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VOL. XLII.

GARDNER'S EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN
ETHICS



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Descriptive Prospectus on Application.



EVOLUTION IN
CHRISTIAN ETHICS



BY

PERCY GARDNER, Lirr.D., F.B.A.



Ye shall know them by their fruits.
Do men gather grapes of thorns, or
figs of thistles? Even so every good
tree bringeth forth good fruit ; but a
corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.



LONDON
WILLIAMS AND NORGATE

14 HENRIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN, W.C 2
1918



PREFACE

A FEW months ago I published a small book
called The Evolution of Christian Doctrine, in
which I tried to show that it is possible to
combine belief in the permanent and essential
principles of Christianity with a willing accept-
ance of the results of modern science and
thought. The present work deals on the
same lines with the great principles of Chris-
tian ethics, maintaining that they also need
not be given up in consequence of the wider
horizons of modern experience, but must be
re-stated and modified to suit existing condi-
tions. The same Christian principles seem to
me to lie at the roots alike of my doctrinal and
my ethical work. In the one case it is the
Christian spirit working under modern intel-
lectual conditions ; in the other case it is the
Christian spirit working under existing social
conditions. Indeed, I planned and mostly
wrote the whole work at one time, and it was
only for convenience that the ethical sections



vi EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

were separated from the doctrinal. One
reason why the ethical part was kept back
was that the war has so upset and changed
all social conditions that it involved a con-
tinual revision of views, while the intellectual
atmosphere has not heen greatly modified by
the war; though, as I think, it has made
clear to many how much our intellectual
position in the matter of religion needed
revision, and how little real hold the con-
ventional and traditional Christianity had on
the mind of the people generally.

It is in fact probable that we have not
yet learned by any means all the ethical
lessons which the war has to teach. Many
of them must take a long time to sink down
into us. But obviously it was not desirable
to postpone publication on that account. If
there be any profit in these pages, they are
likely to be more useful while our ethical
outlook is changing and reforming than at
a later stage. They must needs be tentative
and liable to revision.

The task of modernising Christian ethics
will be immeasurably more difficult than the
task of modernising Christian beliefs. In the
latter case there is already a considerable
consensus of opinion among the more liberal-
minded. In the former case there is little



PREFACE vii

agreement even as to first principles. Thus
the present work is of a merely suggestive or
even sketchy character. The ordinary view
that English Christians are agreed as to
practical morality, but differ as to creeds, is
almost the reverse of the truth. The domi-
nance of science both physical and human
has brought constantly nearer to an agree-
ment as to Christian history and belief those
Englishmen, or at all events those laymen,
who sit loose to traditional views. This has
been shown by the fact that reviewers of my
last book do not find in it much that is
original. They regard it as expressing a
general tendency of thought. But our views
as to the character of Christian ethics differ
far more widely : I even expect that some
of my friends will find the views expressed
in the present volume retrograde. Naturally,
I have not attempted to lay down or advocate
a consistent scheme of ethics; I have only
tried to survey the country and to mark out
its boundaries. As regards personal morality,
and the ethics of the family and the nation,
there must be an immense amount both of
thought and experience before anything like
a fresh equilibrium can be attained.

It is generally felt that the great convulsion
of our time must lead to a renovation of the



viii EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

nation. So much devotion, the comradeship
of the trenches, the broadening of the life of
women, can scarcely fail to bring in a nobler
state of things. Yet at present there are
no clear indications of the lines of recon-
struction. What is certain is that no mere
military victory* nor growth of empire, nor
a mere triumph of democracy, nor a rearrange-
ment of classes, nor the spread of secular
education, will be sufficient to renovate
society. Such renovation can only come
from a revival of religion, an acceptance of
divine idea and impulse working from the
heart of the people outwards. The kingdom
of God must be within, before it can be
without.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER I
PRIMITIVE CHRISTIAN ETHICS

I

The Kingdom of God as first preached by John the Baptist and
by Jesus, I. The value of the soul and its relation to God,
4 ; and to the Divine will, 6. The non-resistance of evil, 6 ;
implying absence of property, 7 ; applies only to small
societies, 8. Religion as oxygen, 9.

II

The religion of the individual, n. The earliest teaching not
applied to the family and the State, 12. Enlargement by
St Paul, 14. Conversion of the State, 15. Christianity
does not exclude States, 16.

Ill

No general agreement at present as to Christian ethics, 17.
Pagan and utilitarian ethics, 18. Need for broader ap-
plication of root principles, 19.

CHAPTER II

PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN ETHICS

I

Patriotism in Greece and Rome, 20. Literal observance of
primitive Christian ethics apt to cause reaction, 22. Revolt
of Wycliffe, 24. Revival of paganism at Renaissance, 25.
Revolt of the Reformers against mediaeval ethics, 27.




x EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

II

Stoicism the highest point of Pagan ethics, 28. How it differs
from Christianity, 30. Stoicism weak on the side of
impulse, Christianity often weak on that of intelligence, 32.
Hence difficulties for the modern world, 33.

Ill

Virtues of the northern races, 34. Chivalry, 35. Persistence
of its influence, 37.



CHAPTER III

CHRISTIANITY AND SECULARITY

I

Secularity as a rival to religion, 39. The origin of secularly,
42. Text-books of secularity, 44. Its inherent contradic-
tions, 46.

II

Examination of secular virtues : (i) material progress, 47. Its
glamour, 49. Religious way of regarding it, 51.

Ill

(2) Better distribution of wealth : in itself desirable, 53. But
no panacea, 54. Bellamy's Looking Backward, and
Grahame's Where Socialism Failed, 55.

IV

Secular view of the nature of happiness, 58. Its incomplete-
ness, 60. Secularity primarily a spirit of revolt, 62.



CHAPTER IV

CHRISTIANITY AND SCIENTIFIC ETHICS

I

Fundamental similarity of men's minds, 65. Progress in ethics
from organisation and experience, 66 ; in character rhythmi-
cal, 68.

II

The term " scientific ethics " not exact, 69. Elements in ethics
based on science, 71. Utilitarian views, 71.



CONTENTS xi

III

Charges brought by scientific ethics against Christianity, 74.
Reply from the Christian point of view, 76. The test of
fruits, 79. The truth midway between reasoned ethics and
popular Christian ethics, 82.



CHAPTER V

MODERNITY IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

Modern elements in Christian ethics, 87.

I

Sense of law and order in the world of spirit, 89. This promi-
nent in the Gospels, 91 ; and in St Paul, 93. Recognition
of evolution in the Gospels, 94. Growing sense of law as
man emerges from barbarism, 96. Man puts himself on
the side of cosmic order, 99.

II

Inadequate sense of spiritual law in England, 100 ; among the
causes of the great war, 101. Need for more intelligence
and organisation, 105. God does not intervene in cata-
clysmic fashion, 107. Our time one of special stress, 109.
Enlightenment one fruit of the Spirit, no; greatly
needed, 113.

Ill

Christian morality essentially social, 114; and dwells specially
on the active side of goodness, 115. The Prayer-Book
defective on this side, 117. Intellectual basis of active
morality, 118. Can the Christian impulse be transferred
to new surroundings? 120.

CHAPTER VI
THE CHRISTIAN LAW OF CHARITY

The effect of modern tendency on Christian virtues, 123.

I
Charity, as taught in the Gospels, 125 ; as taught by St Paul, 129.



xii EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

II

Charity as popularly understood, 130. Confused with alms-
giving, 131. This liable to great dangers, 133.

Ill
Charity also confused with indifference to good and evil, 135.

IV

Real nature of charity, 138. Pervaded by a sense of spiritual
relations, 140; and of accord with the Divine will, 141. The
Church an ethical society, 142.



CHAPTER VII
THE CHRISTIAN LAW OF FORGIVENESS

I

Need for extreme gentleness in early Christian times, 144. The
way of non-resistance, 146. Divine and human forgiveness,
147. Jewish idea of forgiveness, 151.

II

Exact statement of doctrine of forgiveness in Gospels, 153. No
forgiveness without repentance, 155. View of St Paul, 156.
Modern conditions, 158. No excuse for laxity and indiffer-
ence, 1 60.

CHAPTER VIII

CHRISTIANITY AND THE BODY

I

Greek idea as to the body, 163. Early Christian idea, 164.
Reflection in sculpture, 165. Revival of Greek idea at the
Renaissance, 168. The Jews not indifferent to beauty, 170.
Asceticism comes in with St Paul, 171. Modern athletics,
172. Beauty in modern schools of art, 174.

II

Modern societies for the cultivation of beauty, 176. The body
as a temple of the Spirit, 179.



CONTENTS xiii

III

Importance of beauty in relation to the carrying on of the race,
181. Colliding tendencies, 184. Reckless propagation of
the unfit, 185. The eugenic societies and their work, 186.
Possible legislation, 189. Intensification of the problem by
the war, 190.

CHAPTER IX
CHRISTIANITY AND THE FAMILY

No recognised code of family morality in England, 192.

I

The family in early civilisations, 193 ; and in early Christianity,
194. Analogies set forth by Jesus and St Paul, 194 ; based
on the state of society at the time, 195. The strain of
asceticism, 198. The Reformers, 199.

II

Decay of the family, 200 ; and of home life, 203. Aberrations
of sexual attraction, 204. Insubordination, 206.

Ill

Popular Christianity has no fixed code in such matters, 208.
Need of regulation, 208. Religion and happiness on
the same side, 209.

CHAPTER X
THE UNREST AMONG WOMEN

I

Early Christian teaching in regard to women, 212. Pauline
views, 212.

II

The present unrest, 215 ; draws upon a vast source of energy,
216. Loss of women's occupations, 217.

Ill

Need of wise women to re-state the Christian view, 218. The
necessities of the race, 221. Breeding from the unfit, 222.
Dominance of the sexual and subconscious in women, 225.



xiv EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

IV

Special problem arising from the number of the unmarried, 226.
Question of celibate societies, 228. Claim to precise
equality not justifiable, 230. Wide experience of callings
for women a fruit of the war, 231. Every generation must
sacrifice something to the future, 232.

CHAPTER XI
CHRISTIANITY AND NATIONALITY

Treatment of this subject necessary to our survey, 235.

I

Nationality set aside by the earliest Christianity, 235 ; also by
St Paul, 236. Augustine, 238. Connection of Church and
State, 239.

II

A nation in a sense a personality, 241. Nationality and race
not the same, 242. Need for national ideals, 244. England
and other States, 245.

Ill

Exaggeration of nationality in Germany, 247. Leads to mili-
tarism and brutality, 248 ; but only when debased by
materialism, 250. Ethical currents underlying the war, 251.

IV

England suffers from -extreme individualism, 253; and party
spirit, 254. Insurgent women and conscientious objectors,
255. Example of Socrates, 255. At present a growth of
bureaucracy, 256. Individualism debased by materialism,
257. The charge of hypocrisy, 258.

V

Vice of national selfishness, 260. Need to recognise the ideals
of other peoples, 261. The Entente recognises the right
of peoples to self-determination, 263. Negative inter-
national morality insufficient, 265. Can Christian principles
be applied to States? 266. The outlook, 267. Need to
raise international morality at least to the level of private
morality, 270.

VI

The ethics of universalism, 273. The visible Church and its
opportunity, 273.



EVOLUTION IN
CHRISTIAN ETHICS

i

PRIMITIVE CHRISTIAN ETHICS

I

ACCORDING to the first Gospel, Jesus began
his teaching with the proclamation, "Repent
ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."
In recent times it has been more and more
clearly seen by critics that in this proclamation
of the coming of a divine kingdom we may
find the keynote of historic Christianity. The
message was not, strictly speaking, new.
Matthew attributes precisely the same words
of warning to John the Baptist. And in fact
they represent the consummation to which the
whole of Jewish faith was tending in the ae
between Alexander the Great and the Christian
era. The works of the Jewish Apocrypha,
written at that time, are full of the hope of the
dawning of a new age, when the glory of God



2 EVOLUTION .IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

should be shown on earth, when sin should be
put away, and the relation of men to God
should pass into a new phase.

But though the idea was not new, it was
taken up by Christianity into a higher region,
and became the starting-point of the greatest
spiritual development which the world has
ever known.

Into this, as into other phrases of the earliest
Christianity, we are naturally inclined to read
the ideas of a later age. We think of the tree
rather than of the seed. But if, as we have
reason to think, the words before us are an
actual utterance of Jesus at the beginning of
his career, we must consider what meaning
they would carry to the Galilean peasants who
heard them, and for whom they were in the
first instance intended. What did these
carpenters and fishermen think of as the
Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God ?
It would take us too far if I endeavoured
to give even in outline the history of the hope
of a divine kingdom in later Israel. It is a
matter which has occupied some of our best
scholars, and on which much light has been
thrown by the discovery of fresh documents.
The best summary will be found in 130 pages of
a little work by Canon Charles, called Between
the Old and New Testaments.



PRIMITIVE CHRISTIAN ETHICS 3

But we must proceed without delay to
consider the new and Christian interpretation
of the idea. What Christianity touched it
turned to gold. Beliefs, hopes, doctrines, it
baptised into Christ and sent them forward
at a new and a higher level. And though in
many cases the actual baptism was the work
of the Church after her Master had departed,
she only carried on a process which he himself
had begun.

What then did Jesus mean when he began
the preaching of the Kingdom ?

Those who, in their quest of the Kingdom
of God, came to John the Baptist, confessed
their sins, and submitted to baptism. Those
who came to Jesus accepted him as leader and
master. But to both teachers the door of the
road which led to the Kingdom lay through
repentance and righteousness. The idea of
repentance may have been much the same in
both societies. But the idea of righteousness
was very different. John seems to have incul-
cated a reformed way of life : the tax-gatherers
were exhorted to exact no more than was due;
the soldiers to abstain from deeds of violence ;
all to be kindly and helpful one to another. It
is scarcely necessary to say that the righteous-
ness demanded by Jesus was of another and
a far less superficial character. Love to God



4 EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

and man, a cleansed heart, a strong desire to
live in accordance with the will of God, a
childlike trust in the Father in Heaven, lay
at the roots of his teaching.

" What shall it profit a man if he shall gain
the whole world and lose his own soul ? "
Among the recorded sayings of the Founder
of Christianity, none is more characteristic or
more profound than this : it is the direct ex-
pression of the essence of the Christian religion.
It is an active belief in the truth of this saying
which has in all ages inspired Christian martyrs
and heroes. It is the root-principle of Christian
philosophy and the guiding star of Christian
poetry and aspiration.

But the value of the soul in the teaching of
the Founder did not rest upon its inherent
dignity. Nor did it rest even on its immortal
destiny ; this is a view rather of later than of
primitive Christianity ; for the future life is
dwelt on but seldom in the primitive Gospel.
The value rests on the relation of the soul to
God. It is as children of the heavenly Father,
as beings born to do the will of God, and to
make the divine will triumph in the world,
that men have a real and eternal value. In
comparison with this purpose of life, all ex-
ternal goods shrink and become of no account.
The ancient Stoic held that to the really wise



PRIMITIVE CHRISTIAN ETHICS 5

man external accidents, all that could happen
in the world, was indifferent so long as he
retained his wisdom and his steadfast purpose.
The disciple of Jesus was armed against fate,
not by self-restraint and self-discipline, but by
a conviction that every event of life, fortune
apparently good or evil, was sent by a loving
Father, and should be accepted in willing sub-
mission. Only by this attitude of the spirit
could men attain to true blessedness, a
blessedness beyond the reach of accident or
misfortune.

It is in this key that are set many of the
most characteristic sayings of the earliest
Gospel. God's watchful care observes the
fall of a sparrow, and numbers the hairs of
the head of every man. As fathers give good
gifts to their children, so God is ready to give
all the best gifts to those that ask him. God's
love to man is the source whence naturally
flows man's love to God. And as a reflex and
consequence of love to God, there is urged the
love for man as a child of God, a brotherly
love for all who belong to the human race.
Jesus does not urge men to love their neigh-
bours, and then to try to rise to the love of
God ; but to love God with all their souls in
the first place, and thence to discover how
worthy man, as a child of God, is of being



6 EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

loved. The emphasis is laid in quite a different
way from that in which it is laid in modern
systems of secular ethics, where all the stress
is laid on the desire for the well-being of others.
To this contrast I will return in the third
chapter.

It is not, however, a mere passive acqui-
escence in the will of God which is taught
in the Gospels, but an active and devoted
working, in conjunction with and in subordi-
nation to that will, for the good of men. To
this theme also we shall return.

The intense realisation of the worth of the
individual soul, and the slight and. transitory
importance of any worldly goods, led naturally
to the teaching of quietism or the non-resist-
ance to evil. The early verses of the Sermon
on the Mount, inculcating the principle that
when a man is struck he should offer the other
cheek, when he is defrauded or persecuted he
should take it in all patience, has in all ages
of Christianity gained a strong hold on those
followers of Jesus who have had the keenest
sympathy with their Master.

It cannot be said to be impossible to carry
out the great principle of non-resistance of evil,
since in all ages some have practised it. In
all ages, not only in Christian but in Buddhist
countries, there have been small societies and



PRIMITIVE CHRISTIAN ETHICS 7

isolated individuals who have utterly renounced
that struggle with competitors for a living
which absorbs the energy of most of us, and
been content with the crumbs which fall from
the table of the world. Such were the Bud-
dhist ascetics who wandered through India long
before the Christian era, living on broken
meats which were put into the alms-bowls
which they carried, caring not at all for the
things of earth, but bent on going in the
way of their great teacher. Such were the
earliest Franciscans, a company of missionaries,
finding their happiness in a complete renuncia-
tion of all this world's goods, actuated by a
passionate love of the poor, the diseased, the
perishing. And such also were the first
missionaries sent out by Wycliffe, who lived
merely from day to day on alms. The attrac-
tion of this ascetic ideal filled the monasteries
and nunneries of Europe with men and women
who rejoiced to set aside all ambition, all hope
and desire, and to take in exchange a peace
which comes of self-effacement.

There is, however, one point in regard to this
self-devoted life which must be dwelt on for
a moment, for in England it is often strangely
overlooked. The non-resistance of evil is
utterly incompatible with the possession of
private property. There have been and are



8 EVOLUTION IN CHRISTIAN ETHICS

many good quietists who in theory agree to
the principle of non-resistance, and yet are
active and successful men of business, making
or inheriting large fortunes. But the precept
"give to him that asketh of thee, and from
him that would borrow of thee turn not thou
away," is quite as much a part of the necessary


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