Imatges de pÓgina

It may take

This method of reasoning, however, besides being too metaphysical for general apprehension, fails to exclude pantheistic conceptions, or make clear the distinction between God and the universe.

4. THE MORAL ARGUMENT, drawn from the facts of conscience and ethical law in the world. It different shapes, according as it reasons directly from the existence of conscience or from the course of history, with their realities of moral law and necessary presuppositions of a moral law-giver.

The first form takes the simple fact of conscience in man, the perception of the distinction between right and wrong, with sense of obligation, a law of duty incorpo rated with and made constituent of his own nature, as a direct evidence of the existence of a moral Ruler. For the constitution of human nature, rising through the capacities of knowledge, sensibility, and self-determination, reaches its highest ascent in this endowment enthroning the principle of duty and responsibility. Examination of the nature and action of the endowment makes it plain that this law of righteousness is not a fiction created by the mind or at the will of men, but a reality belonging to the order of the world as objectively constituted—not produced, but perceived by the conscience. It is not made by man, but finds him-finds him through the intelligence by which he is informed of the realities to which he must adjust his life. Moral law stands for a reality that rays itself into view in the human reason, whether men will or not. It does not come at the call


when his philosophy recognizes the “practical reason,” or the realm of “experience” and its necessities, he vindicates the right and authority of that experience to furnish guidance for conclusions as to the highest truths and duties of life.

or desire, or even at the consent of man. It imposes itself and its high behests upon him. It speaks to his intelligence; it appeals to his will and commands his obedience. This moral law, the grandest phenomenon in the human consciousness, calls for the recognition of a divine Lawgiver in the Creator.

The second form turns its eye upon history, and traces the presence and action of moral law in the broader relation of consequences. It takes note that these consequences make certain that there is “a power above us, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness” in the world, and a clear retributive principle which fulfills the ancient affirmation of a “Nemesis” for wrong doing. History becomes a revelation of God, not as exhibiting within the limits of present human life a complete recompense to virtue or punishment upon guilt, but as disclosing a world-constitution established and maintained in the interest of righteousness. Goodness evokes esteem and favor, while crime awakens reprobation and entails loss of respect and confidence. Righteousness unites society in the strength, happiness, and prosperity of good order; wickedness brings the strifes, collisions, and desolations of anarchy and violence. Virtue is made strength and power to nations; vice and immorality insure decay and overthrow. The funeral of the nations has been the witnessing procession of avenging consequences for violations of moral order. The voice of history is a perpetual testimony that above the tumultuous wrongs and confusions with which human freedom fills the advance of time, there presides a Power that seeks the ascendency of the principle of righteousness, smiling on its observance, and often smiting its violation with rebuking judgments. In all fairness of logic, this moral rulership must be regarded as one with the Supreme Mind, whose thoughts and purposes are so incontestable in the aggregate cosmical plan and movement.

A third form considers especially the mixed condition of things under the moral administration, in which righteousness so often fails to receive its due measure of happiness. Man finds in his own being a clear and indubitable organization or intention for two ends-character and enjoyment, or happiness. To the one end,

character,” he is bound by a “categorical imperative,” the "conscience," which holds him sternly under a law of righteousness and duty. This expresses a purpose wrought into the constitution and intent of his being. On the other hand, he is just as truly, though with less absolute bond, adjusted, in the essential cravings put into his nature, to pleasure or enjoyment. He justly judges that he is made for happiness, co-ordinated in the sentient and craving capacities of his soul for felicity. He is tied to it by structural, invincible desire. In the normal experience of life, therefore, these two ends should unite in a true realization. But this demand of

. human nature largely fails. On the one side, surrender to enjoyment leads astray from the way of duty into utter wreck of character. On the other, obedience to the supreme moral demand, in free fidelity to righteousness, is often compelled to forego pleasure, to bear persecution, to suffer woful wrong and want. ently contradictory experience of life is thus abnormal, failing to present the true realization and consummation of what rightly belongs to humanity.

There is a supreme good for man, which stands in the unity of both holiness and enjoyment. But since the moral demand is primary and supreme, the obligation to it is highest

This apparand absolute. A will controlled by moral law necessarily must, in the end, realize also happiness. Fidelity to righteousness deserves it, and the absoluteness of the moral command is an implication that it will be realized. Its realization, however, requires the existence of God, whose moral administration alone can carry righteousness into its

rewards. This formulation of the argument—which is essentially that of Kant, who, after his destructive criticism in his “Pure Reason," sought in his “Practical Reason” to restore valid ground for belief in God—is less direct and conclusive than the preceding forms. It has the weakness of being more complex and including some steps which are not made absolutely certain, either a priori or by experience. For it tacitly admits that this summum bonum for man can be realized only on condition of the soul's immortality. Hence immortality is Kant's first postulate. Further, in resting its conclusion upon the moral demand, it assumes that moral ideals will necessarily, sooner or later, be fulfilled, thus ignoring the plain fact of experience that these ideals in many cases are not made good. Nevertheless, the imperative character of the moral claim, and the experienced as well as evident adaptation of righteousnessadding the teleological element-for the highest type of happiness, are sufficient to warrant the conclusion that this absolute moral demand means a moral Lawgiver who, in a future life, will adjust to worthy character its rightful meed of enjoyment. The conclusion comes, however, as a warrant and inspiration to faith rather than as giving a demonstrated certainty. It presents what is highly probable, because of the actual law of duty, enforced by our highest aspirations.


Against the whole moral evidence the only objection requiring notice comes from certain types of evolutionist contention, which dissolve the moral law into mere custom generated from experiences of utility and incorporated as instinctive tendencies of thought and feeling into the mental habits of the race from the remote past. The moral demand is made an illusion. No absolute morality or law of unchangeable righteousness is left. It is doubly obliterated. For, first, the incorporated illusion called “conscience” is made wholly subjective, falsely projecting its notion as if an objective and fixed order of the universe. And, secondly, the distinction of right and wrong is made at bottom only a question of utility or the agreeable. But this objection altogether fails to invalidate the moral argument. For, its whole plausibility comes from its confounding the broad and ineradicable distinction between the idea of the right and the idea of the useful or pleasurable. They are immutably two different notions. For whatever decision we may in any case make as to the profitableness of a particular act or course of conduct, we necessarily raise the further question: “Is it right ? And the highest moral heroism of the race is often exhibited in following “the right” in the face of the contrary appeals of pleasure or gain, selfishness or ambition. Nothing but the shallowest superficiality can accept the notion that the moral demand is nothing but a subjective feeling, in the face of all the perpetual and impressive historic retributive manifestations and movements which the records of human life are forcing on our knowledge. An objection that offers nothing more valid or sound than this indefensible theory as to conscience can never overthrow the legitimacy and force of the moral argument.


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