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Lecture 2: Religion and Morality

THE assertion now often heard that Religion and Morality stood originally in no connection with each other, is an error which arises from a false way of putting the question. Our present moral convictions are taken as a standard, and it is asked whether the oldest representations of the gods correspond to our moral ideals, and whether the duties required at the first by religion correspond to our conception of duty? As, of course, there is no such correspondence in these cases, it is believed that any original connection between morality and religion must be denied. In maintaining this view, it is forgotten that the primitive morality is just as different from our morality as the primitive religion is from our religion. But it is an incontestable fact that the primitive morality stands in very close connection with the primitive religion, and indeed that the beginnings of all social customs and legal ordinances are directly derived from religious notions and ceremonial practices.

The family is the oldest religious community, and only as such did it become a moral fellowship. The worship of the house-gods or of ancestral spirits was the ideal bond which connected the members of the household into a lasting fellowship regulated by fixed rules. By the entrance of the wife into community of worship with the husband, marriage became sanctioned—that is, it was elevated from a mere natural relationship to a moral relationship, with lasting duties and rights. The paternal authority had its ground, as well as its limit, in the religious position of the father of the family as the performer of the rites of domestic worship. The inalienability of the family property also rested on a religious sanction; for it was not the present living members of the family who were regarded as the legal possessors of this property, but it belonged to the house-god, who represented the enduring unity of the family. The generations of the family had only the usufruct of the property. Again, because the religion of the primitive period was limited to the worship of the house-gods, the circle of moral obligation was likewise still limited to the family; but within these narrow limits the religious faith operated as the motive of moral feelings. As the members of the family felt themselves bound together by the powerful bond of their belonging to the same house-deity, they learned mutually to esteem and love each other. Their natural inclinations and mutual need of help thus received the higher consecration of piety through the religious idea. Thus the foundation of morality was laid primarily in the narrowest circle by the religious sanction. The expansion of this narrowest social combination into the form of civil society followed hand in hand with the expansion of the religious ideas and usages. As the members of the family assembled around the household hearth and invited the house-gods, by oblations and invocation, to the common meal, so the community of the city was the union of those who honoured the same protecting deities of the city at the same altars and through the common sacrificial meal. What from the beginning formed the bond of civil society was not interest, nor an arbitrary contract, nor an accidental custom; but it was the sacred repast in presence of the gods of the city, that symbol of an inner union of all the individual citizens bound by their common obligation to an ideal principle, a super-sensible obligatory power. Like the house government of the paternal power, the civil government was originally an efflux of religion, and not a product of force nor of free compact. The royal power and authority were also originally derived from the worship of the public altars, and hence the kings were called ‘Ιεροὶ, Διογενεiς. The oldest laws and legislative assemblies were referred by all the peoples back to divine revelation—a correct reminiscence of the fact that they had not arisen from arbitrary invention or agreement, but were regarded as the expression of religious convictions, whose involuntary presuppositions were regulative for the formation of the several relations of life. The laws, like the faith and worship, were likewise a sacred tradition indissolubly connected with the holy places and legends of the community of the city. Religion was mixed up with all the actions of peace and war. It regulated all the manners of the house and of the city, the meals and festivals, the assemblies of the people and the tribunals of justice, the military expeditions and the conclusions of peace,—all these stood in the closest relation with the religious presuppositions and purposes. The moral was not yet distinguished from the religious.

As religious motives lay at the basis of morals and morality from the beginning of civilisation, these again reacted so as to ennoble religion. It is not to be supposed that religion, in order to work as a morally educative power, must have contained from the beginning ideal notions of the nature of the Deity. This was impossible: for whence could men have obtained a knowledge of moral Ideals before they had themselves come to the elements of social morality and practice? It was at first also much less important what idea was formed of the nature of the gods, rather than that the social groups should feel themselves combined through the honouring of certain higher powers, and that they should have in this common consciousness of a higher obligation a regulating principle of their common life with each other. But after social customs and ordinances had settled themselves under the influence of this religious motive, and certain fundamental conceptions of right and wrong had been developed, it was then natural that they should see in the Deity the Guardian of the social order willed by him, and consequently the avenger of every wrong, including civil crimes, and not merely the religious trespass in the narrower sense. But when the gods came to be regarded as the representatives and guardians of the sacred order of justice, the further consequence could not but follow that a corresponding sentiment should be attributed to them, and that they should be thought of as friends, promoters, and examples of all that was regarded by their worshippers as good and noble. Thus was formed the conception of the gods as moral ideals, and this conception again reacted upon the moral consciousness out of which it had grown so as to strengthen it. There was therefore found from the beginning a relationship of closest reciprocity between the religious and the moral; and the development of the two sides proceeded for a long time pari passu, and under the reciprocal influence of the one upon the other.

In the course of time, however, this immediate unity of religion and morality must necessarily become looser and be dissolved. A conservative characteristic belongs to religion; it clings to the traditional which is held by it as sacred and revealed by the Deity. Morality, on the other hand, advances unceasingly forwards; its circles widen; the wants of life become more numerous; with the advancing division of labour society becomes organised more distinguishably, the contrast of the different classes becomes greater; and the legal relationships become more complicated. Then the old morals and dogmas transmitted under religious sanctions no longer apply; they are found to be adverse to their purpose, and to be a hindrance to the rational order of society. The sceptical understanding assumes an attitude of opposition to their supposed origin in divine revelation when it comes to reflect upon the difference between the manners and laws of the several peoples, and from this it draws the inference of their human origin. Thus a breach arises between the traditional religion of the people and the moral consciousness, first in the case of individuals, and then gradually of whole generations. The moral thus loosens itself from the religious foundation which it had at first, and seeks an autonomous grounding for itself in human nature. So it was among the Greeks in the time of the Sophists, who declared man to be the measure of all things; and so it was again in the modern period of rationalistic enlightenment—the period of the Aufklärung.

But before we pursue the different forms of religionless morality, and examine their tenableness, let us still pause for a moment to consider religious morality, and notice the defects which result from its immediate dependence on the sanction of positive religious authorities. We find the classical examples for this point of view in the Judaism of the period after the Exile, and in the Catholicism of the Middle Ages. In such cases the moral subject continually remains under the guardianship of priestly authority, and no progress is made beyond the irresponsible conditions of childhood to a proper moral conviction and free personal sentiments. The good is not known as what it is in itself, as the true end of our own will; but it appears as the groundless arbitrary requirement of an external will, of the God who has proclaimed His law through His ambassadors, and who has impressed its fulfilment by the threatenings of punishment and the promises of reward. That the motives corresponding to this view—namely, fear of divine punishment and hope of divine reward—only produce a lower slavish morality, has been often and rightly observed: but, in addition to this, it is to be observed that, upon this standpoint, an essential understanding of the good according to its rational purposive relation to the wellbeing of man is not possible; and hence, that all moral laws are only to be accepted on external authority. From this there results a manifold train of evils. Morality is resolved into a sum of positive commands and prohibitions which refer to individual actions or omissions; and everything depends upon these commandments being punctually observed, without distinction, for they have all the same divine sanction. Thereby morality obtains that external formalistic and petty pedantic character, such as we know it in Phariseeism, which strains out gnats and swallows camels. Further, the legislation that rests upon religious tradition always requires authorised expounders, scribes, and priests, who have to apply the laws fixed in the sacred letter to the manifold individual cases of conduct, and to define it more exactly. Now, as these representatives of religious authority are accustomed only too easily to confound the interests of their class with the divine will, there arises from this a spurious falsification of the moral values of things by performances for the Church and the Priesthood being placed above the fulfilment of the nearest moral duties. “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark vii. 7), is the reproach addressed by Jesus to the Pharisees. The medieval Church, by its ascetic contempt of the world, especially degraded the moral orders that are grounded in the nature of humanity, such as the family, the work of one's calling, and the national State, declaring them to be not only worthless, but even hindrances to the eternal salvation of men; and it exalted self-mortification and obedience to the Church as the truly meritorious mode of action. Thus, by the so-called “supernatural” morality demanded by the Church, the true natural moral order of the world was repressed and distorted.

Against this unnaturalness, this compulsion of priestly guardianship, the sound moral sense of man rightly rebelled: it would not continue to be a mere child guided by the leading-strings of authority, but strove to attain to the free self-determination of the man. And in this connection it happened quite naturally that in the struggle against the slavish religious morality of the Church, it was thought that a free morality could only be found by tearing one's self away from all religion—nay, in opposition to all religion. This was natural, for extremes meet; and, as has been well said—

“Fear well the slave whene'er he breaks his chain,

But aye before the freeman fear is vain.”

Is there not something of the passionate bitterness of the slave struggling for his freedom to be heard even in the judgments of many of our contemporaries regarding the emancipation of morality? This question I would here raise at least for preliminary consideration. Before we attempt to answer it, we have to subject to examination the forms and principles in which a religionless secular morality has grounded and fashioned itself.

In antiquity and in modern times there are found in this connection essentially two chief tendencies which we must distinguish, and which we may designate as the empirical or eudæmonistic, and the idealistic or rationalistic. As the Greek Cyrenaics and Epicureans, so the modern Utilitarians have started again from the proposition, which is accepted by them as an indubitable axiom, that the fundamental impulse of man is the striving after pleasure, and that from this impulse all morality must be deduced. They teach that that is good which helps man to the greatest possible and lasting pleasure. From regard to lasting pleasure or happiness, momentary pleasure must often be sacrificed. And, because the individual is so closely connected with others that their weal and woe also condition his weal and woe, every one cares best for his own happiness if he also gives the greatest possible consideration to the requirement of the happiness of others. Hence the famous formula, that the highest moral principle is the greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible number of men.

In considering this theory, we remark, in the first place, that a psychological error underlies it. From the fact that pleasure is constantly the result of the happy activity of our impulses, the Hedonist wrongly concludes that pleasure is also always the cause of our impulses, and the only supreme motive. As pleasure is the indication of the satisfied impulse, the existence and working of an impulse must always be presupposed before there can be any question of pleasure or non-pleasure. It is not the reflection upon the pleasurable result which may be expected that impels us to action, but simply the unreflected pressure of some one of the manifold impulses implanted in our nature. But if pleasure is the feeling resulting from the activity of the impulses, then the more precise quality of the average lasting feeling of pleasure or happiness in the case of every man, depends on what impulses or tendencies of the will are predominating and ruling in him. As different as men are in temperament, course of life, culture, and character, so different becomes their taste for what lastingly produces weal or woe, and so different therefore will be their ideal of happiness. But then, how is it possible to establish what the general happiness, or the greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible number, consists in? Shall we set about arranging some universal way of voting upon the subject, and get every one at the poll, man by man, to declare in what he considers his highest happiness to lie? I fear the result of this universal enquête would be of such a kind that all true friends of the people would keep from recognising it as the canon of their philanthropic efforts. And does not this involve the clear proof that “happiness” is a much too indefinite and undefinable conception for being fitted to be the supreme principle of morality?

A further important consideration arises as a second objection to this theory. As pleasure and happiness are a matter of subjective feeling, the striving of the individual after happiness must necessarily form the basis of the eudæmonistic ethics. But on what ground is the individual to be required to strive after the happiness of others and even of all? This question is the Achilles-heel of Utilitarianism. The representatives of this theory indeed are wont to satisfy themselves very easily on this point by assuming at once that the universal happiness includes that of all individuals, and therefore that every one, in caring for the happiness of others, eo ipso, cares likewise best for his own. But things are not actually so simple as this. Experience much rather shows that the wellbeing of others, of society, of a people, often enough does not coincide with that of the individual, but crosses it; and that such wellbeing demands sacrifices of individual happiness, renunciation of one's own advantage and personal comfort, and even under certain circumstances the very life of the individual. What then is to determine a man from the utilitarian standpoint to such a self-denying altruistic mode of action? Such conduct cannot, at all events, be derived as a duty from the supreme principle of individual happiness: on the contrary, one would think that self-denial in favour of others must be judged to be immoral, being in contradiction with the supreme moral principle. The utilitarians are indeed seldom resolute enough to draw this consequence. Rather do they seek to escape from the difficulty by referring to the many artificial motives by which society seeks to impel individuals to a common useful mode of conduct, and to restrain them from actions that would be prejudicial to the community. Such motives are fear of civil punishment, or of the disapprobation of public opinion, or of shame and disgrace on the one hand, and on the other hand, hope of the esteem of society, of honour and reputation, or even of an untarnished name, and of the manifold advantages which arise to the individual from the secured existence of the public legalised order. And who would deny that such motives are, at all events, not to be underestimated in their significance as co-operating factors of the moral life? The question is only whether they are also adequate when taken as the sole basis and supreme principle of morals? I believe that this must be denied on several grounds. In the first place, it is to be denied because all the motives derived from the external consequences of actions can be determining only for the external conduct, and not for the inner sentiment of the actor. Morality, however, in distinction from legal right, has to do with this inner sentiment. Whether any one restrains himself from what is bad from fear of civil punishment and public disgrace, or from an aversion to what is mean and unworthy of him, makes no difference, when judged from the utilitarian consideration of the result of his act; and yet the alternative is very different for the moral judgment. This characteristic of the moral judgment, that it is directed not merely to the actions but to the motives and sentiment of the actor, cannot find any ground in utilitarianism; and hence, in any case, it could not be fitted to be the supreme principle of morals, but in the most favourable case only to be the principle of a legal order. But more exactly viewed, it is not sufficient even for this. For, if it is only by consideration of the consequences of his action as useful or prejudicial to him that the individual man lets himself be determined, one cannot conceive what should restrain him whenever he has not to fear any, or comparatively trivial, evil consequences, from pursuing his own advantage in the most unscrupulous way, at the cost of his fellow-men. The prudent egoist who, without getting into collision with the penal law and preservation of his external position, knows how he can mercilessly make use of others as instruments and sacrifices for his own advantage—nay, even the prudent criminal, who may understand how to keep himself free from punishment—would not be to blame from the standpoint of a prudent calculation of utility. But it is clear that, in a society in which such a way of thinking was universally prevalent, the legal order could not permanently exist, but would necessarily soon be dissolved into the chaos of a “bellum omnium contra omnes.” The historical example of this issue is presented in the history of French society at the end of the last century.

Finally, if the Eudæmonists, along with the external consequences of actions, also reflect upon their inner consequences, such as the joy of a good conscience and of self-esteem, the pain of a bad conscience and of self-contempt, and would derive from them efficient motives, they are thus manifestly borrowing from the idealistic moral principle, otherwise combated by them. They must, however, first show how such moral feelings are at all possible from their eudæmonistic standpoint. Certain as it is that the man in whom the feeling of duty lives, shrinks from evil as a source of inner misery, just as little can this feeling, which already presupposes the consciousness of the obligatory authority of the good, be made the ground of this very consciousness, or the principle of morality. If a man be once told that the striving after happiness is the supreme determining principle of action, he cannot be prevented from seeking his happiness in the satisfaction of those impulses which he finds to be the strongest. If these happen to be the sensuous and selfish impulses, he may then indeed be pitied on account of his bad taste, but he cannot be blamed for his violation of the moral principle. Nor will much be effected in his case by warning him against the evil consequences of his mode of action, or the pain of an evil conscience and of self-contempt, for appeal is then made to feelings which have not been developed in the course of his striving after happiness, and towards which he holds himself indifferent, nay, which he even repudiates with proud contempt, because they could only prevent him from seeking and enjoying the happiness of life in his own way. We cannot gather grapes from thorns. If subjective eudæmonism is taken as the principle of morality, no dialectical art will ever succeed in deriving from it the unconditioned authority of the good, independent of the inclination and favour of the individual, or the sanctity of duty. And wherever this appears to be the case, there is always involved a petitio principii. The feeling of duty, the founding of which is here in question, is already silently assumed as present, and it is then certainly easy to show how, in judging of the relative value of individual modes of action, their consequences are regulated for human wellbeing. However justified utilitarianism may be as a heuristic principle in the process of valuing individual actions, it is as little available as a foundation for moral sentiment and the formation of character.

This has been well recognised by the idealistic moralists from Zeno to Kant, and they have therefore sought for the foundation of autonomous morality in an opposite way. According to the Stoics, the virtue, dignity, and happiness of man consist not in the satisfaction of the desires, but in freedom from desires, in apathy, or in the supremacy of the passionless reason. And Kant in like manner taught again that our reason unconditionally commands us to respect the dignity of humanity in every man, to recognise every person as a subject of rights and duties, and always to fulfil our own duty unconditionally, purely from respect for duty, independent of all inclination, and even in constant conflict with inclination. Certainly there is something sublime in this Kantian view of virtue which belongs unconditionally to duty, from pure respect for the law, or for our own reason as the lawgiver, and which concedes no rights whatever to the inclinations, but on the contrary proves its higher descent and strength just in conflict with them. But it may well be asked, Is this sublime virtue not cold, and even repellently cold, when it appeals to us? Was Schiller not right when he said that this morality of the categorical imperative “is a morality for slaves, and one which the children of the house do not deserve”? and was the Gospel not right when it showed us in heartfelt love to the divine ideal of the good, a higher, because freer and gladder, morality than that of the law?

But if we ask how this rigorism of the Kantian ethics, which reminds us of the Stoa, is explained, we shall recognise the same ground for it as in the case of Stoicism. It lies in the ascetic dualism which severs reason from nature, and in the rigid individualism which severs the individual from the fellowship of mankind and of the Deity. In order to secure the dignity of man as a moral personality, Kant believed that it was necessary to set him entirely upon himself, upon his own reason and autonomous freedom, and to exclude him from all the influences of nature, and of human society, and God. He resolved the moral world into a plurality of spiritual monads, between which there is found no moral reciprocity, no bond of solidarity of its members, no organic development of the common spirit, no divine education of the whole. But how under such a presupposition can we find it thinkable that the weak voice of the law-giving reason of the individual could ever procure for itself hearing and respect from the sensuous and selfish impulses which are only continually resisting it? In fact, such an abstract reason would never be able to realise its moral demand; humanity would never be able to come even to the first steps of moral development were there not already implanted in our nature those social impulses and feelings which bind the individual from the beginning instinctively to the community, and which, developed by the educating influence of society, become powers for good, in which the later awakening voice of the law-giving reason finds its inner natural representative and echo. Kant, by ignoring this natural connection of the individual with the species, not only made the growth of the good and the realisation of reason in man inconceivable, but he also evacuated the idea of the good of all determinate contents. In place of the manifold moral goods which the divine-human spirit has created in history, and which can become to the heart of man an object of reverence, devotion, love, and inspiration, Kant has put the empty formula of duty, which repels the feeling heart, suppresses the living individuality, and makes the moral world stiffen into barren monotony.

It is not wonderful that a protest was raised against this suppression of individual feelings, even by such men as otherwise gave their full approval to the idealism of the Kantian ethics. The Herders and Schillers, the Fichtes and Schleiermachers, were not less averse to the ordinary utilitarian morality than Kant; but, on the other hand, they could not be satisfied with the irreconcilable discordance asserted by Kant between reason and nature, duty and inclination; they were convinced that this opposition must find its reconciliation in a higher morality, in which duty itself has become the object of inclination, the good has become the good that yields happiness, and obligation has become the free and joyous volition of the will. They designated this higher moral ideal by various names—they called it humanity, moral beauty, freedom, love; but they were always agreed in holding that it is what is properly divine in man, what raises him above the narrow limit of his own selfhood, and unites him with the primary source of spirits. Thus, by carrying idealism itself to a deeper position, they at last reached a religious morality which, however far it might be removed from the ecclesiastical faith of revelation and authority, yet came into closest contact with the fundamental character of Christian morality. Nor did these original thinkers at the beginning of this century deny the connection of their ethical idealism with Christianity: with all their free attitude towards the Church and dogma, they had yet so much historical sense as to recognise that the humanity, the beautiful culture, and the love in which they beheld the moral ideal, was a fruit that had ripened on the tree of Christianity. It was the Epigons about the middle of this century, such as Feuerbach in Germany, the two Mills in England, and Comte in France, who first began to accentuate the difference of their free secular morality from that of Christianity, and to carry it out to a sharp, extreme contrast. Since that time it appears almost to be regarded as if it belonged to good tone in the circles of advanced culture to boast of the independence of morality from all and every religion, as the highest achievement of the present time. This position seems to recall in many respects the old history of the friendship between Pilate and Herod. Representatives of the opposite tendencies, namely, idealists and utilitarians, are now seen uniting with each other and working together in union for the spread of an emancipated secular religionless morality.

What are we to say, then, regarding this phenomenon? In the first place, we may regard it as a natural product of our time, when extremes are everywhere carried out to the sharpest opposition. In particular, the striving of the different Churches for power and supremacy now makes itself everywhere felt in increased energy, and opposes to all the struggling of the new time for a reform of the traditional doctrines and dogmas only a rigid non possumus, and exhorts us modern men to bring to it the sacrifice of intellect. This naturally incites the self-conscious spirits of the age to haughty opposition, and drives them into the arms of a Voltairean radicalism, which believes that it can find moral progress only by a breach in principle with religion and the Church. But however conceivable this mood of many of our contemporaries may be, yet it cannot be regarded as sound or wholesome. We indeed willingly admit that to-day, as in all former times, there are many estimable moral characters among the irreligious men of our time—men who are distinguished by strict conscientiousness, faithful fulfilment of the duties of their calling, and devoted zeal for the wellbeing of their fellow-men; but, far as I am from wishing to dispute this experience, I would still raise a warning against drawing too rashly from such isolated examples of religionless morality universal conclusions regarding the normal relationship of religion and morality.

I should like, in the first place, to refer to the fact that the moral principles and sentiments of such men have nevertheless not become what they are of themselves, but are the fruit of their education by the Christian community, which led the young by doctrine and example to the recognition of the good as what is absolutely valuable, as a “sacred” authority, and which deeply impressed on their still susceptible hearts the feelings of reverence and piety, and of obligation and love for the ideals of the good. To the subsequent influence of this education by the Christian community, whether they are conscious of it or not, we owe the best of our moral convictions and the formation of our character. But it is at the same time an unquestionable fact that the Christian community rests on a religious foundation, and that its moral sentiment is rooted in its religious belief. The good is regarded by it as the absolute authority, not because it is useful, but because it is the revelation of the holy will of God; its faith in the victory of the good in the world rests not upon the postulate of the subjective reason, but upon the objective experiences of history, in which it recognises revelations of the judging and saving, the redeeming and educating, spirit of God. This radical implication of morality in the religious view of the world and history may indeed pass from the consciousness of particular individuals who have been educated by the Christian community, but it continues to exist in the common spirit of the whole community, by which the individual moral spirit is maintained and reared. Now, if we put the case that the religious faith which has hitherto formed the root of the moral convictions in Christian society has fallen away, not merely in the case of individual persons, but for whole generations, would it then be probable that the moral convictions could thereafter also assert themselves without modification in the purity and power with which they have been hitherto propagated by the Christian training? The experience of history does not appear to speak for its being so; rather does it show that, in times of religious decay, general languidness of faith, and scepticism, the moral consciousness is also wont to sink, and fall into weakness, confusion, and dissolution.

I should like further to raise the question whether in the case of many and even the most earnest representatives of religionless morality, the professed irreligiosity is not rather more apparent than real? They repudiate the religion exhibited in the definite form of the ecclesiastical dogmas in which they have learned to know it; but does it follow from this that religious belief, or piety, is extraneous to them in every sense? In the case of men of truly moral sentiment we may well doubt the possibility of their total irreligiousness; for the upright man who is earnestly interested not merely in the appearance of the good or external legality and respectability, but for the good itself, cannot but attribute to the good the highest right in the world, and therefore must demand its victorious assertion and accomplishment in reality. But in demanding this, and feeling the right of this demand, he will also have the courage to believe in its truth, to believe therefore in the good as the true power over the world, or in such a constitution of the actual world that it must serve as a means for the realisation of the good. Now this belief in “the moral world-order” is in fact already “religion”; it is the religion of Fichte, of Matthew Arnold, and of many ethical idealists. Whether religious belief could not, and should not, be still more definitely apprehended, is a question of second rank, which will engage our attention in a later connection. We may here, however, recall the fact that Fichte soon advanced from belief in the moral world-order to faith in God as the sole principle of all that is true and good. And it is in truth a near consequence that the good, if it is the end of the world, must likewise be its ground; and if it is both the ground and end of the world, it must likewise rule the whole, course of the world, and consequently reveal itself not only in the far future, but in the whole historical reality as the spiritual power that progressively realises itself. In recognising this we stand, as a matter of fact, upon the basis of the Christian faith in God, as has also been distinctly recognised by Fichte in his later philosophy of religion.

Where the moral consciousness is not able to rise to this faith, and to find in it its immovable foundation, it is always threatened with the danger of losing its energy in conflict with empirical reality, and ultimately becoming perplexed. One can only deceive one's self regarding this danger so long as the eyes are closed in naïve optimism to the power of the evil and badness that are in the world outside of us, and to the weakness of one's own heart, as is indeed the case at the moment with most of the heralds of the religion of humanity or of religionless morality. But experience also teaches that this simple optimism is not able to stand long before the harsh power of reality. There is certainly something great in universal philanthropy, that principle of Christian morality; but if it is no longer, as in Christianity, the fruit of religious belief, but a substitute for it, then the serious question arises whether men as they exhibit themselves in experience are really so amiable that it would be an easy thing to love them unceasingly, to exert all one's powers for their good, and to make the greatest sacrifices for them? If the philanthropist is rewarded with bitter ingratitude when his noblest endeavours fail, from the callousness of some and the malice of others, must not his enthusiasm be chilled, and his courage in sacrifice and action be maimed, unless he draw unconquerable force from his faith in the power of a goodness which overcomes the world as it appears, and is therefore divine? He only can love men in a lasting and energetic way who looks not merely upon what is before his eyes, namely, the common reality, but who believes in the indestructible divine element in man; but how can one believe on the divine in man without belief in the divine which is superior and prior to man, the eternal spirit, of whom and through whom and to whom are all things? It is undoubtedly possible that even where the wings of philanthropic enthusiasm have been broken by rough contact with reality, the feeling of duty may still remain strong enough to determine permanently the moral guidance of life. Experience shows us not seldom such stoical characters, who, without loving men, and even with expressed contempt of them, yet keep firm and unmoved to duty for the sake of duty. Undisturbed by the success or failure of their actions, they hold fast to what they know to be right as that which is commanded by their reason. They respect the law of their reason, because they must otherwise lose respect for themselves. Such virtue we must always regard as estimable: we may well admire its power of defying the world, but we will hardly trust its power to overcome the world. The very hardness which it uses to protect and steel itself against the world, slays those tenderer feelings which bind man to the world, and open to him the entrance to the hearts of his fellow-men. The rough severity of this virtue does not exercise a warming and attracting, but a repelling and chilling, influence upon its surroundings; it isolates the moral person from society, and thereby cuts off his moral influence upon it; and the feeling of this isolation engenders but too easily a pessimistic bitterness and proud haughtiness towards the despised crowd. This is the frequent fate of those strong natures who, for the humble and trustful morality of the pious soul, would substitute the proud morality of the autonomous law of reason. But for weak natures it is altogether to be feared that respect for the autonomous moral law would be but an inadequate substitute for the religious support of the moral consciousness in its struggle with the adversities and temptations of life. Belief in determinate dogmas may certainly disappear without any injury to morality, seeing that they are only artificial and fallible attempts to interpret man's religious experience; but where the kernel of religious faith has also disappeared—namely, the conviction that the world is God's, and that the course of the world is subservient to the realisation of the divine purpose of good,—what could then give the moral consciousness power to protect itself from sceptical dissolution? If the good is not the governing power of the world, why should I then still recognise it as the authority binding on my will? If I find myself in a world in which nothing is found but selfishness sporting in a hundred forms and disguises, and victoriously achieving its ends, why then should I be an exception to others, and sacrifice my inclinations and interests to what I have been taught to regard as my duty? What then—so at last asks the sceptical understanding—what then gives duty the higher right as superior to my inclinations? If it be only my own thought, why should I not then be also the lord over my own thoughts? If it is a rule of action which I have set to myself from my own freedom, why then should I not be able again to loosen myself from this rule when it becomes too inconvenient for me? But if it is a rule which others have devised and prescribed to me, what then obliges me to give obedience to the will of others who are not more than I am, and who also only follow after their selfish interests? If selfishness stands opposed to selfishness, why should my self-seeking not have just as much right as that of others? Am I not the nearest one to myself? Have not I therefore the right to make myself, my own wishes and interests, the measure of all things, the criterion of all my actions?

It would be difficult to say how the moral consciousness could preserve itself from such sceptical dissolution if it wholly severed itself from all religious foundation. The moral law will only be able to assert its absolute validity if it springs not out of the thinking of individual men, whether it be my thinking or that of others, but is the revelation of the willing of the universal reason, which stands above all individual wills as their ground, and is at the same time active in them as the common bond of their community. This is just the divine will. In so far as all individuals feel themselves bound to this power which rules over the whole, they are also bound internally to each other; and, indeed, bound by a bond which rests in the ground of their being, and which consequently precedes all particular desire and choice and reflection, which is not a product of their freedom, but the presupposition, and therefore the power, the authority, over their freedom. But in this transcendental obligation of all, there is likewise contained, together with duty, the right of every person to be recognised and esteemed by others as a rational being and an end in himself. Resting upon the ground of the divine will, human society is a moral organism in which all stand for one, and one for all. Take that religious ground away, and society dissolves into a chaos, in which every one is against all, and all against every one.

If I may now attempt to sum up the result of what has been said, it appears to me that the relation of religion and morality may be most simply determined in this way. They have both a common root, which is the transcendental fact of the human will being bound to the universal or divine will; but this principle obtains immediate manifestation in religion as the union of God and man, while in morality it appears mediately as the social bond of the individual and society. So far it may be said that religion contains the ideal ground of morality, and morality the real manifestation of religion. From this it follows that each of them has its truth only in union with the other; and, on the other hand, that either of them must become stunted and falsified when torn away from the other. If religion tears itself away from morality, then its symbolical representation of the transcendental principle of unity becomes an empty form, a mere image, mythology and ceremonial worship; and in so far as a mysterious truth and power are still ascribed to these empty forms, to these fantastic ideas and arbitrary ceremonies, then religion, robbed of its moral content, becomes perverted into a caricature of the truth, and from this proceed pernicious superstition, magic, and fanaticism—religious malformations or deformities by which the moral life of individuals and of the community is injured and suppressed. Against this the moral spirit then reacts by tearing itself away from religion, and by seeking to quieten itself upon an extra-religious secular basis. In this lies indeed a step of progress, in so far as morality, freed from the hindrances put in its way by the superstitious and hierarchical ordinances of positive religion, then gains independence of movement, which enables it to order society according to the natural wants and rational ends of human nature. But if, with the statutory coverings of religion, there is given up at the same time its essential kernel, which contains the ideal principle of morality itself, the result is that the secularised morality becomes stunted and dies, like the plant which has been cut off from its roots. Then in place of the genuine moral sentiment, there comes the surrogate of an egoistic prudential morality, or even the naturalism of a war of all against all, the disorganisation of society, which leads to a universal unfreedom. True, the idealistic morality strives after something higher, by the attempt to ground morality upon the autonomous reason; but by isolating this principle in the thinking subject and separating it from the historical life of the community, it falls into an unfruitful formalism, which is not able to take the place of the religious root of morality. Accordingly, experience shows that morality can just as little flourish without religion as religion without morality; while religion sinks into pseudo-religious superstition and fanaticism, morality sinks into a pseudo-moral naturalism and abstract formalism. Hence it follows that, as they both spring out of the same root, so they can only develop normally into full harmony and living reciprocity with each other.

It is the great and eternal truth of Christianity that it has raised this inner connection of religion and morality to a principle. Morality has here its firm ground, its living root, in the consciousness of our sonship to God, in love to God the Father, and to Christ, the ideal of the divine Man, and in surrender to the universal divine purpose of the world—namely, the kingdom of God, that ideal of the perfect community and fellowship of humanity, which is not a mere ideal, an abstract postulate and problem of human striving, but is always at the same time a growing reality, a working of the divine spirit in historical humanity, and which therefore also contains the real possibility and guarantee for the becoming good and blessed of all the individuals who surrender themselves to this spirit as its instrument. And as the Christian morality has its firm ground in faith in God and the coming of the kingdom of God, so, on the other hand, the Christian religion has its real manifestation in morality. “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” “And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” Jesus has connected love to man with love to God as the same great commandment, and Paul has called love fulfilment of the law. Not in lip-service that says “Lord, Lord,” and not in the practice of ceremonial worship, but in the rational worship (Romans xii. 2) of the moral life, does Christian piety find its manifestation and authentication. Christianity is not faith merely, and not charity alone, but “faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”