[Three Lectures delivered at King's College, London, under the auspices of the Faculty of Theology of the University of London, in the Summer Session of 1920.]
IT was the method of Aristotle in approaching ethical problems to begin with a consideration of what was commonly said and thought about them by, as we say nowadays, the man in the street. He held, and surely with reason, that from such popular notions there was much to be learned. As put by the man in the street himself, they very likely would not bear criticism: they might often contradict one another, yet they would not be entertained without having in them some measure of truth; and it was thus worth while to take them as indications which might guide us in the right direction and save us from missing relevant considerations; although at the end we might find that in our own conclusions they would only survive in a modified form.
If we apply this method, as we shall, I think, be well advised in applying it, to the question of the mutual relations of Religion and Morality, which is to engage our attention in these three Lectures, we shall find in the first place a view very prevalent among us that Religion apart from morally good conduct must be a mere hypocritical pretence and has no just claim to be called Religion at all; while, on the other hand, the existence of morally good conduct apart from Religion may be taken to show that Religion is only, at the most, of value in certain cases and not universally. Such a view suggests that Religion is something merely subsidiary to Morality, a means to Morality as the end, and a means which may be dispensed with where that end can be attained without it.
But, general as is this readiness to respect Morality apart from Religion and refusal to respect Religion apart from Morality, there is also discoverable, side by side therewith, among men who have no pretensions to be theologians or philosophers, a vein of thought and sentiment which would harmonize better with a theory assigning to Religion a considerably greater independence of Morality.
I dare say that many of us have lately been reading the exceedingly interesting and suggestive volume published under the title of The Army and Religion, by a committee of representatives of various religious bodies which met under the chairmanship of the present Bishop of Winchester, and the writing of whose report was entrusted to Dr. Cairns, of the United Free Church College at Aberdeen. We find here indeed fully recognized the prevalence in the British Army--which in the late War was in fact nothing less than the manhood of the nation in arms--of the notion that Religion is worthless apart from Morality, while Morality is by no means to be regarded as worthless apart from Religion. This is, indeed, nothing but what we should have expected.
The prevalence of this notion was quite as obvious among our people before the War as it could be in the British Expeditionary Force. But we also find Dr. Cairns and his colleagues calling our attention to another aspect of the ordinary Briton's view of the world which was, no doubt, developed and rendered more conscious by the circumstances of the War. It is thus described in an extract from a paper on 'Trench Religion' by an officer of a Scottish Highland regiment, given at p. 163 of the book to which I am referring. 'The Soldier's God,' writes this officer, 'is once more the God of battles who clothes himself with the storm. He is not the judge of righteousness and wrong, not the friend of the fatherless and the widow's protector, not holy, or just, or good, but simply the controller of all the forces of Nature which burst from the little grasp of man; the Lord of Fate and the Master of Life and Death.' The interest of this passage in the present connection is that it testifies to a sense of the distinctness of the religious consciousness from the moral, just as the witness borne by observers of our soldiers in the late War, no less than by those of our countrymen generally, to the intimate association in their thoughts of Religion with Morality and its subordination, in their estimate of its value to Morality, testifies to the close connexion which we shall expect, if we share Aristotle's respect for the vox populi in ethics, to find existing between the two.
It is this latter way of regarding their relation--the way which associates Religion with Morality and subordinates it to Morality--that finds expression in Matthew Arnold's celebrated definition of Religion as 'Morality touched by emotion.' This cannot indeed be regarded as a good definition from any point of view. It will be clear to anyone who attempts to apply it with any strictness that the emotion by which Morality must be 'touched' to convert it into Religion is not any sort of emotion; nor can we suppose Matthew Arnold himself to have intended us to think that it is. It must be specially religious emotion; and thus the definition turns out to be really circular, as indeed I believe that every proposed definition of so fundamental and universal an activity of the human spirit as Religion must necessarily be; and no doubt Matthew Arnold knew very well in his own mind the kind of emotion which he meant when he framed this uninstructive definition (as I cannot but consider it) of what Religion is. But, whatever objection may be brought against Matthew Arnold's phrase, considered as a formal definition of Religion, it is not only characteristic of its author, but exhibits him as typical of his and our countrymen. The thought which it expresses is the thought that the substance of Religion, so to speak, is Morality and Morality only; that it adds to Morality something which may indeed make it more attractive or charming or exciting than it would be without it, but which nevertheless depends so much upon temperament and training that many are incapable of it, and is so much affected by circumstances and environment that it varies from time to time in the same individual; but without which Morality is none the worse, though it may be less pleasant; and is even perhaps more secure for not being associated with feelings and practices and beliefs so difficult to justify or explain as those connected with Religion.
Congenial, however, as this thought is to the British mind, it is inadequate as a conception of the nature of Religion. Neither the history of Religion in the past nor the facts about Religion as it now exists which may be gathered from a survey of the world as a whole, confirms it; as I shall attempt to show somewhat more at large later on. And, moreover, even where Religion is most closely connected with Morality--and this connexion is closest in the Christian religion--it is, to those in whom the religious experience is deepest and the religious consciousness most vital, far more an experience and consciousness of that which underlies and supports Morality than an attraction added to Morality, the withdrawal of which would leave Morality intrinsically unchanged.
Religion is subordinated to Morality not only in Matthew Arnold's definition of Religion, but also in Kant's philosophy of it. The account of the nature of Religion which Kant gives us differs indeed from Matthew Arnold's in one important respect. Matthew Arnold did indeed, as we saw, find in Morality the essence, as we may call it, of Religion, but the emotion which he regarded Religion as adding to Morality was something which he very highly valued. This was natural in a poet; but Kant, who was not a poet, had something very like a horror of emotion. In his ethical theory he tends to regard the presence of any kind of emotion, except that of reverence for the law of Duty, as tarnishing the purity of a good action; and the encouragement of any specifically religious emotion he would have dreaded as bound to promote superstition and suggest the erroneous notion of a possible relation to God distinguishable from subjection to that Moral Law whereof we picture him as the sovereign source.
Thus, while agreeing with Matthew Arnold in subordinating Religion to Morality, Kant would differ from him in not regarding it as the function of Religion to arouse an emotion which Morality, apart from Religion, would not evoke. The functions of Religion are, in Kant's view, two: that of supplying a public and external expression for the common resolution of many men to devote themselves to the performance of moral duty; and that of providing a symbolism for ideas which Morality seems to presuppose, but which cannot be verified in any possible experience.
The former function is the function of religious observance. Private religious observance Kant did not approve. He thought that a man would naturally be ashamed if caught upon his knees in prayer alone. He was indeed no stranger to the sentiment of Reverence, which the wisdom manifested in the order of Nature and, still more, the Moral Law of Duty excited in his breast. But, even when directed to the Moral Law, the thought of this sentiment in him was at least equalled by that of the sense of the dignity of human nature, which shared in the autonomy of the Reason that uttered itself in the Moral Law itself. Or rather this source of the dignity of human nature was not in Kant's eyes a sentiment different from that of Reverence. It was Reverence itself, directed to the personality in which the supreme object of Reverence, the Moral Law, was immanent and actual. In public worship a certain attitude might be fitted to express to others this Reverence, in which the congregation was met to encourage one another; but in private it could only suggest a personal intercourse with God which seemed to Kant illusory in itself and fraught with moral danger to anyone indulging in the illusion.
But it is not only religious observance which is thus wholly subordinated to Morality by Kant. Religious faith is only justified in his view by the imperative demand made by the Moral Law upon our conscience, a demand only comprehensible if the world be envisaged as ultimately under the government of God, and as affording the scope which only an immortal life can give for a perpetual approximation on our part to a fulfilment of his law. Neither God nor immortality can be objects of our knowledge in the sense to which Kant confined that term; for their reality cannot be verified in any possible experience under the forms of space and time--and the human spirit is capable of no other sort of experience--since it would contradict our thought of them to suppose them subject to the limitations either of space or of time. Nor, on the other hand, does the Moral Law depend--so Kant held--for its obligatory force upon the belief in God and immortality, so that anyone who disbelieved in these could reasonably refuse obedience to that Law. No; its authority was, as Butler had said, 'manifest'; to ask for a reason why one should do one's duty is to demand to make which is in itself to be undutiful. But, so long as we have within us the consciousness of the claim of Duty upon us, and yet see around us a world which seems to be ordered on principles which ignore this claim, we cannot but be plunged in a perplexity, from which the only escape lies in the faith which we call Religion--the faith that in the last resort this world, despite all appearances to the contrary, is under moral government. We must act in obedience to the Moral Law as though this were so; and this is precisely what we mean by 'faith'--the holding something to be a sufficient ground for action, where we lack such proof as would constrain the understanding to accept it as certainly true.
Now, in describing, as in this summary fashion I have tried to describe, the theory put forward by Kant as to the relation of Religion to Morality, I am very far from wishing merely to criticise it as inadequate. In its emphasis upon the 'manifest authority' of the Moral Law, the very nature of which is that it admits of no question of why or wherefore--I do not of course mean that I may not legitimately ask why this or that is my duty, but only that I may not legitimately ask why I should do my duty--in his emphasis upon this 'manifest authority,' which does not allow of our seeking a sanction for our obedience to it in any divine threat of penalty or promise of reward; and again in its decided condemnation of any attempt to get, if I may so speak, into relation with God behind the back of the Moral Law or to engage his judgment in our favour by ceremonial observances or by the demonstration of pious feeling; it is to be regarded as a contribution of the first importance not only to the exposition of the nature of Morality but to the purification of Religion.
Nevertheless this teaching of Kant's cannot be acquitted of very imperfectly recognising that, however close may be the connexion between Religion and Morality, and however much it may be in the interest of Religion to render this connexion as close as possible, yet there is in Religion something beside Morality, which is distinct from Morality and independent of it. From a full appreciation of this Kant was held back partly by his tendency to deny the name of knowledge to any kind of apprehension which was not of the type illustrated by the mathematical and physical sciences, partly by the lack in his temperament of a capacity for that religious emotion which Matthew Arnold, despite the general resemblance of his theory of Religion to Kant's (as, like his, subordinating it to Morality), nevertheless regarded as the differentia of Religion.
It is noticeable that the neglect of this characteristic religious emotion, which is so remarkable in Kant, is shared by an exactly opposite and still more unsatisfactory account of the matter, which would subordinate not Religion to Morality but Morality to Religion. This is the account presupposed by the traditional procedure of our law courts, where an understanding of 'the meaning of the oath' which invests an answer there given with religious sanctity is taken to consist in a conviction that perjury will be followed by punishment after death, inflicted by the God whose name has been taken in vain. Such an account is implied also in the doctrine of Paley that virtue is 'the doing good to mankind in obedience to the will of God and for the sake of everlasting happiness.' Morality is made here to rest upon an inference from a religious belief--yet a belief which is itself after all not truly religious, in so far as the specific religious emotion seems to play no part in it.
The views which have so far been considered, whether they make Religion subsidiary to Morality or Morality subsidiary to Religion, have alike failed to do justice to the peculiar characteristics of the religious consciousness. It is possible that variants of these two positions might be suggested, which might not be exposed to the precise criticisms which I have brought against those which I have described. But I am convinced that no view which does not recognise the distinctness and relative independence of Morality and Religion will be found in the long run to be satisfactory. Whether we look at the matter from the point of view of history and experience, or from that of a philosophical consideration of the nature of these two forms of spiritual experience, we shall find ourselves compelled to recognise their mutual distinctness. To take the former point of view first, it is perhaps sufficient merely to note, without further insisting upon it, a fact so obvious as that the ethical and the religious temperaments are by no means always combined in the same individual. We may indeed express our sense that an irreligious morality has less value than a religious, by calling it 'mere morality,' or our sense that an unethical religion has less value than an ethical by the use of some word, more or less disparaging, such as 'religiosity'; but we cannot deny the evident distinctness of the temperaments which we should denominate as respectively 'ethical' and 'religious.'
The history of mankind encourages us in the recognition of their distinctness. With respect to peoples of what is called 'the lower culture,' the study of whose ways is generally called (somewhat invidiously) by the name of Anthropology, I claim no right to speak with expert knowledge. I gather, however, that this mutual distinctness of Morality and Religion is easily traceable among primitive men. I would refer in support of this statement to Dr. Westermarck's book on The Origin of the Moral Ideas. This work is a great storehouse of facts regarding the prevalence of various kinds of conduct and the estimate in which they have been held at different times and in different places all over the world. I do not pretend to agree with all Dr. Westermarck's views; but he is a scholar of wide knowledge and of a sane judgment, and his conclusion, based upon a vast mass of evidence, is that Morality and Religion have, from the earliest stages of human development of which we can discover anything, run a distinct course, however much the one has at certain times and under certain conditions affected or influenced the latter.
The opinion of Dr. Westermarck is that the influence of Religion upon Morality is great 'at certain stages of culture, which, though comparatively advanced, do not include the highest stage.' The reason for the decline in this influence which he finds in the highest civilization he puts down to 'the lessening of the sphere of the supernatural by the increase of knowledge and the ascription of a perfectly ethical character to the Godhead.' It is easy to see that the latter circumstance would tend to make the religious element in conduct less obviously distinct from the moral. But it does not follow that it is a true interpretation of the phenomena to see it in a decrease of the'influence of Religion on Morality. We may in the second and third Lectures find cause to regard the facts in a somewhat different light from that in which they are viewed by Dr. Westermarck.
Not only do history and experience exhibit Morality and Religion as distinct; a consideration of the nature of these two forms of spiritual activity will confirm the evidence of observation. For, as has been already pointed out, when I was attempting to expound Kant's theory of their mutual relations, the outstanding feature of Morality is what Butler calls the 'manifest authority' of Conscience (it would be better to say, of the Moral Law), and Kant describes as the autonomy of the good will, whereby we will to do our duty not with any ulterior motive in view, but just because it is our duty. Even to raise the question 'Why should I do my duty?' is to contradict the very notion of duty. Any attempt to make Morality depend upon Religion which rests the obligation to do right upon what has often been called a 'religious sanction'--on a command of God, obedience to which is enforced by promises or threats, rewards or punishments--as much violates the essential nature of Morality as the Utilitarian view which rests it upon the tendency of right action to produce pleasure; and indeed comes in the long run to the same thing.
But, if this 'manifest authority' of the Moral Law makes it necessary to distinguish Morality from Religion and impossible to subordinate it to Religion, as is done by systems which find in the arbitrary will of God, however revealed, the ultimate sanction of all duty; so on the other hand it is no less impossible to be satisfied with such a subordination of Religion to Morality as is exemplified in Matthew Arnold's definition of Religion and in Kant's philosophy of it. Religion is always a conscious relation or attempt to get into relation with what, however crudely imagined or conceived, is yet imagined or conceived as somehow containing in itself the mysterious power at the heart of things. It thus always involves at least an implicit view or theory of what, when reflection is sufficiently far advanced, is seen to be the world or life as a whole, and at last to be the Ultimate Reality or, as modern philosophers are apt to say, the Absolute. No doubt, like all forms of our spiritual activity, Morality itself is only possible to a being in whose heart (to use the language of Ecclesiastes) eternity has thus been set; in other words to a rational being. But, apart from Religion, it is not, in the same way as Religion, essentially a conscious relation to what is within or below or behind or above (we may use which metaphor we will) the 'number of things' of which, as Stevenson's child-poem says, 'the world is so full.'
We must then recognise the mutual distinctness of Morality and Religion, but we must also recognise the intimacy of the relations which have throughout their history existed between them, an intimacy that has led some to confound them with one another.
We must observe that, though it is in Religion that man first consciously apprehends the Whole of which he and all that is about him form a part, and though for this reason Philosophy, normally in the race, and very often in the individual also, springs out of Religion, nevertheless it is characteristic of Religion--and this is why, to my thinking, Signor Croce is wrong in considering it destined to be absorbed into Philosophy--to apprehend this Whole not merely as an object of knowledge, but in a living personal relationship, which has historically been mediated and is commonly still mediated to men through the group to which they belong.
To use words which I have already used elsewhere, 'only gradually have men come to realise that their immediate social environment is not the dominant fact in the universe. Only gradually has their consciousness of the world, which at first was, as we may put it, mediated to them through the consciousness of their group, become the consciousness of a Reality which cannot be identified with even the most comprehensive of human communities. But, as ever wider and wider horizons have opened to their view, the religious emotion which was from the first excited in the performance of those actions whereby men shared in the common life of their tribe has continued to attend their consciousness of the all-embracing Unity wherein they live and move and have their being.' [God and Personality, p. 218.]
Religion is thus social experience; and Morality, which in any case, as the rule of conduct, must include conduct towards God, is also throughout social. Hobbes's theory of Morality is paradoxically expressed, is entangled in the mythology of the 'social contract,' and lays itself open to the criticism that it makes Morality unnatural and, as it were, a second-best course, with which, if one could gratify one's inclinations unrestrained by it without incurring inconveniences from others' hostility outweighing the satisfactions we should gain for ourselves, one would not burden oneself. But the strength of his theory lies in the emphasis laid in it upon the social character of Morality. Outside of society, or prior to the existence of society, the life of man must have been, as he said, 'poor, nasty, brutish, solitary and short,'--in other words, not a human life at all, but a merely animal one.
Morality is throughout social; and even when, as I think is the case, conduct is directed to ends which do not find their full justification in their conduciveness to social welfare,--to the pursuit of knowledge, the creation of beauty, the purification of the inner life,--the goodness of these objects of human endeavour can be expressed in terms of social welfare, although it is clear that in some of their highest forms they contribute to that welfare only because of their intrinsic excellence, which makes a society the better for exhibiting them. They could not indeed attain to the highest level of excellence except through a wholehearted devotion to them on the part of their votaries which would be incompatible with keeping an eye upon their social utility as an end from which they were to be distinguished and to which they were merely instrumental.
Thus Religion and Morality have in common this involution with the social life of man. I have quoted Dr. Westermarck's judgment that it is not in the most primitive stages of human development that we find them most closely intertwined; yet from the first they are in relation to one another, both alike being features of man's social life. The tribal god is not necessarily supposed to be found by tribal custom; nor is the sanction for tribal custom necessarily sought in the command of the tribal god. Yet he may well be thought to be interested in it; he may even be considered as its guardian and its vindicator. It is a mark of religious progress that he should come to be so regarded. In proportion as he comes to be looked upon in this light, does a discrepancy between his supposed acts and the rules of tribal custom become a difficulty; and we have begun the process of the criticism of Religion by Morality, to which I propose to devote my second Lecture. It is by means of this criticism that Morality achieves the improvement of Religion; as in its turn we shall find (and this will be the topic of my third and last Lecture) Religion imparting to Morality an inspiration, without which Morality tends to harden into pedantry and formality.
IN my first Lecture I endeavoured to show that Religion and Morality must be distinguished from one another. I pointed out that a view of Religion as merely a kind of appendix to Morality, whether in the form suggested by Matthew Arnold's definition of it as 'Morality touched by emotion' or in that exhibited in Kant's philosophy of Religion, which, as set forth in his treatise upon Religion within the limits of mere reason, finds the whole meaning of religious doctrines in their relation to moral conduct, and justifies the belief in God only as a 'postulate of the Practical Reason,' that is of Morality, is not the view to which we shall be led either by an analysis of the religious consciousness or by a study of the past history and present phenomena of Religion. For the evidence of this study I appealed to Dr. Westermarck's Origin of the Moral Ideas. We found that the vast collection of facts accumulated by this scholar's industry went, in his own opinion, to show that the development of Morality goes on among primitive peoples independently of the whole of their religious beliefs. I do not think indeed that we shall find Dr. Westermarck at his best when he is dealing with the subject of Religion, nor shall we find in him an adequate statement of the significance either of the original mutual independence of Morality and Religion or of their subsequent mutual action and reaction. But I think that the facts which he has collected do bear out what I think can be shown empirically in other ways.
The use, much affected on the other side of the Atlantic, of what is called a questionnaire for discovering people's religious thoughts and habits I am, I confess, disposed to regard with considerable suspicion. It may very likely happen that many of those, information about whom would be especially important, would be just those who would shrink the most from cross-examination on the subject by an inquisitive and dispassionate investigator, so that in a collection gathered by this means the testimony of the least delicate and reticent souls is apt to loom disproportionately large. But I think it is interesting to learn from the record of an enquiry of this kind conducted some years ago by a professor in the University of Wisconsin, Mr. Chapman Sharp, that an attempt to discover by interrogating a number of students not philosophically educated nor accustomed to reading about religion or philosophy, nor yet irreligiously brought up, tended to show that the so-called 'religious sanction' of which our law courts require a recognition from a child before he can be put upon his oath, played but a very small part in their notions of Morality. [Cp. my Problems in the Relations of God and Man, p. 260.]
We have seen indeed that Religion and Morality are alike social in their origin. Morality is at first the custom of the tribe, Religion at first the attitude of the tribe toward the mystery which encompasses human life. The breach of a tribal custom is the violation of a taboo or scruple of the kind whereof Mr. Salomon Reinach in his Orpheus has described Religion as an assemblage. It is natural to suppose that the tribal deity, though he may not be bound by tribal custom as the tribesmen are, is not altogether indifferent to it. Such considerations sufficiently indicate how impossible it was that Religion and Morality, distinct though they be, should not from the first affect one another and continue to do so, throughout the development of both until, as we shall see, men at last become convinced that God can do no evil and that nothing can be evil which God wills--and come to find in this the source of one of their greatest religious difficulties.
But, although there is thus a perpetual interaction between Religion and Morality, the religious sentiment and the moral sentiment are distinct from one another. In the early stages of their history both rest upon tribal custom. The view which has no doubt often obtained in modern times, and which naturally commends itself to. minds trained in the traditions of European jurisprudence, that a binding law must be regarded as the enactment of a definite person or body of persons, to whom belongs the sovereign power in the community and therefore also the competence to change at will any part of this law, is neither a primitive nor a universal view. The Law is, on the contrary, more often regarded in earlier times as something which, so to say, runs of itself in the society and of which the rulers of the society are only the guardians and administrators. The difficulty which this manner of conceiving Law, common as it was both in antiquity and in the Middle Ages, is apt to present to legal theorists of a later time is partly due no doubt to a lack of historical knowledge and sympathy on their part, but partly also to the stronger sense of Personality which marks a more advanced stage of spiritual development. When the sense of Personality was weaker than it has since become, it was easier to think of the Law as binding upon us without there being any need to ask who was the law-giver. To a later age it might appear natural that, if not attributed to any human author, it must at least have been regarded as given by God. But this was not always so, though the higher the conception of God rose, the less easy did it become to evade the question of his relation to it. [Cp. my Divine Personality and Human Life, p. 139.]
In the later stages of spiritual evolution the development of Morality by no means proceeds of necessity pari passu with that of Religion, although the two are continually interacting. Often it has happened that religious tradition has continued to consecrate usages which would anywhere but in the course of a religious service be counted, according to the improved ethical standard of the day, to be immoral. This we see abundantly illustrated in the antiquity of our own civilization by the writings alike of the Jewish prophets and of the Greek philosophers. Here Religion has lagged behind Morality. But on the other hand we all know that Christendom is full of cases in which the recognised Morality sanctioned by public opinion falls far below the standard officially acknowledged by the recognition of the life and teaching of Christ as being divine. Here Religion is the pioneer of Morality.
In the present Lecture, which is to be devoted to the subject of the criticism of Religion by Morality, we shall be more concerned with the state of things illustrated by the former of these two examples: that in which Religion appears as a drag upon the progress of Morality, sanctioning in certain persons or on certain occasions conduct which would elsewhere or in others be reprobated as immoral. There are, I think, two features of Religion which bring about such a state of things: one is what may be described as its conservatism; the other I may call, for the moment, its intimately personal character. I will deal with the former first.
It would be a one-sided view of Religion, and of the part which it has played and still plays in human life, which should see in it, as is sometimes done, a merely conservative force. It is often on the contrary a revolutionary force, j Indeed it might perhaps.be argued that each of the two tendencies, the conservative and the progressive, upon the mutual tension of which the life of human society depends, appears in its most powerful form only when inspired by the religious sentiment. It is always characteristic of Religion to exhibit a negative relation (as one may say) towards what may be called the economic activity of the human spirit. This is that activity which the human spirit exerts in providing for the fundamental needs of our animal nature, not only in their primary and most simple forms, but as they are complicated and elaborated through the action of the intelligence upon them. Towards this activity the religious activity always stands in a negative relation, although the economic activity is at the same time always the presupposition and starting point of the religious activity itself, as of any other of the higher activities in which the human spirit expresses itself. Thus Religion postpones economic values to others less familiarly appreciated--' Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness'--and in this way becomes a progressive and even revolutionary influence. [Cp. my Divine Personality and Human Life, Lecture II.]
On the other hand, Religion often maintains values with which the economic life has fallen out of touch. The sense of something sacred in what is ancient and established, which expresses itself in this religious conservatism, is perhaps the strongest of all the bonds which link the generations of men together in a conscious unity, and answers in the life of the community to the 'natural piety' of which Wordsworth speaks as binding the days of manhood to those of childhood in the life of the individual.
But this conservatism of Religion seems bound to lead to a conflict between Religion and Morality. Men are slow to believe that the gods have ceased to require the services which they have been accustomed to render them, and slow to abandon their belief in or reverence for the stories which they have been accustomed to hear told of them, even when these services or these stories have altogether ceased to harmonise with the moral judgments which they would pass on conduct among themselves such as is traditionally ascribed to the gods, or on behaviour in secular life such as is required of the worshippers in the performance of a time-hallowed ritual. Classical literature is full of allusion to the sense of discrepancy between Religion and Morality thus aroused. It will be sufficient to recall certain outstanding examples. Plato will not suffer the young citizens of his ideal state to be educated even in the poetry of Homer, because of the representation therein of the gods as yielding to unworthy passions. Ovid in his Fasti tells the story of Numa bidden by Jupiter to sacrifice to him heads--' of onions,' says Numa--' of men,' says the god. 'Hairs,' adds Numa--'the life, says Jupiter; 'of a fish 'adds Numa. And the god is represented as approving the pious king's ingenious and persistent evasion of a cruel order: O mortal not unworthy to converse with gods!' The parallel is close with the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. In both narratives a later age reconciles Religion and Morality by explaining the apparent cruelty of the divine command as a trial, in the case of Abraham, of the worshipper's faith, in the case of Numa, of his humanity. Once more, St. Augustine has recorded in his Confessions his disapproval of the education in classical literature which he had himself received, because it familiarized those so brought up with poets who represented the chief of the gods as at once thunderer and adulterer, and reminds his readers of the passage in the Eunucbus of Terence, wherein a young man is introduced excusing himself for seduction by the example of Jupiter's amour with Danae.
One may indeed question whether a divine example under paganism ever meant what it would to us, just because in paganism the Platonic principle that God is good and that nothing but what is good is to be attributed to him has not been accepted as an axiom; but no doubt the persistence of traditions of this kind, even though the gods were not regarded as patterns of conduct, did not (to say the least) promote the progress of Morality; and it deprived the classical world of the powerful impulse given to that progress under Judaism and Christianity by the acceptance therein of the interpretation which the Jewish prophets had put upon the traditional language about the holiness of their national deity. Our familiarity with this interpretation makes it indeed hard for us now to realise that the primitive notion of God's separateness from common life did not originally involve what we should call holiness at all. [Cp. my Problems in the Relation of God and Man, pp. 262-3.]
Something more will have to be said of this persistence in religious tradition of a lower moral standard than has been elsewhere attained by the community which still regards this tradition with reverence, when I come to speak of the position assigned to Morality in Religion by Christianity. For the present, however, I pass to the other cause which I mentioned of the conflict sometimes observed between Religion and Morality, and which I described as the intimately personal character of Religion. This description, however, requires some explanation or it may easily mislead us. For it may at first suggest features of the highest forms of Religion which cannot truly be said to belong to Religion at all throughout a great part of its history. The object of Religion is by no means everywhere and always regarded as personal, in the sense of being a Spirit capable of entering into what we should usually call personal relations with ourselves; nor yet is Religion everywhere and always regarded as an activity which is exercised by the individual man as an individual, distinguishing himself from his fellow members of the community to which he belongs. On the contrary, it is far more usual for Religion to be conceived as a function of the communal rather than of the individual life; and as concerning the individual man chiefly or only as a member of his group or community.
But, notwithstanding these facts, of which I am aware, and the importance of which I have no desire to minimize, the attitude of Religion is, I think, on the one hand never merely cognitive, merely one of apprehension or awareness, but implies at least the possibility of a relation of what may fairly be called a personal character with its object, although this object may not be explicitly concerned as another person or persons, and although, while the sense of a personal life in the individual, distinct from and at least possibly independent of the life of the community, is still undeveloped, so long the sentiment of an individual relation to the object of Religion, not mediated through the community, will also not have emerged into consciousness.
Now this intimately personal aspect of the religious life may give rise to a conflict between Morality and Religion and that, too, as a stage of religious development at which the danger to Morality from outworn religious tradition is no longer grave. For just because it is felt to be possible to have access to or communion with the Divine in a way which can be described in terms of personal intimacy, the thought may occur that in such access or communion we transcend the impersonal relation to the Moral Law, which is in Kantian phrase the same for all rational beings; and this whether the Divinity with which this more intimate relation is established be regarded as the Author of that Law or as belonging to a higher region 'beyond good and evil' or even (as in that Manichean type of heresy which vexed the Middle Ages) as an independent Power of the same rank as the Author of the Moral Law. The warfare of the mediaeval Church of the West with this type of heresy was sometimes stained by cruelty and injustice; but in resisting it that Church was undoubtedly the champion of Morality in Religion. For, as we may learn from the stately rhetoric which Byron in his drama of Cain has put into the mouth of Lucifer, the imagination of an Evil Power, which is not the creature of the good God and not in the last resort destined to complete subjugation by hinv involves the thought of a spiritual ambition for man distinct from that of union with the good God. It is thus expressly at variance with any religion which could be treated after Kant's fashion as a postulate of Morality, guaranteeing its ultimate supremacy in the universe, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.
But, even where Religion does not take this form, but acknowledges only one Supreme Power, and that a Power identified with the Law revealed in conscience, even there the sentiment of personal intimacy may suggest the possibility of some such private privilege of indulgence as a kinsman or favourite might obtain at the hands of an earthly king or magistrate. Polytheism, even where it is not of the Manichean type which sets side by side with the good God a rival Power of opposite character, but merely imagines a single hierarchy of divine beings under one supreme chief, affords special facilities for this kind of attempt to enlist religious devotion on the side of a lower moral standard.
Here again we must recognise that the mediaeval Church, while, in its popular devotion to a multitude of saints, its Christianity sometimes wears a very polytheistic air, yet never permitted the ascription of Godhead to any saint, not even to the 'Mother of God.' I will refer my readers to the profoundly interesting contrast instituted by the late Sir Alfred Lyall in his Asiatic Studies between the unification of European religious cults by Christianity and that of Indian religious cults by Brahmanism. They will there find explained the extreme importance, not only in the religious but also in the political development of two civilizations, of what at first seems to be the merely formal difference that the lesser supernatural beings whom mediaeval Christians honoured with religious ceremonies were denied by the Church the title of Gods, while those venerated by the Hindoo were allowed it, although only as forms or manifestations or incarnations of the supreme Brahmanic deities or of a single Divine Power whereof even Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are but appearances. It cannot indeed be denied that, despite the refusal of the Christian Church to give the name of gods to the saints, whom notwithstanding it has permitted Christians to honour much as inferior gods were honoured under other religious systems, the dangers from which this refusal was able to secure Christianity were not entirely escaped. It is only necessary to refer to the tendency expressed in some well-known legends, some familiar artistic representations, and the language of much popular Roman Catholic piety, in which it is suggested that resort to Mary's intercession is likely to be more easily won because she, as a woman, may be supposed to have a less strict sense of justice and a greater susceptibility to the influence of private favour and affection. Such a view is of course wholly without sanction in the authoritative theology of the Roman Catholic Church, and it would not be impossible to find in branches of the Christian Church which do not invoke the intercession of saints a contrast sometimes drawn between the gracious Son and the stern Father which, although entirely inconsistent with the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, perverts that doctrine into a kind of ditheism, entailing a discrepancy between Religion and Morality such as is apt to follow on any loosening of grip upon the principle of the first commandment of the Hebrew decalogue.
It was the dread of the perversion of Religion after some such fashion as this into an influence injurious to Morality by means of the imagination of a possible access to God behind the back--to use an expression which I ventured to employ before--of the Moral Law--that was, I think, the principal motive of Kant's rejection as superstitious of all belief in an intercourse with God concerning which we could use the language appropriate to our intercourse with our fellow-men. He thought, however, that the doctrines of Christianity could be stated in a way which would avoid exposing it to dangers of this sort and would enable it to serve as a symbol to the imagination of a pure universal morality and to render possible the expression of such a morality in acts of public worship. Certainly if this could be accomplished by any of the great historical religions, we should expect Christianity to be that one. Yet it is obvious, not only that it has often in fact (as we have already seen in certain instances) been held to sanction practices which Kant would have thought superstitious, but that there are features which may well seem essential to any form of Christianity (especially the peculiar position ascribed to its Founder) which might appear to necessitate the recognition of what Kant would call a 'statutory element' in its teaching. Moreover the central doctrine of the Forgiveness of Sins, although it is true that Kant was prepared to supply an interpretation of it which should be in accordance with his own views, inevitably presents a difficulty to anyone who would assert that a moral rigorism is the be-all and end-all of Religion.
Now historical Christianity is the heir both of the Jewish prophets and of the Greek philosophers. In the Jewish prophets and the Greek philosophers we have two groups of men who performed the task of purifying and elevating the conception of God entertained by the Israelites and the Greeks respectively, that is by the two nations in whose religious thought the theology of Christendom is rooted. There was, however, one remarkable difference between the two groups which has a great importance for the understanding of our present subject. The Greek philosophers, in developing their own views of God, did not so much purify the traditional religious usages of their people as rose out of it and above it. The usages themselves they left on the whole much where they found them. Even Plato, who on occasion speaks with severity comparable to that of a Jewish prophet about some of the baser religious practices of his time, on the whole treats popular religion with a half-respectful, half-ironical tolerance. In the legislation of his ideal State he lays it down that his young citizens are not to hear unseemly tales; but he observes that, if any such must be told in any religious service, it would at any rate be well that the victim appointed to be sacrificed on such an occasion should be as expensive and as difficult to procure as possible. [Cp. Problems in the Relations of God and Man, p. 209.] The assumption here that it is from religious worship that obscenity will be most difficult to dislodge at first strikes any one bred in Christian traditions as paradoxically strange; but the situation has of course a close parallel in India to-day.
The Jewish prophets on the other hand accomplished a task which the Greek philosophers were unable to accomplish and which indeed they can scarcely be said to have attempted; and no doubt it was partly owing to their inferiority to the Greek philosophers in speculative insight that they were better able to accomplish it. This was the task of purifying their theology without losing touch with their national religious tradition. Speaking in the name of their national God, whose 'holiness 'they interpreted in an ethical sense, they achieved a reformation of the national worship which left it free from the sensuality which has haunted the precincts of so many heathen shrines, and facilitated the interpretation of them as symbols of an inward and spiritual worship which, after the Dispersion had rendered access to the place where they could be properly performed impossible to the majority of the nation, became more familiar to the most part ot it than the sacrificial ritual itself.
Christianity inherited from the prophets their ethical interpretation of the holiness, ascribed to the God of Israel and of the sacrificial language employed by religious tradition; and, after it had made for itself a home among the Gentiles, it inherited also from Plato his canon of theology that nothing but what is good may be ascribed to God.
Now, as we have seen, the results of the establishment of this canon of theology, epoch-making as was its enunciation by Plato, were little felt in the religion of Plato's own countrymen before their adoption of Christianity, because the philosophical reform of theology did not, generally speaking, extend to the religious institutions of the people. Indeed, although in the Greek philosophical schools, especially in the Platonic and the Stoic, a very high ethical teaching was to be found, yet there remained even in these a certain discrepancy between theology and ethics owing to the fact that their doctrine of God was reached primarily by means of contemplation of and reflexion upon the order of the world, and not by way of an experience of a covenant-relation with him, as in the theology of Israel.
The history of Religion demonstrates the difficulty of founding a satisfactory religious ethical system upon a religion which is primarily cosmological; although religions which adopt a fundamentally negative attitude toward the world, like Buddhism, can form the basis of a lofty morality, though one which is essentially pessimistic. The Christian morality, which finds its ideal in a victorious life of filial love is based upon a religion whose God was known from the first primarily as the covenant God of Israel and only secondarily as the Maker of Heaven and Earth. It is in Christianity that the Platonic canon of theology has been so fully adopted that men whose religious training has been Christian are apt to miss its importance and to regard it as little more than tautological. Yet it is in fact only when it is accepted as an axiom that the really grave difficulties about the relation between Morality and Religion begin to be felt. For now the discrepancies which even Plato despaired of removing are regarded as inadmissible; and the appearance of such whether in the religious tradition or in the religious temper must be met either by an abandonment of the religious doctrines, practices or feelings which are morally condemned or by an endeavour to supply a moral justification of such doctrines, practices and feelings as may at first sight appear to lack it.
In Christianity, just because of the whole-hearted adoption therein of the prophetic principle of the divine holiness and of the Platonic axiom that nothing but what is good may be attributed to God, these difficulties will be found especially prominent; but I have only space to indicate very briefly some of the more important topics which would come up for discussion in any thorough-going treatment of the subject.
Under Christianity the criticism of Religion by Morality has no doubt gone on actively throughout its history; but it has for the most part been carried on in the name of Religion itself. This is especially obvious in the history of the Reformation. Indeed while here the forces of religious conservatism were on one side, the criticism--although to a great extent inspired by an ethical movement towards the unification of the moral ideal, which seemed to have suffered disruption owing to the recognition of the technically 'religious 'life and of celibacy as higher than the life of the married citizen and householder, notwithstanding that this was acknowledged to be legitimate and Christian--was nevertheless so definitely and consciously based upon religious dogma that the religious conservatives could be regarded without absurdity as in some respects the defenders of a merely natural or heathen Morality against the claims of Divine Grace to over-ride all rules and to annihilate all merit.
Again, in what will perhaps be eventually considered the most revolutionary change which has in quite recent times passed over the mind of Western Christendom--the gradual abandonment of the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture--the moral conscience of Christians, emancipated by the advance of biblical criticism, has indeed thrown itself into the criticism of a great part of Christian religious tradition; but even here has drawn much of its inspiration in doing so from what has always been acknowledged as the most sacred part of that tradition, the teaching of Jesus Christ himself.
In respect of another remarkable change, associated with this, which has passed over the spirit of a large part of Christendom at the same time, and in the record of which in this country a memorable episode in the history of this College will always find a place, the change expressed by the widespread abandonment of the doctrine of eternal punishment as that was almost universally held and taught by Christian theologians in the past; although it may be claimed for this change that it is agreeable to the temper of forgiving love which the Church has learned from the Gospels yet it can certainly not appeal to the recorded words of Christ in its favour. [King's College, London. The allusion is to Frederick Denison Maurice.] And hence it undoubtedly raises the question whether there is in Christianity any thing, which can be withdrawn from the criticism of the moral conscience.
It would indeed be quite contrary to the whole spirit of Christianity that anything should be so withdrawn as in truth transcending the distinction of good and evil, still more as belonging to a 'reserve,' so to say, in which the morally evil could be permitted to dwell undisturbed by the censure of the Moral Law.
But it might be held that certain things were exempt from our criticism, that we must accept them as being good, however little they may seem to approve themselves to our conscience, because they come to us with an authority which guarantees their goodness. Now, if nothing more were meant by this than that we should show, with respect to what is recommended to our acceptance by the persons or the societies to whose instructions the race owes its highest ethical ideals, the same prudent modesty which makes us in ordinary life ready to submit our own judgment on a point of conscience to a friend whom we have every reason to think better and wiser than ourselves, we could only concur in the statement. But if it be meant that we should deny that to be good or evil which, after our utmost pains to see it clearly and steadily, presents itself to us as the opposite, though it be in Bible or in Creed or in the recorded teaching of Christ himself, I am convinced that we should be untrue to the spirit of the Christian religion itself. Christ is nowhere represented as withdrawing his teaching from the scrutiny of his hearers' consciences, but rather as submitting it to the judgment of them; and in the passage about the eternal sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost he is related to have pronounced the severest possible censure upon any such tampering with our moral convictions from prejudice in favour of religious use and wont as is likely to be the outcome of the temper which refuses the task of passing a personal judgment upon a clear moral issue, and, where such an issue is raised, is content to label a thing good or evil merely according to the source from which it comes.
I think it was Hurrell Froude--it was at any rate some enthusiastic young Tractarian in the early days of the Oxford Movement--who said, in conversation, to a friend that every word of our Lord was as it were a canon law for the Church. I feel sure that the manner of treating those words implied,in this remark is an entirely mistaken one, and quite uncongenial to the whole method and form of the teaching of Jesus. As a matter of fact, the Christian Church has never thus treated the majority of his sayings. That concerning divorce has indeed sometimes been regarded in this light; the words used in the institution of the Eucharist have been anxiously examined as a lawyer scrutinizes an Act of Parliament. But, for the most part, some of the sayings of Jesus have been treated as 'counsels of perfection,' others as 'precepts,' some as figurative, others as literal, in accord with the general judgment of the Christian community, which claimed from the time of the Fourth Evangelist onwards to enjoy the guidance of the Spirit of truth in its interpretation of the teaching of the Lord.
But while the moral conscience--a conscience trained, it is true, in the school of Christ--may, as we saw in the case of the doctrine of future punishment, come to miss in his recorded utterances a recognition of values which have now emerged into the general consciousness (and, after all, as much may be said and has been said by theologians reckoned most orthodox, about conceptions which play a great part in the dogmatic system of historical Christianity, but are either absent from or quite unemphasized in the teaching ascribed to our Lord in the Synoptic Gospels); while there is in this respect a sphere even in Christianity as in all historical religions, for a criticism of religious tradition by Morality, there is in Christianity a feature, the criticism of which by Morality gives rise to a profounder problem than any due to the discrepancy with moral standards of such portions of the religious traditions as I have hitherto mentioned. For in this feature we have on the one hand something so essential to Christianity that the utmost freedom of discrimination, the most drastic modification of the Christian tradition could not neglect or remove it without destroying the religion itself; something which is central alike in the Gospels and in the Epistles, in ancient times and in modern, in Catholicism and in Protestantism; I mean the doctrine of the Forgiveness of Sins.
One may find claimants of the Christian name--and some claimants to whom it is hard to refuse it--who reject the doctrine of the Trinity or that of the Incarnation or that of the Atonement by the death of Christ or the use of the Sacraments or the authority of the Church or of the Bible; but probably none who would disclaim the doctrine of the Forgiveness of Sins. Yet the doctrine of the Forgiveness of Sins is one which presents not a little difficulty from the point of view of a strict ethical theory.
For it is at first sight a paradox that the Christian religion seems at once to intensify the horror of sin and yet to give assurance of forgiveness. From a point of view which we may call merely ethical, the religious horror of sin seems morbid, and the religious assurance of sin immoral: and moreover the two seem naturally inconsistent. One is inclined to say 'Let us do better for the future and let bygones be bygones,' but on the other hand to think that the effects of sin endure always and that we can depend on none but ourselves for the undoing of them.
It is true that the religious horror of sin would be morbid apart from the religious assurance of forgiveness, and the religious assurance of forgiveness apart from the religious horror of sin, and that the two are inconsistent in the sense in which so long as one remains at a certain point of view, the thesis and antithesis of the Kantian autonomies are inconsistent. The solution suggested by Christianity in the present case is that while man apart from God can do nothing, in union with God he can do all things; and although, as I said, the Forgiveness of Sins proclaimed by Jesus may be believed in and accepted where no doctrine of the Atonement is formulated, yet it is the essential significance of the language which has been most commonly held in the Church upon this subject that it represents the undoing of sin as accomplished by the union of God with man; since man cannot effect it without God, but God in man can do it. [Cp. Problems in the Relations of God and Man, p. 276.]
The mention of this difference of the attitude toward sin taken up by Morality apart from Religion and by Morality when inspired by Religion---an attitude which by those who have once adopted it, can scarcely but be regarded as even ethically more satisfactory, will form a natural transition to the subject of my concluding Lecture, in which I propose to deal with Morality under the inspiration of Religion.
IN my second lecture I dealt with the criticism of Religion by Morality; and under that head considered both the examination, in the light of moral standards acquired at a later stage of religious development, of the actual traditions in a tenacious retention of which the conservatism characteristic of Religion is exhibited; and also, though less fully, the criticism, philosophically more important, of religious ideas from a point of view which may be described as merely ethical.
This latter kind of criticism was illustrated at the end of the Lecture, by the charge which may be brought from such a point of view against the central Christian doctrine of the Forgiveness of Sins as implying a morbid horror of sin coupled with an immoral readiness to shut one's eyes to its necessary and inevitable consequences; an ill-assorted pair of yoke-fellows, and neither of them, though for different and even opposite reasons, deserving of much credit or respect.
This illustration, however, does no more than indicate by means of an example what I mean by a merely ethical point of view; and it will be desirable before going further to give a somewhat fuller account of what is in my mind when employing this expression.
It is characteristic of Morality that it deals with what ought to be and not at all with what is. Whether anyone ever does his duty or no, his duty it remains. The Law may 'conclude all under sin' as falling short of its demand; but the demand itself is not weakened thereby. Again, it is characteristic of Morality that it has no respect of persons; like Zeus in the Odyssey, it does not pity man; hence, as we saw in the last Lecture, the notion of forgiveness presents it with a difficult problem. Even in commanding works of beneficence, it does not, for it cannot, command the corresponding feelings; indeed, from a merely ethical point of view, such as Kant is apt to take, there is something more purely dutiful in the beneficence of one who does good to others without the inducement of an emotion of kindness towards the objects of his bounty and without the encouragement enjoyed by those who are conscious of a 'glow of benevolence 'in the performance of charitable deeds. Once more, the authority which the 'merely' moral man reverences and obeys is envisaged as that of an abstract and impersonal Law; and, as we saw illustrated by the attitude of Kant, the representation of this Law as enacted by a personal Legislator, even where its power over the imagination is acknowledged and its practical value conceded, is regarded with some suspicion as endangering the purity of our respect for the Law itself, and at least suggesting the possibility of evading its requirements by means of an appeal to personal feeling.
It is, on the other hand, the characteristic feature of Religion by which it is contrasted with a non-religious Morality that it tends to impart to our respect for the Moral Law the 'warmth and intimacy' which belong to the mutual intercourse of persons and, especially in the Christian Religion, to transform that respect into a sentiment of love for its Divine Author. With this feature of Religion is closely associated the thought of a Providence which does not regard the individual merely as a particular instance of a universal but as this individual, 'the very hairs of' whose 'head are all numbered'; and also the thought of the possibility of a Forgiveness of Sins which, however, just because of the genuine individuality of its application, is not a mere waiving of the universal demand. Lastly, as was hinted in the few remarks made upon this subject at the end of my second Lecture, this again involves the notion of a realization in God of our ideal of what ought to be; which thus we can say not only ought to be, but in truth is.
We shall, I think, find that the association of Religion with Morality may be to the latter either a savour of death unto death, or a savour of life unto life. If Morality is not permitted by this association to develop itself upon its own lines, and to exercise such a criticism of Religion as was illustrated in my second Lecture, the connexion with Religion may degrade it, by checking its natural growth and constraining it to give the lie to its own intuitions in order to reconcile them to religious tradition. On the other hand, when Morality is allowed to develop itself in comparative independence of religious tradition, and to criticize that tradition freely, then the influence upon it of association with Religion will be to deliver it from meticulous anxiety by imparting to it the inspiration of an assurance that victory is within its grasp; from a pedantic rigorism by the substitution, as the object of its reverence, of a living Spirit for an abstract Law; and from an ungracious pride by the revelation to the soul, in the experience which we call Conscience, of a personal relation to the Authority manifest to us therein.
I will endeavour in the rest of this Lecture to illustrate in some detail this transfiguration of Morality by Religion, while pointing out by the way of contrast the danger of degradation involved for Morality in the union which may thus be fruitful for good, wherever Morality is not allowed to develop itself along its own lines and to carry on an independent criticism of the distinct but allied form of spiritual experience to which we give the name of Religion.
The religious view of wrong-doing as sin, while it may seem to heighten, and does indeed actually heighten, the sense of its gravity, may yet lead, and has actually led, to immoral results by treating it as an offence to be wiped out rather by expiatory ceremonies than by amendment of life, and by rating the non-observance of supposed ritual duties toward divine Powers as more serious than the violation of the rights' of our human neighbours.
Where this happens, the nature of sin as a voluntary and personal act and that of punishment and of forgiveness as alike voluntary and personal experiences is not realized or is lost sight of. Oedipus is none the less guilty of parricide and incest that he neither knew Laius to be his father nor knew Jocasta to be his mother Punishment is regarded as none the less truly punishment that there is no consciousness of guilt to meet it; a propitiatory sacrifice or other such rite can take away sin without repentance on the sinner's part. I suppose that it is against such an unethical although religious conception of sin, punishment, and forgiveness--a conception to which he stood historically nearer than we--that Plato was protesting in his affirmation that the end of punishment is to make the punished person better. I do not think that he thought of punishment in the main as a means to the reformation of a sinner, to which some other means of a quite different nature might on other occasions be preferred. The reformation that is to be effected by punishment presupposes the recognition of punishment as retribution, and can only be conceived as effected either by punishment or by some experience which takes up punishment into itself, as true forgiveness may; of this, however, I shall speak later on.
As Morality advances, the view of sin which Plato thus implicitly rejects is left behind, and at the same time the application of the Platonic canon of theology, to which I have so often referred, which forbids the attribution to God of aught but what is good, constrains us to regard the 'manifest authority 'of the law which bids us do good to our neighbours as a truer expression of the Divine Will than any commandment of a ritual nature.
But, when the criticism of Morality by Religion has done its perfect work, Morality will yet be found to need the inspiration of Religion to impart to its attitude towards the voluntary refusal of the good and choice of the evil, that depth and earnestness which attaches to the religious attitude towards sin; and also to inspire its strivings toward the ideal with the hope and confidence which can only come from the consciousness in Religion of intercourse with a real Supreme Goodness, in which the values we are endeavouring to attain are actually secure.
Again, from the point of view of Morality apart from Religion it is possible to suspect Religion, in the stress which it lays upon repentance, of insensibility to the lasting effects of wrong-doing, especially to those entailed by the operation of physical laws, which is unaffected by a change of sentiment in the wrong-doer. The murderer's regret will not fevive his victim, nor will the remorse of the sinner whose selfishness has brought injury or disease upon others check the development of the disastrous processes which have thus been initiated. Here we may note again that, as I pointed out in passing in my second Lecture, Religion is criticized as guilty of the opposite error to that imputed to it before in respect of sin. The religious horror of sin seemed to make too much of sin; the religious call for repentance and faith that repentance wins forgiveness seem to make too little.
What we must here bear in mind is that it is not anything that may be called Repentance nor anything that may be called Forgiveness that Religion can accept as such. The thought that one may do evil with the intention of repenting and so earning forgiveness is incompatible, not perhaps with an uncomfortable feeling which we might be willing to put up with (as one may sometimes deliberately think it worth while to incur a fine), but certainly with a genuine repentance which can be recognized as drawing forgiveness after it. Should such a genuine repentance actually ensue in the case of sin so committed, it would have to include repentance for this very attitude assumed in the commission of the sin itself.
So, too, with Forgiveness. The man who has basely betrayed his friend will not be satisfied if the friend forgives him carelessly, as he might waive aside some trivial neglect which he had not noticed and did not mind. Such forgiveness would not have the moral value of punishment, would not have 'taken up the punishment into itself,' to use the phraseology of a certain philosophical school. The forgiveness which can dispense with punishment without an affront to Morality must be a forgiveness which in the acceptance of it by the person forgiven does the office of punishment--which, not through the intention of the party forgiving, but through the awakened conscience of him who receives the forgiveness, 'heaps coals of fire' upon the latter's head.
No one who reads the Parable of the Prodigal Son, in which the free forgiveness which runs to meet repentance is so wonderfully portcayed, imagines the father in the story as like one of the old men in Terentian comedy who, remembering his own youthful peccadilloes and finding that the situation can be regularized, opens his heart and his purse, and is greeted by a relieved but quite unrepentant son with an O lepidissime pater!
And it must also be remembered that it is not involved in the doctrine of the forgiveness of every true penitent that those consequences of sin, the inevitableness of which is insisted upon by critics of the doctrine, are abolished by forgiveness. On the contrary, the penitent and forgiven man must bear them; but he bears them in another spirit than that of the man who is impenitent and therefore unforgiven. This is no doubt what is symbolized in the representation of the souls in Purgatory who, because they are secure of salvation, can pass 'without a sob or a resistance n into the depths of the penal waters. No doubt in the eyes of the Reformers of the sixteenth century, the belief in Purgatory was not only intertwined with superstitious practices and with the traffic in masses for the dead, but seemed incongruous with the fulness of the divine pardon promised to the sincerely penitent; yet in itself it does, I think, express a true insight into the relation of divine forgiveness, even when conceived of as not only full but final, to the consequences which are entailed upon sin by natural law.
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, wherein, as we saw, the doctrine of the full forgiveness of every true penitent is set forth with unequalled force and charm, the reconciliation of the Justice which is the last word of Morality apart from Religion with the Mercy by means of which it is apt to suspect Religion of betraying its stronghold, is brought home in the words spoken by the father in answer to the remonstrances of his elder son, 'Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.' There is here an ungrudging recognition of the just claims of obedience to law. But 'it was meet that we should make merry and rejoice '; the very mercy which seemed at first to transgress rather than to transcend the law of justice is seen to be itself the truly just.
Up to this point we have been for the most part considering Religion as, so to say, on its defence against the criticism of Morality, and, while admitting the justice of some of this criticism and the value of it to Religion itself as a means to its purification and elevation, have claimed on behalf of Religion that, in its higher forms, it actually supplies to Morality an inspiration which it would otherwise lack, and thus assists it to escape from an abstractness and formality into which without that inspiration it would be in danger of lapsing.
But it is possible to claim for Religion that it lifts us into a region 'beyond good and evil' as Morality distinguishes these. Incongruous as such a view of Religion may be with the tradition of Christian theology, rooted as that theology is in the prophetic proclamation of God's righteousness and holiness, and in Platonism with its axiom that only what is good may be attributed to him, the suggestion of it is too closely connected with what I take to be essential features of the religious consciousness to justify us in lightly dismissing it as extravagant or meaningless.
Such a claim on behalf of Religion to be regarded as 'beyond good and evil' may be made from several different points of view. But there is probably always present in it or behind it the conviction that the object of Religion must be the ultimate Reality, and the desire to see in all that finds place in our experience an expression of the thought and will of God. This conviction is of course challenged by doctrines, such as have of late found favour in very various quarters, of a 'finite God.'
These doctrines frankly surrender the attempt to regard God as, even at last, truly 'all in all,' and set him against the background of a Necessity to which, like the Zeus of the ancient Greeks, he is himself subject, and over against evils which he combats and only imperfectly succeeds in subjugating. I have elsewhere1 attempted an examination of this type of view, and do not propose to offer here any detailed consideration of it in its various forms. I will only say that it seems to me to sacrifice in the supposed interest of Morality an essential feature of Religion, with which it cannot, I am convinced, despite all the eloquence of Mr. Wells, the moral and intellectual force and earnestness of Dean Rashdall, and the metaphysical subtlety of Mr. Bradley, dispense in the last resort; namely the faith that it has to do with nothing less than the supreme and ultimate Reality, which is (if I may so express it) at the back of everything. I It is, as has often been observed, highly significant that Christianity, which of all historical religions has, as we saw, most wholeheartedly accepted the Platonic axiom and the prophetic doctrine of the divine holiness, and has enshrined Morality at the very heart of the religious life, has yet expressed what is perhaps its deepest thought in the famous hymn sung in the service for the blessing of the Paschal candle:
O felix culpa quae talem at tantum meruit habere Redemptorem.
Let me quote by the side of this celebrated verse words from a modern Christian writer of unquestioned orthodoxy, the founder of the Society of St. John the Evangelist at Cowley, Richard Meux Benson: 'God did not create the world by a mistake. People are often ready to think that after all it was a mistake, a misfortune; so that if God had really known all from the beginning he would not have incurred the misery which belongs to creation, he would not have allowed such circumstances to arise as would make the Passion necessary. We must reject all such dreams as blasphemous. God does not merely get out of evil by a wonderful device, leaving the evil as a thing that had better not have been. God comes to triumph over evil and therefore we must regard it not merely as antagonistic to God, but as subservient to him.' [Spiritual Readings for Advent, pp. 235-6. Cp. my God and Personality, pp. 195-6.]
So far this writer. I quote him here, as I quoted the Holy Saturday hymn, as a witness to the fact that Christian piety does not shrink from a consequence, involved, as I venture to think, in the very nature of the religious consciousness, even though it seems, in embracing it, to run the risk of violating the Platonic axiom that we are not to attribute to God anything but what is good, and of undoing, by the assertion that Religion is beyond good and evil, that work of moralizing Religion for which Christianity has stood and which some modern critics of Christianity would censure it not for undertaking but for failing to carry out with sufficient thoroughness.
I should not be dealing honestly with the problem thus raised if I did not frankly allow that we must not look, either by a recognition of the implication of the possibility of moral evil in the reality of moral freedom or by a religious faith in God's ultimate supremacy--and I do not mean by this merely his final victory--to escape from our sense of dissatisfaction in the presence of moral evil. To escape from this source of dissatisfaction would not be to solve the problem of evil but only to forget or ignore its existence. It is indeed, I think, because moralists--such as Dean Rashdall--are keenly alive, and rightly and reasonably so, to the temptation to which those are subject who wholeheartedly accept the doctrine^ of God's ultimate supremacy--call it, if you will, his 'omnipotence,' but in the historical sense which that word bears in the Creeds, not in the merely etymological sense which it is sometimes supposed to bear there, and is attacked accordingly--the temptation to allow their conviction of God's ultimate supremacy to weaken their dissatisfaction in the presence of moral evil, that they are in their turn tempted to resort to what I cannot but ask to be allowed to describe as the desperate expedient of some doctrine of a finite God.
There is, however, another connexion of thought in which one may be led to claim that Religion transcends Morality; and to this it is now time to turn.
It may be said that there are other kinds of goodness beside that which we ascribe to conduct, and that the pursuit of Truth in Science or of Beauty in Art may acquire the character of Religion as well as the pursuit of what we call a moral ideal of personal and social behaviour. I will state very briefly what I would say about this matter.
The word moral has by its derivation a direct reference to mores, human ways and manners, and hence refers properly only to human or quasi-human conduct. To call anything other than this morally good or bad is therefore plainly an improper use of language.
Yet it is, I think, also plain that in calling (as we do) other things than human or quasi-human conduct good we are not using the word in a quite different sense from that in which we use it when we are speaking of conduct. We call a pleasant experience or a beautiful thing of any sort or, again, a convincing argument good as well as noble conduct; but morally good we should not call any of them. I do not think, however, that by calling these good we mean no more than that they are respectively pleasant, beautiful, or convincing; nor again, merely that they satisfy our desires--for we often just desire them because they are good, and we may sometimes recognize that they are good, and think that therefore we ought to desire them, though we do not.
We cannot indeed define what we mean by good in other terms, but we always, I take it, mean by it something which, for obvious reasons, we commonly recognise most readily in what among 'good 'things is nearest to us, namely human conduct.
When, however, we ascribe, as we do, goodness to human activity directed to the production of what is good, although not morally good, I think that the goodness of such an activity has a perfect right to the name of moral goodness. The scientific man's conduct or the artist's conduct is surely morally good when they are respectively engaged in the pursuit of truth or the creation of beauty. If the good artist be immoral, in the popular sense of the word, which uses 'morality' and 'immorality' with special reference to those duties which are common to all men, we do not condone this immorality by recognising the goodness, nay the moral goodness, shown by the same man in his faithful service of Beauty; any more than in calling the narrow-minded man who lives a life of self-control and spends himself in the service of the community, a good man, we need be supposed to be condoning the narrow-mindedness which may have led him to be uncharitable toward the artist or to persecute the heresies of the man of science. If we use 'Morality' in a restricted sense to characterize one large and important sphere of conduct, we must not use it at the same time to include all good conduct; but it is better to call all good conduct morally good. And we may incidentally observe that it is. often not those who are most admirable in those relations of life to which the word 'morality 'is most often applied--those whom we should be inclined to call 'saintly'--who are most likely to be censorious, for example, of the artist who fails there while succeeding elsewhere. The self-complacent person who is ready to say, 'Stand afar off, I am holier than thou^is not a saint. The saint knows his own shortcomings and his own warfare too well, and can appreciate the like struggle, failure and attainment in another.
But while we may thus claim for Morality conduct directed to ends other than that discipline of one's own character and benevolence to one's neighbours which the word 'moral' primarily suggests, it is indubitable that it is these ends rather than the pursuit of Truth or Beauty that it does primarily suggest. And in the individual's ordering of his own life it may often happen that the pursuit of these ends to the uttermost may not be compatible with duties which are at once more universally obligatory and more directly due to certain definite individuals than the duty of scientific research or of artistic creation. And here it is that we shall find that only from the point of view of Religion can we so regard the controversy between Morality on the one hand and Art or Science on the other as to do justice to both parties.
We must indeed be careful, if we say (as I think we are entitled to say) that the elimination of Religion as a genuine form of experience would really involve the main task of Art and of Morality, to avoid misunderstandings which may easily arise. We must not allow ourselves to be supposed to mean that we cannot appreciate Beauty without holding some doctrine of a supernatural Artist or own the call of Duty without acknowledging a supernatural Lawgiver. For this certainly would not be true. To recognise and delight in Beauty, to acknowledge what Kant called the Categorical Impera-tion of Duty, we assuredly need no deduction from theological premises. The splendour of the one (as Plato said), the authority of the other (as Butler said) is manifest, and neither needs or admits an external guarantee. But it is in Religion, as the experience in which the human soul is aware of itself as one with the heart of Reality (or at least as capable of becoming one with it), that the manifest authority of Duty, the manifest splendour of Beauty are no merely subjective or superficial appearances, but intimations of the nature of that ultimate Reality whose essential attributes are manifested therein. Not only does Religion thus assure us that both in Art and in Morality do we lay hold of Reality, but also, by its interpretation of both as witnesses to different attributes of one Reality, it secures each from the dangers which threaten it from a complete separation from the other. The selfishness and cruelty which sometimes attend upon a one-sided aestheticism lose their inspiration when those elements of value in the world to which the source of Beauty satisfies are held to be secure in God although certain modes of aesthetic expression are found to be incompatible with Duty. And the censoriousness of a one-sided moralism, such as is symbolized by the Urizen of Blake's Prophetical Books, which is perpetually imposing limits upon artistic expression,--limits which often seem to the artist, with his passionate sense of Beauty, to be the fetters of an intolerable slavery,---is corrected by the faith which, even while denying the legitimacy of certain modes of artistic expression, affirms that what they would fain express is, so far as it is beautiful, also divine, and, even although it remain here and thus unexpressed, yet eternally secure in God. [Cp. my Group Theories of Religion and the Individual, pp. 186 f.]
What has been said of Beauty may, I think, be said also mutatis mutandis of Truth. In practice the problem of incompatibility with Duty is more frequently and poignantly felt in the presence of the former; but towards the interests both of Science and of Art Morality may find itself in a position of antagonism which only under the inspiration of Religion can it, without betrayal of its own trust, overcome. '
But not only does Morality thus need the inspiration of Religion to reconcile itself with Art and with Science. It leads us itself directly to Religion.
Our attitude of reverence to the Moral Law is after all an attitude which, when reflecting upon it at a stage of spiritual development marked by a mature consciousness of Personality, we can scarcely describe satisfactorily except in terms which imply that it is in fact an attitude towards a Personal Lawgiver. But the very moment that we attempt to distinguish in the will of this Personal Lawgiver the object which he wills from the will itself which is directed towards that object, so that we could conceive of him as willing what we should not regard as obligatory, his will ceases to be identical with the authority in the consciousness of which our moral experience consists. Thus the conception of a Being who is not merely good but himself the Good is urged upon the student of ethics in the course of reflection upon the facts of the moral experience itself. These facts favour, as I have elsewhere contended, the assertion that in our consciousness of obligation we are aware of an imponent of the obligation, whom we must reverence as other than ourselves and as not merely superior to us but supreme over us, even though, in virtue of the unconditional acceptance of the obligation by our reason, we may with Kant speak of that which he imposes as imposed by ourselves. [Divine Personality and Human Life, p. 182.] We must acknowledge therefore in obligation not only, as Kant insisted, an aspect of autonomy, of self-imposed law, but also of a heteronomy, of a law imposed by another, which turns out on inspection to be really a theonomy, a law imposed by God. Such a heteronomy, however, is not a heteronomy in Kant's sense, in which he felt that it was inconsistent with the genuine notion of moral obligation or duty; for a law given by God is not a law given by-one who is another, since it is involved in our notion of God that he is immanent in our reason and will, which notwithstanding he transcends.
We have thus come to the end of our task. We have distinguished Morality and Religion as different forms of spiritual experience or activity, although forms which are in constant mutual interaction throughout the history of mankind. We have seen Morality as the critic of Religion, elevating it and purifying it; and we have finally seen Religion as the inspirer of Morality, delivering it from the dangers which beset it--from meticulous anxiety, from complacent pride, from pedantic rigour, and, at last, when itself purified by the criticism of Morality from superstition and arbitrariness, revealing the true nature of Morality, considered as, to quote the words of Martineau, 'in the act of Conscience, immediately introducing us to a Higher than ourselves that gives us what we feel'; as therefore in fact itself, in a most genuine sense, an experience of the Presence of God.