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tion lay in an infusion of that very imperial spirit of
ancient Rome which, with all his cosmopolitanism,
revealed itself in M. Aurelius' persecution of the
Christians.

And then I would once again call your attention to
the principle that, when we are treating of an ethical
system not as formal Philosophy but as practical
teaching intended to appeal to the emotions and
inspire the will, the form is as important as the sub-
stance. You can find, as we have seen, beautiful
expressions of the duty of love and mercy and forgive-
ness — some of them so closely parallel to passages of
the New Testament as to produce a fallacious appear-



252 Conscience and Christ

ance of imitation. And yet, taken as a whole, they do
not appeal to us as the Sermon on the Mount and the
parables of the good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.
They do not make so deep an appeal to the educated —
still less to the uneducated. Stoicism was no Gospel
for the mass of men. And therefore it w£ls no mere
historical accident that, in so far as the Stoic Religion
and the Stoic Morality were identical with the Chris-
tian, it was not through the Stoic school, but through
the Christian Church, that they came to be the accepted
Morality of the modern Western world.

Even if we could get over the shortcomings and
inconsistencies of Stoicism, if we could identify its
theological and ethical teaching with that of Chris-
tianity to a greater extent than we can reasonably do,
there would still remain this fundamental difference
between M. Aurelius and Christ. Christ founded a
Religion and a Church : the Stoics founded neither.
This is a point of immense importance when we are
considering the personal greatness and the historical
position of Christ : it is simply decisive when we are
discussing the reasons for transferring to M. Aurelius
or some other Stoic hero anything like the allegiance
that Christians actually own to Christ. There is,
indeed, much truth in Mark Pattison's view that,
during the three centuries or so before Constantine,
Philosophy had been working out a creed which on its
ethical side, and to a great extent even on the theological
side, was identical with the creed at which the Christian



Christian Ethics and other Systems 253

Church had arrived by quite another route — through
the adoption of the Jewish ideal, universaUzed and
completed by Christ and developed by His disciples.^
But the fact remains that it was Christianity and not
the Stoic or any other Philosophy which converted the
world to Monotheism and the Ethics of universal
Brotherhood. And, further, when Christianity came
into contact with Graeco-Roman culture, the two
parallel currents of spiritual development began to
fuse. The teaching of the Christian Fathers absorbed
much of what was best in the teaching of Philosophy —
especially of this Stoic Philosophy with which we are
immediately dealing. There is no need whatever to
minimize the close resemblance between the Stoic
ideal at its best and the teaching of Christ and of
those who drank most deeply of His spirit. The early
Apologists were right in appealing to the correspond-
ence between the best teaching of Philosophy and that
of the Christian Religion as so much evidence in favour
of Christianity, when taken in connexion with the
enormously greater success of Christianity in moulding
men's lives into conformity with that teaching. To
anyone who seriously proposed to revive the Stoicism
or the Eclecticism of the later Roman world as a
working rule of modern life I should say, " You need
not trouble to do that. The Christian Church has
already absorbed what Stoicism had to teach. The

^ See his Sermons, which are almost all devoted to the working
ovit of this idea,.



254 Conscience and Christ

best way of practising all that is best in Stoicism — all
in it that any modern Conscience is really likely to
accept — is to be a Christian."

I do not, of course, deny that at some periods the
actual working ideal of Christendom fell in some
respects far below Stoicism, or that there were
unchristlike elements in it which a renewed study of
Stoicism might help us to get rid of. All that is
said of " Christianity " here must be taken to mean
" Christianity in so far as it has remained faithful to
the spirit of its Founder."

I have dwelt thus elaborately on the differences
between Stoicism and Christianity because, if one
wishes to establish the supremacy of the Christian
Ethic, it is fair to compare it with the highest non-
Christian ethical system that one knows. Outside
Christianity I know of no higher Morality than that
of the Stoics. But to those who feel the need for a
Religion and a Church or religious community. Stoicism
could not possibly be an alternative to Christianity,
even if the parallelism between their teaching were
closer than it is. In the rest of this lecture I shall
speak only of systems or ideals which have embodied
themselves in still living historical Religions.

There are at the present day many people who would
heartily admit the difference between an ethical
philosophy and a religion, and who would freely
recognize that Religion is possible on a large scale only
in and through some actual historical religion, but who



Christian Ethics and other Systems 255

seem to think that it makes Httle or no difference
which, at least among the higher reHgions, a man
belongs to. They will, it may be, consider themselves
Christians because they happen to be born in a Christian
country, but they do not think the difference between
Christianity and other religions — they often forget to
mention precisely which religions — sufhcient to justify
them in supporting a mission whose object it is to
invite members of other religions to become Christians.
Such persons talk about a " religious experience "
which they assume to be the same in all the higher
religions. The Theology of the various reUgions is for
them merely the outward historical embodiment of
this religious experience, and is an unessential and
separable element of such religions. As a matter of
history and psychological fact, I beheve this position
to be profoundly mistaken. I do not mean, of course,
that there are no common elements in the higher
historical reUgions, or that there is any great religion
in which there is not a measure of truth. The best
missionaries of the present day fully and gladly
recognize that the Spirit of God has spoken to men
through many religions besides the Jewish and the
Christian. But two things I regard as certain —
(i) That every reUgion, whatever else it is, always
includes a theory of the Universe, and incompatible
theories of the Universe cannot all be true. It is as
absurd to talk about all the religions being equally
true as to talk about all philosophies, or all systems of



256 Conscience and Christ

Astronomy, being equally true ; (2) that the character
of the religious experience which is possible to any
individual is largely determined by the theory of the
Universe at which he has already and independently
arrived. To get the religious experience characteristic
of a religion, you must believe in its theory of the
Universe. The experience of communion with or love
of a personal God is only possible if one believes in
a God who is capable of loving and being loved. The
experience w^hich Hindoo mystics attempt to describe,
the experience of union with an All which is essentially
non-personal and non-moral (whatever may be its
value) , is only possible to one who already believes in
such a non-personal and non-moral Absolute, and
who can share the genuine Hindoo contempt for
Morality as a purely human and transitory affair.
And the two experiences, so far as can be judged
from the expressions of them in language and litera-
ture, are profoundly different and incompatible. I
must not enlarge further upon the difference between
the great historical religions on their theological side.
My subject confines me to the ethical differences. And
here, by way of focussing the problem with which we
are concerned, I will allude to a letter which appeared
during one of those correspondences on religious sub-
jects in the newspapers in which the most prominent
part is usually taken on both sides by the now large
class of half-educated persons who believe themselves
to know all about everj^thing. The gentleman in



Christian Ethics and other Systems 257

question informed the world that after a comprehen-
sive survey of all the religions of mankind he had
made a great discovery. He had come to the con-
clusion that there were two elements in every religion
— a theological element which varied but was unim-
portant, and an ethical element which was important
but was always the same. Is this really the fact ?
Could anyone who has arrived at the conclusion that
the ethical teaching of Christianity, as we have under-
stood it, is true reasonably transfer his allegiance to any
other Religion on the assumption that its Ethics were
the same, even supposing he were right in imagining
that the theological differences were unimportant ?

Now in the first place we may, I think, put aside
for practical purposes all the lower religions. Roughly
and broadly speaking, the higher rehgions are dis-
tinguished from the lower just by the fact that they
are, in the full sense of the term, ethical rehgions.
That does not mean that the lower religions have in
them no ethical element. There has always been a
very close connexion between Religion and Morality :
but the nature of this connexion is variable. The
primitive religions were primarily systems of rites
and ceremonies by which it was thought possible to
procure the favour of the gods : and the favour of the
gods was not supposed to depend wholly or mainly
upon the moral conduct of their worshippers. ^ Some

^ It may be said that there was always this much that was
ethical even in the lowest religions — that they always prescribed
the doing of what was beneficial to the tribe ; and attempts have



258 Conscience and Christ

gods, no doubt, did punish some kinds of moral offence :
but the gods were not all of them thought of as ideally
moral beings — some of them were thought of as
grossly immoral and as deUghting in certain kinds of
immorality. Unless a religion at least professes to
identify the will of the supernatural being or beings
whom it worships with the morally good, we need not
seriously discuss its claims to be considered on ethical
grounds an optional alternative to Christianity. And
this consideration at once limits the religions which it
is necessary to consider to a much smaller number than
might be supposed from the airy talk which we often
hear about the substantial identity of all religions.
Is there then among the few higher religions of the
world any one which teaches substantially the same
Ethics as Christianity ?

I need not say much more than has already been
said about Judaism. Judaism, as we have seen,
before the coming of Christ never quite rose to the
Christian ideal of universal Brotherhood. Undoubtedly
there are enlightened Jews of the present day who
heartily accept that supreme ethical truth ; but they
have certainly not arrived at it without direct or

been made to draw a sharp line between Religion and Magic on
this basis, practices which were supposed to benefit the indi-
vidual only being treated as belonging to Magic, and not to Religion.
For some purposes this may be a convenient distinction, but the
distinction cannot be made very sharply. Even the early Jewish
prophet was much concerned with the recovery of lost property,
and yet it would be absurd to treat Samuel as only a magician and
as having nothing to do with the religion of Israel.



Christian Ethics and other Systems 259

indirect help from Christianity, and they can only
consistently teach it by repudiating (as of course is done
by Jewish teachers who have accepted the critical
position as to the Old Testament) much of the official
teaching of their religion. ^ I am not now speaking
of possible reforms of the Jewish or other historical
rehgions, but of the reUgions in their historical, tra-
ditional, and official forms. Taking Judaism in that
sense, the Ethics of Judaism must be pronounced (to
say the least of it) very defective by anyone who
has accepted the Christian doctrine that men of all races
are equal in the sight of God and equally neighbours
to one another, and who denies that the performance
of rites and ceremonies such as those prescribed by the
Jewish Law can be matters of ethical obligation.

Of Mohammedanism it may still more unequivocally
be said that it is founded upon a doctrine of inequality.
It is, indeed, universalistic inasmuch as it recognizes
no distinctions of race, and has abolished such dis-
tinctions in practice more completely than is un^
fortunately the case with large numbers of professing
Christians. But it does not recognize the duty of
brotherhood towards men of all creeds. The Koran
requires idolaters to be slain, and the Mussulman to
be treated as intrinsically the superior of Jew or of

^ No doubt this was already done to some extent in the teach-
ing of the Hellenistic Judaism of the Dispersion, and possibly in the
teaching of some of the Rabbis, as regards the duty of Gentiles ; ^but
I do not know that any Jewish teacher actually put the righteous
" worshippers of God " spiritually on a level with the observers 'of
the Law.



26o Conscience and Christ

Christian. That doctrine of Intolerance which was
only introduced into Christianity by the malign in-
fluence of St. Augustine, is included in the original
and fundamental title deeds of Mohammedanism. That
religion recognizes a limited polygamy and an unlimited
concubinage. It proclaims the essential and enormous
inferiority of women. It avowedly bases morality
upon the arbitrary will of God. And the plenary
inspiration which the Koran claims for itself creates
a serious and probably insurmountable obstacle to any
development of the Religion which shall practically
emancipate it from these limitations. It is incon-
ceivable that any man who really believes in the
essential principles of Christian morality should regard
it as a matter of indifference to a people or to an
individual whether they accept the morality of the
New Testament or that of the Koran. Expressions
of sentimental sympathy with Mohammedanism
generally come from people who do not seriously
profess to accept the most characteristic elements of
Christian Morality. Anti-religious writers have, for
instance, sometimes represented Mohammedanism as
the least objectionable of all religions precisely on
account of its indulgence to human frailty in the
matter of sexual relations i^ while those who look at

^ See, for instance, Lanessan, La Morale des Religions. As a
specimen of the gross ignorance exhibited by this ostensibly
scientific work, I may mention that the author treats St. Paul as
the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews without a word of apology
(p. 381).



Christian Ethics and other Systems 261

Religion chiefly from a political point of view often
regard Mohammedan missions with more favour than
Christian just because they avowedly treat Moham-
medanism as an inferior religion suitable for inferior
races, and one useful to their rulers on account of the
support which it affords to arbitrary and anti-
democratic systems of government.

Far more might be said in favour of an attempt
to represent the ancient Zoroastrianism — now repre-
sented by Parseeism — as a religion which a Christian
might accept. Its original Dualism is believed to have
passed into a practical Monotheism at an early date :
and at all events modern educated Parsees are Mono-
theists. And their Monotheism is of an essentially
ethical caste. But in the Ethics of the Zend-Avesta
ceremonial transgressions are regarded as far more
grievous than moral. ^ The greater part of the Vendi-

^ " Thereupon came Angra Mainya, who is all death, and he
counter-created by his witchcraft a sin for which there is no atone-
ment, the burying of the dead." Zend-Avesta, Vendidad, Fargand,
i, 13. Trans, by Darmesteter (Sacred Books of the East, Vol. IV).

" O Maker of the material world, thou Holy One ! If a man
shall bury in the earth either the corpse of a dog or the corpse of
a man, and if he shall not disinter it within half a year, what is the
penalty that he shall pay ? Ahura Mazda answered : ' Five hundred
stripes with the Aspahe-astra, five hundred stripes with the Sraosho-
karana ' " (I.e., F., iii, 36). But he may inflict a wound which is
healed in three days for fifteen stripes (I.e., iv, 26), or if he hurts
a man " sorely," the penalty is thirty (I.e., 30). If he smite him
" so that he gives up the ghost," the penalty is only ninety stripes
(I.e., 40). On the other hand, the law of Mazda (i.e. acceptance of it)
" takes away from him who confesses it the bonds of his sin ; it
takes away (the sin of) breach of trust ; it takes away (the sin of)
murdering one of the faithful," etc. (I.e., iii, 41). But this is ap-
parently only in the case of one who has not previously professed



262 Conscience and Christ

dad — the most ancient portion of the Zend-Avesta —
is taken up with the mode of avoiding ceremonial
pollutions and warding oft the influence of evil spirits,
many of its rites being of a rather disgusting character.
Like the Koran, it recognizes a fundamental distinc-
tion between a man's duty towards fellow-believers
and his duty towards others.^ Its ethical precepts
never rise above the level of the Pentateuch : it
never, I should say, comes up to the level of Deuter-
onomy. Doubtless many modern Parsees neglect
many of its almost intolerable restrictions ; they may
read into its exhortations to goodness and purity
an Ethic which is largely identical with that of Chris-
tianity. But it is impossible to represent that Par-

the law of Mazda, and who " confesses it and resolves never to
commit again such forbidden deeds " (iii, 40).

" He who has riches is far above him who has none " (I.e., iv,
47). And " he who fills himself with meat is filled with the good
spirit much more than he who does not do so " (I.e., iv, 48).

" If a man shall throw on the ground the whole body of a dead
dog, or of a dead man, and if grease or marrow flow from it on to the
ground, what penalty shall he pay ? Ahura Mazda answered : ' A
thousand stripes with the Aspahe-astra, a thousand stripes with the
Sraosho-karana ' " (I.e., vi, 24, 25).

The moral teaching of the Zend-Avesta contains many fine
sayings about Benevolence, Humility, and Chastity ; but it nowhere
lays down the principle of Universal Benevolence as the law of life.
Its teaching is not without elevation but it is vague : and the form
in which it is conveyed can nowhere be compared whether in literary
beauty or in practical impressiveness with the noblest passages of
the Old Testament — to say nothing of the New.

^ " If a worshipper of Mafda wants to practise the art of healing,
on whom shall he prove his skill ? On worshippers of Marda or on
worshippers of the Da6vas ? Ahura Mazda answered : ' On
worshippers of the Daevas shall he first prove himself,' " etc. (I.e., F.,
vii, 36. 37)-



Christian Ethics and other Systems 263

seeism, taken in its traditional and official form,
teaches an Ethic which would make Christian Missions
a superfluity — even if the matter is to be decided on
ethical grounds alone.

Turning to the indigenous religions of India, it will
not be necessary to say much of orthodox Hindooism.
Its system of caste is absolutely opposed to the funda-
mental principle of Christian Ethics. A religion which
forbids an out-caste to come within so many paces of a
Brahmin, which denies that the Brahmin has any
duties to the Sudra, and which, to speak generally,
interprets the neighbour to whom duties are owed as
the member of one's own caste or (for some purposes)
of a caste superior to one's own, cannot be said to teach
the Christian doctrine of Brotherhood. When Indian
civil servants defend such a system, as they some-
times do, they only show how little they have really
grasped the principle of human brotherhood which (if
Christians) they profess with their lips ; and which
if they do not make any such professions, they would
theoretically perhaps admit to be the teaching of
enlightened Philosophy.^ All that is enlightened and
progressive in Hindoo thought is already revolting
against the system, however much social tradition
may still secure the observance in practice of caste
rules. It is not really of Hindooism as it is, but only of

^ Of course if all that they urge is that the destruction of the
system would be bad, unless its place was taken by a higher religion,
they would have much to say for themselves.



264 Conscience and Christ

some actual or possible reformation of it, that the
defender of what we call Equi-religionism can reason-
ably be supposed to be thinking when he suggests
that, though Christianity may be a suitable religion
for Europeans, there is no reason for the Oriental to
abandon his ancient faith.

Among the attempts at a reform of Hindooism, the
most ancient and the most important is, of course, the
religion known as Buddhism. There we do, indeed,
encounter a religion which is, in a sense, on the same
level as Christianity. It is absolutely universalistic.
It has repudiated caste and all exclusive priestly pre-
tensions. It is highly ethical, and its Ethics are of an
elevated and exacting order. It rests on a philosophy
which is at all events highly metaphysical and highly
intellectual. In its earlier and purer forms it commits
its adherents to no belief that is obviously impossible
to highly educated Westerners. Rites and ceremonies
are completely subordinated to a purely ethical end.
Even in its lowest and most degraded form it has
hardly sunk lower than Christianity at its worst.
It is sufficiently free from stereotyped and authorita-
tive standards of doctrine to admit much liberty of
thought, and much development both of doctrine and
of practice. In some of its sects there actually has
been much development ; and it is capable of more
development in a direction which increases the resem-
blance of both its Ethics and its Theology to Chris-
tianity. It is not too much to say that here we have



Christian Ethics and other Systems 265

the one ancient historical rehgion of the East that
could conceivably be regarded by the civilized Euro-
pean as a possible alternative to Christianity for
himself. It is the one religion which a few educated
and intelligent Europeans have formally joined,^
and which powerfully attracts the sympathy of many
who have not done so. But are its Theology and its
Ethics the same as those of Christianity ? Most
assuredly not. Of its Theology it is enough to say
that in its original and most philosophical form it is
strictly atheistic : in popular forms of it its atheistic
Founder has been deified. ^ And this is certainly not
the same Theology as that of Christianity. But once
more I must confine myself to the ethical side of the
Religion. Now here, so long as we think only of
practical precepts which Buddhism sets before the
average man, there is a very close resemblance between
its teaching and that of Christianity at its best. It
does teach universal Benevolence, Humanity not
merely towards men but towards animals, Chastity,
Humility ; and it cannot fairly be said that it teaches
anything inconsistent with these virtues as regards the
duties of the ordinary man living in the world. The
Christian may very well see in these teachings an out-
pouring of the Spirit of God second only to that which
he recognizes in the highest Judaism and the Chris-

^ The Englishmen who have become Mohammedans may fairly
be regarded as " cranks."

^ Of course not to the exclusion of other "Buddhas," or incar-
nations of Deity.



266 Conscience and Christ

tianity in which it culminated. But, when we turn
from the precepts for outward conduct to its inner-
most ethical temper, and in particular when we turn
from the ideal which it sets before the average man to
the ideal of perfection which it holds up to its monks
and its saints, then, amid much which attracts us,
we cannot but recognize that there is also much which
is absolutely contradictory to the Christianity of
Jesus. The charity preached by Jesus was a dis-
interested desire for the good of others : the Asceticism
which He approved (if it is to be called Asceticism) was


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