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consider the consequences. If my conviction of the wrongness of taking the money, is one derived immediately from the thought of the nature of the act, my moral standard is a serviceable one. I say at once, It would be wrong to do this, and I forbear. If I must consider consequences, I can only do it deliberately, while I must act immediately. But Spencer would say, There will be rules of conduct, there will be a system of action, there will be a habitual doing of certain things and a habitual not doing of certain others. But temptations to do wrong usually seem anomalous and unique. When the opportunity occurs to appropriate wrongfully the money of the bank, there may be present to my mind a certain definite good result that by its agency I may secure. But just such a case
has never occurred before. I must see whether the case before me corresponds to other cases under the rule. Habitually, I may leave the money of other people alone. But such an opportunity and such a pressing need have never conspired before. Unless I know from the nature of the act that it is I am not likely to know in time.
But says Spencer," There comes, at last, to be an intuition. derived from the accumulated experiences of many generations." If I attempt to follow an intuition supposed to be de rived from the accumulated experiences of my ancestors, I must immediately suspect it. My ancestors are likely to have been wrong in regard to most things, and if I am the heir of their experiences, I am the heir of their countless errors. The accumulated experiences of the past come down to me, if at all, so inextricably mixed with superstitions, errors, evil tendencies, that an intuition derived from them is likely to be a very complex affair. I shall do better if I start out with a clean, new conscience, enlightened by the wisdom which has had the privilege of casting off the imperfections of the past.
Moreover, in any case where the passions of man are engaged, he is persistent. He will not give way, so long as there is any chance that he is in the right. He will carry up his case to the tribunal of final resort. And this tribunal, in Herbert Spencer's system, is the final test: Does the proposed
action favor general happiness? The answer must require deliberation. It may require investigation. Meanwhile, what is a man to do? He is practically without a standard, without a guide for his action.
Let us picture the temptation according to Herbert Spencer. Man, the last product of the law of evolution, stands in the godless cold of his unfaith, before the closed portals of the Unknowable. Before him is the opportunity for indulgence. Within him are the passions which impel him to embrace it. His action, in the nature of it, cannot be wrong. It can be wrong only in its results. How does he know what the results will be? By accumulated experiences and philosophy. But no case was ever just like this; and the results of no two actions are just the same in all respects. He carries his case up to the highest court. He asks: Will it subserve the general happiness? He will investigate for himself. The shortest possible way to find out is to do the deed and see. If he is a Methuselah, he may become moral some day. His expe riences may formulate themselves into something like a code. But his range of action must be very narrow, or he will get outside the sphere of its usual application. There can be no instantaneous, final judgment. There is no "Get thee hence, Satan," in this case. The scriptures of evolution have no quick and sure rebuke for the advances of the tempter.
But this is not the only difficulty in the new system of "Ethics." How do I know what will promote the general happiness? It is an unknown and unknowable quantity. To say that morality must be defined in terms of happiness, is to say that x=y, both quantities, according to the proposition, being unknown. The problem is insoluble. We give it up. With one man animal pleasures are essential to happiness. He holds all other pleasures in contempt. The pleasure of listening to a fine lecture would be, to him, intolerable. To another, study and thought are necessary to a happy state of being. The animal pleasures in which another finds delight, are, to him, disgusting. Each man's ideal of happiness is ditferent. Each requires a different kind of action in order to
promote felicity. From all my experience among men, what kind of notion of "general happiness" can I form? None that is practically of any use. I might know that right action. would be likely to favor general happiness, if I could know what right action is. I might know that if x were known, it would be equal to y. But by the supposition, x is unknown, and we have seen that y is unknown. It stands for the vague term, general happiness, the vaguest phrase, when we come to consider it, that ever crept into a vague philosophy. To submit my action to any such test as is supplied by a consideration of general happiness, is wholly unsatisfactory.
There is surely some great flaw in the doctrine that morality is to be defined in terms of happiness, and that all progress in morals is based upon this fact. Suppose we say that happiness is to be defined in terms of morality. Mr. Spencer says, Do that which favors general happiness and you will do right. Suppose we say, Do right and you will be likely to favor general happiness. We have the advantage that our doctrine will hold good in practice, while Spencer's will break down. If we follow our conviction as to the right nature of an action, happiness will be likely to result.
But if we fix our attention, not on right, but on happiness, we shall fail of both. Happiness eludes its eager devotee. If one deliberately sets out to gain it, him it deceives and escapes. It demands not to be sought for its own sake, but to be disregarded; to be won in pursuit of ends rather than its own. Full of the wisdom of experience are the words of Sir Arthur Helps: "Pleasure falls into no plan."
Under the reign of the general happiness principle, there would have been no progress in morals. Each man would have done that which he supposed would favor the promotion of happiness, according to his ideal of happiness. The sensual man would have done sensual acts, or acts productive of low, animal pleasures. Each would do that supposed to be required by his ideal. But, meanwhile, his ideal would become no loftier nor better. The Spencerian philosophy simply takes him round in a curious circle. He is to erect morality on
happiness and is to use the happiness resulting from morality, as the means to morality!
It is not by pursuing happiness that man makes progress. It is rather by disregarding it. It is by heroism, self-denial, martyrdom, suffering. The Spencerian philosophy leaves no place for suffering. It regards all suffering as an evil and a curse, all patience under it as ignoble and immoral. But the very crown upon the brow of progress is a crown which has been forged in pain. It has come from the persecution, the martyrdoms, the suffering of the past, which, for the sake of men, has patiently been borne. It tells the tale of agonies and blood. And underneath its beaten gold are eyes that follow not the phantom, pleasure, but are gloriously fixed on right. Man needs an ideal far beyond his present reach, but evolution gives him none. Its ideal is the pleasure he has found by his experience. Inspired by it he can repeat himself, but certainly cannot improve himself.
It is a trivial mode of reasoning to say that if we suppose the results of virtuous actions other than they are, such actions would then cease to be regarded as essentially right actions. In such a case we should feel that there was something incongruous in nature. We should feel that "the Power that makes for righteousness," is not the Power that seeks, as a secondary consideration, the happiness of his children. We should be confused in our ideas, but our conviction of the rightness or the wrongness of the nature of things would be unchanged. It is a foolish argument to say, This theory will not work backwards. It consequently will work forwards. There remains the possibility that it will not work at all. The relation between happiness and morality is not that of identity. It is an incidental providence, or to translate our language into that of the evolutionists, it is a fortuitous relation. Morality and happiness are not one. There is only a good understanding between the two.
We find, then, that the Spencerian philosophy does not provide a system of ethics; it does not reach the height required. We also see that it does not produce a system which can be
accepted as a serviceable substitute for such a system. We cannot dispense with an ideal far beyond ourselves. We cannot dispense with a lofty courage which shall hold to right regardless of results. We cannot dispense with our conviction that the wrongness of things is in the very nature of them. We are not ready to dispense with courage, heroisin, hope, faith, sacrifice, nor with trust and patience and endurance under pain and suffering.
The Spiritual Temple: Its Foundation and Erection.
In the Letter to the Ephesian Church we find St. Paul saying, "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." There is a great deal here presented, that, viewed with reference to its allusions and suggestions, is worthy of serious, devout thought and consideration. The leading theme, however, or that which is most central, seems to be the Church, its foundation and membership. These converted men, whom the Apostle addresses, now turned away from idolatry, become, as we should say, Christians—-born into the light of a new life are by virtue of their conversion no longer aliens but citizens of a spiritual commonwealth; no longer strangers, but members or children of the household of God. When he talks in this way, he has the Church all the while in mind. That was the kingdom into which these Christians were born it was the Father's House into which they were gathered as sons and daughters.