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William Kingdon Clifford.

The scientific basis of morals : and other essays, viz. : right and wrong, the ethics of belief, the ethics of religion online

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of an unseen helper of men. He who, wearied or stricken in the fight
with the powers of darkness, asks himself in a solitary place, 'Is
it all for nothing? shall we indeed be overthrown?' - he does find
something which may justify that thought. In such a moment of utter
sincerity, when a man has bared his own soul before the immensities
and the eternities, a presence in which his own poor personality is
shriveled into nothingness arises within him, and says, as plainly
as words can say, 'I am with thee, and I am greater than thou.' Many
names of Gods, of many shapes, have men given to this presence;
seeking by names and pictures to know more clearly and to remember
more continually the guide and the helper of men. No such comradeship
with the Great Companion shall have anything but reverence from me,
who have known the divine gentleness of Denison Maurice, the strong
and healthy practical instinct of Charles Kingsley, and who now revere
with all my heart the teaching of James Martineau. They seem to me,
one and all, to be reaching forward with loving anticipation to a
clearer vision which is yet to come - tendentesque manus ripæ ulterioris
amore. For, after all, such a helper of men, outside of humanity,
the truth will not allow us to see. The dim and shadowy outlines of
the superhuman deity fade slowly away from before us; and as the mist
of his presence floats aside, we perceive with greater and greater
clearness the shape of a yet grander and nobler figure - of Him who
made all Gods and shall unmake them. From the dim dawn of history,
and from the inmost depth of every soul, the face of our father Man
looks out upon us with the fire of eternal youth in his eyes, and says,
'Before Jehovah was, I am!'







CONTENTS.


PAGE

I. The Scientific Basis of Morals 1
II. Right and Wrong 7
III. The Ethics of Belief 25
IV. The Ethics of Religion 36







NOTES


[1] Sunday Lecture Society, November 7, 1875.

[2] Treatise Baba Bathra, 59 b.

[3] Compare these passages from Merivale ('Romans under the Empire,'
vi.), to whom 'it seems a duty to protest against the common tendency
of Christian moralists to dwell only on the dark side of Pagan society,
in order to heighten by contrast the blessings of the Gospel': -

'Much candor and discrimination are required in comparing the sins
of one age with those of another ... the cruelty of our inquisitions
and sectarian persecutions, of our laws against sorcery, our serfdom
and our slavery; the petty fraudulence we tolerate in almost every
class and calling of the community; the bold front worn by our open
sensuality; the deeper degradation of that which is concealed; all
these leave us little room for boasting of our modern discipline, and
must deter the thoughtful inquirer from too confidently contrasting
the morals of the old world and the new.'

'Even at Rome, in the worst of times ... all the relations of life
were adorned in turn with bright instances of devotion, and mankind
transacted their business with an ordinary confidence in the force of
conscience and right reason. The steady development of enlightened
legal principles conclusively proves the general dependence upon
law as a guide and corrector of manners. In the camp, however,
more especially, as the chief sphere of this purifying activity,
the great qualities of the Roman character continued to be plainly
manifested. This history of the Cæsars presents to us a constant
succession of brave, patient, resolute, and faithful soldiers, men
deeply impressed with a sense of duty, superior to vanity, despisers
of boasting, content to toil in obscurity and shed their blood at
the frontiers of the empire, unrepining at the cold mistrust of their
masters, not clamorous for the honors so sparingly awarded to them,
but satisfied in the daily work of their hands, and full of faith in
the national destiny which they were daily accomplishing.'

[4] Finlay, 'Greece under the Romans.'

[5] Examination, p. 495, 2d ed.









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Online LibraryWilliam Kingdon CliffordThe scientific basis of morals : and other essays, viz. : right and wrong, the ethics of belief, the ethics of religion → online text (page 10 of 10)