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ideal which has been one of the most undoubted achieve-
ments of later Christianity. But in practice he does not
seem himself to have advanced very much beyond the
average Jewish view of marriage. He looks upon it too
much as a mere preservative against worse evils (i Cor.
vii.). All through his treatment of the subject, especially
in his condemnation of second marriages, there is a
distinct inclination to the ascetic disparagement of
Marriage, though his strong common sense and ex-
perience of the evils arising from the undue exaltation
of cehbacy prevented his carrying the tendency far. His
attitude was largely no doubt due to the expectation of an
immediate Parousia. The emphatic contradiction of St.
Paul's advice in i Timothy v. 14 (" that the younger
widows marry ") may no doubt be attributed to a
waning confidence in the nearness of this event, and to
experience of the evils which the exaltation of virginity
and widowhood had brought with it.

(5) The most serious deduction from what has been
said as to the generally Christian temper of the Apostolic
Morality is to be found in the attitude which the
development of the visible Church (considering the
intellectual limitations of its leaders) almost necessarily
involved towards heresy, schism, and every form of
rebellion against ecclesiastical authority. The Christian
Conscience can hardly approve " the Lord reward him
according to his works " (2 Tim. iv. 14, there is much
MS. authority for " shall reward "). But it is in
the Johannine writings that the tendency towards the



The Apostolic Teaching 237

identification of all persons, all forms of life, and all
forms of belief outside the legitimate Church with the
" world " — a world regarded as actively hostile to
Christ and all good— is carried furthest. The existence
of quite unjustified and savage persecution from out-
side and the strong disposition of the early heresies to
associate themselves with moral laxity may go far to
excuse this temper as regards heretics within (or claiming
to be within) the Christian fold ; while the moral con-
dition of the pagan world (especially as regards sexual
morahty) fully justified the conception of a broad
ethical contrast between the two worlds. Christians
were justified in regarding with horror and hostility the
dominant temper of ordinary pagan Hfe, though doubtless
there was more good in the best circles of the pagan
world than some of them could recognize. But it is
hardly possible to deny that the germs are to be found
in the New Testament itself of that tendency to attribute
high merit to orthodoxy of belief and of that intoler-
ance towards unbelievers or unorthodox believers which
constitute such an appalhng set-off to the enormous
benefits which the Christian Church has conferred upon
the world. So far even the best and greatest of Apostles
and ApostoHc men fell below the spiritual level of their
Master. Even in the attitude adopted towards actual sin,
the doctrine of the Epistle to the Hebrews (vi. 6) that
no repentance for wilful post -baptismal sin was possible
must be regarded as a faUing off from our Lord's own
teaching on the forgivingness of God. Happily that atti-
tude was soon corrected by the charity and the common
sense of the Church.

I have rarely used the Pastoral Epistles for illustration ;
though much in them may well come from the pen of



238 Conscience and Christ

St. Paul, it is probable that, in their present form, they rep-
resent the ideas of a generation later than the Apostolic age :
but there is in them, in the way of positive precept, little
which is not quite in the spirit of St. Paul. They consist
for the most part in the apphcation of the general principles
of Christian Morality to a more developed — but still
fairly simple — ecclesiastical organization.

For an elaborate examination of the moral ideal and
especially the internal moral condition of the early Christian
communities I may refer to the excellent work of Prof,
von Dobschiitz, Christian Life in the Primitive Church
(Trans, by Rev. G. Bremner). Though the Professor
belongs to a school rather disposed to deny the necessity
or value of " development," the book affords striking
testimony to the historical fact of such development at
least within the ethical region, and constitutes on the
whole a vindication of the form which it assumed.



LECTURE VI
CHRISTIAN ETHICS AND OTHER SYSTEMS

I HAVE endeavoured in previous lectures to es-
tablish three points : (i) That in its fundamental
principles the ideal of life presented to us by Christ
Himself still commends itself to our moral conscious-
ness ; (2) that these principles require development,
and (3) that the development which is demanded by the
Christian consciousness of to-day is one which can be
recognized as a true and legitimate outgrowth of the
Master's own teaching. At this point the question
may be raised, " Granted that this ethical ideal is true,
is it at all peculiar to Jesus ? Can we not find in other
ethical systems the same fundamental principles, and
are not those principles equally capable of such a
development as is being actually given to them in
the Chqstian Church of to-day ? Is there any reason
why at the present day we should regard ourselves
as in any paramount or exclusive sense disciples of
Jesus ? " These are the questions which I propose to
discuss in the present lecture.

I should like to begin by saying that from a practical
point of view — for the purposes of the individual re-

239



240 Conscience and Christ

ligious life — it is not a matter of primary importance to
determine how far the ethical teaching of Jesus was
original when it was first given to the world, or how
far other teachers may or may not have taught the
same principles since His time. If those principles are
true, if the development that has been, or at all events
may now be, given to them within the limits of the
Christian Church is a legitimate development, they
^\^ll be none the less true because the same truths may
have been taught by other teachers also. That remark
holds also of the distinctively religious or theological
side of Christianity. The fact that the same truths had
been revealed to others through other teachers would
not alter the truth of the revelation in Christ. To admit
that might no doubt involve some change in our ideas
about the Person of Jesus Himself ; but so long as we
are looking upon Him simply as an ethical Teacher,
the fact that other teachers have taught the same
things, will not supply us with any reason for ceasing
to regard ourselves as disciples of Christ.

We ought therefore to examine the originaUty and
distinctiveness of Christ's teaching with a perfectly
open mind. How far then, to take the central point of
His teaching, has the doctrine of universal Brother-
hood been taught by others besides Christ and inde-
pendently of Him ? First, I will say something as to
the teaching of Moralists outside the great historical
Religions. I have already endeavoured to show how
far Aristotle fell below the teaching of Jesus — how far



Christian Ethics and other Systems 241

in many respects he fell below the moral standard of
the later Judaism — the standard which is presupposed
by the teaching of Jesus Himself. But it would be
quite unfair to look upon Aristotle as representing
the highest ethical thought of the ancient world. Some
writers— notably the revered Thomas Hill Green —
have at times encouraged the notion that such was
the case. They have written as though the MoraHty
we now profess was substantially the Morality of
Aristotle a Httle widened and expanded by Christianity,
as though no important ethical development had
intervened between Aristotle and Christianity. As a
matter of fact, Aristotle represents not the highest
ethical standard of the ancient world, but in some
respects one of the lowest among highly civilized
Moralities. His is the least modern, the least universal-
istic, the least humane — the most intensely aristo-
cratic, particularistic, and intellectuaUstic — of ancient
Moralities. It is the Morality of the little slave-holding
aristocratic class in the autonomous City-state. In the
very next generation, when the destruction of the
ancient Polis system by Aristotle's friend and master
Alexander the Great had begun to do its work, we
find a higher and more cosmopoHtan Morality. You
hnd little or nothing about the brotherhood of man in
Aristotle. You begin to find it in the writings of
Aristotle's own pupils — in Theophrastus, for instance.
There had been a little more of it in Plato, and there
was much more of it in the later Platonists, But it is

R



242 Conscience and Christ

above all in the writers of the Stoic school that we
encounter the closest parallels to the teaching of Jesus
and of primitive Christianity. Is there anything in the
teaching of Jesus — I am confining myself now to His
ethical teaching — which you do not find in the Stoics ?
I think it may fairly be said that the fundamental
principles of the Sermon on the Mount are to be found
in the great Stoic writers. The essential principle that
we ought to treat every human being as an end in
himself as philosophers say — that we ought to love our
neighbour as ourselves or to treat him as a brother
as Christian Morahty more simply expresses it — is
fully taught by such writers as Zeno, Seneca, Epictetus,
and Marcus Aurelius. The supreme value of moral
goodness — as the most important element in human
good — is as fully and completely expressed by them
as it has been by any Christian writer. The superiority
of spiritual good to carnal is duly emphasized, nor
can it be said that there is any over-estimation of
intellectual activity — rather perhaps too little appre-
ciation of any knowledge or culture which has no
direct bearing upon individual character or social
welfare.

Here are a few of the passages in Seneca which
afford the closest approximation to the Sermon on
the Mount. " We will enjoin him to hold out his
hand to the shipwrecked, to point out the way to
the wanderer, to divide his bread with the hungry,"^

> Ep. Mor., XCV. Seneca is singing the praises of Friendship.



Christian Ethics and other Systems 243

" You must live for another if you would live
for yourself,"^ " I will so live as if I knew that I was
born for others." ^ There is no fundamental distinction
between the slave and the freeman. " They are slaves,"
you urge, "nay, they are men. . . . They are slaves, nay,
they are humble friends. They are slaves, nay, they are
fellow-slaves, if you reflect that fortune has the same
power over both. . . . Let some of them dine with you,
because they are worthy — others that they may become
worthy. ... He is a slave, you say, yet perchance he is
free in spirit."^ " I will be agreeable to friends, gentle
and yielding to enemies."* "We will not cease to
serve the common good, to help individuals, to give
aid even to enemies."^ " If you imitate the gods,
confer benefits even on the unthankful : for the Sun
arises even on the wicked, and the seas are open
to pirates."^ "One ought so to give that another
may receive. It is not giving or receiving to transfer
to the right hand or to the left."^ "Expect from
others what you have done to another."^ " Let us
so give as we would wish to receive."^ The intrinsic
value of goodness, the importance of pure inten-
tion, the inwardness of true virtue, are taught
in language which, both on its strictly ethical and
on its religious side, is closely parallel to sayings

1 Ep. Mor., XLVIII. 2 De vit. beat., 20.

3 Ep. Mor., XLVII. * De vit. beat., 20.

6 De Otio, 28. « De Benef., iv. 26.

' lb., V. 8. 8 Ep^ jyiQr., XCIV (in a quotation).
« De Benef., ii. i.



244 Conscience and Christ

of Jesus. " So live with men, as if God saw you ;
so speak with God, as if men heard you."^ " Cast
out whatsoever things rend thy heart ; nay, if
they could not be extracted otherwise, then thou
shouldest have plucked out thy heart itself with
them. "2 " Apply thyself rather to true riches. ... It
is shameful to depend for a happy life on gold and
silver."^ There are a number of other parallels (col-
lected in the well-known Essay of Bishop Lightfoot),*
both to the teaching of our Lord and of St. Paul so
close that, if it were not quite impossible in the case
of our Lord and highly improbable in the case of
St. Paul, an incautious critic would be certain to
pronounce that there must have been borrowing on
one side or the other.

Much the same spirit pervades the writings of
M. AureUus and Epictetus. " Love the human race.
Follow God," says M. Aurelius.^ " It is the character-
istic of man to love even those who do wrong." ^
" Whatever action of thine has no bearing, either
directly or indirectly, upon the social end, tears thy
life asunder and destroys its unity and involves
sedition"" (o-Tao-aooV) • "Anger is not manly; but
meekness and gentleness, as they are more human, so
they are more masculine."^ M. AureUus is particularly
full of exhortations to forgiveness and gentleness towards

» Ep. Mor., X. « lb., LI. » Jb., CX.

* Appended to his edition of the Epistle to the Philippians.

' Meditations, VII. 31. • lb.. VII. 22.

' lb., IX, 23. ' lb., XI, 18. Cf. the whole chapter.



Christian Ethics and other Systems 245

those who injure or revile one : and he was a man who
had opportunities of deahng with detractors as Nero
and Domitian dealt with them.

Exhortation to universal Benevolence is a little less
prominent in Epictetus, but he is full of the thought
that man is a citizen of the world, ^ and the religious
aspect of Morality is more marked in him than in the
other two writers. His conception of God is a distinctly
ethical conception, if he more often speaks of His
essential rationality than of His love.^

As far as they go, such maxims as I have quoted
must be pronounced wholly in accordance with the
spirit of Christ. But, as I have so often found it
necessary to observe, the real concrete meaning of an
ethical formula can only be discovered from its con-
text — the context in which it stands in the whole
teaching and ideal of the teacher. It would be possible
to collect from the great Stoic writers a considerable
list of maxims quite inconsistent with the Christian

^ " Thou art a citizen of the world and a part of it, not one of
its subjects but of its rulers. . . . The whole is more important
than the part, and the city than the individual citizen " (Arrian,
Discourses of Epictetus, ii. lo).

2 God is "Intellect, Knowledge, Right Reason" (I.e., ii. 8).
Man is " a spark of God ; thou hast a piece of Him in thee " {ib.),
" Philosophers say that we ought first of all to learn that God exists
and takes thought for the Universe, and that we cannot escape His
notice not only in what we do but even in the secret thoughts of our
hearts." " He who would please the Gods must endeavour to
become like them so far as he can. If the Divinity is faithful, he
too must be faithful : if free, he too must be free ; if beneficent
{evepyeriKdv) , he too must be beneficent ; if generous, he too must
be generous. And so in everything else he must act and speak
as befits an imitator of God " {ib., ii. 14).



246 Conscience and Christ

principles which they elsewhere profess. At one time,
for instance, Seneca urges forgiveness ; at other times
he practically adopts the maxim, " Thou shalt love thy
friend, and hate thine enemy." He has not fully under-
stood the principle which Plato might have taught him,
that, when punishment should be inflicted, it is really
a kindness. It is only consistent with this cruder and
lower side of Stoic morahty that, though personal in-
sults are often to be ignored, forgiveness of moral
wrong-doing is actually condemned. ^ As to their teach-
ing on the sexual side of Morality, I will only say
that there is some difficulty in understanding what it
was, and that it seems to have fallen far short of the
Christian standard. ^

Moreover, if we penetrate to the fundamental prin-
ciples of the Stoic school, we shall find in them three
elements which were really inconsistent with their own
teaching about universal Benevolence, (a) In the
first place the very exaggeration of their doctrine that
moral goodness was the sole good of Humanity, the

^ De Clem., ii. 5-7. So to be indulgent to the sinner would imply
that the man had not sinned voluntarily (m^; Trap avrbv TjnapTrjKtyai.).
Stobaeus, Floril., 46. 50. The paradoxical doctrine that there are
no degrees of virtue, and that all sins are equal, is in accordance
with this line of thought. The parable of the talents and the
saying about many stripes and few stripes correspond much better
to the moral instincts of unsophisticated Humanity.

' The idea of living according to Nature seems sometimes to
have been understood in a coarse and immoral sense. It is sug-
gested that in an ideal state there would be a community of wives,
and the duty of recognizing the accepted restrictions is based solely
on the authority of the State. See Zellcr's Stoics, Epicureans and
Sceptics, E.T., 1870, p. 290 sq., and the passages there quoted.



Christian Ethics and other Systems 247

only thing necessary to happiness, miUtated against
Benevolence. If pleasure is no good for myself, it is
no good for others, and I need not trouble myself
about other people's pleasures : if pain is no evil, why
should I seek to mitigate it ? The Stoic idea of
Apathy required the suppression of the altruistic as
much as of the egoistic passions. And this conclusion
was explicitly drawn by the Stoics themselves. They
often (though happily not with complete consistency)
despised and condemned pity, and their exhortations
to forgiveness were too often tinged with contempt
" There is no reason why thou shouldest be angry;
pardon them, they are all mad."^ [h] Secondly, this
condemnation of pity was only a part of a general
condemnation of feeling. They deliberately attempted
to suppress and exterminate all emotion. They held,
no doubt, that the wise man will often do in obedience
to Reason the things which less wise men do from
emotion. He will relieve suffering, but he feels no
pity for the sufferer. He will punish the wrong-doer,
but righteous indignation must be suppressed no less
than the spirit of personal revenge. The Stoics were
right, no doubt, in thinking that mere affection for
individuals not guided or controlled by a Reason which
attempts to be impartial or universal is not Virtue at
its highest. But it was scarcely possible that thinkers
who condemned the emotion which is and practically
always must be the chief inspiring source of Benevo-
^ De Beneficiis, v. 17.



248 Conscience and Christ

lence, should give its right place in Ethics to Love.
Nobody ever served men more heartily and con-
scientiously than M. Aurelius. Perhaps he loved them
too : but in his attitude towards the vast majority
there was a touch of contempt. It is impossible to dis-
cover in him that recognition of undeveloped possi-
bilities of goodness in the publican and the sinner
which was so conspicuous a feature in the character of
Jesus. Virtue was only possible to the wise man. And
wise men, it was admitted, must always be few even
among the intellectual. Wisdom, and therefore the
highest virtue, was not possible for the uneducated or
the stupid. And this is closely connected with a third
radical defect in Stoic Morality, (c) The starting-point
of the Stoic Morality was the desire to find peace or
unruffled tranquillity for the individual soul. The
fundamental tenet of the school was that nothing was
really good or evil which was not dependent solely on
the will. Virtue was recommended because it was
the only good which depended entirely upon the man
himself. Thus the Stoic was too much disposed to
commend Virtue not because it was good, but because
it was his good. Such an ideal produced a self-suffi-
ciency and self-absorption which did not conduce to —
perhaps were hardly compatible with — the highest
unselfishness. And it certainly tended towards that
excessive sense of personal dignity which we com-
monly call pride. Hence the encouragement to suicide,
even in cases where a man's opportunities of social



Christian Ethics and other Systems 249

service were by no means at an end. It was in order
to be independent of the accidents of human hfe, to
be sure of attaining the true good for himself, that the
Stoic school originally recommended men to think of
nothing but Virtue.

I do not, indeed, hold, as has been strangely sug-
gested in some quarters, that whereas all the other
virtues could be discovered by the natural capacity of
the moral consciousness, a special and strictly super-
natural revelation was required to teach the value of
Humility. There is something singularly grotesque
in the notion of a man being humble because, though
lie could not see any essential beauty or excellence in
it, he had received a supernatural communication of
the fact that he ought to be humble. Rather should
we say that Humility at bottom (in the form in which
it really is a virtue) is only a particular form or mani-
festation of the love which cares for others, for their
rights and their virtues and their achievements, as
much as for self. The want of humility in the Stoic
ideal is just one of the Uttle indications that, in spite
of all the formal correctness of its maxims, the beauty
of unselfishness was not yet fully appreciated. There
was an ambiguity about their fundamental principle
of living agreeably to nature. In so far as this meant
living in accordance with the true nature of man, it
was a sound and Christian maxim. ^ But its original
meaning was perhaps simply to live in accordance

1 Cf. Butler, Sermon I.



250 Conscience and Christ

with the actual nature of the physical Universe ; and
it never altogether lost this side of its significance. So
understood, it amounted to little more than a pru-
dential counsel to avoid setting one's heart upon
things which fortune might take away. There was,
indeed, the root of all true Morality in the idea
that moral conduct was to act on universal principles,
and this implied that a man should regard himself as
a citizen of the world and promote its good. But the
school never quite succeeded in escaping from what
seems to have been the original thought of its founder
— that virtue was the right means to that un-
ruffled tranquillity of the whole life which the Epi-
curians less wisely sought in pleasure. The Stoic
Apathy (aTraOela) was not so very far in principle
from the untroubled calm (arapa^la) of the Epicurean,
though much nobler in practice. The later develop-
ment of the school was on the whole away from this
original Egoism. The altruistic, universalistic side of
Stoicism steadily gained upon the individualistic, and
reached its final achievement in the teaching and the
life of M. Aurelius Antoninus.^

^ The opinions of Zeno himself, as distinct from those of his
followers, are not known with much certainty, but on the whole the
account of the growth of Stoicism in Zeller and the authorities
which he cites support this view of its development. The origin of
Stoicism was a pessimistic turning away from politics and social
life in its old narrow, civic form. The individual, unable to find
true happiness in active political life, was thrown back upon him-
self. It was only gradually that the growth of the Roman Empire,
and the widening of ethical ideals which accompanied it, suggested
that the service of Humanity supplied a nobler sphere for practical
activitv than the ancient Polis.



Christian Ethics and other Systems 251

And yet, apart from all dogmatic considerations, few
people feel that M. Aurelius is the equal of Jesus.
The defects of Stoic Morality on which I have already
dwelt are discernible even in him — in his teaching
and in his character. It was not altogether through
mere accident or mere misunderstanding that the best
of pagans became the persecutor of the community in
which his own ideal of life was more nearly realized
than it was among any other section of his subjects.
Under no possible circumstances can we imagine Jesus
becoming the persecutor of a group of men who,
whatever their tenets, worshipped that common
Father of whom M. Aurehus vaguely spoke, and made
it their chief aim to love one another. When Christians
took to persecution, they had largely ceased to be fol-
lowers of Jesus, and one great source of the corrup-


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