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of the new influences. It is only left for them to choose whether they will do so with ready foresight, or simply under that blind pressure which is disastrous in proportion as it is alarming.

ii. This is the choice which lies before us; and the importance of the choice is at once apprehended in its true extent, if we observe that these ultimate problems of being, both in their most general form and in their details, carry with them direct practical consequences. All experience goes to shew that conduct in the long run corresponds with belief. The public opinion which prevails in a nation or a class is more powerful to repress and to urge than legal sanctions of punishment and reward. The coercion of law is effective only so far as the law embodies a dominant opinion; and, as a natural corollary, law is actually a little behind popular opinion. But a dominant opinion sooner or later finds expression in law by the enactment of restrictions or by the removal of them.

This unquestionable principle carries with it momentous consequences. If it could be established that man's actions are the necessary result of his individual constitution and his circumstances, in such a sense that he has no real control over them, morality would be at an end. If it


by opinion.


could be shewn that such a crisis as death makes it inconceivable that our personal consciousness should survive the change, then it would inevitably follow that the aim of life would be represented by that which is individually attainable within the sensible limits of life. The significance of moral education as the preparation of characters and powers for use in another order would cease to exist. If it could be shewn that the idea of a supreme righteous Governor is against reason and this conviction were to become current, the personal notion of pleasure would be the one standard of appeal. Hitherto such theories as necessity, or absolute mortality, or atheism, have been maintained only by a few who have been at once disciplined and restrained by the influence of opposite beliefs, but even so the issues to which they lead have been not obscurely indicated.

The splendid visions, in which some modern speculators have indulged, of a religion of humanity capable of moving men to self-sacrifice and to enthusiasm for issues indefinitely remote, seem to be nothing but reflections of Christianity: let the light of the Incarnation be quenched, and they will at once vanish. At any rate there is not the least evidence in favour of their intrinsic and independent efficacy over conduct.

W. G. L.


One or two simple considerations will set this conclusion in a clearer light. How, for example, do we gain a moral standard of action? If we put out of account the belief in GOD and a future life it does not appear what relation can be established between different kinds of present desires and pleasures. It may be quite true that certain general results of a character desirable for mankind at large follow from certain lines of individual action, but that simple fact is no adequate reason why an individual should not, if he is able, disregard these for the sake of an immediate pleasure to himself. Why is he to sacrifice himself for others? Is he not, as far as he knows, the centre and measure of things? There is at least no sufficient evidence that the common happiness is what any particular man is bound to prefer; and he may fairly say that he is the sole judge of what gives happiness to himself.

But if we introduce the idea of GOD as a moral Governor into our view of the world, we are constrained to believe that He will in some way manifest Himself, and, if so, we cannot doubt that the 'purpose' which runs through the sum of life, though it is frequently obscured in the individual life, is part of this manifestation. We can then reasonably urge that the intuitions of

II.] Conception of GOD as a Moral Governor. 51

our own minds and the general tendencies which we observe in life are indications of His will, and thus there is at once a sufficient ground for rendering obedience to them at all cost. We cannot act as if we severally were measures of all things. The whole creation claims our regard and our service. Virtue, that is, the fulfilment of the will of GOD as it is made known to us, is a duty and not an open question.

If we pause here, the spectacle of the world is still clouded with sadness though we are no longer disturbed by uncertainty as to our duty. We go farther therefore, and take account of the idea of a future life. If this be held firmly perplexities of life at least cease to be inexplicable. It is a sufficient support in perplexity to feel that we see only a fragment of a vast scheme; for if there are signs of advance towards a harmony of creation now, there is nothing arbitrary in the supposition that hereafter the great end will be reached. We are enabled to regard the course of things, so to speak, from the side of GOD and not only from the side of man. Scope is given for the exercise of an infinite power commensurate with infinite love. Man's aspirations and failures are met by divine wisdom. Hope comes to the support of duty. There is indeed no promise of an

immediate and universal victory of good. Things may continue in the new order to represent a progress through conflict; but, even if we are justified in extending to another sphere the conditions of our earthly discipline, nothing need be lost of that which has been gained here, and the conflict will to this extent be continued under more favourable conditions.

In this way we can see how a belief in the moral government of GOD and in a future lifepartial and preliminary solutions of the problems of humanity—influence action, and give stability and a certain grandeur to the ideas by which modern society is ruled; but so far we obtain no light upon our connexion one with another, or upon the conflict between the elements of our own nature and the disorders without us and within us. For this we must look to revelation. And here the light which we need flows, and, as I believe, flows only from the fact of the Incarnation. If then we pass from the intuitional to the historical elements of religion, in order to realise the practical effect of belief upon conduct, it becomes evident that if we hold that the Son of GOD took man's nature upon Him, we recognise a new and ineffaceable relation between man and man. We are assured by that fact that what

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