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make it worse. These are the characters of a reductio ad absurdum; the errors into which it leads you cannot be too gross or revolting to reason, for it is their office to revolt reason. It would be no improvement to the process if these could be palliated; and at the same time the process as a whole is exquisitely beautiful to the intellect. Ignorance could not wish for knowledge to come in any other way.
THE MORAL LAW.
MOST readers of the New Testament are aware that the founder of the Christian faith gave to His disciples two distinct summaries of His teaching-one at the beginning of His career, the other towards the close of it. The first of them was, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy heart. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." The other simply, "Love one another."
A glance will suffice to show in what the principal difference between these two consists. All mention of God is omitted in the latter and the love of our neighbour left absolute. We will not here discuss whether this omission was intentional or not, or what other differences there may be between these two commandments. At present we will consider the latter of them alone, and without reference to the former.
Love one another. But to love is by no means easy, and the child Humanity (represented in this case by the would-be followers of Christ), instead of concentrating its whole soul on doing the thing which it was commanded to do, stared helplessly at the great problem before it and shook its head, saying, "No, no; that is impossible.
I am too young yet; my faculties are not developed, my powers are not matured. When I am older, when I am in a different state, then I can think about loving; but meantime what shall I do instead?"
What shall I do instead? A fatal question, which presents itself sooner or later to almost all men, which passes away too often leaving behind it the print of its footsteps in misery and crime. "Let us shut ourselves away from the world and save our own souls," said some. Hence the monastic self-torture. "Let us go out into the world and force it to worship as we worship," said others. Hence religious wars and persecution. "Let us keep ourselves respectable at all costs to ourselves and others; let us believe that outward ceremony can purify that which is inwardly defiled; let us respond to the claims of society rather than to the claims of humanity," said others still.
But need we say it ?-all these plans have failed; and the poor child, having assumed at starting that "To love is impossible," finds itself face to face with the fact that nothing will do instead.
Now the foregoing is not a history of something which happened once at a given time, but the expression of a process which is continually repeating itself. We to-day are in the midst of it. We to-day are finding out by bitter experience that wanton, suffering our own and others, is of no avail. We are beginning to realise that love. always and love only can purify, and that self-righteousness is not our duty. And we too are continually saying, "I cannot love; what shall I do instead?".
It is with reference to one of these substitutes for the true law that I wish now to speak, viz., the following:"Love your neighbour, or at least, act as if you did."
Here there are two fundamental errors. In the first place, this precept contains an impossibility; for the action which results from "loving" must be essentially different from the action which results from "not loving." A person who did not love could not act like a person who loved (unless he possessed an almost superhuman genius for representation and great experience). Secondly, for unlove to imitate love's action, even were it possible, would be of no value whatever, in a moral point of view.
A moment's reflection will suffice to make this clear. The moral law is "Love thy neighbour" (every serious thinker, whether he does or does not accept the theologica' doctrines of Christianity, acknowledges this). The duty which we owe to our neighbour is "to love him;" not loving him, we cannot do our duty by him. And to any one who asks, "I do not love my neighbour; what shall I do?" there can be but one answer, "Love him."
We can imagine an objector saying, "This assertion is ridiculous. Of course if man were in a perfect state he could love his neighbour. Being as he is, he must do the next best thing, which is act as if he did. Do you mean to imply that supposing I owe my neighbour some money, I need not pay it to him unless I love him? Is it not my duty to be honest whatever my own feelings may be? If people saw no reason for paying their debts, what a chaos society would become !"
"Very true," we should make answer. "Under such circumstances society would become a chaos; but the circumstances never could exist, for society would organise itself according to its own convenience. People would fnd it impossible to retain their social position without
paying their debts, and therefore they would pay them. Do not think that moral force is required to make people honest. As a matter of fact, the most scrupulously honest people often are so because their own welfare depends upon other people's being able to trust them. That business relationships should be kept inviolate is by no means valueless; but it is valueless in a moral point of view, a mere matter of policy outside the domain of morals altogether.
But our imaginary objector is not yet satisfied. him speak for himself. "I grant you that the moral law, in its perfect fulfilment, is To Love; but I cannot rid myself of the conviction that I am morally responsible for my actions as well as for my emotions. To do to all men as I would they should do unto me, whether I love them or not, is not a 'mere matter of policy;' it is a moral duty, less exalted perhaps than the moral duty of love, but nevertheless of great value in a moral point of view."
We should reply, that the moral value that belongs to that action belongs to it as a means and not as an end, belongs to it only in so far as the action tends to produce the feeling of love.
We have admitted that the moral duty of love is the highest of all. If that duty were fulfilled indeed, there would be no need of any other. All others would be fulfilled in it. Seeing, then, that to do anything involves expenditure of force, were not the moral force of humanity more profitably expended in loving than in any other way?
And love may be likened to a plant which requires to be watered. Wasting our moral force upon things to be done instead, is like driving a stick into the ground at a