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down we should virtually construct the moral code. Further, we should investigate the process by which the race has gradually felt out certain rules essential to its welfare. We should find that they have neither been imposed from without nor deduced from abstract speculation. The race has discovered that the practice of murder is injurious to its welfare, as it has discovered that intoxication is prejudicial to health—by trying the experiment on a large scale. The so-called intuitions will of course be deprived of their supernatural character, and regarded simply as assumptions verified by experience, and now capable of independent proof, though not originally discovered by abstract reasoning. They will have the weight due to the experience of ages, and in their main outlines may be taken to be as just as much beyond the reach of possible refutation as any of the primary data of observation. They are as certain as any of those simple rules which are confirmed by daily and hourly experience-as certain as the laws that men are mortal, that fire burns, and water drowns; and such certainty, if it does not satisfy metaphysicians, is enough to regulate practice. We should infer, again, that the development of society is conditioned by, and tends in its turn to stimulate, the growth of those higher instincts which are unintelligible in regard to the isolated unit, but essential elements of the great binding forces of society. We should see how their growth is interwoven with the growth of the intellectual and emotional faculties, and determine the conditions favourable to their strength, and calculated to make them contribute to individual as well as to social welfare. We should then be in a position to examine the nature of the most efficient sanctions of morality. How is an observance of the rules essential to the welfare of the race to be enforced upon its individual members ? The unbeliever has to admit
? that antisocial instincts exist, and will exist. He is not concerned with the difficulty, which has perplexed theologians since the days of Job, as to the unequal distribution of rewards and penalties in this world, nor with the solution reached by postulating a complementary world in which all the wrongs will be redressed. He may hope that the antisocial forces will finally be crushed out; but he sees that the process must be slow and stern. If, on his view, justice does not always strike the individual sinner, it falls unrelentingly on the society. If a disregard of morality is nothing but a disregard of the conditions of social welfare, the larger organism is certain to suffer in the long run for an erroneous or degrading standard. The negative guarantee for the triumph of good principles is, in the last resort, that evil means social degeneration and ultimate destruction. But as the unbeliever holds that the social instincts are in the strictest sense natural ; that they tend to strengthen and adapt themselves to the growing needs of society; and that they survive the decay of
the particular dialects in which men have uttered their emotions and their speculations, he may reasonably hope that society will develop itself and reach a higher moral standard by a direct growth and at a smaller cost of error and consequent suffering. The ceaseless struggle between good and evil implies the existence of impulses tending both ways, but it may be hoped that, as the race becomes more intelligent and more distinctly conscious of its aims, the victory of good may be won at a smaller cost of error and opposition.
If this be a brief indication of the main lines of the unbeliever's moral theory, we have to ask at what point it conflicts with the believer's tenets. It is undoubtedly possible to state the believer's theory in such a form as to minimize or entirely remove the opposition. Diminish the anthropomorphic element as much as possible ; identify God with nature; and theology becomes little more than a guarantee for the solidity of our methods. If the belief in the uniformity of nature implies a belief in the divine ruler of nature, and, conversely, the belief in the order implies merely a belief in a regular order, the question becomes one of those already noticed. We do not ask whether, but why, we believe. One party thinks it necessary to get behind experience; it is not content with knowing without also knowing that it knows, or satisfied with the certainty of a doctrine unless it can be also called necessary. The other party is content to regard belief as an ultimate fact, and to assume, without finding an à priori deduction for the so-called uniformity of nature. I am content to observe that so far there need be no controversy as to practice; the belief and the unbeliever are at one in their methods and results, though differing as to the cause of their validity. It is mere waste of time to bandy charges of scepticism and credulity. But, further, I must say that a theology of this neutral tint and abstract character is not one which really governs men's minds. It is only in so far as the scientific conception is modified that the difference is really important. The question of whether or not it requires a certain guarantee is little better than a scholastic puzzle, except so far as it helps the re-introduction in a disguised shape of ancient fallacies.
When we turn to that kind of theology which undoubtedly makes a relevant contention, we are at once met by a significant difficulty. A belief may fairly be called sceptical in the practical sense which confirms equally a number of conflicting theories. Morality, you
a say, de pends upon theology. Then is all theological morality identical? It is little better than a juggle to tell us that you alone have an absolutely certain rule if it turns out that you give an equally plausible foundation for mutually contradictory rules. Now there is no dispute between theologians or between anybody worth notice as to the value of certain well-known rules. Nobody explicitly
denies that chastity, truthfulness, and mercy are good qualities. Widely as systems differ, the ordinary code—kill not, steal not, lie not, and so forth—may be regarded as definitively sanctioned by the experience of the race. But go a step further ; consider any of the really open questions and you will find that theologians can take diametrically opposite positions. There is no theory of morality which may not be expressed in theological language. There are theological utilitarians and theological intuitionists. One theologian says that man could not have discovered the moral law without a revelation; another, that morality is a science of observation, and that God simply orders us to pursue the greatest happiness of the greatest number; a third holds morality to be deducible by the pure reason, and infers that revelation and experience are alike superfluous. On one system, the essence of theology is the proclamation of future rewards and penalties. On another, the utterly unselfish love of God is the only foundation of true virtue, which is destroyed so far as it is adulterated with personal interests. One theologian regards the virtues of the heathen as splendid vices; another as proofs of the universality of the divine influence. One argues that all natural impulses are good, because nature is God's work; his opponent replies that all nature is under a curse, and man's heart corrupt at
One makes it the foundation of his system that God rules the happiness of man here; another peremptorily declares all happiness here to be an illusion. One holds asceticism to be sheer folly; another holds that it is the only road to heaven. The antinomian thinks that as God has once for all elected or rejected him, his actions are of no importance; the sacerdotalist thinks that by accumulating meritorious observances, he can establish an indefeasible claim upon his creator. One thinks it blasphemy against God's omnipotence to claim any share in the work of salvation ; another calls it an insult to God's justice to suppose that salvation will not be conceded to good works. One sees in God's mercy an assurance that all men will be ultimately happy; another infers from God's righteousness that the vast majority will be sentenced to endless torture.
Whilst there is a general agreement as to a certain moral code, there is room for the most contradictory doctrines as to the mode of ascertaining that code, the creed which it contemplates, the sanctions by which it is to be inforced, and the nature of the agents subject to it. The theologian alone possesses a sound basis for morality; but which theologian ? On the showing of any one, his opponent builds directly immoral doctrine on the very same bases; and a theory which serves equally to confirm vice or virtue has surely one of the marks of scepticism. But how should it be otherwise when one man’s God is another man's devil ? When, indeed, the devil is simply a deposed deity, or the product of a process of " differentiation'
dating from a period at which there was no difference? Mr. Kingsley's special merit, says one of his admirers, was the clearness with which he drew this rather important distinction. His school of theology is fond of declaring that the God of the Calvinists, that is, of a very large section of their fellow Christians, is in fact the devil, or at least possessed of diabolic attributes. If devil-worship and God-worship are so intricately blended, the resulting system of morality is not likely to be very coherent. It may be too much to say that the
. scientific morality gives a simple and coherent answer to all the doubts which infest theology. It would set aside some disputes as meaningless, whilst others will still continue to be seriously debated. But by excluding the arbitrary data resulting from the heterogeneous elements blended under the common name of theology, by settling the method and by limiting inquiry to questions capable of verification by experience, it at least brings the controversy within the possibility of final solution. The ultimate root of the theological contradictions is that they involve reference to the region of the arbitrary, where no test from experience can be applied ; and the most opposite theories are equally plausible.
The theologian contends that his doctrines alone, however much they may have been perverted, can lay down an elevated code or provide sufficient sanctions. The first assertion usually takes the form of a denunciation of “materialism.” I cannot here touch upon the metaphysical side of that perplexed controversy, nor repeat in feebler language the reasons which have been set forth by more competent thinkers for feeling tolerably at my ease in presence of this terrible, but very indefinite, bugbear. We are considering the moral problem; and the theological contention is virtually that, if the old bonds are dissolved, the race will discover the whole duty of man to consist in eating, drinking, and securing the maximum of sensual pleasure. Virtue will be discovered to be a sham, or, as Mandeville put it, the offspring begotten by flattery on pride. We shall accept as the highest good what Mr. Carlyle somewhere defines as an unlimited possibility of pigswash. Nobody, it seems, can deny the reality of the senses or doubt that sensual indulgence is pleasant within certain limits. But the more ethereal essences, self-sacrificing heroism, devotion to ideal aims, the love which finds in itself its own surpassing reward, will turn out to be mere phantasms and fine phrases. They will vanish from this mad chaos of a world; and society become a blind scramble for the greatest share of the enjoyments appreciable by the lower animals. If man has been developed out of a monkey, he must still be a monkey. What is in the full-grown animal must have been in the germ. The monkey is a prurient lump of fleshly appetites. Man is the same being, plus the faculty of lying. If the lies are seen through he will be the same being
without disguise, and may gratify his passions without useless periphrasis.
One question naturally occurs. Are the doctrines imputed to the unbeliever true? If so, the sooner we admit it the better. Every saint and hero in the world is a humbug. He is a brute like the rest of us, a Yahoo trying to throw dust in our eyes. Morality is a clumsy system of rules, adopted by mutual consent to facilitate the distribution of pigswash. When we have come to an understanding, we shall be able to simplify our code. Even the lower animals learn to behave peaceably when the conditions of life force them into quasi-societies; and man can make rules better adapted for the purpose. The purest selfishness will secure the obedience of the majority to an arrangement in which all find their account. And as on this showing, nothing but selfishness has ever really existed, we need not doubt its efficiency when it acts with less disguise. But the doctrine—as everybody will reply—is false. The disgust produced by a frank cynicism proves the existence of qualities invisible to the cynic. Virtue, it is said with unanswerable force, could not be invented unless it existed. The hypothetical pig (for I hold the actual pig to possess some rudiments of higher instincts) could not conceive of the existence of any appetite but hunger for pigswash. The argument is conclusive, but proves the futility of the doubt. If the higher instincts undeniably exist, can experience fail to prove their existence? Why shrink from accepting a test which, by its very nature, cannot contradict the testimony of consciousness? This appeal to experience is simply an appeal to that testimony by a definite method. I am conscious of some infusion of pure and lofty instinct in myself and of sympathy with higher manifestations of them in others. Why should I fear that by any possible mode of interrogation my consciousness will be puzzled into a false answer? No scientific teaching can prove that my senses don't exist, and just as little can it prove that my moral ordinary sense does not exist.
It is, indeed, true that a scientific investigator may, or rather must, deprive this moral sense of its supernatural character. He must endeavour to trace it backwards to more rudimentary forms, to determine the conditions of its development, and possibly to show that what we take for a simple is really a complex instinct. But to assume that something has been developed, cannot by any dexterity be twisted into a proof that it does not exist. The belief that the moral sense is the normal product of certain existing forces, instead of being an instinct mysteriously dropped into us from without, strengthens instead of weakening our belief in its importance; for such a belief alone can enable us to define the true functions displayed by it, and thereby lead to an external estimate of their vast importance. The conscience is no longer an inexplicable power,