A new seriousness is needed in all our thinking. Men play with phrases, and think if they can use the same words, differences of thought need not seriously concern them. They build enormous conclusions on the slenderest premises, and assume to know on the ground of positive science, for example, what never was so learned, materialism being often as assumptive and headlong as the opposite way of thinking. Or perhaps the ground of rational thought is, abandoned, and by will or arbitrary faith, or for some species of subjective interest, a settlement of philosophical problems is assumed to be reached.
What, now, have we in the ethics of Jesus that can be distinctly felt by men to have a bearing upon this lack of straightforwardness, this arbitrariness, not to say dishonesty in matters of the intellect ? It is hard to find anything. I do not mean that Jesus positively slights the intellectual virtues, and I do not agree with those who put this interpretation on the first beatitude. It is simply that he does not take any account of them ; that there is not a single passage, to my recollection, in which he makes any emphatic statement concerning them ; and let it be remembered it is such distinct utterance that the moral haziness of the present time calls for. The reason of the silence of Jesus is not far to seek. The duty of man was simpler in that day, because life itself was simpler and the horizon of man narrower. Moreover, the supernatural order, it was conceived, would soon break in upon the natural; and only the primal duties of the heart and life were emphasized. Science and criticism were not as now breaking up an old view of the world; and so far as the time was transitional, it was conceived to be simply toward the completion and practical realization of a view which had long had currency. At the present time, our views of Nature and of man are being in many ways radically recast; nothing less than a new philosophy, a new general view of the world, seems to be in process of development, and never before was there such occasion for the exercise of severe intellectual virtue. As matter of fact the ethics of the intellect, instead of being taught by the followers of Jesus, are most impressively displayed by those whom Christian teachers have generally thought it their duty to oppose or rebuke : I mean the students and investigators in science and history. I am no believer in the all-sufficingness of science, or in the finality of the lessons of history; yet the researches of students in these departments have in many cases illustrated to us an open-mindedness, an eagerness and reverence for truth, and a simple faithfulness of utterance that make a model for the conduct of all thinking. A lesson in morals, in ideal scrupulousness, is conveyed by every genuine scientific investigation, and by none more notably than those of the revolutionizer of our views of Nature, the foremost scientific figure of the century, Charles Darwin. Let the same openness, the same fearlessness of investigation, the same virility of thought, and the same exact correspondence of word to thought characterize our religious thinking, and a revolution of equal consequence in this department of human interest wall be the result.
2. I turn now to the need of higher political conceptions and morality. The State is not merely, as some would have it, a necessary evil, but has a sacred, I might almost say, a religious character and mission. One of its functions is, indeed, to prevent violence, to restrain passion, to act as society's police. As the law of gravitation keeps the planets in their courses and binds every atom to every other, so outwardly, at least, the State is to maintain a similar order among men. But, far more and higher than this, the State is a Commonwealth, and is to secure the ends needful for all. Each man has an individual sphere of action, where he is responsible only to himself; but when his action touches the interest of another, he has another responsibility, —namely, to the State. The State must see that in matters and affairs where the ends of the many are affected, those ends are not made impossible of realization ; it cannot allow individuals or combinations of individuals to win advantages at the expense and to the loss of others. Particularly in our own country, where ideas of equality are at the basis of the political system, is such practical injustice out of place. We have dispossessed kings and priests of their rights over us ; we have a government of the people. The question is, Shall it be a government for the people ? I do not mean a class called by that name, but for all. Shall the common, the universal good be secured, and no individual freedom or rights be allowed which tend to the destruction of the freedom and rights of others ? These questions must be answered, one way or another, in the next century of our national existence ; and if the choice were between a religion of the old sort and a politics intent on giving them a righteous answer, I see not how any generous-minded young man could hesitate to choose the service of the State. There is a touch of religion in all unselfish devotion to public ends, and it is just such devotion that is the crying political need of our time. The question of better civil service is at bottom nothing else.
But what are the lessons which the Christian Gos-pels read us in political morality ? The political ideas of Jesus are a strange contrast to anything we know of by experience. His land was a Roman province. There is no evidence that he did not love it, and every reason to believe that his feeling for it was strong and deep. But his method of political redemption was one of which we in these days can scarcely entertain the idea. It was not indeed political redemption, but rather deliverance at the hand of one from whom emperors and empires derive their powers, and who, though the Lord of the whole earth, was in a special sense the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do we suppose that the nobler motive which leads men into the service of the State, — the passion for justice and the common weal, — was absent from the breast of Jesus ? Rather can our sense of justice" be nowhere better refreshed than by drinking in his words; nowhere has the tenderness for the least among men been more strikingly shown than in the memorials left us of his sacred life. If justice was not to come from the State, it was, as he believed, to come from a higher than the State; if not through blundering human instrumentalities, it was to come through the heaven-sent " Son of Man," before whom and his angel ministers all mankind would soon be gathered. Christian men and women lived on this faith in the early time, and nothing is more pathetic in history than the story of its gradually fading out of human souls. Even now one will find it in the creeds ; and a slight sense of the old awe and the old triumph may perchance come over us as we listen to the chanting of the Te Deum, that chiefest of Christian hymns, and hear the words, "We believe that thou shaft come to be our Judge;" but such confessions are on the lips rather than in the hearts of the worshippers.