of acquaintanceship, especially of the young, the 
true friendship of one individual for another is not only as 
regards themselves, but also as regards the corporate whole, the 
sole preservative against insipidity ; for otherwise those super- 
ficial persons to whom form, appearance, noise are everything 
get the upper hand. 

The estimation and character of friendship vary with periods 
and nations. It has often been observed how in the estimate of 
the Greeks friendship surpasses marriage in tenderness and depth. 
For example, Socrates dying in the circle of his friends discovers 

^ Trans. Boy Ian, p. 3, Bohn's Standard Library : Schiller's Historical 
Dramas, — Tr. 



348 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN IJFE 

his tenderest tones ; and Aristotle celebrates friendship as the 
highest form of personal intercourse. In the Old Testament the 
picture of David and Jonathan stands out prominently for the 
fineness of its psychological delineation, but its religious character 
gives it its most peculiar impress. Both ideals, the Greek and the 
Jewish, in the main reappear in the Christian Church ; fellow- 
ship in all-sufficing faith, brother-love goes beyond friendship. 
Both the ideals mentioned are exalted into a higher synthesis in 
the special natural aptitude of the Teutonic character. 

Civilised Intercourse. 
The judgment of Christian ethics on the three groups which 
have been already noted above as intimately connected (c/! p. 
319), because they all refer to the mastery of mind over matter, 
whether in the department of pure intellect (science and art) or in 
that of the practical, in which sphere mind makes matter into its 
servant (industrial life, technology), was discussed as to its supreme 
principle when we had to define the relation of the Kingdom of 
God to earthly and physical things (p. 147 if.). The complete 
ranging of the physical under the highest moral End nowhere 
else attempted, and the complete freedom of the physical nowhere 
else reached, are points now to be illustrated by the rich experi- 
ence of life, and their applicability tested in these spheres. In 
them quite especially because these departments to be discussed 
are more exclusively concerned with physical nature than is the 
case with the family and the State. The supreme principle in 
question as to the value or valuelessness of all civilisation flows 
out of obedience to the mind of Christ. When we speak of obedi- 
ence we mean it in the sense of a full following of Christ as 
He Himself would have it, and not merely external imitation. 
Whoever makes Christ into the foe of civilisation does Him as 
little justice as he who glories in all advance in civilisation as if 
this was the true task of His Church. ' For ' and ' against "■ 
civilisation, 'for' and 'against' the world — these are watch- 
words which only have a clear meaning for those to whom the 
world and its civilisation are still their highest Good, and for 
whom the question as to the real highest Good has not received 
its Christian solution. Jesus exalts Himself and His own 



SOCIAL ETHICS 349 

people above the world, above all civilisation ; and so in the 
ordinary sense He is neither for it nor against it. For Him the 
highest Good is the Kingdom of God, and every soul to be saved 
in this kingdom is to Him more than the whole world. When- 
ever, wherever, however, and for whomsoever civilisation, 
knowledge, glory and might and riches and honour are anta- 
gonistic to the Kingdom of God — he only knows one attitude 
to civilisation, that of renunciation ; * no ' without limit or 
hesitation. But where the motto, ' One thing is needful,** is 
recognised, then obviously to such an one all things are the good 
gift of God ; and then such an one does not know of any gift 
whatever which does not bring its duty with it, and its work, 
which is to him something obvious. If these gifts were valueless, 
if they had not their importance for what is highest (although 
subordinate to the highest), they would not exist. For the 
world is God's — His Father's world. This faith is for Him an 
unreserved and trustful conviction, not an insecure opinion or 
a pious wish. Nor did His disciples understand Him to mean 
that He would form them out of the world into a separate order ; 
nor did His foes, or the indifferent, receive that impression 
from Him. Otherwise He would not have had the reproach 
cast on Him that He had less of holy earnestness than St John 
the Baptist. Certainly the world and its civilisation are not for 
Him the consummation of God's plans, but rather " God's 
kingdom and His righteousness" is such consummation. But 
both these kingdoms are one in the One God, and therefore both 
exist for the good of the children of the Father. To their 
faith nothing in this world is worthless. The new world for 
which they wait is not the annihilation of the present, but its 
perfection, its glorious transformation. Therefore, so long as it 
is the Father's will that this world should remain, the citizens of 
His kingdom have in the world to aim at the righteousness of 
God, and so to prove their faithfulness that they may be 
counted worthy to be entrusted with the true kingdom. It is 
here amid preparatory conditions that they are to train them- 
selves for the true kingdom. By what worldly arrangements, 
in what forms of labour, and to what extent — all this the Son 
of God leaves to the personal judgment of the "sons of God" 



850 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

who are by their own free choice to follow the mind of Christ. 
He is anxious only that they should have no other desire than 
to have the " same mind that was in Him."" And inasmuch as 
the danger is ever growing greater of thinking too highly of the. 
value of this world's ' goods ' and the work of civilisation, or of 
thinking too little of them, He has expressly warned His 
disciples that, of these two things, they are to guard against the 
spiritually dangerous overestimate of their value. Christianity, 
as is easily intelligible, assumed another external position in its 
estimate of civilisation when, contrary to expectation, one 
generation followed another, and each one was to be that in 
which at last the world would become Christian. It did not 
promptly discover that spiritual attitude towards it which is in 
keeping with the idea of Christ. The whole history of the 
Christian world is a history of the struggle of the best men to 
find this secret. It is certain that the mediaeval Church did not 
reach that sunlit height on which Jesus stood, to whom in 
comparison with God's kingdom all civilisation was nothing, 
and yet to whom even the most unimportant things seemed 
important for the greatest of ends. Its faltering and uncertain 
attitude was not in keeping with His imperial freedom and His 
spiritual independence. According to the mediaeval view, 
industry, science, art were allowable when they were so indispens- 
able to human existence that without them it had no longer 
a foundation. They were counted as raw material for the 
Kingdom of God, i.e. for the Church as it then was. But civil- 
isation was to it only really 'good' if it, as far as possible, 
served the Church's needs, or secured in some way the Church's 
stamp of approval. Our formularies are full of evidences of the 
still fresh wounds to conscience which such a faith inflicted on 
the ordinary man in the midst of real life. In such evidences 
we still participate in the first happiness of the new freedom. 
But we cannot say that no difficulties are now present with us ; 
nay, we know that we must meet with them. And here that 
supreme principle is ever becoming clearer of the thoroughly sub- 
ordinate but still irreplaceable value of civilisation for the 
Kingdom of God. The latest histories of missions afford inex- 
haustible illustrations. And as well for the whole of mankind 



SOCIAL ETHICS 861 

as for the individual person mastery over nature is indispensable. 
There is no vocation independent of civilisation, and in the 
absence of vocation, as we have convinced ourselves, there is no 
Christian falfilment of duty, no ordered service of love. But 
even when we possess this insight the difficulty of its application 
in real life is always a growing one. Right down in the midst 
of every Christian heart to which the 'supreme care*" is no 
mere phrase there is the conflict between civilisation and 
Christianity ; the tension between the claims of the highest Good 
and of the social spheres in which it is realised ; the question 
of conscience how we can approve ourselves as Christians in 
these spheres of duty. The question assumes a diiferent colour 
in each period, and extends over a wide and constantly changing 
area. But in every period the same demand is made for the 
earnestness of personal resolve, which, inspired by the love of 
God, desires to love God with the whole heart. The great 
problem of all Christian ethics, its characteristic riddle, presents 
itself to everyone in a particularly urgent form in the question 
of the relation of Christianity to civilisation. This is doubly 
active in a time like our own, which to the superficial view of its 
enthusiasts presents a perfection of civilisation such as renders 
the Kingdom of God superfluous, and consequently turns those 
believers who have not penetrated into the deepest depths of the 
Kingdom of God into the enemies of culture. The solution of the 
enigma can only be found by everyone for himself by recognising 
that the answer is found in the attitude of Jesus Himself, which 
exists as an inspiration for His followers {cf. on Vocation). 

This whole question of civilisation is plainly very closely 
related to that of asceticism. But the word civilisation turns 
our thoughts to the breadth of external life, asceticism to the 
depth of the inner personal life. Besides, asceticism applies to 
objects different from those which we call the blessings of 
civilisation. Apart from this, the one notion does in fact help 
to illustrate the other ; and when one is understood in the 
Evangelical sense, the other follows in its train. As we recognise 
no mere self- abnegating asceticism, so we do not approve of 
hostility to civilisation on the part of Christians. And we can 
set up no general rules how far the Christian shall participate in 



352 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN IJFE 

the labour of advancing civilisation or refrain from it, but must 
also leave it to his individual judgment, what his duty may 
be in individual cases, just as we denied in the teaching on 
asceticism that there is any such thing allowable as practice for 
practice"* sake. 

Work. 

More necessary than this allusion to asceticism is a general 
remark on the subject of work. For work has its original 
source in the human activity which seeks the control of nature, 
although we certainly use the word in a wider sense. Further, 
work is activity which looks beyond the present exigency. It 
is orderly and consecutive activity, and so work is the special 
glory of man, and can only be correctly applied to animals so 
far as their activity exhibits those qualities. What now is the 
ethical value of work ? Plainly twofold. On the one hand, it is 
only by work that man becomes a full personality, for this is 
impossible without control of nature, above all of our own nature, 
and somehow nature external to us (both in inseparable recipro- 
city) ; and how can such control be gained without work ? Of 
course there are diligent men (in a definite sphere) who still are 
not by this means Christian moral characters ; but a lazy 
Christian is a contradiction in terms. And as without work 
that one leading principle of all moral life cannot be realised, 
so neither can the others. The fellowship of love, the services of 
love are impossible without work ; evidently because he who 
has not become a ' person ' in the proper sense can neither love 
nor be loved, and that for the reason previously stated. To this 
may be added that work associates men together in various ways, 
and sets them tasks of love so simple and at the same time so 
inexhaustible that the boldest imagination cannot think them 
out, in the home and school, in the village and in the manu- 
factory. Work, too, paves the path of love ; without the facilita- 
tion of human life which it affords, an infinite amount of energy 
now set free for the higher purposes of love would remain 
hampered by the daily battle for the necessaries of mere 
existence. And most of all, without work we should have 
nothing that we could in love bestow on or receive from one 



SOCIAL ETHICS 353 

another. This at once makes it plain how work and property 
are inseparably connected. The proceeds of work, that which 
the personal 'T appropriates to himself, this enlargement of 
the personal existence, gives to the individual life a larger 
content, and a wider opportunity for the services of love. 
Every developed faculty, like every external possession, can be 
and ought to be a means for these services and for personal 
growth. In the absence of all ' property ' in this widest of 
senses man is a mere void in himself and useless to others. 
Because work has so great an ethical significance, it possesses 
some of that blessedness which is the inner reward of all moral 
action. The most humble labourer honours himself by industry. 
The dignity which belongs to work pales the greatest outward 
splendour of the indolent man, and, if he is not already morally 
callous, makes him feel the unworthiness and ennui of his exist- 
ence, at any rate for the moment. For the Christian his work 
is the service of God, and the joyless care inseparable from all 
earthly labour, yet a part of its educational value, is glorified 
by the lofty thought of vocation (p. 112). At the same time 
that this Christian estimate of the value of work remains a true 
one, it keeps aloof from that exaggeration of its value which 
does not verify itself by the test of experience ; which is an error 
often committed by the indolent, or used for the purposes of 
grandiloquent boasting. The type of the divine activity, one 
with repose, illumines the restless, eager desire for work of 
Christian humanity. It has no time for weariness, but has not 
merely in itself, but by reason of its unity with the work and 
the peace of God, the vision of an eternity which is therefore 
called " the sabbath rest of the people of God"" (Heb. iv. 9 f.). 

On account of special dangers in the Church of Thessalonica, 
St Paul found it needful to deduce from the great thoughts of 
the Gospel the above-cited principles in regard to the attitude 
of the Christian man to work and property (1 Thess. iv, 
11 fF. ; 2 Thess. iii. 10 fF.). Let it be noted how in the first 
Epistle the whole exposition is governed by the idea of brotherly 
love {v. 9 ; cf. vv. 10 and 11), and how the injunction "to give to 
him that needeth " is also subordinated to that end. In a quite 
similar way in the second Epistle the strongly emphasised 



354 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

expression " his own bread " is correlated to the " working of 
that which is (morally) good."" So that it is in no way true to 
say that it is first of all in Eph. iv. 28 that a moral motive for 
work is found. These principles are doubly impressive because 
they are written as a corrective of the existent pietistic contempt 
for work. St Paul insists that there can be no independence 
without work, since without it we are of no value to others ; but 
there is not here any apotheosis of labour. In these words 
St Paul did but make an application in this department of what 
lay contained and ready for this use in the word of Jesus Christ 
that " he who is unfaithful in that which is least " cannot be 
entrusted with the true riches (St Luke xvi. 1). Jesus Christ, 
assured of His own incomparable vocation, is therefore a worker 
without a peer, ready to " work while it is day." Out of this 
has necessarily grown that new glory of work — even the work 
that is full of care, outwardly insignificant and apparently without 
result. The ' highest Good "■ does not present itself to careless 
luxury, but to the most diligent exertion. And because the 
highest Good takes all other ends into its service, these also are 
involved in any special exertion. To this Evangelical way of 
understanding Christianity the Roman Catholic view on this 
point stands in contrast. To it, earthly labour is the result of 
sin, or anyhow appears as something of inferior value {cf. 
Gen. iii. 19 with ii. 15 of laborious work). And so far as it 
recognises its value it is always in danger of finding its real 
end simply in the capability it affords of alms-giving, and even 
obscuring this idea by that of meritorious action. Still, much 
of this can only be made clear by turning our attention to the 
various social circles of civilised intercourse. 

The Industrial Life. 

This special form of activity is at present often called the 
social question, whereas we have felt it necessary to use the 
words social and socialism in a much wider sense, that is, as the 
antithesis of the individual and individualism {cf. pp. 145, 315 fF.); 
and, fitting in with that, have headed the whole second main 
division of Christian ethics with the title * Social Ethics.' The 



SOCIAL ETHICS 355 

limitation of the word to the industrial part of the community 
is of itself an involuntary sign of the extent to which it has forced 
itself to the front. The same may be said of the term ' society,' 
when by this is understood, as is frequent, the articulation of 
human society according to economic differences, i.e. according 
to the differences in point of wealth. Taken by itself, the word 
' society ' has a much wider connotation : age, knowledge, art, 
law, religion, quite necessarily condition that articulation of the 
corporate whole into various groups, classes, status. But this 
new use of words betrays the fact that the industrial distinction 
has acquired a decisive influence. This revolutionary change is 
especially clear when we note that each group for a time pre- 
dominant called itself ' society ,"" and ponder the fact that 
previously to the French Revolution only the nobility and the 
clergy, and not the citizen class at all, made up 'society.' 
Meanwhile, amongst us now all other distinctions are insig- 
nificant face to face with the contrast of wealth and poverty. 
If now the unregardful concession of this latest employment 
of the terms 'social' and 'society' is indicative of a false 
complaisance ; and it is needful to remind ourselves even in this 
sense that " man lives not by bread alone " ; there still lies in 
this fact a call to Christian ethics to seek to cast some clearer 
light on this form of society. The difficulty, of course, is as 
great as the necessity. And the difficulty lies as much in the 
nature of the particular social area as in the public feeling in 
regard to it — the former of these two inasmuch as a vast 
amount of technological knowledge is indispensable to a pertinent 
judgment; the latter inasmuch as the personal interest which 
enters into any explanation of such a question of the time has 
a disturbing influence on clearness of judgment. Even the 
difference of age and youth cannot be allowed to escape notice 
in such a matter, for not long ago socialist and anti-socialist 
was almost the same as saying young and old. Latterly the 
subject has become clearer, and people understand one another 
more easily. In any case, as on this subject of socialism the 
interest of Christian ethics now centres on ascertaining whether 
any inferences, from Christian principles, can be drawn on the 
questions of labour and property, in relation to the great social 



356 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

question, and what those inferences are, we at once address our- 
selves to the point. In order to comprehend it we must, however 
(with all the reserve that our partial knowledge of the subject 
demands), draw attention to some assumptions of present-day 
economics. 

Theories of Political Economy. 

The professors of economics, of social or political or national 
economy — the qualifying words emphasise different sides of the 
one subject — tell us that the ' Good '' in the economic sense is 
every natural product that serves for the satisfaction of any 
human need; in the narrower sense, anything gained as the result 
of labour, in contradistinction to the so-called gifts of nature, 
as light and air. If these are to be called free in the sense of 
accessible to all, all kinds of questions arise in connection with 
the great problem of the age, and of the future. Among the 
' goods ' gained by labour, a distinction again is drawn between 
those which are useful for the satisfaction of primary needs, 
and such as serve for the creation of fresh supplies for those 
needs, as machinery. These economic 'goods' must of course 
be produced, distributed, and used, i.e. production, distribution, 
consumption make up the industrial life. Clear as this series of 
concepts is in reality, the interworking of the various activities 
so designated is very complex, as may be shown by any of the 
simplest examples, e.g. the woollen cloth industry. The sphere 
of the industrial movement is, however, most clearly described 
when we note that this industry, in relation to the three points 
mentioned above, has, so to speak, its centre in the question of 
distribution, the share of each in what is produced. Demand 
in the last resort governs all — production, distribution, spending 
— and the whole social question is again before us. 

First of all let us call to mind some fundamentals of these 
most general notions of the economic question. Human labour 
producing economic goods is concerned either with the (more or 
less) free gifts of nature, which in any case are offered by nature, 
as in hunting, fishing, mining ; or it uses the processes of nature 
for its own ends, as in breeding cattle and in agriculture ; or it 
shapes the materials of nature by independent manual labour 
and profitable manufacture. These distinctions depend on the 



SOCIAL ETHICS 367 

object of the labour, and in general correspond with the following 
stages — enclosure, court, village, city. In reference to the 
workers themselves, their labour is either such as involves 
initiative or mere execution, creative or mechanical, in all con- 
ceivable variety. It is important here to remember that the 
last-named distinction by no means always coincides with the 
difference between intellectual and bodily labour, because even 
the first may be a very wearisome business. Whereas what has 
been so far said refers to the form of production of economic 
goods, the supreme law of its development is termed specialisa- 
tion and co-operation, or the subdivision and combination of 
labour. The more specific and universal needs ever result in 
more specialised work. Whereas once an artisan produced twenty 
sewing needles in a day, a machine, with fewer hands, whose 
work is purely mechanical, will turn out millions. But even so, 
all depend more and more on all, and mankind becomes a great 
industrial community. 

All thus hastily said of production is true also in a similar 
way of the exchange of commodities. What a story, that of 
commerce, from the rudest barter to that of the Stock Exchange 
with no actual values exchanged ! With regard to consumption 
or demand it may suffice here to mention that in sound condi- 
tions it necessarily governs production. But once more we see 
ourselves face to face with the exigencies of the present, in which 
we find huge quantities of goods offered for sale, for the use of 
which there is no failure as to need so much as in the capacity 
to acquire them. Is it the method of supply which must bear 
the blame ? alone ? or in connection with other causes ? And 
what is our judgment to be on the reckless expenditure of 
private means in relation to that of a common right of 
possession ? In any case, it is so far quite plain that all these 
forms and laws of the industrial life are not patient of simply 
being called good or evil. They may be as a whole good or 
evil ; nay, more, they have become both good and evil mostly in 
such inextricable confusion as defies human insight. Let us for 
once not forget the sayings — " The way in which a man hammers 
in a nail, well or badly, has an ethical quality" (Schmoller); and, 
"Perfect thyself as an instrument, and wait for what place 



358 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

mankind will assign thee "" (Goethe). On the other hand, many 
now begin by desiring and expecting that society will find 
them a pleasant place, and think it ought to be content with a 
badly made tool. That is, we call to mind the principle which 
accompanied us out of personal into social ethics, that the good 
will is a power even when we discern clearly the limits of that 
power. But we do not mention this for the purpose of minify- 
ing the importance of the social question. 

In the first place, two further concepts which follow from 
the above-mentioned fundamental notions require explanation. 
One of these belongs primarily to the question of production 
and the other to distribution of commodities. Both are watch- 
words of the social question of the day. The first is the notion 
of capital, the second that of the currency. 

The critical word is capital. It has become a watchword, 
and its proper meaning is not always clear to all those who 
speak of tax on capital, profits of capital, productive and 
accumulated capital, capitalisation, and the war against capital. 
We must commence with the undeniable fact that the produc- 
tion of economical goods does by no means always depend on 
labour alone, but on the possession of free or worked-up pro- 
ducts of nature ; on the possession of machinery, ana the space 
suitable for the work to be carried out. All these together, i.e. 
in the widest sense all economical goods which extend beyond 
immediate necessities for the production of new economical 
goods, are called means of production, and this is the full and 
plain notion of what capital is in itself. The possession of 
such means of work is obviously never equally distributed, and 
the access to them never alike easy to all. But apart from 
manual and agricultural labourers, who, in the main, only need 
a small amount of the means of labour correspondent to their 
capabilities, the relation in the actual world between capability 
of work and means of work has for the most part been that the 
possessor of the most — sometimes immense — means has stood 
on the one side opposite to the possessor of the capability of 
work on the other ; and, in fact, in such a proportion that the 
worker has become completely dependent on the capital-owner, 
and has sunk down to the position of a mere productive machine, j 



SOCIAL ETHICS 359 

The person of the slave is the property of his master, is merely 
a means of production, a portion of his capital, and merely a 
' living machine."* The case of the serf is similar in this, that his 
capability of work does not belong to himself, but, at least in 
a certain measure, to his feudal lord, and in this, that he cannot 
free himself from this condition, but is adscriptus glehas, bound 
to the soil ; but different from the slave in that he cannot be 
sold like a chattel, but possesses certain personal rights, 
although greatly limited. If, therefore, we understand by 
capitalism merely the control of the means of work, and so of 
the capabilities of the worker, or, in other words, the control 
of the capitalist over the working classes, then slavery and 
serfdom ought to be called by this name. Slavery and serfdom 
were, we may say, forms of industrial life, but they were not 
industrial in the same way present-day capitalism is ; if only 
because they rested on the basis of the subjection of aliens 
often as the result of conquest. Quite different from this is 
the case of the worker whose position before the law is that of 
equality with the owner of capital — the one just as civilly and 
politically free as the other. Everyone, for instance, is entitled 
to a vote for the representative legislature of the nation. But 
at the period when this freedom and equality in European 
nations was reached, the power of capital grew to a height 
hitherto undreamed of. From the fifteenth century to the 
discovery of the New World enormous quantities of natural 
products had been accessible ; the spirit of enterprise of great 
merchants gained the control of these products by the use of 
capital of a moderate amount already acquired. "Fugger in 
Augsburg," as is said, " speculated with 10,000 ducats and 
gained 175,000 ducats." Then by the invention of machinery 
worked by steam these products were prepared in quite astonish- 
ing quantity, and opened up at the same time short and cheap 
methods of manufacture. " Everywhere machinery : it rattles 
on Pilatus, it penetrates the St Gothard, ... it roars every- 
where, it hums and creates. . . . The total amount of force 
present in the machinery of the present has been estimated at 
five milliards of horse-power" (Naumann). In this way the 
power of production and of capital grew perforce so great that 



S60 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

it gained the mastery of all human agents in production. Of 
course capital always needs these agents, if it is to produce new 
commodities ; but the value of these human means of production 
does not increase in equal proportion to the possibility of produc- 
tion. And that just because machinery renders it possible to 
dispense very largely with human labour. Still more because 
mere labour, without the possession of capital, can do less for 
itself. Consequently it is largely growing more dependent, 
although the workers are politically independent persons. 
And so the most important index of this modern free unfreedom 
and unfree freedom, capitalism, consists in the complete recog- 
nition of the immense might of capital, the employment of 
this power to control the means of production. This results in 
the exploitation of the worker at the smallest possible wage, 
and the greatest possible exclusion of the worker from the 
profits of enterprise. The nature of this situation comes the 
most definitely to light in the fact that the owners of capital, by 
merely putting it into any enterprise, without any physical or 
mental exertion of their own, have their share in the profits 
merely because they possess it, draw interest — interest on under- 
takings in any industrial business ; interest on investments in 
the narrower sense of money lent, ground-rents for allowing the 
use of land. In other words, the capitalist can employ his money 
for the purposes of work without working. And inasmuch as in 
the present economical condition of society means of labour are 
acquired by money, it is of course the case that its possession is 
an essential element in the idea of capital. And it has already 
been shown that capitalism, in the deep meaning, is closely con- 
nected with the general changes taking place in the whole mental 
life of the community. By this we mean that, when the Calvin- 
istic assurance of salvation was a force in the industrial life in 
which men realised their calling to work and consciously valued 
capital, the spirit of Protestantism worked in remarkable unison 
with the ideas of general natural equality and freedom. 

Money or Bullion. 
This reference to the notion of capital naturally leads on to 
that of money. Along with the idea of economic ' good,' i.e. 



SOCIAL ETHICS 361 

such as satisfies some need, that of value is given. The value of 
a commodity is on one side dependent, and on the other side to 
the last degree independent, of the individual judgment. The 
latter is true, inasmuch as many needs of human nature are 
common to all, and consequently the demand for them remains 
for the most part the same, as also does the quantity of natural 
materials and the labour expended on them ; consequently also 
the price of them. This is of course true only within certain 
limits. At once the gravest difficulties emerge. In what 
relation are these factors to be placed in measuring their value ? 
as, for example, how is the time expended in their production to 
be appraised, and can this be done ? However this may be, in 
any case the value of these economical commodities, so far as 
they are not produced by everybody, is settled by exchange. 
The value is the exchange value, and commodities are called 
economical ' goods ^ in so far as they have any exchange value. 
The fixed value in exchange is ' price,' or the amount of com- 
modities for which any other commodity can be bartered. To 
facilitate and shorten this exchange, and to render it fairer, 
some recognised medium of exchange is needful. This is 
money. Naturally, for this purpose only such substances will 
gain recognition as are always in demand, always of value, and 
valuable because found in small quantity, i.e. are rare ; and such, 
further, as are easily transferable and therefore suitable for ex- 
change. The precious metals have this property. No doubt the 
pleasure conferred by lustre and brilliance has contributed to 
this end, and so they have won the victory over shells and 
cattle as the recognised medium of exchange. By means of 
this convenient, easily and safely managed means of exchange, 
wealth, accumulated capital, has gained its full reality. 

This evolution of the industrial life of which these briefly 
mentioned master-notions remind us is the originating soil of 
the social question. 

The Social Question. 

It is rightly called an international question, inasmuch as its 
development is essentially similar in the civilised nations of 
Europe. Yet we may not forget the great difference in detail 



THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

both in regard to its pressure and its remedy. England, the 
home of modern industry and modern commerce, the mistress of 
the world by its machinery, its colonies, and its fleet, presented 
the most frightful caricature of civilisation in the thirties of the 
nineteenth century. It fell asunder " into two peoples, between 
which there was neither intercourse nor sympathy, who under- 
stood one another in their thought, feeling, and will as little 
as the inhabitants of different zones and planets, were educated 
in a different way and fed on different food, whose habits were 
different, and who were not even subject to the same laws" 
(Disraeli). As the statesman, so the poet judges. " The misery 
or happiness, weal or woe, beginning and end, existence, hope, 
religion of the poor ! — rents, rents, rents (for the rich) " (Byron). 
Similarly the fine scorn of the ' Isaiah ' of the century, Carlyle. 
Such a state of misery as Charles Kingsley describes in Alton 
Locke, and Dickens in Hard Times, existed in other countries 
only occasionally — starvation wages, houses unfit for human 
habitation, moral stupidity. But England has set an example 
also in many questions as to the remedy. It shows the 
superiority of gradual reform suited to varied needs, that is, 
by the activity of self-help on the part of the worker within the 
limits of the law, in contrast with the violent and radical revolu- 
tion in France ; while Germany is in advance of both in effective- 
ness of State interference. And yet it is just in this country 
that the Social Democratic party is not only stronger and better 
organised than in the countries named, but its ideal is inter- 
national in the sense of national equality in a way that neither 
the English nor the French understand. And the number of 
its votes (1903, three millions) is undoubtedly composed not 
merely of the artisan class in the great manufactories, but of the 
lower orders of manual labour injured by those manufactories, 
and also probably of many of the discontented in other classes. 

Social democracy cries out against the miseries of the present 
economic arrangements. The force of its complaint consists in the 
fact that those who utter it have the conviction that this com- 
plaint will grow into an indictment of the present order of things, 
and will issue in the promise of a nobler future. We note these 
three points — the complaint, the indictment, and the promise. 



SOCIAL ETHICS 



The Socialisfs Complaint. 

The complaint has reference to the economic position and to 
the social situation created by it. As to the economic situation 
it says : Wages are too low ; work too long, and unsatisfactory 
in its nature. The lowness of wages is elucidated by the fact 
that only three-tenths of the inhabitants of Prussia in the year 
1899 paid taxes on more than 900 marks income (=;P45 sterling). 
From this circumstance conclusions may be formed as to the 
character of the dwellings — that is, in great cities — and the 
general style of living. Still, many refer to the rise in wages 
as above what the depreciation of the value of money would 
account for, and point to the millions spent in alcoholic drinks. 
Many more point to the uncertainty of all such calculations. 
The complaint as to too long hours of labour might — apart from 
admitted exceptions, which scarcely at all apply to the larger 
industries, but to charwomen's work and the like — possibly have 
greater and more justification along with the complaint of the 
deadly monotony of the work, and moral stunting, when the 
compensations of family, educational pursuits, and recreations 
fail ; that is to say, along with the complaint that man is 
degraded to a machine. This position, unsatisfying in itself, it 
is further said, is still more unendurable by the uncertainty of 
employment, and the absence of prospect of improvement in 
one's situation. The former is the result of crises in trade, and 
the latter arises from the fact that a worker who belongs to a 
particular class can seldom raise himself out of it. The com- 
plaint extends beyond the range of the industrial community. 
Different classes no longer understand each other; the chasm 
grows continually wider. And in fact there are (it is said) at 
bottom only two classes, called the well-to-do educated persons 
and the uneducated — in truth, the rich and the pooi". Gold, 
they say, not only purchases pleasure and honour, it glorifies 
stupidity ; while there is always more wit in the poor man's 
pouch. The greatest contrasts of past history are trifling com- 
pared with this 'either,' 'or.' To this is added the growing 
awareness of this chasm following on the abolition of the re- 
straints on personal freedom ; on the broader education given 



364 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN IJFE 

in elementary schools. The people are educated as if with the 
design of rendering them more sensible of these difficulties. 

So long as they are regarded as unavoidable they are easier 
to bear. The complaint to which we lend an ear will, it is 
thought, become an indictment — an indictment of the pre- 
vailing economic order; an indictment against all the social 
groups which are connected with those arrangements, as the 
rulers and the propertied classes. Not that these persons are 
to be charged with the guilt of these anomalies ; for those who 
represent them are, it is said, themselves under the law of 
industrial evolution. But when once the causes are known, it 
becomes their duty to find a remedy. Capital in the sense 
above mentioned is declared to be the great evil from which all 
this misery arises, the dominance of the means of production 
over the producing power of the people ; more especially the 
accumulation of this capital in the hands of the few instead 
of belonging to the corporate whole. In this latter case a 
fair access to the means of production might be afforded to 
all who are willing to work. That is, capital as a private 
possession is regarded as an evil. This is the simplest and also 
the clearest way of putting it. Other statements of the same 
subject, after having been of service in the agitation, and valued 
as weapons in the warfare, have with more gain in knowledge 
been lately given up, although unwillingly. As a particular 
instance, ' the iron law of competition in wages."" It has been 
declared to be a necessity that the wages paid by capitalists 
are always close to the minimum required for existence, and, 
in spite of all trifling variations, only amount to so much as 
just suffices for the needs of the worker. If any speculator 
enters on an enterprise when labour is cheap, and afterwards 
can only obtain it at a higher rate of wages, then those who 
are thus fortunate enter into mamage, and the greater supply 
of labour thus created is the cause that the price at which 
' hands "■ can be secured goes down because the supply is greater 
than the demand. The untenableness of this theory has made 
it necessary to set it aside, as well as the supposed equally well- 
established theory of Malthus, closely connected with the 
former, on the increase of population in geometrical proportion. 



SOCIAL ETHICS 366 

while the means of life only increase in arithmetical proportion. 
But the weight of that great grievance against private capital 
is not lessened because greater care has become necessary 
in regard to watchwords of that sort. And this grievance 
turns with special energy against the various social groups of 
the present time built up on such a foundation. It is said that 
family life is undergoing dissolution — the creche at the bottom, 
and at the top the nurse. And in fact the family life of the 
upper ten thousand is, it is asserted, a seat of moral corruption 
and the home of all evil social prejudices. The State, under 
the influence of the propertied classes, say they, makes laws 
entirely in their favour and is the " muzzle of the have-nots."" 
And the Church "preaches cream and gives skim-milk,"" 
" offers a dose of opium to the burdened," and so the pro- 
letariat has turned its back on it, and left it to the rich, who 
are favoured by it as they are by the State. For whatever 
may be thought of the well-known axiom that " Religion is a 
private affair" — neither meant in a diplomatic nor a scornful 
sense in and for itself — the awful fact is quite certain that the 
socialistic masses are estranged from the Church. 

What picture of the future can we draw on the dark back- 
ground of this complaint and impeachment of the present time ? 
Righteousness not only demands generally that any statement 
of it should be kept free from all bias, but that a careful distinc- 
tion should be drawn between the economic ideal of socialism and 
its theory of the universe. It is conceivable that the latter is not 
bound up with the former, yet keen-sighted observers have 
debated whether the social question is really one of a theory of 
the universe or a question of the means of existence. But clearness 
of statement and of judgment is rendered extraordinarily difficult 
in regard to the economic ideal by the various and partially 
contradictory theories of recognised leaders both in respect of 
what they demand and in the way they consider it may be 
realised. Whereas at first revolution was considered to be the 
only certain way of bringing in the new era, and was unreservedly 
advocated (' Tremble, Canaille ! ') before the laws on socialism 
were passed, now the number is increasing of those who are 
advocates of the idea of gradual improvement of the conditions 



366 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

of life, and, accordingly, of participation meanwhile in the 
tasks of the present. Both these views change about in the lips 
of orators according to the need of the moment. But if we ask, 
What is to be the content of this great future 't then not merely 
do many reject the Utopias of individual enthusiasts — and when 
opportunity serves make. use of them — but frequently, and with 
an air of superiority, brand them as signs of the ignorance of 
their advocates if opponents ever urge questions as to the 
character of the end to be aimed at. For the development, it 
is said, is to be continuous advance in all directions, according 
to a programme set forth. Clearly this latter assertion is itself 
unscientific. Insight into the carrying through of an idea in all 
its details, and insight into the possibility of its realisation, are 
ideas easily mistaken for one another. Bismarck''s proposition 
that the politician must not play Providence, and can only form 
his conclusions from a view of all the elements that exist at a 
given moment, was valuable just because the aim of his political 
action stood luminously before him, and he had closely examined 
all the forces available for its realisation. But this deficiency 
in definite aims for the future does not in any way detract from 
the seriousness of the democratic movement. For many this 
want of clearness makes it all the more dangerous, and to count 
on its ruin because of the variousness of individual opinions 
found in one camp would be foolish self-deception on the part 
of its opponents. 

First of all, then, what is the economic demand of the 
socialists.'' It is threefold, and purports, according to the official 
programme of the party: the conversion of the means of produc- 
tion (capital) into the common property of society ; the regula- 
tion of all work by a co-operative community ; the application 
to the common use and the just distribution of all the products 
of labour. We see that this demand closely fits in with the 
above-mentioned master-conditions of industrial life, if these 
are considered under the point of view of the control of 
capital over labour. The master-notions there mentioned of 
the production of commodities, the circulation of them, their 
consumption, are all included in the watchword, ' Regulation 
of labour.' But the decisive idea is just this, that the means 



SOCIAL ETHICS 367 

of work (capital) and the products of labour, and so, on that 
account, the regulation of labour, belong to the corporate 
whole, and ought to be regulated by it. Thus the question of 
the distribution of ' goods,' under that all-dominating point of 
view which we made clear when dealing with the ' complaint ' 
and ' indictment ' spoken of, is answered thus : — The means of 
production (capital) is not to dominate the power of production 
(labour), but the latter is to prevail, for " labour is the source 
of all wealth and civilisation.'" 

Misconceptions and misunderstandings, even among those who 
are well-meaning, have attached themselves to all the three sides 
of the one demand, which must be disposed of before an opinion 
can be formed of it. In the first place, it is wrong to say that 
the Social Democratic movement is the foe of all capital, instead 
of saying of private capital ; or, in agreement with that idea, 
wishes to set aside all property ; or that property is robbery, 
instead of — private property in all the means of production ; 
or, that it desires an equal division of the private property now 
so unequally distributed between individuals, instead of — it 
desires that all private capital should be put together or placed 
in the possession of society. It is true that these rejected 
interpretations of the proposals do prevail in many minds 
confused by the agitation, and often enough to the vexation 
of the agitators ; and particularly was this so at the commence- 
ment of the movement. Consequently it is difficult to gain clear- 
ness of view as to where the allowance of private property is to 
begin, and private capital to be disallowed. But it is the duty 
of prudence, as well as of justice, to take all such misconceptions 
for what they are worth. For instance, the amusing idea often 
put forth with oratorical adornments, that if a partition were 
made to-day, then to-morrow the diligent man would be ahead 
of others. In spite of its essential justice, and in spite of its 
value, too, for many social questions of detail, such an idea does 
not belong to our present context. It is a misconception or mis- 
interpretation of the second portion of the demand to say : Social 
democracy wishes to leave the regulation of production to various 
small groups, perhaps to the commonalty. It knows well enough 
that this would mean the annihilation of present-day civilisation. 



368 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

It thinks, on the contrary, of its regulation within a nation, nay, 
even of a combination of nations. Certainly commerce, in the 
present sense, so far as it is connected with production by private 
capital, and, with it, money in its intrinsic value, would of itself 
cease, at least over a wide area. FinaUy, it is a misinterpretation 
of the third point if it is said : In the division of commodities 
produced all will have equal share, and all will get just as much 
as they really desire. The programme, on the contrary, insists, 
in manifold and varying expressions, over and over again on 
"the universal duty of work, by equal right, and to each 
according to his reasonable requirements." 

If now these very last words are plainly open to question 
as to whether they express any clear meaning, certainly the 
two first points demand a critical estimate. But it is a help 
to clearness if this question, whether they are capable of 
realisation, is distinguished from the other, and examined first 
— Supposing this question is answered in the affirmative, is it 
probable that then there would be such a quantity of com- 
modities available as would ensure to each person an essentially 
greater share than under present conditions? With every 
consciousness of the limits which beset the mere layman with 
regard to such difficult problems of political economy, he may 
not be debarred from noting the fact that the exponents 
of the new economical order rate many items in their account 
surprisingly high — for instance, the gain to the community 
by the abolition of military burdens, of the national debt, 
etc. ; others are put astonishingly low — for instance, the con- 
sequences of the essential curtailment of the hours of labour. 
In the agitation speakers talk of from two to three hours' work 
a day. Are the savings made in the one direction and the 
deficits caused by the other to be seriously estimated so high ? 
to say nothing of the cessation of the spur to individual effijrt 
which lies in the prospect of immediate needs. And is not the 
wealth of natui'e in general overestimated ? 

Still, these interrogatories do of themselves partly lead to 
the examination of the three principal socialistic demands. 
Plainly, the first is easier of serious examination than are the 
second and third. For the unlimited accumulation of capital 



SOCIAL ETHICS 369 

in the hands of individual persons has long been felt, even in 
circles that are not Social Democratic, to be a danger to the 
corporate whole. Many accumulate merely for the sake of 
the power their property confers, and not in order, at least at 
the same time, to produce useful commodities for others. This 
danger it is sought to meet by such devices as a progressive 
income tax, death duties, delimitation of the right of owner- 
ship of the soil. And the objection that special laws of this 
sort are an attack on the rights of property is considerably 
weakened by the quiet reflection whether it is not perhaps 
merely an overweening idea of private rights that is assailed ? 
and in what way the right of the corporate whole may be recon- 
ciled with that of the individual ? But then production not by 
private capital but by that of the community is not merely a 
possibility of the future, but an actuality. I'his is the case 
with (continental) railways, municipal supply of water, light. 
But of course the unlimited extension of such modes of trading 
in the production of commodities could plainly only be con- 
ceivable and desirable if all commodities were produced best 
in a wholesale way ; and this has by no means as yet been 
proved in reference to agricultural products and much manual 
work. 

In still less degree has it been successfully shown, even 
approximately, how — in relation to the second point, that the 
community as such is to take the lead in production — the 
demand for commodities is to be calculated and their manu- 
facture is to be carried out, and on what principle work on 
the materials supplied is to be assigned to each. In fact, the 
latter point might be regarded as an insuperable difficulty, 
unless we are to suppose a complete change in human nature. 
But this is to admit the fanciful character of the whole demand. 
It is true that freedom in the choice of a calling is a very 
limited one under present conditions, but even when these 
conditions are presupposed, much may be done to enlarge it 
and to improve the conditions. But when it is said that the 
official representatives of the body corporate will assign to 
each his place in the great framework of the future state, we 
see that this is inconceivable, without the divine omniscience 

24. 



370 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

of this central controlling power, and must involve the 
enslavement of those who are under this tutelage. It is also 
inconceivable how, without the most extreme coercion, the 
necessary industry required from each is to be secured. It 
has been correctly said that this army of labourers of the 
future cannot be governed without a dictator, unless, in ways 
not now known, the community may in the use of its collective 
forces be brought to aim at that which is needful alike to the 
body corporate as to the single person ; as is now done in a 
certain measure, taught by necessity (the hard taskmaster of 
human progress), and by the much-ridiculed old morality. 

As far as the third point is concerned — the division of com- 
modities — such watchwords as ' use of them for the common 
public benefit '' or ' according to the natural needs "" have been, 
in part even by their originators, recognised to be what they 
are, phrases. We should really like to know how the use of 
commodities for the public benefit can be reconciled with the 
claims of individuals, and what the natural needs are of those 
persons. Reward in proportion to achievement is certainly the 
ideal, but the question is how to realise it. To measure work 
done by the time occupied would plainly be unjust. The ob- 
jections to all the formulas hitherto attempted, even to that 
which purports to make the average value of a piece of work to 
the community the standard, may all be comprehended in one 
statement : — As soon as the standard suitable to a particular 
single case is thought to be applicable, then such serious con- 
cessions must be made to scouted individualism, by paying 
regard to the special case of the man concerned, and the 
particular situation, that in fact the principle of socialism 
started with is given up. It is consequently only too intelligible 
how these difficulties lead many exponents of socialism to the 
anarchist communism which they at first strenuously repudiated. 
Such difficulties do not afflict these advocates. But even at the 
price of giving up the ordered collective life of man, the ideal 
is in any case only asserted and in no way proved to be possible. 
Some communistic ditties demonstrate the lowness of the ideal, 
as, ' An equal share of all will please us.' But on the other 
hand there are others who keep themselves consciously aloof 



SOCIAL ETHICS 371 

from this strong programme ; quietly or openly utter one 
catch-phrase after another, such as the ' iron law of demand 
and supply as ruling wages,' or the 'solidarity of the pro- 
letariat ' and the ' break-down of society founded on capitalism,"* 
and even invoke the great goddess herself as 'the science of 
economical evolution as the single factor of the whole of 
human history ' (' Revisionism "*). This brings us to the funda- 
mental theories of social democracy. 

For the sake of clearness and justice we separated the 
economical ideal of socialism from its philosophy of the cosmos. 
At various points the one position touches on the other 
naturally, as, for instance, where reference was made to the 
forces which are supposed as the basis of the society of the 
future ; also when speaking of the power of evolution which is 
to lead on to that future, and on the impeachment of the present 
social order, the guilt of which is not guilt in any proper sense, 
but simply the necessary consequence of the evolution of the 
present order. Now, it is needful to realise to ourselves what 
lies at the back of this economical ideal. It is insisted em- 
phatically that the whole question is one of a new cosmic 
theory. The demand made by social democracy is confessedly 
put forward in the name of the Science^ the absolute science of 
which it is the sole possessor. How deep is the feeling behind 
may be shown by the fact that in popular songs homage is paid 
to this science, and the cry raised against " the tyrant " — " the 
youthful giant of the fourth estate, with knitted brow." " In 
blind amaze he stands when science opes her store." All the 
old statues of the gods, say they, lie on the ground, while 
science holds the throne. What sort of science is that ? In 
ordinary life nothing but a hotch-potch mixture of contra- 
dictory portions of the old civilisation and the new ideas, " the 
most unblest half-education the world has ever seen," " a 
vulgarised science." The intelligent leaders are not like this. 
Its view of the universe, unique in itself, has been called the 
materialisation of history ; that is, the idea of a spiritual 
development as Hegel once expounded it has been transformed 
by the leaders of the movement, under the influence of the 
Darwinian hypothesis and that of science generally, into this 



372 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

materialism. The innermost core of all development, as it says, is 
the economic evolution of society and the evolution of morality ; 
science, art, religion merely its consequences. Even the repre- 
sentatives of hated capitalism may take shelter under this idea 
of necessitated evolution. They too are its victims. But if by 
the inner necessity of this industrial evolution capitalism has 
now dug its own grave, by the same law of necessity a new 
science of morality will arise. It will at the same time be a 
richer substitute for the self-delusion of religion. The reasons 
of its origin are now seen through ; but these reasons have now 
for ever disappeared. We have no need here to examine the 
core of this cosmic philosophy, either as to the concept of evolu- 
tion itself, or that of the economic hypothesis which asserts 
that this is the single determining factor {cf. p. 39 fF.). 
It is, however, important to note, at this juncture, that this 
cosmic hypothesis is in no way new, as is sometimes conceitedly 
thought. The turn given to the hypothesis in the assertion 
that social evolution is the governing principle is certainly new 
so far as it has never before been so recklessly and one-sidedly 
asserted. But because the evolution hypothesis is in the main 
only a general formula, capable of the most various statement, 
we can comprehend, by examining these statements, the most 
surprising fact, that the social democratic theory of the world is, 
not merely not new, and at the bottom not even social, but 
curiously enough so much like that of its bitterest opponents 
that they may be easily mistaken for one another. According 
to it men are naturally equal {i.e. individual men) ; equal in 
their natural propensions directed to the same end of seeking 
their own welfare. From their natural propensions of self-love, 
benevolence under the guidance of reflection, calculation, and a 
will that is free and naturally good there proceeds a prosperous 
condition of society, and a general happiness based on civil- 
isation. We recognise these tones. This is the hedonistic 
ethics of the so-called ' natural right ' to happiness, which has 
received this name because a supposed equality of natural 
endowment forms the starting-point of subsequent difference, 
apart from history {cf. p. 34). 

But these are the principles from which the opponents of 



SOCIAL ETHICS 373 

socialistic economics start. This is the foundation of their idea 
of ' leaving the world to take its course ' and ' giving free play 
to natural forces' and the like. The difference between the 
rival views is that present-day socialism, after the essential 
error of such theories has received fearful proof, now wishes to 
help the personal life by putting all capital in the control of 
the corporate whole. But other assumptions intrinsically 
different are not put forward. This supposed corporate whole 
is only the sum of the persons composing it, and these are 
individually the same with those above described, with no deeper 
powers, or higher aims ; satisfied to claim ' rigKts "* and in- 
different to ' duties."* There is no thought of society properly 
articulated, or of a humanity with a great history and a sublime 
future. When the problem of economics is solved, this solves 
all others, and that because for it no other problem exists. In 
short, the poverty of the idea is merely concealed by the dazzling 
word ' evolution.*' 

How much of this science of socialism is conscious know- 
ledge possessed by the exponents of its watchword, or really 
effective, it is difficult to decide. Its effectiveness often enough 
consists in its critical element and battle-cries, and in many 
cases its materialism, so easy of comprehension. It is under- 
neath that these same men often enough exhibit power of self- 
abnegation and of self-sacrifice on behalf of their ideal, con- 
fused as it seems, which might well shame us. The question 
whether this is not the power of the Gospel unconsciously 
working in them leads us to the examination of what is the 
proper position of Christian ethics to the whole movement. 

On this point it is only possible to speak plainly after having 
— apart from any reference to the present social question — 
previously made clear what the Gospel view is on the question of 
industrial labour. Only in this way is it possible for us, in the 
current of the movement, to judge whether we are in position, 
without self-delusion, to bring the light of its simple truths to 
bear on it. So much that is false or only half-true has beea 
said in the name of the Gospel, that such a doubt ought clearly 
to be put to the test of examination, and if at all possible set 
at rest. 



374 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN IJFE 

The Judgment of Christian Ethics on Economic Questions. 

Provided Christian life is a coherent whole illuminated by a 
great light, the general truths which bear on these points can 
only consist in the application of those with which we made 
acquaintance in the sections on worlc and property (p. 348). The 
sphere of industrial labour and the property produced by it in 
the form of external goods is complicated enough to require 
such explicit application. 

Here too Jesus stands above the two extreme views, in the 
support of which appeal is made to Him — that of the enemies of 
industrial labour, or such as only work because driven by necessity ; 
and that of the orators who make it into a god. In the Romish 
Church (p. 353) the state of nature and state of grace are 
just on this point made to appear as two entities intrinsically 
alien to one another. Accordingly, private possession of earthly 
goods is regarded as something not proper for those who are 
perfect, and, for the ordinary Christian, needing to be sanctified 
by alms-giving. The ideal condition of property is a community 
of goods ; its historical example is that of the first Christian 
community in Jerusalem. This picture of the early days of 
Christianity floats before the eyes of many Protestants, in 
obscure outline, as the goal of their desire. They do not 
clearly see that what was possible then under special and limited 
conditions for a short time, was in no form introduced by St 
Paul into his Grecian missionary churches. They often over- 
look, as well, how strongly the voluntariness of that communism 
is emphasised ; and even by a false concession to communistic 
opinions forget Luther"'s saying : " Those said, ' What is mine is 
thine"'; these now say, 'What is thine is mine."'"" Still the under- 
valuation of labour is not compelled to express itself in far-away 
visions of a community of goods. It takes a remarkable form 
at the present time in Tolstoy, in his glorification of manual 
labour and his contempt for the more highly developed civilisa- 
tion. For this it cannot make appeal to Jesus. He makes no 
such trifling distinctions about work. He calls His disciples 
away from the net as from the ' receipt of custom.' He takes 
His parables of the Kingdom from all sorts of vocations, does 



SOCIAL ETHICS S'75 

not regard one as holier than another, and promises the reward 
of work in the highest calling of all. Free Himself, he only 
suffers freedom to be bound by the Father's will, in all other 
points as in this ; certain that all are able to do that will. 

But of course just as little — when we have regard to individual 
sayings, nay, still less — does He pronounce those to be in the 
right — why is at once plain — who think all is going excellently 
well if only work and trade are peacefully progressing, and the 
' ordered social conditions ■" are not disturbed. He applies even 
to these worshippers of custom and devotees of assured property 
a higher requirement, that of ' the treasure in heaven,"* for which 
no sacrifice is too great. And He knows how it really is that 
wealth is the hardest of fetters, as well as the last needing to be 
broken off; how hard it is for the rich to enter into the kingdom 
of heaven ; ' impossible to man,"" to him who is rich or is deter- 
mined to be so. He sees how easy it is for the rich man to be 
without love to his neighbour, and to be in unbelief without 
love to God, of whom he apparently has no need. This is why 
such a one has treated his property, which is for the highest 
Good, as Mammon, a false God. Accordingly He sees that 
many poor are more receptive for His riches (St Matt. v. 2, vi. 
24 ; 1 Tim. vi. 17 ff.). But all who are poor are not in His 
kingdom because they are poor; and He received the rich, 
without taking their property from them save when its sacrifice 
is required as a proof of earnestness, as in the case of the rich 
young noble (cf. p. 225). St Peter has his own house in 
Capernaum (St Mark i. 29), and the whole Epistle of Philemon 
is a protest against the opinion that there is such a thing as a 
Christian law in regard to property which necessarily arranges 
its measure and asserts its rights. " To have as though one 
had not "" (1 Cor. vii. 29), is the Christian demand. The Apostle 
claims independence in want and superfluity, and to be a Stoic of 
a higher order and so not a Stoic — " initiated into the mystery " 
{jne/uivrjiuiai) of rising above earthly property at once by enjoying 
and forgoing it. In this too he was the servant of the Lord 
who " had not where to lay His head," but was not either an 
anchorite or a beggar ; who uses the goods of this world as they 
come to Him ; has a common chest for the immediate circle of 



376 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

His disciples ; defends the ' waste ■" of Mary ; and thus is the rich 
Son of the rich Father. Nowhere is there narrowness or trivial- 
ity, but everywhere freedom in the service of the Father. Even 
that beautiful and wise saying of the Old Testament (in Prov. 
XXX. 8), of the "food convenient for me," contrasted with 
" poverty nor riches,"" does not rise to the height of His attitude. 
Nor does He lay down a law in favour of the golden mean in 
property. Therefore so many questions which an earthly sense 
would put to Him glance off from Him and pass on. He is 
no judge of an ' inheritance,' but he does not abrogate work, 
property, inheritance. The notion of property for its own sake 
certainly has not for Him the dignity which it had for the 
people of ' the law."* God is the great proprietor, and we are 
His stewards ; but it is right to be faithful in the least, so that 
we may be entrusted with the true riches. In short, it is as 
always when the ' one thing needful ' and the ' many things ■" 
of this world stand before His gaze. His attitude to 
industrial labour is the same as to all that is peculiar to 
civilisation {cf. p. 349). He is neither ' for "" it nor ' against ' it. 
He is above it, and hence in it as no other is ; unreservedly 
' against ' it if it seeks to usurp the place of the highest Good ; 
' for "■ it, so far as it originates with the Father in heaven and 
is used in His service. Hence the opponents of civilisation 
and fanatics wrongly claim Him as on their side in this 
special point too ; now praise and now condemn Him without 
reason. And it is only he who allows Jesus to raise him to the 
same level as that on which He stands who comprehends His 
meaning, and that such factitious antitheses are no part of His 
thoughts. For His kingdom is not the kingdom of this world, 
and His Father is not the God of this world ; and just as little 
is He opposed to this world, according to the common idea of 
this world, whether it is that of the godly or the ungodly. He 
knows the Father, and He is the Almighty Lord of heaven and 
earth. 

Such principles are binding on every Christian, provided the 
word of God is to stand good. He who has not the spirit of 
Christ is none of His. And with the conviction of the obliga- 
tion of these principles there is assumed the possibility of 



SOCIAL ETHICS 377 

carrying them out under all conditions, however various, by the 
poor as by the rich ; by both, whether in the first or twentieth 
century. Only the way of carrying out these principles, as of 
everything that is truly the will of God, is committed to the 
dutiful choice of each. Is that now intended to mean that the 
Christian ought to have no decisive attitude towards the great 
social question of our day ? Is it right in the flood-tide of 
' Christian socialism ' for a little band of independent men to 
proclaim that the Christian in the name of Christianity has 
nothing he can demand from public order beyond the liberty to 
live in his own faith.? No doubt justifiable in relation to 
innumerable obscurities of the momentary fashion, yet there is 
a very simple objection which besets this proposition. The 
Christian ought, as has been impressively rejoined by its 
exponents, to live out his faith in love, and so become ' salt "" 
in the life of others. Certainly. But this activity of love at 
once meets in actual life with the most difficult economical 
problems. If we reflect on Luther's attitude towards the 
forbidding of usury in the ancient Church, can we say that the 
scrupulous care with which the Christian world of to-day disposes 
of this is founded on clear Evangelical conviction ? The view, 
of course, may not be so very difficult (although often taken 
too lightly) that "lending and taking nothing in return," in 
the true meaning (cf. St Matt. v. 42), is neither fulfilled by the 
Churches' forbidding of usury, nor by destroying the possibility 
of taking it in the state of the future {cf. p. 119). But it is 
impossible not to recognise that the necessary development of 
industrial life brings with it a mass of difficulties in the manage- 
ment of money, in relation to which the difficulty of a decided 
opinion on the part of the Christian man is a fearfully hard one. 
This is the case not merely with the merchant and the contractor, 
but for everyone who is involved in ever so quiet a way in this 
vast world of business. As to the duties of the wealthy, 
Carnegie the millionaire has lately written and urged his fellow- 
millionaires to expend their wealth in benefiting mankind, not 
perhaps in the form of some charitable institution after death — 
weakening their sense that they cannot take their treasures 
with them — but by prompt expenditure of their superfluity, 



378 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

themselves as fellow-workers and not mere enjoyers of their 
substance. And over wide areas the judgment gains increasing 
currency that the private gentleman, living on the interest of 
his capital, whether he has little or much, is no less a parasite 
than the tramp. But the Christian is not able to judge thus 
without taking close account of the mass of anomalies in the 
social order of the present day ; and for him this means, without 
feeling that he is under obligation to endeavour to reduce their 
number — just for his own sake, and even still more for the 
sake of others. For if he groans under those anomalies in 
spite of the strong counterpoise of his faith and his love, how 
much more others who do not know either faith or love ? 
On his part he is to help in securing for others the blessing of 
work for themselves, that they in their turn may do the like 
for their fellows. But for this he is incapacitated in the absence 
of some j udgment on this great question of the day. 

We are not to consider it merely as an economic question. 
That the materialisation of history of which we have spoken is 
unchristian, is at once just as clearly seen in Christian ethics 
as the mistake of supposing that it is the promise of a golden 
time without heart-renewal. The proper answer, however, 
cannot be brought out of isolated passages of the Holy 
Scriptures, but must be deduced from the briefly presented 
Christian view of the broad principles of labour and property. 
This at once puts one consequence beyond doubt. Neither 
pure socialism nor pure individualism in economic life is 
Christian. For in the thought of the Kingdom of God in- 
dividuals with the community, and the community with its 
individuals, are bound together into a unity and into a freedom 
which far transcend the mere predominance of the individual 
or of the community at the cost of one or the other. But 
pure socialism or pure individualism does sacrifice either the one 
or the other (p. 143 f.). Both endanger personal independence 
and the true union of love. The first especially endangers 
independence, and the second chiefly love. But in fact both 
independence and love are endangered, for we saw that we 
can be of no service to others unless we are a whole in our- 
selves, and the freest personality in the absence of love is poor 



SOCIAL ETHICS 379 

and empty. At this point the question, not always clearly put, 
may be answered — May a Christian be a social democrat ? The 
question has in the main a sense open to a general explanation 
only when all that is purely personal is excluded, for here as 
everywhere the statement is applicable — Each must for himself 
give an account to God. Consequently the meaning of this 
question cannot be, whether and how far a Christian ought to 
support the claims of social democracy which he, if only 
generally, recognises as a justifiable means for a justifiable 
end, but rather whether he ought, for the sake of such 
demands, to belong to the Social Democratic party. On this 
his conscience must decide {cf. p. 381). But if the question 
concerns the main principle of economic socialism, and if this 
main principle is clearly grasped, and thought out in all its 
consquences, then there can be no doubt that it is to be answered 
negatively, and on the ground stated — the independence of the 
individual, without which he is of little value either to himself 
or to the community, is essentially sacrificed, although under the 
present perplexing conditions there is many a one who really by 
this devotion to this communal ideal — fundamentally injurious 
to individuality — does become a personality for himself. For 
instance, a workman who, by his savings for the party funds, for 
the first time learns to make a personal self-sacrifice for an ideal. 
Only this fundamental decision is undeniably in agreement with 
the other assertion — that pure individualism is unchristian. 

Is it possible to put these negative statements more definitely ? 
Very probably in this way — an individualistic economic order 
with a strong socialistic stamp on it corresponds to the 
Evangelical master-idea of the relation of the individual to the 
corporate whole more purely than the converse possibility. 
That follows from what has been said before of the importance 
of the individual in the Kingdom of God, and this application 
of the idea pressed itself on our attention when we dwelt on the 
practicability of the ' state of the future.' The Christian must 
value the improvement of social conditions as an urgent task, 
but he cannot, even in the economic sphere, give up the supreme 
and frequently emphasised principle that the improvement of 
individuals more certainly leads to soundness of social conditions 



380 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

than that this soundness of conditions tends of itself to make 
men good. Hence a certain reserve is imposed on Christians — 
not a reserve in benevolence, but caution in the matter of 
flattering partisanship for the cause of the poor. Jesus was 
not the prince of the proletariat, and tax-gatherers were certainly 
not the ' poor ' of His day. Only of course there is always the 
reverse danger near. 

But in the application of these principles to the wealth of life 
we find ourselves warned of the need of the greatest prudence, not 
only by the undeniable want of success which has attended even 
the well-meaning work of amateurs, but by the knowledge which 
all may be supposed to possess that in a sphere so especially 
perplexing there is little promise of success in the absence of the 
closest knowledge of history and of present-day life, and even 
less promise than in other departments. By this judgment the 
general claim is not affected that there ought to be the 
opportunity of work for those who are willing to work, and that 
sufficient wages ought to be assured to the worker — sufficient 
wages not merely for in some degree guaranteeing his physical 
existence in health and in sickness, but also for the furtherance 
of his intellectual and moral development (family life, 
education) ; in fact, a wage the scale of which shall stand in as 
close a relation as possible to the utility of his work. To 
this end the community ought not to allow the unavoidable 
conflicting interests of individual persons or of social circles 
to become a selfish battle of one against another, or of single 
classes against other classes ; but ought to shape them to such 
ends as concern the good alike of the individual and the 
community. 

But what ways lead to these ends Christian ethics cannot of 
itself form a judgment. It can only give utterance to its well- 
founded conviction that many things which are to-day con- 
sidered impossible will be found practicable. It does this, 
taught by history that many an apparently unimpeachable 
' right "" has disappeared when it plainly grew into a wrong. 
And it can feel encouraged to honour in such changes the 
triumph of the ' Good,"* i.e. of the love to which right and law 
are indispensable and sacred servants, but still servants. So 



SOCIAL ETHICS 381 

much the more will such alterations be rich in blessing, the 
oftener they are called forth by the moral conviction of the 
propertied classes, and are not mere anxious concessions to the 
exigeant masses. 

But perhaps it is still a task of ethics to try to realise by 
whom such reforms are to be set in operation. In this as 
always the appeal must be to the individual. It would often 
be cheering (if it were not often saddening) to see social 
reformers in personal intercourse with others among all parties. 
People dispute and debate over the future of society, and let 
the moment slip in which, by saying a prudent word or doing 
a kindly deed, the present condition of society might be im- 
proved in their own circle. Nay, it is a new task of the first 
order, set for us by the new conditions, how in the huge manu- 
factories of modern life, personality, the personal whole, inde- 
pendent, matured, can assert and perfect itself; and it is not 
only a weak but a false complaint that this personality has no 
longer place in our time. But it is to misconstrue facts when 
everything is made to depend on the individual, and a mistake 
to seek to depreciate the value of the duty and power of social 
groups to make attempts at improvement and advancement. 
Face to face with such enormous tasks, the individual is not in 
the position to help on radical improvement unless a divinely 
commissioned leader sets the example of action, and constrains 
others into his service for the good of all. Among social groups 
naturally that of labour takes the precedence. It is in the first 
line called to remove industrial hindrances. On this a dis- 
tinction emerges. The worker oppressed by the hardships of 
present-day labour plainly stands in a different position from 
the proprietor. The former is at once summoned to a battle 
for the improvement of his status. But in what form, in what 
measure, that again is a matter belonging to his personal con- 
science. Severe inner struggles may be his lot just because 
the external battle for the improvement of his status is associated 
with so much that is dreamy and unjust. But positively, along 
with his vocation as a worker he has another calling, that of 
freeing his position from the limitations which are in danger of 
rendering it no longer a vocation in the proper sense. If we 



382 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

reflect on this, then we shall no longer consider that judgment 
against strikes (as a weapon in the struggle for more wages) which 
for a long time passed current in the name of Christian ethics, 
a reasonable one ; without in the least going beyond this to 
glorify strikes in the way usual with many. The other party in 
this great economic struggle represents moral worth. Real pro- 
gress is most surely guaranteed by the spirit of honesty, justice, 
social utility, by which both parties may and ought to be 
inspired. It appertains to those who are economically the 
stronger party to be ready to render possible for the weakest 
what is purely impossible for them by their own strength. For 
instance, as a set-off to mechanical labour, improvement in the 
conditions of family life, higher education, and as the basis of 
this better dwellings and surroundings. It is one of the 
brightest rays of hope that the last-named task is ever more 
and more regarded as most urgent. Many incidental and 
aimless streams of beneficence might find an ordered course in 
this great work ; and this will happen when society gains the 
clear conviction that there here stands before it a simple, long- 
delayed duty ; and has made the discovery that the common 
notion of charity is itself a mere pillow of content, and is at 
once the product and the source of self-deception. For it is 
only when one has begun to fulfil the duties of righteousness 
that genuine Christian pity unreservedly attends to its proper 
and never-ending service in a province peculiarly its o/zn. 

The Christian family will ever continue to be the most 
successful school of duty for both. On the field most easily 
surveyed, with circumscribed tasks, in the years when sensibility 
is the keenest, the truly social disposition must be cultivated 
which alone will alone guard in later life against all charity 
becoming a mere soulless piece of business. In the degree that 
this quiet home of all efforts to be put forth on a larger scale 
is cherished, science and art may succeed in doing their part in 
bridging over the social gulf. A novelist like Dickens poured 
* oil and wine "" into the wounds of the oppressed, and smote the 
oppressors at the same time with fiery strokes. And he also 
shows that neither the pathetic skill of literary art nor 
illuminative science can soothe the hunger for life and love in 



SOCIAL ETHICS 383 

the unhappy masses ; but only the message of life which springs 
out of the fount of love, in fine, from the eternal love. That is 
to say, a credible and worthy common faith must bind high and 
low together, if all the bridges that ingenuity can build are not 
to be finally destroyed. 

The way to a common understanding as to the tasks to be 
accomplished by the State at least begins to be made plain. 
These are, protection of the weak and care for the feeble, by 
such methods as those of which a foundation for future effort 
has been laid in the German systems of insurance laws for 
workers — the first finest fruit of the newly united empire, 
although widely condemned by those for whom they were 
designed ; juster laws of taxation ; colonisation abroad, and 
home colonies and the like. Alongside this, and coincident in 
origin — although yet more a matter of future prospect than a 
present reality — is the recognition of the full right of organisa- 
tion of labour in forms profitable for the whole community. 
Such recognition is the surest way to destroy the delusion that 
it is the duty of the State and in its power to do everything, 
and a summons to all the slumbering forces of the world of 
labour. 

It is notoriously a question much debated whether the Church 
should be called upon to render direct help in the social 
exigencies of the present, and especially whether this is its 
proper province ; or whether, as a matter of principle, it is only 
called upon to indirect effort, particularly by the performance 
of its proper religious tasks, and in this way render all the more 
powerful and practical assistance by influencing the dispositions 
of all those who ought to be socially active in the circles in 
question. It is not difficult to understand that the Roman 
Church takes the first-mentioned view. Its conviction is that 
as a church all questions generally, and therefore also this 
question, can be settled by its treasury of supernatural truths 
and gifts of grace, and by the discipline as well which it cari'ies 
out in the secular sphere through the State at the Church's 
instance (making a virtue of necessity); and in its religious 
orders it has a well-schooled and thoroughly well-disciplined 
army for the social crusade (c/! the papal encyclical, 1891). 



384 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Naturally, in the Evangelical Church of Germany those incline 
to this ideal of ecclesiastical social activity in proportion to the 
emphasis which they lay generally on the fact of its establish- 
ment by the State, and their judgment on the matter — therefore, 
for example, their judgment on the Church Social Conference on 
the one hand, and on the Evangelical Church Congress on the 
other hand, which represent both these views — will depend in 
the end not on their different attitude to the social question 
but on their Church views. It scarcely needs to be said that the 
real difference of conviction goes down much deeper than such 
examples from a rapidly changing period would of themselves 
serve to indicate. Perhaps it is well that both tendencies 
should be separately suffered to show what they are able to 
accomplish. It would not be difficult to determine historically 
which line of thought comes closer to the original idea of the 
German Reformation. In no case need we ascribe to that view 
less social energy than to the other, when it regards the task 
entrusted to the Church, in proper Lutheran fashion, from 
the point of view of the ' Word only "* ; the ' Word,' of course, 
applied in its encouraging and illuminative power to all difficult 
problems of the day, and of proved efficacy for things high as for 
things low. But it is as little inclined to the idea which tends 
in the other direction of helping by " fighting shoulder to 
shoulder with the oppressed " through an organisation after the 
manner of a religious order, and denying to start > -ith citizen 
rights in the Evangelical Church. {^Cf. the attempts of the 
High Church party in the English Church.) Both lines of 
thought may in their final statement be one, that the Gospel is 
the only force which can make us ' social,"" that is capable of 
sacrifice ; while the mere insight into the relation between the 
good of the individual and that of the corporate whole only 
produces a ' socialism of prudence.' Whatever one may 
consider to be the duty of the Church, such is that of the 
individual clergyman, save that here the scruple against direct 
participation steps at once into a clearer light. For everyone 
will allow that in the main the clergyman should not be a party 
man. Plainly the individual conscience must draw the line for 
each person. But any passing pronouncements of ecclesiastical 



SOCIAL ETHICS 886 

authorities ought always to be framed from the Church's point 
of view, simply because these authorities will otherwise be drawn 
into the uncertain course of the ship of State, to the injury of 
both Church and State. 

In any case, whatever opinion may be formed on these matters 
just discussed, the social question is of such complexity that it 
can only be brought nearer to solution by the co-ordinated 
efforts of individual persons and of the social circles concerned, 
that is, by self-help, by neighbourly help and by that of the 
community at large, the State and the Church. Science and art 
must be summoned to aid. But the help of God, which is 
effectual in all such troubles, does not, provided we admit the 
witness of the Gospel, guarantee a heaven on earth. Every 
solution creates a new question in this earthly development; 
behind every height scaled there looms a new horizon. Nor is 
this merely a result of human sin, but belongs to the very 
nature of this material development. Conflict of interests, 
progress and regress, are essential factors. In the midst of this 
conflict God's peace is the guardian of faith and love, but this 
peace points beyond the battle-fields. 

Science and Art. 

Civilised society comprises both the industrial life already 
discussed on the one hand, and science and art on the other. 
It is plain without saying more that the industrial department 
has to do with the mastery of nature, practically and techno- 
logically, by the human intellect, and art and science with the 
ideal appropriation of nature by the human consciousness ; the 
former grasps the objective world, the latter enriches the sub- 
jective world of mind. It is less clear and not unattended with 
danger to suppose that both these departments of art and 
science are apprehended in their unity and distinction when we 
have designated them ' knowledge "" ; science as the knowledge 
that is general and universal, art that which is special and indi- 
vidual. For the very expression ' feeling for the beautiful ' is 
in itself a protest against subsuming art under the category of 
knowledge, or 'knowing.' In both regions, art and science, there 

25 



386 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

distinctly emerges the difference between the minds that lead 
and create and those that are receptive and impressible, although 
the boundary-line between the two is most certainly fluctuating, 
because every personal acquisition results from imitation. 

Science. 
In its nature science is the conscious and coherent search for 
the knowledge of truth ; that is, for judgments universally true, 
compelling, and illuminating. In regard to subject-matter, 
it is divided into physical and mental sciences, into pure and 
applied (practical or ' positive ") according as they are pursued 
for the sake of knowledge alone, or at the same time for the 
solution of a practical problem. But these distinctions do not 
affect the great end, the knowledge of truth. The labour 
directed to this end is by associated effort, for no one person is 
in himself equal to the task. The great medium of exchange 
is language. This fellowship in knowledge is on one side of 
it informal general intellectual intercourse. That is, without 
express design knowledge in various subjects spreads with 
immeasurable rapidity from one to another ; from one circle of 
cultivated society to another ; from nation to nation. Men 
live in a common intellectual atmosphere. The great currents 
in this mental atmosphere are set up by the literary works, 
which are the products of the inquiring intellect. The daily 
press is active in propagation, popularising in a way often 
shallow, reaching the most remote villages. The power of the 
press is great precisely because it is in a position to use its 
influence in the form of unfettered intercourse in a way that 
is not possible for any organised formal school of instruction. 
Inasmuch as the outward form of entire freedom is preserved, 
the 'gentle reader' yields himself as a slave to tyrants who 
force on his attention the wants and views of others, which 
often enough have grown up out of the soil of wasted lives. 
But still an incalculable amount of what is useful, true, and 
good is in this way diffused. In the main both these state- 
ments are true of the so-called secular as well as of the 
Christian press. 'Schools' of instruction imply a formal 
fellowship of knowledge, whether as between teacher and 



SOCIAL ETHICS 387 

scholar from the elementary school to the public school, or as 
between literati in their mutual intercourse in philosophical 
or scientific societies. German universities cover both ; that, 
in addition to their functions as collegiate institutions, they 
invite to learned independent research, constitutes their power 
and their weakness. 

The judgment of Christian ethics on science does not 
admit of being initially stated in a short formula. In the 
Holy Scriptures are found words in praise of human know- 
ledge alongside earnest warnings ; and these latter predominate. 
" Not many wise are called," " Has not God made foolish the 
wisdom of this world ? " One of the chief charges made by 
modern ethics against the Christian system is, in fact, its sup- 
posed depreciation of human knowledge ; and we saw that in 
wide social areas ' Science *" is the one (often unknown) god, to 
which men offer sacrifice after crumbling all other altars into 
ruins. But the Holy Scriptures assert with particular emphasis 
that the Gospel is the ' Truth ' ; the Christian is exhorted to 
" seek after the wisdom which is perfect " ; and they candidly 
recognise all that interests the human mind — and that not 
merely in the Proverbs of the Old Testament; for the New 
Testament also is far from that intentional contempt for know- 
ledge which has been a matter of glorying in the name of piety 
in some periods of the history of the Church. If we look more 
closely, this aversion to science rests on a twofold ground. For 
one thing, "knowledge puff'eth up," the cultivation of the 
intellect is thought too much of. Thus ' knowledge "* appears 
in opposition to ' faith."" They mutually influence one another. 
Knowledge is overvalued in its significance for the individual 
because too much or everything is attributed to it ; and the 
reverse. Knowledge has in fact done so much that it is supposed 
nothing is impossible to it ; and how much more compre- 
hensively is that true of this than of any former genera- 
tion ! It is only when there is clear insight into the nature 
of knowledge that it is possible to pronounce a clear judg- 
ment on its value. In other words, the proposition above 
previously given, that the mark of true science consists in 
the enunciation of ' universal judgments,"" needs closer inspection. 



388 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

How far do such generally valid judgments, such as each person 
of sound intellect must acknowledge, reach ? Do these only 
exist in that sphere of perception determined by the ' laws of 
thought,' or do they extend to such questions as are related 
to a theory of the universe ? Do not the latter rather rest on 
the concurrency of reasons of a quite different sort from those 
which are sufficient for the intellectual part of our nature ? 
Have not will and feeling a justifiable share in all our final 
convictions as to the reason and purpose of the world ? — justifiable 
precisely because otherwise a real conviction could only be 
attained by the gifted and educated. So that in ethics a state- 
ment at once appears to be obvious, which in investigations 
busied merely with the nature of knowledge easily produces the 
impression of a mere attempt to escape a difficulty. In short, it 
is the highest task of science to know itself, recognise its own 
legitimacy, to examine the limits which naturally belong to it, 
and to turn its criticism on itself. Until this work is accom- 
plished the Christian judgment on science must ever remain 
uncertain. It will at the same time both be in conflict with it 
and highly value it, fear it and yet have confidence in it ; and as 
long as this obscure relation subsists, there will always be 
religious men inclined to keen enmity to science. The history 
of the mediaeval Church as well as of modern Protestantism 
offere numerous illustrations. Too much is conceded to induct- 
ive science, unproved in matters of faith ; and then arbitrarily 
enough a special ' higher ' province is assigned to ' exact ' know- 
ledge, and then faith, conscious of its original might, revenges 
itself with illogical invectives against 'godless reason.' Now, 
to our thinking Kant so took in hand that greatest of scientific 
problems, the investigation of the nature of cognition, ' the 
Critique of Reason,' that only the superficial student can ignore 
its results. But it is precisely on this point that it again 
appears clear how the grand final questions are settled in the 
holy of holies of the human heart, and therefore not in one way 
for the educated and in another way for the uneducated. How- 
ever clearly the limits of ' exact ' knowledge are defined, it is 
still a matter of personal resolve whether a man will take this 
insight into these final questions seriously ; whether he will cast 



I 



SOCIAL ETHICS 389 

away all fancy, and see that his true honour consists in doing 
his duty. Is scientific knowledge my highest Good or the 
Good-will ? This is in this place the chief question ; and that 
saying, " Whoever will do His will," finds here a new, unique 
application. The whole real importance of the present point 
comes into a clear light when we note that the warning against 
the " knowledge that puffeth up " was said in the first instance 
to Christians of their supposed knoivledge, and has since received 
ample justification in all forms in the world of pietism. But it is 
indispensably needful to battle against vanity and paltriness in the 
learned world, and often most indispensable at its highest levels. 
Supposing this main question is properly settled, and thus the 
nature of science really known, and the limits which this nature 
imposes ; and if this knowledge is taken with true religious 
earnestness of mind, then Christian ethics can scarcely go too 
far in the recognition of the moral value of all genuine know- 
ledge. Knowledge makes the personal spirit the lord over 
nature, and only by such mastery is a man fitted for the fellow- 
ship of love, for loving and being loved. And the importance, 
in particular, that belongs to the knowledge of God and of His 
ways in history, and in the most insignificant life, has been 
repeatedly insisted on. Here we need only allude to missions 
— the best men in every department of theology, the best 
expositors, historians, systematic theologians, and practical 
divines, would be barely good enough for this mighty task of 
announcing the Gospel to fresh nations in fresh languages ; but 
it is precisely here that we see true theology is inseparably 
connected with all science. True and real theology. If that 
main question is properly answered, then all knowledge wins the 
freedom befitting its nature. The sublime word of Job (xiii. 
7), " Will ye speak wrongfully for God ? will ye talk deceitfully 
for Him ? " is understood in all its depth. The freedom of the 
children of God is freedom, too, from any inclination to find 
fault with the truth ; to prescribe to God the way in which He 
ought to proceed in the kingdom of nature or of grace ; to settle 
the way (for example) in which He ought to have fashioned 
Holy Writ. Faith assured of God's existence reverences God's 
almighty wisdom in all that is real and offers to us real know- 



390 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

ledge. Faith is the mainspring and motive power of this. 
And where absolute loyalty to truth seems to demand what to 
our human weakness is a sacrifice involving our most cherished 
ideas, it is faith that gives us humility, patience, and hope. 
Every act of renunciation becomes to us the gain of closer inter- 
course and fellowship with God. In the unlimited obedience 
which can do nothing against the truth, faith perceives that it is 
linked in hope with those who have been martyrs for truth 
other than that which is distinctively Christian. All alike live to 
the God of truth. 

This spiritual attitude of the Christian to all forms of 
knowledge renders him capable of a tolerance which far surpasses 
all that usually bears that name. Faith which does not really 
understand itself has often done dishonour to the true estimate 
of what the faith really is by blind fanaticism ; tolerance as 
the general attitude of public opinion and the usage of the 
State, has often been inspired by mere antagonism to the 
representatives of religion. But it is only true faith that has 
the power to avoid the danger of all such tolerance, the 
danger, that is, of acquiescing in each believing what he chooses 
because in the last resort every form of truth is equally good 
— that is equally hard to prove. This is the paralysing effect 
of that great truth that a philosophy of the world is not 
deducible from exact science. But in Christianity this con- 
sequence is intrinsically impossible, because it founds, faith on 
the revelation of the good God {cf. above, p. 60 ff.). And it 
respects this faith as a personal secret which excludes all judg- 
ment on others, and as that which constrains its possessors 
to win men by unwearying love. {Cf. all that has been said 
on the basal idea of Christian ethics.) 

Art. 
Christian ethics has only very slowly arrived at a judgment 
on art in keeping with the special character of the subject. 
This hangs together with the difficiilty of an accurate defini- 
tion of art. For there are many explanations that are as unin- 
telligible as they are worthless. " Art is concerned with a form 
of mental pleasure through the channel of the senses ; " " Art 



SOCIAL ETHICS 891 

is a complex of sensuous impressions through which a feehng 
of harmony arises,"" and that because it goes beyond immediate 
reahty. Certainly, but how far, and why ? Perhaps we may 
the sooner obtain what may be needful as a foundation for a 
judgment, if, instead of entering into the conflict of views, we 
let those speak to us who were themselves great artists, and 
tell us what their idea of art was. Schiller says : " Everyone 
who has the power to put his own emotional condition into 
such objective form that this object compels me by an inner 
necessity to pass over into the same emotional condition and 
so powerfully affects me is an artist — a maker. . . . But it 
is not everyone who is in the same degree eminent. That 
depends on the wealth, the contents of his mind which thus 
find external display, and on the degree of the ' necessity ' 
with which his work produces that impression on the mind." 
And Goethe says : " The greater the talent, the more decisively 
does the image that is to be produced at once take shape at 
the beginning (of each particular artistic effort).'' Therefore the 
question is one of an emotional condition rvhich is so presented to 
the senses that this sensuous presentation again calls forth that 
same emotional condition. Any such imaging work we call 
beautiful. The means of perceptual presentation may be very 
various — form, colour, sound, word ; and the various arts are 
distinguished accordingly. But the common and decisive 
feature is the sensuous presentation of an inner experience. 
How decisive, we may know from the fact that the measure 
of artistic power is the measure of the power of calling forth 
(by the 'necessity' in the above sense) the same emotional 
state, of compelling a sympathetic response. Inner experience 
alone does not make an artist, nor of course the power of re- 
presentation in the absence of an inner experience to represent. 
Both inseparably belong to one another. To be sure, it has 
been recently maintained, in the justifiable demand for realism 
in art, that it is simply the representation of nature itself (and 
so the illusion called forth by this means) that essentially 
makes up the nature of art. But when the exponents of this 
opinion praise the saying, " Art is a bit of nature, seen in a 
particular mental mood," they silently admit what they attack 



392 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

when they use that phrase, * mental mood."' In this phrase there 
lies what we have above asserted. No one has yet seriously 
declared that a mere accurate representation of a bit of nature 
is for itself beautiful ; it must be a piece of nature specially 
conceived, * ensouled ' nature. But because there are many who 
have much artistic feeling without being able to represent it, 
it is right, when considering the nature of art, to bring this 
ability, this power of sensuous representation, into the forefront ; 
and that in respect of its subjective reason, the imagination, the 
power of mental intuition. A psychical event assumes a physical 
form ; the subjective feeling gets free play and becomes objective ; 
a mental movement reaches rest. This whole explanation would 
be incomplete without explicitly emphasising the point from 
which we started, that such a representation of emotional con- 
dition offers itself to the contemplative feelings, awakening the 
emotion of pleasure and gratification. Art is pleasurable even 
in the form of the most moving of tragedies. It involves no 
immediate impulse to action. Hence the question, the decisive 
point whether the represented object is real or not, is a matter 
of complete indifference for emotional pleasure as for the 
knowledge of truth. Pleasure in its sympathetic contemplation 
is its only purpose. 

It is easy to add the supplementary consideration that those 
simple ideas are just as true of the beautiful in nature as in 
art. It is in nature that we find the emotional content of 
human life, and it is in art that we embody its forms ; but in 
every case the characteristics above mentioned come into question. 
It is more necessary to note that while every perfect sensuous 
presentation of an emotional content is beautiful, yet where 
there is an equal completeness in the representation of the 
higher emotional content this marks a higher a-sthetic level. 
There is a realm of the beautiful, a unity amid infinite variety. 
The complete expression of the highest content of human life 
in an artistic synthesis would yield complete enjoyment of art. 
Each period stamps out its own content peculiar to it. And if 
there is a considerable amount in each age which all men of 
every age can contemplate with like sympathy, especially much 
that is common to human nature everywhere and at all times, 



SOCIAL ETHICS 393 

yet this common element does not represent the whole content 
of life. For instance, the classic art of Italy is not the whole 
of art. And even art in this age of machinery is still art, real, 
and having its own character, influenced and enriched by this 
world of machine production which at first sight appeal's to be 
the very antithesis of art. 

In the community of those men who direct their attention to 
{esthetics, a difference is manifest which was stated previously 
when we were dealing with the nature of the beautiful. It is 
one thing to have a sensibility for aesthetic beauty ; it is another 
thing to produce the beautiful. In both respects there is an 
infinite gradation of talent down to the most deficient ability. 
The difference marks out either the professional calling or the 
mere taste of the amateur, whose real calling is to do work in 
other spheres. It is often a difficult task which the teacher has 
to perform, to lay stress on this distinction, for a person of 
moderate ability soon believes himself capable of being an 
artist ; and he who has the true calling easily deludes himself 
with the idea that there is no need for hard work. Great 
artists, however, have pointed out {cf. Wilhelm Meister ; Richter's 
Life) that such persons are the very ones who stand in need of 
the discipline of redoubled diligence, and give utterance to it 
in a witty word with a serious meaning, that Talent is diligence. 

A special and often undervalued form of the aesthetic life, 
both of that which is receptive and that which is productive — 
but neither of them in the form determined by vocation — is that 
of companionship in pastimes which is called ' play "" — in the 
narrower sense meaning the diversions of childhood. Social 
forms and even the fixed (yet within certain limits ever-changing) 
fashions of dress and society manners set forth the fact that 
companionship is a kind of ' play,"" as the mould of social inter- 
course. Social intercourse runs its course in the form of ' play ' 
in the wider sense of diversion. Conversation is an intellectual 
pastime, in which the mental store of each is used for reciprocal 
enjoyment, incorporating itself in lively word and suitable 
gesture. Many a one, to whom the terms art and aesthetics 
have all his life been unknown, may even on the lower levels of 
culture be an artist by using his conversational powers for his 



394 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

own and others'' pleasure with his own natural originality. 
Besides the pastime of conversation there are other social 
diversions. Whoever would object to them must prepare to 
deny that there is any ethical justification of those recreations 
which form the immediate end of companionship. But it is for 
this very reason that we must say that they have moral value 
as far as they are real diversions. And it is not merely those 
forms of diversion that have an intrinsic value that are 
justifiable, however true it is that a man of worth will prefer 
them. Games of chance for the purpose of gain are inconsistent 
with the idea of recreation, and are to be reprobated on account 
of their inner unreality. Gain and work are connected. Hence 
many hurtful results arise from the gambling spirit. Perhaps it 
will seem inconceivable in a not very remote future that any 
State should so lower itself as to constitute itself the banker of 
a lottery. Those lotteries which have the serious purpose of 
aiding some venture of art, or have a definite purpose for the 
common good, must be differently judged. Still more surprising 
will it seem that gambling hells, run by individual speculators, 
were not long ago swept away by a storm of public indignation. 
If there has long been some uncertainty of opinion prevailing 
amongst Christians in reference to diversions, there is still more 
in regard to the exercise of art as a calling, and the pleasure 
connected with it. The aversion of the ancient Church was not 
confined to the many openly immoral productions of the art of 
the period. Among the arts, poetry and painting were the 
earliest recognised by the Church. Then there was a long 
period when all art dealt with religious subjects only and bore 
an ecclesiastical impress. In the Evangelical Protestant Church 
the older pietism regarded the whole region of artistic beauty as 
a dangerous one for him at any rate who would take his religion 
in real earnest, and as better avoided. For such a one joy in 
the Holy Ghost is only conceivable as joy in religious subjects ; 
and even the representation of these in art easily disturbs their 
purity ; but still the exceptions of the simplest poetry and music 
were allowed. The exclusion of these two arts from the 
service of religion was precluded by Col. iii. 16. Of course 
this passage and that of Philippians iv. 8 both give the impres- 



SOCIAL ETHICS 396 

sion that they require a far more unfettered interpretation, and 
at the same time a far wider application. Reference has often 
been made to the profound sensibility for the enjoyment of 
nature which shines in many sayings of Jesus Christ. Still, such 
several utterances do not suffice to prove that aesthetics was in 
principle recognised. For it is undeniable that this whole field 
of human mental activity is not prominent in the Holy 
Scriptures. This statement is not altered by the appeal to the 
Old Testament, its Temple and Psalter, or the vision of the 
New Jerusalem and its glory. Ought we on this account to 
say those are right who regard professed Christianity and 
professed enmity to art as identical ? It would be better for 
us to try to conceive what the reasons were for that undeniable 
reserve ; for then we shall not only understand why, as a matter 
of fact, that enmity arose, but also be able to judge whether 
such a view has a real foundation in the nature of our religion. 

Reflection on the nature of art passes with spontaneous ease 
on to the question whi/ it is that the sensuous presentation of 
an inner emotional experience gives such special exaltation, 
such pure pleasure. The Neo-Platonists spoke of an eternal 
element in art ; Schiller, of an ethical element in * form.' 
Doubtless art stands above the tormenting questionings 
and contradictions of our life. The objective and the sub- 
jective, nature and spirit, are not in accord ; knowledge is 
limited, the will crippled. But art assures us of a life in the 
eternal ; here otherwise insoluble problems are resolved ; ' it 
knows no breaks ' ; the soul finds repose, is at home. Hence 
pleasure in the beautiful has been often called ' finding salvation/ 
But even when this noblest term is used of the yearning for 
artistic enjoyment it gives rise to a great questioning. Is it the 
highest salvation which is attainable by man ? In short, art 
steps into rivalry with religion. Can it possibly be a substitute 
for religion, for a humanity which has outgrown religion ? 

It is indubitable that in this relationship of art and religion 
there lies the intrinsic reason why the Gospel at first appeared 
to be so indifferent to, and inclined to be inimical to, the 
world of art. Art does not ask after reality ; the splendour 
of illusion is its province. In religion reality is everything; 



396 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

the more unambiguous everything belonging to it appears, the 
higher it stands ; it is wholly and entirely ethical. It refuses 
to throw a shimmering light of glory on evil, least of all on 
guilt. To it sin is real, and forgiveness just as real. To 
bind such religion with art without limitation, even were the 
union only temporary, would be its death ; it would itself 
become a splendid illusion. And art would carry off the victory 
just because the splendour of illusion is its own specialty ; its 
reality of illusion is more powerful than the reality of religion 
when this latter is not taken with unreserved earnestness. The 
solution of contradictions in art, her reconciliation of opposites, 
has in it something fascinating; it offers itself to immediate 
experience of enjoyment in its embodiment of the spiritual. 
God seems distant, doubtful ; the beautiful present, realisable, 
the only divine thing that can be experienced — of course only 
within our own selves. When we reflect on the power of such 
ideas at the present time, in spite of so long and deep a Christian 
history, then we understand what the danger was that threatened 
Christianity on a soil from which art and religion had simul- 
taneously sprung in indissoluble union. In addition, since art 
is in its nature the sensuous presentation of the non-sensuous, 
the temptation lies very near to make the sensuous its sole con- 
tent. Art that is not true to nature is artificiality, not art. 
'Naturalism ■" in art is a deliberate preference for that view which 
is even regarded as the only valid one, that " the natural propen- 
sions are the ground of all human action, and even of the highest 
ideals." And since this lower nature naturally lends itself most 
easily, convincingly, and seductively to graphic representation, 
art often becomes in periods of moral decline the chief handmaid 
of lust. Lust subdues art to her service, and thus helps forward 
her domination over continually wider spheres. Her language 
is only too easily intelligible. Immoral culture becomes by her 
means accessible to the uneducated. 

Let us, however, not forget what a powerful impetus to higher 
things art can give, for the same reasons and in the same way ; 
often where no other means of culture will reach so quickly and 
surely. In this way we arrive at a Christian ethical judgment 
on art, befitting the subject. We have no new idea to bring 



SOCIAL ETHICS 397 

forward for this purpose ; but this is merely a proof that there 
is no exclusiveness in Christian ethics. We have only un- 
reservedly to carry out on this ground, apparently so unsafe, 
the great thought so often emphasised. The will ought in 
freedom to be subject to the will of God. But God is love. 
To be loved and to love is the highest destiny of man. He is 
to have no other gods but this God. But also there is nothing 
in heaven and earth which does not minister to the purposes of 
God's love, and among the ministering spirits before this throne 
art is one of the noblest. Why ? The answer is clear from 
what has been said on the nature of art. The ' Good "" must 
shape itself in outward form, and, provided it is really divinely 
good, in perfect form. But what is truly good is truly beautiful. 
But " it doth not yet appear what we shall be." Until then the 
beautiful is a deceitful illusion if it poses as that which is final 
and supreme ; but it is a prophecy which hastens on to fulfil- 
ment for all who " hunger after righteousness." Art does not 
delude the Christian into the belief that there is no real unity 
and synthesis of contraries. He is not the victim of any such 
delusion, because he knows of a real synthesis of which he now 
has experience. And art is to him a presentiment that this 
real reconciliation which he already experiences in faith, and 
which is worthy, on the ground of faith in its operative power, 
of being mentioned at the same time, will one day be experienced 
not by faith merely but by sight. In short, that famous saying 
is true, " The good includes the beautiful," and must some way 
reveal itself as the beautiful. Hence the Christian religion has 
never separated itself from all art. Jesus graphically presented 
the invisible mysteries of the Kingdom of God in parables, the 
kingdom of the future and the kingdom that now is. The power 
of the sacred picture and of the religious hymn cannot be 
measured by human calculation. 

Yet it is not a mere question of religious art. " It is not 
what is painted, but how it is painted, that is of importance." 
Not that the subjects are indifferent (see above), but here too 
there is a rich gradation from the inconsiderable to the very 
highest. But the secret of art depends on the artistic power 
and style in which an idea is embodied. The most common- 



398 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

place picture of daily life may deeply move us, when a sublime 
theme may leave us cold. In the perfected Kingdom of God 
even the smallest thing will be irradiated by the light of 
eternity, and of this art gives us a glimpse. And again, just as 
the beautiful artistic forms which are the product of human 
genius affect us, so is it with nature itself in its divinely fashioned 
beauty. This is in very fact the teacher of art. In the demand 
for truth to nature the spirit of truth is manifest in spite of 
all aberrations. There is no need of multiplying words to under- 
stand from this that the main requirement in all art is that it 
ought to be chaste, the pure representation of the idea to be 
embodied, without any ulterior motive. By this, in the most 
disputed part of artistic representation, all that is lascivious, as 
all that is prudish, is excluded. Every creature of God is good, 
and to the pure all things are pure. Even the human form has 
its divinely designed beauty, but the Christian too is not blind 
to the lurking danger. In days of excited public debate on 
the morality of art both parties alike fall into misunderstandings. 
The Christian desires not to lose the liberty with which Christ 
has made him free ; and he is careful about allying himself with 
those who make everything into a serious Church question, and 
is alive to the danger of mental slavery. He is just as little 
able to chime in with the jubilant songs on 'free' art in which 
he discerns no really pure tones. He is mindful of the need of 
protecting unstable youth. He asks himself whether all the 
contributions of all the arts are national in regard to our 
German feeling, in harmony with our nature and our history. 
We cannot give so prompt an answer as is sometimes desired to 
all the old famous ' school "" examples. The theatre as the home 
' of the festal enjoyment of art ' for the people he cannot 
condemn unless he wishes to condemn art itself. He is not, 
however, able to conceal from himself that, as a matter of fact, 
the theatre has often become the home of mere superficial and 
vapid amusement, just precisely because true works of art are not 
the staple of the performances of plays, but too often the light 
wares of the mere speculative playwrights — whose methods of 
advertisement often remind us of business firms — trading on the 
low public taste. To this it may be added that a host of moral 



SOCIAL ETHICS 399 

dangers of all kinds are inseparably connected with the present 
methods of management. Hence those who are in no wise 
narrow-minded judges do not recommend the choice of the 
actor's vocation under existing conditions, unless in the case 
where someone possesses a quite special histrionic talent con- 
joined with moral stamina, and feels that all these difficulties 
may be overcome. Some will go a step further and will have us 
think it proper to call it unworthy of an earnest Christian to 
visit the innumerable small playhouses which are the opposite 
of institutes of art. The strict conscience shows itself in this 
to be rightly sensitive ; while the mind not infrequently finds a 
pure joy in some really artistic production. The verdict on 
dancing must be of a similar kind. It is unimpeachable as a 
natural expression of social pleasure, and especially in the 
society of one's own home. But again the actual way in which 
the amusement is often arranged, the importance assigned to it, 
and the continual dissipation of thought in it ever le-awaken the 
old doubt, even when all dourness and hypercritical fault-finding 
are excluded, and clear Evangelical principle is not infringed. 

From this subject it is quite especially impossible to pass 
without calling to mind in the most emphatic way that each 
" must be fully persuaded in his own mind " ; and " to his own 
Master he standeth or falleth." General rules are here particu- 
larly valueless, because at bottom impossible and even unethical. 
A reflection generally applicable is that art, simply because it 
is in itself something divine, can with double ease become 
godless ; that each must decide for himself whether and just 
how far this daughter of the skies can be to him a guide and 
prophetess. It is without doubt that many ought to remind 
themselves that aesthetic, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, 
in undue degree, may be the most serious foe of morality ; and 
if they have any questioning ' either .... or ' they ought to 
act up to the principle of St Matt. v. 29, certain that at the 
right time the life attained by the sacrifice of life will be the 
more glorious. For that which is ' Good ' and that which is 
' beautiful ' are not for ever separated for anyone. Some are 
armed against one thing and others against another ; some are led 
in one way and s6me in another. But to ' live only for art ' is 



400 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

impossible for anyone without injury, except for the artist, whose 
vocation it is, to whom, like every other earthly calling, it may 
and ought to be his preparation for the heavenly. To the 
danger of thinking too highly of art, a certain witness, to whom 
no suspicion can attach, points when he says : " Young man, 
note betimes when thy soul and mind are in a state of exalta- 
tion, that the Muse knows how to follow but not how to lead " 
(Goethe). Thus as a form of special social intercourse various 
pleasures have been mentioned, and there here naturally follows 
a short treatment of the question of companionship. 

Companionship. 

The word companionship may need some explanation. 
Essentially it can only imply all moral intercourse in human 
society as a community of persons who live in the reciprocal 
interchange of the thought, feeling, and experience, whatever 
these may be, peculiar to each. Regarded from the point of 
view of its fundamental principle this relation includes the 
whole ethical sphere. Of course we speak of human companion- 
ship in distinction from the herding of wild animals. Also it 
would be possible, when using the word companionship, to 
confine it merely to the outward form of such intercourse in 
the way it is regulated by social usage. But the use which is 
common and meant here is different from the one or the other 
of these, and inasmuch as the latter is, so far as is needful, 
clear, we only need to mark it off from the former. Put briefly, 
it is much narrower both in purpose and content, in form 
and range. The immediate end of companionship is not the 
service of love so much as enjoyment, pleasure, and refreshment, 
though of course such pleasure, provided it has its justifiable 
place in Christian ethics, must be subordinated to the highest 
moral end. Accordingly the content of companionship may 
include all and everything which is not really immoral ; but it 
is not, in the first line, consciously religious and moral as such. 
And its form is not serious work such as our calling in life 
demands, but action which represents itself artistically, and 
that not as part of our serious vocations but as a diversion 



SOCIAL ETHICS 401 

{cf. * Art '). In its range, companionship — although it has its 
centre in the family relationship — stretches purposely beyond 
the family, and so far as it is at the same time subject to 
limits, those limits are different from those which mark off 
intercourse that is, properly speaking, ethical. The intercourse 
of companionship extends to other persons besides those with 
whom our moral vocation associates us. In short, companion- 
ship is in all the mentioned aspects freer, and not intercourse 
limited by our calling. But in all these aspects plain dangers 
threaten companionship when it stretches its proper claim to 
freedom too far. The highest end may never be denied, and 
the highest content never excluded ; form and content must 
not be in antagonism to the highest end and content ; nor 
may its range be unlimited. For example, companionship 
that will be nothing unless religious is unnatural, and may 
easily degenerate into vulgarity ; beginning in the spirit, it 
may end in the flesh. The conversation of those to whom art 
and nature appear to be trivial subjects, when all religious 
material is exhausted may take the form of a more eager 
interest on the subjects of money and property. Yet friend- 
ship in which the deepest earnestness is despised becomes vapid. 
The surest indication of soundness lies in the simplicity with 
which conversation may, without any artificiality, pass from 
the commonplace to the highest subjects, and from the highest 
back to the commonplace. Hence the rule for what is right, 
the unerring test, is whether it hinders our prayers. Of course 
this too, as everything else in Evangelical ethics, can only be 
apprehended by each person in his special position. 

This principle is again so far true of the amount of recreation 
permissible. With this principle many content themselves, 
because they like to escape the need of forming a personal 
resolve in harmony with duty. In general, that which is obvious 
enough may be said, that the concept of recreation excludes 
the idea of strain, and cannot be regarded in the light of duty 
at all. The usual ' obligations of companionship ' are of course 
largely neither obligation nor companionship, but so called when 
there is a need to extenuate some unfortunate doings. But 
the individual himself ought to measure out the boundary- 

26 



402 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

lines of his recreations. There are sober natures to whom 
that is real enjoyment which is, and rightly is, to others a 
torment as dereliction of duty. Neither let us forget that 
companionship is not our sole recreation, that nature and art 
raise their quiet claims which may not be disregarded, although 
it is certain that he who pays attention to these alone curtails 
the moral demand, to which demand all recreation must be 
finally subservient, since even that enjoyment of nature and 
art which is the most intellectual cannot be a substitute for 
the reciprocal influence of one will on another. 

The chief danger to companionship arises from vanity. For 
where it is really a matter of representing our characters to 
others, that is, of appearances, the step to the over-valuation of 
appearances, that is, to self-glorification, is not great. Self- 
glorification is the worship of delusion, and entangles the mind 
more and more in vain delusion. On the other hand, candour 
and susceptibility are the good genii of social intercourse. 
Candour is opposed to reserve and to mere gossipiness ; sus- 
ceptibility is opposed to self-conceit and pretence. But it is 
plain how true it is that these excellences can only be the fruits 
of a tree whose roots are sound. When the roots are sound, a 
princely mind will show itself in true courtesy, although it may 
fail in many respects of exhibiting the polish of good society. 

In our social circumstances, hospitality is frequently a form 
of companionship, although it has widely departed from its 
original character of ministering love, and appears in other 
forms of helpful assistance and benevolence. 

Thb State. 

Companionship, art, and science are often called * free ' fellow- 
ships, although they certainly do create and need manifold 
fixed forms. As an antithesis to these ' free "" forms the social 
community which is realised under the coercion of law is 
sometimes thought of. But the above examples of ' free ' forms 
of social fellowship are not unrelated to law — least of all the 
family relationship, which in its nature is at the same time 
especially independent of it. But law is more closely connected 



SOCIAL ETHICS 403 

with commercial life. It is now proper to look at that sphere 
more closely which may be described as society affected by law. 
As such it comprehends all that has hitherto been discussed. 
It is the sheltering roof covering the many-roomed house of 
human society. In order to put in a clear light the verdict of 
Christian ethics in the state, we must here set forth, as a pre- 
liminary, all that is most essential to its nature. 

The Nature of the State. 

Nation, Power, Law are the three master-concepts on the 
synthesis of which the idea of the state reposes. In order to 
reach a right understanding, it will be instructive to examine 
these carefully, as a reciprocal series. Nation is a larger 
community of men, who are connected by blood-relationship, 
language, fixed abodes, customs, interests, and history. These 
grounds of connection may operate in very various proportion. 
Sometimes the natural and sometimes the historical elements 
may be the larger factors. The first of these, the natural 
elements, do not suffice for a permanent union ; the latter may 
really form a substitute for the former, reconcile great differ- 
ence in racial character — at least in a smaller area, and where 
there are strong common interests, as, e.g., Switzerland ; whereas 
where these are absent and complicated conditions arise in a 
larger area like that of Austria-Hungary, when even the most 
elaborate attempts at ' equalisation ""^ yield no guarantee of per- 
manence. The strongest bond of union is that which specially 
arises from intellectual interests in common, national culture. 
But we only call that the * state "" which is formed by a national 
community under the protection of law. The Grecian people 
could not for long periods of their history be called a Grecian 
state. We have previously discussed the nature of law as the 
generally binding public regulation of all intercourse (p. 136 ff.) ; 
that is, it defines the scope to be given to individual activity, 
and settles what each must grant to others. If any dispute 

1 The well-known word in the politics of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the 
' Ausgleich,' which refers to the desire to secure equal treatment in all respects as 
between the two parts of the Empire where naturally racial distinction and 
jealousies are found. — Tr. 



404 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

arise over the question whether the idea of force is implicate in 
the concept of law, it is indubitable that in this actual world law 
cannot be earned out without force. If law is the lord, it yet 
needs for its mastery this servant — force. And in any case the 
legalised community which forms a nationality is a state by the 
fact that it has the power, the force needed to carry through 
the law, and to maintain law and order, with all the interests 
involved, intact even against external foes. Sovereignty, 
internal and external, belongs therefore to the idea of the 
state, so that a confederacy is not in the strict sense of the 
word a state. Consequently we may say that a state is a com- 
munity of people under the protection of law, armed with the 
power of enforcing it, a legally constituted, independent nation. 
In this general notion there is room for all sorts of dis- 
tinctions, both as to what concerns the range of state-activity 
and what has regard to the rights of the individual in relation 
to the state ; since in fact the state means the binding together 
of many into a unity. The latter is merely an application of 
the general question, whether the individual exists for the sake 
of the corporate whole or the whole for the individual {if. 
Socialism and Individualism, p. 143 ff.). The former view is 
known as the absolutist theory of the nature of the state, and 
the latter as the liberalist — namely, that the ordering of law is 
only a means of securing the greatest possible scope for 
individual freedom, while in the former case it is the sole 
means for carrying out the state idea, that is to say, the 
common ends which are included in that idea. In actual 
history, of course, these two theories pass over into one another. 
Even where they are found in some degree pure, the ways in 
which they are carried out in practice are very various. 
Robespierre, in his type, set up the idea of liberty, equality, 
fraternity ; Frederick the Second, that of an absolute monarchy. 
The other point as to the range of state interference depends on 
this. He who regards the state as essentially the servant of the 
individual will be jealous for the so-called ' political state,' i.e. 
he would confine the state to the functions of determining the 
limits of and protecting freedom, which is indispensable so that 
as many persons as possible may be able to use their liberty 



SOCIAL ETHICS 405 

untrammelled. On the opposite side there stands the * social 
state,' so called ; i.e. it is the duty of the state of its own 
accord, and its positive duty, to advance all the purposes of the 
national life as a corporate whole ; consequently to influence, 
as a kind of earthly providence, all other spheres of social 
activity, adjust all differences, and unite all for a great 
collective success. It is not difficult to understand how easily 
that ' political state ' may be used by the strong against the 
weak, who stand in especial need of legal protection ; how easily 
thus the greatest right may become the greatest wrong ; and, on 
the other hand, how easy is the temptation for the ' social state' 
to encroach on the independence of the various bodies who set 
up in opposition to the ideal of civilisation it seeks to further. 

This whole notion of the state thus sketched in outline is 
itself the product of history. Stages in this prolonged develop- 
ment are indicated by such terms as the tribal and race com- 
munities, the city as an independent state. Oriental empires, 
personal rule, territorial states, pure despotisms, the bureaucratic 
state, the modern * political ' and ' social ' states. If after this 
glance at the development of the state we touch upon origins, 
we find that two methodised concepts important in ethics have 
a specially clear application here. Firstly, it is in no way invari- 
ably the case that the end to be gained is the motive, or that 
the idea of a moral Good is invariably the reason why any 
particular form of government arises. A confusion on this 
point is the ground on which rests the theory of a ' social con- 
tract' so long maintained, even by those who looked at the 
subject from opposite standpoints. The theory is that the 
recognition of the utility of the regulations of law gave rise to 
this agreement, of voluntarily yielding the right of unlimited 
individual freedom on the part of these individuals. The truth 
is that actual needs of the simplest kind, the right to which was 
invaded by the violence of the powerful, really form the ground- 
work of the need of an ordered state, and the ' contract ' assumed 
really presupposes the existence of these. Secondly, whatever 
may be the origin of the state, the dignity which belongs to the 
law of the state cannot be lessened by such origin, whatever its 
form may have been. In fact, the point as to the validity of 



406 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

any truth is quite a different question from the inquiry as to 
how it came to possess it, whether gained by process of thought 
or as the result of action. 

The Meaning of the State. 

The significance of the state for the Kingdom of God becomes 
clearer when we recollect that the verdict of Christianity in 
history has (as to the principle) wavered between the most 
extreme opposites. For Hegel the state is the highest ethical 
form of society, explicitly the realisation of the ethical ideal. 
This view was a revival of the ancient conception of the state 
as the ' highest Good,' and indeed went beyond it. For after 
the tasks of nations grow wider and deeper, and the idea of 
a ' humanity ' gains acceptance, such an estimate of the state 
has more to be said for it. In such an estimate expression is 
given to the yearning for a full realisation of the Good, particu- 
larly in the form which Rothe gave to it — that the perfect 
state will be the Kingdom of God on earth. But it is precisely 
in this form that the impossibility of the idea is clear. Such an 
overestimate of the state necessarily involves underestimation 
of the other subordinate social spheres, abridges and narrows their 
special value. Art and science as an affair of state lose their 
freedom, and hence their ethical value ; and even commercial 
intercourse loses its inexhaustible vivacity and its educative 
power, which we are bound to recognise in spite of our view 
of the attendant dangers and injurious effects. But at the 
same time the importance of the state itself, raised to so exalted 
a place, is in truth necessarily curtailed. For what is it if it is 
not a community under the sanction of law ? But as such it is 
impossible for it to accomplish these tasks. For such an end 
powers and capacities must be assigned to it which it cannot 
employ without itself becoming the fellowship of love as distinct 
from law ; in short, a confused, contradictory, and therefore 
ineffective form. St Augustine stands almost at the opposite 
pole in his judgment. According to him the state arose as the 
result of our sinful condition, and is in its nature sinful. The 
force and coercion which characterise it are the pure antithesis to 
the kingdom of love, the Kingdom of God. It is the kingdom 



SOCIAL ETHICS 407 

of this world under the prince of darkness, beginning with the 
fratricide Cain. The recognised Catholic doctrine is milder 
in form. The state has not arisen from sin in its origin ; it 
arose as a defence against sin ; it is the human as well as the 
divinely designed ' social contract "■ for protection against wrong. 
But the state merely ministers to material interests. It is the 
Church that represents the highest, the supernatural end. And 
we recall what that means in the Roman Catholic view (p. Ill ff.). 
Therefore worldly government must act on the prompting of 
the Church. To her belong the two swords : only, one is to be 
borne by the Church alone, the other by the state on the 
Church's behalf. By this theory the state is first of all under- 
valued because law is depreciated ; and not only so, but the other 
communities too do not get their due, since they are externally 
made subject to the Church ; and finally, this over- valuation of 
the Church gives up its own idea of its equivalence with the 
Kingdom of God, to its own injury. It assigns to itself a part 
which it cannot perform without casting its crown away ; its 
transcendent ' Good "* becomes in this world scarcely real, and 
the Church itself grows worldly. 

The sixteenth article of the Confession of Augsburg is directed 
chiefly against this under-valuation which the fanatics of the 
Reformation period shared in agreement with the Roman Catholic 
view. It says " that all magisterial authority in the world is the 
good ordinance of God, by God created and established." " The 
Gospel does not stumble over worldly government." " Christ's 
kingdom is spiritual, and conscience gains obvious solace " from 
this doctrine. Now, we must guard, of course, against importing 
modern ideas on the nature of the state into such words ; and 
especially on the relation of the state to the Church, such as 
making them equivalent to the idea of the separation of the 
spiritual and the worldly, of Church and state in our sense. 
Church and state were then still an unseparated whole; the Chris- 
tian society in the holy Roman Empire of the German nation. 
The secular authority is a portion of this Christendom, established 
by God for the punishment of evil-doers and for the protection 
of the good. On the other hand, the clergy too formed a 
portion of this kingdom. Both are connected with each other 



408 THE ETHICS OP THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

as the hand and the eye, and unitedly represented Christian 
authority. Only (as was considered), the action of the ecclesi- 
astical and civil authority ought to be separated ; but even the 
civil authority has its Christian vocation. Certainly these are 
not quite our present ideas of the state. This position may 
often seem to us as if it had not quite attained the whole high 
level of the saying of St Paul (Rom. xiii. 1), to which the 
Reformers always appealed. To the Church of Rome — 
which easily enough appeared to early Christendom to be ' great 
Babylon ' — St Paul does not write a word of the prudence of un- 
questioning obedience, but the word of faith, when he says. All 
authority is from God, in its ultimate origin and in its ultimate 
purpose, 'for good"" ("He is the minister to thee for good,'^ 
Rom. xiii. 4). He uses that simple, inexhaustible word ' for 
good' which he employs in the same Epistle of the highest 
conceivable ' Good,' which is the portion of the children of God 
(Rom. viii. 28). Authority ministers to them, is a means for the 
highest end, and therefore obedience to it ' for conscience' sake ' 
is needful, and flows from faith. In faith St Paul looks high 
over all that in this world-kingdom must to him, as a Christian, 
seem to be evil without parallel ; he sees only God's will, His 
creative power and His holy design. All of ungodly civilisation 
that is incorporated in this state seems to his eye to disappear 
in the reflection that it is the agent of ordered law " for the 
punishment of the evil-doer and for the praise of them that do 
well." Only let us not forget that this word also of the Apostle 
is a clear light on a vast history ; and that each period of this 
history must use this light for itself. The like is true of the 
words of the Lord Himself. In this case too we r?ust say of 
them as of the words of St Paul, that they for the most part 
say next to nothing directly of that which we call the state ; 
and so far as they do, in the first line it is anything but to its 
glorification. St. Matt. xx. 25 emphasises the Kingdom of God 
as the antithesis of the ' exercise of lordship,' the force and 
violence of earthly rule. Ministering love is so much more than 
all law that, above all, the antithesis of law and love must be 
insisted on. Hence too that demand, which has so often excited 
objection, for the renunciation of one's ' rights.' And even in 



SOCIAL ETHICS 409 

the saying about the tribute penny (St Matt. xxii. 15), the first 
design of it is to warn against confusing divine and earthly 
law, and to exalt in its majesty the rightful claim which God 
has on His people. But since to " render to God that which 
is God's " is something so utterly different, so infinitely higher 
than to " render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's " — money 
with the " image and superscription " — in this way that which at 
first is a refusal turns out to be a recognition of a legal right of 
the emperor, and a quiet challenge to the recognition of the 
higher law. It is as ever : when that which stands highest gains 
its true place, then all other things fall into their right order. 
Then we may also point out how Jesus loved His people, 
ministered first to them, and was in this matter the teacher of 
His greatest Apostle (Rom. ix. 1). And if from this standpoint 
we look again at these statements of the Reformers, then the 
reference to Rom. xiii. and St Matt. xxii. is an interpretation 
and explanation of the original Gospel in and for a new era ; 
and if we do not interpret it in the sense of our own present 
ideas, it still really is the living and producing cause of our 
modern convictions that " Christ's kingdom is a spiritual king- 
dom." This saying produced a new idea of the Church as against 
the Roman Catholic idea, and from it too there grew up a new 
idea of the state. How often has the proposition that we ought 
to obey God rather than man (Acts v. 29) been applied to the 
Church, which, as a religious community with its system of 
jurisprudence, identified itself with God's Kingdom. It was 
thought that God was obeyed by refusing obedience to this 
Church, the caricature of a true divine state, and by recognising 
the secular authority as "the good ordinance of God." The 
state as legally ordered in this divinely determined shape was 
now entitled to be put on a level with the other ordinances of 
God, the family, the Church, and no longer subordinated to the 
Church, but to the Kingdom of God only, along with the rest of 
the special social spheres. This idea was at first existent merely 
as a germ waiting development. Nor is it to be wondered at 
if withal — for instance, in the case of Luther himself — other 
statements are found which represent secular government as 
all "of the earth, earthy," and valueless {cf. his expression. 



410 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

"the world as the devil's inn''). But the new idea was a 
productive germ. 

This Evangelical estimate of the state, therefore, simply 
follows from what has been said on the subject of Law. Because 
law in its general sense puts into shape that which love itself 
requires and is its indispensable prerequisite, the state as a 
society existing for the maintenance of rights has a wholly 
special dignity in and for itself, such as does not so directly 
appertain to the other communities as family. Church, and so 
forth. And it has with good reason been pointed out what 
importance the state has in this respect in the education of 
the moral personality, and how for the sake of this important 
end Christian ethics favours the democratic principle, if by this 
phrase is meant the independence of public opinion and action, 
and not the arid reduction of society to a dead unintellectual 
equality. But so far as the state (see above) means a legally 
constituted nation having its own special history, that is, with 
the civilisation wholly peculiar to itself which it has acquired, 
the importance of the state is increased in depth and breadth 
by this acquirement. It is not simply a ' political state ' but 
also a ' progressive social state.' The sense in which it is such 
may be more clearly explained after having settled that its 
main duty is concerned with law as a ' political state.' That is, 
it is desirable that the state should foster all the ends of 
civilisation, since these concern the welfare of the community 
at large, and consequently are such as it alone can carry 
through. Of this nature plainly are the economic tasks, which 
have a far greater range than those of science and art. But 
also in this department we must not forget the proper freedom 
of the individual ; and, on the other hand, science (for instance 
in the school question) has a very general importance for the 
corporate whole. Consequently the most serious problems of 
every period require a solution in keeping with the needs and 
knowledge of the time. Hence it is undoubtedly the case 
that just as the principle of democracy is, as above shown, a 
truly Christian one, because it is the insistence on the inde- 
pendence of the personality, our present reflection shows us 
the equally unimpeachable importance of conservatism in state 



SOCIAL ETHICS 411 

affairs. And in this the question is not as to the incomplete 
realisation of this principle, but merely the principle itself. 
But how these two principles, the democratic and conservative, 
help one another in state affairs — as in truth they have a 
common origin — simply appears from the foundation principles 
of the nature of morals as they are continually more closely 
determined and have become plainer from their manifold 
applications — that is, from the principles involved in the 
relationship between personality and love. 

Yet so much the more plainly does the question force itself 
on our attention whether we can speak of a Christian state, 
and ought so to speak, and in what sense. Not in the sense 
that the interests of the state and that of the Kingdom of God 
are identical, or that the state's prime duty is to plant and foster 
the growth of Christian faith and Christian love. It neither 
can do this nor ought to do these things. In this way its 
power for its own task is curtailed. He who will foster 
righteousness can only be unrighteous in using force where 
no force avails. And the proper work demanded of the 
Kingdom of God is injured because the means used for its 
accomplishment is contradictory to its true nature. It is 
instructive to mark the varied forms in which this feature has 
put its stamp on the Christian state. In Constantinople, the 
new Rome, an imperial patriarchate ; in the holy Roman 
Empire of Germany ; in the state-churchism of Protestant 
churches, operative too in Catholic provinces by means of the 
territorial law of the Reformation time ; finally, the Romanticist 
inclination of the nineteenth century (for instance) to form 
Prussia into a Christian state, partly favoured by the irrespons- 
ible counsellors in the time of Frederick William the Fourth, 
who many a time claimed their own right in the name of 
pietism to carry out plans of this description. The imperish- 
able service that pietism rendered, as a matter of history, con- 
sists in the fact that it earnestly opposed the old state-churchism 
because (as it maintained) the Kingdom of God " cometh not 
with the outward observation" of secular power. Such a 
Christian state as that proposed is in truth unchristian, because 
it springs from that self-exaltation of the state above spoken 



412 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

of. The state is made ' the highest good ' and identified with 
the Kingdom of God, and the obverse side of this is that it 
lowers its own position by subjecting itself to the Church, which 
thus oversteps its province, and in reality lowers itself as a 
Church. And hence the Christian state can assume either the 
form of a state-church or a church-state, of a secular ecclesi- 
astical domination ; although the latter form has only been 
realised in the small papal state, the 'States of the Church,*' 
which for impartial historians acquired the fame of the worst- 
managed state ever known. The fall of this government has 
in the judgment of many Catholics given a fresh impetus to 
the Roman Church. As opposed to all these, it is the high 
ideal of Protestant ethics, and one to be more and more realised, 
that the state is to be Christian in a quite different sense by 
its being led on the path of freedom through the power of the 
Gospel; and that in legislation, in its judicial functions, in 
administration, and in all these spheres both when the questions 
at issue concern the most general principles of law and those 
which refer to the multiplicity of the problems of civilisation. 
And as to all these problems it ever asks what is the cosmic 
view which stands at the back of them. An example of the 
first of these points is the defence of ' morality,"" which is a task 
differing in range and character according as the high plane 
of Christian ethics is taken as the starting-point or not. An 
example of the second is the way in which our great statesman 
laid down as the foundation of the ' social laws ' that legislation 
must be in great measure in agreement with Christian ideas. 
But as this case shows, the proper way to permeate the state 
with Christian principles is through the Christian disposition of 
its citizens, as was pointed out at the time of this legistation : 
the "state consists, in great majority, of Christians." The 
question is, in fact, how far men of light and leading, supported 
by the consent of the majority, and even legislating in opposition 
to public opinion, may be able to foster Christian principles in 
the consciousness of the nation. The goal to be aimed at is 
for the state to do perfectly all that it legitimately can do for 
the Kingdom of God. By so doing, it at the same time serves 
its own end, inasmuch as order based on law gets its roots 



SOCIAL ETHICS 418 

deeply fixed in the minds of the people — roots which then grow 
in the soil of the Christian religion. And if this religion is 
represented in the diverse forms exhibited by the Roman and 
the Protestant Churches, then we must logically go further and 
say : In the sense laid down, the State must not merely be 
Christian, but Protestant. Again, this is not as if we meant 
it to be inferred that the state ought itself to realise a 
Christianity of the Evangelical type, but that it should stand 
in a closer relation to it than to any other. For the Evangelical 
Church yields in principle (not always actually) to the state 
what is the state's without any idea in the background of 
dominating over it. The Roman Church finds it a real 
necessity to be at war with the state, of course actually — " with 
due regard to the times," and with an eye to what is practicable 
— in a state of truce. It is therefore absurd for the state, on 
the ground of equality and fairness, to treat both alike. Such 
equality of treatment is, in fact, inequality, since the relation of 
the two Churches to the state is not alike. 

While this question of the attitude of the state to the Church 
can only be made clear by dwelling upon the latter, when we 
come to use the term ' Christian state ' light is cast on two 
special points which have long been in debate, the public 
observance of Sunday and the question of oaths. The Sunday 
question is a complicated one, as it is possible to be among the 
most zealous supporters of a Sunday rest day, and yet reject 
a common reason for striving for its maintenance — namely, 
when the claim is put forward that it is God's command, 
whether resting on one of the ten commandments, or to be 
traced further back, and founded on its antiquity and majesty 
as a primeval ordinance. It has been pointed out, on the 
authority of Luther's teaching, that the fourth commandment, 
as every single commandment of the Old Testament, has been 
abolished for the Christian ; and that the contrary assertion, 
although it has a pious ring about it, is in clear contradiction 
to the words of the Apostle St Paul, and those of the Lord 
Himself. But even if this commandment applied to the Chris- 
tian, still the Christian, it is thought, could not as such carry 
it out. Nevertheless, there are the most urgent reasons for 



414 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

preserving the Sunday rest day. For one thing, the need of 
human nature for regular cessation from toil, rendered all the 
more necessary by the feverish unrest of modern life ; and for 
another thing, the need of opportunity for the cultivation of the 
higher mental and spiritual life, and the highest of all, the 
religious needs ; a necessity deepened by so much excessive toil 
in the service of material interests, in short, the pursuit of gain. 
The Christian knows that these needs, created by God and 
satisfied by Him, are the ground of the Sabbatic law (St Mark 
ii. 22 ff.) ; and although free from the law, he voluntarily sub- 
jects himself to it as a blessing. The Christian state too will 
provide for these needs, and must, as the source of law, use her 
power to this end, since even in a Christian nation only the 
protection of the law can secure for the humble and poor, con- 
fronted with human selfishness, the blessing of a free Sunday. 
We may therefore venture to say that the blessings of the 
Sunday rest day have proved their value in regard to the health, 
trade, family, life, education, and morality of the nation ; that 
the resistance of selfish interests (for instance, in regard to the 
servants and employees of railways) grows weaker, if only 
slowly ; and even the bogus cry of the ' wearisome English and 
American Sunday "" exerts continually less influence. But here 
it is especially clear how the best laws of a Christian state 
remain inoperative without the active help of all. In some 
parts of Germany many curious customs of long-established 
use survive which certainly appear to have prejudiced the 
Sunday law. 

Oaths. 

The consideration of the oath, as such, does not merely 
include that taken before magisterial authority, though, not 
without good reason, the interest of the subject has turned on 
this. An oath is the protestation of the truth of a statement 
by an appeal to God as witness and judge. This latter is at 
least implied in most formulas as, ' So help me God.' A dis- 
tinction is made between the oath of asseveration and the pro- 
missory oath in the assumption of an office. Now, the command 
of our Lord (St Matt. v. 34) seems an absolute one. The 



SOCIAL ETHICS 416 

words 'not at all' do not allow of a forced interpretation. 
Not only is wanton swearing excluded ; not only the pharisaic 
and Jesuitical trifling which supposes that the variety of the 
words, * neither by the Temple "" nor ' by Jerusalem,' or the 
greater or lesser earnestness of the oath uttered, or mental 
reservation, could abate one jot of its inviolability ; it is also an 
evasion of the clear meaning of the saying to assert that Jesus 
cannot intend to forbid all swearing, when in fact the Old 
Testament speaks of God's oath, and His oath to the faithful 
is gloried in as a sign of the favour of God. But certainly the 
fact that Jesus Himself adopted the oath put to Him by the 
high priest, "I adjure thee by the living God," demands an 
explanation (St Matt. xxvi. 63). This fact has been made a chief 
reason for the statement that it is permissible for the Chris- 
tian to swear before the magistrate. And certainly the Augsburg 
Confession (in Art. 16^), in the same article in which it estab- 
lishes the divine right of the magistracy, also affirms that an 
oath may be taken by the Christian without sin. (This was 
first of all declared in opposition to the fanatics with whom 
their mild successors, the Mennonites ^ of to-day, agree.) But 
this is no sufficient foundation. The circumstance that in the 
Epistles of St Paul there are asseverations, and even attestations 
by oath which go far beyond the ' Yea, yea,' ' Nay, nay ' of the 
Sermon on the Mount, may help us to find one. Many have 
been too easily satisfied with the explanation that these ex- 
pressions are a reflection of the Apostle's past life in Judaism ; 
while many others have taken reasonable offence at this explana- 
tion. St Paul plainly uses such words when he is dealing 
with opponents who doubt his veracity, because an oath will 
set before them impressively the question of conscience whether 
they ought to believe him or not. Thus we may — reverting 
to what has been earlier remarked — say, in the form of such 
exacting words of the Lord, that Jesus desires to accentuate 
the duty of absolute truth on the part of His disciples ; their 

^ Sylloge Confessionum, p. 128. Oxford ed. 

^ The Mennonites are a sect of Anabaptists, Menno, their originator, was bom 
in 1496 in Friesland, The 39th Article of the Church of England is directed 
against the same error of Anabaptists, — Tr. 



416 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

bare ' yea ' or ' nay ' is to be to them as the most solemn oath. 
And we have already seen why the duty of truthfulness has 
such dignity (p. 227). But the words 'not at all' have their 
obvious limits in the sense that, where the hypothesis fails — 
viz. that simple assertion alone is sufficient to induce belief — 
an oath may be used. In the kingdom of sin, in a world of 
lying, it may consequently become a duty for the Christian 
to confirm the truth of an assertion by an oath. But it is 
magisterial authority, which is ordained by God for good, that 
has, in such a case and for the cause of truth, the especial right 
and duty to use this means for this end. In such cases an oath 
is, in fact, a work pleasing to God ; it is the imprecatory 
corroboration of the truth, a duty to God, a confession, and at 
the same time a protest against the falsities of the world. In 
this too all ministers to the good of the Christian, and that 
which is a necessary evil as the result of sin becomes a means 
of honouring God, a benefit to our neighbour, and a deepening 
of our own life of faith. From all such sacred use of the oath 
not only must all that be kept at a distance which is an injury 
to reverence and humility before God {e.g. every word which is 
a challenge to God or a cursing of self), but it cannot be denied 
that the Christian state demands too many oaths, often almost 
as mere conventional usage. The oaths of office, that is, such 
as are promissory in their character, aie not for the most part 
justifiable. In any case they could and ought to be confined to 
quite special cases within a narrowly circumscribed range. For 
they must all be explained with the proviso that he who is 
guilty of untruth in a detail is not on that account a perjurer. 
What value have they then which cannot be attained in some 
other way, and indeed with more propriety .? There is a 
reflection that goes deeper, which in our present conditions 
to-day may be raised against the universal demand for the 
oath, even the oath of a witness. A belief in God no longer 
exists in wide circles. Where this is the case the oath has 
become a meaningless form, the obligation of the oath a con- 
tradictory pretence, and for Christian sentiment a dishonour 
to the name of God. And it is not simply for declared atheists 
that the state ought to consider some substitute. Nor is it to 



SOCIAL ETHICS 417 

be overlooked how the public well-being might be injured if the 
penalties that have hitherto been inflicted for perjury were im- 
posed for the breach of the affirmation substituted in the place 
of an oath. Of course in such changes the greatest care is 
demanded, because they might easily have the accompanying 
consequence of awakening suspicion in those in whom inde- 
pendent thought is wanting, that generally, even amongst 
educated persons, the belief in God was a thing of the past. 
The average politician is not always able rightly to estimate 
the mental condition of the masses, and hence in such matters 
any change had need be carefully made, and in such a way as 
to maintain an old custom so long as it has any real justifica- 
tion ; that is, in other words, conservative statecraft is much 
to be desired in such matters. The limits of such procedure 
are also clear, and what is generally and plainly recognisable as 
unveracious ought not to be preserved. And to the Christian 
sensibility of the present generation acquainted with history, 
it is intolerable for the state in any way to present the appear- 
ance of acting as if it could of its own self produce an effect on 
morality or religion. It rather renders to Christianity a great 
service by making it quite clear that there is such a thing as 
a region of inner freedom and personal responsibility in which 
the majesty of the state has no right of interference. For 
law only takes cognisance of that which is obvious to all the 
world ; but the state, even as a civilised state of advancing 
culture, and when influenced by the Christian spirit, is in its 
innermost nature a nation organised under law. 

The School 
The carrying out of this principle in the schools as a field for 
its operation is needful as well as difficult. Every organised 
nation with any self-respect will take into its own hands the 
education of youth, that is, will care for its own future. The 
supreme guidance of education in schools is a matter for the 
state, not for the family or the Church ; but for the above- 
mentioned reasons not to the state in opposition to, but in 
union with, these other portions of society, a union which is 
easier to demand than to establish in actual life, and which can 

n 



418 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

only be approximately realised, as the nature of the case shows, 
by continual reform and perpetual conflict. It is confessedly a 
perplexing problem to assign the limits of the school in relation 
to the family, and one scarcely less so that of its relation to the 
Church. {Cf. the section on the Church.) 

Patriotism. 
It is only in relation to the state that patriotism is a duty 
and a virtue when we have learnt to appreciate its true character 
and ethical value for the Kingdom of God. It is something 
different from, and greater than, love of home which depends 
merely on nature, and belongs to the narrowest sphere. It 
involves something different from, and greater than that sense 
of the value of law which fails in possessing the living power of 
self-sacrifice on behalf of some particular nation with its special 
character and past history. The cosmopolitan may have this 
juridical sense, but he has no sympathy with the proper genius 
and peculiar task of his nation ; he does not understand that 
the corporate whole of humanity is intended to consist of single 
special members of the body, or the certain fact that according 
to the Christian faith each separate part of this whole is designed 
by the will of God as a means for giving its special impress to 
morality. But it is at the same time unchristian to strain love 
of country so far as to limit the idea of the Kingdom of God 
into which all nations are called. And the history also of our 
own day shows that there is only one certain remedy against a 
barren cosmopolitanism, as against a hollow national self-conceit, 
and that is the faith that in Christ there is neither Jew nor 
Greek nor barbarian (Gal. iii. 28) ; that the Christian's highest 
citizenship is 'in heaven' (Heb. xi. 16); that in any and every 
case of conflict he must for its sake renounce the merely earthly ; 
but that nevertheless all these racial distinctions — as the early 
Church shows in its history — have in their specialities a value 
for the Kingdom of God {cf. Ep. to Romans). In the absence 
of this faith, the words patriotism and humanity become even 
among Christians mere phrases frequently used in curious inter- 
change ; certain as it is that in the main the movement in the 
direction of the national state idea has given its impress and 



SOCIAL ETHICS 419 

importance to the nineteenth century. But how we are to 
prove our Christian patriotism is made clearer without entering 
into minutiae by devoting some attention to some aspects of our 
life in the state, which will at the same time serve to bring its 
character and value into light. 

Some Aspects of State Life. 

Private Rights. 

These aspects are marked out by calling to mind the usual 
method of division of law. Law as it relates to private persons 
regulates the relation of individuals to others, in the various 
conditions of human intercourse and trade {e.g. the laws of 
property, marriage-laws, and the law of inheritance), and secures 
to each his share of freedom, and determines the amount of 
respect each must give to that of others. In a Christian nation 
it is influenced by Christian morality not only as regards the 
most general principles, but often down to minute details. It 
has been boasted of our new civil law procedure that it pays 
some serious attention to the idea of creating healthy conditions 
for the labouring classes with entire conscientiousness ; of making 
laws not for the capable but for the poor and weak, of whom 
it is easy to take a wrong advantage ; of securing confidence in 
the administration of justice and insisting on its conscientious 
administration. But even single legislative acts like those which 
guarantee greater personal independence — for instance, that 
relating to the female worker who is married to a spendthrift 
husband — are due to the quiet operation of Christian ideas on 
this respect that ought to be shown to woman. 

T^e Rights of the State. 
Public laws which secure the common ends of a nation are 
distinguished from the laws relating to private persons. If 
public laws fall into the divisions : state law, ecclesiastical law, 
penal law, it is clear that this brings together things plainly 
different. Reflection on these again deepens our conviction of 
the greatness of the state's task. Penal law determines how 
the state is to preserve the regulations of law in the case of 



420 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

infringements of rights. Constitutional law, or state law as 
regulative of the form of government, is the foundation of all law. 
It was from this point we started — that the state is the nation 
armed with power, a legally ordered community. Consequently 
it must be definitely settled who is to use this power, and in 
what degree the authorities of the state are to take their share 
in its use. In the absence of a settled arrangement, the state 
is like the house divided against itself which cannot stand. And 
from these directly follow the two supreme principles — firstly, 
that the government should be independent, and as much as 
possible free from party pressure, because otherwise it is not 
state government ; secondly, that those who belong to the state 
should have their share in it as far as possible according to 
their importance, since otherwise, without the support which 
rests on the will of all, there is no security for permanence. It 
is obvious that these two propositions can easily fall into con- 
tradictories ; so much the more is their union an ideal the 
realisation of which must be sought in ever new and fuller form. 
But what form of state this union will most completely guarantee 
no single proposition is capable of expressing; certainly none 
that may be claimed as constituting the only Christian form. 
The special genius and history of a nation will settle this. This 
much may be said — that the well-known three forms which 
Aristotle distinguishes — the monarchical, the aristocratic, the 
democratic — nowhere occur in pure form in actual history ; and 
further, that such occurrence in pure form could only be 
regarded as a misfortune, as in fact Aristotle himself points out 
in the three caricatures of these respective forms. Some sort of 
commixture of these three chief forms is, in the varied compli- 
cated conditions which obtain, an intrinsic necessity. This 
follows from the two fundamental needs of the social state as 
laid down — the independence of the government and the 
participation of all. In particular a monarchy ' by the grace of 
God ■" that has no strong roots in the intelligent participation in 
the government by a free people, or a republic without a strong 
executive, is intolerable to highly developed nations and un- 
enduring. Germans rejoice that the idea of the monarchy which 
doctrinaire philosophers would only permit as intrinsically 



SOCIAL ETHICS 421 - 

justifiable for the beginnings of civilisation has gained a deep 
hold on their affections, and gained new energy in the soil of 
the new Empire : especially at a time which cannot dispense 
with leaders who stand above all the interested groups in the 
struggle for the reconciliation of economic and industrial 
interests. 

Obedience. 

Over against authority, whatever form it may take, stands 
obedience as the duty of the Christian. The security of law 
and order is so great a good that even great anomalies in 
details are of much less consequence than the destruction of 
that security ; and the Christian who has the conviction of the 
divine origin and purpose of law has an unequalled incentive 
and motive force to such obedience, and in that obedience 
he finds his freedom. Only it is obvious enough that, 
directly the state has a fixed constitution, all parties are alike 
pledged to obedience to it, each according to the degree pre- 
scribed to him by the state, but to all alike absolute in its 
claim ; for example, king, the representatives of the people, 
civil officers, citizens, and so forth : " Faithfulness in return 
for faithfulness." 

But in this a serious problem is involved, which must be 
closely attended to, because otherwise its solution — when some 
such single point such as the right or wrong of revolution 
arises — can only be incomplete. I^aw, in spite of its majesty, 
often insisted on, is certainly only a means to the highest end — 
even constitutional law. Consequently its reform in accordance 
with the needs of a nation undergoing development is a moral 
duty, otherwise " statute and law are handed down like some 
hereditary disease." The obedience of the Christian, there- 
fore, precisely because in its deepest grounds it is obedience to 
God, cannot be a blind obedience. The Christian desires to 
serve God^s will, as the " good, acceptable and perfect will of 
God." Hence he is not only pledged in the case of clear con- 
flict to obey God rather than man (if, that is to say, the 
question at issue is really one of obeying God, and not possibly 
His supposed representatives), but also, so far as it is his 



422 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

personal duty, to strive that law may be always in accord with 
the highest end. Now, this his labour must of course concern 
itself, as its very first duty, with the content of civic law, as well 
as of penal law, and seek its continuous reform according to the 
needs of the day. But the reforming spirit will quietly extend 
its operations according to circumstances to constitutional law as 
well. Are not the most essential reforms wrecked at one time 
by the opposition of the Crown, and at another by the parlia- 
mentary representatives of the people ? Ought not both parties 
to feel it their duty to be careful in such cases ? If anyone 
were to affirm that the Christian need not trouble himself about 
these questions because in the decisive passage, Rom. xiii. 1, 
there is no reference to them, he would forget that for the 
Christians in the Roman Empire no such influence as is here 
supposed could possibly be exerted. For the authorities of a 
Christian state it follows at once of necessity from the meaning 
of that apostolical injunction of " obedience for conscience' 
sake," that it is the individual duty to further the general 
good in special conditions. And at least, too, the supreme 
principle of Christian conduct in any given condition is not 
difficult to deduce from that injunction. It is this — the right 
and the duty of reform are implied in the existing constitu- 
tion of a state. The English Parliament of 1640 had other 
rights and duties than the representative assembly of the 
French nation in 1789 ; Zwinglius other duties than Luther 
in Wittenberg. 

Every honest battle for the right on ground of law can 
therefore be better defended from the Christian standpoint 
than from any other. The necessity of steady progress in a 
living, legally ordered society is intelligible to the Christian 
from the very nature of what right and law mean. Of course 
which side he shall take, his gifts, education, and the occasion 
point out to him what his ' calling "" is in each case ; on such 
a matter in the complexity of affairs only his own conscience 
can decide on the whole as in each single instance. Further, 
charity in judgment of others, confronted with such hard 
questions for decision, is a supreme Christian duty. Luther, on 
the groimd of conscientious scruple, declined to favour the far- 



SOCIAL ETHICS 423 

reaching plans of a Protestant alliance. Much that is to the 
point might be said how such limitation of efforts to the 
power of the word of God alone preserved the purity of the 
German Reformation movement. Still, the fearful horrors of 
the counter-Reformation may, according to human judgment, be 
regarded as no less one of the cohsequences of this limitation. 
Were the people of Zurich and Geneva to blame if they, of 
different temperament, education, and differently situated, de- 
cided differently from Luther ? Do not the Lutheran churches 
profit in part from these different resolves of these men ? But 
also, has not Germany, in spite of all this "political mistake of 
Luther's,"" remained in an especial way a " house of defence "" for 
the Gospel .? 

Revolution. 
Revolution is not a battle for constitutional reform but for 
the destruction of the state constitution. On this subject a 
glance at history shows us how uncertain may be the boundary- 
line between legitimate conflict and revolution ; because the 
boundary-lines of right are frequently indeterminate, e.g. as 
between the Emperor and the German states at the time of the 
Reformation. Think of the plans of Philip of Hesse ! Con- 
sequently, in order to see what is undoubted revolution, in the 
strict sense of the word, we must distinguish more clearly than 
is often done two points of view — firstly, the Christian ethical 
judgment on the importance which a revolution may have for 
the history of a nation and for humanity at large ; and 
secondly, the Christian moral judgment on the author of such 
revolution. As far as the first is concerned, the evils and 
horrors of many revolutions are patent to all, as well as their 
momentous after-effects at large and in detail. It is clear too 
that the nations who have reformed themselves have great 
advantage over those who have gained their ends by revolution. 
But no one denies, on the other hand, the dreadful conditions 
of social misery which forced on the revolution of 1789, or the 
beneficial results of that revolution, without which even its 
strongest opponents are unable to imagine what the life of the 
present day would be. These are facts, and the Christian will 
consider them in the light of Rom. xi. 33, i.e. they will be a 



424 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

means for the strengthening of his faith that God rules all 
things according to the counsel of His will, and that even 
revolution may be " an envoy of order,*" " a bit of the great 
battle between truth and sham," " a true though terrible apoca- 
lypse for a vicious age." ^ 

As far as regards a Christian ethical judgment on the author 
of a revolution, it has already been suggested to us by our 
reflections on our duty in relation to the law, which here finds a 
weighty application. Revolution is, by reason of the fully 
acknowledged value of legal administration as a foundation of 
moral order, absolutely reprehensible, save when the breach with 
law and order is made in full consciousness of responsibility, 
and with the clear conviction that the administration of law 
has become a hindrance to moral order instead of a help, and 
so on this account must be broken down. This must be done 
in full readiness for personal sacrifice (p. 226). In this case 
Carlyle's word becomes true, that "Revolution is better than 
resignation."' But the Christian, who has such a choice set 
before him, will with especial sincerity seek to know the will of 
God, and conjoin with this a particularly strong feeling of the 
limitations of human insight, before he will feel in a position to 
decide whether any break with constituted law is ethically 
justifiable; and he will recognise how doubtful the collabora- 
tors are on whom he can calculate to carry out such a 
resolution. The Christian knows that he is free from any 
temptation to 'play Providence.' Our great statesman, who 
candidly carried out such a revolution as morally necessary, 
uttered an impressive warning on this point. In short, the 
Christian has no need to fear superficial and scornffl criticism 
of * patient obedience ' ; nor will he permit himself to be driven 
by this scorn from his own high standard. How little Christian 
ethics j udges according to partisan feeling is clear from all that 
has been said. In the strictly logical sense of the word, 
Revolution is not, as a matter of fact, confined to any individual 
tendency or party, nor to those who are called ' subjects.' 
There may be a revolution from above as well as from below, to 
which the same ethical judgment is applicable. 

^ Carlyle. 



SOCIAL ETHICS 425 

The Right of Punishment. 

Whereas in regard to constitutional law we have been 
occupied with the special points whether there is any particular 
form of constitution that may be considered the best, and 
whether there are any circumstances in which revolution in lieu 
of progressive reform may be justified, in regard to the right 
of punishment the question which stands in the forefront is as 
to the ethical nature of punishment. Put more specifically, the 
point at issue is as to the meaning and purpose of punish- 
ment, for it is already clear that it is felt to be in itself an 
evil, as an impairment of right. On this matter we recall, in 
passing, the fact that here too origin and validity are not in the 
same category. Suppose, if you like, that punishment is a slow 
development from blood-feud, requiring discharge, etc., this does 
not bring suspicion on its ethical importance. Therefore, what 
is its end ? It is certain that in a morally trained community 
punishment will have an educative effect ; but to designate 
reformation as the proper purpose of punishment inflicted by 
the state is a contradiction in itself ; for the state is essentially 
a juridical community. And punishment is certainly not 
revenge taken by society as a whole. It is also something 
different from self-defence, for this term only has meaning apart 
from law. Nor can punishment be considered to be reparation 
or indemnification for injury inflicted ; evidently not, as this is 
true only in the very smallest number of instances. Finally, 
there is no doubt that it serves as a deterrent ; but this is a 
poor way of putting it, if this is conceived to be the purpose 
of punishment. The real core of the matter plainly is that 
punishment is for preventing infraction of the law. But 
then this may be more definitely put by saying that punish- 
ment is penal deprivation of some right, ordained by the 
representatives of law, with the design of upholding the ad- 
ministration of the law and preserving the state. But this 
notion, this view of punishment as means of the self-preserva- 
tion of the state, as the protection of society, appears far too 
objective. This view, it is said, gives a utilitarian and merely 
empirical reason which does not adequately express the ' majesty 



426 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

of punishment."' It is said that it is firmly fixed as with 
grappling irons to the eternal idea of retribution. It is not 
merely means for an earthly end, as the preservation of the 
state, but its purpose resides in itself Punishment is to be 
administered not in order that there may be no infraction of 
the law, but because it has been broken. Punishment, they 
fiu-ther say, is atonement, and its measure is not objective 
justice, but the subjective equivalence of punishment to the 
misdemeanour. 

In reality Christian ethics knows no ' either ' — ' or ' between 
this so-called sociological, modern juridical view of punishment 
as a state preservative and the other so-called ' exemplary theory,"* 
or as between the (inaccurately named) ' educative theory "* and 
the ' compensation theory."" If the relation between law and 
morality has been rightly defined, then the retributive theory, 
which is, at any rate, the only one clear and convincing, acquires 
a deeper significance by means of the others, and it certainly 
avoids their artificiality. If legal right is a necessary unfolding 
of ethical right, and even if nothing more, certain though it 
may be that it may have a plenary j ustification in the need of 
maintaining the administration of law, it has its final reason in 
the inviolability of the moral law, though only in the last 
resort. So far, then, it may be really maintained that the right 
of punishment gains its supreme sanction through Christian 
moral conviction ; and it is clear that the progress of Chris- 
tian morality in a nation will have an essential influence on 
its penal laws, both as regards the various deeds which are 
liable to punishment and as to the mode of punishment — this 
latter up to the point of its actual infliction — which must 
be punishment, not torture. Both in regard to the first and 
the second of these points the influence of Christian morality 
will be felt, so that the crime itself will not be looked at 
as an isolated fact, but the criminal valued as a complete 
personality. And then penal laws will become a great 
educative means, the content of which really forms a part of 
' objective morality.' Rightly, therefore, has it been pointed 
out that the value of this aspect of the modern theory of 
punishment was recognised long before the victorious attack 



SOCIAL ETHICS 427 

on the world of criminal jurisprudence b_y Wichern,^ the 
father of 'the Inner Mission."" 

Capital Punishment, 

With these thoughts in our minds we may be able to discuss 
without passion the much-disputed question of capital punish- 
ment. The fact that there are friends and foes of capital 
punishment among both philosophical and theological moralists, 
who are curiously divided on the question, prevents it from 
becoming a matter of faith, whatever our judgment may be. 
Some have demanded and striven for the maintenance of 
capital punishment in the name of the welfare of the state. 
But from the standpoint of the justification of punishment 
above touched on as arising from the idea of recompense, while 
Kant favours it, Fichte is against it. Theologians, too, have 
decidedly opposed capital punishment in the name of Christianity; 
particularly by an appeal to the Holy Scriptures. That it is 
assumed in them (Rom. xiii. 1 ff.) is just as undoubted as that 
the proof can scarcely be held to be sufficient that it is a principle 
of Christianity. Of the passage, " Whoso sheddeth man's blood, 
etc."" (Gen. ix. 6), the same thing is true as was quoted above 
from Luther in regard to another isolated Old Testament com- 
mandment. Some think that it appears from the nature of the 
Gospel to be dispensable ; nay, that it is even unworthy ; for in 
capital punishment the Christian society assumes to itself the 
right of placing the murderer beyond the pale of its own influence, 
and invades the prerogative of the Divine Majesty. But it is 
not characteristic of a living faith in God to think so highly of 
the earthly Christian society as to suppose that, apart from it, 
the victim is altogether lost ; quite irrespective of the fact that 
the murderer has often been more seriously influenced by the 
thought of .the proximity of death than the prisoner subject to 
life imprisonment, the fear of which is easily dulled. On the 
other hand, the advocates of capital punishment are unable 
to derive a plea for it from the nature of the Christian religion. 

1 Wichern, J. H., born 1808. The name ' Inner Mission' originated with him. 
His great work was in ' reformatory institutions ' and other activities of this 
description, — Tr. 



428 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

In any case the question is chiefly a practical one, as to 
whether the state may safely dispense with it. This question 
leads on one side into technical considerations which lie out- 
side the limits of our subject; and besides, for the present 
time the subject is simplified by the anarchist propaganda. 
As far as the principle is concerned it must be answered in 
the negative, as long as it cannot be made clear how the criminal 
condemned to lifelong hard labour on account of murder is to 
be restrained from a fresh murder. We may also go a step 
further. If punishment generally has its final basis in the 
inviolability of the moral law, then it appears to be right that 
the man who, so far as in him lies, has destroyed the foundation 
of all legally ordered common life should be made to forfeit the 
possibility of a further part in it. That is only the consequence 
of his own act. For this view the personal feeling of the 
criminal himself may, as is well known, be cited ; death appears 
to him the only proper atonement he can make. And it is 
possible that the above-cited passages of Scripture may be 
understood in this way. Under all the circumstances (as the 
earnest opponents of capital punishment themselves admit), it 
is needful to do battle against all the mere " sentimentality of 
an affected humanitarianism." 

Personal Responsibility. 

In treating of the subject of capital punishment Christian 
ethics cannot pass over without notice the lively discussions of 
the present day which arose at the same time as the debate on 
the ' End "" of punishment. This is the question of how far men 
are accountable for their actions in the way accoun Lability has 
been generally defined, and in the statute-book itself. This defini- 
tion assumes the idea of the freedom of the will, so that personal 
responsibility is presupposed, except where some mental malady 
has so disturbed the normal consciousness that the resolves of 
the will are no longer free, and this can be proved to be the 
case. But instead of this, others now say there should be know- 
ledge of the consequences of the action, or better — since such 
knowledge assigns too much to intellectual apprehension and 
denies the unity of the psychical life — there should be present 



SOCIAL ETHICS 429 

the normal power of the will as ordinarily moved by mental 
presentation ; in other words, the criminal must have the mental 
presentation of the punishment and the conception of it before 
him, if he is to be regarded as in possession of full responsibility, 
and is to be subject to punishment. Christian ethics can only 
take up the position, in regard to these important discussions, 
that has already been laid down and justified in the doctrine of 
the freedom of the will (p. 76). Christian ethics has no 
reason for asserting that such a theory must, so far as it is 
concerned, injure the state or generally alter in any essential 
respect the external form of human life ; but it will not allow 
that the reason and meaning of all human conduct would remain 
the same in the absence of the feeling of the personal responsi- 
bility which is an inseparable adjunct of freedom. 

Thus here the same must be said as above on the End of 
punishment. Only, no hasty : ' This is Christian — that is 
heathenish."* The first impression made by the assertion that 
the retributive theory of punishment represented the idea of 
the moral order of the world with essentially more clearness, 
pureness, and depth, should not prevent us from recognising the 
truth that is contained in the idea of educative punishment. It 
is precisely the recognition of this truth that would lead us more 
assuredly to emphasise this thought. Meanwhile, the idea of 
retributive punishment is by many of its supporters grounded 
partly on a reason much too objective, and in the final resort 
contradictory, namely, as is asserted, on experience itself (since 
Kanfs hypothesis can no longer be regarded as admitted by 
all) ; partly on a reason which is not accordant with the Chris- 
tian concept of God, as if retribution were its innermost 
nature. Similarly is it here with the question of freedom. 
The new sociological theory has often, especially at first, been 
identified in quite a superficial way with the denial of personal 
responsibility and associated with unproved and unprovable 
naturalism {cf. I^ombroso's Bom Criminal^ and on the con- 
trary Aschaffenberg). More and more often has the question 
of the freedom of the will as a matter of personal conviction 
been separated from discussions on the penal laws, so that there 
are both friends and foes of personal freedom among the 



480 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

supporters of that modern notion of criminal responsibility 
above mentioned. But still more with the energetic demand 
not to punish the crime but the criminal, so far as it is possible 
to human insight, and in punishing to reform (see above). The 
new school has brought into prominence claims of Christian 
ethics too long forgotten. And when it looks upon criminals 
as * wounds in the social organism,' it provides new material for 
Christian reflection on the ' kingdom of sin,"* even if that is done 
unconsciously and even often unwillingly. 

IlO^RNATIONAL LaW. 

War, 

As a counterpart to the right of punishment within the state 
there is that of the relation of states to each other, the question 
of war. But inasmuch as war certainly is the last resource of a 
state in maintaining its rights in relation to other states, and 
that by an interruption of legally ordered intercourse, war 
throws light on the difference between international law and 
that law which internally regulates a state. In the single state, 
law prevails because it is one with the power which is a connota- 
tive mark of a state. But with regard to other states there 
is no such power for carrying out the rights of nations, or main- 
taining its own order by the impairment of the rights of other 
nations, as in the case of the infliction of personal punishment. 
Moreover, the association of nations in legally regulated inter- 
course was a task which, under the promptings of utility and 
strengthened by the power of sympathy, was undertaken quite 
independently of Christianity. But the whole r.?nge of this 
task was first of all recognised in the idea of the Kingdom of 
God (Gal. iii. 28), and felt to be one that must be undertaken. 
Of course, even in the Christian world international law has only 
gradually been evolved ; limited in its range, and uncertain in 
its operation. But a glance at history convinces us that it 
would be unjust and ungrateful to depreciate the value of what 
has been gained. The inclination to do this is intelligible from 
the fact that all the progress made in international law has not 
been able to eliminate war, its contradictory. And who is there 



SOCIAL ETHICS 431 

who would not share the yearning of the friends of peace that 
international courts could decide not merely the insignificant 
but also the serious matters of differences between nations ? 
But the complete powerlessness to which, in the sight of all the 
world, an arbitration court set up with a solemnity never before 
heard of, at the close of the nineteenth century, was doomed, by 
the outbreak immediately afterwards of the South African war, 
and afterwai'ds of the war between Japan and Russia, clearly 
enough illustrates the error in the calculations of the value of 
such settlements. That war is antagonistic to the Kingdom of 
God, " which is righteousness, peace, and joy,'' is shown even in 
the Old Testament prophecy of the transformation of "the 
sword into a ploughshare and the spear into a pruning-hook " ; 
that war arises from sinfulness — Evangelical ethics has no 
need to dwell upon such truths. The question needs to be 
brought to this test : — Is it proper under the earthly conditions 
of this world of sin for Christians to serve in war and for 
Christian rulers to engage in war ? The affirmative of the 
Augsburg Confession (Art. 16),^ unaccompanied by any limiting 
clause, suffices to justify it, in which the clearness of the distinc- 
tion between real war and litigation is remarkable, while both 
regarded as justifiable. Not merely ought the conscience of the 
individual Christian to be assured, and not his conscience, so to 
say, included — in an unevangelical way — in that of the ruling 
authorities (however certain it is that each ought to feel that 
the duty of military service is embraced in the idea of his 
obedience to those authorities), but also the decisive question 
whether war is justifiable under certain circumstances ought to 
be set clearly before us. This question is to be answered in the 
affirmative, because the state itself is part of God's good 
order — that is, specifically, inasmuch as the true ' Good,' com- 
pletely ethical love, cannot be realised in the Kingdom 
of God in its earthly progress save on the assumption 
that there is such a thing as ' right ' and law, and that this 
is part of the unimpeachable ordering of the state. If the 
Christian may consciously will the existence of a state for 

^ P. 175, Sylloge Confessionutn — " jure bellare, militare. " Cf. the Articles of 
the Church of England (No. xxxvii.), — Tr, 



432 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN IJFE 

the sake of the Kingdom of God, then he must along with 
this, as means for the Kingdom of God, will the means for the 
preservation of the state. There is no such thing as the power 
of penal law over other states ; the only means a state has for 
maintaining its own rights is by war, the last resource for its 
own protection, since the right of legal punishment is confined 
within the limits of each state. The friends of peace at any 
price say that such a proposition sanctions the Jesuitical 
principle that ' the end sanctifies the means,' or more accurately, 
if the end is allowable, the means are allowable. We showed 
earlier that this principle is not unchristian (if we leave the 
loose word 'allowable' aside {cf. p. 241)); but its Jesuitical 
application is inadmissible. A nation to which the preservation 
of the individual life is of higher importance than the future 
of the whole is no fit agent of the Kingdom of God, which puts 
to each individual questions as to the value of his own personal 
life. And even the undeniable moral mischiefs of war are less 
than that involved in endangering the foundation of the highest 
Good, which consists in the training power of a legally ordered 
state. If, in this question, anyone should appeal to the words 
of the Sermon on the Mount, then what has been previously 
said is applicable here. Its explanations of the absolute com- 
mand of love are only apprehended and carried out in their 
entirety by him who asks how he ought to apply them in any 
single case (p. 209). At the same time, all is contained in 
them that is always properly insisted on by those who accept 
the proposition of the Augsburg Confession for conscience' sake, 
and not merely that they may find excuse for the sad fact of 
war ; namely, that war can only be justifiable as the very last 
means for the settlement of a national disagreement. The final 
decision is in every separate case a difficult duty for the rulers 
of a nation ; on which point what has been said on the question 
of conflict of duties (p. 223) may be referred to. In general, it 
can simply be said that the only thing that justifies war is when 
the honour and liberty of a nation are at stake ; not vain 
desire of conquest, and certainly not the extension of the 
Christian religion. But it is morally indifferent who overtly 
begins the war ; to anticipate the inevitable is the duty of a 



SOCIAL ETHICS 433 

statesman ; the law of the country, right or wrong, really 
settles this point. Then, while war itself is between foes, yet, 
so far as the purpose of war is not imperilled, the command of 
love to our neighbour is to be obeyed, and history has some 
pathetic examples of its applicability. The moral effects are 
various, according to the character of the nation and its previous 
condition, and according to the duration and course of the 
war ; various, too, as regards individuals. And first and last — 
the purpose of war is peace. Let us conclude with I^uther's 
saying : " A good physician, when the malady is so serious and 
bad that he must destroy hand or ear or foot in order to save 
the body, appears to be a cruel man," and, " To kill a little while 
is better than without end." 

Politics. 

Similar difficulties arise at times in the department of politics. 
For forming a judgment on politics the same principle points 
the way, i.e. the right estimate of the state in its relation to 
the Kingdom of God. Even in a state of peace international 
relations, even of nations most closely connected, are nearly 
always a battle of opposing interests. Doubly so when new 
and energetic nations assert themselves in the arena of history, 
or old nations develop new powers. Then, provided those 
nations desire to show themselves Christians, along with their 
privileges grow their duties. The German nation stands in 
the midst of the tasks presented to the ' greater Germany.' Is 
it right for Europeans to push out into various parts of the 
world, and drive out their savage or civilised inhabitants ? 
And if self-preservation demands it, and the higher civilisation 
fostered justifies it, under what conditions ? Surely only if the 
African is taught to work ; higher ideals brought to the Chinese, 
with the destruction of their self-complacent dreaminess ; and 
the best is brought to both, the Gospel ; and if, above all, the 
country does not itself sink down to the lower level of civilisa- 
tion of past times. And at home we must not grudge our best 
powers even when, as has long been the case in missionary 
operations, it is only by serious sacrifice that a foundation for 
the future can be laid ; and we must foster our connection with 

28 



434 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

the pioneers of this future, in all departments, even as a Church. 
A manifold and hard task, but an undeniable duty. No mere 
talk about historical development can dispense from it, nor any 
criticism of the faults of other nations. 

On the field of internal politics the question of revolution 
has been discussed above in connection with state law. But 
national politics are generally not less disturbed by ethical 
difficulties than international. Is it right to say that it is 
mostly merely a battle for power ; a struggle of various classes 
and conditions of men in the nation for the extension of their 
own rights ? and far from being a battle of ethical ideals ? It 
is true that in academical discussion the truth is underestimated 
that politics is never anything else but a struggle of forces. 
But that 'but' does not correspond to the whole reality. Even 
the strongest upholders of that statement must allow that each 
single person can wage the warfare ethically or unethically, and 
ought to carry it on without barbarism or malice. This would 
have no meaning unless the battle were somehow a struggle for 
righteousness. Of course ethical ideas will be victorious in the 
battle with natural forces only by making these forces sub- 
servient to its ends ; but even all the most powerful instincts 
can produce no permanent results, if they will not submit 
to a leading of these ideas. This may be said to be the teaching 
of history, unless we are to regard ethical ideas themselves as 
merely the reactions of the wills of the oppressed, as weapons 
in the battle with force — that is, unless the moral is to be 
altogether denied, and we are to turn to the ' devaluation of 
all values' {cf. p. 25). Where this does not happen, it 
will be considered a matter for special congratulation that the 
greatest of practical statesmen, in contrast to the Macchia- 
vellian ideal (the union of the lion and the fox), has with 
special impressiveness given his testimony to the importance of 
moral imponderables generally, and the ideas of Christian ethics 
in particular. In short, the idea widely diffused of late that 
the Christian theory is not adequate to settle every question in 
human life is conceivable enough under the pressure of modem 
problems (over-population, colonisation, conflict of industrial 
interests, fleets), but only ethically justifiable as an incentive to 



SOCIAL ETHICS 486 

overcome the difficulties, and as the most urgent cry — Upwards ! 
and so forwards ! 

The Church. 

It is only in Christian ethics that the religious community 
has such independence alongside the domestic life, society, 
industrial life, art and science, law, that it may find its place 
at the conclusion of social ethics. Everywhere else this position 
is assigned to the state or, perhaps, to socialism, in its theory 
of the industrial problem. In Christian ethics the Church is 
given the position of a form of society intended to minister 
directly to the highest end, the Kingdom of God. But if 
conscious Christian conviction itself has denied that the Church 
in its transcendent value is properly employable as a means 
for the whole social development, then this is a call to us to 
define the nature of the Church in the simplest possible way, 
so that judgment on this point may not be prejudiced. 

The Nature of the Church. 
The religious life, like all psychical life, seeks for utterance. 
It cannot exist alone, but will share itself with others. The in- 
stinct to express our own inner life to others may be selfish ; we 
heighten our own self-respect. All such self-disclosure is moral 
when others may be enriched by it. This in its higher stages 
is the pressure of the Christian life to find expression. It is blest 
in having its own sanctuary ; in being alone with God, who — 
Himself a Spirit, eternal personal love — raises the created spirit 
into loving fellowship with Himself; but as a child of God in 
the Kingdom of God. To be alone with God in a way which 
excludes others from God would not be fellowship with God 
who is love. Gratitude for God\s love, joy in God, expresses 
itself for God's honour and our neighbours' benefit ; otherwise 
it would not be to the praise and glory of God, who is love. 
Therefore the spiritual life of the Christian is constrained to 
fellowship. "Each tells another that he lives." And this 
fellowship in mutual religious influence and reciprocated 
benefits is the Church. More precisely, this is the ethical 
meaning of the word Church. The dogmatic meaning of the 



436 THE ETHICS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 

Church is that it is the fellowship of the faithful called into 
existence by the Spirit of God through His Gospel. We 
believe that " God*'s Word cannot be without God's people," 
that the Word always produces faith, and that " God''s people 
cannot be without God''s Word"" (Luther); but there is con- 
tinually in this Word the power of faith and so of life. In 
short, in dogmatics the Church is the communion of the faith- 
ful, and so that their faith is the work of God and the instru- 
ment of God ; in ethics it is the communion of fa