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James, in his general epistle, gives us the whole matter in a nutshell: “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.” The word lust, (for which we prefer to substitute the word desires, as more adequately representing to us the comprehensiveness of the original term,) is in this place but a synonyme for the love of selfish gratifications of every kind. The word desire, however, like its Greek equivalent, represents attractions to good as well as to evil; or, rather, natural and normal desire ends in good, abnormal desire in evil. The so-called science of phrenology, with all its vagaries, has rendered good service in the promulgation of this truth-that we are not endowed by nature with certain propensities which are good and others which are bad, but that each and every one of our powers and faculties, when exercised within the limits of reason, tends to good and to the building up of a perfect manhood, while the abuse of these powers alone constitutes moral evil. Avarice is extravagant acquisitiveness, the latter being the handmaid of prudence; rage is but excessive and irrational indignation, fighting in the dark against a man of straw, instead of wielding the sword of the spirit with sober earnestness against wrong and oppression.
There is no use which has not its corresponding abuse. This is as true of our moral faculties as of our intellectual and physical powers. Disease, whether of mind or body, is but an allotropic form of health ; or, if this seems paradoxical, we may say that health and disease are products of the same energies, results of the same forces, the only difference being, that, in the one case, the forces act in their originally intended channel, while, in the other, some conflicting or disturbing agency, or some excessive or deficient use of the force itself produces results not in harmony with the archetypal plan. Oxygen is the great life-supporter of all animal existence; yet, under its allotropic form of ozone, it loses its life-giving quality, or, more accurately, has an intensity which tends to the destruction of life; and, if it were organic, we should call it diseased ; if it were spirit, we should call it sinful.
Medical men are fast becoming convinced that the healing art can never be elevated to the rank of a science, until it is acknowledged that there is nature in disease as well as in health. The pioneers of the profession now boldly declare that “all morbid action is but the modification or perversion of some natural or normal action or function," and that “all the physical results constituting morbid structural alterations are mere perversions or modifications of natural or normal textures, or, at most, analogous textures fabricated from the same materials by like processes.” Particularizing, they say that “nervous affections are but variations in the natural actions of the affected organs; the redness, pain, heat, and swelling of the inflammation, are only the exaltation of the normal processes of circulation and nervous influence; the phenomena of fever are mere modifications of the regular vital actions, though the causes of these modifications may be a poison from without; hemorrhages and dropsies consist simply in a perversion of the common functions of secretion, excretion and absorption; morbid posits and extraneous growths are varieties of healthy or examples of perverted nutrition; and so with the rest.
That the Greeks and the Hebrews had but a shallow psychology, is clear from the manner in which they spoke of mental diseases. The loss of reason, the former attributed to the haunting presence of the fairies, the latter to demoniacal possession. The Latin language, on the other hand, has contributed to the English, “delirium,” and “insanity" "delirium,” de and lira, “the going out of the furrow,” originally the farmer's expression for his crooked ploughing, but soon applied to the wandering of men's wits; “ insanity,” from in and sanus, “ unsound," " unhealthy," first in body, then in mind. These terms, although they do not exclude foreign influence, yet imply only the leading astray and the perversion, but not the exclusion or destruction of nature.
When we come to the department of morals, etymology shows us that in the Latin, English, French, German, and Italian languages, not to mention others, the most common ethical terms testify to the truth of the law which we are illustrating. From the Latin we have borrowed "right" and rectitude," "error" and "transgression," from which it appears that righteousness is but "straight-forwardness” in the way of nature, while "error" and " transgression indicate a wandering from the right way and a passing over and beyond the limits which bound this way. Wrong,"
the etymologists tell us, is simply that which is “ wrung" or distorted from the right. The French, the Germans, and the Italians, have their corresponding words of a similar and mostly identical origin, but these we will not particularize.
Thus we see that language, in its modern formations, has been breaking away from the old fables, and unconsciously embalming in its new uses and combinations the advanced thought and intuition of the world. When we retain the old fables in our theologies, we have a husk without a kernel, a house without an occupant. Despite occasional radicalisms, nothing is so conservative as theology; and pagan doctrines and superstitions, transplanted from their primitive ages and their native lands, often preserve a sort of funguslife beyond the term of their natural existence, by sucking the of new and thrifty growths. What philosophy, then, is in the old myths, we often lose. Whether the authors of the fable were conscious of it or not, they who first represented the prince of darkness as a fallen angel of light, expressed in this poetical garb a truth of deep significance. It was fitting that the foulest fiend should have once been an archangel ; but we have retained the form of the fable, forgetting its significance, and its apt illustration of the scripture: “If the light which is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness."
Our illustrations have tended to show that "evil is only good perverted,” that physical, intellectual and moral disease-or sickness, insanity and sin-are but disturbances in the normal working of powers and forces whose healthy action tends to the building up of the highest life. Because the river which bears on its broad bosom fertility and plenty through the land, when swollen by the floods of the springtime overflows its banks and carries devastation in its course,
“ Cursed be the river?” Shall we not rather place our possessions high above the reach of the destroying flood, and build strong dykes to keep it out? When the locomotive bears the rushing train from its appointed track, carrying orphanage and sorrow to a hundred homes, shall
“Cursed be steam,” or shall care and skill strive to guard against such calamities?
But because evil is only the perversion of good, it is not thence to be argued that evil is good ; neither, because in
shall we say,
the divine plan, evil may ultimate in good, is evil to be done that good may come, as both reason and scripture tell us. No one who has not submitted the intuitions of consciousness to the plausibilities of reasoning, can help believing that man possesses what is called “ free agency. Certain it is, that without this power there can be no such thing as virtue and vice in the world. These words imply a voluntary choice between good and evil. This free choice, however, does not exclude the influence of inducements and temptations, but, on the contrary, implies their presence, for the idea of choice without inducement is an absurdity. Virtue consists simply in choosing that course of action which reason and revelation show to be conducive to the best interests of our being, and, in order that virtue should be what it is, it is necessary that inducements to wrong as well as to right should be set before us, and that we should make deliberate and rational choice of the latter.
“ Virtue" and “ goodness are not exact synonymes. Goodness may be simply amiability of character, and the gift of nature; virtue is the moral strength gained by the discipline of conflict. “Goodness" in the abstract, however, Whately tells us, expresses a higher degree of excellence than “ virtue,” since we speak of the “goodness” but not of the “ virtue” of God, virtue being but a human quality. We
may say that there is a passive goodness which is of nature, and an active goodness which is born of virtue, the attainment of the latter being the perfection of human character. Beautiful as are those natures which are saintly as if by inspiration, yet unless they have strength as well as beauty--that strength which can be gained only by actionwe feel that a chiet element of the highest virtue is wanting. Such are those of whom Wordsworth speaks in his “ Ode to Duty”
“Glad hearts, without reproach or blot,
Who do thy will and know it not." The amenities and the gentle genuine courtesies of life are not the highest virtue, albeit the highest virtues are barren without these.
We cannot refrain from quoting a few words upon this point from the beautifully gifted Channing, whose natural purity of soul was equalled only by the vigor and strength
of his moral and intellectual nature. He
He says: “In all these [the kindly] emotions of our nature, I see the kind design of God; I see a beauty ; I see the germ and capacity of an ever-growing charity. But they are not virtues, they are not proper objects of moral approbation, nor do they give any sure pledge of improvement. This moral amiableness I too often see in company with sloth, with uselessness, with the contemptible vanity and dissipation of fashionable life. It is no ground of trust, no promise of fidelity in any of the great exigencies of life. The love, the benevolence, which I honor as virtue, is not the gift of nature or condition, but the growth and manifestation of the soul's moral power. It is a spirit chosen as excellent, cherished as divine, protected with a jealous care, and especially fortified by the resistance and subjection of opposite propensities. It is the soul, determining itself to break every chain of selfishness, to enlarge and to invigorate the kind affections, to identify itself with other beings, to sympathize, not with a few, but with all the living and rational children of God, to honor others' worth, to increase and enjoy their happiness, to partake in the universal goodness of the Creator, and to put down within itself every motion of pride, anger, or sensual desire, inconsistent with this pure charity. In other words, it is strength of holy purpose, infused into the kind affections, which raises them into virtues, or gives them a moral worth, not found in constitutional amiableness."
This, then, being virtue, sin is its opposite, and consists in yielding to temptations to wrong doing, and in the heedless or deliberate choice of that course of conduct which is at variance with the instructions of reason and revelation. Before us are inducements to rectitude, on either hand temptations to transgression ; - rectitude being as we have seen the going straight forward in the path of duty,—transgression, the crossing over its limits.
But all we have thus far said might, perhaps, be accepted without any adequate appreciation of the fact that we are our own tempters. While we reject as baseless the theory of a powerful tempting spiritma professional tempter, as it were—we still cling to the coward's plank, and charge our temptations, if not our guilt, upon our fellow-men, or upon that most convenient non-entity, “the force of circumstances.” Man can never become sufficiently conscious of