Why ? Because the other attitude would practically deny the significance of our intellectual being; because we feel that if the truth is grand, the learning and so knowing the truth is still grander. Any giving of our action over into the hands of another Power is practically saying that our moral being has no significance ; while we on the other hand are sure that the glory of the moral universe is not alone in the good, but in the willing of the good, in the conscious voluntary practice of it, and would count it better to struggle for and sometimes miss the good than that it should never be learned by finite beings at all. But whether this be true or not, any such mechanical goodness as Professor Huxley supposes would have no moral quality; even if the results were just the same as those following a properly moral action, no praise or blame would attach to such goodness any more than to an operation of Nature. Alexander the Great, for example, took the Greek language and Grecian culture, art, and manners wherever he went in his military conquests; and what a benefit to the world was this spread of Greek civilization ! Yet if, as is likely, the passion of Alexander was solely for conquest and military power and renown ; if the benefit to the world came simply as an unintended consequence, an incident of his victories,what moral credit has he in the matter ? I have heard it argued that it is impossible for a man to follow his own interests without benefiting others; that one, for example, cannot build up a business without giving employment and a livelihood to those who would perhaps otherwise be in need; yes, I have sometimes heard it urged in extenuation of the great monopolies of our time, that in the nature of the case they cannot exist and maintain themselves save as they bring themselves under the rule of service to others. This is all true enough, perhaps, as matter of fact, but all delusion if the facts are supposed to answer to the requirements of morality. What is the business man or the monopolist intent on ? that is the question which decides whether there is any moral worth in what he does, or not. Are the benefits which come to others something that he aims at, or only the necessary incidents in the accomplishing of his own personal aims ? I think, indeed, the introduction of higher motives into business would more or less affect the management and all the details of business ; but I can imagine two businesses externally almost exactly alike, the management of one of which would be dominated by a moral impulse, and the other would be without any moral character whatever (which is far from saying that it would have an immoral character). The difference would be all in the thought. Man may go astray many times in what he thinks to be good, but on the other hand no action which is without the prompting of the thought of what is good, no matter how externally good and right it may be, can be called a moral action ; and every time we sincerely, honestly mean to do what is right, no matter how mistaken we may turn out to be in our judgment, our action has a moral worth. What we mean to do, what we want to do, that is all, from a moral stand-point.
Closely related with this, is another mark of a moral action; namely, it is an act that is freely done. Whatever I do under compulsion, under constraint, has no moral worth. Suppose, to take a homely illustration, I rise early in the morning because I am obliged to; because if I am not at the store of my employer by a certain time, I shall lose my situation, plainly there is no morality in this ; but if I do so, not thus compelled, but simply with the feeling that it is a good habit, and that I ought to form it, I make a mastery of my laziness that has some moral worth. Suppose I return a book to the Public Library to escape a fine, or on the other hand simply because I know that others want the book, and I ought to consider them as well as myself, would any one hesitate to say which action alone had any virtue in it? Suppose I live a simple unpretentious life because I have not the means to live otherwise; or because, though with abundant means, I have a sense of how a man should live, so long as there is so much want and misery in the world about him, one would not need to reflect long before saying which manner of life, though they were so far as the eye could see exactly alike, had any moral worth. The economy that when necessitated has almost an air of meanness, becomes divine when practised in obedience to an idea. Take again the case of an employer who yields to his "striking" employees because he is forced to, because they have so arranged matters that if he will not give them an advanced rate of wages he cannot find any workmen ; and then of another who does not wait for a strike, and has no reason to fear any, but pays the higher rate simply out of regard for his workmen and with a thought of their needs and ends as human beings and heads of families, that is, not because he is obliged to, but because he will, and can there be any hesitancy as to which one of these men rises to the dignity of performing a moral action ? Freedom, spontaneity, is the note, the very mark, of a moral action. An action dictated by fear is not really a free action, as when King Richard II. of England sought to quell the angry revolt of the peasants by granting them the reforms which they wanted, and gave them letters sealed with his seal, with all their demands formally acceded to ; and yet later, when the danger was over, ordered under pains of death that all those who had the King's letters should deliver them up. A righteous act, do we say, succeeded by an unrighteous one ? No, never a righteous act at all, but only the forms of righteousness complied with through fear. What we do when no pressure is upon us, when we simply have the thought of what we ought to do, the free, willing expression of the soul within us,that alone is moral.