" Thou, O my Jesus I thou didst me.
Upon the cross embrace ; For me didst bear the nails and spear.
And manifold disgrace, And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony, E 'en death itself, and all for one.
Who was thine enemy !
Then why, 0 blessed Jesus Christ,
Shall I not love thee well ? Not for the sake of winning heaven,
Or of escaping hell; Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward, But as thyself hast loved me,
O everlasting Lord !"
1 Moral Philosophy, book i. chap. vi.
And of Saint Theresa it is said that she wished to have a torch in her right hand and a vessel of water in her left, that with the one she might burn up the glories of heaven and with the other extinguish the flames of hell, that men might learn to serve God from love alone. What a noble outburst! what a sublime impatience with the low views of man and religion that were current in her time, that are current, alas, still! What an assertion of the moral nature, as that in us by reason of which we can transcend all personal hopes and fears, and serve the highest from love alone ! How near does it come to Emerson's bold summons, "to turn our back on heaven," and how is the spirit of it reflected to us in Matthew Arnold's lines:
" Hath man no second life ? Pitch this one high ! Sits there no judge in heaven our sin to see ? More strictly, then, the inward judge obey ! Was Christ a man like us 1 Ah! let us try If we then, too, can be such men as he ! "
The glow of moral health is in such lines; let us take them and be thankful for them, from whatever source they come.
Still further, and perhaps only bringing out clearly what has already been implied, a moral act must be done on principle. If I merely give way to a charitable impulse, and charity is no principle with me, my act is only an impulsive, not a moral one. If I am truthful with a friend, and deceitful toward another who is not a friend, even my truthfulness with my friend has no moral value. To do according to my inclination, that is not morality. Morality is acting according to a rule, or (what is the same) a principle. It is bringing all my chance inclinations, all my natural impulses that look in this way or that, into conformity with the rule, putting thus order and steadfastness and reliability into my life. Of how many persons is it not said, that if you find them at the proper moment they will do the right thing! But the right thing is for always ; as it does not depend on our moods for its rightness, so it ought not for its realization in action. The truly moral man is simply he who says it shall not; to whom the right is a constant, an abiding rule. I see not any way of escape from a universal consecration to duty, I mean to all that is right. Most of us live broken, fragmentary lives; we have our fits and starts of goodness, they do not come to stay ; and when we do one thing that is good, we leave another undone. " Bursts of great heart and slips in sensual mire,"how true is that of many men! How little of wholeness, of consistency, of unity is there in our conduct! Henry Clay, one of the kindliest of men, open on almost every side to the gentlest impulses, could yet sacrifice his convictions and the welfare of millions, as Wendell Phillips remarks, to his ambition. Daniel Webster, with a great intellect, and with a sense for the heroic and sublime too, could make his 7th of March speech, and sell his intellectual integrity for a price, which, thank fortune, he never got. Yet as there is no reason why we should be just which does not hold at all times, or why we should be true which does not hold in face of all temptations, or humane which does not hold in reference to all persons whom we meet, so there is no reason why we should be just which is not equally good for being true, and none for being true which is not equally for being humane. There is no reason for one virtue which does not hold for all virtue; not this or that, but all good is commanded to us. I suppose a person only does a genuinely moral act when he does it not because it happens to be justice or truth or any particular form of duty, but because it is duty, and so with the implication that he would do all duty. A moral act has thus, in strict truth, a universal or infinite significance, and he who performs it has a worth to which no limits can be assigned. It is as if there were some mysterious forms of matter that could be crystal or plant, or flower or tree, or sun or star, anything in the whole material universe; for it is my proud faith in man that hardened, stiffened, settled as he may often seem to be in this or that type or habit of life, he can become anything that is good; that he is at heart plastic and not cast in any inevitable mould; that there are no unapproachable heights outside of and beyond him ; that hero, saint, martyr, if need be, he can become.
We often hear, and I am sorry to say from religious teachers particularly, slighting and contemptuous words about morality; but if what I have said is true, it is far from being a light or trifling or petty thing to perform a genuinely moral action. The dignity of man lies in his capacity for such action; for such action means that man need not follow the crowd, that his thoughts can determine him, that he can freely will the good, that he can be absolutely unselfish in so doing, that he can take captive his wandering desires and impulses, and reflect the pure heaven of principle in his life. And this were, it seems to me, to be a man ; this were to be lifted above anxieties, to be no longer the slave of fears or hopes. The only hope could be to be more truly this; the only fear to fall from such a thought and such an aim, and become caught and entangled in any of the lower concerns that are so easy, so natural, and tempting to men.
There is an ideal aim for every child of man. It is not in anything outside of ourselves ; it is not to please some supernatural being in the skies ; it is not to follow some far-away historical figure in the past. It is closer to us than this ; it is in our own heart, it is given to us in our very nature as moral beings. There is nothing higher than to perform a moral action; there is nothing in which the full idea and significance of our being comes so to expression as in that. It is the victory of the divine in us, of a part of those elemental forces which in the wide ages of the past have been turning chaos into order, and covering darkness with light. Every moral action we perforin is a new star in the inner firmament; and I sometimes think that once gathered out of the unformed nebula of our wishes and aspirations, these stars will in some sense shine forever. I sometimes even dare to think that if the stars of heaven should fall, these would not ; since the stars of heaven would only fall if something more perfect were to take their place, and anything more perfect than a moral action there cannot be. It could grow more perfect only in itself, only by becoming clearer, fuller, ampler, more divinely radiant, not by being resolved and changed into anything else. For a moral action is not most truly any outward deed, or any single partial act of the will within; all so called moral actions are after all parts of one action, and that is the total purpose of the soul, the action of the life. Notwithstanding all trifling variations, we are moving in one direction or another. No single good thing we do counts save as it is part of a purpose which sweeps on beyond it; and no purpose is adequate which does not cover, in thought at least, the whole life and all its possible future. The star which we are to set in the firmament is the total act of our life; after a time we may cease to see it, but if there is any worth, any foreshadowings of a perfect beauty in it, it will go on. Nothing is so treacherous as memory; nothing hangs by so light a thread as personality, the consciousness that I am the same as I was twenty-five years ago; the consciousness, which some suppose they will have in another life, that they are the same persons as they were here. It is all an uncertain prop. Death ought to bar and teach us the vanity of these personal cravings ; but heedless creatures that we are, we fill up those endless horizons of the future with the images of our personal selves, and deem the goodness we have won, the purity we have gained, and the unselfishness that has triumphed in us too shadowy to stand of themselves without the "I" to support them. Yet which, 0 Man, is shadowy, the " I" or the good ? Only the good in us is worthy to survive, and that will.