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the ideals after which women should striva
This must be done by women themselves
All that I can venture to attempt is to survei
the ground, and sketch the unalterable fact]
which must in the end govern the activitiej
of women, as ranges of hills direct the course]
of rivers.

In discussing what direction any alteration
in the status and employments of womei
should take we have to consider one thing
and one thing only, the highest good of thj
people. It is a mere absurdity to suppose thai
the true and permanent interests of men anl
of women can be opposed one to the otheil
We have to consider society as a whole ; anJ
if the interests of particular classes of meJ
or of women do not coincide with those oj
the community, it is clear that in any v
of morality they must give way.

Of course the necessities and the future <
the race must come first. Anything whic
tends to diminish the inducements to marriag
or to lower the birth-rate is a sin against th
race. And here Britain is in a very peculis
position. We have annexed an immense pro


>ortion of the habitable globe ; but we have not
>eopled it. Vast tracts in Canada and Aus-
ralia are almost without inhabitants. That
hey can remain thus untenanted for long,
specially in view of the revival of China and
fapan, is impossible. Unless they are duly
occupied by our people, they must ere long
all to men of other races, probably to men
>f yellow type. Under the present circum-
tances, the production of an abundant and
lealthy race of men and women is an infinitely
greater national interest than any other.

A more striking example of the limitations
>f man's power of foresight could scarcely be
bund than is presented by the change which
las lately come over the minds of thinking
nen in regard to the question of growth of
)opulation. Thirty years ago most of us were
Vlalthusians, and anxiously considering how
nen could be persuaded to limit their families,
fit present there is probably scarcely a states-
nan in Europe or America who is not op-
pressed by fear that the natural increase of
copulation in his country may soon become a
lecrease, or who would not gladly find some
neans to check the steady fall of the marriage-
ate and the birth-rate. No one wants to
promote the reckless multiplication of the
infit ; but all rulers see that the future of


their people must entirely depend on the
production of a numerous, a healthy, and a
well-behaved population. In the case of far-
seeing and representative men, such as Mr
Roosevelt and the Emperor of Germany, this
solicitude is very deep-seated and urgent. It ;
is realised that the future of the world belongs
to the race which best fulfils this task.

It is necessary to observe, a thing which!
the happily married do not always realise, that
the relations of the sexes are at present by no
means satisfactory ; and as we drift and drift,
they tend to become worse rather than better,
A great and increasing proportion of th<
marriageable men and women in the country,
the women of course in excess, are unmarried.!
The birth-rate falls steadily and persistently.
And when one .considers who is married, and
who is not, one observes that it is the unfit
rather than the fit who wed and multiply.
Men of good physique and steady nerves ai
apt to put off marriage on grounds of pru-
dence, often to put it off until too late, whil<
the neurotic and reckless make the plunj
The women who are sought in marriage
not so often the quiet, healthy, and well-dis-
posed, as those who have poor physique an<
an excitable temperament. Men are attrad
by a bright eye and a ready tongue, often b]


mere fashionable clothes, and are losing the
healthy love of mere femininity. In days
when the great majority of women married,
how they were chosen mattered less. But
now that the spinsters bear a large proportion
to the married, it becomes of infinite impor-
tance that a wise selection should be made.
But as among the most suitable men there is a
disinclination for wedlock, so it is to be feared
there is also among the most level-headed and
strong-willed women. We are deliberately
breeding from the unfit ; and such a course can
lead only to gradual deterioration of the race.

In the whole question of the future of
women, the one dominant fact is that the
relation of women to the carrying on of the
race is different from that of men. Men's
motive for having children has been in the
past in many cases a lofty one, love of country,
the desire to carry on a family, and the* like.
But far greater force has been exercised by
personal feeling. Most healthy men will
realise how infinitely superior is the life in a
family to an isolated existence. But even
these motives would no doubt have worked
insufficiently, unless they had been supple-
mented by the instinct which acts directly
and with enormous force on emotion and
will. And customary law in civilised and


even barbarous communities has stepped in,
both for the protection of women and for
the formation of an organised society, and
made the institution of marriage the corner-
stone of all policy, an institution which has
been gradually Christianised.

The part taken by the woman in propaga-
tion is infinitely greater and more absorbing.]
From the time of pregnancy until the child
is past infancy, child-bearing is in conscious-]
ness, and still more in the sub-conscious strata,
her most absorbing occupation, ruling thought
and emotion, unfitting her for competition
in the walks of life, constantly draining her
energy. And since in humanity all character
is finally based upon the primary demands of
our nature, feminine character necessarily drifts
in a direction different from that taken by
man's. The man protects and cherishes the
woman, the woman protects and cherishes
the child.

It may be said that after all this great
difference in function does not much affect
intelligence ; the mind of the woman may be
just like the mind of the man. Such a view
entirely overlooks the intimate relationship
between emotion and thought. If energy is
absorbed in emotion and affection, less can
be set aside to develop the intellectual faculties.


And I think that no one accustomed to the
teaching of women will allow that the male
and the female intellect are closely alike in
their working. Occasionally we find a woman,
as we say, of masculine intelligence, but she
is not a fair type of the sex. I am well
aware of the successes won by women at
the universities and in literature ; but these
by no means invalidate the general rule.

There is a further point. The faculties used
in propagation belong in a marked degree to
the subconscious side of our nature ; they
work by instinct, not by reason. As these
faculties constitute a far greater part in the
nature of women than of men, it is obvious
that in women there is a greater proportion
of subconscious, in proportion to conscious,
impulse and intelligence. I have elsewhere 1
discussed the relation of the subconscious to
the conscious in man, and have maintained
that whereas some of the subconscious facul-
ties belong to the lower and merely animal
parts of our nature, others are doors by which
a higher spiritual inspiration enters into human
life. The sexual part of the nature of men
and women belongs in part to the lower and
in part to the higher kind of subconscious
nature. No part of man can so easily degrade

1 Hibbert Journal, ix. p. 477.



him, and drag him to the lowest deeps of
shame ; and no part can so transfigure him,
and bring him near to heaven. The lover
may be beneath the thinker, or he may be
above him ; it is very seldom that he is on the
same level with him.

Doubtless there is a close connection be-
tween the prominence in women of the sexual
nature and the well-known and constantly
verified truth that while in the ordinary way
women are inferior to men in logic and reason-
ing powers, they are superior to men in in-
sight, in delicacy of feeling and tact. Women
are also decidedly more susceptible than men
to religious emotion. If the history of religion
be studied, it will be seen that men have been
the organisers of churches and the formulators
of creeds ; but the sentiments of faith and
adoration have usually been more conspicuous
in women.


It will, however, doubtless be maintained by
some that although the normal characters of
the men and women who are the ancestors of
future generations may be thus distinguished,
yet there are multitudes of women among us
who can never marry, and that the primal
nature of these can be so greatly altered by
education, that their rational faculties may be


cultivated to a far higher pitch, and their
faculties of intuition reduced, so that they will
be mentally more like men, and fitted to do in
the world the work usually done by men.
Undoubtedly there is some force in this view.
As I have already observed, in the unmarried
woman there is a great reserve of energy
which may be exercised in one direction or
another, and which may thus be turned into
intellectual channels rather than those of
feeling. The question how far nature may be
bent and moulded by education is no doubt a
very profound one. It is, however, manifest
that women thus modified can never be on the
average equal to men. Their physique is
inferior ; their brains are smaller, and they
cannot after all so far modify their physical
frames as to escape the consequences of sex.
The specialised woman of business has in
America, and now in England, a great work
of her own to do. It would, however, be a
fatal mistake to regard her as the ordinary
type of her sex. She is a by-product, which
may be very useful for many purposes, but
which is cut off from the stream of flowing
life. And it can scarcely be maintained that
such women usually reach happiness, for
happiness comes from harmony with nature,
and the exercise of our faculties in the fashion


in which they most naturally work. The
energy which would naturally be directed in
a sexual way, may further some great cause,
or give help to other women ; but in a great
number of cases it is a source only of disillusion
and discontent. In early life many women
find a career as clerk or woman of business a
very pleasant thing ; but as they advance in
age, the sense of what they lose must needs
grow ; and it is no rare thing for women who
have made a career to embark in after-life on
an unwise marriage. These facts are most
powerfully stated by Mrs Browning in Aurora

It seems to me clearly established by the
course of history that for some kinds of re-
ligious and social work the best organisation
consists of societies of women living together
and bound by vows of celibacy. Until a
woman definitely sets aside all thoughts of
matrimony she is an incomplete being, and
liable to be constantly disturbed by sexual
ideas. But if she deliberately resolves on the
single life, she sets free a whole range of
faculties, intellectual and active, for the service
of society. The analogy of the hive of bees is
very instructive. The working bees are, as
everyone knows, females not fully developed.
Their efficiency, and their entire devotion to


the good of the hive, are the forces which
raise the common life of the hive to an in-
finitely higher level than is reached by insects
of the same type which have the sexual organs

As a member of an organised society the
unmarried woman stands in a much higher
and more dignified position in relation to
those around her. She can compel respect,
instead of being looked on as a social
failure. And it is highly probable that com-
munities of women which set themselves to
any branch of work, religious, educational, or
social, will always desire a religious consecra-
tion for their union. Their calling will be
essentially religious ; and they will adhere to
some branch of the Christian Church which
is best in accord with their intellectual and
ethical outlook.

These observations may sound reactionary.
But as a matter of fact religious communities
of women have rapidly multiplied in England
in recent years, and show great power of
attraction. I think it unlikely that societies
of nuns devoted only to the practice of religion
and living apart from the world will in the
future greatly increase in number : rather they
will gradually die away, and give place to more
active societies, busy with tasks for the world,


and finding happiness in active good works.
The religious tenets of such societies will
prpbably greatly vary, ranging from Roman
Catholicism to very modern forms of Chris-
tianity, or even to semi- Christian views like
those of the Christian Scientists. But one may
well expect them to take an important part in
the future scheme of society.

As I have already observed, the world -wide
feminist movement has a meaning and deep-
seated causes. We must hope that in the
end it will raise alike the condition and the
character of women. But as it exists among
us to-day, it seems often divorced from
reason and fact. The one notion on which
the leaders of the movement dwell with
wearisome iteration is equality between men
and women. Whatever a man does a woman
must be allowed to do, in education, in the
professions, in politics. Women must be em-
ployed in the same way as men, and; receive
the same pay. All the doors must be thrown
open to them, and they must be allowed to
struggle in the crowd which besieges them.

To men who wish that the movement
should bring reaction, this state of things must
be very satisfactory. Everyone in his senses
knows that it is only here and there that a
woman can be found who can compete on


equal terms with men in matters in which
her sex gives her no advantage. Miss Sylvia
Pankhurst not very long ago urged her
handful of followers to fight against the
police with fists and sticks. That is the
reductio ad absurdum of the militant methods.
There are many pursuits in which a woman's
faculties give her a natural advantage. A
number of women turn in preference to the
pursuits in which they are at a natural disad-
vantage, simply because they are intoxicated
with the notion that the natural differences
between men and women must be overcome.

It is likely that in the future, as in the
immediate past, new careers will open for
women, and the bounds of their usefulness
will be enlarged. Especially in the treatment
of the diseases of women and children, in
the inspection of factories where women are
employed, in the higher education and in
research, women are likely to be more use-
ful in the future. But any great and sudden
extension of their fimctions is in danger of
being pernicious.

In spite of many failures and many aber-
rations, it is probably a happy thing that
the great war has compelled us all to make
a great many experiments in the employment
of women. The matter had to be put to the


test. And now it has been put to the test
under most favourable circumstances, while
the whole nation is thrilled with a great
enthusiasm, and the energies of almost the
whole of the younger men are concentrated
upon actual military service. Women have
had an opportunity of showing what they
can do, such as they would never have had
if the world had gone on a level course.
How far they have succeeded ; what new
realms they have satisfactorily occupied ; I
dare not venture to say. In fact it is too
early to form an opinion on the subject. But
what is clear is that an immense flood of
new light has been poured on the whole
question of women's work and women's
efficiency. Theorising in the matter is being
superseded by experiment.

But there is one feature of the matter
which we can only neglect at our peril.

The progress of the world, and even the
existence of civilised society, has only been
possible in the past because each generation
has in a measure sacrificed itself for the
sake of generations to come. Man has been
content to do and be less than he might do
and be in order that his posterity may have
a fair chance in life. It has usually been
an unconscious movement ; and by far the


greater part in it has been taken by women.
Thus self-sacrifice has become the funda-
mental quality in the virtue of women ; it
has become an instinct with them ; and it
is on the following of such instincts that
happiness mainly depends.

But in our days men and women are
disposed to protest against this profound
tendency. Many of them are determined to
live their lives, to realise themselves, to find
ever fresh fields of action and enjoyment,
whatever be the result on the generations to
come. They intend, so to speak, not to
live on the interest of the accumulated vital
force of the race, but to spend the principal
freely. In the case of men this spirit is
ruinous. In the case of women it is utter
destruction of the future of the race. For
the forces of the universe go on quietly
working in their regular way ; and what is
done against those ways, in the long run
leads to ruin.


HITHERTO my course has been clear. My
purpose has been to show that a modernisa-
tion and expansion of Christian ethics is as
necessary as a modernisation of Christian
doctrine ; and that the two expansions must
take place on the same lines. As in the case
of doctrine, so in the field of morals, it must
result partly from what may be called a
reworking of the slag of Greek and Roman
wisdom, partly from a frank acceptance of
the principles forced upon us by the growth
of scientific knowledge. Some of the teach-
ings of Plato, Aristotle, Boethius, and others
have an element of permanence ; and highly
as these great writers were valued by the
Church during its successive periods of ex-
pansion, yet they have something more to
teach us moderns. The Greek love of beauty,
and the Roman sense of discipline, have also



to be in a measure re-absorbed by the modern

But still more illumination, both in the
matter of belief and the principles of conduct,
must come from a source which is almost
wholly modern, from the investigations of
nature and of man which have in recent years
been carried much further than before. We
have to infuse into modern Christianity the
results reached by the great investigators and
thinkers in the fields of history and psychology.
I have tried, with however imperfect success,
to weave together these various strands into
something like a consistent rope.

Within the limits of my knowledge, I have
dealt with the morals of the individual, and,
with greater diffidence, with those of the
family. To round off the subject, I ought
also to deal with the relations of individuals
to the state and with the mutual relations of
states. But if I attempt this task at all, it
must be in the merest outline. And there is
a great and important difference between the
consideration of modern principles of Christian
morality where the individual is concerned
and their consideration in the large fields of
the conduct and the politics of nations. The
difference lies in this, that whereas the main
principles of Christianity have hitherto in a


measure, though often beneath the surface,
swayed the conduct of men and women in
their dealings with one another, and especially
in their family relations, Christian principles
have as yet been hardly applied in politics
and in matters of international policy.

When Christianity started, the relations of
individuals to the state were set aside as ir-
relevant to its great message. The Kingdom
of God was to have nothing to do with any
worldly kingdoms. The duties to Cassar
were put on quite a different plane from the
duties to God. It is impossible in the Gospels
to find any statement of men's duties to the
organised state. Even St Paul, who so greatly
enlarges the field of Christian duty, has almost
nothing to say in this matter. That obedience
is due to kings, and to all in authority, he lays
down with confidence ; but if that authority
orders anything inconsistent with Christian
principles, he clearly holds that it is not to be
obeyed, but also not to be resisted. Hence
the spirit of martyrdom, which was so pre-
valent in the rising society. There soon arose
clashings between the duty to Christ and the
duty to Csesar ; and all the nobler spirits in
the Church w r ere quite ready to take the


sufferings which resulted. At most they
concealed their higher loyalty : they could
not disown it, without placing in peril their
eternal life. Matters with us are on quite
another footing. It becomes very clear, then,
that in discussing from the Christian point of
view the question of nationality, we must turn
from the ethical notions of the infant society,
and must be modern to the backbone, though
the great underlying principles of Christ may
still be applicable.

In the time of St Paul the great duty was
to found a cosmopolitan Church ; this was
the first demand of the spiritual conditions.
Hence his preaching that Jew and Gentile,
Greek and Roman, were all one in Christ, that
the tie of a common Christianity superseded
and destroyed the particularism of nationality.
And later, when the barbarous nations of the
north were pressing down upon the Roman
Empire, it was of infinite importance that the
conquering invaders should be taught to re-
cognise a tie higher and more sacred than that
which united them into clans and tribes, the
tie of a common humanity and a common
faith. Among those barbarians the tribal
and racial feeling, though beyond a doubt it
had earlier been supported by a religious
sanction, had grown so strong as to be inde-


pendent of it. Thus Christianity did not
attempt to take the place of the paganism
which it expelled as a tribal and racial bond,
but did all that it could to diminish the
power of that bond, to make war upon aristo-
cratic pride of blood, and to proclaim the
complete equality before God of Teuton and
Roman, Celt and Slav.

The greatest theologian of the age, who
indeed dominated Christian thought for ages,
was Augustine. At a time when the northern
barbarians were making inroads in every
direction, and dividing among themselves the
provinces of the decaying Roman Empire, he
set forth a splendid vision of a city of God,
a new and heavenly state, existing above and
beyond all earthly states and kingdoms. For
Augustine the Civitas Dei was naturally the
visible Church of Christ, destined to survive
and to supersede the mere temporal domina-
tion of the Cassars, and to unite in a conse-
crated union all the nations and tribes of which
it had been composed. It was impossible, amid
the confusion and decay of the time, that any
national sentiment should appeal to him.

Of course one cannot venture to condemn
the course thus taken by the common feeling
of the wisest and most spiritual Christians.
Nevertheless such one-sided action must


necessarily bring its revenges. Christianity
had stood in the presence of a noble idea,
capable of fostering many bright virtues, and
instead of absorbing it, Christianity had re-
jected it and set it at naught. As a natural
result, in the west of Europe, the principle of
nationality remained unbaptised, an influence
hostile to Christianity and apart from the
noble and softening influences which Chris-
tianity could spread. * It belonged rather to
the World than the Church ; and ever since
has often been a stumbling-block in the
path of Christianity, though necessary to the
morality of all classes, and the nursing-
mother of many excellences.

I am compelled, alike by the limits of space
and the limits of my own knowledge, to pass
in the consideration of the relations of Chris-
tianity to nationality direct from the early
times of Christianity to our own days. No
doubt, when Christianity became the religion
of the Roman Empire, and the Emperor
became in a sense the Head of the Church,
there arose a new condition of things. Later,

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Online LibraryPercy GardnerEvolution in Christian ethics → online text (page 13 of 15)