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ious, and deadly,– in the end suicidal. The late Professor Kingdon Clifford, the premature cutting off of whose remarkably acute and sincere intellect the philosophical and scientific world can but still lament, was fond of touching upon this scientific natural distinction between right and wrong. “My actions,” he said, “are to be regarded as good or bad, according as they tend to improve me as an organism, to make me move further away from those intermediate forms through which my race has passed, or to make me retrace these upward steps and go down.” This organic power which appears in right action he personifies as “the mother principle of Life.”
He was very chary, you know, about recognizing or naming any power that theologians have called God; but this phrase, “the mother principle of Life,” may remind us of Theodore Parker's frequent descriptive name for the Eternal Power, “Our Father and Mother God." And to this “mother principle of Life” Professor Clifford's fine poetic instincts led him to apply, still further personifying it, Mr. Swinburne's rich hymn, which aptly illustrates our theme:
“ Mother of man's time-travelling generations,
Breath of his nostrils, heart-blood of his heart,
Light above light, law beyond law, thou art.
“ Thy face is as a sword smiting in sunder
Shadows and chains and dreams and iron things;
Silent, the skies are narrower than thy wings.
“ Thine hands, without election or exemption,
Feed all men, fainting from false peace or strife,
The godhead and the manhood and the life.”
The phrasing of this hymn is more modern, more colored by scientific thought; but in essential idea and sentiment there seems to me no great difference between it and the Twenty-third Psalm. And the poetic metaphor is fully as audacious and anthropomorphic as was that of the Hebrew singer. Indeed, the Hebrews' conception of Eternal Power and of its relation to human life on earth was more in accord with the modern scientific view of the universe than the commonly accepted Christian theology has been. We may almost say that the Hebrew thinkers anticipated that scientific view of the law of right being the organic principle of life which we have been considering. They saw at least the vital connection between righteousness and life and the successful attainment of life's ends, whether in individuals or in the nation as a whole. This truth was a central article of the Hebrew faith. Israel's prophets preached it and his poets sung it. The Hebrew had a glowing vision of national prosperity, power, and happiness; but he saw the realization of the vision always at the end of the paths of righteousness. It was righteousness that would exalt the nation. The national kings, in fact, were not very righteous; yet in righteousness was the king's throne to be finally established. And the sacrifices which the people
brought to the altars — that is, their forms of worship — were declared to be worthless unless with them they brought the sacrifices of righteousness.
And these truths have lost none of their force with the lapse of centuries. There are weak points in our own national life where they apply to-day with special aptness, - points where party success is sought rather than the country's welfare, or self-seeking demagoguism is raised to places of power which should only be filled with wisdom and integrity, or wealth buys its way into official position where only honest votes should be the electors. At all these points and others which might be named lurks danger. At every national act of injustice there is a fracture of the nation's armor. Every species of wrong-doing, every kind of wickedness, whether on the part of a nation or an individual, falls back with devastating effect on the doer. We cannot wrong the negro, nor the Indian, nor the Chinese, without wronging our country by retarding its possibilities of progress in real greatness. It was one of the ancient wise
of India who wrote: “Justice, being destroyed, will destroy; being preserved, will preserve: it must therefore never be violated. Iniquity committed in this world produces not fruit immediately, but, advancing by little and little, it eradicates the man who committed it. He perishes at length from his whole root upwards.” Thus our doctrine comes back from the far East: it is only paths of righteousness that are paths of safety. Wrong is a crime against the universe. Right is the law of unfolding and ascending life for personal man and for mankind.
Illustrations of this pregnant truth in individual experience we should not have to seek far to find, – men and women who, because of some wrong committed against the body or against conscience or against the higher aspirations of heart and soul, lose not only the high successes which their faculties might have achieved, but lose the very power of achieving; while persons of smaller natural gifts, by keeping to the paths of right, advance steadily in mental and moral wealth and in all the satisfactions that are worthiest of human attainment. The paths of rectitude, of purity, of temperance, of kindness, of love, of honor and honesty, these are also the high and straight paths of safety. They are the ways of the Eternal, the highways which the Eternal Power has been preparing through the ages whereon man may walk. Into these ways and on them the Eternal is still striving to guide mankind. Manifold are the solicitations and constraints which would hold man to the high paths of rectitude and holiness. Alluring hope beckons. Fear of the natural retribution of pain, which follows every departure from the way of right, urges. Conscience, with its august authority, commands. Reason, by its persuasions, invites. The heart, through its kindly sympathies and loves, its generous affections and spiritual ideals, offers the gentler leading-strings for keep
ing human feet and faces turned toward the better future. Thus the Eternal, with man and in man and through man, has, from the beginning to this day, been guiding him onward in a pathway of material and moral amelioration and ever toward some larger, purer, and richer good. But this guidance is for mankind, and for individual man as a part of mankind. The aim of the Eternal is not to gratify selfish, individual passion as an end in itself, - not to grant a purely selfish pleasure, or safety, or prosperity. The principle is, not what is good for me singly or you singly, but for us and all together. And the same majestic yet tender Power is at this moment soliciting each one of us to come willingly, docilely, with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength, under this wise and benignant leadership, as active helpers in the ameliorating work. The ameliorations both social and personal may be slow, but they come. To what great consummation even on this earth they tend, our finite understandings may have little power to descry. But, where the understanding cannot see, the spirit can dream and yearn and impel. The Hebrew poet pictured for Israel at the end of the paths of righteousness a land "flowing with milk and honey,” — a national era of undisturbed power and prosperity. England's laureate has voiced the nineteenth century social dream,
“ In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.”