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D.LiTT., LL.D., D.C.L.







j ' !ri4472


PrtuUdm Great Dritam by WiUtam Brendan 6* Son, Plymouth








THE present lectures were delivered as the
Haskell Lectures in the Theological Seminary of
Oberlin College, Ohio, U.S.A., during the autumn of
1 913. They would have been published earlier but for
the war. They were delivered very much as they stand,
with a few omissions. I have thought it best to add
considerable notes and appendices rather than to enlarge
the lectures to an extent which would in several cases
have involved complete re-writing.

It may be desirable briefly to explain the design of
this little work. For more than thirty years the
present writer has been a University teacher of
Philosophy, devoting himself especially to Moral
Philosophy. He has also been to some extent a
student of Theology. He has been struck by the
different tone in which moral questions are dealt with
by Philosophers on the one hand, and by Theologians
and preachers on the other. The Moral Philosopher,
if he is not one of those who explain away Morality
altogether, usually holds that Morality means the
following of Conscience. In theological books and
sermons it is as commonly assumed that the supreme

viii Preface

rule for a Christian should be to follow Christ. The
writer believes that there is truth in both principles,
but it is obvious that this position involves a problem
as to the relation between the two authorities — and a
problem not veiy often explicitly dealt with. That is
the problem with which these lectures are mainly

There seems to be an especial call for some attempt
at a systematic enquiry into the subject at the present
moment, for a disposition has recently been mani-
fested in more than one quarter to disparage the moral
teaching of Jesus Christ. The supposed discovery
that the teaching of Jesus consisted mainly in
'' Eschatology " has led to the adoption of an almost
contemptuous attitude towards His ethical teaching
on the part of writers who describe that teaching as
a mere " Interimsethik " of little present value or
signihcance ; while (strange to say) the tendency has
been to some extent welcomed on the part of certain
Theologians of quite a different school because they
discern in it a confirmation of the position that there
is nothing particularly characteristic in this part of
our Lord's teaching, and that it is only in the dogmatic
teaching (to be found chiefly in the Epistles and in the
later Creeds) that the true essence of the Christian
Religion is to be discovered. They hope therefore
that they have discovered in this " eschatological "
tendency of modem Criticism a new weapon against
the old-fashioned " Liberal Protestantism " which is

Preface ix

accused of making too much of the actual teaching of
Christ and too httle of the doctrine about His Person
and work. The present writer is not one of those (if
indeed there are such persons) who beheve that Chris-
tianity consists solely in the ethical teaching of its
Founder, but he does believe that any true repre-
sentation of Christianity must treat it as a Religion
rooted and grounded in Ethics. He does strongly hold
that any doctrine of our Lord's Person which does not
base itself primarily upon the appeal which the teach-
ing of Jesus makes to the conscience of mankind rests
upon an extremely precarious foundation.

There are two or three points which I would especi-
ally invite the reader of these pages to bear in mind :

I. The lectures are confined to the ethical side of
Christ's teaching. I have imposed these Hmitations
upon myself partly because in so short a course it
was impossible to deal with the whole of our Lord's
teaching, and partly because it was only by isolating
the ethical side of that teaching that it seemed possible
to discuss with thoroughness and definiteness the
question whether or not the ethical ideal of our Lord
can still be accepted by the modern world as the expres-
sion of its highest Morality, and to ask in what relation
this ideal stands to that continuous teaching of Con-
science in which, as I believe, there is no less certainly
contained a revelation — a progressive and evolving
revelation — of God. That there may seem to be some-
thing a little artificial and unnatural in so isolating the

A 2

X Preface

moral teaching of One for whom MoraUty stood in
such close and intimate relation to Religion, I am well
aware ; but this seemed to be the only way in which
the particular problem on which I \vished to concen-
trate attention could be discussed without its be-
coming mixed up with many others.

2. The reader — particularly any Theologian into
whose hands the book may fall — is asked to remember
that this little book is not intended primarily as a
contribution towards the solution of critical or his-
torical problems. I should have preferred to confine
myself to purely philosophical and ethical questions,
but it is impossible to examine the proper attitude of
the modern Conscience to the teaching of our Lord
without asking what in point of fact this teaching
was; and I have therefore felt bound — somewhat
reluctantly — to take notice of, and to pass judgement
upon, not a few critical questions, and still more
often to recognize the existence of alternative critical
possibilities. The critical Theologian will be the first
to appreciate the fact that these questions about
sources and authenticity are not yet settled with such
a degree of certainty that a writer who wishes, as far
as possible, to look at the matter from the point of
view of Moral Philosophy can simply take over on
authority some established view, and confine himself
to examining the ethical teaching involved in the
sayings accepted as genuine. Most critics will admit
that a certain degree ol probability is all that can

Preface xi

ever be hoped for on many of these questions. They
will therefore readily forgive the writer for not ex-
pressing confident opinions on the more disputed

And here it may be convenient to say that as to
the origin of the Synoptic Gospels I accept the now
generally received two-document hypothesis. I
believe, that is to say, that the writers of the first and
third Gospels derive the greater part of their informa-
tion from two documents : (i) The Gospel of St. Mark
in a form very nearly identical with that which it
has now assumed ; (2) A work (consisting principally
perhaps of sayings) which used to be spoken of as
" the Logia," but is now generally known as " Q."
Such a document is generally beheved to be the source
of those sayings or discourses found in the first and
third Gospels, but not found in St. Mark. Besides
these each Evangehst doubtless used other sources ;
in particular we may recognize an important document
used by St. Luke in those passages, including some
of our Lord's most characteristic parables, which are
pecuUar to his Gospel. Upon these matters there
is practically now a consensus ; but on such difficult
questions as the exact " limits " of " Q," the relation
of St. Luke's source to " Q," whether St. Mark had
*' Q " before him or not, I have not felt myself bound
to express definite opinions. I am well aware that no
opinion on such matters can have much value which
is not based on years of special study.

xii Preface

3. I am fully conscious of the incompleteness of
the book. On the critical side many sayings of our
Lord which are not of primary importance for ascer-
taining the nature and value of His ethical teaching
are not noticed at all. The treatment of many ques-
tions of philosophical Ethics which incidentally arise is
so brief that I should hardly have liked to let the book
go forth at all but for the fact that I have already
discussed many of them at considerable length in a
previous work, The Theory of Good and Evil^ I trust
I shall be excused for rather frequently referring the
reader who is desirous of a more thorough discussion
of particular points to a chapter in that work.

My obligations to many writers upon the life and
teaching of our Lord and upon questions of Gospel
criticism will be sufficiently obvious. The quotations
from one of them are so extensive that a word of
gratitude and apology may seem called for. I have
been tempted to make frequent quotations from
Mr. Claude Montefiore's Synoptic Gospels partly by
their intrinsic excellence, and partly because, when
questions arise as to the originality of our Lord's
teaching and its relation to earlier Jewish Ethics, the
verdict of one who occupies the position of Liberal
Judaism is pecuUarly free from the suspicion attaching
to the writings of Christian Theologians. Mr. Monte-
fiore, in spite of his reverent appreciation of our Lord's

* Also in a very brief form in u little volume on Ethics published
ifl The People's Books Series.

Preface xiii

teaching, cannot be accused of being a " Christian
Apologist " ; while he is wholly free from that tendency
to behttle or explain away the distinctive elements in
the teaching of Jesus which is unhappily at the present
moment by no means confined to ultra-" liberal "

I have been greatly helped in the original preparation
of these lectures by the Rev. J. R. Wilkinson, Rector
of Winford near Bristol, and in their revision for
pubhcation by the Rev. C. W. Emmet, Vicar of West
Hendred, Oxon, and by my colleague. Canon Streeter, to
all of whom I owe many important suggestions. I
must also gratefully acknowledge valuable assistance
in the final revision of the proofs from the Rev. W. M.
Browne, Chaplain to the Bishop of Hereford, and the
Rev. G. L. H. Harvey, Vicar of Aliensmore, Hereford.


The Close, Hereford
March, 191G



Moral Philosophy and Moral Authority


Contrast between the philosophical and the theological
attitude towards Ethics : philosophers appeal to Con-
science, theologians to the Bible or the Church or to the
authority of Christ alone ...... i

A problem (rarely faced) arises : What is the relation between
the two sorts of Authority or between Moral Philosophy and
Moral Theology or Christian Ethics ..... 5

Nature and authority of Conscience : not a " Moral Sense "
but a kind of Reason, which possesses objective validity . 7

The Ethical Criterion : Intuitionism v. Utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism is right in insisting that actions are right or /
wrong so far as they do or do not promote a universal Good,
but this Good is not pleasure only, but includes other
elements, especially moral goodness, and (in subordination
thereto) intellectual culture, etc. (" Ideal Utilitarianism ") . 10

If Conscience can decide moral questions, where is there
room for Authority ? Reply : {a) ends are self-evident, but
to decide on means wants more experience than the average
individual possesses ; {b) the individual can only judge of
goods which he knows, and (c) not all are equally good judges
of moral values . . . . . . . -13

Hence all must begin by relying on authority, and must
remain largely dependent on the accepted standard of the
community ......... i6

But this submission must not be absolute (as with some
Hegelians) : moral progress is effected by interaction of
individual and community . . . . . . iS

Influence on moral progress of great personalities and of the
historical religions founded or reformed by them . , 21

Nature and limits of external Authoritv in Ethics . . 22

xvi Contents


The authority rightly claimed for Jesus Clirist cannot rest
upon external attestation (e.g. by miracles) but must
depend upon the appeal which His teaching makes to the
moral consciousness ....... 25

Submission to external Authority never is, or ought to be,
unlimited . , . . . . 31

Our Lord Himself appeals to Conscience . . -33


Ethics and Eschatology

A recent change in the attitude of Theologians towards the
eschatological sayings of our Lord compels us to deal with
the question. It is contended that the substance of
His teaching was Eschatology, i.e. the announcement of a
speedy catastrophic judgement, and that His ethical teaching
was a mere " interimsethik " of little value to the modern
world .......... 36

Examination of these ideas : (i) Not all the eschatological
sa^'ings can be trusted : the eschatological element smaller
than is now often contended . . . . . -44

(2) Side by side with a future Kingdom Jesus recognizes a
present Kingdom which was to advance gradually : " the
Kingdom of God is within you," etc. . . . -51

(3) " The Kingdom of God," in whatever way it was to come,
represents an ethical and spiritual conception . • • 55

If Jesus did expect a sudden and catastropliic judgement in
the near future, that need not destroy the truth or value
of His etliical teaching ; the moral ideal is fundamentally
the same, however short or long a time the world is to last . 60

The actual mfluence of the current Eschatology upon the
teaching of Jesus was small ...... 63

Consequently it can be applied to modern life with little
adaptation ......... 65

Father Tyrrell's use of the ultra-eschatological theory :
Christiaji Ethics cannot be pessimistic .... 67

Bearing of the question upon the authority and the Divinity
of Jesus Christ ........ 71



iHE Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ

This teaching was not given in the form of a system, but that
docs not prevent the ])hilosophcr discovering general
principles in it . . . . . . -77

Contents xvii


The moral teaching of Jesus presupposes the adv^anced

Morality of late Judaism, and this morality is in many

/ respects higher than that of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle :

e.g. as regards Chastity and Charity .... 79

Retrogression and progress exhibited bj' the Pharisaic
Legalism: Almsgiving, care of poor, sick, etc. . . 85

Differences between this teaching and Christ's : . . -94

(i) Attitude of our Lord towards the Jewish Law. Without
actually encouraging non-observance of the ceremonial
Law, He practically denied its eternal moral obligation
and insisted only on the ethical commands • • • 95

(2) He deepened, transcended, and spiritualized the strictly
moral requirements of the Law ; and insisted upon the
" inwardness " of true Morality : attitude towards Divorce
and oaths . . . . . . . . .101

{3) He extended the Jewish idea of love to one's neighbour
so as to make it include all mankind : his teaching in
principle universalistic : the good Samaritan, etc. . . 108

The principle of Human Brotherhood, laid down by Jesus,
must be accepted as the fundamental truth of Ethics . 113

To appreciate importance of the ethical teaching of Jesus
we must remember (i) that its influence is as much due to
the form as to the substance . . . . . .115

(2) It must not be treated merely as so many isolated sayings,

but as a whole : the ideal embodied in a character and a life 116

(3) The close connexion between the ethical teaching and the
strictly religious . . . . . . . • n?

Additional Note on the Ethical Teaching of Christ in Detail
The value of Christ's teaching does not depend merely upon the
enunciation of a single general principle, but also upon the
applications and illustrations of this principle : attempt to
enumerate the subordinate principles which follow from the
law of Love . . . . . . . .119

(i) Love to enemies ....... 120

(2) Forgiveness of injuries . . . . . .120

(3) Self-sacrifice . . . . . . . .122

(4) The danger of riches . . . . . . .123

(5) HumiHty ......... 124

(6) Nature of the Christian good . . . . .126

(7) Purity : connexion of this duty with law of love . -127

(8) The necessity of Repentance . . . . .129

(9) The duty of making others better . . . .131-

(10) The sinfulness of casting stumbling-blocks . . . 132

(11) The danger of Hypocrisy ...... 133

xviii Contents

Objections to the Moral Teaching of Christ

The most fundamental objections (e.g. Nietzsche's) will not
be considered, but only those of persons who recognize the
obligation of Altruism, but object to particular interpreta-
tions or applications of the Christian rule . . -134

(i) Exaggerated self-sacrifice ? Tolstoi's interpretation
illogical . . . . . . . . .139

(2) Universal Non-resistance is not a logical development, nor

did Christ mean all his precepts to be taken literally . 143

(3) " Sell all thou hast "....... 150

(4) Christ's teaching not in the stricter sense ascetic : fasting 156

(5) Attitude towards celibacy . . . . . .162

(6) Attitude towards Knowledge and Culture : Christ's
teaching does require continuous development, and has
received that development through the working of God's
Spirit in the Church , . . . . . .163

Additional Note on Some Detailed Objections to the Moral

Teaching of Christ

(i) The unjust Steward . . . . . . .109

(2) The parable of the Householder . . . . .170

(3) The cursing of the fig-tree ...... 173

(4) The violent cleansing of the Temple . . . -173

(5) Alleged harshness : the Syro-Phoenician woman . -175

(6) " Give not that which is holy unto the dogs " . .177
{7) Alleged depreciation of family ties . . . .178

(8) " Let the dead bury their dead " . . . .179

(9) The denunciation of the Pharisees . . . .179

(10) The suggestion of undue Self-exaltation . . . 183

(11) Alleged admission of moral imperfection . . . 184

(12) The marriage feast : humility for sake of reward ? .187
{13) Discouragement of Prudence : " Take no thought for

the morrow " ........ 187

(14) The alleged impossibility of Universal Love . . . ,189


The Principle of Development

The teaching of Jesus can be accepted as the supreme guide
for modem life, but only on condition (i) that it is under-
stood to lay down principles, not details of conduct ; (2)
that the principle of Development is admitted . -195

Contents xix


Two kinds of Development needed : (i) there is a constant
discovery of new means to the true end or good . .196

(2) Men's conception of what good is must in detail be con-
tinually growing and expanding ; how far it is true that
the Ethic of Jesus was " world-renouncing," while ours is
and must be " world-affirming " . . . . -199

How far the actual morality of the Christian Church has been
unduly " world-renouncing " . . . . . . 208

How far the same can be said of Protestantism . , .214

Abandonment of the " world-renouncing " element in past
Christianity involves no abandonment of Christ's own
ideal : Christ and the " Imitatio Christi " . . .217

The best modern Christianity is partly a return to the actual
teaching of Christ, partly a development of it in accordance
with the true spirit of it . . . . . .219

But (i) some modern Moralities can never be Christianized 222

(2) The truly Christian development implies a much more
complete realization of Brotherhood than conventional
Christianity recognizes . . . . . . .224

Additional Note on Christian Ethics in the Apostolic Writings

Analysis of the development given to our Lord's teaching by
St. Paul and the Apostolic age . . . . .227

(i) Explicit teaching of the Universalism implied by our
Lord .......... 227

(2) Clear enunciation of the principle that all moral rules are
summed up in Love ....... 228

(3) Emphasis on detailed duties and virtues implied in
Love : this made necessary by Gentile Christianity . . 229

(4) Questions of Casuistry involved in new circumstances . 230

(5) Duties brought into existence by the organization of the
Church ......... 231

(6) Obedience to the State ...... 232

(7) Patient endurance of suffering . . . . .232

(8) Application to duties involved by particular relations of

life — family relations, slavery, etc. . . . . -233

How far there was any element of decline in ethical teaching :
(i) Attitude towards persecutors in Apocalypse ; (2) expecta-
tion of Parousia ; (3) growth of asceticism ; (4) St. Paul's
view of Marriage ; (5) Germs of intolerance . . . 234

XX Contents

Christian Ethics and Other Systems


How far was Christ's teaching original and peculiar to Him-
self ?.......... 239

Ethics of Christianity compared with the teaching of Aristotle
and other ancient Moralists ...... 240

With Stoicism, the highest of non-Christian systems : the best

of its teaching has been absorbed by Christianity , .242

The historical Religions : not true that the liistorical Religions
are all expressions of the same " religious experience " or
that they teach the same Ethics ..... 254

Judaism in its historical form not universalistic . . . 258

Mohammedanism ........ 259

Zoroastrianism or Parseeism ...... 261

Hindooism ......... 263

Buddhism ......... 264

Attempts to reform the old religions more or less in accord-
ance with Christian ideas : the Brahmo Somaj, liberal
Judaism, etc. ........ 271

Such attempts should be treated as among the wa\'s in which
the Kingdoms of the world are becoming the Kingdom of
our God and of His Christ ...... 273

Reasons for not being satisfied with such a partial Christian-
ization of the world : justification of Christian Missions :
devotion to a personal Christ . . . . -275

Connexion between Christ's ethical teaching and the Church's
doctrine of His Person . . . . . .278


On the Love oj God
Relation between love of God and love of Humanity . . 286


On Christ's Teaching about Future Reward tnid Piinishmoit

Critical examination of reported sayings : it is probable that
our Lord did not teach the doctrine of endless punishment :
certainly not taught by St. Paul ..... 290



IF you open a book of Moral Philosophy written by a
philosopher of any school which does not altogether
explain away moral distinctions, you find it invariably
assumed that it is possible to find out what is right and
what is wrong by an appeal to some power, faculty, or
activity of the human mind. The Philosophers may
differ as to what this faculty is, as to the method of its
procedure, as to the precise meaning attached to the
ideas of right and wrong and as to what particular acts
are right or wrong. But if we confine ourselves to
the greater philosophical writers of any period, or to
any philosophical writers great or small who have
written in modern times, you will invariably find this
much common ground between them. In none of
them will you find yourself referred to any external
authority — any authoritative book or books, any body
of decrees or canons emanating from any external
authority whether of the past or of the present — as
our only means of discovering what we ought to do.

2 Conscience and Christ

Probably you will not find such authorities even
mentioned at all as a source of guidance on ethical
questions. On the other hand, when you take up a
book of orthodox Theology or read a discussion upon
some particular practical problem in a Church assembly
or a religious newspaper, you are very likely to find
it assumed without apology or qualification that the
difference between right and wrong is to be decided
wholly or mainly by the exegesis of scriptural texts,
or by an appeal to Canons of Councils passed — it may
be in light, or it may be in very dark, ages of the
Church's history. The only difference of opinion
seems to be as to what are the authoritative pronounce-
ments to be considered, and as to their relative
authority. In the older discussions — the discussions,
for instance, on the deceased wife's sister question in
English Convocations or episcopal utterances of forty
years ago — you will find the Old Testament appealed
to as well as the New. In modern times the appeal is
usually to the New Testament, or possibly (in writers
or speakers a little touched by modern critical views)
exclusively to the teaching of our Lord Himself ;
while the amount of stress laid upon past decisions
of the Church will depend upon the theological
school or party of the controversialist. This proposi-
tion could be illustrated not merely by discussions on
questions connected with marriage, about which for
obvious reasons opinion is peculiarly apt to be affected

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Online LibraryHastings RashdallConscience & Christ : six lectures on Christian ethics → online text (page 1 of 23)