The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70
[Bearing on Morality and Religion]
To those who "by Christ believe in God" (1 Peter i. 21) the atheism of the socialistic movement is the foremost matter in the moral criticism of the system (in 1 Cor. ii. 15, the Gr. for "judge" is, criticise). We will begin with a previous question (article Socialism, Encycl. Brit., new Ed.), whether socialism ought not to be saved from utter rejection on account of its atheism by regard to the circumstance, that it has an "ethic" which to some extent is coincident with the Christian ethic?
A pirate ship has a discipline that is much the same as that of the royal navy. "Ethic" in this connection has to mean order of action, as distinguished from the spirit of its life. And in this respect there must be some coincidence with Christian ethic on the part of every conceivable system for the government of a community that is not to be a rope of sand. A Satan's kingdom (Matt. xii. 25) that is at all to stand, must have in it something of that order which reigns in the kingdom of God. The difference morally between the two dominions of darkness and light is, not in respect of mere ethical precepts, dictating particular courses of action, but in respect of first or impulsive principle, prescribing the last or chief end, and moving the affections toward that end, in and through all particular courses and actions. According to a difference of ends in the heart's wish and endeavor, the same course of action may be either good and godly, or "earthly, sensual, devilish." Two vessels on the same tack are making, the one for Good Hope, and the other for Cape Wrath. This de finibus—of the end as criterion of morality—is commonplace of rational ethical speculation, heathen as well as Christian.
The body of precepts is in itself a dead thing, like man when only made "of the dust of the earth." And the impulsive or first principle, which is breathed into that body as a breath of life, mak- page 39 ing ethic into morality, pure or impure, is what gives moral character, whether good or evil, to the whole of that life which it inspires. Now in Christianity the first principle of all moral action for man is—witness the last word of Christ to Satan (Matt. iv. 10)—serve God. In socialism, on the contrary, the impulsive principle is, worship mammon: since it holds, with the first word of Satan to Christ (Matt. iv. 3) that the one true end of life is, enjoyment of commodities. That is the lowest conceivable form of worldliness, appealing only to the "lust of the flesh" (1 John ii. 16 and Gen. iii. 6, with the two temptations, in Eden and in the wilderness.) And to plead, that the ethic of a system of godless Epicurism is in some measure coincident with the Christian ethic, is only to say in Greek what means in English, that the lowest kind of worldliness, when on its good behavior, is not simply anarchical, or utterly disorderly: which may he so far satisfactory to the policeman who has his eye upon it, but is not reassuring to a statesman, and is quite out of court in moral criticism.
The old heathen Epicurism had, like Mahomedanism, some-thing that might redeem it from utter perfection of sordidness. There were enchantments of a superstition that haunted the forsaken place of faith; or, in a Lucretian poetry an atheistic theosophy might find something like theology for wings of lofty song. . But even then, the worldliness was too vile for even the worldly world itself. That world's own "prophets" (Tit. i. 12) of the worldlier sort—such as Horace and our "Peter Pindar"—indignant at the outrage on mere manhood through the vileness, would break out into fierce Archilochian invective on "the herd of Epicurus," or, "Epicureans, alias swine." "Bellygod!" has in our new time been the expression of a manly nation for utmost measure of contemptuous loathing of a creature in the human form. And that is the one tiling, the very thought of which overcame for once the manhood of the great apostle who was the manliest of mankind. In a Roman prison, waiting (Phil. ii. 17) for a martyr's death, Paul unbosoms himself to his noble Philippians (iii. 18,19), about that thing, as a thing the existence of which among Christians it grieves his very heart to think of. And now, when he goes on to write of it, the paper is blotted with his tears:—"whose god page 69 is their belly, whose glory is their shame, who mind earthly things."
That thing, which makes apostles weep, is the "perfect man" of socialism. The shamefulness of its earthliness is not fully seen unless we take into view the peculiar character of the selfishness of the system. Antigonus, after the death of Demosthenes, a great man, was perhaps too hard on the Greek orators in saying, that they were like what remains of an animal that has been offered in sacrifice—nothing but the tongue and the digestive organs. For, in addition to mere greed for commodities, there might be in them something of a vain ambition to shine—"the lust of the eyes;" and something of "the pride of life," such that the Pharisee, in contemplation of his own goodness, will forget his covetousness to give tithes—sacrificing commodity to conceit. But the "perfect man" (Eph. iv. 13) of socialism, forgetting God and country and home and freedom, has an eye and a heart for commodity alone. So that what we see in him is not a man at all; but a scarecrow semblance of manhood, with hunger in place of a soul. And we further see what may suggest the thought, that the dehumanized being is under domination of a fiend—that lowest form of perfect selfishness which visibly lorded in the swineowners of Gadara.
That, which is the consummation of socialist perfection, is the very thing which Paul sets forth (Rom. i. 30), as the consummation of enormous wickedness, sent upon men (verses 18-28) by the judgment of God, in a judicial abandonment of them, on account of the crime of atheism. Paul maintains, that the atheism cannot but be a wilful blindness, (verse 28). And three times he says (verses 24, 26, 28—the Greek word is the same in all the three places), that on account of the crime of it, there was that judicial abandonment on the part of God, "giving" them "up" or "over" to the enormous wickedness in three forms of "uncleanness" in the heart, "vileness" of the affections, and a "reprobacy "as to the mind for [unclear: the] perpetration of unseemliness or indecency.
It is thus that he introduces his awful catalogue of the crimes of heathenism (Rom. i. 18-32). And at the head of the black page 70 list (verse 31), last, as if the worst of all, he places men's being "without natural affection." He adds a qualifying epithet ("implacable" is wanting in the best manuscripts), "unmerciful"—the Greek word for which is literally rendered, pitiless. Here, then, we are reminded of "pitiless" in that "pitiless ferocity," which history has represented to us as being the leading outstanding feature of the moral character of socialism.
But Paul's description of the pitiless character, "without natural affection," has in it a specific appropriateness in application to socialism that is wanting in Mr. [unclear: Ollier's] vaguer "ferocity." The "perfect man" of socialism has no personal affection toward individuals; not even so much of discriminative attachment as (Isa. i. 3) the dumb creatures may come to have in them toward their "own" respective pastors and masters. His affection, a sort of godless Mahomedan fanaticism, is only toward a system; toward the programme of action, regarded as machinery for securing [unclear: the] commodities; and toward the community, regarded as an organization for working the machine. So Hugh Miller (Essays, Literary and Scientific—"Eugene Sue,") says that socialism, like Jesuitism, is pitiless naturally, because the individual is lost in the society, and (such) a society has no feelings.
The apostle's word (Rom. i. 31) for natural affection—στoργή—does not mean only, in a general sense, any affection that belongs to the nature of man. What it means is that specific natural affection, of discriminating tenderness, which a rightly constituted individual has for "his own, and especially those of his own house." Hence the name of the "stork," because that bird is proverbial for parental affection, as witness the story of what happened in a town of Holland: When the town in which the storks had their nests went on fire, and the young birds could not fly away, the parents remained to perish with them in the flames. Such affection is so strictly natural to man, that Christianity declares that he who has it not is worse than an infidel. (1 Tim. v. 8). Accordingly, in Homer we find that among old heathen Greeks the man who did not belong to a people and family of "his own" was reckoned infamous. That infamous condition—of "heart," "affections," "mind"—where it appeared in heathenism, was by Paul page 71 regarded as monstrous depravity, enormity of wickedness, the evidencing fruit of a judgment plague of God, like the leprosy upon Gehazi and his race. And that peculiar infamy is by socialism brought on its manhood deliberately and upon system.
The two great," natural affections "distinctively toward one's own—domestic affection and love of country—it systematically endeavors to stamp out and destroy. That intentional obliteration of humanity is a specially of socialism. We have seen its working in relation to patriotism. Let us consider