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A NON-MORAL WORLD

237

natural misfortune, be made a stepping-stone or an instrument of well-being. In the spiritual sense the character of the act, as it stands, is final and irremediable. And the question we have to answer is: How, if God is verily perfect in power and goodness, the existence of moral evil can be accounted for. That moral evil of all kinds and degrees of enormity exists at all stages of human civilization cannot be denied. Must we not, therefore, limit the range and moderate the confidence of our religious faith? Must not the existence of God and his power and goodness be denied, or, what is virtually the same thing, must we not consider him incapable of coping with the evil of the world?

world leaves

good or

Once more our answer must depend upon the standard of values which we employ. We have stated A static that the standard must be moral or spiritual; but no no room for explanation of the meaning of these terms has been either moral given. On what grounds, or for what reason, is an moral evil. action or an individual approved or disapproved morally? What is it that constitutes its good or its evil? What kind of a world would that be which were perfect in the changeless sense? Would it offer to anyone the opportunity of doing any good action? Would there be anything of which we could say that it "ought to be," and which invited the choice and decision of a good will? So far as I can see, the call of duty would not be heard in such a world. The good man could sit down with his hands in its lap, and, at best, idly contemplate the past. All action would, in fact, be wrong. It would take It would take away from the changeless perfection which all alike have, as a matter of course. In one word, such a world would not be moral or

spiritual at all. The enterprise of morality would

not exist.

The conception of static perfection in matters of the mind and spirit will not bear examination. The difficulties of attributing any other kind of perfection than that which is static to the deity are very great— possibly insuperable; but, that static categories can be applied to man, a finite being, the law of whose life is change and progress, it is not possible to maintain. Can they, in the last resort, be applied to any finite object? Is fixity, changelessness true of anything even in the natural sphere. That life when it appears to anything, increases the range and significance of change is obvious. Life is always renewing itself, and affirming itself in fresh ways as its circumstances alter. The objects of the inorganic world are relatively fixed. However true it may be that

Are static

conceptions

applicable

that is real?

The answer

of science as

facts.

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that principle is less active in inanimate objects than in

to physical living beings. But even in the former there is no static fixity. Science teaches us that objects are the temporary meeting-places, or foci, of different kinds of physical energy. The weight, the colour, the softness or hardness all the qualities of a stone are its responses to other objects, or its interaction with them. It is what it does. Its apparently static or fixed character is due to the fact that its activities are reiterative, or repetitive. We do not expect a stone to break into flower in spring, any more than we expect a plant not to change with the seasons, although we do expect it to reflect the rays of light according to constant

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All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist; Not its semblance, but itself; no beauty, nor good, nor power Whose voice has gone forth, but each survives for the melodist

When eternity affirms the conception of an hour." 1

That the power and love of God are unlimited. remains after every test the most reasonable and probable hypothesis.

1 Browning's Abt Vogler.

There is only one method of knowing.

The fundamental nature of religion.

LECTURE XV

THE ABSOLUTE AND THE NATURAL WORLD

BEFORE moving on, it may be well to mark the main stages of the way we have travelled.

Lord Gifford desired to apply the methods of the natural sciences to religion with a view to proving the possibility of establishing what he called " Natural Religion." Certain difficulties were encountered which arose from the fact that the methods of the sciences differ. They vary according to the subjectmatter. This difficulty seemed to be more serious when the subject was that of religion. But in the last resort it was found that there is, in truth, only one method of knowing. The sciences, philosophy, even ordinary thought, are engaged in forming and testing conceptions or hypotheses in the light of which facts are disclosed and become intelligible. And the hypothesis with which philosophy is engaged is proffered by it as the ultimate explanatory principle of all reality. It is the Absolute. And the relation of the Absolute of philosophy to the God of religion is one of the problems we must consider hereafter.

We then enquired into the nature of religion. We found it to be man's refuge from the disappointments of finitude, and, above all, from the shortcomings

MORALITY AND RELIGION

257

which he discovers in himself. Over against the limitations, weaknesses, failures, there stands for the religious spirit the fulness of infinitude, strength and security. "Over against," however, is a misleading phrase, for religion places a divine plenitude in man's own reach. It unites God and man, and unites them so intimately, as it would seem, that a man's very self appears to cease to count. His life is not his own. It is not he that lives, but his God lives in him.

apparent

religion and

But the claims of religion, thus uncompromisingly urged, seemed to be incompatible with man's moral life. For it can hardly be questioned that one of the The essential conditions of morality is the responsibility of inconsistthe moral agent for his actions, as the results of his ency of own choice and the free expression of his personality, morality. Man's moral destiny is exclusively in his own hands. It is for him, and for him only and alone, to make or to mar his moral character. Neither man nor God himself can do this for, or instead of, him. This moral demand we stated as uncompromisingly as the apparently opposite demand of religion.

In the next place we sought, and I believe found, a way of reconciling religion and morality. Morality is the process of realizing the principle of religion. It is religion in practice, and only as religion in practice is morality at its highest and best, or religion itself a reality.

ciliation.

To effect this reconciliation the ordinary view both The reconof religion and of morality had to be modified. Religion ceases to be a satisfaction that brings idle rest; the rest it brings is that of devoted activity in the service of a Perfection with which man has unreservedly identified his own well-being. Morality

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