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which strengthens the quality of the story because of its
rhythm — the rhythm adding to the emotional phase of the
story — and then, as a last expression of that, to put the
rhythmic emotional material into a song, and sing it. The
order is — tell it, read it, sing it. When you have done
that with it, you have pretty well defined it in the moral
atmosphere of the child's mind.


When all of this has been done, beginning with the
purely intellectual training that leads to correct judg-
ments, and the establishment of formal morality by the
exercise of force and guidance from without; when we
have informed the mind of the child as to what moral
truth is, and have taught him how^ to interpret that — in
a law first of all, and in the concrete cases in the second
place — when we have put the premium of emotional ap-
peal upon the child to do that thing, there remains one
additional thing, the summing up of all this round of
disciplines into the law, or the maxim or the proverb,
which stands in the mind of the child as a sign of all that
through which the mind has passed, and which is ade-
quately and fairly represented by the maxim or the law.

You see, therefore, that in this process, that with which
we usually begin, the moral training of the child, is that
which comes the last. Here again is the law, 'The first
shall be last, and the last shall be first." What has been
perhaps, more than any other thing, the cause of so im-
perfect results in the moral training of our children, is
that we have laid the law before them at the outset, and
put no premium or inducement into the life of the child
to realize the law. So he committed it to memory, and
repeated it when he was asked to do so, and violated it all
the time, because he never learned what it meant in
terms of conduct or in terms of feeling.

If we want to do the right thing with all the material
that we have gathered here from week to week in this
course of lectures, it seems to me that we can reduce it
to the order I have indicated this afternoon, and at the
very last, as the crown of the whole moral activity, set
the law, and not at the beginning.

Just one thing more, which I think should be said at
this stage of the matter. All moral training, just as all


intellectual training, has its right to be, not because of
any results that are achieved in the mind of the individual
that pursues intellectual studies or moral studies, but be-
cause of the service which that knowledge compels the in-
dividual to render to his fellowmen.

To know one's duty, and not to do it, is not only im-
moral within itself, but it is a radical hindrance to the
working out of the well-being of our fellow-men. I have
no business to know moral law unless I honor my knowl-
edge of that law by service to those about me ; and the very
virtue of a moral soul is to be measured in terms of his
service to those about him, and the depth of that service,
and the breadth of that service, and the quality of that
service. All is to be interpreted by the character of the
service that we render, not by the quality of the theory
that we hold.

There are some people who think they do many good
things. They do them because they wish better things to
come back to themselves. Their service is not unselfish,
and it is not moral. It is when we do a thing because we
dare not, from our own self, refuse to do it, and do it
without a thought of the morrow and the moral, that our
service begins to take on the high quality of moral


By Leslie Willis Sprague.

In trying to answer the question, what an Ethical So-
ciety is for, you will perhaps pardon me a personal word
by way of preface, since this is my first address upon an
Ethical Culture platform, after formally associating my-
self with the movement. Since I have been old enough
to look seriously upon the problems of personal and so-
cial life, I have been greatly impressed with the Ethical
Culture Movement; and as my contact and experience
have broadened, I have come more and more to feel the
imperative need in modern civilization of such a move-
ment. And this, first of all, because of the platform
which is secured by an Ethical Society, a platform upon
which all classes of people, whatever their affiliations
may have been or are, may meet — that broad platform
of human brotherhood, where people of diverse thoughts,
ideas and impulses, may meet to help each other in the
endeavor to understand the meaning of life, and to dis-
cover the right attitude towards their fellows, and to-
wards the problems of modem civilization. I have all
along been specially impressed by the fact that Ethical
Culture brings ethics to the forefront, putting the neces-
sities of the ethical life as the pre-eminent necessities
and placing ethics before and above all other considera-
tions. Not simply morality, but ethics. Morality be-

*An address delivered before the Philadelphia Ethical Society,
Sunday, October 23, 1904.



longs to the outward conventional relationships of men
and women. Morals means an outward conformity to the
ways of good living that have been developed in the past ;
whereas ethics, as the derivation of the word implies, con-
notes rather the inner attitude of man towards the prob-
lem of his being, the right adjustment in the inner life as
well as in the outer conduct of life, the discovery of prin-
ciples upon which the moral life itself is to be construct-
ed. I take it to be important that ethics should be brought
increasingly to the forefront, in the midst of a world-
change that is going on in the thinking of man. Sweep-
ing changes are taking place in the religious and philo-
sophical thought of the world, and it is imperative that
ethical interests should be separated from either theolo-
gical or philosophical theorizing, in order that the ethical
life may not go down, as is all too common in the mod-
ern world, with the disintegration of the philosophical or
theological bases upon which the good life has hereto-
fore rested. This I think to be one of the most impor-
tant interests of the Ethical Society and of the modem
world ; the more so considering the fact that the ten-
dency towards material science, economic and social em-
phasis, and the larger and larger human contact are all
tending increasingly to break up the old sanctions, the
older philosophical and theological bases upon which eth-
ics has heretofore rested, and to leave the conscience of
men unanchored. Evidence we find on all hands of the
breaking up of the sanctions of the moral life, not onlv
in the individual but in the community, and of the rapid
spread, through the last half century, of thought that
expresses itself in free love, frequent divorces, the break-
ing up of the older constraints, the lessening bonds of
duty between employer and employe, the piling up of for-
tunes by political manipulation, and the cynical smile


which poHtical corruption brings to the faces of those who
hear it mentioned, — the indifiference of modern society
towards those fundamental ethical impulses which the
past recognized, but which to-day seem to be further
and further from having their due command over our

I have been interested in the Ethical Society, not only
on account of the basis it offers, but the common meeting
ground which it gives to those of different beliefs, not
only because it brings ethics thus to the front, but because
the Ethical Society as an association represents the ear-
nest endeavor on the part of individuals to combine on
behalf of the interests that are most precious and impera-
tive. And I take it that these interests which have been
at work in the organization and that have drawn me per-
sonally to a closer association with the Ethical move-
ment, are those which have animated the efforts of your
leaders, here and elsewhere. An Ethical Society is not
primarily a protest against other religious organizations.
It is not born of any failure to appreciate the enormous
service rendered to the world by every institution that in
any way seeks to conserve the ethical interests of hu-
manity. There are few associated with the Ethical move-
ment, I take it, who do not realize the debt of the world
to every phase of organized religion, every great system
which has given its great ethical enunciations and exer-
cised an influence towards a larger and nobler relation-
ship of men and men. The Ethical Culture movement
represents an endeavor to gather together the best in-
fluences and teachings, the highest reaches of thought
and imagination which the world has anywhere and every-
where expressed, in order that they may be brought to a
focus upon the conditions of our own time and the prob-
lems of our personal lives. And it is significant that there


should at last be in the world one platform upon which the
various ethical interests of all religious teachings may be
represented and all placed together in that larger synthe-
sis for which the world is waiting.

But the Ethical Society is something more than a mere
platform for the free expression of opinion concerning
life, ethics and religion. Because it is an ethical society
it is necessarily an association of people — an organiza-
tion — in behalf of high and world-wide ends. You may
think that all these various interests might be realized
in the individual life, separate and alone; that ethics is
the supreme effort of every individual when he comes to
his right awakening, however separate and aloof he may
be from his fellows. But ethics is not merely a question
of individual life. It requires an association of people
who are united for this great common aim. And this
thought of organization brings us to one of the most im-
posing characteristics of the modern world. We see about
us everywhere a tendency towards closer, vaster organi-
zation; a tendency which in the inner life is met by a
resistance of organized endeavor. There is a tendency
towards larger and larger combination of peoples. We
have evidence in this country of the passing away of State
rights and the larger emphasis upon the rights of the
Federal Government. Federal interests are more and
more absorbed in the larger interests of international re-
lationship, so that the political issues of the day are not
the issues of internal administration but of foreign af-
fairs. We have seen the tendency of our time towards
extending the international ideals. Such meetings as
those of the Peace Conference are indicative of a grow-
ing disposition to combine, on the important questions of
international ethics, into one great world organization;
and the power of the international arbitration bureaus


and international treaties, increasingly inclusive of even
minor affairs, is a further indication of this tendency
towards world organization. We see the same tendency
towards organization in business life : the combinations
of capital in trusts, of manufacturers, of labor unions
and the federation of labor interests. The same tendency
is going on even in the educational life of the country,
and the larger institutions are taking the smaller ones un-
der their control. Our city schools are dominated by the
policy of the universities. The secondary schools are
made to be preparatory for the higher educational insti-
tutions. All through the external world this tendency to-
wards organization and closer association is robbing man
of much of his independence, so that he cannot work
alone, can scarcely think alone, and cannot fully live ex-
cept in harmonious relation with society.

With this surrender in the external affairs of life, men
have been driven to assert the claims of individual life in
matters of ethical experience. We have heard a good
deal lately concerning why men do not go to church.
This discussion has filled the pulpit and press and maga-
zine. One reason, and perhaps the pre-eminent reason,
why men do not go to church, is that men wish to reserve
one little province of life in which they shall be free and
independent. Many of the people who do go to
church and attend faithfully upon the ministrations of
religion will not associate themselves with the organiza-
tions of religion, because they cannot surrender this last
province of individual liberty, the liberty of the individual
life in matters of faith and ideals. And yet, if you will
look closely at the matter, you will discover that there is
no province in which association is so imperative as in the
innermost experience of the individual. We can much
more readilv work alone, even amidst combinations of


capital and labor, than we can carry on the principal work
of our personal lives without the influence and sugges-
tion of others. Without association for moral and re-
ligious end, the highest ideal which is developed out of
race experience, which belongs not only to the present
but to the past, which gathers into itself all the finest and
the best of all that man has ever loved and thought and
been — must perish.

But the great end of the ethical life is not simply the
emphasis of the ethical interests, but an associated en-
deavor in behalf of those interests, in order that we may
come to a higher appreciation than we can reach separ-
ately and alone. The Ethical Society therefore stands for
association, and if we do not realize this necessity, it is
because we are still under the influence of the old mon-
astic, or of the philosophical individualistic interpreta-
tion of human existence which through long centuries
has been emphasized. These have been the dominating
influences on the attitude of mind towards the meaning
of life in the past. If you would know the truth, go
alone and think; go into the closet or into the desert, if
you wish to reach the ultimate, go apart, as the philoso-
phers did, and dwell alone in the contemplation of your
own inspirations. And yet, if we stop a moment to think
upon the weakness of this individualistic ideal we shall
see how it has been corrected by all the higher influences
of our own time. Carlyle's thought of the hero as one
who stood alone, who had no contact with his fellows ex-
cept to open his ideal to them. We are coming to realize
that there is no hero who does not gather into himself the
spirit of his time, and become the expression of the high-
est and best forces of society. No thinker can, out of the
intimacy of his own study, bring forth some new philoso-
phy of life. The great thinker is the man who gathers


into himself the utmost of human intelHgence, and who
therefore becomes the interpreter of the silent endeavor,
the expression of the intellectual activity of the great ma-
jority of men. The higher life is always the life of clos§
and intimate human association. The artist is no artist
who does not gather into himself the ideals and aspira-
tions of the age, and then give voice to that which other-
wise were silent. And so the moral life is conditioned
upon association in behalf of moral ends.

The Ethical Society then stands for association, and for
association in the spirit of an ethical challenge. We have
our ideals which we do not live up to. If any one of us
could live up to the best impulses, thoughts and purposes
which he has gained from the nurture of his childhood,
even for one day, the world would be a very different
place in which to live. But we do not live up to these
ideals. These ideals with which we began our early man-
hood are dissipated in the midst of a world of conflict.
The higher ethical impulses of our spirits are destroyed
or made ineffective by the angry jar and friction of the
world about us. The noblest aspirations fail, and every
man who goes out to meet the problem of life is met with
the question whether it is worth while to seek to live up to
his aspirations, or whether to conform to the standards
of the world in which he is placed. And so we come to the
Ethical Society meeting, as people go to their places of
worship, to renew our allegiance to these ideals which
have commended themselves to us in the past, to measure
our life by the standard which we seriously hold, and to
give ourselves anew to the ethical interpretation and ful-
filment in practice of the higher inspirations which each
and every individual life must at some time feel. The
association therefore is for ethical challenge, but not for
this alone.


The Ethical Society is an association for ethical illu-
mination, for moral guidance. We know not what to do
in the midst of the perplexing problems of modern life.
The conscience of the race is to-day perplexed in the
midst of conditions which are largely new. Each hu-
man life is to-day more difficult than in the ages past. We
come together in the Ethical Society for the study of the
questions of the ethical life, as well as for self-devotion
to ideals. You come here, where, according to your plan,
speaker follows speaker, each with some special study and
experience, for guidance, and to gain for yourselves that
interpretation or vision which the speaker has of the
meaning of human association. We unite in the Ethical
Society in the interest of a deeper apprehension of the
spiritual imperative, and of the way in which ethical
commandments should carry us in our business, in our
homes, and in our relation to the civic life. The Ethical
Society is not only a meeting place for challenge, not
only a place to which we shall come for illumination and
instruction, but it is an organization of people in behalf
of ethical work. And one of the things which our day
ought to realize is that association is imperative, that ex-
pression is imperative, if any effectual work is to be done
in the world that is so complex, so vast that every indi-
vidual effort is lost in the great organized social life. If
you would do anything effective in business, you usually
ally yourself with other interests along your line of ac-
tivity. If you would be effective in the educational world,
you must associate yourself with the greatest movement
in which you can find a, place, with the greatest co-ordi-
nated activity. And so, in the ethical interests of the com-
munity we must realize the limitation of our own indi-
vidual capacity, and the necessity for close co-operation in
order to secure the best effect.


And that for which an Ethical Culture Society must
exist — for which all of the churches really exist — is to be
found in the inspiration g-iven to the individual life. The
way in which you and I live in the community, the way in
which we fulfil our duties as parents, husbands and wives,
neighbors, citizens and workers in the world, the way in
which we fulfil our responsibilities will determine the
world's interpretation of the meaning- and importance of
the ethical life and of the Society for Ethical Culture.

But over and beyond the influence of the Ethical So-
ciety upon the individual life, there are great undertak-
ings which cannot be served by individualism, however
high its expression, things which we must do together.
If you would realize the importance of such co-opera-
tion, you only need to look at your own Society, or that
of New York, to see how one and another thing is accom-
plished through association, which could not be wisely
undertaken alone. Any such work as that undertaken
by your Society last winter, in providing a course of Sat-
urday afternoon lectures on the Moral Education of the
Young, in which you gave the community the best utter-
ances that could be gathered concerning moral education
in our public institutions — such an effort could not be
fruitful if attempted by an individual alone, nor could it
be so well and effectively performed by any other organi-
zation in this city. Look at the splendid Ethical Culture
School at New York, which Professor Adler and his as-
sociates have developed, which is an object lesson, not
only to the city of New York, but to the best educa-
tional interests of all the world. People come from over
the seas to study its workings, to see the results in the
awakening of the ethical life, and the attainment of an
all round culture on the part of those who are fortunately
privileged to pass the years of their life-preparation there.


Then there are the philanthropic interests of the many,
different divisions of the New York Society, bringing
life and healing to people of every class and of every
race. This, then, is the object of an Ethical Society — to
gather the people whose little means and whose inade-
quate time could not personally effect any great object,
any important leadership towards ethical ends, but who
by combining the little means and time of many people
in a neighborhood, attempt great undertakings, and attain
a vast accomplishment.

The Ethical Society is, therefore, an association on
behalf of ethical work, not merely for bringing out ideals
of life by personal inspiration and contact, but on behalf
of ethical service to the community. For the ends of
ethical culture such a Society must necessarily be a close
human association, and one of the points I wish this
morning to emphasize more than any other is the impera-
tive necessity for a closely combined association among
the people who constitute an Ethical Society. The Ethic-
al Society is for this very human relationship of men and
women in the interests of the ethical life. In one or anoth-
er way through a number of years past, it has been my con-
stant feeling that there has been too little contact of this
sort. Our great universities, increasing in their activity
and in their numbers, are gradually limiting the contact
between professor and pupil, and decreasing that be-
tween pupil and pupil. In the great cities we live lonely
and isolated lives. In the midst of the city we can be
more lonely than out upon the dreary desert plains. There
are thousands of people about us in whom we have no in-
terest, with whom we have no association for moral help.
The individual is lost in the great aggregations of mod-
ern cities and of industrial activities. An Ethical So-
ciety ought to form one place in the great desert of lone-


liness in which we can come into vital and human relation
with mankind, in which we shall come into such contact
as shall be helpful to each and all. This is the whole
secret of the Ethical movement, the right relation of life
with life, the interest of mutual helpfulness.

We need a new interpretation of marriage relation-
ships and of domestic life. The older significance of mar-
riage — the old formula — was to cleave to each other
for better or worse as chance might be. The ethical
idea is not for better or worse, but that husband and wife
take each other to make the worse good, to make the
good better, and to make the better best. The true mar-
riage is an ethical co-operation, each seeking to bring out
the highest and best in the life of the one he or she most
loves. This is the true meaning of marital responsibility,
which modern conditions are causing to be interpreted in
terms of material economy. The responsibility of the
parent as to the child, as commonly viewed, is that it
shall be well taught, clothed, fed and started in life. But
the ethical responsibility is not only to clothe, feed, edu-
cate, but to bring out the latent possibility not only of in-
tellectual and physical well being, but of moral and spir-
itual life, to develop in the child all that is latent in its
spirit. So in friendship: true friends are not those who
merely enjoy each other's society from year to year, who
come into relationship with each other in pleasant so-
cial intercourse, but is realized where each strives to bring
out the best that is in the other's spirit, so far as one life
may influence and affect the other. And this is the true
meaning of an Ethical Society, — an association of peo-
ple banded together for mutual moral help in character-
building — in which the members come into personal hu-
man relationship. If we could only devise methods by


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