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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

II. Its Ethical Teaching

II. Its Ethical Teaching.

Is the teaching and influence of Christianity moral? Let these men, men whose testimony all

Witnesses to the morality of Christianity

Secularists are bound to accept, reply:

John Stuart Mill: "It would not be easy now, even for an unbeliever, to find a better translation of the rule of virtue from the abstract to the concrete, than to endeavour so to live that Christ would page 26 approve our life."*

Matthew Arnold: "Try all the ways of righteousness that you can think of, and you will find no way brings you to it except the way of Jesus, hut that this way does bring you to it." "For in Christianity is to be found the firm foundation for human life, and the true source of strength, joy, and peace.

Schopenhauer, (a fierce opponent of Christianity), "The ethical portion of Christianity is unassailable."

Charles Darwin: "The love and fear of God are needed before the highest moral level can be attained."§

It is enough. We have asked our question of men whose bias is not in our favour, and they have given a decidedly affirmative reply. The Christian, recognizing his responsibility to a Moral Governor, and obeying His vicegerent,—a conscience enlightened by Jesus Christ—has a firm basis, a high standard, and a strong motive power for his moral being.

Is Secularism moral in its teaching and tendency? I want to pause: the question is a grave one: I want you to remember that Secularism undertakes to make the world better than Christianity has done, or can do, and then to lay due weight on our answer. Secularism is not moral in its teaching and tendency; it is immoral.

Here again I will summon to the witness box

* Essays on Religion, p 255

Literature and Dogma, pp x and 190.

Luthardt's Moral Truths, p 278.

§ Descent of Man p 114.

page 27 none but men who have rejected Christianity, and I

Secularists have no basis of morality.

venture to say that even some of my Secularist hearers will be shocked at their unanimous finding.

David Hume: "Virtues and vices are but likes and dislikes of society."*

Jeremy Bentham, the father of Utilitarianism, agrees with Hume: "Pleasure and pain are the masters in the field of morals: we find in these a plain but true standard for whatever is right or wrong. Vice may be defined as a miscalculation of chances, a mistake in estimating the value of pleasures and pains."

Thomas Hobbes: "There is nothing simply and absolutely good and evil, but whatsoever is the object of any man's appetite, is what he calleth good, and the object of his aversion, evil. Right and wrong are mere quibbles of the imagination."

Lord Bolingbroke: "The chief end of life is to gratify our passions."

Professor Bain: "There is no personal obligation whatever, save in those actions which are enforced by external authority and punishment."§

Mr. J. C. Morison: "No one makes his own character. This is done for him by his parents and ancestors. A man with a criminal nature and education, under temptation can no more help committing crime than having a headache under certain conditions of the stomach."|

* Calderwood's Moral Philosophy p 283.

Fernley Lecture for 1888, p 37.

Supernatural in Nature, p 13.

§ Bain's Emotions, p 254.

| Service of Man, p 284-9.

page 28

It is therefose no wonder that Mr. Morison, in his work, "The Service of Man," insists that "fellows of a baser sort" ought to be dealt with as "curs, screws, and low breeds of cattle"—extirpated.

Colonel Ingersoll: "The quality of an action (that is whether it be right or wrong) is determined by its consequences; if consequences are good—so is the action."*

That is—because the offspring of an adulterous woman became a benefactor; the adultery of his mother was right.

That is—because the murder of Garfield did good in cementing England and the States, and in bringing before the world the career and character of one of the noblest of men,—his murderer was morally right.

That is—seeing that we are indebted for our English liberty to a noble army of martyrs, we must equally commend the men who suffered, and those who inflicted the pain.

But perhaps you say, "I thought Utilitarianism was the standard of morality to the Secularists." So is it. Having abolished an absolute right and wrong, and denied a personal responsibility to God, they have hit upon the attractive basis and standard of morality in the words, "The greatest happiness of the greatest number." Whatever conduces to the greatest happiness of the largest number is right. But who is tall enough to look over the heads of the crowd and count the number of faces made happy by his action? Besides, how can you judge whether you ought to do an action, until after it is done? I will read you the answer from one of its strongest modern advocates:
"We have in each case to compare all the pleasures and pains that can be forseen as probable results of the different

* North American Review, August 1881.

page 29 alternatives of conduct presented to us, and to adopt the alternative which seems likely to lead to the greatest happiness on the whole."
The writer recognizes the difficulty of the operation, and so continues with a warning:

"But it is highly important to bear in mind that this method is liable to the most serious errors, and the comparison must generally be of the roughest and vaguest kind. Yet we seem unable to find any substitute."

Before he concludes Mr. Sidgwick confesses its impracticability.

"Of course in an ideal community of enlightened Utilitarians difficulties will vanish: but in the meantime we may reasonably desire that the vulgar should keep aloof from the system as a whole, as the inevitable indefiniteness and complexity of its calculations render it likely to lead to bad results in their hands."*

Just so: it is the only standard of right and wrong Secularism has: and yet it says to you poor men, "keep clear of it, it will get you into trouble: you that have no time to read and study, can't understand it; you must wait till your grand-children are grown up and they will teach you how to act; in the meantime do as we tell you." But whom will you obey? Have you considered the hopeless confusion and mutual contradiction into which Atheist and Secularist leaders have fallen?

Charles Bradlaugh, in the National Reformer, maintains

Secularists cannot agree in their teaching.

that all religion has a pernicious influence on human welfare and progress, and says, "I am an atheist, and I hold that the logical and ultimate consequence of adopting Secularism must be

* The Methods of Ethics. Henry Sidgwick, M.A., 428-453.

Oct. 16, 1881.

page 30 Atheism." That is, human affairs will be best managed in an atheistic community.

Bradlaugh and Voltaire.

But Voltaire says: "If the world were governed by atheists, it might as well be under the rule of infernal furies. Atheists would be as mischievous to the human race, if they had the power, as superstitious persons: their principles will certainly not be opposed to assassinations and poisonings when such things seem to be necessary."*

Bain and Spencer.

Bain, in his Emotions and Will (p 273), says: "Morality is utility made compulsory."

But Spencer, in his Data of Ethics (p 128), says: "The truly honest man is not only without external compulsion, but he is without self-compulsion."

Comte, in his Positivism, says that we cannot know anything of a power above us: but he nevertheless, originated a worship to the God "Humanity," and appointed priests.

Comte and Spencer.

But Spencer says that Comte's worship is useless, that his philosophy is insufficient, and that we do know of an "Eternal energy."

Carlyle called Spencer "an immeasurable ass," and

Carlyle and Spencer.

Spencer said: "I am afraid that Mr. Carlyle has done more to propagate error than any other writer of the century.

Renan says: "Goodness, beauty, science, these three: and the greatest of these is science."§

* Defence of the Faith, p 313.

Contemporary Review, August 1885.

Contemporary Review, August 1885.

§ Fernley Lecture for 1886. p 34.

page 31
Goethe says: "Goodness, truth, and beauty,

Renan, Goethe, and Arnold.

these three: and the greatest of these is beauty."*

Arnold says: "Goodness, beauty and literature, these three: and the greatest of these is literature."

Which is right?

M. Adolphe Franck says of Herbert Spencer:

Franck and Spencer.

"The philosophy is bad; his volumes ill-digested; his hypotheses chimerical, affirmative, arbitrary, and his reasoning sophistical."

These are some of your shepherds "moving in a negative direction under the boasted banner of freedom," but quarrelling at every corner; they agree to caution you against the pastures of Christ; but when any one of their number suggests another pasture, all the rest immediately pounce upon him and beat him without mercy.

Ah! friends, Peter's question to his Lord is not yet an anachronism—"To whom shall we go but unto Thee?" For they have fallen into a piteous and hopeless plight who cannot say: "The Lord God before whom I stand—whoso I am, and whom I serve;" who have ruled out of order the clear cut definite question: "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" and who have rejected the supreme authority of the law: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and thy neighbour as thyself." This Secularism has done. And it has gone forth on its mission to renovate the world with a philosophy that is dubious as to

* Fernley Lecture for 1886, p 34.

Thoughts at Fourscore, by J. Cooper, p 378.

page 32 whether there he such realites as "right" and "wrong," with the word "duty" omitted perforce from its vocabulary, and impotent of every motive force to change or check the inebriations of the vile.

I know that the world is still wicked, very wicked; but let imagination picture what would be its condition if every Christian motive were withdrawn from the human heart.

I believe that many of you have a great respect for Ernest Renan, whose interesting novel called "Vie de Jésus," you accept as your gospel. He will let you know what Secularism will do for a dying world. M. Renan, in his comparatively recent work, "L'abbesse de Jouarre," has shocked even his own countrymen, who are by no means squeamish in the matter of morality. In this work, an abbess and a marquis are condemned to death: the latter persuades the abbess that to those about to die, no moral or social law is binding; and they therefore spend the night previous to their execution in giving

Renan's idea of Molality.

vent to their animal passions. M. Renan justifies this conduct. His own words (freely translated) at the end of the tragedy are: "It seems to me that if the human race obtained the certainty that the world was bound to end in two or three days, lust would break out with a kind of madness on every side. The world would drink at one gulp and without reservation a powerful love-portion which would cause it to die in amorous pleasure.*

* Je m'imagine que si l'humanité acquérait la certitude que le monde doit finir dans deux ou trois jours, l'amour éclaterait de toutes parts avec une sorte de frénesie. Le monde boirait à pleine coupe et sans arriere-pensee un aphrodisiaque puissant que le ferait mourir de plaisir.

page 33

Thereon the Liberie remarks: "Here is a groat mind, a deep thinker, who, in presence of the terrible problem of death, not only believes, but teaches, and justifies an orgie of sensualism as the last consolation and final joy."*

But for the tendency of Secularism (which practically is Atheism) we have no need to wait for such an imaginary catastrophe: we have already seen it in the history of Renan's countrymen, when the National Assembly of France in the year 1789, declared itself atheist, as did the Commune of Paris in 1871. With what consequence? An outburst of unbridled passion and bloody violence which rent French society to its foundations, and appalled and horrified the civilized world.

But some of you say, "We are not such horrible creatures; although we are pronounced Secularists we are as moral, and intend to remain so, as the other members of our community."

I readily and gladly acknowledge it: but beg you to remember that you owe it all, or, at any rate, the best of it, to the Lord Jesus Christ

Secularists indebted to Christianity for their morality.

and the Christian Church. For you live and move in a society based on Christianity: the spirit of your generation is so saturated with the principles of Christian morality, that if you break away from it, you socially decline. Whilst many of you, if not all, spent your earliest and most impressionable years under the influence of godly homes and faith-

* N.Z. Herald, Dec. 31, 1886.

page 34 ful teachers, and have absorbed into the very marrow of your bones the ideas of right and wrong, of duty and responsibility.

It is easy (but scarcely honourable) for you therefore to pluck the moral flowers produced by Christianity, and wear them thankfully in your dress, whilst you curse the root that bore them. Suffer me to apply the gentle rebuke contained in Lord Tennyson's:

The Flower.
Once in a golden hour
I cast to earth a seed.
Up there came a flower,
The people said, a weed.

To and fro they went
Thro' my garden bower,
And muttering discontent
Cursed me and my flower.

Then it grew so tall
It wore a crown of light,
But thieves from o'er the wall
Stole the seed by night;

Sowed it far and wide
By every town and tower,
Till all the people cried,
"Splendid is the flower."

Read my little fable:
He that runs may read.
Most can raise the flowers now,
For all have got the seed.

And some are pretty enough,
And some are poor indeed;
And now again the people,
Call it but a weed.