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and a hundred theories besides, of which the man who has patience may examine as many as he likes.
The last notion is this : that five ideas, Benevolence, Justice, Truth, Honesty, Order, make up the “central idea of morality,” or are its elements.* These, undoubtedly, are very good, all of them; though as for their being the central elements of the supreme law of action, the Summum Bonum, or Highest Good, I myself being a Christian, should rather prefer the ancient elements of “faith, hope, and charity,” which, as there are such facts as a God, a Gospel, a Salvation and a Spirit, I conceive are far more peculiarly central elements of a Christian morality.
Now, what is the fact ? This it is, that no compounding, adding together, or intensifying of these ideas, or of any ideas whatsoever, will give us as a result the idea of Moral Goodness. The idea of Moral Goodness is an idea just as simple as any one of these ideas, and manifestly the highest moral idea of them all.
We could easily show this by the old logical method of the consideration of what is technically called the comprehension and extension of the ideas. However, it may be easily seen by another means. In fact we may add a multitude of other qualities, having just as fair a title as these have, for instance, Holiness, Conscientiousness, Temperance, Self-denial, &c., besides the three I before mentioned, of "faith, hope, and love." Because you call these morally good, and it is true that they are so, it does not follow that they are the elements of moral good. So, to live according to the eternal fitness of things, or according to “the idea of moral beauty," these are morally good, but it does not follow that the idea of moral goodness is compounded of these.
In truth, the idea of Moral Good is the highest of all moral ideas, neither made up nor compounded of any, having none above it, itself measuring all other moral ideas, and being measured of none. Of it no definition can be given, therefore; nothing but illustration, by declaring the persons, or events, or qualities in which it is, or by showing how we attain it, but no definition. We may say of a wagon, it is a four-wheeled vehicle, giving thereby a description of its components; but of this we can give no such definition. When one asks us, “What is the highest moral good ?” we answer, “Moral Good.” When he asks,
When he asks, “What is moral
* Professor Whewell. Elements of Morality.
good ?” we say, we do not analyze it-we cannot; but we point you to your own feelings, and experience of your own nature, and we say that then you feel a perception of a quality that exists in all moral beings, a quality of moral good, or the absence of it, which is evil ; which you feel to have a very real and actual existence in responsible beings, and to which you apply the term moral good.
We, therefore, enter not into the vain speculation of trying to analyze the nature of Moral Good, or attempting to define it. We say that man is a being whose nature is good, and not evil; he has the idea of moral good as naturally as he that sees has the idea of sight; that that idea is the same in one human being as it is in another. And that if we show the means whereby the idea and feeling is brought forth in man, and then increased in him, how it is cultivated, and how it is brought to perfection, then we shall have done somewhat of the work we set out to do, the work of a Christian Ethical Philosophy.
In the mean time, how are we to measure the abundance of this quality in others or ourselves? or how are we to learn what we desire to know of it? In the first place, it is manifest that since our nature is good, and since it is one that is under a law, and its goodness is measured by that law, that that law, more or less, reveals to us moral goodness. It is manifest that the Home, the Family, the Church, that these all bring the idea to perfection, being all teaching institutions that have ever existed, and that for the purpose of bringing forth the feeling in man, of increasing it, and bringing it to perfection.
Live, then, according to your nature; according to what your nature has a feeling, you ought to be. Live according to the duties and teachings of the Family; for this, too, is a school of good : and to the teachings of the Nation, for this is the same. And above all, remember that there is a Revelation, a Holy Spirit, a Church. The instructions of these agree with, confirm, complete, and as it were, round the whole. But to analyze it, and say these are its elements, or to define it, this you cannot do.
And why is this? Because, simply, that Moral Good is no notion derived from anything that we see or feel, framed forth by metaphor and figure from objects presented to us by the senses. The feeling and sense of it is not gotten in any way from them. The absolute complete Moral Good exists not as a quality, but as a
reality—is God.* The idea of moral good, that idea is the feel
in our hearts of that which is in us or others like in quality to the absolute moral good, and the knowledge of the qualities of that likeness. This comes to us in no other way than from God Himself.
When we wish to know what is the Highest Good, then, if we mean absolutely, the only answer is, “GOD.” If we refer to man and his conduct, “that which is likest God." It is not Nature, it is not Utility, it is not Moral Beauty, nor Conscience, nor any one of these moral feelings and moral duties that is to be made the rule of action, and is the Supreme Good—it is God.
Men will say, “that is no practical rule ; to try to be benevolent is a practical rule, or to try to be useful, or to live according to nature, all these are practical rules; but to make GOD at once the Supreme Good and the Highest Rule is not practicable !"
I do not much like answering objections when the further development of the subject will put aside the objection, and render it unnecessary to make it as well as to answer it. But this I will say; do you take for your practical rule the Heathen Ethics of Paley, that make “enlightened self-interest" the Supreme Law of Action, or the equally Pagan morality, that makes Benevolence the Supreme Law, or this that makes Justice, Veracity, or anything else the Supreme Law of Action ? Take it, act upon it consistently, and be endowed with all the gifts of nature and knowledge, and I shall take a poor uneducated Christian, who never thought of Ethics, but has taken the Bible in the Church, and by them has cultivated his natural feeling of conscience, and other parts of his moral being, and to ten thousand times more moral perfection than you shall he have arrived.
For all these are from God directly, and by conveying to us Himself, or a knowledge of that action that is likest Him, they are our established guides. Whereas, you have taken an idea! a notion! for your guide.
*“I Am.”—IIe doth not say, I am their light, their guide, their strength, or tower, but only I Am. He sets as it were his hand to a blank, that his people may write under it what they please that is good for them. As if he should say, Are they weak ? I am strength ? Are they poor? I am riches. Are they in trouble? I am comfort. Are they sick? I am health. Are they dying ? 1 am life. Have they nothing ? I am all things. I am wisdom and power. 1 am justice and mercy. I am grace and goodness. I am glory, beauty, holiness, eminency, super-eminency, perfection, all-sufficiency, eternity! Jehovah,
Whatsoever is amiable in itself, or desirable unto them, that I am. Whatsoever is pure and holy-whatsoever is great or pleasant--whatsoever is good or needful to make men happy, that I am.--Bishop BEVERIDGE.
This is true, if we believe that God made Nature, and that He made it good, and that man, although fallen, is not a beast, so as to do the evil that he does naturally, or a devil, so as to do nought but evil, and that consciously. It is true, if the Bible be a revelation from God, and not "a collection of Hebrew Poetry of the sublimest kind."'* It is true, if the Church be a divinely constituted body, to lead men in the way of Religion. If all this be true, then have we the means of ascertaining God, and that which is Godlike, clearly, plainly and distinctly. If it be not true, then you may take anything else you please, and rear up any system you please, make anything the “Highest Good" and the "Highest Object of Pursuit," and your system shall be a system of Heathen Ethics, but certainly not of Christian Morality. And your fame may spread, and your influence may extend, and your eloquence and learning be extolled to the ends of the earth; and the old woman in the chimney corner, going by her nature, her natural sense of right and wrong, as called out by God's revelation, interpreted by His Church, and applied by His Spirit, she shall have higher truth, and more of Ethics than you. For to a Christian the Supreme Good is GOD, the Supreme Law of Action is the revelation of God; “the Pillar and ground of it is the Church," that which applies it the Spirit, and that which receives it the Nature of Man. Any morality that knows not this is Heathen.
Having made this statement as to “Good," the Supreme or Flighest Good, and the Highest Law of Action, we go on to obviate several objections that might be made to it, from our ignorance or incapability. This shall be the object of the next chapter.
* German Rationalistic Criticism.
God the Supreme Good, and the only Standard of Good. It must have been
so to Christ and to Adam.—The case of Adam.--Adam's Moral Perfection ---first, by his nature-secondly, by the gift of the Presence of God, as a Supreme Rule actually. Our fallen nature differs, first, in the withdrawal of that gift; secondly, in disturbance and insubordination of faculties. Still, as a matter of each man's experience, and also of History, God is the Law and Standard of Moral Good to the Natural Man.
HAVING gone so far as to define that “God is the Supreme and Absolute Good, and the sole measure of Good,” the question at ince comes up,
“ But is not God afar from nature and from us, ruling us by law, and Himself absent, so that we cannot make of him the measure of Good, or discern its likeness to him?"
To this we answered in the last chapter, “Thy nature is of God and good, made in his image, and although fallen, still not brutal or fiendish, but in his image, although that image be impaired. Still, then, thy nature has a feeling for good, and applies the image as a measure of it. The Bible, and that is the Word of God—the Church of God, and that is his organization--and lastly, the Spirit of God, all these thou hast, or canst have, and all these are nearer to thee, bring the being, and will, and feeling, and nature of God, closer to man than any other fact can come; so close, that none in truth ever disbelieved the being and attributes of God; they that say so are only self-deceivers or vain boasters, trying to deceive others, not Atheists.”
But perhaps, in addition to this, our answer to objections, we had better enter a little more closely into the centre of this matter, and view it in another light. We have seen that there is an Animal Nature, one perfectly indifferent. Again, we see that a nature perfectly evil is possible. And neither of these natures is that which man has.
Now it is manifest, that a perfect Human Nature would be that which did good consciously and perpetually, and never did or had even the experience of an act of evil. This consciousness of doing good constantly, and of not knowing by self-experience what evil is but by its effects upon others, this is manifestly the character given of our Saviour, as shown in the whole of the New Testa