Frederick Temple.

The Relations Between Religion and Science Eight Lectures Preached Before the University of Oxford in the Year 1884 online

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in with the revelation of the Moral Law, which is my subject in this
Lecture. For it is by virtue of this personal identity that I become
responsible for my actions. I am not merely the same thinking subject, I
am the same moral agent all through my life. If I changed as fast as the
phenomena of my being changed, my responsibility for any evil deed would
cease the moment the deed was done. No punishment would be just, because
it would not be just to punish one being for the faults of a totally
different being. The Moral Law in its application to man requires as a
basis the personal identity of each man with himself.

If corroboration were needed of the directness of the intuition by which
we get this idea of our own personal identity, it would be found in the
entire failure of all attempts to derive that idea from any other
source. Comte, the founder of the Positive School, can do nothing with
this idea but suggest that it is probably the result of some obscure
synergy or co-operation of the faculties. John Stuart Mill passes it by
altogether as lying outside the scope of his enquiries and of his
doctrine. Mr. Herbert Spencer deals with it in a very weak chapter[1] of
his remarkable volume of First Principles. He divides all the
manifestations made to our consciousness, or, as we commonly say, all
our sensations, into two great classes. He selects as the main but not
universal characteristic of the one class, vividness; of the other
class, faintness; a distinction first insisted on, though somewhat
differently applied, by Hume. He adds various other characteristics of
each class, some of them implying very questionable propositions. And we
come finally to the following astonishing result. Sensations are divided
into two classes; each has seven main characteristics which distinguish
it from the other. One of these classes make up the subject, that which
I mean when I use the words I myself; the other the object or that
which is not I. But there is absolutely nothing to determine which is
which, which class is the subject and which is the object, which is I
myself, and which is not I myself. Vividness and faintness plainly have
nothing in them by which we can assign the one to that which is I, the
other to that which is not I. If we were to conjecture, we should be
disposed to say that surely the most vivid sensations must be the
nearest and therefore must be part of that which is I; but we find it is
quite the other way. The faint sensations are characteristic of that
which is I, and the vivid of that which is not I. And the same remark
applies to each pair of characteristics in succession. The fact is that
Mr. Spencer has omitted what is essential to complete his argument; he
has not shown, nor endeavoured to show, nor even thought of showing, how
out of his seven characteristics of the subject the conception of a
subject has grown. It is quite plain that he not only makes his classes
first and finds his characteristics afterwards, which we may admit to
have been inevitable; but he fails altogether to show how that by which
we know the classes apart has grown out of the characteristics that he
has given us. The characteristics which he assigns to that which is I,
all added together, do not in the slightest degree account for that
sense of permanent existence in spite of changes which lies at the root
of my distinction of myself from other things. The very word same, in
the sense in which I use it when speaking of myself, cannot be defined
except by reference to my own sameness with myself. It is a simple idea
incapable of analysis, and is indeed, as was pointed out in my last
Lecture, the root of the character of permanence which we assign to
things external. To say that this conception has been evolved from the
characteristics that Mr. Spencer has enumerated is like saying that a
cat has been evolved without any intermediate stages from a fish, or a
smell from a colour.

But, if we now go a step further, and ask in what form this personal
identity presents itself in the world of phenomena, the answer is clear:
our personality while bound up with all our other faculties, so that we
can speak of our understanding, our affections, our powers of perception
and sensation, as parts of ourselves, yet is centred in one faculty
which we call the will. 'If there be aught spiritual in man,' says
Coleridge, 'the will must be such. If there be a will, there must be a
spirituality in man.' The will is the man. It is the will that makes us
responsible beings. It is for the action of our will, or the consent of
our will, that we come to be called in question. It is by the will that
we assert ourselves amidst the existences around us; and as the will is
the man in relation to phenomena, so on the other side the will is the
one and only force among the forces of this world which takes cognizance
of principles and is capable of acting in pursuit of an aim not to be
found among phenomena at all. The will is not the whole spiritual
faculty. Besides the power of willing we have the power of recognising
spiritual truth. And this power or faculty we commonly call the
conscience. But the conscience is not a force. It has no power of acting
except through the will. It receives and transmits the voice from the
spiritual world, and the will is responsible so far as the conscience
enlightens it. It is the will whereby the man takes his place in the
world of phenomena.

It is then to the man, thus capable of appreciating a law superior in
its nature to all phenomena and bearing within himself the conviction of
a personal identity underlying all the changes that may be encountered
and endured, that is revealed from within the command to live for a
moral purpose and believe in the ultimate supremacy of the moral over
the physical. The voice within gives this command in two forms; it
commands our duty and it commands our faith. The voice gives no proof,
appeals to no evidence, but speaks as having a right to command, and
requires our obedience by virtue of its own inherent superiority.

Its first command we call duty. The voice within awakes a peculiar
sentiment which, except towards its command, is never felt in our souls,
the sentiment of reverence. And it commands the pursuit of that,
whatever it may be, to which this sentiment of reverence attaches. This
is the positive test by which we are to know what is ever to be our
highest aim. And along with this there is a negative test by which we
are perpetually to correct the other, namely, the test of universality.
The moral law in its own nature admits of no exceptions. If a principle
of action be derived from this law it has nothing to do with time, or
place, or circumstances; it must hold good in the distant future, in
planets or stars utterly remote, as fully as it holds good now and here.

This duty we can subdivide under four heads, accordingly as we apply it
to our dealings with ourselves, with other moral and spiritual beings,
with other creatures that can feel pleasure and pain, with things that
are incapable of either. If we are thinking of ourselves only, duty
consists in the pursuit of holiness, that is, in the absolute subjection
of what does not demand reverence to that which does. It is plain that
what deserves reverence in us is that which approaches most nearly to
the moral law in character. The appetites, the affections, the passions,
have each their own separate objects. They may be useful in the highest
degree, but they cannot in themselves deserve reverence, for their
objects are not the moral law; they must therefore be absolutely
subordinated to the will and the conscience which have for their
objects the very law itself. Holiness consists in the subjection of the
whole being, not in act alone, but in feeling and desire as well, to the
authority of conscience.

If we are thinking of other moral agents, duty prescribes strict and
unfailing justice; and justice in its highest and purest form is love,
the unfailing recognition of the fullest claims that can be made on us
by all who share our own divine superiority: to love God above all else,
and to love all spiritual beings as we love ourselves, this is duty in
relation to other spiritual beings.

If we are thinking of creatures which, whether moral agents or not, are
capable of pain and pleasure, our duty takes the form of goodness or
tenderness. We have no right to inflict pain or even refuse pleasure
unless, if the circumstances were reversed, we should be bound in
conscience to be ready in our turn to bear the same infliction or
refusal. The precept, Do as you would be done by, is here supreme, and
it is to this class of duties that that precept applies, and the limits
of our right to inflict pain on other creatures, whether rational or
irrational, will be determined by this rule.

And, lower still, our duty to things that are incapable of all feeling
is summed up in that knowledge of them and that use of them which makes
them the fittest instruments of a moral life.

The sentiment of reverence is our guide in determining our duty, and the
test of universality perpetually comes in to correct the commands of
this sentiment and to clear and so to refine the sentiment itself.

As is the case in a certain degree with every other kind of knowledge or
belief, so in a very special degree the Moral Law finds its place even
in minds that have very little of thought or of cultivation. The most
untutored is not insensible to the claim made on our respect by acts of
courage, self-sacrifice, generosity, truth; or to the call upon us for
reprobation at the sight of acts of falsehood, of meanness, of cruelty,
of profligacy. Even in the most untutored there is a sense that these
sentiments of respect and reprobation are quite different in kind from
the other sentiments which stir the soul. And this is even more clear
in condemnation than in approval. However perverted the conscience (the
seat of these sentiments) may be, yet the pain of remorse, which is
self-reprobation for having broken the moral law, is always, as has been
well said, 'quite unlike any other pain we know,' and is felt in some
form and measure by every soul that lives. And as the sentiment thus
holds a special place in the most untutored, so too does the sense of
universality by which we instinctively and invariably correct or defend
that sentiment if it be challenged. The moment we are perplexed in
regard to what we ought to do or what judgment we ought to pass on
something already done, we instinctively, almost involuntarily,
endeavour to disentangle the act from all attendant circumstances and to
see whether our sentiment of approval or disapproval would still hold
good in quite other surroundings. We try to get, at the principle
involved and to ascertain whether that principle possesses the
universality which is the sure characteristic of the Moral Law.

It will be matter of consideration in a future Lecture how our knowledge
of the Eternal Law of the holy, the just, the good, and the right, is
thus purified in the individual and in the race. At present it will be
enough to have indicated the general principle of what may be called the
evolution of the knowledge of morals.

But I now go on from the Moral Law as a duty to the Moral Law as a
faith. For the inner voice is not content with commanding a course of
conduct and requiring obedience of that kind. This is its first
utterance, and the man who hears and obeys unquestionably has within him
the true seed of all religion. But though the first utterance it is not
the last. For the same voice goes on to require us to believe that this
Moral Law which claims obedience from us, equally claims obedience from
all else that exists. It is absolutely supreme or it is nothing.

Its title to our obedience is its supremacy, and it has no other title.
If it depended on promises of reward or threats of punishment addressed
to us, it might be considered as a law for us, but could be no law for
others. It would in that case, indeed, be a mere physical law. Things
are so arranged for you, and as far as you know for you only, that
terrible pain will come to you if you disobey, and wonderful pleasure if
you obey. Such a law as that might proceed from a tyrant possessed of
absolute power over US and the things that concern US, and might be
either good or bad as should happen. But such a law would not be able to
claim our reverence. Nay, rather, as is the case with all merely
physical laws, it might be our duty to disobey it. In claiming our
reverence as well as our obedience, in making its sanction consist in
nothing but the fact of its own inherent majesty, the Moral Law calls on
us to believe in its supremacy. It claims that it is the last and
highest of all laws. The world before us is governed by uniformities as
far as we can judge, but above and behind all these uniformities is the
supreme uniformity, the eternal law of right and wrong, and all other
laws, of whatever kind, must ultimately be harmonised by it alone. The
Moral Law would be itself unjust if it bade us disregard all physical
laws, and yet was itself subordinate to those physical laws. It has a
right to require us to disregard everything but itself, if it be itself
supreme; if not, its claim would be unjust. We see here in things around
us no demonstrative proof that it is supreme, except what may be summed
up in saying that there is a power that makes for righteousness.
Enlightened by the Moral Law we can see strongly marked traces of its
working in all things. The beauty, the order, the general tendency of
all creation accords with the supremacy of the Moral Law over it all.
But that is by no means all. We see, and we know that we see, but an
infinitesimal fraction of the whole. And the result of this partial
vision is that, while there is much in things around us which asserts,
there is also much which seems to deny altogether any supremacy
whatever in the Moral Law. The universe, as we see it, is not holy, nor
just, nor good, nor right. The music of creation is full of discords as
yet altogether unresolved. And if we look to phenomena alone, there is
no solution of the great riddle. But in spite of all imperfections and
contradictions, the voice within, without vouchsafing to give us any
solution of the perplexity, or any sanction but its own authoritative
command, imperatively requires us to believe that holiness is supreme
over unholiness, and justice over injustice, and goodness over evil, and
righteousness over unrighteousness. To obey this command and to believe
this truth is Faith.

This is the Faith which is perpetually presenting to the believer's mind
the vision of a world in which all the inequalities of this present
world shall be redressed, in which truth, justice, and love shall
visibly reign, in which temptations shall cease and sin shall cease
also; in which the upward strivings of noble souls shall find their end,
and holiness shall supersede penitence, and hearts shall be pure of all
defilement. This is the Faith which holds to the sure conviction that
all things shall one day come to judgment; and whether by sudden
catastrophe or by sure development, the physical system shall surrender
to the moral. This is the Faith which supplies perpetual strength to the
hope of immortality; for though it cannot be said that the immortality
of the individual soul is of necessity involved in a belief in the
supremacy of the Moral Law, yet there is a sense, never without witness
in the soul, that all would not be according to justice if a being to
whom the Moral Law has been revealed from within is nevertheless in no
degree to share in the final revelation of the superiority of that Moral
Law over what is without. We cannot say that it is a necessary part of
the supremacy of the Moral Law that every one of those who know it
should partake of its immortal nature. We cannot even say that it is a
necessary part of the ultimate redressing of all injustice and
resolution of all the discords of life that the hope of it should prove
true in the individual as it will certainly prove true in the universe.
For we are unable to weigh individual merit or demerit, and cannot
assert for certain that the balance of justice is not maintained even in
this present life. But nevertheless the hope that it must and will be so
is inextinguishable, and Faith in an Eternal Law of Morals is
inextricably bound up with hope of immortality for the being that is
endowed with a moral and responsible nature.

Faith in the absolute supremacy of the Moral Law is the first, but this
again is not the last step upwards in Faith. We are called upon, and
still by the same imperative voice within, to carry our Faith still
further, and to believe something yet higher.

For the supremacy of the Moral Law must be a moral, not merely a
physical supremacy. In claiming supremacy at all the Moral Law does not
assert that somehow by a happy accident, as it were, all things turn out
at last in accordance with what is in the highest sense moral. The
supremacy of the moral over the physical involves in its very nature an
intention to be supreme. It is not the supremacy of justice, if justice
is done as the blind result of the working of machinery, even if that be
the machinery of the universe. In our very conception of a moral
supremacy is involved the conception of an intended supremacy. And the
Moral Law in its government of the world reveals itself as possessing
the distinctive mark of personality, that is, a purpose and a will. And
thus, as we ponder it, this Eternal Law is shown to be the very Eternal
Himself, the Almighty God. There is a sense in which we cannot ascribe
personality to the Unknown Absolute Being; for our personality is of
necessity compassed with limitations, and from these limitations we find
it impossible to separate our conception of a person. And it will ever
remain true that our highest conceptions of God must fall altogether
short of His true nature. When we speak of Him as infinite, we are but
denying that He is restrained by limits of time and space as we are.
When we speak of Him as absolute, we are but denying that He is subject
to conditions as we are. So when we speak of Him as a person, we cannot
but acknowledge that His personality far transcends our conceptions. But
it still remains the truth that these descriptions of Him are the
nearest that we can get, and that for all the moral purposes of life we
can argue from these as if they were the full truth. If to deny
personality to Him is to assimilate Him to a blind and dead rule, we
cannot but repudiate such denial altogether. If to deny personality to
Him is to assert His incomprehensibility, we are ready at once to
acknowledge our weakness and incapacity. But we dare not let go the
truth that the holiness, the justice, the goodness, the righteousness,
which the Eternal Moral Law imposes on us as a supreme command, are
identical in essential substance in our minds and in His. Indeed, the
more we keep before us the true character of that law, the more clearly
do we see that the Moral Law is not His command but His nature. He does
not make that law. He is that law. Almighty God and the Moral Law are
different aspects of what is in itself one and the same. To hold fast to
this is the fullest form of Faith. To live by duty is in itself
rudimentary religion. To believe that the rule of duty is supreme over
all the universe, is the first stage of Faith. To believe in Almighty
God is the last and highest.

It will be seen at once by those who have followed me that I am in this
Lecture only working out to its logical conclusion what was said long
ago by Bishop Butler in England and by Kant in Germany. Butler calls the
spiritual faculty whose commands to us I have been examining by the name
of conscience: Kant calls it the practical reason. But both alike insist
on the ultimate basis of morality being found in the voice within the
soul and not in the phenomena observed by the senses. Science by
searching cannot find out God. To reduce all the phenomena of the
universe to order will not, even if it could ever be completely done,
tell us the highest truth that we can attain to concerning spiritual

Science may examine all the phases through which religions have passed
and treating human beliefs as it treats all other phenomena it can give
us a history of religion or of religions. But there is something
underlying them all which it cannot treat, and which perpetually evades
all attempts to bring it under physical laws. For just as all attempts
to explain away our conviction of our own personal identity have
invariably failed and will for ever fail to satisfy human consciousness,
so too the strictly spiritual element in all religion cannot be got out
of phenomena at all. No analysis succeeds in obliterating the
fundamental distinction between moral and physical law; or in enabling
us to escape the ever increasing sense of the dignity of the former, or
in shutting our ears to the still small voice which is totally unlike
every other voice within or without. To bring the Moral Law under the
dominion of Science and to treat the belief in it as nothing more than
one of the phenomena of human nature, it is necessary to treat the
sentiment of reverence which it excites, the remorse which follows on
disobedience to its commands, the sense of its supremacy, as delusions.
It is always possible so to treat these things; but only at the cost of
standing lower in the scale of being.

But we have one step further to take. For as the spiritual faculty is
the recipient directly or indirectly of that original revelation which
God has made of Himself to His rational creatures, so too this appears
to be the only faculty which can take cognizance of any fresh revelation
that it might please Him to make. If He commands still further duties
than those commanded by the supreme Moral Law, if He bids us believe
what our reason cannot deduce from the primal belief in that Law and in
Himself, it is to that faculty that the command is issued. If over and
above the original religion as we may call it there is a revealed
religion, it is the spiritual faculty that can alone accept it. Such a
revelation may be confirmed by signs or proofs in the world of
phenomena. He who is absolute over all nature may compel nature to bear
witness to His teaching. The spiritual may burst through the natural on
occasion, and that supremacy, which underlies all nature and which is
necessarily visible to intelligences that are capable of seeing things
as they are in themselves, may force itself into the world of phenomena
and show itself in that manner to us. But this always is and must be
secondary. The spiritual faculty alone can receive and judge of
spiritual truth, and if that faculty be not reached a truly religious
belief is not yet attained.

External evidences of revealed religion must have a high place but
cannot have the highest. A revealed religion must depend for its
permanent hold on our obedience and our duty on its fastening upon our
spiritual nature, and if it cannot do that no evidences can maintain it
in its place.

This account of the fundamental beliefs of Religion when compared with
the fundamental postulates of Science shows that the two begin with the
same part of our nature but proceed by opposite methods. Both begin with
the human will as possessing a permanent identity and exerting a force
of its own. But from this point they separate. Science rests on
phenomena observed by the senses; Religion on the voice that speaks
directly from the other world. Science postulates uniformity and is
excluded wherever uniformity can be denied, but compels conviction
within the range of its own postulate. Religion demands the submission
of a free conscience, and uses no compulsion but that imposed by its own
inherent dignity. Science gives warnings, and if you are capable of
understanding scientific argument, you will be incapable of disbelieving
the warnings. Certain things will poison you; certain neglects will ruin
your health; disregard of scientific construction will bring your roof
down on your head; to enter a burning building will risk your life; some
of these things you may learn by ordinary experience, some of them by
that combination of experience which is called Science. But if you are
capable of the necessary reasoning you cannot doubt, however much you
may wish to do so. And yet to defy these warnings and take the
inevitable consequences of that defiance may be your highest glory.

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Online LibraryFrederick TempleThe Relations Between Religion and Science Eight Lectures Preached Before the University of Oxford in the Year 1884 → online text (page 3 of 11)